While we’ve (unfortunately) gotten a better look at how bad harassment campaigns against actors and creators can become, they're hardly new. Following the disappointing reception of Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace, actor Ahmed Best took the brunt of the backlash, and which he recently revealed pushed him to contemplate suicide. Now, actor Simon Pegg has apologized for his own negative comments about the character.
Best was introduced in 1999 as Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace, and almost immediately the character was maligned by fans as being indicative of everything wrong with the movie: He was fully CGI, and his presence, while intended to be humorous, distracted from the storyline. Some critics viewed him as an offensive racial caricature.
Simon Pegg feels guilty for all the negative things he’s said about Jar Jar Binks pic.twitter.com/fnVnfsNe5c
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) July 24, 2018
Best wasn't the only member of the prequels cast the who was ridiculed by fans, as Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen were also targeted, which led Lloyd to leave acting. Pegg was among the highest-profile figure to make harsh jokes, with his character Timin the comedy series Spaced exhibiting a particular hatred Jar Jar Binks. There’s even a scene of Tim screaming at a child for wanting to buy a toy of Jar Jar.
In light of Best’s recent admission, many, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, have stepped forward to offer support for the actor. But in a new interview, Pegg expressed regret for his own role in the harassment of Best.
"I feel so ashamed of the fact that there was a victim, a human victim in that," he said. "I think most people were regarding Jar Jar Binks like he was a real creature. And wailing on him for being annoying him or whatever, or not liking him. But there was a person behind that. And I read that and just thought ‘Christ, I’m one of those people.' It makes me feel awful.”
Pegg also addressed the growing problem of toxic fans within the Star Wars community, specifically citing the treatment of The Last Jedi actor Kelly Marie Tran.
“There’s no diplomacy in that, there’s no empathy," he said. "We’re becoming very, very insular, as human beings. We’re becoming very self-driven, selfist, our opinions, our needs, our wants. I feel sorry for Kelly Marie Tran. She was just in a film, a fucking film is all it is. None of it matters, none of it. I think it would be nice if everyone just got on. You know, and stopped being so aggressive.”