The Star Wars Kid is Ghyslain Raza, a portly 14-year-old in November 20021 when he videotaped himself imitating Jedi moves with an ersatz Darth Maul-style lightsaber. He was not particularly a Star Wars fan; he was trying to work out the special effects sequence for a class project. Unfortunately, the recording was on the same tape as other class project footage, and that tape was in a camcorder stored in a class at the private Séminaire Saint-Joseph school in Trois Rivières, Quebec.
Some classmates stole it.
Four teens-- Michael Caron, Francois René Labarre, Jérôme Laflamme, and Jean-Michel Rheault-- digitized the material and put it on the World Wide Web in 2003, with an invitation to add humorous and insulting commentary. The footage found a receptive audience, and its reluctant star found himself dubbed "the Star Wars Kid." Other sites copied the material, often adding sound effects (such as flatulence), insulting titles (such as Dork Lord), captions, and special effects. By the summer of 2003, millions of people had viewed the material (The Globe and Mail July 23 2003 A2).
The Star Wars Kid has also received sympathetic responses; one online group raised money and bought him an Apple iPod. Others established an online petition asking that George Lucas give the Kid a cameo role in Revenge of the Sith. While this did not succeed, in 2004 the Kid's unlicensed likeness appeared in the game Tony Hawk Underground 2. Parodies and allusions to the sequence have appeared in a number of media sources, and TV shows as diverse as South Park and Arrested Development
The videotape's young star left school amidst widespread mockery and has received counselling. His family launched a lawsuit against the families of the four teenagers responsible, claiming they maliciously made the boy a laughingstock, and that the family incurred considerable expenses as a result. Entered into evidence were several of their online chats, which demonstrate a general lack of remorse and an apparent plot to acquire the boy's iPod. In April of 2005, the week before the civil trial would have started, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount.
Whatever conclusions one reaches, the Star Wars Kid serves as another reminder that the Internet has changed the nature of everything, including adolescent cruelty and humiliation.
1. He was still fourteen when he made the tape; he was fifteen by the time it became famous.
Update 2013: Raza finally gave an interview in May 27, 2013 issue of the Canadian newsmagazine Maclean's. A recent law school graduate, he wanted to put to rest hundreds of false reports, including claims he committed suicide, had been placed in a psychiatric institute, or died in a bizarre accident. He wants victims of cyberbulling to know that it gets better, and believes that we must take online bulling more seriously. He feels some positive steps have been taken since the time of the video.
Update 2022: Raza was heavily involved with the 2022 documentary, Star Wars Kid: The Rise of the Digital Shadows, which examines the video as a precursor to many aspects of twenty-first century digital culture.