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The strange case of 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 waxy.org 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.
--zeph

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.


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