Star Wars Kid Grows Up: A Story of Cyberbullying and the Culture of Memes
Few web videos can boast the popularity and viewership of the infamous "Star Wars Kid." If you don't know what video I'm talking about, take a look:
The story behind the video is less than entertaining. According to Motherboard, this was the kid's fate after the immense popularity of the YouTube video:
Ghyslain Raza—or to the internet, Star Wars Kid—didn’t feel famous, or funny. He felt harassed, the victim of the most visible bullying in history. Ghyslain dropped out of his Quebec high school, was diagnosed with depression, and checked into a psychiatric ward for children.
Ghyslain and his parents would later sue the families of the three classmates who leaked the video in 2003, for around $250,000. According to the lawsuit, which resulted in a settlement, “Ghyslain had to endure, and still endures today, harassment, and derision from his high-school mates and the public at large.”
Granted, the video itself is pointed enough, almost acting as a full-blown invitation for viewers to ridicule and to laugh at the unwitting teenager. But considering internet memes at large, facilitated by platforms like YouTube, Failblog, and 4chan, we begin to realize that maybe, much like the large bully back in elementary school, what goes online could potentially have profound psychological repercussions on its victims. The tendency to laugh at other people's expense has transformed the mass-media superhighway into a breeding ground for large-scale schadenfreude.
For what it's worth, Raza turned out all right. He is currently the president of the Patrimoine Trois-Rivières, a conservation society in his hometown of Trois-Rivières, and is pursuing a law degree at McGill University in Montreal. But his is a story of recovery and success, and perhaps doesn't indicate the larger issue of cyber-bullying as a whole. Just remember: The next time you watch something online that seems to poke fun in spite of someone, you might be adding one page view to make that person's life all the more miserable.