In 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was released. The film was met with mixed reviews from critics and fans but garnered over 1 billion at the box office. However, there was one particularly character that people universally hated at the time — Jar Jar Binks, a clumsy and supposedly comedic character who was not a great fighter. The character was incessantly mocked and the actor who voiced Jar Jar, Ahmed Best, was nearly driven to suicide over the backlash.
Ahmed Best wrote on Twitter, “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.” See below:
In July of last year, he told Wired.com how the amount of hate Jar Jar received truly affected him, “There were a lot of tears, there was a lot of pain, there was a lot of s**t I had to deal with. Everybody else went on. Everybody else worked. Everybody else was accepted by the zeitgeist.” He also added, “To be honest, failing and being Black is very scary, because we don’t get a lot of chances, you know? I didn’t get another chance after Jar Jar.”
There certainly aren’t many chances for Black actors in Hollywood, especially for voice actors in the 1990s. Thankfully, Best did not commit suicide and hopefully overly passionate fans can calm their juvenile rage over a fictional movie. Kelly Tran, who is in the most recent Star Wars, left social media after months of racist torment from fans of the franchise.