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What I Saw at the Show

Not too long ago I took my son, Joshua, Grand Maven of All Things Star Wars, to the Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando. As you probably know, many an artifact of popular culture has an enthusiastic following that sometimes comes together at huge conventions such as for Star Trek or ComicCon. This, however, was my very first such convention.

Now it would be very easy to make fun of the Star Wars fans who packed the floor of the Orange County Convention Center. Yeah, there were a few right out of central casting for “Star Wars geek,” complete with stormtrooper uniforms, Baba Fett helmets, or Darth Maul double light sabers. A number of female fans came as Princess Leia in her metal bikini, although with some of them the … um, ratio of Leia to bikini was way off. I don’t mean to portray the convention as a freak show, though; it wasn’t. There were a lot of people in street clothes. And even the people in Star Wars getups were pretty normal. 

I was amazed at the level of devotion some fans showed, not just in creating costumes, but even in creating entire units of stormtroopers. Others built elaborate working models of the Star Wars ‘droids, particularly R2D2. Others lined up at midnight for a chance to see Star Wars creator George Lucas at noon the next day. We saw the ultimate pop-culture mash-up: Elvis Stormtrooper. (Why, by the way, do so many Elvis impersonators mimic the bloated, drug-addled Elvis instead of the dynamic young Elvis who turned the music world upside down?)  And while many fans went to great lengths to fashion authentic costumes, a few decided to spend a little less money on theirs (below). BlockheadsThey were, I think, the Blockhead Brigade.

I mildly enjoyed the first three Star Wars films (that is, Episodes IV – VI), although I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard fan. Those were great adventures, and Luke Skywalker’s story was the classic hero’s journey. By the end of Episode VI, however, George Lucas had gone all Ewok on us, the first warning sign of the insipid prequels to come. In those we went from heroic Jedi Knights of old fighting the evil empire to … trade wars and Jar Jar Binks? Really? And who directed these horrible prequels? Anakin Skywalker, who would cross over to the dark side and morph into the great evil Sith Lord Darth Vader, was played by an actor whose dynamic range approximated that of a wooden post. (Okay, end of Star Wars rant.)

I also enjoy the Star Trek TV series and the movies. I enjoy the Star Gate franchise. But I’ve never felt the urge to create much less wear a Star Trek uniform. I have no desire to spend days exploring the finer points of Star Gate while wearing a Jaffa death helmet. My son is a wealth of knowledge about Star Wars, Star Trek, and Star Gate, yet he has no desire to hit the town in his best Star Fleet uniform.

I don’t mean to mock people who do enjoy these activities. It would be tempting to just say, “Get a life,” but that would be too easy. I just don’t understand that level of fandom. So just what is it? Do any of you participate in similar activities? If so, what’s the motivation? I genuinely want to know. And I’d ask other responders to refrain from mocking or other disparaging remarks. My request is one of genuine curiosity.

PS. There’s even a historical equivalent to this phenomenon. Some people spend enormous amount of time and money to become Civil War re-enactors, American Revolution re-enactors, and World War II re-enactors. (Why do a disturbing number of the latter choose to re-enact Nazis, though?)

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