Ahmed Best says he considered suicide due to the reaction Jar Jar Binks got
19 years ago, The Phantom Menace felt like the most anticipated movie of all time
It had been 16 years since Return of the Jedi, and many fans who’d grown up on the original three movies had kids of their own to take to see the new instalment. The first of three long-awaited prequels, it was set to show us the mysterious origins of Darth Vader. How could it fail?
The Phantom Menace is a perfectly acceptable kids movie - not a masterpiece or anything, but definitely fun if you are about eight years old. However, for those adult fans who’d been waiting nearly two decades for it, it wasn’t quite what they’d been expecting.
The film was widely panned, especially for its childish humour. And no element was hated more than Jar Jar Binks, the new slapstick comedy sidekick character, who fans thought symbolised everything that was wrong with The Phantom Menace.
Some even suggested that Jar Jar was almost a racial caricature.
Jar Jar was an incredible technical achievement, one of the first CGI characters in movies – but behind all that, he was played by musician Ahmed Best.
Best suffered a lot of abuse on behalf of the character. In a 2017 interview he told Wired: “I had death threats through the internet. I had people come to me and say, ‘You destroyed my childhood.’ That’s difficult for a 25-year-old to hear.”
On Tuesday he tweeted about the backlash he faced, and revealed that he considered suicide.
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
His tweet has received many messages of support, including one from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson.
Lots of love to you Ahmed. I think there are many of us who’d get quite alot from hearing your story.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) July 3, 2018
As well as Frank Oz, the voice of Yoda.
I LOVED Jar Jar Binks. I know I’ll get raked over the coals for saying that but I just will never understand the harshness of people’s dislike of him. I do character work. He is a GREAT character! Okay. Go ahead. Shoot. Gimme all ya got—but you’ll never make me change my mind. https://t.co/RHhhXUlU5C
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) July 4, 2018
Best’s revelation is especially timely, following the equally toxic backlash to The Last Jedi. Kelly Marie Tran, who played mechanic Rose, has received constant abuse and seemingly deleted all her Instagram photos because of it.
No matter what you thought of The Phantom Menace or The Last Jedi, abuse like this is utterly horrible and completely unacceptable. It’s just a movie.