Ahmed Best, the actor who played Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels, recently admitted that he considered suicide after receiving overwhelming backlash for his role.
Even though Best didn't namedrop the franchise, he wrote in a social media post that it's now nearly 20 years since he faced a level of resentment that still haunts his career today. Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace premiered in 1999.
"[Twenty] years next year I faced a media backlash that still affects my career today. This was the place I almost ended my life," Best said on Twitter, accompanied by a photo showing Best and his son standing on what appears to be a bridge. "It's still hard to talk about. I survived and now this little guy is my gift for survival."
The Toll Of Backlash
Not much has changed since then, clearly. Just last month, Kelly Marie Tran, who introduced us to a new character, Rose Tico, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, had to bow out of Instagram because of overflowing harassment directed at her instead of the character she played. It brings to mind actor Anna Gunn receiving enormous hate for playing Walter White's wife Skyler in Breaking Bad. In a 2013 essay, Gunn finally addressed her backlash, saying viewers haven't judged Skyler by the same set of standards as Walter, despite her husband engaging in more nefarious acts.
In the same vein, Tran has been subjected to the toxic sludge of misogynistic remarks, and at times these extend to her being Asian. Fans determined to erase the female narrative in The Last Jedi even hijacked the movie altogether, cutting out all scenes involving women, and needless to say the results were disastrous.
Best went through fandom-rooted toxicity at a time when the internet wasn't as big as it is today. But despite the lack of robust social media channels like Twitter back then, fans still made sure their anger came across potently.
"I had death threats through the internet," Best told Wired in an interview last year. "I had people come to me and say, 'You destroyed my childhood.' That's difficult for a 25-year-old to hear."
Ahmed Best Solo Show
Best is now planning to produce and perform a solo show next year in celebration of The Phantom Menace's 20th anniversary. He's now contemplating if he should discuss the backlash he experienced throughout the 20 years after his role as Jar Jar Binks.
Best, Tran, and Gunn's astonishing brush-offs are indicative of a much larger problem in cinema and Hollywood — toxic criticism, often done by those who feel free to abuse their privilege of opinion. Most of them think observation and analysis equate to declaration, when in fact the best critics asks questions instead of offering answers.