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Star Wars Kid breaks 10-year silence
May 9, 2013 7:06 PM   Subscribe

The '00s were a the decade for people to laugh at overweight teenage boys. We all remember Numa Numa kid and Star Wars Kid. Well guess what - Star Wars Kid is now Star Wars Man, and he's speaking out.

p.s. Numa dude is here.
posted by amitai (95 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoa, good to hear him talk about this a bit, I'm curious what more he says in the full article (not apparently online?).
posted by mathowie at 7:09 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine what being the focus of international ridicule for simply being a kid must be like.

Kudos on this guy for surviving the onslaught. He's a Jedi, alright. By any measure.
posted by hippybear at 7:10 PM on May 9, 2013 [53 favorites]


He's a Jedi, alright. By any measure.

Quoted for truth.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:12 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope they give him a cameo in Episode 7. It would be an awesome easter egg to have him in the background of some shot.
posted by humanfont at 7:13 PM on May 9, 2013 [62 favorites]


Being ridiculed by a roomful of people is literally the stuff of nightmares for me. Can't even comprehend what it's like to be jeered at by a billion people.
posted by dontjumplarry at 7:14 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everyone was laughing with the NumaNuma (aka Dragonstea den-something) kid, not at him. He was so clearly enjoying himself and was quite awesome.
posted by jb at 7:17 PM on May 9, 2013 [10 favorites]


Mathowie I'm hoping the full article becomes available online soon. Edit: in the mean time:
http://o.canada.com/2013/05/09/star-wars-kid-goes-on-a-media-blitz-10-years-later/
and: http://www.lactualite.com/societe/le-retour-du-star-wars-kid/ (requires a French download)

Dontjumplarry - I guess you either capitalize on it like Numa did, or disappear for a while like Star Wars did. I'm sure both were completely miserable though.
posted by amitai at 7:18 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the Star Wars kid was sweet and funny, not an object of mockery. Seeing how other people could be so vicious about him really was a turning point for me and the ironic cynicism of my generation.
posted by padraigin at 7:20 PM on May 9, 2013 [14 favorites]


I hope they give him a cameo in Episode 7. It would be an awesome easter egg to have him in the background of some shot.

That's a bit like offering Carrie a cameo in a Tampax commercial.

I think it's something he'd rather move on from.
posted by dontjumplarry at 7:21 PM on May 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, Gary Brolsma (Numa Numa guy) was definitely in on his own joke -- he made it, he uploaded it, and he owned it in all senses of the word. If anything, he was at the vanguard of the mainstreaming of geek culture well before it was commercialized by $10 t-shirt sites and CBS laugh-track sitcoms.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:24 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everyone was laughing with the NumaNuma (aka Dragonstea den-something) kid, not at him. He was so clearly enjoying himself and was quite awesome.

I think I remember an article where he said he couldn't leave the house anymore, but I can't find it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:25 PM on May 9, 2013


Baddest motherfucker on the planet. They oughtta put him in the movie.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:28 PM on May 9, 2013


If Lucas had had any sense he would've scrapped Episode 1, replaced it with 100 minutes of the Numa Numa guy, and still come out ahead.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:33 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


10 years later, ‘Star Wars Kid’ speaks out


...oh God.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:33 PM on May 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


I thought the Star Wars kid was sweet and funny, not an object of mockery. Seeing how other people could be so vicious about him really was a turning point for me and the ironic cynicism of my generation.

Yeah, I remember when Andy Baio first found the video on a file sharing site and blogged about it. We all laughed knowingly, because we were that kid goofing around with a camera that happened to be recording it. It took about a day before it exploded and suddenly it was weird to watch the tide turn, where everyone was laughing at him instead of with him. It got ugly fast.
posted by mathowie at 7:33 PM on May 9, 2013 [24 favorites]


Pope Guilty

I remembered reading a similarly-themed article; found it again by googling gary brolsma grandfather.
posted by The Confessor at 7:35 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad he's come out of it okay, because the Star Wars kid thing was hideously awful. I don't even remember anymore if I was horrified or joined in the mocking. I know I wouldn't have said anything truly awful in the 'you should kill yourself' vein, but I hope I was kind.

And I really wish I was a good enough person that I could be sure I was kind.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:38 PM on May 9, 2013 [7 favorites]


I must not have been as attuned to the mood of the online-dickweed commentariat at that point in time, because I just assumed that everybody everywhere was always on the same page about the Numa Numa kid's awesomeness. I guess we've made some progress as a society then.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:40 PM on May 9, 2013


Why is "obesity" the only tag on this? I could think of about 30 tags before I'd get to that one.

On the one hand, there is such a thing as an "anti-bullying" movement today, whereas when I was growing up adults basically told you to stop being such a weepy wuss about getting your ass kicked by a mob of kids every day. (Yes, I'll admit that I'm a tad bitter. Fuck you bloody, former teachers and students of Bixby Elementary!) On the other hand, a kid can do something embarrassing now and it gets posted online and stays there for years. It can even go viral, god help us. So basically, these kids today have it so easy, except for the parts that are so bad I don't even want to think about it.

I do think we've kind of turned a corner with our online callousness, it's gotten pretty frightening. I see these clips on TV where some toddler gets accidentally kicked in the head by a clumsy uncle, or that clip where the little girl is doing the stuffed animal show in her bedroom and then the door falls on her, and it kind of boggles my mind that we're supposed to laugh at it. I mean, I don't even particularly like being around kids, and even I can't laugh at a little kid getting kicked in the goddamn head! The Star Wars kid was kind of an early warning of what was to come. As other people have said, it seemed funny and cute at first, but then you saw how ugly and sadistic the online reaction was getting and you knew the poor kid's life was going to be a mess for years.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 7:41 PM on May 9, 2013 [25 favorites]


Is "obesity" really the only tag you could think of?
posted by oulipian at 7:41 PM on May 9, 2013 [12 favorites]


Actually, now that I've RTFA I confess that I don't even remember the Star Wars kid. He wasn't the Numa Numa guy, was he?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:43 PM on May 9, 2013


What an awesome young man. I'm really glad that he's doing okay. I don't remember the original video, either, but I am glad that he's done so well after going through such awful times.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:45 PM on May 9, 2013


It took about a day before it exploded and suddenly it was weird to watch the tide turn, where everyone was laughing at him instead of with him.

I've had an unwritten essay sort of slopping around in my head for a while now about FAIL Culture, this sort of specific internet crystallization of the tendency, when presented with something weird or offbeat or awkward, to react with a sense of vindictive mockery or dismissal rather than embracing and sympathizing with and reaffirming the basic humanity of those acts and experiences.

This isn't something new to the internet, of course, but the internet's made it possible for it to be a sort of global thing, a shitty collectivization of what previously would have mostly been a mostly personal dynamic. And there's sites that have made good, solid money exploiting that; between just Fail Blog and Gawker Media you can get your fill of lazy "omg this guy/thing/art/etc sucks" any day of the week and they'll just keep shoveling it out. If anything, sites that make it their raison d'etre—curators of FAIL—do more than proportional damage by (a) creating a home for the stuff and encouraging a culture of mockery and (b) scraping the barrel on slow news days and so finding excuses to go after stuff that's simply odd rather than somehow catastrophic.

Gyhslain is a sort of accidental pioneer; he got in on this ride early, before it was quite so well-established. Which is unlucky for him in a couple ways, I think, because there was less to go around, and there was probably less sympathy about this new brand of meanspiritedness among folks who might have laughed at unlucky people at the time but have since grown up some and gotten tired of being that kind of person.
posted by cortex at 7:46 PM on May 9, 2013 [22 favorites]


I thought he was awesome then, and I still think he was awesome. That wasn't a video of Fail. It was a video of pure joy. The people who couldn't see that were the failures.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:48 PM on May 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


He wasn't the Numa Numa guy, was he?

Ghyslain recorded himself doing an amateur kata with a broomstick, pretending it was a double-bladed light saber. People made fun of him for being heavyset and not very good at pretending he was a Jedi while thinking that he was cool enough to record himself pretending to be a Jedi.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 7:50 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not even so much the crushing weight of the internet putting him under the microscope as it is that he was practically the first one to have it happen, and at a vulnerable age at that.
These days people upload their own videos hoping for the chance at that kind of treatment, while he was literally blindsided by the upload in an age where there was no video hosting. I'm really glad he made it.
posted by hypersloth at 7:51 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought the Star Wars kid was sweet and funny, not an object of mockery. Seeing how other people could be so vicious about him really was a turning point for me and the ironic cynicism of my generation.

I'm having that moment right now. I had no idea that he suffered ridicule because of that video. The way it was presented to me was something on the order of, "Hey, check out this adorable/hilarious kid!" And I thought it was funny and adorable in a nerdy-cute, normal-boy kind of way. Jesus, people are so rude.
posted by heyho at 7:53 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


[removed the obesity tag, that was weird, replaced with helpful ones]
posted by mathowie at 7:53 PM on May 9, 2013 [15 favorites]


This was one of those things where...for all that I regret not having the internet as a kid/young teenager (and let's be real, everyone acts like kids would all be reading books and playing bridge and sipping tea and discussing Prussian politics without the internet, but me and my generation mainly watched a shitload of MTV), I'm also EXTREMELY glad I didn't because I know I did all kinds of dumb shit that could've easily gone viral and now I'd always be...well, I'll leave it to the mists of obscurity, but I'd rather not be tarred with dipshit kid antics for the rest of my life.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:56 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


In this celebrity-obsessed culture we tend to forget that there are people who neither ask nor want to be celebrities.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:57 PM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would totally have been the dumbass kid with Leia buns or singing into my hairbrush or god knows what else on the internet if it had been available to me, so yeah, I'm glad. But I'm also glad that what the internet seems to be turning into will allow my kids to be pretty dorky online without too much heartache, as long as they keep their clothes on.
posted by padraigin at 7:58 PM on May 9, 2013


Can I just suggest three additional tags for this please?

bullying, onlinebullying and itgetsbetter

Because uhm, they seem pretty relevant.
posted by Faintdreams at 7:58 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


In this celebrity-obsessed culture we tend to forget that there are people who neither ask nor want to be celebrities.

It's sort of that, and at least as much "You were just whoring for attention and now you have to take whatever anyone says about you" bullshit.
posted by rtha at 7:59 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


And to add insult to injury this was before youtube started paying money for lots of hits?
Then I could endure abuse and changing schools from the safety of my armour suit made of gold.
posted by Damienmce at 8:02 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Star Wars 'fans' can be so cruel.
posted by George Lucas at 8:04 PM on May 9, 2013 [26 favorites]


Wait, people though NumaNuma kid was an object of ridicule? He uploaded the video himself and completely cashed in on it in every possible way. He was kind of an annoying little self-promoter there for a while.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:07 PM on May 9, 2013


I helped buy that dude an ipod... back in the day....
posted by ph00dz at 8:08 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hope this inspires Macbook Kid to step forward from anonymity, that we may one day hear his story.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 8:13 PM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Trois-Rivières is "small-town Quebec"? The city has 150,000 people. Journalists do this all the time, and I'm not sure whether it's poor fact checking or a lazy attempt at getting the reader to sympathize with the subject who just doesn't know how the real world works!
posted by gumpstump at 8:17 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


cortex: ... the tendency, when presented with something weird or offbeat or awkward, to react with a sense of vindictive mockery or dismissal ...

At the risk of sounding like I'm perpetuating that same FAIL culture...that's the sort of distressingly common behavior that disappoints me about most of humanity. It gouges away at my desire to believe in our best qualities and our ability (or even worthiness) to stay alive and prosper over the long haul. As a species, we really really need to outgrow this rampant violent xenophobia.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:26 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Obviously, Macbook Kid is Zachary Quinto, before he was famous.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:28 PM on May 9, 2013


Not nearly hairy enough.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:30 PM on May 9, 2013


I'm pretty sure the point of the article was that mostly harmless online jokes lead to horrifying real life bullying. It's not just making fun of someone in the wrong way, it's becoming famous for being a dork. Even if everyone (or most people) love you, it can make real life bullies line up to torture you. Which isn't about online culture being bad, just dangerous to be exposed to.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:32 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It would be an awesome easter egg to have him in the background of some shot.

If it's going to be anything like the prequels then for pity's sake don't do it. Appearing in one highly embarrassing, highly public object of mockery is enough for any lifetime.

Actually one difference between Star Wars Kid and Phantom Menace is that I probably watched the former more than once.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:33 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


amitai: "The '00s were the decade for people to laugh at overweight teenage boys."

Having survived being an overweight teenager in the 90s, I feel confident in saying that most decades were thus.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:36 PM on May 9, 2013 [20 favorites]


I've had an unwritten essay sort of slopping around in my head for a while now about FAIL Culture, this sort of specific internet crystallization of the tendency, when presented with something weird or offbeat or awkward, to react with a sense of vindictive mockery or dismissal rather than embracing and sympathizing with and reaffirming the basic humanity of those acts and experiences.

Is it bad that I feel that way about Daniel Tosh and all those other people who host all those disturbingly numerous "America's Failiest Home Videos" shows where they sit around laughing derisively at YouTube videos? 'Cause if that's really all they can come up with for a show, that is some fucking meta FAIL right there, dude.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:40 PM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


People made fun of him for being heavyset and not very good at pretending he was a Jedi while thinking that he was cool enough to record himself pretending to be a Jedi.

The idea of that being "a big deal" (enough to generate a lot of fame/mockery) seems incredibly dated to me now.

I guess because of some combination of phone cameras/webcams/youtube/motion-controlled video games/obesity-commonness/fail compilations/nerd acceptance/Facebook?

Christ, this was pre-two girls one cup. The world has changed.
posted by glhaynes at 8:42 PM on May 9, 2013


I always thought the name "Gyhslain" was pretty awesome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


If anything, sites that make it their raison d'etre—curators of FAIL—do more than proportional damage by (a) creating a home for the stuff and encouraging a culture of mockery and (b) scraping the barrel on slow news days and so finding excuses to go after stuff that's simply odd rather than somehow catastrophic.

For some reason the word "fail" for me always conjures up images of those over/poorly loaded container ships that got hit with the FAIL tag early on, which means that if anything gets the FAIL tag I feel a great deal of sympathy for it. The amount of sympathy I feel for badly loaded ships might be atypical, however.

That (b), however, I think gets to the heart of the Star Wars kid thing perfectly. There's not anything especially FAIL about that; it's certainly not the Ultimate Girls Fail Compilation* which I should never have clicked on, but now my Youtube recommended videos is like 2/3 bluegrass music and 1/3 that nonsense.

The Star Wars kid thing is just a kid goofing around; there's no reason to rag on or love him for that. The fact that people did is honestly kind of bizarre and doesn't say much for our culture. It's not noteworthy. It's barely odd. It's nothing I would show a potential mate, God knows, but seeing it as something odd or embarrassing seems really weird, like something that can only be the product of a culture going out of its way to find things that are normal to be humilating. A 14 year old is goofing around? I hesitate to tell the world that 14 year olds are out there doing really embarrassing shit, like writing poetry; once you've seen that all the fake lightsaber antics in the world can't seem embarrassing, right?

*This is precisely as misogynistic as you're expecting.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:47 PM on May 9, 2013


Now we just need a bio-doc of the "Boom goes the dynamite!" guy.
posted by Bonzai at 8:49 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm holding out for She's Human! The Leave Britney Alone Motion Picture
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:53 PM on May 9, 2013


I would totally have been the dumbass kid with Leia buns or singing into my hairbrush or god knows what else on the internet if it had been available to me, so yeah, I'm glad

When I was like -- maybe twelve? I made a video with my best friend Noelle. She was Luke and I was Han Solo and her younger sister was Leia and her dad was Darth Vader (and also the cameraman, making the last scene kind of awkward). This movie was AWESOME, just fucking AMAZING, and I was great as Han Solo (it is the part I was born to play, probably).

That said, if it had been released to anyone but Noelle and her family I would have been DEVASTATED. It highlighted a bunch of stuff including some of my gender/sexuality confusion (I desperately wanted to be Han and not Leia) and my awkward nerdiness and inability to act even as it highlighted how fucking awesome I was.

If, at that age, it had been seen and responded to in a widespread way, I would have been devastated, possibly to the point of suicide. I'm super, SUPER glad that people are able to take ownership of their childhood shames (even if they should not be shameful) and I also feel like whoa, maybe we should be nicer to kids who are figuring shit out.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:56 PM on May 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I always thought the name "Gyhslain" was pretty awesome.

Named for St. Ghislain: "His feast is celebrated October 9, and his intercession is sought to ward off convulsions from children."
posted by Sys Rq at 8:57 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm holding out for She's Human! The Leave Britney Alone Motion Picture

Perhaps you just need to watch the South Park episode devoted to exactly this topic. It makes exactly that point in just over 20 minutes.
posted by hippybear at 8:59 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Add me as another person who counts his lucky stars to have reached adulthood prior to the viral online video phenomenon. My early childhood was rough enough in terms of the amount of teasing I received from my peers. Had any of them been made aware of the many epic pro wrestling battles that took place in my house between myself and a body pillow atop a pullout couch "ring", I'm pretty sure my family would have had to move.
posted by The Gooch at 9:01 PM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Add me as another person who counts his lucky stars to have reached adulthood prior to the viral online video phenomenon.

There exists, somewhere in my parents' house a cassette tape of me, pretending to be a radio announcer, calling a NASCAR race between myself, my best friend Garrett, and Richard Petty (I won), while I drove remote control cars around my kitchen acting out the action.

So yeah, I'm glad that's a private thing between me and all y'all and not out there on the internet.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:04 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


So yeah, I'm glad that's a private thing between me and all y'all and not out there on the internet.

Hahaha joke's on you I've known about this for years!

Also we are married,
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:06 PM on May 9, 2013 [32 favorites]


I remember this making the rounds in high school.

Worse, I remember laughing at it.

The crux of the joke, I think, was "look, this guy is fat and a dork, and when he's on his own, he's prancing around like he's not even ashamed of it, instead of burying himself in a corner!"

Even though I was laughing, I think secretly, most of us were thinking "thank god it wasnt me."

Kids are amazing, and I still have faith in adults, but man, that period in between can produce some awful human beings.
posted by cacofonie at 9:09 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This isn't something new to the internet, of course, but the internet's made it possible for it to be a sort of global thing, a shitty collectivization of what previously would have mostly been a mostly personal dynamic.

I think part of what's behind this too is the Tragedy-of-the-Commons-like human tendency to be aware of your own behavior to the exclusion of a global perspective of the thing you're involved in, and so you get this paired with the enabling mechanism of the internet and it results in a lot of people that don't realize that their voice is essentially getting dragged into this colossal katamari of malice that's getting directed at a single person.
posted by invitapriore at 9:12 PM on May 9, 2013


Even though I was laughing, I think secretly, most of us were thinking "thank god it wasnt me."

Instilling this fear is exactly the point of this mob conformity enforcement behaviour.
posted by srboisvert at 9:28 PM on May 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Anyone who got called out in Arrested Development is a cool kid by me.
posted by bendy at 10:56 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I went to law school with Ghyslain. A confession:

At the end of first year, a big group of us had just finished our last exam, and were all drinking at a campus bar. Somehow, it was non-chalantly dropped that Star Wars Kid was in our year, and oh yeah he's actually just in the other room.

It may shock you, fellow mefites, to learn that I am a giant internet nerd – which is actually a surprisingly rare species in law school. I first saw the clip on Waxy back in the pre-Youtube days. I was as enthralled and embarrassed and as filled with secret empathy as anyone. I watched it dozens of times, along with all the remixes and tributes.

And so it was with some excitement that I then learned that THE Star Wars Kid was in fact at our school, at this bar, and sitting just one room over from me at that very moment. I was THRILLED. GOBSMACKED. ECSTATIC. (Also: Drunk.)

I quite literally could not believe it was true, so I ran into the other room and yep, that's Star Wars kid, 4 years older and wearing a shirt eerily similar to the one from the video. I ran back to the other room, tittering and OMGing.

From that moment, I was secretly obsessed with him. I would make constant jokes to friends (he was joining Vwowmph, Vwowmph and Fwoosh LLP har har). I would show the video around to try explain the monumental importance of this seemingly normal CEGEP guy (the first giant internet meme video! Remixes! Arrested Development!). Generally people had mildly amused "hunh" type reactions, but some appreciated it, and it spread around.

I don't know if I can quite describe what it's like to be repeatedly in medium-to-close proximity to someone with that particular type of notoriety. You're near each other enough that you constantly see the person, and are reminded of their fame. But at the same time the person isn't really doing anything to attract attention, and you're not close or friendly enough that your appreciation of them goes anywhere beyond the major thing you know them for. We didn't have any friends in common (the French/English divide kept our peer groups pretty separate), there was no interaction between us, so he remained Star Wars Kid, and only secondarily Ghyslain. I also didn't see him every day, so every time I did it would be a little bolt of recognition, and I would inwardly giggle like a school girl. Who am I to stand in the light of Star Wars Kid and not LOL?

The fact that he was so normal and unassuming made it even more hilarious to me. It's like he was some kind of comedy-Batman, and only I understood the depths of his dark internet secret. If he'd been open about it, it probably would have lost its lustre, but the fact that he made no public reference to it made it a bottomless comedy goldmine. For the first two years I never actually spoke to the guy, and obviously none of this was overtly said to him and he was not aware of it, as far as I knew. Even a year or two in, whenever I saw him I still couldn't get over that this elder god of the internet was RIGHT. THERE. READING. TORTS.

And then in third year a different big group of us went on some trip to the Montreal courthouse, I think to meet with government lawyers or something. Anyway, I'm pathologically early, so I was there 20 minutes ahead of time, and as usual, I was the only one there that early.

Except for Star Wars Kid.

Being the only people we both recognized, social decorum dictated that we converse. And so I walked up to him and we spoke.

I would really, really like to think I acted normal (beyond the standard, Anglophone-speaks-French-while-Francophone-speaks-English-because-everyone-wants-to-be-polite awkwardness you often get in Montreal), but I assure you in my head fireworks were going off. OMG! I am talking to Star Wars Kid! And he doesn't know I know! But I DO know! I wonder if he knows I know?! MUST STAY COOL MUST STAY ETC.

Our conversation continued for a few minutes about whatever, and like I said I was inwardly laughing it up. But as it continued, I started feeling this... I dunno, dread. Like real, deep, sickening dark awfulness. I think it was then that I started looking inside myself, and realized: holy shit, what is WRONG with me? What have I turned into? Here is this regular guy who is speaking to me thinking we're having a decent and normal conversation like civilized adults, who is just trying to live his life and probably put this shit behind him, and here I've been treating him like some kind of sideshow. Especially considering how I was bullied when I was

[INSERT SEVERAL PARAGRAPHS OF SELF-LOATHING PITY-PANDERING HERE]

So I realized what a stupid asshole I was being and got over the whole dumb star wars thing. The next year by chance ended I up in a small seminar with Ghyslain, and we got along well while it lasted. My inside gossip: he's a pretty great guy, really nice and very smart, and quite handsome in person (that's an AWFUL picture of him in the story).

Anyway, the point of the story isn't my own pathetic little pseudo-redemption arc. It's this: Ghyslain is going to have to deal with assholes like this for the rest of his life.

Seriously, they (we?) are everywhere. He is going to have to go through every day not knowing whether the people he knows – hell, even whether the random individuals he doesn't know who see or speak to him – are secretly sniggering behind his back, and spreading the "hilarity" from his darkest days to everyone around them. Imagine never being able to escape the possibility of being DIRECTLY reminded of your most awful childhood trauma (and from the story, it really does seem awful), no matter where you go. I have nightmares about shit like that, but for him it's an actual lived reality.

Think about that burden, and the awful paranoia and loathing that would fester. And think about the publicity and retraumatization that will entail from stepping out like this, especially considering how much he has been protecting his identity the last 10 years.

Considering all of that, it is fucking HEROIC that he has decided to step into public and take a stand for such a good and appropriate cause. I would never in a million years have the guts to do it.

He has the capacity, the internet clout and (from my observations) the heart to really make a difference in this area too, which makes me really happy. Bon courage.
posted by ordinary_magnet at 10:57 PM on May 9, 2013 [192 favorites]


Am I over-simplifying things, or is the thing about his video really about a boy at that point in growing up where the child and the teenager are at war with each other? You still love the childish things, even knowing that you're supposed to be getting past them. Where you haven't yet sold your soul to the so-called "adult world" of "reality", even though you know it's expected of you.

Play. If you get caught playing, you will be shamed and pilloried before the entire world!

Think about that, and how sick that really makes us out to be, as adults.
posted by Goofyy at 11:58 PM on May 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


We're still totally allowed to laugh at the guys dry-humping the couch cushions though, right?

(I mean, I'd be willing to laugh with them, assuming they can laugh at themselves.)
posted by ShutterBun at 12:25 AM on May 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have some perspective on this, being a nerd (and, in adulthood, overweight). I don't know how I would have been able to react if this had happened to me at his age, but I did find other nerds beginning in middle school. I eventually left high school early because of a combination of depression, isolation, and yes, harassment (though most of the bad bullying had been in middle school), but I had at least found friends, and in college I found more nerds and more friends. Though still struggling with depression and personal identity issues, I at least began to feel like there was something out there for me.

As an adult I had a period of being teased at work -- a group of guys felt I looked and more importantly SOUNDED just like Chris Farley (already deceased). I'd enjoyed some of his SNL sketch characters, but detested movies like "Tommy Boy" (but then I've never seen the whole thing); apparently they were much bigger fans than I ever was. It got so I would be talking in a meeting and a couple of the guys would titter. Apparently even the way I would react to this would simply reinforce the association in their minds, and it got to be a real problem. They didn't treat me very differently otherwise and I was assured that it was appreciative, but then I felt it was, uh, largely a weight thing and I just couldn't shake my annoyance. Eventually it died down and the guys engaging in this mostly moved on and then I did, so it was no longer a thing. I did try to "get" how much their love for Chris Farley could factor into being amused by my simply talking normally. It doesn't bother me, in an overall sense, and I've mostly forgotten the whole thing, but I think I would be sensitive if I saw one of these guys again and they reacted as they probably would by just "seeing" Farley whenever I would talk.

I often wondered how things would have been different if I'd geeked out on Farley movies and been able to throw out lines of his at appropriate moments. I imagine I would have been much more one of the guys.

(I mean, I'd done this before. Everything I know about sports I had to teach myself, so that I could talk to normal guys. I just didn't get it from my intellectual flabby-armed dad.)

I dunno. As someone in the complete intersection of the geek-nerd-dork Venn diagram, I really wish that like a lot of my friends Ghyslain had been able to find his crowd, the Quebec SCA, or whatever. Surely some of these people would be able to tell him what a hero he was to them in his own way just for being himself. Clearly, I think there's WIN in being able to own something like this.

It's also a little weird talking about this now, after a decade of increasing internet penetration of popular culture, and near-ubiquitous cameras and social media virality generators. People today expect this to happen, expect that one brief shot on video might turn them into the world's laughingstock or cavalier, and that much of what happens next depends on how they react to it. Maybe he taught us some of that; maybe his silence and disappearance was a cautionary tale; and maybe I wonder what he has thought as others have profited or otherwise ridden their own intersection of media and chance.
posted by dhartung at 12:26 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is not nearly as viral or significant as Star Wars kid, but I once ran into someone who had been "featured" on American Idol...specifically for his awkward interview and audition.

I usually avoided watching American Idol for precisely this reason...having been in lots of auditions (and royally failing on a few occasions) I just couldn't countenance the whole "hey! let's get together and laugh at these poor idiots who think they can sing! I'll pop the popcorn!" But somehow or another in some midnight youtube-surfing funk I stumbled across this video. I watched it, transfixed. It really was a train wreck, and I watched on, horrified at what this guy was put through on national television.

A few weeks later I saw him on the street, waiting to cross an intersection. Weird! But then, he's from Midvale, UT and I worked in that area at the time so it wasn't terribly surprising. I thought little of it. Then a few weeks after that he came into the Apple retailer where I worked part-time as a trainer/creative.

I instantly recognized him, and even though sales weren't really my domain I made a beeline to help him out. Because I wanted to talk to him, to somehow bring it up...but without being a freak about it.

Turns out he's a Mac developer. Really smart, knowledgeable person. Just not highly adept at certain social queues/subtleties. So we talked shop for awhile, talked about the upcoming OSX release (I think it was Leopard at the time), just small talk stuff. Finally I said "so, I don't mean to pry, but I think I recognize you from an American Idol episode."

He sighed. "Yeah, that was me."

"Well I'm sure you already know this but they were total assholes to you on that show. I hate that show."

"Yeah. I didn't really realize what I was getting into, how they'd exaggerate and twist things in the editing room later. Nobody ever talks about this, but the judges aren't actively laughing at you while you audition. That's footage the splice in later, to make the bad auditioners look really clueless."

We talked more, and here's the thing. He really is not a great singer. But the worst, as Simon said? No way. I bet he does better when he's not too nervous, even. But he obviously had a lot of friends and family who were very encouraging. So he went for it. And they slaughtered him. Lucky for him they crucify dozens of hopefuls on that fucking show every year. So he's probably not remembered like the Star Wars kid. And he was an adult when it happened so it (I'm guessing) it didn't scar him as much.

But still.

I still think about Nick. Haven't run into him since that day. I hope he's enjoying his life, and his singing too.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:31 AM on May 10, 2013 [18 favorites]


humanfont: "I hope they give him a cameo in Episode 7. It would be an awesome easter egg to have him in the background of some shot."

They should cast him as a one-episode character who runs against George Michael in a local election on the new season of Arrested Development.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:36 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


I always thought the name "Ghyslain" was pretty awesome.

And if you told me that “Ghyslain Raza” was a name thought up by George Lucas' kids and given to a minor Star Wars character (let's say, some amphibioid hitman or planetary trade delegate or something), I'd probably have believed you.
posted by acb at 3:03 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Once, my cool older cousin caught me playing "radio dj and pop star" with my britney spears cd. I was mortified, even though she didn't make fun of me or tell anyone or basically be nearly as awful as she could have been. I still cringe when I think of it. Now I'm imagining having the entire internet see it. Regardless of what anyone said, I would have been so painfully embarrassed, especially at an age where being accepted is basically the most important thing. I can't even comprehend what this must have felt like. Good on him.
posted by windykites at 3:32 AM on May 10, 2013


This guy was my next-door neighbor. Not literally, but yeah – same general age, same look, same dorky enthusiasm. Different era; we played Batman. We had a treehouse in an old apple tree where we kept our comic books, and arrowheads, and seaglass, rusty old keys and pottery shards and whatever other treasure loot we could (literally) dig up. And one of these things that we practiced "cracking." We ate sour apples off the tree and Butterfinger candy bars. We wore capes. We fought crime.

I wore glasses and had a rock collection* and read books all the time, and Jimmy was a fat kid who loved superheroes, so we were quite the dynamic duo. Bless that silly, innocent, nerdy, carefree, pre-internet stone age! I'm so sorry, Ghyslain Raza; there'll always be room for you in my nerds-only tree house.


* (and other groovy collections, with a handy-dandy Golden Guide for each! But Rocks and Minerals was especially well-thumbed)
posted by taz at 4:19 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The long term effect of these videos on the respective individuals is striking. It really demonstrates the difference between voluntarily participating and being forced into being an object of ridicule. I have to admit that I viewed this when it came out, and thought it was hilarious. I'm not the type of person to comment on a video such as this, but I didn't think of the video as a person, but a situation.

The earnestness clearly visible in his expression, and the evident desire to actually be a Jedi was what really made this video striking. It was seeing someone defenseless and vulnerable, and I wonder at why the "natural" reaction I'd have was to laugh.


That said, I sometimes speak to groups of young males, many who fashion themselves tough guys, and one thing I usually mention is that I played Dungeon and Dragons until my mid-30s, and the only reason I stopped is because I moved away from my group. I get snickers and laughs from most, but I scan the faces for a nod of understanding or a flicker of relief... Those are the guys I try to reach, to let them know that there is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying such "dorky" things.
posted by Debaser626 at 4:47 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cortex - I've had an unwritten essay sort of slopping around in my head for a while now about FAIL Culture, this sort of specific internet crystallization of the tendency, when presented with something weird or offbeat or awkward, to react with a sense of vindictive mockery or dismissal rather than embracing and sympathizing with and reaffirming the basic humanity of those acts and experiences.

I really think a lot about this too and for me it's all linked into the culture of cool - being seen to be cool and opposed to being easy-going. Being cool seems like the ultimate goal for many young people, which basically turns you into a sheep who dares not do anything out of the ordinary and who finds social safety in integrating into a group that mocks non-conformists. I used to think cool people were non-conformists but now I feel that they are just the people who only act like or own things that other cool people do or possess.

Some Metafilterian wrote that they were happy to be past the age of 30 when it was no longer necessary to be cool, and that those who still try to be cool past this age stand out as ridiculous. Geeks (like the Star Wars kid) is the antithesis of cool, where you do whatever interests you and do it passionately. I'll never forget hearing a young colleague interviewed by a sales guy at lunch. He asked her what her hobbies were and she replied that she really loved astronomy and modern dance, both of which she practiced regularly etc. He sort of sniggered and said his only hobbies where drinking and smoking, haha amiright lads!? So cool, but really such a loser.

Star Wars kid was a modern day 'Piggy' from Lord of the Flies - and us YouTube viewers all helped roll the stone - luckily though he was not dashed on the rocks.

I'd love to read your essay if you ever get around to writing it.
posted by guy72277 at 5:00 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still have faith in adults

So... you don't watch the news?
posted by DigDoug at 5:05 AM on May 10, 2013


I've just never understood recreational viciousness.

And, between the web's recreationally vicious denizens, and those denizens passionately devoted to enforcing every conceivable form of sensitivity on everyone else (viciously, oddly enough) it's a damn weird place.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:26 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


George Lucas: Star Wars 'fans' can be so cruel.

Perhaps you are not as strong as the Emperor thought.
posted by Darth George Lucas at 6:01 AM on May 10, 2013


Okay, the key part here is not the initial cruelty, it's the trajectory, the way it always works. What happens? Some kid (some kid I probably would have liked, some kid where as an utterly, literally friendless nerd child I would have climbed mountains and gnawed off a forearm to have one such friend) does something mockable, they get epically mocked to whatever extent technology allows, they're nearly destroyed by it (or perhaps destroyed, really) but soldier on, emerge stronger and more humane, etc.....and re-emerge into the public eye where we all have a festival of "aw, the kid is so strong and grew up so well" and "oh, I'm sorry I was a bullying asshole when I was a teen" and so on.

The point is the trajectory - as a culture, we love a narrative where we first get to indulge our cruelty, then get to indulge our sentiment. We love to "confess" the error of our [usually younger, but not always] ways. The crowd lurches from violent hatred to sobbing pity, and that's the thrill of it, that's why it's interesting.

Basically, this story is not about this guy at all - it's about people's need to feel sentimental, and need to commit social violence. That's why we see the same kind of story again and again.

Ghyslain is about the most awesome name ever; I happen to think that not-totally-thin guys with a vague resemblance to Rodney McKay from the Worst Science Fiction Show Ever are actually pretty cute. I wish him well.

But one of the reasons I stay off Facebook - one of the reasons I don't try to go home again, one of the reasons I don't go by my old name - is that I refuse to be part of someone's orgy of cruelty and sentimentality. I was bullied - god, how I was bullied - from when I was about eight to when I graduated high school, with varying degrees of pervasiveness and severity. I have no fucking doubt that some of the people I went to school with would get quite the kick out of catching up, apologizing, wallowing in the sentimental feelings that would generate, and I refuse to be part of that story. I was already a fun cruelty toy for the crowd; I don't want to be their fun sentimentality toy too.

I wish this kid well and I hope that he's getting what he needs out of this process - but I also hope that no one is kidding themselves about how social sentimentality is just the flip-side of social violence.
posted by Frowner at 6:31 AM on May 10, 2013 [41 favorites]


I remember seeing this video and being like, "This guy would be my best friend if I were in high school." It was adorable and awesome in equal measure. But at the same time, I knew he would be mercilessly mocked for it and I cringed for his sake. I still have a soft spot for Star Wars Kid.
posted by Ouisch at 6:55 AM on May 10, 2013


> I really think a lot about this too and for me it's all linked into the culture of cool - being seen to be cool and opposed to being easy-going. Being cool seems like the ultimate goal for many young people, which basically turns you into a sheep who dares not do anything out of the ordinary and who finds social safety in integrating into a group that mocks non-conformists

I think "culture of cool" is a bit narrow in this case; nor is it a phenomenon limited to young people. It's part of a general cultural imperative to sum someone up in the least charitable way and then present that summary as a down-to-the-bone analysis of character. Online mockerery of people like Raza is a small, low level part of that, but it has the same basic assumptions: the basic unit of social interaction is judgement, any given person or group should be quickly stripped to a few simple components, and the worst and/or most facile way of looking at someone is the only way that matters. It trumps real, bone-deep analysis.

For what it's worth, I think the young-person response to Star Wars kid is to jump in whole-heartedly without thinking too much about the humanity of the person at the center, not to withdraw and manage their "cool." Remember all those remixes? Some of them very skillful and very funny? They were great, but not all of them had much empathy for Raza. A lot of people did, but the response there was still very young-person; they took up a collection and bought him an ipod, like that could patch things up after all the social torpedoes.

I laughed myself silly the first time I saw Star Wars Kid ten years ago. And the second, and the third. The camera is merciless; you can see exactly how much distance there is between what's going on in his head and what's going on in that garage. And hey, that distance between daydream and reality is pretty much a human universal. You recognize it immediately and it's hilarious, even as your heart goes out to the poor kid who's lost control of how he presents himself both now and in the future.
posted by postcommunism at 6:57 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The long term effect of these videos on the respective individuals is striking. It really demonstrates the difference between voluntarily participating and being forced into being an object of ridicule

I was talking with my wife about some of this last night and we got to talking briefly about America's Funniest Home Videos, and she made a good point about how the big difference there was agency on the part of the participants: sure, everyone in the country might see you that week (and then back around the end of the season if it was really something) drunk at your wedding or singing into a hairbrush or getting nailed in the crotch by a football, but they're seeing it because you sent it in, and you're sitting there in the audience laughing along and hoping to get some G-rated crowd work from Bob Saget and some spending cash. At the very least, no one running a network television show was going to show footage they didn't have a release on.

Ubiquitous video cameras and no-effort video hosting basically up-end that, and unfortunately that means that the only thing standing between your awkward moment and internet virality is the empathy and ethical restraint of whoever the least empathetic and ethically restrained person present is. Say what you will about the banality of America's Funniest Home Videos, it did at least put the gut check partly in the hands of someone playing a conservative approach to broadcasting people's weird foibles; now we've got Daniel Tosh mugging like an asshole about shit he found on the internet, and that doesn't seem like an improvement.
posted by cortex at 7:04 AM on May 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


need to commit social violence

This reminds me of the work of Rene Girard, and his theory of mimetic desire or mimetic rivalry:
The phrase "scapegoat mechanism" was not coined by Girard himself; it had been used earlier by Kenneth Burke in Permanence and Change (1935) and A Grammar of Motives (1940). However, Girard took this concept from Burke and developed it much more extensively as an interpretation of human culture.

In Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978), Girard develops the implications of this discovery. The victimary process is the missing link between the animal world and the human world, the principle that explains the humanization of primates. It allows us to understand the need for sacrificial victims, which in turn explains the hunt which is primitively ritual, and the domestication of animals as a fortuitous result of the acclimatization of a reserve of victims, or agriculture. It shows that at the beginning of all culture is archaic religion, which Durkheim had sensed[citation needed]. The elaboration of the rites and taboos by proto-human or human groups would take infinitely varied forms while obeying a rigorous practical sense that we can detect: the prevention of the return of the mimetic crisis. So we can find in archaic religion the origin of all political or cultural institutions.

According to Girard, just as the theory of Natural selection of species is the rational principle that explains the immense diversity of forms of life, the victimization process is the rational principle that explains the origin of the infinite diversity of cultural forms. The analogy with Darwin also extends to the scientific status of the theory, as each of these presents itself as a hypothesis that is not capable of being proven experimentally, given the extreme amounts of time necessary to the production of the phenomena in question, but which imposes itself by its great explanatory power.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:03 AM on May 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Play. If you get caught playing, you will be shamed and pilloried before the entire world!
Think about that, and how sick that really makes us out to be, as adults.


That's why I've determined not to let it bother me, or at least I hope that it wouldn't. Anyway, back to making up stories about the time traveler who lives next door and the fairies in the backyard.

now we've got Daniel Tosh mugging like an asshole about shit he found on the internet, and that doesn't seem like an improvement.

Tosh is so incredibly loathsome, from spreading the hateful meme that all PONY fans are perverts, to laughing at people hurting themselves America's Funniest Home Videos style, to that whole rape joke business, to his smug hateful smirk and hateful smug voice, to even his propensity to holding up that TOSH 3:16 sign. I mean, what the hell does that even mean, it's just self-aggrandizement!
posted by JHarris at 8:04 AM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is not nearly as viral or significant as Star Wars kid, but I once ran into someone who had been "featured" on American Idol...specifically for his awkward interview and audition .

I hate seeing the failed auditions, so if I watch these talent shows (I quite like Britain's got Talent), I purposely skip the audition episodes, only watching those that were successful in going to the next round. That way I can appreciate the talent without dealing with the cruelty.
posted by jb at 8:05 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still have faith in adults

So... you don't watch the news?


There are more Charles Ramseys than Ariel Castros in the world.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:11 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being a full grown adult when the Star Wars Kid video came out (week before last, wasn’t it?) I find it surprising that this was such a hateful thing. I just thought he was a funny kid, and we all do that shit when we’re kids. People are weird.
posted by bongo_x at 11:27 AM on May 10, 2013


So having owning the "Rocks and Minerals" Golden Guide is an indicator that you were a nerd?

I'm in so deep I can't even tell where the edges are.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:29 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


benito.strauss I'll bet you a fancy dinner that being in posession of a MeFi account is all the indication anybody would ever need.

I'm not sure it's even possible to make it through the registration process and actually spend five real dollars and not be a significantly nerdy nerd. I bet we could even make a venn diagram about it, with "Is a Mefite" at the very center.
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:09 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, one of the nice things about MeFi (compared to other places, say, as Reddit) is that it doesn't feel limited to science-fictiony, geek-type nerds. Nerds of literature and art and other humanities abound as well.
posted by dhartung at 6:24 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm not so sure MeFi is as pure nerd as you might think, DC. We're over-represented here compared to the population as a whole, but I think there are quite a few punks, head-bangers, crafters, hard-charging lawyers, and earnest jocks here too.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:49 PM on May 10, 2013


Whenever I look back at my history on this site, I feel bad because I brought him up in my first FPP. Way after the hype, like a sort of universally known cartoon character. That was dumb. Sorry Ghyslain.
posted by springload at 8:11 AM on May 11, 2013


And I'm pretty sure I've encountered a few sportos, motorheads, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, and dickheads around here.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:51 AM on May 11, 2013


I'm not apologizing. That shit was funny.
posted by Bonzai at 12:08 PM on May 11, 2013


People made fun of him for being heavyset and not very good at pretending he was a Jedi while thinking that he was cool enough to record himself pretending to be a Jedi.

Hate to break it to you, but he was pretending to be a Sith . . . unless you are insinuating that he was pretending to be some sort of undercover Jedi who needed to train in dark side fighting techniques, or that he was not imitating a Sith's (read Darth Maul's) signature saberstaff, but rather a Jedi from the Jedi Civil War era (one who defied the Jedi tradition that since lightsabers were to be used primarily for defense, a single blade was sufficient). It's true that plenty of other Jedis wielded the double blade, but it's unlikely that he was imitating Satele Shan, Barel Ovair, or Jastus Farr. Just sayin'.
posted by mattbucher at 12:23 PM on May 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like a motherfucker needed George Lucas's groundbreaking creative work on Phantom Menace to come up with the idea of a double-sided lightsaber? Kids were doing that when Empire was still in theaters, man; that shit is derivable from the concept of a traditional lightsaber by a first grader. It's literally elementary.
posted by cortex at 1:31 PM on May 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mkay. Might as well play it straight.

Was bullied pretty badly in school as a smart kid with a big mouth and not terribly impressive reflexes (although I was hell on wheels during dodgeball).

That being said, I did laugh at Mr. Raza as Star Wars Kid, but ONLY because my best buddy in fourth grade and I were SOOOOO much farther along in our Jedi skills... (Mind you, fourth grade was a long way from Star Wars Kid).

More power to him, and, it appears, the Force is indeed strong in this one...

(FUCK MIDICHLORIANS!)
posted by Samizdata at 7:19 PM on May 15, 2013


George_Spiggott: I'm holding out for She's Human! The Leave Britney Alone Motion Picture

You're in luck, Me at the Zoo (which was featured on HBO, and may still be on demand) is a documentary about exactly this.
posted by nuala at 2:31 PM on May 24, 2013


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