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The Star Wars Kid

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In 2002, a chubby Canadian teen filmed himself acting out a fight scene from Star Wars, using a golf ball retriever as a makeshift light saber. Playing the part of Jedi master, Ghyslain Raza swooped, stumbled, and leapt, inserting his own sound effects, twirling his baton and pausing mid-battle to glare menacingly into the camera. It was funny, mostly because it wasn’t meant to be: for nearly a year, the video had sat untouched on a shelf in Raza’s school’s TV studio, until another student discovered it, digitized it and posted it to Kazaa. Within days, “Star Wars Kid” became a viral frenzy, enhanced by music, graphics and special effects and passed around on blogs, file-sharing networks, and ultimately, on YouTube. By 2006, a year after YouTube went public, the Viral Factory reported that the video--viewed more than 900 million times--was the most-watched clip in the history of the Internet. Whether or not Raza wanted to be famous (he didn’t), the “Star Wars Kid” became the model for a new era, where YouTube rules. Enter the world of the Internet meme: where, for better or for worse, reality or play, our art lives on, through millions of clicks. 

Bennett is a staff writer for NEWSWEEK. Follow her on Twitter.

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