Star Wars Kid
|Star Wars Kid|
|Directed by||Ghyslain Raza|
|Distributed by||Cory Homertziem|
April 14, 2003 (uploaded)
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 film Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, hence the name. At the time, Raza was a 15-year-old high school student from Trois-Rivières, Québec, 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.
On November 3, 2002, Raza made a video of himself swinging a golf ball retriever around as a mock weapon. The video was filmed at his high school studio, and he accidentally left the tape 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, whose friend created a computer file from the video tape. The video was distributed among the school's students. A student (Cory Homertziem) uploaded it to the Internet with 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.
Raza states he was a victim of cyberbullying, as 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". He was bullied in person at his school, and he left the campus to pursue private tutoring. He claimed to have lost friends because of the ordeal. He returned to high school for his senior year and went on to finish schooling as a law graduate.
In July 2003, Raza's family filed a C$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, Ghislain and his parents reached an out-of-court settlement with the defendants.
Until May 2013, Raza had taken steps to avoid connecting himself with the video, although his identity was discovered through other means. Raza recounted to Maclean's that he had received numerous invitations from various late night and talk shows, but he assumed they only wanted to turn him into a "circus act".
In the 10 years following 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.
The leaked video attracted a number of fans. A petition was started by fans to include Raza in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. The petition reached more than 140,000 signatures, but he was not offered a cameo appearance.
Several fans related to Raza. "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. A fan stated in a 2003 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."
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.
An edited version of the video was created with Star Wars music, texts, and lightsaber lights and sounds. The Viral Factory estimated that by November 27, 2006, the video had been viewed over 900 million times.
In popular culture
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[episode needed]; the South Park episode "Canada on Strike" and Family Guy.[episode needed]
In 2006, comedian Stephen Colbert initiated a contest, the 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. Viewers were then invited 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 culminated with an appearance by Star Wars creator George Lucas, who presented his elaborate version of the video, enhanced by Industrial Light and Magic.
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