‘Star Wars kid’ unrecognisable 20 years after becoming first ever viral YouTuber01/07/2022
Feeling old? It's now been twenty years since the biggest Star Wars phenomenon of the 2000s graced our screens—and we're not talking about Attack of the Clones.
One of the Internet's earliest viral videos was a clip of the 'Star Wars kid' Ghyslain Raza flailing around a golf ball stick and pretending to have a lightsaber like Darth Maul from Star Wars: A Phantom Menace.
The video, which spread through long-forgotten websites and forums, spawned thousands of parody videos, featured in everything from South Park and American Dad to Family Guy. In many ways, it was one of the first real memes, with 35 million views on one YouTube clip alone.
Twenty years on, Raza is an accomplished lawyer in Canada. What's more, he is totally unrecognisable from the viral video that made him an online sensation.
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While the Star Wars kid video is fondly remembered as a nostalgic relic of the early Internet age by many, the fallout surrounding it led to dark consequences for Raza.
He became the victim of widespread cyberbullying, telling a Canadian newspaper "I want my life back."
Cruel comments online mocked his body, calling him a "pox on humanity", or "Luke Piestalker". It was even worse among his peers. Raza said he lost 'what few friends' he had, and had to move schools during what he calls a "very dark period."
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"In the common room, students climbed onto tabletops to insult me," Raza told L'actualité.
He added: "No matter how hard I tried to ignore people telling me to commit suicide, I couldn't help but feel worthless, like my life wasn't worth living."
The experience led him to campaign against cyberbullying as an adult. He has previously urged victims of bullying to persevere and "overcome shame".
"You'll survive. You'll get through it. And you're not alone," he has said. "You are surrounded by people who love you."
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However, not everyone who saw the video viewed him negatively. In 2003, a fan defended him, saying the video always cheered her up.
"Contrary to popular belief, I think it is not the Jedi kid's awkwardness that keeps him in people's hearts but his undeniable enthusiasm for what he is doing," said one viewer at the time.
"While I feel bad for him because he hates his newfound popularity, I revisit the site anytime I am feeling down. It just cracks me up. I love this kid!"
- Star Wars
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