In 1999, countless Star Wars fans seethed with hatred about the goofy character Jar Jar Binks in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But, the man behind that character, Ahmed Best, felt that scorn and ridicule and took it personally, and it nearly killed him. On Tuesday, Best posted a touching photograph of himself and his young son overlooking the spot where he “almost ended his life.”
After putting the photograph and the revelation on Twitter, Best received an outpouring of support from fans and Star Wars alums, including Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and famous Yoda puppeteer Frank Oz. When the character of Jar Jar Binks was widely criticized following the release of The Phantom Menace, Best’s career as an actor was almost ruined. Doggedly, the actor survived and is now a father, something that would not be true if he had taken his life nearly twenty years ago.
20 years next year I faced a media backlash that still affects my career today. This was the place I almost ended my life. It’s still hard to talk about. I survived and now this little guy is my gift for survival. Would this be a good story for my solo show? Lemme know. pic.twitter.com/NvVnImoJ7N
— Ahmed BEst (@ahmedbest) July 3, 2018
2019 will mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Best is planning a solo show to reveal his thoughts and recollections of the experience. In the intervening year since the release of the Star Wars prequels, Best has given hilarious interviews, one in which he even supported the popular fan theory that Jar Jar Binks was really a Sith Lord all along. In the 2016 documentary, The Prequels Strike Back, Kevin Smith pointed out that children in 1999 totally loved Jar Jar Binks, which was also George Lucas’s defense of creating the character: it was supposed to make little kids laugh. These days, the ironic love of Jar Jar actually unites Star Wars fans more than it divided them nearly two decades ago.
Which is why it’s absurdly sad to think that Ahmed Best may not have had a child himself if he’d taken his own life in 1999. With tragic suicides in the forefront of zeitgeist discussion on mental health and fatherhood, Best’s message of tolerance and perseverance comes at a poignant moment. Jar Jar Binks is a dad now, and we should all embrace his difficult journey and bravery. Because when it comes to Star Wars dads, Best clearly had it harder than anyone.