Okay, gang, let’s get serious for a moment and talk about Gungans.
It is generally understood by society that George Lucas went to great pains to ensure that the stakes in Star Wars Episode I were literally as low as possible. By way of example: the film opens with a pair of invincible psychic warriors arriving on an interstellar toilet seat to talk about trade embargoes.
When their enemies reveal themselves as such by attempting to poison them with a highly visible gas (instead of, and I’m just spitballing here…by somehow tainting the free drinks our heroes down as literally their first act upon arrival on the S.S. Porcelain? Or blowing up their ship right after it docks instead of arbitrarily doing so almost as soon as they disembark?), ANYWAY the protagonists effortlessly cut through all their foes until they are finally faced with one they cannot immediately dispatch.
Here, the audience believes the stakes might be rising, but instead our heroes engage their mystical Running Away powers and Barry Allen the hell out of there at supersonic speed.
Powers, mind you, that NO Jedi will EVER use in a Star Wars movie ever again. Even when Order 66 comes down! ...but I digress.
Despite this almost preternatural ability to lower stakes instead of raising them (which may in fact be some kind of post-modern commentary on good writing, I don’t know), George Lucas does manage to portray the final climactic battle of this film as one where an expansive, highly organized mechanical army is marching on a ragtag assemblage of under-equipped underdogs. In this case, sort of under-sea dog-resembling things known as Gungans.
Granted, the battle is still won arbitrarily by a child riding a rollercoaster (because of course it is), but up until that point things are looking dire for The Good Army in a way they haven’t since The Galactic Empire faced off against a forest full of Carebears in Return of the Jedi.
Except it isn’t dire.
And it’s not a good army.
It’s a Gungan army: one of the most bloodthirsty, pants-shittingly scary races in the Star Wars universe since the Mandalorians. Or at least I have inferred this, based on the below ABSOLUTELY IRONCLAD LOGIC.
Yes, I’ll wait while you look up what a Mandalorian is.
PROOF THE GUNGANS ARE A VIOLENT WARRIOR RACE
When the Ewoks take up arms (or twigs, as the case may be), there is a sense that this is an unusual situation. Ewoks are clearly designed to be hugged, to party in trees, to sew dresses for human women and to worship gold robots. They are a tribal culture, they go hunting and so on, but war is not in their blood.
Guess whose blood war is in?
The Gungans are a race who, unlike Ewoks, have access to and regularly use “modern” technology. They build submarines, rigid underwater structures, and have apparently mastered quantum physics and string theory to the extent that they can create force-field membranes that keep out water, but allow solids through. They also have these…water balloons…but with electromagnetic pulses inside? I don’t know. Basically, this is some advanced shit.
Despite this, the Gungans continue to carry spears and ride on, uh, diplodocus-back.
Instead of tanks they have big, naked, trunkless mammoth things. They smear their faces in warpaint so readily you’d think they were planning to Kill The Batman. These are not pragmatic decisions. These are clearly traditions. And when your culture’s only observable traditions all relate to weaponry, and war-making, well it just may be that you are a warrior culture.
Oh, and Jar Jar full-on says “Weesa warriors” at one point, but that’s by the by.
“But, so what?” you say, having recently ridden the subway with a Sikh who was using his ceremonial blade to prop up his iPhone. “Warrior traditions don’t necessarily represent the current cultural state of mind.”
True. But there is no standing Sikh army. Do you think those naked, trunkless mammoths are just herded up at a moment’s notice and outfitted with shield generators? What about all the spears, energy balls and duck-horses? Was that stuff thrown together by Boss Nass the night before? Naw, son. The Gungans have a standing army. Oh, and when somebody needs to be congratulated or thanked in some way for their service (even someone with severe learning disabilities like Jar Jar Binks), the automatic response, as we see in this film, is to be awarded a “bombad” Generalship. In this society, the lowest form of accolade is to put you in charge of sending dudes into battle. Think about that.
And on the flip side of that phenomenon, let’s say a society produced an individual who was fairly able-bodied and communicative; able, even, to theoretically reach the level of SENATOR elsewhere in the universe…but let’s say it seemed like this guy lacked motor co-ordination, and was generally an amusing softy and source of light-hearted buffoonery. What is the correct social response, would you say?:
A) Vote him into office.
B) Put him on assisted living, and give him a job bagging groceries.
C) Exile him forever into the wilderness; there is no room here for the weak.
I’ll let you figure out which one is the U.S.A., which one is France and which one is Otoh Gunga.
You know who else cast out the infirm? Sparta. Sure, they did it with babies, but given that when Jar Jar is heard shouting "We'sah free!" at the end of one of the many version of Return of the Jedi, his voice sounds no more weighed down by age than it did decades earlier, who can say how old he was in Gungan Years when they gave him the boot?
I Can. I Can Say. HE WAS JUST A KID DAMMIT.
PROOF THE GUNGANS ATTACKED THEED BEFORE BATTLEDROIDS EVER DID
Okay, before I alienate any more of the internet by defending Jar Jar in all caps, let’s talk about the Gungans’ military history. Specifically, the fact that they have a proud tradition of going to war with the Naboo.
The first bit of evidence here is that the Gungans don’t like the Naboo, or indeed outsiders in (bombad) general. Their obese leader Boss Nass bitterly condemns the Naboo as “think[ing] they’re so smart-ie”, and the Jedi are arrested literally as soon as they set foot in Otoh Gunga just for the crime of being white men in the wrong place at the wrong time, man.
Speaking of the Jedi, Obi-Wan says the Gungans and the Naboo are a “symbiont circle” - that everything that happens to one will conversely affect the other. This, and the fact that we never see or hear from any other races strongly implies that on Naboo (the planet), the only two sentient races of note are the Naboo (the bunch of garish bureaucrats) and the Gungans. Who - again - dislike them, and have a large standing army for some reason (ceremonial reasons, maybe? Unlikely, given how un-ceremonial keeping those shield generator beasts battle-ready for months on end must feel).
So now we arrive at the actual evidence that this powderkeg has previously boiled over into conflict. Can...powederkegs boil? Nevermind.
This is Sio Bibble:
He is also known for being against Queen Amidala’s reign, then FOR it, flip-flopping on the issues like some kind of intergalactic Al Gore. However, unlike the real Al Gore who is inventor and king of the internet, Sio Bibble has some super weird ideas about how the wifi in Theed Palace works.
I’m sure you’ve forgotten so let me remind you:
When the Trade Federation launches their surprise attack on Pearl Har-uh, I mean...invasion of Naboo, Sio Bibble announces to a room full of reclining civil servants that “A communications disruption can mean only one thing…invasion!”
Uh...what? Tell that to AT&T, am I right?
Now, one of two things must logically be true for this statement to be uttered by this character.
George Lucas’s ham-fisted groping for the line where exposition and believable dialogue intersect is the nightmare a trainwreck has about an abortion.
Theed has been invaded frequently enough throughout Sio Bibble's CLEARLY SUPER LONG life that he thinks it is likelier to be an invasion disrupting the communications than literally anything else.
I think we all know which of the above makes the most sense.
Bonus points if you noticed that communications disruption seems exactly like something the Gungans are uniquely equipped to pull off, given their hoard of electro-cannon-testicles.
So why, then, don’t we begin Star Wars Episode I with - you know - a war? Why haven’t the athletic, warlike Gungans not just obliterated the wimpy peaceniks floating and farting around Theed in layered gowns? Why do the two cultures appear to be in some kind of cold war-ish detente? Boss Nass says the Naboo don’t come to Otoh Gunga, and the Gungans don’t go to Theed. Why?
Maybe it has something to do with the “sacred place” the Gungans flee to at the end of the movie, when their city is invaded. That’d be the super ancient area on land that they are historically connected to and that just so happens to lie in ruins. Ruins that strongly imply (along with the fact that Gungans have ARMS AND LEGS) that this is a culture that used to live and build stuff on land, until something drove them to the safety of submerged life.
A humbling experience, if you will, that turned their land city to rubble, could not be adequately defended against by a standing land army, and lowered the iron curtain between the Gungans and the Naboo, who “think they’re soooo smart-ie.”
You know. Like a counterattack by starfighters that can drop bombs.
Am I blowing your mind yet?
Fine. What about the fact that the Gungans are led by a totalitarian despot?
PROOF THE GUNGANS ARE LED BY A TOTALITARIAN DESPOT
To start, he’s a giant fat dude clearly accustomed to extreme excess living among people who look like they were assembled out of twigs and platypus parts. Also, if Obi-Wan is somehow right about the Gungans and the Naboo being a “symbiont circle”, “opposites attracting” and “the Disney Princess you’re most like being Ariel, even though you feel like a Jasmine”, then the fact that the Naboo are a boring democracy led by nobody, implies that the Gungans - their sexy other half - should be a dictatorship.
Finally, the guy calls himself Boss Nass. And that’s not his first name. I checked. Boss. Just like that, like he’s the mayor of Chicago, except crippled by facial ticks and convulsions, which are clearly the result of either inbreeding or wartime trauma. Probably both, of course.
Oh, and he sentences Jar Jar to death for literally no reason, and with absolutely no due process. Due process is the name of the rap album the Naboo Council are putting out next year, because it’s literally all they know how to do.
So, to recap, Gungans very likely used to live on land, now they live under water (while also colonizing Naboo’s water moon, if you think the plot to some mobile game is canon), and Jar Jar does absolutely fine in the same harsh desert climate that Tatooine Native Anakin Skywalker famously whined incessantly about. Based on all this, it would appear that Gungans have one of the most adaptable bodies ever. Terrifying if you consider they are a warrior culture led by a detached, inbred, bourgeois maniac with an axe to grind.
(Who has a lowkey secret, Trojan-horse style passage into the Naboo’s capital city for his fleet of submarines, in case you were wondering what his future plans prior to the movie might have been...)
These are some adaptable, resilient warmakers! Fighting one shouldn’t be funny. It shouldn’t! Stop laughing! For all we know they can probably fly by flapping their ears. No, just kidding. That would be as disastrous to any semblance of continuity as making R2D2 fly.
By this point in this overlong article, which has taken from you precious time that you will never get back, you either fear and respect Gungans, or are about to write me an email about something called “headcanon” which, I agree, sounds like a weapon a Gungan might use.
Yet, even if you don’t for a second entertain the Gungan species as a race of bloodthirsty warriors, you must at least reckon with the fact that Emperor Palpatine did.
PROOF THE GUNGANS STARTED THE GALACTIC EMPIRE
Remember this dapper civil servant?
For people who got on with their lives in the meantime, a reminder that in Attack of the Clones, the above dashing gentleman needed the galactic senate to second and then vote in favour of (STAY WITH ME!) the creation of a massive clone army that he would then use to have a war amid some stars.
To second the idea for his army, Palpatine could have turned to literally any grim warmonger from any space orc race across the galaxy.
He chose clown college lecturer and Gungan Jar Jar Binks.
Do you suppose this was because absolutely everyone else in that bedazzled crater was too enlightened to be taken in by this scheme? Or could it have been because Palpatine was originally the Senator from Naboo? He had grown up with Gungans. He knew that a communications disruption could mean only a rain of slingshotted EMP scrotums - that war was in the Gungan culture and blood.
Maybe by leaving the decision up to Jar Jar, he actually took all uncertainty out of the equation.
Brought up in the Gungan culture, when presented with the question “Should we have a Terrifying Standing Army?” Jar Jar’s only answer could be Yes.
Or “YESA” followed by a pratfall. But you see my point, right?
DON’T YOU WALK AWAY FROM ME.
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