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Getting Past the Star Wars Kid

The recent discovery of the "Star Wars Kid" video by the mainstream press has reignited both interest and controversy among many fans. TFN editor Joshua Griffin and former TFN staffer Christopher Knight weigh in with differing perspectives on how the Star Wars Kid situation has been handled... and could have been handled.

CHRISTOPHER: What has bothered me the most about the whole "Star Wars Kid" phenomenon is the lack of consideration that a lot of fans are exhibiting toward Ghyslain, the young man in the video. Ten years from now most of us won't even care or remember what this was all about anyway. Ghyslain will have this baggage for the rest of his life and that it's being heaped on him now, during the buildup to the final Star Wars movie, is especially disheartening. He's a fan, as much as you or I, and he should be able to enjoy Star Wars without the rest of us enjoying it more at his expense. I hope that this hasn't turned Ghyslain off completely from Star Wars. But in many ways this is the lowest level that Star Wars fandom in general has ever come to.

JOSHUA: I see your point, but I'm not sure it is quite that dramatic. I mean, in ten years, you're talking with a Star Wars fan and you mention "The Star Wars Kid" I would expect a funny moment together - then you move on. I have sympathy for the kid to be sure - the teenage years are hard enough - but many fans around the world LOVE this guy. Sure, there are people that are bitter and cruel, but a large percentage of fans (tens of thousands judging from the petition) think he rules!

CHRISTOPHER: Is it natural to want to be in a Star Wars film? I think so. I've always dreamed of dying at the end of Darth Vader's blade in Episode III, just one quick death to scare the kiddies with someday. But let's be realistic: at this point it won't happen and that's okay because no one's hurt by that. But Ghyslain is apparently being hurt by the attention the press and many fansites are giving him. Strictly speaking of his fame as the "Star Wars Kid," did Ghyslain then or does he now want to be in that role? Funny thing is, no one has done the simple thing of asking him about it. The reason being is that most people in this world have gone so mad about wanting to be seen and recognized and believing that they've a God-given right to be famous, that they can't comprehend that there are actually some people who are far happier preferring reasonable anonymity away from the headlines.

JOSHUA: I suppose that is true. But he could have had a chance to be an international star, rather than what many think of him today. While I'm sorry he doesn't like the spotlight, or at least this kind, I still wish he would embrace it all.

CHRISTOPHER: Josh, this is still missing the point. What if he doesn't want to be an international star? Ever hear of the Dionne Quints? They were literally born into stardom, and their lives were ruined as a result of it. They didn't have a choice in the matter but the people around them did, just as we have now. The choice may not lay with Ghyslain but that right certainly does, whether other fans agree with him or not. We should respect that right of his, unless he expresses a desire otherwise. Until he does, it's wrong to embrace that fame on his behalf and pat ourselves on the back for being so clever about it.

JOSHUA: Wow, I think that is a bit overdramatic, friend. No one asked him, that is true - though the media will jump on stuff like this no matter what is said or done. And I'm still hoping that at some point this story will turn good - which means LFL makes an agressive PR move or Ghyslain will show up and enjoy the moment. The story has to go here in order for it to go there.

CHRISTOPHER: No doubt the media would. But it's ignorant for us to blame this and every other similar story on "the media". The media isn't some all-omnipotent force that tells us what to do and think. It's people, just people, albeit people with a lot more power than they possess the self-discipline to use at times. Claiming it's "a media creation" is just the easy way of saying "we're not responsible" for what happens or who it happens to, which is what makes this entire "Star Wars Kid" story both a fascinating and disturbing exercise in Internet media ethics. Josh, with all due respect, but TFN could have handled this a lot better. TFN is powerful media - hence powerful people - more than it realizes, and this site and others could have steered the brunt away from Ghyslain by simply refusing to run anything about this. The choice to take a higher road away from this fiasco was always present, but was never taken, seemingly by this or most other media outlets. If the media has jumped on this, it's only been because the people operating the media wanted to take advantage of Ghyslain's dilemma whether they realized that desire or not.

JOSHUA: Wow, that was a mouthful. I'm still not sure I agree that TFN not reporting on something would have sheltered it from happening or from even becoming as widespread. In fact, I think that by adressing the story we've been able to make it something positive where there hasn't been much. We've been able to drive tens of thousands of supporters to his petition to get in Episode III, and we've been a very vocal voice in helping LFL recognize the legitimacy of the story. I think you could build a strong case that some outlets have HELPED the story when you stand back a bit from it. So let's end on a positive message for Gyslain.

CHRISTOPHER: Ghyslain, if you're reading this, there's something you should know: I wish I could tell you that it gets easier when you head out into the real world, but it doesn't. You're going to find that it's MUCH crueler still, with hardships and hurt that you can scarcely imagine right now. But I know a bit of what you're going through, so trust me when I tell you this also, Ghyslain: deep down, those guys that tried to hurt you like this are absolutely jealous of you! I know enough of this video to know that you've got a sweet, free spirit that takes joy from the simpler pleasures of life. like Star Wars. Don't let others' demands of you get in the way of enjoying the moments in your own way. These guys who did this to you see your freedom and they absolutely despise it because they're too timid to seize that same freedom for themselves. Do this brother: ten years from now, take stock of where you are compared to where they are. I'd bet anything that you'll have gone, while most of them will have painted themselves into a corner with nowhere else to go. Don't let what's happened get ya down, Ghyslain. Keep your chin up and have a little faith. And don't let me down: we expect great things from you!

Chris and Josh
September 26th, 2003

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