Andy Baio, who has been blogging under the name “Waxpancake” for the past couple of decades or so, writes about meeting with Ghyslain Raza, who gained internet fame — none of which he wanted — as the “Star Wars Kid” in 2003, after some students at his school uploaded a video clip of him pretending to be a Star Wars character in a light-sabre battle.
Baio talks about his role in helping the video go viral — one of the first to do so — and how bad he felt about the whole affair once he realized how Raza had been ridiculed (he left his school and eventually ended up in therapy, and more or less stopped using the internet for years).
I’ve never talked about it publicly, but I regret ever posting it. From the start, it was obvious it was never meant to be seen, and mirroring it on my site without consent was wrong in a way that I couldn’t see when I was in my 20s, one year into blogging. I removed the videos once it was clear how it was affecting him, but I never should have posted them in the first place.
Meeting Ghyslain gave me the opportunity to tell him all of that in person, as well as in my interviews, some of which made it into the finished film.As a side note, it was fascinating to get answers to questions I’ve wondered about for 20 years. Yes, Ghyslain actually received the iPod we sent him from the fundraiser, and used the gift cards we sent him to buy an iMac G4, both of which he kept to this day. He managed to avoid most of the remixes and media coverage, except for Arrested Development, which he watched live as it aired.
But more than anything, it was great to finally talk to him in person and see that he’s doing well. By all accounts, he handled everything that happened back then with a profound emotional maturity, despite how painful it was, and emerged on the other side with a uniquely interesting perspective that’s worth listening to.