Star Wars Kid
Yes, we've all had our dorky, private moments, but this poor kid is living the nightmare of having his private dorkiness projected across the world to giggling Web users. His friends found the tape, and uploaded it to KaZaA as a joke on April 19. Within two weeks, someone had added full Star Wars special effects and noises to the tape, and the video was linked on gaming, technology, and Star Wars-related sites across the Internet.
Every teenager does something they live to regret. It's part and parcel of adolescence. A 15-year-old Quebec boy named Ghyslain simply made the additional mistake of recording his moment of infamy on video. And now he's an Internet sensation.
Ghyslain, whose parents requested that his last name be withheld, is the so-called “Star Wars Kid” featured in a hilarious but oddly poignant video that has been downloaded more than a million times since its release to the Web in late April. In the clip, Ghyslain brandishes a golf ball retriever that serves as a double-bladed light saber, enthusiastically re-enacting a series of battle maneuvers inspired by the feats of evildoer Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” When a group of schoolmates discovered the videotape, they put it on the Internet, and within days it was a cause celebré.
The Ghyslain clip soon caught the attention of Web bloggers Andy Baio and Jish Mukerji, who posted it to their respective sites. Its obvious comedic appeal aside, Baio recognized in Ghyslain a kindred spirit. “I'm a computer programmer, and I was unpopular in high school, except for some like-minded, geeky friends,” Baio said. “Yes, he looks silly and awkward. But at the second level, you just identify so much.”
Visitors to Baio's site, www.waxy.org, began posting comments on the video — not all of them civil.
“Some of the comments were really positive. People were writing things like, ‘I was like him in high school,’” Baio said. “But a lot of them — a disturbing number — were incredibly mean-spirited. It made me mad. All of these people calling him ‘fat-ass’ or ‘loser,’ and it's completely hypocritical — I mean, all the traffic was coming from technology sites, videogame sites, and ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ sites.
“So I turned off the comment function, deleted the negative comments and posted a message to the effect that ‘You're trashing one of your own, and all you geeks and nerds and dorks need to evaluate how you're behaving.’”
When one of Ghyslain's schoolmates guilty of posting the video contacted Baio and mailed him the teen's contact information, Baio and Mukerji called Quebec. “[Ghyslain's] initial and understandable reaction was that he was unsure of my intentions,” Mukerji said. “But he opened up quickly. He's an intelligent young man. He was very guarded, but by the end of the conversation, he was very jovial.”
Baio and Mukerji didn't stop there. They established a Web fundraiser with the stated aim of collecting enough money to buy Ghyslain an iPod, and the response has far exceeded their expectations — as of May 19, they had amassed more than $1000, and thanks to an anonymous $500 donation, Baio expected the tally to top $2000 by the end of the day. The plan is to now buy Ghyslain his own iBook.
“The video was going to spread around the Web anyway — hopefully this will help, and if nothing else, he has an iBook to keep him company,” Baio said. “And he also learned that geeks look out for each other.”