Star Wars Kid
Star Wars Kid is a viral video made in 2002 by Ghyslain Raza in which he wields a golf ball retriever in imitation of Darth Maul's lightsaber moves from the Star Wars films. At the time, Raza was a 15-year-old high school student from Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada. He had not intended for the video to become public, but its subsequent release led to ridicule during which Raza chose to distance himself from the video. Raza since has affirmed his identity and has used the video to help speak on the effects of bullying.
Video origins and publication
On November 3, 2002 Raza made a video of himself swinging a golf ball retriever around as a weapon. The video was filmed at his high school studio, and the tape left in a basement. It was taped over a portion of a basketball game (as seen extremely briefly at the end of the clip). The video was discovered by a schoolmate, who showed it to his friend who created an electronic file from the video tape. The video was distributed amongst his school's students when it reached a fourth student, who uploaded it to the Internet under the title Jackass_starwars_funny.wmv. The video eventually became a viral Internet meme through P2P services. According to court transcripts, the video first appeared on the Internet on the evening of April 14, 2003.
An edited version of the video was created, adding Star Wars music, texts, and lightsaber special effects, such as lights and sounds. As of November 27, 2006 it was estimated by The Viral Factory that the video had been viewed over 900 million times. As of 2010, the first copy of this video that was posted on YouTube has over 20 million views.
The leaked video also attracted a number of fans. A petition was started by fans to include Raza in Star Wars Episode III. The petition reached over 140,000 signatures yet he was not offered a cameo appearance.
Several fans felt his video was relatable. "That's why his video become so popular: It was funny and awkward but ultimately we connected to him. That made us feel more comfortable with our own awkwardness and dreams of being a Jedi," said one group of Star Wars enthusiasts.
Another response from a fan named Elizabeth Murphy stated in a USA Today article, "Contrary to popular belief, I think it is not the Jedi kid's awkwardness that keeps him in people's hearts but his undeniable enthusiasm for what he is doing."
Raza states he was also a victim of cyberbullying, as his video also attracted negative attention and comments. Online commenters responded with critical or bullying messages. In a 2013 interview, Raza states, "What I saw was mean. It was violent. People were telling me to commit suicide." Among the comments online, "One commenter called him 'a pox on humanity.' Others suggested he commit suicide." He was bullied in person at his school which made him resort to private tutoring. He also claimed to have lost friends because of the ordeal. He returned to high school in his senior year and went on to finish schooling as a law graduate.
Harassment lawsuit and settlement
In July 2003, Raza's family filed a CA$250,000 lawsuit against the families of four of his schoolmates. The lawsuit stated in part that he "had to endure, and still endures today, harassment and derision from his high-school mates and the public at large" and "will be under psychiatric care for an indefinite amount of time." Legal proceedings against one family were quickly dropped. The lawsuit had been scheduled to begin trial on April 10, 2006, but on April 7, the boy and his parents reached an out-of-court settlement with the defendants.
In 2005, CNET listed the Star Wars Kid as #8 on its Top 10 Web Fads list. In 2007, the G4 TV show Attack of the Show rated it the number 1 viral video of all time. It was ranked #2 on VH1's "Top 40 Internet Celebrities", right behind Gary Brolsma (The Numa Numa Guy). The case raised privacy issues and was extensively reported in mainstream news media worldwide, including The New York Times, CBS News, GMTV, and BBC News.
Until May 2013, Raza had taken steps to avoid connecting himself with the video, despite this identity being discovered through other means. Raza recounted to Maclean's that he had received numerous invitations from various late night and talk shows, but found out they only wanted "to turn me into a circus act". During the ten year period from the propagation of the meme, Raza had become the president of the Patrimoine Trois-Rivières heritage society. Raza decided to come forward to assert his identity as the Star Wars Kid to help bring to light the type of bullying and negative attention that children might receive in similar incidents with the rise of social media.
In popular culture
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The video and its subsequent popularity spawned many spoofs and references on various television programs, including episodes of The Venture Bros.; the American Dad! episode "All About Steve"; multiple episodes of Arrested Development, beginning with "The Immaculate Election"; Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide; Cory in the House; Teen Titans; South Park and Family Guy.
In 2006, comedian Stephen Colbert initiated a contest, Green Screen Challenge. He presented a video of himself standing in front of a greenscreen, using a toy lightsaber to dramatically fight off imaginary foes in the fashion of the Star Wars Kid. It was then up to viewers to edit and enhance in their own way. Viewers would then send their own videos into the show, on which the best would be featured. The contest eventually culminated with Star Wars creator George Lucas making an appearance, presenting his elaborate version of the video, enhanced by Industrial Light and Magic.
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