But Jar Jar has a place of honor with Mich Ouellette of South Portland, Maine – a tattoo on Ouellette’s back.
His entire back.
What might be almost as astounding as the large, back-consuming, black-and-gray tattoo is the fact that Ouellette actually likes Jar Jar. And he loves his tattoo.
“It’s way better than I imagined,” he said. “I wish it wasn’t on my back so I could see it.”
The story of how Ouellette ended up with a gigantic, double-thumbs up Jar Jar on his back harkens back to the years of people asking why he didn’t have the character honored among his other Star Wars tattoos — Ouellette has saga-themed sleeves on both arms, one devoted to the light side and the other to the dark side of the force. It also has to do with his enjoyment of “Jackass,” and how one character inspired Jar Jar’s pose.
“Being a Star Wars fan, everybody always wants to know what my take on the prequels [episodes 1-3] is because I’m 42 years old, so I must hate the prequels,” he said in a recent interview with Boston.com. “I don’t, I like the prequels a lot, and so they think they’re being funny by asking, ‘Where’s your Jar Jar tattoo?,’ thinking I’ll go on this big ‘I hate the prequels’ rant, but I actually like the prequels.”
So, up until he made Jar Jar a permanent part of his back, Ouellette said he would tell people that he didn’t have a Jar Jar tattoo yet, emphasis on yet.
“I knew I’d have to get one eventually just to shut people up, and I knew it’d have to be something crazy and kind of epic because he’s such a hated character,” he said. “It needed to be something that had that ‘wow’ factor to go beyond the joke. I knew it had to be a joke, but it had to be a really well done joke.”
Ouellette mulled it over for a couple years, he said. But then one day, while talking to a friend who happens to be a bartender at his favorite restaurant, the idea dawned on him. Ouellette was a fan of the “Jackass” movie, and one of the actors, Steve-O, has a portrait tattoo of himself covering almost his whole back. In the tattoo, Steve-O has both thumbs up, and, across his closed fists, it reads, “Yeah dude, I rock!” with his signature underneath.
“And that’s when it hit me like, ‘Holy s***, that’s it,’” Ouellette said. “‘I need Jar Jar doing the Steve-O pose and instead of it saying, ‘Yeah dude, I rock,’ it needed to say Jar Jar’s version of that, which I thought would be, ‘‘Oie boie, mesa bombad!’ So as soon as I thought that, I was like, ‘That’s what I need to get.’”
Ouellette’s wife, who supports his love of Star Wars, agreed. Then Ouellette approached a friend, Chris Dingwell of Squirrel Cage Studios in Portland. Ouellette explained that Dingwell uses Jar Jar as a subject when he’s teaching painting – Jar Jar’s easier for someone to paint versus, say, a picture of their child as they’d be more apt to be critical of getting it right.
Dingwell pulled a few promotional photos of Jar Jar and put together a tattoo stencil, Ouellette said. The tattoo was completed a year ago March — three seven-hour sessions later with about two weeks between each to allow time for healing.
It was really painful.
“One side of the tattoo goes farther over the ribs than the other side, and, when it got onto the rib area, that was really, really bad,” Ouellette said. “I started getting light headed. I felt like I was going to pass out.”
While people have told him he’ll regret it, Ouellette said he has just one regret.
“The only regret I have is that I can’t look at it,” he said. “I have to look at a photo of it. I’m kind of jealous whenever I show it to people — they get really close to it and examine all the detail in it. I’m kind of jealous of that.”
The reactions in person versus the ones online to various news reports on the tattoo differ greatly, Ouellette described.
“Social media is always brutal no matter what,” he said, noting that the comments start with jokes about him being a virgin or a nerd and get far more aggressive and unseemly.
When people see the tattoo in person, Ouellette said the reactions usually begin with disbelief, then the realization that it’s real, then comments on how “it’s really well done.”
The conversation then often turns to people saying how they still dislike Jar Jar, but that they like episodes 1-3.
On what he thinks of Jar Jar, Ouellette said it’s a relationship that began with him disliking the character, noting that he knew Jar Jar was made for kids.
“When I saw the very strong negative reaction people had towards him, that made me like him more — to see how pissed off people were becoming,” he said, adding that he’s spoken to grown men who exclaim that Jar Jar ruined their childhood. “It’s that kind of reaction people had that made me like him more and more. It was like, ‘Wow, this character is really pissing people off, it’s hilarious.’”
At Star Wars conventions, Ouellette said he’s noticed two types of fans – the older fans who complain about the newer movies, and the younger fans who grew up watching Jar Jar in episode 1.
“They love the prequels,” he said. “They love Jar Jar because they grew up with him. When I started seeing the younger generation being so positive about all things Star Wars, I knew, like yeah, this is what Jar Jar was all about.”