And when that uniform is iconic, faceless white armour, it’s a beacon of irresistible allure – and undeniable authority.
The ladies loved them, begged to be cuddled or hand-cuffed. Guys knelt on the pavement, fingers knotted behind their heads. I watched people, at gunpoint, lay full-length on the floor to have white boots planted on their backs. From elderly ladies to tiny cubs to suited corporates to brides-to-be, everyone adored the Stormtroopers.
The traffic hooted, chanted, cheered and sang; the local police stopped to join the fun. One ‘arrest’ turned out to be a pornographer who asked if the Troopers would have sex with his wife on camera… helmets still on. I think that startled even them.
Out of armour, the boys were pretty normal bunch – but kitting up, they underwent a miraculous transformation. Protected by their anonymity, they developed attitude and confidence; they carried themselves differently. Their speech patterns and accents changed. They became their own Brand, instantly familiar to all who saw them.
I understood their transformation… but how did they get away with making people kneel at gunpoint on a public pavement? Surely it was offensive, oppressive? Anywhere else, it’d be a tinder-spark to ignite a hundred political accusations. Wouldn't it?
Two days with the 501st UK Garrison taught me three answers.
Firstly, simply – they understand their audience. They’re performers; their manners are flawless and their perception (if not their visibility!) sharp – they instinctively understand how far they can go.
Second, more subtle – they’re fictional. They’re iconic of our childhood, playthings, not quite real. In their stylised-skull helms, their very lack of humanity makes them a game – and less than a threat.
Lastly, crucially – they’re both magnet and power-source, they generate energy and around them, people come to life. Everyone wants to be involved, wants the photo-op – wants a part of the legend for themselves.
And that energy expands – their presence at Forbidden Planet drew in the Bulgarian Eurovision entry (seriously), filming round the store. It drew in a random Vader – turning up in costume to join the fun. It drew in cosplayers, rickrollers, passing press and pausing tourists.
It also showed me something.
The event was a vortex – a literal ‘event horizon’. It pulled attention from every direction.
Thanks to cowfish, the London Flickr Group were there. On vlog detail, sizemore was arrested upon arrival – but took some awesome footage. There were eyes and wonder and cameras everywhere; events like this are generated, enhanced and maximised by the tools and friends of Social Media.
I have a feeling Vader’s Fist will punch out and go Viral.
I’ve always known how it’s supposed to work… it’s the first time I’ve ever been in the centre of it.
It’s kind-of a Force to be reckoned with.