the strange case of the star wars kid

The Star Wars Kid
Some time ago on “my online-community’s” IRC-channel someone pointed us to a small movie-file showing a not-really-athletic kid dancing around with a broomstick, clearly impersonating Sith-Lord Darth Maul of Star-Wars-Episode-I fame. Being reminded of myself as a kid when “Star Wars” hit the silverscreen for the first time in 1977 I felt quite some sympathy for the boy — and we had some minutes of good amusement watching him wielding his imagined double-bladed lightsaber. Afterwards I forgot about that. Today, while skimming through the german online-magazine Telepolis, I found a whole article on this movie and the still developing story surrounding it. In a nuthshell: Ghyslain, a 15-year-old high-school kid of Quebec (Canada), filmed himself doing the martial-arts sequence in the studio of his school in November 2002. The tape was forgotten about, unless the contents were discovered by a “friend” of Ghyslain. This friend and his companions digitally encoded the movie and put it on the internet. Unexpectedly the movie instantaneously became a great success in cyberspace. Bryan Dube enhanced the movie by adding lightsaber-glow to the broomstick, and sound-effects from the Star-Wars movies, calling the result The Last Hope. Another guy made a Matrix-reloaded version from it … Till today far more than two million people worldwide downloaded the movie and the remixes made from it. Andy Baio, whos weblog was hit by heavy download-demand for the movie, thought about the whole case, and came up with the idea to compensate the “Star Wars Kid” — meanwhile Ghyslain is known by this alias — for the embarrassment and personal humiliation he suffered from the unauthorized online-publication of his martial-arts moves. Baio started an online-fund-raising to be able to buy the Star Wars Kid some digital equipment. Quickly more than 4000 USD were collected! Besides that the whole story had found a tremendous response in the media. Several major newspapers reported about the case and Fox-television even broadcasted the movie twice on US-television. The mass of online-responses is equally heavy. Lots of people made fun of the Kid, but quite the same number voiced their sympathy, as he reminded them of theirselves — just like I had felt when watching the original movie for the first time. The majority of the geek-community wholeheartedly embraced Ghyslaine — the result of the fund-raising is ample proof of this. But on May 29, 2003 the whole story took a new twist, as an offline-power jumped into the game: Ghyslain’s family is thinking about taking legal steps against the ones who put the original movie on the net; a lawyer already is on his way and tries to pull away the media-pressure from the family (Read the english transcript of an interview, Radio Canada did with the family’s lawyer). Nevertheless Ghyslain will accept the presents generated by the fund-raising (including non-cash gifts like a Darth-Maul-lightsaber-replica signed by Ray Park, the actor who impersonated Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I”), and doesn’t intend to take legal action against the fundraisers or those who generated the remixes … to be continued, I guess.
    P.S.: A personal side-note. When I watched “The Last Hope” today, I was dazzled by how deeply I’m infected with this piece of popular-culture, and how much I’m still a kid myself. I started the movie on my laptop, earphones on the head, and clicked on my audio-settings icon, to increase the volume. Immediately the lightsaber-sounds from the movie were like echoed — I completely had forgotten that a long time ago I had replaced all the default-system-sounds of my comp by Star-Wars-soundeffects … normally I don’t hear them, as audio is switched off most of the time.

originally posted at ethno::log