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Stormtroopers Among Us: Star Wars Costuming, Connection, and Civic Engagement by Dava L. Simpson A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirement s for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Communication College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Janna Jones, Ph.D. Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D. Marcy Chvasta, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 7, 2006 Keywords: Fans, Audience, Subculture, Star Wars Costumes, Popular Culture Copyright 2006, Dava L. Simpson
Dedication This is for my children, Danielle and Scott. Thank you for enduring 20 years of Star Wars and 13 years of higher education. I love you both.
Acknowledgements I would like to express my thanks to my major professor, Dr. Janna Jones. Even though she is not a Star Wars fan, she embraced my topic and shared my enthusiasm. Beyond supporting the contents of this thesis, she nurtured my writing and research process. Janna s dedicated assistance comprises an invaluable contribution to this wo rk and my future as a scholar. I would like to thank my thesis co mmittee members, Dr Elizabeth Bell and Dr. Marcy Chvasta for agreeing to participate in my thesis. They gave me the support and the freedom to effectively expl ore this community. I would like to thank the entire committee for recognizi ng the value of my intentions and conclusions. I would like to thank all the members of the Star Wars Costuming Legions, especially the Florida 501st Garrison, who allowed me to pry into their hobby, asking questions and participating in events even before I became an official member. They were always welcoming, honest, and interested in what I was trying to accomplish. Finally, I would like to thank all Star Wars costumers for acting upon their interests and keeping Star Wars alive.
i Table of Contents List of Figures ii Abstract iii Chapter One: Introduction 1 Literature Review 4 Method 10 Thesis Overview 13 Chapter Two: Costumes and Personal Choices 18 From Clothing to Costumes 23 Choosing a Particular Costume 28 Dressing the Costumers Body 36 Striving for Originality 43 Conclusion 50 Chapter Three: Construction and Transformation 54 Finding Star Wars 60 Constructing Costumes 65 Constructing Connections 71 Conclusion 77 Chapter Four: Performance and Interaction 81 Performing Star Wars 85 Performing Fandom 90 Performing Community 97 Conclusion 109 Chapter Five: Conclusion 113 Decline in Community Involvement 116 Emergence from Spectators hip to Participation 121 References 125 Appendix 128 Appendix A: Star Wars 501st Mission Statement and Legion Charter 129
ii List of Figures Figure 1. Stormtrooper (with R2D2) at Necronomicon, October, 2004 20 Figure 2. My Han Solo costum e at Dreamcon, June 2004 22 Figure 3. General Grievous 40 Figure 4. Star Wars fan in General Grievous co stume at Celebration III, May 2005 41 Figure 5. Elvis Trooper at Dragoncon, September 2005 46 Figure 6. Peace Trooper at Celebration III, May 2005 47 Figure 7. Fem-Trooper at Dr agoncon, September 2005 48 Figure 8. My Jedi Costume at Walt Disney World, June 2005 57 Figure 9. Official 501st photo at Celebration III, May 2005 83 Figure 10. Star Wa rs Costumers at Revenge of the Sith Premiere, May 2005 84 Figure 11. Lord of the Rings Costumers attending Dreamcon, June 2004 93 Figure12. Costumers dressed as Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and Stormtrooper play a scene against Celebration III backdrop, May 2005 95 Figure 13. Star Wars Costumers at Toys R Us in Brandon Florida, October 2004 104 Figure 14. Stormtrooper accompany William Shatner in a musical number during the American Film Inst itute's tribute to George Lucas 105 Figure 15. Clone Troopers on their way to Celebration III, May 2005 107
iii Stormtroopers Among Us: Star Wars Costuming, Connection, and Civic Engagement Dava L. Simpson ABSTRACT The purpose of this study is to examine the bonds that form between people as consumers of popular visual m edia and to discuss the relationship and impact of the resulting subcul tures on the larger culture. Star Wars costumers offer a magnified glance at some of the ways in which people engage with images. As reflections of popular cultur e, costumers display their textual devotions and opinions; they embody specta torship by reincarnating their favorite characters and contexts from textbound sources. Moreover, they embrace modes of visual representation by perfo rming the roles of both image consumer and image producer. I strive to understand the activities shared by audiences after the viewing experience is over; they are highly articulate interpreting media texts in a variety of interesting an d unexpected ways. Whether they impart opinions or pursue alternative relationshi ps with some aspect of the text, people do form communities and celebrate their co nnections to visual texts. As fans, individuals appropriate movie materials to fulfill personal goals and build social connections. While not all-encompassing, these smaller communities say a lot about the social impact of moviesthe im pact of images on individuals. This thesis combines an ethnographic study of Star Wars costumers within a theoretical framework of cu ltural studies and performanc e to investigate the ways
iv in which media images impact individual s. In documenting events from the perspective of the costumer I seek to understand the co stumer as a member of a visual audience, a reflection of popul ar culture, and a participant in the dominant culture.
1 Chapter One Introduction Based on box office revenues alone, more people around the world have seen some portion of the Star Wars Saga than almost any other movie in history; yet, even with these statistics, there is no way to gauge these films audiences as compared to those of any other top-grossing film or any low-grossing film for that matter. Capitalistic representations have permeated our cultural understanding of movies as they are often recogniz ed in terms of gross ticket sales and merchandizing campaigns. Although figures indicate the commercial value of films, the audiences remain shapel ess and anonymous. While we can map the financial connections between movies and t heir audiences, it is not always easy to characterize audience perceptions and their connections to moving images. I turn to fans for my research as they ar e a definable group of human beings paying homage to particular text s and images. Fan groups participate in a variety of activities inspired by popular culture. Many participate in creative endeavors, generating artistic and interpreti ve products as a response to visual cultures. Whether they produc e a painting, a novel, interpretive remarks, or an appreciative letter, fans activities gener ally center upon individualized forms of personal expression. As my literature revi ew affirms, a great deal of research has been geared toward television audiences in vestigating the viewing responses of those who habitually watch specific shows. With articles ranging from
2 investigations of fan-written letters and per son-to-person interviews to the writing of fan fiction and slash fiction, fans are lauded for actively engaging with media texts, but they are isolat ed within their own subculture. People struggle each day to find ways to connect to one another, and for nearly a century movies have provided moments of commonality among di verse groups of individuals. While fan activities emphasize the connections between human beings and texts, they also link individuals to one another. My project focuses on the costume-wearing fans of Star Wars Saga. They construct and wear movie-quality costum es fashioned after the galaxy of characters created by George Lucas. Star Wars costumers work primarily within two collaborating collectives based upon cost ume design as well as the narrative concerns of the Saga wit h one Legion devoted to the fictional antagonists (Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Boba Fett) and one devoted to the protagonists (Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Obi-w an Kenobi). The activities of Star Wars costuming clubs differ from those of other fan groups because they include a strictly social aspect where they perfo rm in public spaces. They share their pleasurable viewing experiences and resu lting admiration for the text not only with other members in the fan group but wit h the larger public. It does not really matter what aspects of these particular f ilms inspire members, but rather that these people choose to form collectivities that serve their interests, as well as their communities. Costumes provide a c ohesive element to form bonds around individual performances and interaction. Costumes, along with other methods of fan appropriation, represent t he sense of fulfillment that individuals take away
3 from movie watching. In this context, fandom is a mode of production that is fueled by the appropriation of cultural texts and steered by active audience members seeking ways to share or re-c reate pleasurable viewing experiences. As a tangible bridge between a fleeti ng personal viewing experience and the sharing of that text through a performative experie nce with others, costumes become cultural commodities that dictate preference. For de Certeau and Jenkins (et. al.), appropriation is a spri ngboard for re-imaging po pular texts of the cultural industry as fans seek to fulf ill voids left by unclear or questionable narrative choices. Costumers are not gener ally concerned with the production of material that deconstructs the source material in search of new meaning to unsatisfying resolutions. For the costumer the source material stays intact and the appropriation is solely associated with how the text is used by the fan: as a display of devotion, a creative outlet, or even a tool of interpretation. While costumes imply fictional realities, they al so indicate intentionality. The costumer negotiates cultural spaces where their ac tivities are allowed and appreciated: parades, fund-raisers, openings, and festivals. Costumers want to minglethey want to share their product and be seen. Instead of wearing a familiar label or style, the costumer replicates the appearance of a recognizable character/thing/text purposely representi ng something that is important to the costumer. To fully underst and the costumer, we must look at the appropriation, the construction and exchange of materials and ideas, and, perhaps most important, the ways in which costuming ena bles individuals to connect with other costumers and the communities in which they live.
4 Literature Review The study of fans includes the work of researchers seeking to uncover the mysteries and motivations behind group behaviors and organizations. Most of the research examines subcultures or fans marked by their devotion to television shows, movies, music groups, romance novel s, celebrities, and sports teams. Work in this field finds its focus with in fan groupings because they comprise a cohesive entity that can be adequately measured and identified. Within these subcultures, writers endeavor to i dentify the dynamics and boundaries of the group, the source of their collective devotion, and the activities that the members of the group share. Many fan groups ar e distinguishable by familiar cultural studies categories of race, class, and gender. There is a general consensus among researchers that fan cultures are composed of active, participatory audience members but the conclusions are unc lear as to whether the activities of these smaller groups implies a gener al atmosphere of participation among audiences that do not classify themselves as fans. Because fans are primarily defined by their social activities, how ever, researchers continue to draw correlations with larger social structures. Dick Hebdige delivers additional insi ghts into the construction of subcultures with his examination of Brit ains youth. He reveals a youth-based subculture that he believes comprises an indelible piece of the larger culture. Hebdige contends that by defin ition subcultures form as a reflection or a reaction to the larger culture. Dependent upon communal and symbolic engagements
5 with a dominant grouping, subculture s appropriate and incorporate chosen styles in order to survive (17-8). T hese styles encompass practices and beliefs that are inherently connected to the cultur e that fosters them. Because of this intrinsic connection, styles represent significant commonalities within the subculture that are also recognizable to the larger culture. According to Hebdige, these groupings are almost always bound by a commercial imperative, yet they do not represent drones or mindless patrons They are active consumers forging new paths of expression within rigid guidelines. Hebdige theorizes that subcultures cobble together (or hybridize) styles out of the images and material culture available to them in the effort to construct identities which will confer on them relative autonomy within a social order fractured by class, generational differences, work (441). Hebdi ge explores the creation of youth subcultures as a direct response to a dominant cultural matrix that did not allow for youth expression. Ultimately, he is trying to i dentify the line between active and passive consumer, between subcultures of resi stance and compliance. As individuals consume images with greater frequency and interconnectivity, new identities are formed. These new identities are still for ged from the same cu ltural soup and still carry the same level of cultural engagement. Similarly, John Fiskes work on popular culture seeks to understand the bonds between active subcultures and the dom inant social structures that often overshadow them. The notion that a subcultu re cannot disentangle itself from the larger culture directly reflects de Certeaus suppositions and is central to any discussion of Hebdige and Fiske. Fiske tal ks about ripping jeans as an act of
6 resistance and appropriation as the consum er makes the clothing his/her own. Even when the industry started mass pr oducing ripped jeans, consumers found new ways of constructing their own l ook. Like Hebdige, he designates the subculture as a subordinated faction of a highly organized, industrial culture. According to Fiske, popular culture is a site of struggle (14). Although individuals are continually subjected to dominant cultural forces, fan groups cultivate many activities meant as ways to cope with said forces. As a result, oppressive forces are dealt with, evaded, and sometimes resisted (14). He labels the subordinates choices for resist ance excorporation (15). According to Fiske, excorporation is the process by which the subculture makes their own meaning out of the resources and commodities available. Fiske is quick to point out that the only resour ces are those established and made available by the entity that subordinates them in the firs t place. Because industrial culture does not purposely foster resistance, popular culture serves as the platform for individual expressions that do not always conform to t he norm. He claims that any examination of popular culture require s the study not only of the cultural commodities out of which it is made, but also of the ways that people use them (114). Fiskes subordinated subcultures continue to thrive amidst oppressive capitalist ideologies altering their choi ces with each new wave of enforcement. Fan groups are ideal proponents of excorpor ation as they continually express their textual devotions wit h or without the endorsement of the dominant culture. Through participation and observation, Camille Ba con-Smith reveals the depths and idiosyncrasies of science ficti on fandom as a writer of both science
7 fiction and fan ethnography. Like thos e before her, she understands that subcultures are interconnected with the dom inant society. The subjects of her analysis are not passive viewers but active audience members utilizing commodities to construct personal identities. Familiar commercial symbols are recycled to relay new meanings. Her books discuss the ways in which fans adopt texts, form communities, and, most interestingly, how they incorporate these commercialized identities into their daily lives. Although she acknowledges the growth of costuming among science fict ion fans, she does not dwell on their activities beyond a couple of par agraphs. Bacon-Smith does commend the costumer for breaking outside of comme rcial boundaries by constructing their own product contending that most science fiction fans are dependent on merchandise produced and distributed by commercial entities. Bacon-Smith categorizes specialized dress and costumes as ritual garb or decorations that do more to transform gathering space into science fiction space than produce reflective or interpretive meanings. She also distinguishes between science fiction themed fashion and costumes stat ing that the fashion is the more denotative, rather than repr esentative, practice. Henry Jenkins is well noted for his work analyzing fans of visual media particularly television audiences. Firs t and foremost, like those before him, Jenkins defines these fan cultures by their social nature. He dissects the relationship between consumer and text identifying certain imperatives for understanding these subcultures. Subcultu res develop a relationship with texts through specific modes of production that are supplied by the dominant culture.
8 Visual texts deliver image laden narrati ves through television sets and movies screens and Jenkins investigates the viewing practices of fans considering issues like proximity and frequency. Fans become intimately involved with interpreting the text often carrying t heir interpretations beyond the original narrative through persistent scrutiny and speculation. These acts of interpretation spark activism in that the spectators respond to the text. Jenkins states, Fandom originates, at least in part, as a respons e to the relative powerlessness of the consumer in relation to powerful instituti ons of cultural production and circulation (278). Fan groups covet parts of a chosen text and re-circulate those pieces as new interpretive media. They create new, often artistic, forms in direct response to commercial cultures that, in many ca ses, alter, augment, and/or criticize the original text. Because of these activities, fan groups comprise alternative social communities or subcultures distinguishab le yet inextricable from the dominant culture. Recognizing that the initial viewing of a text is just the beginning, Jenkins complements my work by revealing cultures and subcultures struggling to construct their own communities. Lawrence Grossberg is concerned with critical dependency on generalized notions of active audiences or easily ident ifiable contexts. Believing that context is a slippery category reliant on too m any interdependent variables, Grossberg thinks that we need to gr ound theoretical considerat ions around cultural structures of authority. In seeking new ways of uncovering the relationships that connect audiences and cultural forms, Gros sberg labels each po ssibility inherent in this relationship a sensibility (54). A sensibility identifies forms of engagement
9 or activity that result from textual connections. Sensibil ities can entail the possible relationships between te xts and audiences and presuppose how specific texts and practices will be experienced. Fans embody sensibilities through their connections and investments in certain texts. The sensibilities merge together to form an individualized matter map based on their personal preferences and pleasures. Fans gain author ity by choosing their texts; they gain control over their affective lives. For Grossberg, the cultural critic seeks the unifying sensibilities of groups and subcultures in an effort to recognize the possible matter maps of the la rger culture. His sensibi lities are inherent to both the text and the individual because of paradigms enforced by dominant ideologies, and they provide an umbrella explanation for the infinite numbers of possible connections between texts and individuals but they do not address fans activities. While Grossberg calls for caution when identifyi ng audience members as active, it is clear from much of t he research on fans that their activities emanate from and also define their textual devotions. Without the understanding that subcultures and fan groups are co mposed of active and participatory members of a larger group, we cannot outlin e or validate the sensibilities as they would be virtually undetectable. Several additional authors including Roger C. Aden, Matt Hills, Kurt Lancaster, Tom Mikotowicz, and Cheryl Ha rris and Alison Alexander concentrate on fan groupings considering the ways in which subcultures incorporate the stories that come from television, film, fiction, comics, and magazines into their everyday lives. From this body of work it is clear that scholars understand the
10 fan dynamic as inseparabl e and dependent on the dominant culture. There is no isolation tank for brewing subcultures, fan groupings, or virtually any other socialized collective. Global cultures are labeled and packaged according to categories that serve to repr esent their place within pa rticular groupings: we are democrats and republicans; men and wo men; and workers and managers. Even with the understanding that f an groups are an inextricab le part of the larger culture, these collectives are frequent ly categorized by negative connotations with fans standing in resistance to forces of power and conformity. Fans produce their own representative culture on the bas is of what others have characterized as inconsequential and m eaningless and this difference of opinion segregates fans from the dominant culture. My wo rk outlines a relationship within a subculture of Star Wars fans, and also between the subculture and the larger culture of non Star Wars fans in an effort to reveal the cultural connections rather than documenting points of cultural separation. Method My primary method for analyzing fan communities is based upon face-toface interaction, participation, and obs ervation all synthesized into a written account. Ethnography keeps me grounded in the human elements of the research as I strive to understand the people not the text. While often supported by statistics, images, first-hand accounts, or other writers, James Clifford and George E. Marcus note that ethnography is inherently partial (7). Thus, my participation in this project has numerous implications towards the bias of my
11 product: I am a cultural crit ic but I am also a fan and Star Wars costumer. Thus, this project is as much a self-reflexive endeavor as it is observational. I cannot remove myself from the re search because I am an integr al part of my subject and my motivations and connections to the texts as well as to other fans and costumers are inseparable fr om my critique. The best way to determine reactions to a specific texts or image is to ask the people who cons ume them. I have been affiliated with two major Star Wars costuming groups for the past 18 months: the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers and the Rebel Legion. I have personally attended 20 events as a member of these groups. From science fiction conventions to Walt Disney World parades featured Star Wars Weekends to community parades and hospital visits, costumers are active audience members reflecting popular culture images. Through costuming, characters are animated for interaction and re-enculturation. For the Star Wars fan, costuming is a physical expression of choice, devotion, and community. Costuming is performative. As a part icipant, I am a costumer and I am performing texts. My performances are par ticipatory and observational in that I am recognizing the various performances that denote textual and human connections while I learn to perform them According to Norman K. Denzin, We inhabit a performance-based, dramaturgical culture where the dividing line between performer and audience is blu rred and culture itself has become a dramatic performance (81). In fact, Denz in questions whether or not a true self exists without performance, believing that individual identities rely on performances or roles. Like costuming or fashion concerns that change with
12 mood and purpose, people transform not because they are composed of different selves but because of the different performances that they are required to carry out each day. Like Denzin, I believe that every day performances are interpretational and even representational. Costuming is all about performance because costumes are worn for public display and social interaction. According to Dwight Conquergood, performance is mo st affective because of face-to-face encounters which enhance ethno graphic inquiry. Instead of making people use language to describe their perspecti ve, performance can be analyzed as a purposeful, reflective practice. In choosing different costumes for di fferent situations, we enter into an unspoken social contract to perform a certain way. The costumer emulates fictional, and sometimes biographical, characterization through performance combined with clothing, make-up, and even prosthetic enhancement. The people who wear Star Wars costumes comprise an audience but only represent a tiny fraction of the massive box office sales generated by the films. While their specific actions are not necessarily repr esentative of the lar ger audience, they do represent one of the ways in which indi viduals engage with a text. Their public display of affection is inseparable from t he fact that they w atched one or more of the Star Wars films. Instead of inte rnalizing their mutual admirations by solely participating within a subculture of like-minded individuals, the Star Wars costumer finds ways to participate with the surrounding community of nonwatchers and non-fans. While building and pe rfecting a costume tends to be an independent, sometimes intensely personal, undertaking, wearing a costume is a
13 social activity that requires an appropria tion of a character or image, display and/or performance of that character in a public arena, and interaction with others. Henry Jenkins identifies fans as t extual consumers by the social nature of their interpretive and cultural activi ty (72). Costumers appropriate fictional identities for social interaction. This so cial nature promotes a complex interplay within the group, as well as between the group and the public sphere. Thesis Overview The Star Wars Saga is a cultural phenomena consisting of six films released in two trilogies over the course of thirty years. Permanently fixed in motion picture history in terms of tec hnological achievement and box office revenues, these films spawned a multi-bill ion dollar media market while capturing an equally impressive, ever-increasing gl obal audience of lo yal consumers and fans. My personal interests and enthusiasm towards Star Wars have thrived from childhood and I know that everyone I have ever known thinks of me when Star Wars enters their lives. I have always enjoyed watching the movies, but everything changed when I saw a real live St ormtrooper at a small science fiction and gaming convention in Tampa, Florida. Outside of the movies, there is no such thing as a real Stormtroop er. What I saw was in fact a Star Wars fan dressed in specially crafted white armor. I had never seen anything quite like this Stormtrooper costume in a lifetime of Halloweens. His was more movie-accurate than any other costumed individual in my history. For all intents and purposes, this person was a Stormtrooper and ceased being a person identifiable by
14 gender or physical characteristic. The more Star Wars costumes that I saw, the more intrigued I became by costuming as a purposeful activity; through the appropriation of certain materials and the enculturation of the texts from which the material is appropriated, a performance is developed for personal satisfaction, public display, and co mmunal understanding. For me, costuming demonstrates that the Am erican movie audience is composed of innumerable smaller groups of active individuals who keep movies alive long after the viewing is over. Audiences do form co mmunities and celebrate their connections to visual texts. As fans, individuals appropriate mo vie materials to fulfill personal goals and build social connections. While not allencompassing, these smaller communities say a lot about the social impact of mo viesthe impact of images on individuals and communities. The second chapter of my thesis fo cuses on costume choices. While there are multiple volumes devoted to the study of fan communities, I have found no critical works that examine people who wear costumes. The costuming shelves of libraries and bookstores are lined with guides to assist people in making clothing and accessories but little to no consideration of the time and skills involved with constructing costumes and no real consideration of people who wear costumes. With an annual holiday devoted to the practice of wearing costumes, the rising popularity and attendance at science fiction and fantasy conventions and renaissance fairs, along with community t heaters or Elvis impersonators and other celebrity look-a likes, there is ample room for the analysis of costuming. Indivi duals participating in these activities are members of
15 a visual audience employing images to fu lfill some sort of personal satisfaction. Costuming groups offer a unique collectivity that relies on the physical appearance of the body along with the ability to re-align symbols and characterizations for public display. This is not to say that one must necessarily look a certain way or follow some pr e-conceived notion of beauty but that wearing costumes transforms ones physical appearance into something purposeful and reflective. Costumers bodi es are visual expressions of their loyalty to books, movies, games, and televi sion shows but they also show a great deal of forethought and consideration to the persona and/or physical needs of the costumers body. For fans, costuming is an activity that externalizes textual connections. Active audience members re -create images by taking fictional characters off the screen and the pagelitera lly breathing life into familiar forms. The third chapter considers modes of production and exchange within the fan group, as well as the transformation of the individual who constructs a costume. Star Wars costumers rely on human co mmunication and Internet connections for the producti on and exchange of ideas, information, support, and materials. Cyberspace offers communi ty in a malleable space, allowing costumers access to import ant tools: forums for t he exchange of information, communication tools to personalize these exchanges, personal design space to share their processes and results, and advertisement of events and organizations that welcome costumers to participate. The source material is important to the costumer as an object of devotion and a model for design as individuals study movie stills and narrative s ubtleties in order to capture all of the
16 nuanced details for their physical re-charac terizations. Like a fashion fad where people adopt a certain style because they see it in a magazine or on another person, Star Wars costumers are inspired by images, as well as other costumers. Star Wars costuming comes with an instant collectivity of like-minded individuals that belong to the same movie audience. Star Wars costumers gather online and in person to discuss the construction and display of their costumes. Through these activities, individuals pay homage to texts but also take ownership of the product. While George Lucas holds the copyright for the character designs, individual costumers are lauded for the qualit y of their work in replicating that design. The trials and successes of bu ilding a costume co mbined with wearing the costume constitute important rites of passage from consumer to producer and owner. The fourth section of my thesis focu ses on interaction and participation. Through community, display, and performanc e, costumers gather for interaction and enculturation. Whether as part of sci ence fiction themed ev ent, a parade, or a movie opening, a performance is initiat ed once the individual dons a costume. A great deal of the satisfaction achiev ed in building a costume comes from wearing the costume in a public sphere. It is the recognition among fans and non-fans that really inspires the co stumer. Sometimes asked to play Star Wars for an event or photo opportunity, Star Wars costumers participa te in a number of performances as a result of wearing thei r costumes in public. There are events that are designed specifically for sci ence fiction and fantasy audiences like conventions and comic book fairs but there also events that have no relation to
17 the text or have constructed a relationship with the text based on the Legions participation. By interacti ng with others in costume, t hese individuals share their favorite movies. In posing for pictures and participating in fan-generated projects, they become part of their favori te movie scenes. In personifying Star Wars costumers transform spectato rship into a shared social experience that extends beyond other fans and toward a kind of civic engagement which may be characteristic of a new type of civic participation.
18 Chapter Two Costuming and Personal Choices As a child, I had numerous opportunities to dress in costumes, but I have not worn one in many years until I was re-introduced to the activity when I attended a fan convention in Tampa, Fl orida. In October 2003, I attended the 22nd meeting of Necronomicon, a hotelbased convention for fans of science fiction, fantasy, and gaming. I have attended many organized gatherings including academic conferences and Shriners conventions, and I was used to a uniform appearance among attendees. It did not occur to me that this environment would be any di fferent. I knew from pas t experience that shared interest was the fuel behind such gatherings. I like movies and games and thought this event might feed those intere stswhich it did. I found a living, breathing, microcosm of trade, ritual and celebration that resounded in the hallways and continued day and night fo r three days. People gathered in this space to learn, buy, sell, share, play, and perform. When I arrived at the hotel, there were quite a few cars unloading thei r packed cars of supplies. It looked as if they were moving in for a month. St anding outside the entrance were three Star Trek fans clad in Starfleet Officer unifo rms; off to the side was another unfamiliar, darker character in a cape; and on the other side of the door were five or six people dressed in various black cloaks, boots, and gothic-inspired garb. The
19 people decorated the entr ance not because they were hi red to draw attention to the event, but because they were attendees. At Necronomicon, the audience defines its reality, marking a space and time in terms of fictional imagery. Steppi ng inside the hotel, I was confronted with noise, color, and excitement. A large number of guests were checking in, toting carts loaded with costumes, odd packages, cool ers, groceries, as well as the expected suitcases and traveling bags. The two lobby restaurants supported full tables of excited chatter. Nearly every one wore some sort of clothing appropriate to the event; if they were not already sporting costumes (and many were), then they were dressed in themed t-shirts, prosthetic elf ears, or brightly colored hair. The people at this hotel were distinguishable from usual hotel guests. They entirely dominated the build ing and the costumers stood out amongst the rest. The most interesting aspect of the costumers at fan conventions is that, aside from masquerade entrants, t hey are attendees just like everybody else. In this respect, costumes are not identity changing personas but rather textual uniforms representing prefer ence and perspective. I saw my first Stormtroopera Star Wars fan dressed in specially crafted white armorat this convention. He was perfect. It was as if he had walked off the movie screen and into this hotel. His suit was not made out of cloth or cardboard but several pieces of hard white plastic, creating the same effect as the cinematic armor. The armor exuded a crisp, white appearance and made a good bit of sound when he moved. In the Star Wars movies, the Stormtroopers make a distinctive sound, and I suspect that this was born in relation to the actual
20 noise made by human beings moving in plastic armor plating. In the films and in person, they make a clickety clack sound as the individual armored pieces rub against each other or come into contact with hard surfaces. Even standing in place, I could hear the creaking of this mans armor as he walked or shifted from side to side. I was reminded of the sounds of troops marching through the metal halls of the Death Star chasing Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. The helmeted costume was so convincing, and I could not resist interacting with him and touching his armor. He was a real Star Wars Stormtrooper, and I thanked him for being in the same room with me. Movie characters are images projected on a screen. Even Star Wars celebrities do not wear their fictional personas when they appear in public. Costumers, however, construct and maintain fictional personas in the most unlikely surroundings and situations. The Stormtrooper that I saw at Necronomicon was the closest I had been to the movies in my entire life. Figure 1: Stormtrooper (with R2D2) at Necronomicon, October, 2004 Drawn to the idea of emulating my favorite movies through costuming, I decided to construct one of my own when I attended a second event in Jacksonville, Florida the following summer. There was little doubt in my mind that I would choose to create a costume from Star Wars. It has always been my favorite movie. I knew nothing of the Star Wars Costuming Legions. My desire for a costume was primarily motivated by my personal appreciation of the films along
21 with the availability of a venue to wear it. This convention arena was the ideal space to break away from conventional clothing choices in favor of those worn by characters in my favorite movies. Unlike many costumers, I was unsure which character to re-create. Not only was I concerned that I may not have the skills necessary to construct a recognizable co stume, but I wanted something fairly easy to make and comfortable to wear. Most importantly, I wanted a costume that fit my preferences, perspectives, and personality. My first impulse was to make the costume of my favorite character in the Star Wars films, Han Solo. Of course, this choice raised a number of im mediate concerns. First and foremost, I am a blond woman with no inclination, at this time, towards changing my gender to accommodate the costume. After briefly considering alternat ive costumes from a number of my favorite films, I decided to go with my first choice and create my own appearance in Han Solos garb, and let onlookers decipher my choice of characterization. Although still concer ned about the discontinuity in my presentation, I was hopeful t hat my twist on the theme would be accepted in this venue. As long as I achieved accuracy wit h the various components of the outfit, then I would be me in a Star Wars context because everyone would recognize the Han Solo gear. In this way, I not onl y emulated aspects of my favorite films but I established a new, original identity built upon my personal relationship with Star Wars I chose to wear my favorite c haracter from my favorite text. Making the costume was an involved proc ess that took se veral weeks of concentrated effort but the result was a complete success. My design was close enough to the original that people recogni zed the outfit instantly, taking my
22 picture and commending me on my efforts. The attention and compliments made me feel welcomed and accepted. Because of the gender change that I imposed upon the character, I also received some interesting responses. One person re-named me Han-na Solo, and I have since adopted that title when describing the experience to others. Another asked me, Is it true what I hear about Corellian chicks? playfully attributing Han Solos fictional home planet to my attire. When I attended a panel of female celebrities focusing on the representation of women in science fiction, another woman and I were pointed out as females adopting the garb of masculine charactersinterestingly, the other woman was also dressed in a Star Wars costume. We were part of a discussion about the over sexualized images of women in science fiction. While the other womans gender was usurped by her masculine guise, I was clearly a female counterpart to the original character. This led into a discussion of unnecessary cleavage and skimpy outfits. I was pleased to offer a positive image to the discussion because I did not force a masculine persona by choosing a masculine costume nor did I feminize the costume with a plunging neckline; in costume, I was female and I was Star Wars. The experience of wearing a costume was satisfying; I was proud of the work I did in constructing the costume, the enthusiastic responses from other attendees, but most of all I was proud to wear Star Wars. Figure 2: My Han Solo costume at Dreamcon, June 2004
23 From Clothing to Costumes Personal histories are marked by specia l attire representing achievements and memorable moments. Throughout my life, I wore special holiday dresses, a Girl Scout uniform, a cheerleading ou tfit, softball and field hockey uniforms, a bridesmaids dress from my cousins wedding, a bridal gown for my own wedding, gymnastics leotards, a karate gi, specific clothes for school and the different seasons of the year, a gypsy and a fairy costume for Halloween, a clown costume for a High School circus, costumes for two school plays, and the cap and gown for my college graduation. All of t hese outfits were intended, designed, or chosen to represent a specific activi ty, membership to a particular community, or special abilities: children wear Hallowe en costumes to participate in a ritual of candy gathering each October; a girl scout uniform binds each scout to a collective while each girl wears a sa sh of patches denoting individual achievements; a softball un iform binds the individual s of a team together and indicates that members have the necessary skills to play. Not only do we wear the clothing that represents pieces of our ident ities, but we depend on people who wear specific clothing; police, fire fighters, and other civic employees have clothing designed to relay communal understanding, and we trust these individuals, sometimes entirely based on their uniforms, to provide certain services. Clothing is utilized to intentiona lly project information to other people. The outfits that mark many of the circumstances of our lives represent purpose, belonging, and occasion.
24 Humans take control over their ow n form. In some cases, physical features introduce and define individuals as height, weight, gender, skin color, and clothing provide information to others. While many of these attributes are unchangeable matters of fact clothing can be altered to accommodate the needs and desires of the individua l. As Patrizia Calefato notes, Dressing is a nonverbal language, a form of projection and simulation, valid for both the individual and society (96). Humans continually ma ke intentional clothing choices about style, behavior, and representation accord ing to the influence, the moment, and the occasion. Because the intenti onal and representational aspects of specialized outfitting are similar to those of costumes, it is easy to consider them interchangeable terms. However, there is something about costumes that goes beyond daily configurations of clothing. Costumes are less about functionality than they are about generating meaningr epresentation. For example, many costume accessories are meant to represent specific pur poses yet they are built without the actual capabilities: a Star Wars Jedi Light Saber is a weapon that was created solely for the movies and only exists as a toy of light-up replica in the real world. In costuming, even comm on weapons like guns and knives are constructed out of harmless materials. They are only part of the costume to validate the character repr esented. Clothing becomes a costume once a fictional, or purely representation context is est ablished. Looking back over the list of outfits that have passed through my life, I see outfits equipped or designed to serve specific purposes and others that had no other purpose but to represent the moment: while winter clothes protec ted me from the el ements, my frilly
25 Easter dresses did little more than desi gnate the day. Some outfits have practical applications assisting the wearer in achieving specific goals: gymnastics leotards are form fitting allowing for additional flexibility and ease of movement and fire fighters wear heavy protective clothing to co mbat fires. Other out fits are primarily representative: traditional brides wear white gowns and graduates don a cap and gown in ritualistic ceremonies of union and achievement. The clothing that fits the latter category is the most costumelike. A costumes sole purpose is representation. Costumes constitute the physical presence of something that is meaningful or something solely created and connected to fictional texts. Ultimately, humans wear different outfits to fulfill cultural expe ctations but they wear costumes to stimulate specif ic reactions and represent cultural recollections. Fan groups, and costumers in particula r, replicate imagery and fabricate experience in order to expr ess their textual devotions. The first action of any potential fan simply involves watching vi sual texts. Karen Ross and Virginia Nightingale understand the cons umption of media as an educational practice where fans acquire knowledge and those who want to do more than consume the text will often turn to producing a fan artifact (137). Because costumes provide a great deal of explication to visual narratives, they are an intrinsic part of the media-generated images that engulf and engage individuals. Costuming is a persuasive dramaturgical tool enhancing many visual displays. Movie, television, and theater artists design and wear cost umes to secure illusion and provide entertainment. While professional costum ers create visual ensembles to enhance
26 the text, amateur costumers are composed primar ily of spectators reflecting texts and images. Thus, costuming is form of exchange and participation that is largely controlled by the spectator. According to Camille Bacon-Smith, Costume, which includes the fan as actor and as audience spans the breech between the written and the visual modalities of the genre in a display that appeals to the aesthetic and emotional commonalities among communi ty members (Science Fiction 60). This activity melds the activities of spectatorship and participation. Costumers construct popular cultural images transforming their selves into a fictional context by reinca rnating fictional characte rs into physical, threedimensional forms. They are textual f ans communicating viewing perspectives and choices with their bodies. Only a minute percentage of visual audience members are costumers, but the activity represents an intelligible and negotiable interchange between spectator and text. Cost uming is a form of popular cultural production that is fueled by the viewing choices of spectators. Cultural imagery has a strong presence in our daily lives as corporate logos, movies, and television shows stream in and out of our vision. According to Stuart Hall, social groups live i ncreasingly fragmented and sectionally differentiated lives depending on t he media to provide the images, representations and ideas around which the social totality composed of all these separate and fragmented pieces can be coherently grasped (85). Media generated products become a common frame of reference people use to connect to each another. It is common to share viewing choices and reactions with others and there are some images that have c aptured the attention of millions and
27 millions of spectators: traum atic events like 9/11 are di splayed on screens and in print; reality television shows like Survivor and American Idol draw huge audiences; and films like Star Wars that have permeated the cultural imagination through viewing popularit y and pervasive merchandising campaigns. We consume images, recollect what we see, and talk about our opinions and reactions with others; but how do we participate in what we see? Some people choose to seek out the images that impact them the most by physically visiting landmarks and image laden locations: people a ttend sporting events to see the athletes play in person; people visit t he space where the World Trade Center towers stood; billions enter amusement par ks every year to ride the movies; and others visit movie studios and set locati ons, write to their favorite celebrities and visit their homes and public appearances, and even participate in making movies. These image pilgrimages grant i ndividuals opportunities to physically interact with images: they ride, touch, scrutinize, and validat e their image-based recollections. Although a commitment to wa tching texts is the single most vital action of the spectator, it is also t he most tenuous. Watching films and television shows is not a guarantee of anythingthose that watch are not necessarily fans of the material nor are they bonded to other spectators. Pleasurable and sometimes negative, disturbing or su rprising viewing experiences produce reactions that provoke people to exc hange perspectives with one another. The mode of exchange comes in many forms including costuming.
28 Choosing a particular costume People are in part defined by the choi ces they make. Costumers seek to combat the ephemerality of the viewing experience by continuing a connection to the text and building connections with ot hers. Personal perspectives dictate many costume choices: they relate to i ndividual characters, appreciate particular fictional behaviors and abilities, and most importantly they enjoy their viewing experiences. Costume choices revolve around viewing popular media with fans embracing different aspects of representat ion. For Jenkins, choices hold special potential as vehicles for expressing t he fans pre-existing social commitments and cultural incidents (34) In costuming, this pot ential rests on constructing recognizable images. Costumers are, fundamentally, consumers of popular culture and as such costume enthusias ts choose from the images put before them. As subcultures are, at least in part, representat ions of representations, Hebdige asserts they empl oy elements of the dominant culture as signifying practices to make meaning in their ow n lives (86). Costumers choose which texts to consume and then take an additional step by choosing to represent, or become part of, the images t hat inspire them. Each tier of decision making draws the source material and the costumer together. Costumes are commonly generated from commercially driven products like television shows and films, but the choice of re-characterizati on belongs to the costumer. From viewing choices to costume choices, people actively engage with visual texts and their common recollections and reactions connect them to other spectators. Costumers love to talk about their personal connections with
29 particular films, comic books, or televi sion shows recounting when or how they encountered the original images. The costumer does not generally have to answer these questions, however, because they wear the answers. For every spectator that asks a costumer about the origins of their designs, there are ten others that show approval for the cost umers choices by sharing their own fascinations with the text. When I saw my first Stormtrooper, I did not ask him why he chose his costume. Instead, I declared my appreciation for his Stormtrooper armor because I love Star Wars He did not have to prove his devotion to Star Wars because he was wearing it. But I was not wearing a costume. It was up to me to let him know that I share his enthusiasm. Fan communities develop from shared connections to the source material. It is rare, for example, for new recruits of the Star Wars Costuming Legions to be drawn to the costumes before they encou nter and become fans of the Star Wars movies. This is not to say that the high qu ality and realistic appearance of these costumes do not inspire other s to enter into costuming, but most costumes are inspired by the love of t he films. Before his official acceptance into the 501st Legion, TD-3150 (his Legion designation) introduced himself by posting, I've been obsessed with Star Wars since I was a kid. New people posting on Star Wars Legions Internet message boards often introduce themselves as die-hard Star Wars fans proclaiming a lifetime spent watching the films. At this point, they are still pre-costume spectators shari ng their enthusiasm with a group of people that, in their minds, have already pr oven their allegiance by physically reincarnating Star Wars
30 The overwhelming majority of costumer s discover the activity long after they have cemented their relationship with the text; before one chooses the particular adornments to change the body, they choose to wear the text. Their choices are not controlled by commerc ial imperatives, but rather personal prerogatives within a commercial and mediated world. Fans activities take place after they have viewed the material. There is no way of knowing which images will resonate with fans. We can gauge t he strength of particular images as chosen by costumers: Star Wars always has a commanding presence at different events while Star Trek characters have all but disappeared from the scene; Superheroes are extremely pop ular and there are usually multiple versions of Batman and Superman present; and Indi ana Jones is another popular and consistent participant. While some movies and television shows are driven by singular characters like Superman others like Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings offer a large range of distinctive characte rs. Costumers are dr awn to images with distinctive appearances. Costume choices are personal, yet costumers share the same reasons for choosing particular characterizations. A representative sampling of individual costuming choices within the Star Wars Costuming Legions is adequately showcased in a message thread on the Florida 501st Garrison Website titled, Why/How do you choose your character?1 Here is a representative answer posted to the thread: I wanted Stormtrooper armor ever since I first saw SW way back in '77. I even tried to make my own out of white poster board. You can imagine 1 The Florida Garrison Website archive was corrupted on 2/6/06. It is no longer available. Last access to strand Why/How do you choose your character? was on 2/4/06
31 what that looked like. After hearing about the 501st, I was going to acquire another one of my favorite costumes, Jango or Boba Fett, but the finances didn't allow it, so here I am a TK (the Legion designation for accepted Stormtrooper costumes). I'm very happy with it, since besides Darth Vader, it's one of the most recogniz able costumes in SW. I'm sure eventually I'll get a second costume, like Biker Scout (something a little more comfortable it'd be nice to si t down!!) or maybe go dirty. Whatever I'm wearing, I'll be having fun! (TK-9482 6/23/05) Throughout this message thread, there are significant references that help elucidate their individual costume choices. Each person has a relationship with these movies. Their entries are dense with connections to Star Wars and their favorite characters but t hey also recognize specific viewing experiences and other costumers. Ultimatel y, their choices are built upon overlaying influences with the Star Wars films as the co mmon denominator. For the Star Wars fan, watching Star Wars for the first time was an event to be remembered and cherishedand now reincarnated. The people responding to the question as to why they choose their character usually refer to the original trilogy of film s. They frequently make refere nce to the first film they saw, specifically noting t heir age and the year it was released, suggesting that it was a turning point in their lives. I naugural viewings are the foundation for costumers adoration of the Star Wars Universe. I chose my first and second costumes from Star Wars because I enjoy the films, but most of all I remember seeing the first movie. I di stinctly remember seeing Star Wars in 1977. Before it
32 was released, there was very little informa tion available about the movie; the only thing we knew that it was a fantasy set in outer space. It was not shown in our immediate area, but my par ents, who were film enthusiasts, found a theater some 50 miles away. It was a small tw o screen theater in a free-standing building of a shopping mall. The ticket line stretc hed around the side of the building, and this was the first time that I remember standing in line for a movie. We entered just as the lights were goi ng down, and the only seats available were in the very front row of the auditorium, another firs t time experience for me. The movie began as soon as we sat down and for the ne xt two hours there was nothing in my reality but Star Wars There were no opening credits only the words A Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away followed by a brief prelude to the story that sets the tone and captures the imagination. The words speak of rebel bases, an evil Galactic Empire, a princess, and stolen plans for a secret super weapon. As we watch the film and make sense of the situation posited, we are introduced to characters, spaceships, and locations unlike anything seen on film. Until 1977, space dramas were limited by money, spec ial effects capabilities, and the vision to create an unseen world. By perfecti ng the processes involved, George Lucas delivered new, powerful images connected with a fundamental tale of good versus evil. Star Wars was one of the prim ary topics of conversation in 1977 as nearly everyone (that I knew at least) shar ed their opinions of it. By the time the merchandise filled the stores Star Wars was well on its way to becoming a cultural phenomenon. In talking with other Star Wars fans, I realize that we were all children watching something that fasci nated us, and we continue to share that
33 fascination with others. It is my favorite film because it is my favorite movie experience. All of my recollections of Star Wars are laced with these initial feelings of wonder, escape, and satisf action. Most costumers are generally nostalgic. They want to reconnect wit h pleasurable viewing experiences and childhood fantasies. Although fans give the texts credit for their initial reactions, they prove fandom through their activities. In search ing for the moment of emergence for individual fandom, Matt Hills indicates t hat fans do not claim agency in their becoming-a-fan storie s, but they do claim agency through their later performances of fan identit y (160). Watching a movi e does not make someone a fan. The initial viewing of the movie was a significant point in their development as fans but it was their choice to cont inually re-watch the movies and to make and wear a particular costume that secured their status as fans. For a large number of Star Wars costumers, the choice of costume fulfills a personal fantasy. They know exactl y which costume they want to wear because they have always admired or wanted to be a specific character since first watching the movie. Stephen Hine rman employs the theories of Sigmund Freud and Jaques Lacan to discuss the role of fantasy in fandom. For Hinerman, fantasy assures personal satisfaction and total meaning in a world marked by separation, absence, and traumatic disrupt ion (114). In fandom, the separation and absence emanates from the limitations of media deliv ery and the limited accessibility of media icons. Thus, fans disguise their losses by creating fantasies (115). While Hinerman describes an internal negotiation between
34 consumer and image through the personal written fantasies of female Elvis fans, costumers fall into a similar rubric. In stead of internalizing their devotions, however, costumers externalize and personify their fantasies in public displays of attachment and performance. Referring to the anticipated delivery of his new armor on the Florida Garrison Website message boards, TK-5735 wrote, I grew up dreaming of this didn't think it would ever happen. Of the 3731 active members costumes2 registered in the entire 501st Legion, 1695 are Stormtroopers modeled from t he Original Trilogy of films; this represents 46% of the registered costumes. I have met dozens of people who dress in Stormtrooper armor and most of them have wanted to be a Stormtrooper from the first moment they saw them projected on a screen. All it took was the door to be blown open and these really cool guys wearing white armor shooting for me to be hooked, wrote TK-9292 describing the opening mo ments and debut of th e Stormtrooper character in the first Star Wars film released. A fter TK-7100 first saw Star Wars, he couldn't stop talking about the troopers and wanted to be a trooper ever since. For them, costuming is an outlet to revisit childhood fantasies. Because of their appreciation and admiration for t he Stormtrooper character, these individuals were compelled to seek out a way to capture and personify an image.3 A number of the people responding also recognize the influence of other costumers on their choices. They are thankful to the Star Wars Costuming 2 501st Legion Website
35 Legions for giving them an outlet to shar e their enthusiasm and providing a group identity beyond that of simply Star Wars Fan. TK-688 has always loved Star Wars and admired the commanding appearance of Stormtrooper armor, but it was his experience with other fans in co stume that helped cement his choice: I wasn't entirely sure on my decision on TK until I attended my first event and got to see everyone and the suits in person. My decision was final, TK or bust! Been happy ever since. Filmed images of Stormt roopers are limited by the confines of the text and the screen. The physical pr esence of people wearing movie quality costumes opens those images to physical interaction with spectators and real world environments. An admitted Rebel, TK -9799 began her Star Wars costuming as a Jedi. After she saw all the fun the TKs were having and how much people loved them, she obtained a set of armor. Stormtr oopers, or TKs as she refers to them, garner a lot of att ention in crowds. While Jedi enjoy the attentions of onlookers, I have yet to enter an event with a Stormtrooper that is not stopped for pictures within seconds of walking in the door. For costumers, fun is characterized by the recognition and appreciation of observersfun equals attention. The influence of the Star Wars Costuming Legions goes deeper than having fun and even accurate representat ion. The Legions give interested individuals permission to di splay their enjoyment of Star Wars in public. The existence of an organized and codified gr oup that has gaine d acceptance by fans, producers, and outside entities validat es each individuals devotion. As TK9015 posts, I am glad I found the 501. I never thought it existed that there are so many cool people wanting to become a part of the greatest saga ever told. I love
36 it. All of these costumers want to become part of Star Wars. The cohesive identity of the Costuming Legions gives individual enthusiasts a public persona and it gives them a group of like-minded individuals that share their enthusiasm.4 Choosing which costume to make and wear also depends on a willingness of the spectator to both dev elop and externalize personal relationships with visual texts. Although the initial possibilities of the relationship are inspired, even prompted, by the text, t he boundaries of this relationship are primarily determined by the costumer. The costumer does not necessarily make choices to fit in with a particular crowd but to make personal statements about pleasure, desire, and identity. They use, according to Hebdige s description of youth subcultures that adopt distinctive fashion styles, intentional communication to display personal opinions. Hebdige classifies intenti onal communication as a visible construction or loaded choice which directs attention to itself and gives itself to be read (101). The fact that their choices alig n them with other fans and consumers illustrates the pervasive nat ure of images in our culture. For Star Wars costumers, these init ial choices oscillate between inaugural viewing experiences, a desire to fulfill personal f antasies, and, as I will address in the next two chapters, the need to c onnect with other individuals. Dressing the Costumers Body Choosing a particular costume begins with the text or a specific character and ends with the body. The costumers body is an inseparable part of the final 4 All quotes obtained from message strand, Why/ How do you choose your character? on the Florida Garrison Website last accessed on 2/4/06.
37 product. Most of the characters that co stumers emulate are inseparable from their wardrobe and makeupas visualiz ed entities, their appearance defines them encompassing physical, textual and cultural components. Speaking primarily of fashion models, Calefato de scribes the carefully chosen or designed garment as a vessel of otherness where the identity of ones body is confused (60). Clothing the body creates an indist inct zone between covering and image (60). Calefato recognizes that people ma ke intentional choices about clothing and presentation that is partly based on a desire to embrace otherness (60). Costuming promotes an interactive illusion that requires recognition and acceptance of multiple sources. Human bodies are facilitators of the costume and its representation. Whether they choos e to show their fa ces and expose their bodies as feature characters like Prince ss Leia and Anakin Skywalker or they choose helmeted characters that hide thei r real identity and physical appearance, the costumer, like Calefatos model, displays the body as a symbolic representation that encompasses both t he real and the unreal. In a sometimes challenging effort to accurately personi fy images, costumers either match their physical traits to complementary characte rs or they force their given body type into a new physical display. From the most basic cost umes that simply require particular articles of clothing to elabor ate manifestations requiring mechanics or prosthetics, the body must either fit the final image or be hidden to preserve a commitment to the source material. Many popular costumes like Su perman, Luke Skywalker of Star Wars or Lara Croft of Tomb Raider are not only recognizable be cause of the clothing that
38 they wear but because of the physical appearance of their fictional bodies: Superman is tall and lean with dark brown hai r; Luke Skywalker is recognized by his blonde hair and boyish looks; and Lara Cr oft is known for her brown, braided hair and double-D bust size. Some are not daunted by these requirements donning wigs and other accessories that assi st them in achieving certain looks. There are a number of people who choos e costumes because they look like certain characters, or even because they look like the actors that portray them. While attending the last two annual meeti ngs of Dragoncon in Atlanta, I met a man who has a passing resemblance to Harrison Ford. He has several costumes all dedicated to variations of the charac ters that Ford has immortalized on film: I have seen him wear two Han Solo cost umes fashioned after the characters appearance in two different Star Wars films and I have seen him wear two Indiana Jones costumes also taken from two different f ilms featuring the character. This intertextual web of repr esentation adds complexity to the identity he projects while in costume. Unlike fictional source texts, representation through costuming is not limited by the confines of narrative reality. In conversations, people recognize this costumer as the guy that dresses in Ford characters: thus, he is manifesting Ford as much as he personifies the characters portrayed by Ford. The actor is an icon of popular culture with the distinction of having starred in a number of popul ar films making him a highl y recognizable character on and off the screen. The costumer looks more like Ford in costume because spectators frequently associate these char acters with the actor and vice versa.
39 The popular cultural interplay is bas ed upon the bodys ability to wear the representation. Costuming is one of the few activi ties where sex is weighed equally. Costume contests do not separate entrants into gender ed categories. Men and women both design and construct their own costumes with equal skill, and both men and women wear the garb of the other Bacon-Smith states that costuming has always broken stereotypes both outside and inside fan culture. In costuming, men sew sequins along wit h the women, and both men and women number among the costumers considered ma ster class (Enterprising Women 18). The Star Wars Costuming Legions do not discrim inate on the basis of class, race, or gender except when it comes to the accuracy of t he costume. Thus, I could not submit my Han Solo costume for membership because it is not an accurate representation of the textual canon. There are, however, a number of events where my feminine depiction of t he cinematic smuggler is a welcomed perspective. A majority of Imperial, or antagonist ic, characters in the Star Wars Universe are gendered masculine with outfits that replace or e liminate emotional characteristics. Most are unmistakabl y humanoid, but they have helmets and special body attachments to suit t heir fictional personas. Because these costumes quash personal identities, it is nearly impossible to tell who is underneath. Several female Star Wars costumers wear the garb of masculine characters; their bodies and their gender s give way to the costume and the fiction. I have spoken to and obser ved numerous female Stormtroopers and many of them enjoy the anonymity in a fo rum that is sometimes full of highly
sexualized images of women. They revel in the reactions of fans who presume they are male, based on the costume, and they especially appreciate the surprised reactions when they remove their helmets and reveal their identity/gender. I have recently completed work on a helmeted character and the costuming experience is completely altered by the anonymity afforded by wearing this type of costume. When dressed as Han Solo or a Jedi, I am still me: a blonde, thirty-something woman wearing a costume. Unlike the guy that dresses in Ford characters, my presentation is not interchangeable with the character or the actor that portrays him. Wearing a helmet, on the other hand, trumps physical appearance with anonymity. Regardless of whether the costumer is male or female, the helmeted persona receives its gender assignment from a fictional source. Many costumes were not really designed to conform to the human body but rather to stretch the limits of the human imagination. Because not all characters are humanoid or even proportionate to the human form, creativity, planning, and research of both subject and possible building materials are sometimes necessary to eliminate or downplay the human body from the final look. For these characterizations, the costumers body is part of the guise. At the Star Wars Celebration III, there was a man who designed a costume as General Grievous, a digitally generated and cartoon rendered character that is basically an eight-foot metal skeleton with a battered Jedi cloak, Figure 3: General Grievous 40
41 successfully disguising his body to accommodate the representation. As you can see from Figure 3, the physical dimensions of this never before constructed character are not exactly proportionate to the average human body. The man pictured in Figure 4 cleverly built the metal-like skeleton to accommodate his body wearing a black body suit and a black lined cloak to mask his self in order to make the costume more meaningfulmore real. The costumers head is actually just above the chest plate. Metal skeletons, like many of the characters in the Star Wars universe, are costumes that are not easy to wear. In effect, the costumer sometimes relinquishes his/her body, and physical identity, for an accurate or meaningful representation. Figure4: Star Wars fan in General Grievous costume at Celebration III, May 2005 In order to re-create a seemingly impossible image, costumers also sacrifice comfort for representation. In Dressing the Galaxy, Hayden Christensen, the actor that portrayed Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films, talks about the inevitability of becoming Darth Vader and wearing his distinctive garb but did not anticipate how difficult it would be to wear: Since I first got the role, Id been looking forward to the moment Id get to don the dark helmet of Darth Vader. Unfortunately, it is not the most comfortable thing to have to spend more than 10 minutes in. Its really hot, and feels like hydrogen peroxide on a cut. Even so, it was truly thrilling (28). The actor notes his discomfort and
42 then trumps that feeling with the thrill of becomi ng this iconic character. Costumes can be extremely cumberso me limiting motion and maneuverability. Physical discomfort is a gi ven with Stormtrooper costumes in particular: armor and accessories pinch and scrape the body, hi nder the ability to easily use the bathroom, sit or bend down, negotiate stairs, corners and crowds; and complicated headgear and helmets obstruct sight and hearing. Even relatively plastic-free costumes are heavy and hot and otherwise difficult to tolerate. Like Christensen, costumers negate discomfort in favor of the thrill of embodying their favorite characters. Costumes function like a fictional skin. They are extremely varied by text, context, and form. Some costumes require a specific physical appearance or complement the human body while others can be adapted and some seem impossible to recreate. Many Star Wars costumes completely usurp the wearer; individualized characteristics like facial expression, body language, and gender all but disappear or change in favor of t he costume and the characterization. The costumers body takes on the primary responsibility of representation. For Calefato, cinematic dress deals with wi despread intersemiotic practices that serve as the basis of which an image is directly measured against corporeality (104). In costuming, the human form pla ys a communicative role providing a skeleton, both symbolic and structural, t hat animates a fictional character or context. A commitment to costuming r equires a commitment to the image and this commitment is exhibited and endured by dressing the costumers body. In fact, the body represents the costumers initial, and arguably most important,
43 contribution to the final product. As t hey struggle to achieve accuracy often foregoing pain and discomfort, costumers maintain the integrity of the source material in order to project recognizable images. Wearing a costume transforms the body from human to characterfr om spectator to participant. Striving for Originality Even though costumes derive from recognizable sources and the very idea of costuming revolves around replicating images, there is, ironically, a strong desire to achieve originality in some costume choices. What is original? Even the most liberal definition of the word signifies something that is fresh and new and without parallel. In one respect, th ere is no way that fan costumes can be considered original. Costumers imit ate popular forms by re-presenting recognizable images. As Hebdige summari zes, subcultures do not stand outside the reflexive circuitry of production and reproduction which links together, at least on a symbolic level, the separate and fragm ented pieces of the social totality (86). Costumers realign the fragmented pieces in relation to their own experience producing new incarnations of familiar images. Some individuals develop original characterizations from generic components. While they may be considered one of a kind, all costumes are irrevocably linked to the cultural forms that foster them. A seemingly new manifestation of an alien or a robot has its roots within the science fiction genre just as the various incarnations of elf and renaissance maiden have their roots in literature and film. Similarly, Gothic costumes are not founded on any one parti cular image but instead from the color
44 black and its relationship with the macabre in the visual media. Yet all of these various incarnations are considered origin al creations of the costumer. Calefato calls the social emergence of the cl othed body a hyper-semiotic connotation which provides a narrative, communicative space where the body is perceived as unique, even though it is a reproduced im age (60). In most cases, creativity trumps conformity and costumers are dist inguished by their costuming choices, a liberally constructed cost ume persona, and their ability to invoke a cultural critique through representation. In search of original incarnations, costumers frequently comb their favorite texts or search genres for obscure char acters that have not been previously personified. Jack Sparrow of 2002s Pirates of the Caribbean movie is a popular costume for convention attendees, and I am used to seeing three or four identical renderings at the larger gatherings. At the 2005 Dragoncon, a clever costumer created the makeup for Jack Sparrow repr oducing his skeleton form in the same film, reproducing an original characteriza tion and drawing a lot of attention. The Star Wars Costuming Legions are organized ar ound a relatively strict code of costuming standards (see Appen dix) that is based on the visual canon of the films. In order to be inducted into eit her Legion, one must subm it a picture that conforms to the costuming requirement s outlined in the Legion Charter. The submitted image is carefully scrutinized for accuracy before acceptance is rendered. Because the Star Wars universe encompasses dozens of characters types some with multiple incarnations, some Legion members obtain originality by choosing costumes that no one el se is wearing like the aforementioned
45 General Grievous. While still imitating ce rtain aspects of t he films, costumers also achieve originality through obscure references and images, specialized accessories, intertextuality, and even interdisciplinary approaches to popular characterizations. Costumes fashioned after recognizable characters can carry pieces of originality. There are a lot of people who dress as pirates, Klingons from the Star Trek stories, Stormtroopers and others that build Jedi costumes based upon protagonistic characters in the Star Wars universe. These characterizations offer a wide array of images and accessories to embellish the final product. While these costumes have some uniform pieces that designate them as representatives of specific characters, t hey are also representative of a larger group of fictional individuals with their ow n distinctions and idiosyncratic traits. Star Wars Jedi generally wear a long brown cloak over layered tunics; they have a utility belt, knee high boots, and most carry a lightsaber weapon. These elements aside, the Jedi is open to va st range of interpretation. In the Star Wars texts, Jedi come from all corners of a fictional galaxy with many species represented opening the doors for the diversity of human costumers here on earth. In a very real way, race, class and gender are eliminated as the cloak, belt, and lightsaber equalize these i ndividuals into Jedi no lo nger separated by their physical characteristics but instead bound toget her by fictional context. Similarly, Stormtroopers have different accessories and cinematic incarnations that serve to hone individual preferences into indivi dualized costumes. Afte r participating in several events, I began to distingui sh between the different Florida
Stormtroopers. In reality, no two are exactly the same: they have different body types; they have different appearances in the films according to duty assignment and fictional terrains, they carry different weapons, some have specialized accessories like belt packs and backpacks, some have colored shoulder harnesses representing different ranks, and others have decals and identification plates. While Jedi and Stormtrooper costumes remain canon-specific and worthy for Legion consideration, they also support a range of difference that allows costumers latitude in personal expression. Costuming offers the opportunity to be somewhat original, and yet also exist as part of a textual group or celebration. 46 Some individuals mix texts and genres to develop original characterizations. Costumers are not always bound by textual elements, and many choose to express their originality by altering a text-based costume to include other popular cultural sources. The Stormtrooper, in particular, has undergone a number of transformations that indicate the representational range of Star Wars: I have seen an Elvis Trooper complete with the trademark hair, glasses, and rhinestone-studded cape; a Japanese Trooper with rice hat and obi; a Jack Sparrow Trooper with the beard and hair of the pirate and the body armor of a Stormtrooper; a Key West Trooper with straw hat and Panama Jack shirt; a Peace Trooper with a rainbow and peace sign paint job; Troopers with black, red, and chrome armor; along with others that cleverly mix their Stormtrooper Figure 5: Elvis Trooper at Dragoncon, September 2005
47 costumes with other popular cultural forms to display more individualistic creations. These hybrids represent beings that do not exist fictionally or in the real world. Instead, they are amalgams unique to costuming. This is a form of appropriation with fans assigning new meanings and contexts to established forms. Jenkins examines textual poaching among fans as a struggle where individuals continually confront media representations on an unequal terrain (33). He exposes fan communities that rework and redeliver the source texts in order to produce new meanings and resolve unsatisfying or unexplored plot issues. Costumers participate in individual acts of resistance by defying textual convention. Instead of generating complicated scenarios to existing narratives, costumers merge images into new displays critiquing both the text and culture that fosters it. A professional costumer must follow all specifications to create a scripted illusion while amateur costumers stretch convention by freeing characters from the confines of scripts and screens; in doing so, they also create new popular cultural forms. Figure 6: Peace Trooper at Celebration III, May 2005 Some costumers take a more unconventional approach in choosing or designing their costumes; these costumers create original appearances weaving contexts from unlikely sources. There are several Stormtroopers, predominantly women, who have obtained specially molded chest plates accentuating a feminine form perhaps commenting on the masculine-dominated text. Recently, a group of Legion women designed and purchased cheerleader outfits with the
48 word Sith sewn into them designating that they are cheering for the antagonists of the Saga. The Sith are powerful ex-Jedi knights connected with the dark side of the movies. There are only two in power at one time and they are the most dark, powerful, and dangerous characters in the story. Star Wars merchandizing garners its own mimics as costumers animate images that solely pertain to commercial representations of Star Wars. A pair of individuals at Dragoncon 2005 constructed Star Wars Pez dispenser costumes out of cardboard. Another fan who attended the Star Wars Celebration fashioned a costume he called Luke, mint in the box. Remarking and reacting to the collecting aspects of Star Wars, this costumer dressed as a full sized action figure constructing and incorporating the packaging into his costume so he looked like a store-bought action figure. The packaging portion of his costume recognized the collectors practices of preserving Star Wars materials for their value, but it also distinguishes his Luke costume as not being from the movie directly but rather from the toy. When I decided to attend the Star Wars Celebration III, I was determined to find a way to achieve originality among thousands of other Star Wars fans and costumers. I made fan outfit with a skirt composed entirely of different Star Wars themed neckties and a jacket covered with distinctive Star Wars images, pins, and memorabilia. While wearing this outfit, I was stopped numerous times by people commending the results and acknowledging the originality of my idea. It was not that I wanted more attention than others, but I Figure 7: Fem-Trooper at Dragoncon, September 2005
49 did want my own attentionI wanted to be original. Because my work has nested in the area of fans and subcultures, and because I was at an event solely attended by fans, I wanted to repres ent fandom. When my daughter mentioned the idea sewing of necktie ski rt, I instantly thought about Star Wars and asked to borrow her idea. There ar e hundreds of neckties with Star Wars designs. For me the necktie skirt represents an original piec e of clothing constructed from articles that decorate a mans ordinar y business suit into an expression of fandom. I also thought it would look cool. These costum es do not come from any source within the Star Wars canon. These costumes are amalgam ations from different aspects of consumer culture designe d and executed by fans. Costumers embody their textual connec tions. They are active participants of a media audience. Costumers take the role of image producers delivering physical incarnations based on their own experience which is interlaced with multiple images from multiple source s. Ross and Nightingale indicate that progressive technologies and increas ed media production are managed by audience members who actively add comple xity to the range of information to which they are exposed by mixing media, media sources, and media activities (2). For the costumer, constructing ob scure characters and popular culture hybrids manifests some of the ways in which images impact individuals. Beyond the accurate representation of a firmly established character, these costumes provide a stronger depiction of the fluidity of spectatorship as consumers merge multiple images into a crossbred representation of popular cu lture. For Hebdige, experience is encoded into the subcul tures through different locales; home
50 experiences differ from wo rk experiences because each locale has its own unique structure, its own ru les and meanings, and its ow n hierarchy of values. These experiences intermingle becoming the raw material which finds expressive form in culture and subc ulture (84). The complex interchange between consumer and text is not solely conditioned by the images presented but by everything that stands in opposition or relation to those images as well as the person viewing them. In effect, the cost umer is Hebdiges subcultural stylist (17-8), stretching the confines of the te xt by recognizing characterization as an opportunity for reflection and criticism. Conclusion For fans and costumers alike, popular cultural production is fueled by choice. These choices are predominantly based on coveted viewing experiences. Audiences have very little control over these inaugural vie wing moments; not only do they lack the ability to control the content, duration, and sometimes location, of this experience, but they generally have no idea whether or not they will like anything before they see it. The cons umption of visual media is a fleeting emotional experience that can only be s hared through future recollections. Thus, fan cultures seek ways to prolong and m anipulate certain texts for continued enjoyment. Fans investment in certain practices and texts provides them with strategies which enable t hem to gain a certain amount of control over their affective life, writes Gro ssberg, which further enables them to invest in new forms of meaning, pleasure and identity (65). Fans gain control by appropriating
51 media generated materials for their own us e. In choosing to personify images, costumers take ownership of certain images often providing their own context. Thus, as Grossberg suggests, fandom is, at least potentially, the site of optimism, invigoration and passion which are necessary conditions for any struggle to change the conditions of ones life (65). Although the initial bonds between consumer and image ar e prompted by the text, they are strengthened through the activities of the consumer. Costumers both solidif y connections with source images and step beyond t he limitations of those te xts to reincarnate its characters. They pay homage to texts but also take affective control by physically expressing their devotion. Costumers celebrate memorable vie wing experiences through physical displays; they use their bodies as a commu nicative response to popular culture. In examining the motivations behind the distinctive fashion choices of British youth subcultures, Hebdige comments on the intentionality of physical expression: subculture fashion is obviously fabricated to reflect preference, difference, and communal belonging (empha sis in original 101). The same can be said of costumers because they purposel y transform their bodies into fictional guises indicating their viewing preferences their ability to transcend conventional notions of appearance; and their communal belonging among media consumers. Their physical appearance is purposel y adorned to project meaning. Consequently, they display their own codes or at l east demonstrate that codes are there to be used and abused (emphasis in original Hebdige 101). As a connotative act, costumes transform the bo dy into a communicative form that
52 codifies spectatorship through different c onfigurations of popular cultural images. In her discussion of fashion and cinema, Calefato states, different manners of dress, including costume, deal with interse miotic practices that allow the mixing and remixing of styles and tastes, a sort of navigating between signs where one can choose either affiliation or trav esty and disguise (105). Instead of relinquishing their physical identity to a movie accurate reflection, costumers infuse their own meanings and criticism in to their physical displays. Wearing a costume is a physical display of specta torship; the body is the canvas that signifies a commitment to, and sometimes a critique of, the source material. Costumers gain credibilit y through accuracy but also take liberty with interpretation. While they maintain a rela tionship with the source material, they are not bound by narrative constraints or fictional landscapes. As Grossberg indicates, fans investment of energy in to certain practices always returns some interest on the investment through a variet y of empowering relations (64). Hybrid costumes grant the costum ers control over the final product. As spectators consuming media and producers reconstituting the images for other viewers, costumers exist in an interpretational s phere of their own design. As Hebdige contends, a subculture distinguishes itse lf from the industries that purport to exploit it by repositioning and recontex tualizing commodities and also by subverting their conventional uses and inventing new ones (102). In this respect, the subculture opens up the world of objects to new and covertly oppositional readings (102). While individual pieces of visual media are contained and even constrained by narrative and commercial imperatives, the spectator is not.
53 Costuming is about the reincarnation of familiar images, but it is predominantly about visualizing spectatorship.
54 Chapter Three Construction and Transformation I met Rob at the first c onvention that I attended in the Han Solo costume. A member of the Star Wars 501st Legion, he was dressed as a German Stormtrooper Soldier from World War I, and I wore my Han Solo garb. He was accompanied by a man dressed as Knight, who was completely covered in shining armor. No matter how difficult Star Wars Stormtrooper armor is to wear, it cannot compare to this mans plight. While visually stunning, he could barely move. Rob designed and built the armor and was there to help him on and off the stage. A self-proclaimed master crafts man with a great deal of experience with many forms of armor including Stormtrooper, medieval, military, and other movieinspired forms, Rob has made weapon replicas for nearly every war in the history of our planet, and has expanded his production to include fictional weaponry from other planets. He constructed his own Star Wars armor and weapon, and has helped others get the materials they need to make theirs. We connected because I was the only entrant dressed in Star Wars gear. While we were talking, he told me about his workshop and invited me for a visit. Located in a small industrial strip, it was a relatively compact space, the size of a self-storage facility. The space was packed floor to ceiling with t ools, equipment (bot h large and small), plaster molds, models, props, and projects in various degrees of completion. I saw several familiar pieces, and I noted the full suit of metal armor, now devoid
55 of its human compliment. I also noticed seve ral plastic pieces leaning against the entry; these were copies of the armor pi eces fashioned after the colonial marines in the 1986 film Aliens Robs workshop was like a ci nematic back lot. With over 2000 plastic laden costumes officially registered with the Star Wars Costuming Legions, there are many fans out around t he world melting plastic to make their own costumes. Robs workshop was a mess, but it wa s the good kind of mess that meant things were getting done. Six of us c oncentrated on different tasks. Two people were outside spreading plaster over a Star Wars helmet in order to make a mold for plastic replication. The rest of us were inside. Rob cut and finished off pieces for his wifes Biker Scout armor. There wa s a faint smell of something cooking. Dave was standing in front of an oven. He attached a heavy wooden frame to a large sheet of thick, black plastic. The sheet was probably 48 inches square. Behind him was an oven mounted from the ceiling. The heating space had been modified to hold the wooden frame allowi ng for clearance all around the item inside, but the heating element and knobs were from a regul ar kitchen oven. There was an extra light mounted on the inside of the oven for monitoring the cooking plastic. The contraption look ed a little flimsy and unreliable, but I watched it complete its task time and time again. It takes 10 or 12 minutes for the plastic sheet to be ready, but it is nece ssary to supervise the amount of droop as the plastic heats, the center begins to droop. Dave waited until the current piece had just enough of a droop and swit ched the plugs behind the stove to power the compressor. Dave removed t he frame with the droopi ng plastic that
56 looked solid. He deftly and quickly moved the frame from oven to a high work table with two molds propped on small wooden blocks. The table had been covered with a thick layer of tough f oam that had a little spongy give when pressed upon. In the middle of the table was a hole. Li sa braced the frame while Dave switched on the compressor. With a short, but eventful, whoosh the warm malleable plastic hugged the plaster molds beneath it. Daves hands now covered with thick welding gloves pus hed down along the edges of the molds forcing any remaining air bubbles to e scape and insuring that the impression held. After a very long 60 seconds, Da ve shut down the compressor and lifted the frame. One plaster mold popped obediently from place, while the second required a little coaxing with a rubber ma llet. He removed the frame setting the still-warm plastic aside to finish cooling. I was still reeling from the process when Dave picked up another piece of plastic and switched the electrical plugs to reheat the oven. In the time I spent at Robs workshop, I saw people working with plaster, molding melted plastic, and cu tting, sanding and refining the pieces. Each process took time and patience and represented a fraction of the work required to produce a completed costum e. The more I learned about their construction techniques, the more I admired the dedication and adaptability of Star Wars costumers. I wanted to become part of the Star Wars Costuming Legions. I was already equipped with a love for the movi es, but I did not have a movie accurate costume. Aside from Han Solo, I felt the strongest attachment to the Jedi as the mystical underdogs devout in their beliefs and dedicated to good. The first trilogy
of films documents Luke Skywalkers journey from novice to Jedi master; his transformation is a vital element of the narrative. I liked the idea that I could still be me while in a Jedi costume. Although I did not have to cook any plastic, this costume required me to learn and apply new, or barely used, skills. It took weeks of concentrated effort and a moderate amount of money to complete. I purchased the pants and the boots, but I made everything else. I sewed the Jedi cloak and tunics myself carefully choosing cloth that not only matched the movie images and chose several inexpensive alternatives to save money. The twill fabrics generally used can cost upwards of ten dollars per yard but I found complimentary cotton blends on clearance shelves for less than two dollars per yard. As a consequence, I dyed the cloak material the requisite dark brown in a large plastic vat in my bathtub and following sewing patterns that I found on the fan-generated websites. Beyond a few curtain panels, I do not have many occasions to sew but I spent a several hours bent over the machine working on this project. I learned about leather and the hardware to produce my own Jedi Belt, perhaps the most distinctive piece of the costume. I dyed and buffed the leather and connected the pieces with metal studs according to images from the films and information from other costumers that I found on the Internet. The final piece to add was the buckle. The majority of Jedi costumes use similar buckles, but I fashioned my own out of two silver, Figure 8: My Jedi Costume at Walt Disney World, June 2005 57
58 other-worldly looking beads and some ra whide lacing adding a personal touch. I am very proud of the belt because I never worked with any of these materials before. The building materials cost about fi fty dollars and the construction took all my concentration and the better part of a Sunday. Along with the belt, I constructed my own lightsaber hilt. While I have also purchased a mass produced lightsaber replica complete with gr een glowing blade, I felt it important to construct a unique hilt to wear on my belt when in costume. Using the Internet, I found tutorials about making hilts. I looked at dozens of images and read about the interesting supplies that people used to construct their own. The most common pieces used by costumers are pipes and rubber rings from hardware stores. I had been to the fabric store, a leather outlet, and Payless Shoes and now I needed the offerings at Home Depot. Grabbing a basket and wandering the massive aisles, I found a hodgepodge of items that I could use to replicate this fictional weapon. I bought a bathroom sink drain, a faucet knob, a connector pipe that was about ten inches long, and va rying sizes of rubber o-rings, a cell phone charger, a strong adhesive, and a coupl e of clamps. I spent about twenty dollars. The finished hilt took less than ten minutes to put together; all these mismatched pieces were made for one anot her. After an additional ten minutes for gluing and about four hours for drying, I had my original hilt completing my costume. With just over one hundred dolla rs, over two hundred if you include the official lightsaber replica, and over fo rty hours of research and production time invested in the project, I knew that had earned the right to join the group.
59 This was an intensely creative and transformative endeavor for me. I made creative decisions and acquired new skills turning raw materials into an accurate Star Wars costume. For me constructing the lightsaber hilt was similar to the progression of the fictional Jedi whos e last steps of training, which includes the construction of their weapon. Making my own hilt was si gnificant to my fictional transformation. Although I fo llowed the general parameters for Jedi costumes, I felt free to in corporate my own perspective s. I am proud of my Jedi costume for a number of reasons: I hav e always been drawn to the protagonists of the films, this was terrific way fo r me to embody my cinematic viewing experiences, it was the first co stume that I submitted to the Star Wars Costuming Legion for acceptance, and most important of all I made it myself. I am indebted to the Internet for allowing me unbridl ed access to a variety of information and materials along with connecting me with other costumers: I got the pattern for my Jedi cloak from The Padawans Guide ; received ideas and methods for building a lightsaber hilt from The Big Yellow Box ; and I joined Star Wars message boards on the Florida Garrison Website and The Rebel Legion Website to find and interact with costumers in Florida. While I frequently visit boar ds for both, I am more involved with the Florida Garri son. The Communications Officer, an appointed and voluntary position, mainta ins a stand-alone website boasting a large number of active members that is organized and moder ated with pages that load smoothly and a constant infusion of new discussion topics. The Rebel Legion Website on the other hand, is cumber some, serving the entire Legion with very little variety among local posters. 501st Members from all over Florida
60 are active on the boards and their enthusia sm and expertise drew me into their online discussions. I am particularly impressed by the strands dedicated to newbies and costume construction: me mbers are welcoming, they offer valuable support and advice, and they seem wil ling to go out of their way to help. Even though I only had a Jedi costume at the time and was not technically a member of the Florida Garrison, they welcomed me into their discussions and a number of events that were not strictly limited to 501st participation. The Internet both took me away from Star Wars and brought me closer to it. I do not watch the movies on the Internet. In perusing movie stills, reading rumors and news, learning skills to create costume part s, and sharing perspectives on message boards, I have become more involved with Star Wars than ever before. I am no longer confined to watching the movies; I am actively engaged with the movies. Finding Star Wars The Internet is integral to costuming construction. Internet ventures often begin with a particular interest or goal; whether checking or sending email, playing online games, shopping, or s eeking information, people surf with a purpose. Accuracy is a primary considerat ion as costumers attempt to personify the movies. Choosing a costume is a personal decision, but costume construction requires a focused commi tment to obtain the information and materials necessary for accurate repr esentation. Obtaining a costume is an involved process based on textual devot ion and motivated by the desire to accurately represent that text to others. Even costumers that mock or criticize the
61 text rely on visual accuracy to make thei r point. As I will discuss in chapter three, costuming is a fruitless endeavor without t he recognition and interaction of future spectators. All costumers conduct some sort of research, some more intensive than others, to understand the different facets of characters and their appearances. Costumers are detail-ori ented. They probe images, carefully examining clothing, accessories, and the physical characteristics that define characters. In order to create accurate representations, a future Darth Vader may seek the dimensions and button configurat ion of his chest box or a future Queen Amidala may examine the exotic beading on the Coruscant Kimono. Costuming research can be as simple as re-watching the original movie or as complicated as studying the history and process of production designs. Re-watching movies and television shows is often limited by t he clarity and size of television screens, blurred images produced when DVDs and videotapes are paused, the amount of time that a character occupies the screen, and the visibility of the costume. One Star Wars costumer created a Dengar costume; this character is only on the screen for a few minutes in the film Queen Amidala wears many outfits throughout the prequel films with some receiving more screen time than others. Her costumes are elaborate ensembles designed to visually express her elevated status as Queen. Even costumes that are clearly visible on the screen may only be shown from one side. Because of these limitations, costumers seek out alternative outlets for information. The most accessible and copious source of information for special interest research is the Internet. Although there are film and television images available
62 in magazines, posters, and art, access to these items is often limited to physical trips to specialized stores and events. T he Internet, on the other hand, streams directly into billions of homes every second of the day. The Internet provides costumers a place to discover and displa y their research through images and content-based websites, and most of these are produced and maintained by other fans and spectators. It is not su rprising that costumers would find their niche in cyberspace as it is a venue mo tivated, controlled, and utilized by the userthe spectator. Individuals carve t heir own space designing, viewing, or linking to pages that interest them. For the burgeoning co stumer, there are images galore: all the major search engines like Google and Yahoo! have image based searches that will pull pictures fr om pages dedicated to everything from movies to family vacations; movies, te levision shows, and magazines have their own official websites, and many of these have image galleries; fans create unofficial websites, also equipped with galleries, devoted to all manner of subject and text; other commercial and retail entities use familiar images to tout their products; and there are thousands of websites dedicated to the research and craft of costuming. All of these sour ces supply images that are connected to the original in the form of production st ills and drawings, commercial renderings, or fan-generated art and memorabilia. On t he Internet, different texts and styles intermingle, waiting for the spectator to link together the connections; with a sea of images at their fingertips, costumer s study the object of their desire. In a general search for Star Wars Costuming, one will receive hundreds of thousands of hits for sites that sell costumes as well as links to fan-generated
63 sites dedicated to the research and craft of building them. Mo st of these fangenerated sites break down individual cost umes displaying hard-to-find images and guides for finding the proper material s and putting everything together. One of the most developed and recognized web pages for costume research is called The Padawans Guide to Star Wars Prequel Costumes The authors intention for the site is to be both a fan tribute and an information resource with a mission statement acknowledging Star Wars the films costume designers, as well as present and future costumers. Additiona lly, the author encour ages contributions from other costumers and fans. This plea was posted on the home page on 1/31/06: This is a costume research siteand so me sections of the site are better developed than others. This is partl y because some costumes are more popular than others. Padme and Jedi costumes are very popularbut there are a ton of other Star Wars costumes that need writeups! This is far too daunting a task for one person. If you would like to help out and research a particular costume, pl ease do so. I'd be happy to post the information. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to the site so far! < www.padawansguide .com > The site has a purpose and extends an invitation for inclusion and interaction. Numerous Rebel costumers have either contributed to the site or recommended it to others. The Padawans Guide has grown into one of the most comprehensive sources of materials for Star Wars Rebel Costumes on the web. Paul Hodkinson asserts that participant we bsites gave individual participants the
64 potential to involve themselves in the c onstruction of their subculture (178). Not only do fans produce their own subcultu ral products: they produce web content that highlights dedication, process, and activity in relation to popular culture. They contribute to the growth of cost uming by assisting others in achieving similar results. Hills indicated that onli ne fan activities should not be confused with the offline fan; the online comm unity perform(s) its fan audiencehood, knowing that other fans will act as a readership for speculations, observations, and commentaries (177). With the Internet as a catalyst, costuming transforms ideas into realities and i ndividuals into communities. The Star Wars Costuming Legions emerged in the late 1990s. There is no way to adequately discern why an activity continually credited to three films released between 1977 and 1983, took over a decade to find its footing. While numerous costumers state that they have always wanted to be Stormtroopers, they were unable to realize their dream unt il nearly fifteen years after their initial impulse. It is likely they found a way to fulfill their dream through Internet connectivity. The beginning of Star Wars costuming coincides with the emergence and widespread use of the Wo rld Wide Web. Todays costumers depend on the Internet to assist them in nearly every aspect of researching costume designs, constructing costume parts, and participating in costuming events. Virtual space is permanently in tertwined with costuming, and computer participation among members cannot be igno red. Hodkinsons analysis of Goth culture correlates with the costuming experience in that both groups adopt distinctive garb and perform their connec tions with popular culture in public
65 gatherings. Both costumers and Goth groups engage in online communities dedicated to their interests. Hodkinson states that resources and forums on the Internet functioned to facilitate the s ubculture as a whole through providing specialist knowledge, constructing val ues, offering practical information and generating friendships (182). Like the Goth culture, the first tool of costume research and construction is a computer with an Internet connection. Whether perusing for movie stills, researching minute details, purchasing and trading materials from vendors both public and privat e, or communicating with other fans and costumers, the Internet provides a versatile and critical platform for costumers. As individuals hone in on mi nute details of representation, they develop closer bonds with the movies. Constructing Costumes Constructing the costume is a personal journey of discovery, creativity, and accomplishment. Costumers are pr oducers manufacturing costumes for display. They obtain the skills and materials necessary to make their costumes and pride themselves on the quality of their product: they learn to sew; paint; work with leather, plastics, and metals; and a myriad of other tasks. This is a very do it yourself oriented club, TK -408 informs a newbie asking about finding ready-made costumes; You wouldn't be able to just buy a ready to go officer uniform very easily. I learned to sew when I got into this hobby. ( Florida Garrison Website 2/1/06) Because of the variety of skills and purchased items involved, there is a higher level of per sonal investment in the fina l product, in terms of both
66 physical labor and expense. This liminal phase of the costuming process represents the commitment to producing a product as well as the investment of time and money. The most significant limitat ion for the costumer is the cost of acquiring materialsthis is an expensive hobby. The acquisition of materials can be a costly venture. Many spare no expens e to achieve their goals, while others alter their costume choices based on t he cost of the final product. Costume quality is both a product of ability and cost. With a little ingenuity, cost does not necessarily need to be a deterrent to costum ers. Thus, the majo rity of costumers learn to sew and vacuum-form instead of buying quality costume replicas, some shop for bargains on the Internet, and ot hers incorporate inexpensive items like pipes for lightsabers and dye cloth to achieve their goals. Whether they can afford to pay for costly materials or include clever alternatives, constructing costumes is an initiatory process. It is a transitory phase, best described as a place somewhere between watchi ng movies and wearing them. There is no doubt that the costum er identifies with commercialized entities, but the costumer also takes c ontrol of the image and ownership over the representation. Most costumers, including myself, tackl e projects without direct assistance from others. Some like to k eep their creations a surprise, carefully guarding their projects and techniques until t he final product is displayed. Others simply want to prove that they can do it themselves. I fall into the latter category. I found a great deal of information and instru ction through Internet sources, but I feel a sense of accomplishment by making my own costumes. Reading about how others construct the different pieces of their costumes cannot compare to
67 actually doing the work. This hobby is not about constructing a model from a kit. It is about making the kit and the model. I composed and designed my lightsaber as I picked over different parts in Home Depot. Although I looked at many websites and I could have printed a detaile d list of items used by other fans to replicate their lightsabers, I chose to cr eate my own interpretation of the weapon. For Hodkinsons Goth culture, the selection of the desirable items certainly involved skill and knowledge, alongside elements of greater innovation and individuality (135). Likewise, finding t he right items to build a costume is a creative exploration of trial and error, and Star Wars costumers incorporate a myriad of unexpected or difficult-to-find materials into thei r final products. Costumes are modeled after images, but the costumer is in control of the replication. They focus on the goal adopt ing almost any means necessary to achieve those goals. They do purchase ready-made material s, but even these generally undergo some sort of over haul to better fi t the costume. Star Wars Stormtroopers carry a specific kind of gun that is difficu lt to construct from raw materials. Although I have seen guns desig ned and built by individual costumers, most purchase toys produced by the Star Wars merchandising department. Even replicas designed by Star Wars experts do not accurately complement Star Wars costumes without modificati on; at the very least, st ore bought guns are stripped of labels and logos and painted solid bla ck. The process of adapting available objects into costume parts and accessories accentuates the costumers role as producer. Whether they diligent ly recreate detailed facsim iles or infuse their own perspectives into the design, costumers gain control over representation. The
68 process personalizes the costume because it represents a particular characterization and the choices, techniques, ingenuity of the costumer. Some of costumes are more comp lex than others: sewing the long, straight hems of a Jedi Cloak may seem easy compared to the vacuum-forming, cutting, sanding, and riveting required when constructing Stormtrooper armor. Costume construction can be a daunting task. The Legion message boards serve as a communication portal where peopl e can ask questions and express their concerns. Well I did it. I ordered my armo r today, a future Stormtrooper writes to the Florida Garrison Website was expensive but it's something I've wanted for a long time. I have to keep reminding my self of that and not think of the money I spent. I am looking forward to joining the 501st as soon as my armor is finished.5 Posters responded by sharing his ex citement, commiserating over the cost, voicing enthusiasm for the task, and offering help and advice. Additionally, 501st Legionnaires frequently hold armor parties where individuals can share their products and gain the insights and hands on assistance of others. When his armor arrived, the newbie received seve ral cheers, two notices to throw away the instructions that come with the a rmor pieces, and one reference to someone nearby that could assist. I'm slowly gai ning confidence and think this will be a lot of fun when all is said and done, he responded. Perhaps sensing his uncertainty, several members arranged a meeting to work on his armor and get acquainted. After the meet ing, the newbie posted a thank you message to the troopers who met with him. Whether you need the dimensions of the chest-plate 5 Florida Garrison Website < www.fl501st.com > Message Board called Ordered my Armor today Last accessed on 12/14/05.
69 for a Tie-fighter pilot, the correct materials to make an authentic looking insignia for the Imperial Officers co stume, or the hands on assi stance of another, there is plenty of expertise available to help cost umers achieve their goals. Help always seems to be readily available. En listing the help of others represents a commitment to completing the costume, and it also fosters the potential of lasting bonds between costumers. They share their abilities and work together on common goals of representation. Having perfected certain construc tion techniques, some costumers become producers manufacturing cost ume components for others. Many costumers choose characters that ar e solely designed, constructed and visualized for movies and television s hows. These costumes often require specialized materials some of which are not easy to find or recreate. Previously mentioned tutorials offered by The Padawans Guide deliver construction and research techniques from people that have successfully completed their costumes; many of these sites also re ference sources for purchasing certain costume parts produced by other costum ers. Some connoisseurs sell pieces expertly molded, crafted, and designed to textual specifications: their construction successes becoming a physical exchange of materials and services. With the exception of some helmets, the plastic armor pieces of various Star Wars costumes are not mass produced. In stead, they are vacuum-formed by costumers. The exchange of these mate rials is carefully guarded because it is unlawful to sell Star Wars items without permission. George Lucas and his corporations own the copyright on all incarnations of Star Wars It is rumored that
70 George Lucas initially st opped the fan production and exch ange of Stormtrooper armor because it was openly advertised on websites. Now, all websites connected to the Star Wars Costuming Legions carry a disclaimer stating that they are in no way affiliated to Ge orge Lucas and forbid open discussions of armor sources. When people make inquiries on message boards, they are immediately informed that a rmor production is not to be discussed. This proviso is generally accompanied by a private message (pm) containing relevant contacts and information that is hidden fr om public view. Even though they walk a thin line between unlawful and accura te representations, armor production continues because of the demand among interested newcomers and the desire among existing members to share their hobby. The Internet supplies the demand by linking individuals to materials t hat are not easily obtained and many costumers take control by manufactu ring and distributing components of representation. Building a costume represents an individuals maturation from spectator to participant. As TC-1775 writes, Putting it together is your Right of passage ( Florida Garrison Website 2/1/06). The process challenges costumers to reincarnate images, introduces them to other costumers, and represents a transitional phase in the devel opment of the costumer into a producer. As they build costumes, the characters are ta ken from the screen and the costumer becomes the new screen on which it is displayed. They make decisions about representation. Putting t ogether a costume is a r ite of passage turning spectatorship into participation. As H odkinson points out, active appropriation,
71 independent creativity and o ccasional transgressions in this assemblage of [Goth] style emphasizes the important ro le for participants themselves in the ongoing development of their shared style (137). Creati ng intertextual costumes, imposing personal design choices, or sticking to each known detail enables costumers to leave behind the role of spectatorship and move to the role of a producer. There are many members in the Star Wars Costuming Legions, including myself, who have constructed mu ltiple costumes: some individuals are focused on representing different characte rs while others challenge themselves with different projects. A creative outlet for abilit y and perspective, costume construction is a thrilling and transformative process. Constructing Connections Cyberspace offers the opportunity to explore interests, to conduct business, and to collect and exchange informat ion. It allows us to ask questions, share failures and successes, to display processes and results, and advertise events and organizations that welcome participation. While the medium is often criticized for fragmenting culture and is olating individuals, Elizabeth Bird contends that such criticism is only half t he picture (56). An interesting aspect of the Internet is that a large percentage of its content is generated by everyday people rather than commercial entities and experts. Websites are opening new avenues for increased levels of communication with personal reviews and notes laced throughout both commercial and public websites. Internet spaces frequently invite user participation; fr om commercial sites like amazon.com to
72 costuming sites built upon the input of many individuals there are ample opportunities to read or provide personal pe rspectives. Internet interaction does not simply mirror the experience of being an offline fan, and according to Bird, the medium allows for a level of self-refl ection that makes the community itself a focus of its members anal ysis, and creates an additional body of text that takes on a life of its own (5 7-8). Websites, message boards, blogs, chatrooms, EBAY auctions, stores, image galleries, are used by various entities to establish communicative spaces on the Internet devoted to the sharing and exchange of information. These communications cannot replace the physical and mental spontaneity of face-to-face interaction, but they do provide new opportunities for finding and establishing social connections. Within virtual environments, costumers gain access to a wide array of information, but they also connect with other costumers. Star Wars costumers have created a virtual hub fostering new membership and sustaining continued communication and participation. Even in face-to-face encounters, interested participants are referred to Legion websites with many garrisons preparing pamphlets and memorabilia pointing people to website addresses. All pertinent information related to costuming, differ ent events and the organization are posted on websites and discussion boards; national elections for Legion officials are conducted through online polls, group em ails are sent relaying pertinent occurrences, and event schedules and information are posted through message boards. Although a large portion of the in formation is directed at current members, interested onlookers and lurker s, people who peruse online interactive
73 sites without introducing themselves or posting any messages, also have access to this information. For the intere sted costumer, the det ails about costume construction are helpful, but reading about the different types of events and the personal responses of those who att ended provides additional motivation to complete their own costumes and a purpose fo r their efforts. For the vast majority of Star Wars costumers, the Internet is an in valuable and indispensable resource of information, assistance, and community. Star Wars costumers utilize virtual space to organize community involvemen t, participation, and interaction. While one may buy a number of it ems from EBAY vendors, they will most likely never meet anyone in person. Not only do co stumers find information and supplies through online vendors, they also have access to community message boards dedicated to welcoming new members, maintaining contact among members, and exchanging information about costumi ng. Internet message boards are the key to the collectivity among members of the Star Wars Costuming Legions. Hodkinson calls Goth message boards s ubcultural media because they are spaces devoted to mutual exchange among those with similar interests. On a global scale, Internet venues help people with similar interests find each other and share their experiences. Numerous sites outline specific details in costume research and construction, but others provide forums that support personalized interaction between fans. The Star Wars Costuming Legions have w eb sites, for the groups as a whole and for regional garrisons and posts, each outlining the groups mission, charter, and membership details. These sites are not necessarily
74 designed to offer step-by-step instructi ons for building costumes. Instead, they provide message boards or listservs for dire ct interaction with other costumers. The tutorials offered by The Padawans Guide are somewhat fixed and procedural because they only offer stepby-step instructions and pictures; although they may include information about the difficulties of working with some materials, common mistakes that should be avoided, or even contact information for the author, they do not always addre ss individual conc erns nor are the authors readily available for feedback. Costuming message boards, on the other hand, allow people to ask specific questions and receive feedback from a variety of contributors. Exis ting members of the Star Wars Legions actively help newbie posters on the message boards commenting, as Bird describes, reflexively about the community (58). In a recent discussion string on the Florida 501st Website, veteran Stormtroopers respond to questions about getting started and the costs of their armor.6 I live in St Augustine and just found the 501st on the web. I want to do things right, and need information. Ar e there FAQs on getting together your first costume and armor an d weapons? Is a Stormtrooper too ambitious for a first project? What w ould I be looking at in cost? Are there members in my area I could ta lk to? My thanks in advance. Responses to this post are encouragi ng and honest about the realities of Stormtrooper armor. Members note the popularity of th e costume and support this newcomers interest; it is a major co mmitment, TK-899 repl ies, but you will 6 Florida Garrison Website < www.fl501st.com > Message Board called First Coast Newbie needs basic info Last accessed on 11/12/04.
75 be so happy you did it. The Star Wars costuming community supports new members, helping many to make initial costume decisions and find solutions to problems. As a result such exchanges costuming processes and concerns are documented in relation to specific, prac tical issues, as all message strands are archived and remain available for per usal. In seeking information about Star Wars costuming, a person identifying himsel f as WannaBe posts, Been looking at every site I can find that has buildi ng tips and trying to examine every little detail. The more I look the more questions I have.7 Because of the complexities of costume construction, people o ften need encouragement to follow through with their goals. According to Aden, el ectronic communication allows fans to mark themselves as unique individuals ex pressing their individuality yet as participants in an inclusive community where individualistic expression is appreciated and understood by other member s of the community . (95). In the process of obtaining info rmation, costumers find co mmunity support through personalized exchanges of information. Regional garrisons and squadrons within the Star Wars Costuming Legions support message boards that comprise the backbone of the communication keeping members focus ed on shared concerns and costuming events. Aside from posting costumi ng-related information, many share happenings in their personal lives as well as interests in Star Wars and other films or visual media. Registration on most Legion message boards is open to everyone. While there may be member-restricted threads within any given 7 Florida Garrison Website < www.fl501st.com > Message Board called Ordered my Armor today Last accessed on 12/14/05.
76 message board, they remain open for many others including people interested in constructing costumes and event organizers who wish to have the Legions participation. The identity of Star Wars costumers on the Internet is a multilayered and complex combi nation of personal names, c haracter choices, Legion identifiers, computer user names, and ot her computer addons like avatars and signature graphics. Unlike the perpetual anonymity afforded most Internet exchanges, participants in Star Wars message boards gain multiple opportunities to interact in person. Regional discussi on groups share an initial anonymity that morphs into comfortable recognition once participants begin attending events and learn to identify people by their co stumes and online identities. Members have coined the term trooping for a ll public appearances. When new people join the online community, a number of member s often respond saying hope to troop with you soon. With the ultimate goal of trooping in public, many people nurture their Star Wars costuming interests on the Internet. Through their electronic exploration of the text, they consume, they learn, and they have the opportunity to intera ct with others. In ternet-based fan activities, according to Hodkinson, have added a rich and rewarding dimension to their lives (81). Communicating with other fans or costumers validates individual devotions as we realize that we are not alone. Bird argues that electronic communities are not id entical or interchangeable with more traditionally-understood, place-based comm unities, but they may indeed provide a sense of place to their members, and fulfill some of the functions of other types of communities (57-8). In virt ual space, people communicate ideas and
77 perspectives that may nev er be communicated elsewh ere. Without Internet connectivity, Star Wars costumers would be limited to face-to-face meeting at events that are sometimes few and far between and those conversations would be limited by the number of participants and the activities connected with events: it is difficult to have a conversation when you are constantly asked to pose for photographs or wearing a helmet that muffles your voice. Internet message boards cultivate conversations that ar e open to everyone. Online communities thrive off of fan-generated message boards where interest is encouraged and perpetuated by existing participants. Conclusion Costume research and constructi on are acts of preparation and indoctrination; they are ritualistic processes that change and enhance an individuals relationship with movies and te levision shows. This liminal portion of the costuming process exists in a middle ground between t he solitary viewing experiences and wearing the costume in public. Once the decision to make a costume enters into the construction phas e, intentions and goals are constantly tested by the depth of research, the availability of supplies, and the cost. The amount and breadth of research depends on the individual costumers goals; many seek enough information to produce a recognizable replica while others delve deeper to produce highl y accurate and detailed imitations. The Internet has proven instrumental to the costuming process providing people with access to vast stores of information and materials. Ironi cally, it is also a point of separation
78 as much of this information is found outside of the original text. Hills asserts that initial media viewings ar e simply one moment within cult fans repertoire of practices, and implies that fans create new practices with each type relating in specific ways to the originat ing affective relationship (145). All costumers watch, and perhaps re-watch shows f eaturing the images they wis h to capture, but many also seek information on the Internet. They can never recreate the inaugural viewing experience that sparked their inte rest, but they can explore and create new ones. Costumers learn hi story, process, and the r easons inspiring different designs and different accessories by c onsuming all possible images related to the source and those that created it including studying costume origins, production designs and notes, fan art, publicity campaigns, and other costumes. They embark on an educational journey that provides them with the knowledge necessary to recreate detailed replications. After researching costume choices, costumers gather the materials necessary to achieve their goals. Th is specialized consumption does not necessarily conform to or oppose H ebdiges hegemonic capitalism, which positions the subcultural consumer as conducting semiotic guerilla warfare against commercial products by subverti ng their meanings in favor of new subcultural contexts (105). The costum er appropriates commercial items as means to specific ends; when chalk hol ders and flight suits substitute for communication sticks and Star Wars coveralls, costumers are commended for the ingenuity not for their smite against chalk holder makers. Costumers are thankful for the availability of compar able items and purchase these products to
79 improve their representations Hodkinson claims that such selection and use of goods from external retailers often in volved considerable discernment and innovation on the part of t he subcultural consumers (133). Consumers do not necessarily stand in defiance of hegemonic capitalism, they are just not confined to its boundaries. Wh ile a small percentage of Star Wars costumers seek out commercially produced costumes, the majority construct their own. It is part of the costum ing process. Whether they tackle the project themse lves or enlist the help of others, costumers rely on the Internet for information and guidance. It provides interactive spaces for costumers to gain advice and support from other costumers. These exchanges begin at t he moment that an anonymous spectator steps into a public sphere. For Hodkinson, the increased concentration of leisure-time Internet use on specialist subcultural material illustrates their practical commitment and their strength of i dentity (193-4). While there are those who post to Star Wars message boards that do not fo llow through with joining the Legions, there are many more that do complete the pr ocess. One can decide to wear a particular costume and even construct that costume in private, but posting on discussion boards is an active step toward making private decisions public. For many, registration and participation in online forums constitutes an initiation into both the subject-matter and activity Ultimately, Internet websites are powerful communicative tools designed and utilized throughout the processes of costume construction: websites prov ide information and resources while interactive message boards provide space for encouragement, comradeship, and
80 inspiration. Through the enthusiasm am ong potential and existing members and the interconnectivity of the Internet, Star Wars costumers have made costume construction a social, interactive proc ess of creativity and transformation.
81 Chapter Four Performance and Interaction Dragoncon is one of the most estab lished conventions in the United States growing from appr oximately 1400 to 30,000 attendees in its 29-year history. My daughter and I at tended the event together, flying into Atlanta late on a Friday night. By the time we navi gated the citys public transportation and arrived at the hotel, it was nearly 11 at night. As we entered the lobby in search of the check-in counter, we were confr onted by a mass of people congregating in the lobby. Unlike most hotel guests, they we re dressed in all manner of clothing and costume, packing every available nich e of the large space. I loved the costumes, and recognized seve ral of my favorite movies along with a number of fascinating ensembles that I could not place; everybody appeared happy, many were drinking and all were engaged in various conversations or photo opportunities. Entering the mob, I felt t he energy of excitement. Several spaces opened as the crowd ebbed aside around vari ous costumed characters, while cameras flashed all around the perimeter; th ese configurations held for several minutes as different spec tators entered and exited pi cture frames. Making my way through the crowd, I fell into a str eam of people moving from one end of the room to the other. The forc e of movement was strong, and before I really knew what was happening, I was on an escalator going down to a second floor where another equally large group awaited me. Thousands of people invade this city each year to celebrate their devotion to films and other forms of visual entertainment. While they may partake in dozens of activities, most of the
82 celebrating occurs in these large comm unal spaces where most of the people wear costumes, spend time recogni zing other peoples costumes, taking photographs and being photographed, and acknowledging each other. Celebration III was the third offici al convention solely dedicated to Star Wars Each Celebration coincide d with the release of a film in the new trilogy of prequels in 1999, 2002, and 2005. The 2005 event that I attended was held in a large convention center in Indianapolis and attracted Star Wars fans from around the globe. Equal in size to Dragoncon yet concentrated on one text, it was quite a sight to behold as convention-familiar room s including the art gallery, the vendor room, and the special events were all focused on Star Wars When I saw the first Star Wars in 1977, the movie engulfed my senses for the two hours that it occupied the screen in front of me. In Indianapolis some twenty-seven years later, I was engulfed in a Star Wars interactive experience that lasted four days. Each day was packed with inno vative representations of Star Wars One of the most thrilling moments was when the members of the 501st Legion gathered for a group photo. They met in the lobby of my hotel during the last day of the festivities. As I looked over the balcony to the lobby below, I saw dozens of Stormtroopers. It was by fa r the largest number that I h ad ever seen in one place. I went down to walk among them with my video camera. They were lining up by costume type, preparing to march to the si te of the actual photo. I saw several Darth Vaders, Biker Scouts, a few Ro yal guards, tie fighters, and even an Emperor but the Stormtr oopers dominated the crowd. In their ranks, I was surrounded by white plastic armor and all manner of weapons. I wandered down
83 the line recognizing some of my friends and new acquaintances, and I was dizzy from the site of them gathering together in this relatively confined space. At Dragoncon, the costumes vary greatly from person to person; while small groups from the same text may stand out in the crowd, they are still part of the crowd. Here, Imperial Star Wars costumers were the entire crowd. I was the outsider in my jeans and t-shirt. Throughout the Celebration, I found myself amongst giant hordes of people wearing Star Wars costumes, but the cohesive and organized presence of the 501st Legion was a cinematic revelation. Figure 9: Official 501st photo at Celebration III, May 2005 When the last Star Wars film was released in May of 2005, Star Wars costuming groups coordinated with movie theaters all over the country to attend the midnight premiere. Our costumes earned free admission to the film and free reign to wander the lobby and auditoriums. But, first and foremost, costumers are members of the audiencewe were there to see the movie. The last three Star Wars films are listed in the top ten of all time top grossing films, and Revenge of
84 Figure 10: Star WarsCostumers at Revenge of the Sith Premiere, May 2005 the Sith holds the all time record for opening day attendance.8 As a member of this opening day audience, it is hard to imagine that any film will match the nation-wide simultaneous viewing of the last Star Wars film. In Tampa, Florida, I went to the premiere of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith at a large 24-theater Cineplex. For the midnight showing, most of the 24 screens were sold out for simultaneous showings. In unprecedented preparation for the anticipated crowds, the Tampa Cineplex stopped showing their regular films by ten oclock, and proceeded to fill theaters with the early arrivals. With nearly two hours to wait, the only entertainment available to these anxious audiences was buttered popcorn, piped in music, and Star Wars costumers. We were not given instructions, nor did we have to ask permission to play with audiences. We told the theater managers that we wanted to be there, and they accepted our presence and our performances of interaction. A group of us stayed outside to welcome the arriving crowds, entertain the lines that were forming, talk to the news crews that were documenting the evening, and take pictures with movie fans. Another group traveled from theater to theater entertaining those already seated with anecdotes and small trivia contests that included prizes we donated to enhance the audiences experience. We were celebrating Star Wars. I have vivid memories of seeing the first Star Wars film 8 Box Office Mojo < http://www.boxofficemojo .com /alltime/days/?page=open&p=.htm >. Revenge of the Sith earned more than $50,000,000 on opening day May 19, 2005, earning more than $10,000,000 more than its closest competitor.
85 because of the visual innovations on the screen. However, th is recent viewing experience was memorable because I was acutely aware that everyone in this theater, and others around t he nation, were watching this new, and last, Star Wars film at the same time. I did not feel as if I was seeing something new in Revenge of the Sith As a devoted Star Wars fan, I already knew the narrative scheme of the film, and I was now familiar with George Lucas innovative techniques. This viewing experien ce was unique because I was seeing something that I was now strangely a part ofI held a more interactive role. Performing Star Wars While costume choice and construction are rituals of preparation, wearing costumes are continuous acts t hat reincarnate and regenerate text bound characters. Wearing a costume is a mall eable performance, varying greatly from person to person and situation to situat ion. Professional costuming is often constrained by context, space, and time. People dress for theatrical performances to project specific characteri zations as dictated by scripts, and they are often bound to performance spaces. Wa lt Disney World employs an army of costumers for scheduled appearances, autograph signings, and photo opportunities; these characters are pos itioned throughout the amusement parks to enhance the Disney fantasy. In Tampa, Liberty Tax Service positions individuals dressed as the Statue of Liberty in front of their offices during tax season to draw in business. These people produce different levels of interactive performances and embody vivid, recogniza ble characterizations, but they are
86 ultimately connected to and driven by comm ercial imperatives: they are routinely paid to perform specific roles, and audienc es frequently pay for the opportunity to see them. Moreover, they are part of ca refully orchestrated performances that presuppose audience reactions and desires. In contrast, Star Wars costumers harness a particular appearance for pers onal performances of fandom and interactive performances with observers According to Richard Schechners description of audience participation, The performance rises out of the audience, develops through both open and closed audie nce permission, and ultimately subsides back into the audience (Audienc e 74). Costuming performances are comprised of unscripted encounters with costumers and non-costumers alike. The degree to which costumers are in character varies according the motivations of the individual as well as the level of audience participation. Costuming transforms fictional characte rs from flat images projected on a screen into the realm of every day where they are so fam iliar, yet also alien. As the physical personification of a fictional being, the costum er frequently becomes more real that the indivi dual emulated. In person, St ormtroopers embody living, breathing fictions. Seeing my first Stormtrooper brought my favori te films to life, expanding my previously cinemabound memories. Wearing a costume constitutes a purposeful performance of representation that sparks a performance of recognition as costumer and spectator meet on common ground. I have seen and worn costumes. As a spectator and photographer, I appreciate strange incarnations from unf amiliar texts; but, I am drawn to the costumes I recognize. As a costumer, people are draw n to me because they recognize me.
87 This is a key element to the relati onship between costumer and spectator. Regardless of their source, characters reproduced by costum ing enthusiasts are, at the very least, recognizable. The dynamic interplay of representation and recognition between costumer and spectator involves common recollections of popular cultural forms. This naturally s parks a relationship between the costumer and non-costumer. Recreating source materi al from history, folklore, and popular culture, the costumer gener ates pleasant and exciting memories for those who approach them and want to interact with them. Costumers play out cinematic fantas ies. When I gained entrance into the 501st Legion with my Gunner costume, one of the members presented me with the action figure equivalent to my costum ed personaa practice that constitutes his own little initiation into the club. Actors are frequently chided about commercial likenesses, but this toy is a reminder to me t hat I represent the aspects of movie audiences that want to play out movie fantasies. Play is generally associated with the imaginary ant ics of children or organized sports and games, but it also touches upon the fantastical and performative nature of costuming. Addressing the significance of co stumed individuals in tribal ritual, J. Huizinga indicates that dressing up illustrates the extra-ordinary nature in play that reaches perfection as transform ed individuals are accepted in their new guises and roles (13). Whether following the rules of the game or imitating popular forms, play is categorized by the involvement and commitment among those playing. Huizinga indicates that pl ay includes secret rules that bind the players together and often exclude non-players. For costumers, however, non-
88 costumers are vital partici pants in the game of representation: chess cannot be played without bishops and pawns and costumers cannot play without audiences. While Star Wars costumers are often fans that know a great deal more about the text than most casual audie nce members, they display their craft as a means of enticing others to play. Co stumers are not obliged to maintain a characterization; some oscillate bet ween their true and fictional selves. Stormtroopers take thei r helmets off for frightened children and inquisitive onlookers. They even share their guises, allowing others to don their helmets and hold their weapons. Costumers and their audiences play Star Wars together. Costumers interact directly with other people and the new unions often produce new picturesnew images. The most frequent and significant interaction between costumers and other people involves photography. Just as the subculture of Star Wars fans is inherently connected to the larger culture of non-fans, costumes and images are inex tricable from one another. Costumes come from images or writt en imagery, but they also pr oduce images of their own. In movies and television, the director is in charge of positioning the subjects within the camera frame. In this digi tal age of personal computers and camera equipment, costuming provides opportunities to recreate, or reexamine, source images with new audiences capturing thes e self-directed moments on film. The most common request of Stormtroopers in volves pictures with the requestor on their knees, hands clasped behind their head, and the Stormtrooper pointing their weapon at them. This pose occurs in the films and positions the observer, audience member, as part of the scene. An unspoken duty of the Star Wars
89 Costuming Legions, picture-taking is an integral part of the performance. Photographers recreate familiar poses from familiar texts, mix texts and genres, and blur the lines between fantasy and r eality with non-cost umers frequently entering the performance fram e. As live representations of fictional beings, costumers become image produc ers, playing different roles for different situations. As Huizinga indicates, a ll play moves and has its being within a playground marked off beforehand either materi ally or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course (10). Hotel hallways and lobbies, exhibition halls, convention centers, and city streets serve as co stuming playgrounds. Costumers dwell in these areas displaying their product while all manner of people, fellow costumers, fans and non-fans alike, take the initiative to com pose images, play out their favorite scenes and circumstances, resulti ng in millions of pictures taken of costumed individuals each year. Cameras are tools of the onlooker. Unlike watching films in darkened movie theaters, audiences of costuming events come armed with a camera to take some cont rol over the images they consume. The costumers performance is both denotative and dialogic, representing popular imagery and prompting social intera ction and participation. According to Schechner, Performances mark identit ies, bend time, reshape and adorn the body, and tell stories (Performance 22). The costumer literally embodies a performative act, demarcates space and time, and transports observers into fictional realms through recollection and amusement. Star Wars costumers dictate the conditions of play and t heir presence transforms conventional locations into cinematic playgrounds. Ou tlining the relevance and persistence of
90 play in human behavior, Huizinga proclaim s it as a marked distinction from ordinary life interjecting its own local ity and duration and containing its own course and meaning. (9) While costumers participate in organized activities, they are not contained to pre-determined schedules and locations. As long as they are in costume, they are, at least partially, play ing a game of representation. Their play offers what Huizinga would te rm as a limited perfection in an imperfect world isolated from unw anted influence and only confined by a willingness to play (10). Cost umes usurp ordinary identitie s in favor of fictional personas, but onlookers know that they are not seeing real Stormtroopers or Jedi recognizing that ordinary people like them selves are underneath the costumes. They share a consciousness of only pretending that propagates play. (Huizinga 23) The costumers physical appearance transcends cultural and textual constraints: they are accepted in their fictional guises, and they are not confined by scripts and screens. Costumi ng initiates playful and performative interludes between individuals. Performing Fandom Fans express their preferences th rough personal creativity and social interaction. Science fiction/fantasy themed conventions and vendor fairs are among the most popular places to wear costumes as people attending gather to celebrate their connections. Conventi ons and conferences bring people with similar interests and objectives together; whether they showcase new technologies or attract ac ademics in a particular field, conventions provide a
91 neutral ground for sharing and exchangi ng information. Popular culture conventions focusing on movies, television shows, comic books, and novels have been around for many decades slowly and steadily growing in popularity and frequency. These gatherings come in m any shapes and sizes from large multiday festivals bustling with trade, presentations, and entertainment to small comic book or toy fairs primarily focused on sa les. Conventions are pre-planned into specific blocks of activities in diffe rent venues includin g hotels, convention centers, and fair grounds. Common under standing and appreciation of similar texts and images among attendees promotes a ready-made sense of community. Conventions or institutions, as Jenkins refers to them, are the infrastructure[s] for a self-sufficient fan culture (47). They support a realm of subcultural exchange; vendor rooms filled with material appropriate to the theme along with celebrity appearances and autograph signings, musical performances, and media screenings transform individual interest s into group interests. They provide forums for face-to-face interaction with ot her fans, attracting attendees that might not normally find each other. Many popular culture gatherings are annual rituals of interaction and fandom with some peopl e planning for their attendance and participation throughout the year. The leve l of individual engagement varies from casual observers to convention coordi nators. People are lauded for continued commitment to attending events, and many establish long lasting relationships that are only realized in the conferenc e space. Most important, conventions provide spaces for fans to perform thei r fandom: they display art in the gallery;
92 sell or purchase wares in the vendor room; in teract with their favorite celebrities; volunteer their services; and among other activities, they wear costumes. Costuming thrives in a multi-textual convention environ ment. The costume contest serves as a central, or feature, event celebrating and illustrating the texts of popular culture. A staple of conventions, the contest is populated entirely by fans, and winning entries are generally decided by a panel of celebrities and media experts. Turning professionals into spectators and amateurs into producers, this role reversal grants the costumer the power of representation. While the costume contest generally occu pies two to three hours of any given event, it sports a small number of entrants relative to the number of conference attendees. Because of this somewhat lim ited exposure and the amount of work involved with constructing a costume, people choose to wear their costumes beyond the confines of the contest. Of a ll the coordinated activities at fan gatherings, costuming has expanded to occupy part of every minute and every event as fans don their costumes, and so metimes multiple costumes, as their wardrobe for the entire duration of the event. Free from a scheduled block of time, the confinement of a stage, and t he pressure of organized competition, costuming has grown in exposure and participants. Featured bands and panelists rarely give impromptu performances and cele brities often dwell in private spaces away from the crowds ; costumers, on the other hand, are attendees and participants mingling in open spaces. Nume rous textual sources and media are represented. While wearing a costume constitutes an act of textual devotion for the individual, interaction with others both in and out of costume comprise
interactive performances of fandom as people share their favorite viewing experiences through physical characterizations. Most costumes are inspired by fictional or historical characters. When designs involve living, contemporary beings, the source is generally an iconic symbol of the culture. In most cases, the original beings are not easily accessible: celebrities guard their privacy, historical icons are no longer with us, and others only exist on the screen. But costumers are accessible. Non-costume wearing fans enjoy their favorite characters by tapping into their recollections and creating new images with personal cameras. Such interactions are potent illustrations of popular culture, showing connections between audiences and images. The physicality of costuming allows individuals to share their previously ephemeral experiences and expand on their meanings through performance and interaction. People wearing similar costumes or costumes from the same texts frequently gravitate towards one another for picture-taking opportunities, to discuss their costuming techniques, and to share their allegiance. In a sense, group devotion to single text could be considered a subculture of a subculture. While attending Dreamcon in Jacksonville, Florida, I met three costumers wearing outfits fashioned after characters from the Lord of the Rings. I continually saw the three of them together and they entered the costume contest as a trio. They wore accurate Figure 11: Lord of the Rings Costumers attending Dreamcon, June 2004 93
94 costumes and were popular at the event. Af ter three days of fest ivities, I learned that one of the three had nev er met the other two before. Solely because their costumes complemented one another, they bonded, enj oying the weekend event together. This was precisely the situation that inspired the cr eation of the first Legion of Star Wars costumers. Two men dressed as Stormtroopers in self-made white plastic body armor met at a scienc e fiction convention in 1997. After admiring the work of the other and shari ng stories about how they always wanted to be a Stormtrooper, along with stories about the construction of their suits, they decided to start a club. Now, the Star Wars Costuming Legions are the most organized costuming presence at a majori ty of these events. They often have their own dedicated area to display info rmation about their distinctive group, while the members roam the venue in cost ume. Their cohesive identity draws in new members and thrills audiences.9 For Star Wars costumers, the impact of thei r performance grows as higher numbers of people don costumes. Although t here are costumers who strive for completely original designs or singular representations, Star Wars costumers enjoy sharing the spotlight with others in similar costumes. Legionnaires actively recruit new members and revel in multiple copies of the same character. Much like my experience with the Stormtroopers at Celebration III, the presence of more characters can bring the fiction to life. Becaus e Stormtroopers are understood textually as an army of identic al soldiers clad in white plastic body armor, Stormtrooper costumers gain cultural credence by appearing in large 9 The cohesive identity is best represented in the 501st Legion Mission Statement on The 501st Website
95 groups; costumers choosing this characterization maintain the integrity of the fictional army represented in the films. Fan performances are unscripted but they are still connected to their narrative sources. Star Wars costumers also gain credibility when multiple characters are seen together: while Han Solo or Chewbacca costumes may each garner attention, they are more powerful together, projecting the buddy connection between them in the narrative. Instead of placing the costumer in a real world environment, these costumers transport the observer into fictional spaces where Han Solo and Chewbacca are engaged in conversation and Stormtroopers march in long processions. Costumers force the illusion of Star Wars. Whether they appear as an army of Stormtroopers or groupings of cast members, they support stronger visual connections to the source, and since the text is the first commitment of the costumer, it is self-promoting and satisfying to see others from the same text. This is not to say that there is not some degree of competition between renditions, but rather that costumers do enjoy sharing their textual devotions. Figure12: Costumers dressed as Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and Stormtrooper play a scene against Celebration III backdrop, May 2005 There are always a number of intertextual moments occurring during a convention. Part of the performance of representation for costumers is to meet the quality of the text but also expand the possibilities. This microcosm externalizes the cultural interactions of a media driven society. We are an intertextual culture absorbing images from multiple sources and carving our own
96 understanding from the combinations. This interplay is externalized in a costuming environment where people dres sed as Han Solo and Indiana Jones are available to pose in the same pict ures. The performance of representation bends itself to the moment as the duo r epresents a fictional conundrum of two characters that could and would never o ccupy the same space, yet they share many relationships recognizable to specta tors: they are both adventurer, fantasybased characters, they both represent ex tremely popular films made by George Lucas, and both were portrayed by Harrison Ford. I have seen fans compose battle pictures between Stormtroopers and Aliens and I have seen Darth Vader pose with Batman. Along the same lines, there are opportunities for capturing multiple versions of the same character. Characters like Darth Vader or Princess Leia are individual characters, so when there is more than one, they defy the movies as well as the audi ences experiences with them. A professional display of Star Wars characters would never schedule more than one Princess Leia at a timethat would be stretching the text and weakening the r epresentation. At Celebration III, however, a group of approx imately 16 girls dressed in a Slave Leia costume were held for an hour while people took dozens and dozens of pictures. Such images and intertextual moments are orchestr ated by the fans who help to produce new subcultural rein carnations and re-interpretations. Because non-costumers understand that costuming is a performance of representation that denotes textual interes t, they feel free to express their shared enjoyment, and sometimes dislike of or disappointments with the material. The communal recognition of a particular costume prompts interaction and
97 discussion. Costumers open doors of communication among audience members by externalizing viewing choices a nd preferences. For one day of Dragoncon 2005, I wore a costume fashioned after Glinda the Good Witch of the North of Wizard of Oz fame. A young girl approached me to admire my costume telling me how much she loved the movie and the new Broadway musical Wicked based on the same characters. She was so happy to see my costume that she proceeded to sing one of the musical num bers. As she serenaded me, I thought about my own experiences seeing the movie, the musical, and choosing my costume. I was thoroughly sati sfied by her appreciation. I have seen little kids run to their favorite characters to shake their hands, and I have seen nervous adults stumble over their words while approachi ng different costume-clad individuals. Costumes allow the wearer and the obser ver to become closer to the source material through representation and recogni tion. Providing forums for reunions among geographically di vided friends as well as an equal playing ground to establish new connections, conventions and other fan gatherings have grown accustomed to costuming as a means of performing fandom. Performing Community For Star Wars costumers, participation comprises performances of fandom and community. There are three significant requirements for maintaining active membership in the Star Wars Costuming Legions: one must be 18 years old, have a movie-quality costum e based on a character in the Star Wars universe, and everyone must participate by wearing their costume to at least one
98 organized event each year. Active partici pation is the binding element for these clubs, and members are purged after an extended period of inactivity. Costumers must actively reinforc e their commitment to Star Wars and the Legions, but they also establish commitments to the communities in which they live. With garrisons and outposts all over the world, members of the Star Wars Legions participate in hundreds of community-based events eac h year. Many occasions welcome Star Wars costumers with some specifically connected to the hobby and others incorporating or accommodat ing the practice. In 2005, members of the Florida Garrison volunteered for over 150 events. Although Florida is one of the more active states, this is just one regional segment of the 501st Legion. Each garrison comes up with their own events and ther e a few annual gatherings that are attended by members world-wide. Costumers initiate Legion participation at most of the events they attend, j udging for themselves the diffe rent activities that seem appropriate and contacting organizers for details as well as other Star Wars costumers for interest. Individuals reac h out to sponsors and organizers to find new activities for wearing costumes. Speaking with nonStar Wars entities requires the ability to effectively explain Star Wars costuming and the Legions desire to participate. Because of t heir diligent efforts to integrate Star Wars into their communities, costumers participate in a large range of activities that do not necessarily cater specifically to fans. As costumers, they represent a global community of Star Wars fans, but they also cultivat e connections with their local communities.
99 Almost everything that I have discu ssed thus far centers upon building relationships with visual texts as well as other people who understand that text. Whether seeking costuming advice or s haring physical characterizations with people who readily recognize the results, most amateur co stumers stick to events primarily attended by other fans where they know they will be wellreceived. The motivations of fans ar e often misunderstood by people outside of the subculture. They are frequently der ided, and even feared, because their interests are fundamentally alien to the realm of nor mal cultural experience; and, as Jenkins further indicates, the fan still constitutes a scandalous category in contemporary culture, one alternately t he target of ridicule and anxiety, of dread and desire,  whose mentality is dangerously out of touch with reality (15). Unlike the majority of costumers, Star Wars fans delve into their communities for opportunities to interact participate, and display their costumes. They occupy an interesting position on the continuum between normal and fan activities frequently succeeding in mergi ng the two into community displays of interaction. Even in the mo st mundane activity, wearing a Star Wars costume is not a normal behavior; but, coupled with the context of community involvement, they have established themselves as valued participants. Community-based events often lack t he concentrated knowledge base or theme supported by conventions and other fan gatherings. They garner involvement from a variety of individua ls and generally involv e a random mass of attendees. While I have seen other costumed individuals at community events, Star Wars characters and Superheroes are the only ones that I see wearing texts
100 without an overriding context: people wear green of St. Patricks Day and red, white, and blue for the 4th of July; Santa Claus gener ally appears in a Christmas parade; Ronald MacDonald ap pears at restaurant openings; and, in Tampa, Florida, pirates descend upon the town for the annual Gasparilla events; but Star Wars costuming represents Star Wars Thus, people dressed in colored or themed clothing or Santa Claus costumes ar e limited to specific contexts while Star Wars costumers participate in anything where they can represent their commitments to the text, their cr aft, or their own communities. Star Wars costumers represent par ticipation no matter where they appear: they are attendees at conventions rather than pres enters or paid perfo rmers; they attend movie premieres to see the movies as part of the audience; and they are active members and participants in their communi ties. They do not need to be directly connected to a particular event to represent the community. Star Wars costuming has infiltrated a num ber of community events that have no obvious connections to Star Wars including school fairs, parades, and festivals. Parades, school carnivals, and fe stivals showcase different aspects of the community, and the attendees at t hese events support and celebrate their communities. Like conventions, they often support a theme and gather individuals for trade, exchange, and ent ertainment. Unlike convention themes which tend to be textually specific, these events cent er upon national and international holidays and community-s pecific history and needs, attracting a wide range of participants with different co nnections and motivations. A parade is a cultural event illustrating the community ; various groups armed with costumes
101 and performances march down the street wit h the rest of the community serving as a constantly changing audience lined alon g the route. Parade entries include floats sponsored by local business, the ma yor and other officials in convertibles, fire trucks and police cars, high school ma rching bands, local celebrities, and Star Wars costumers. A parade is defined by the variety of participants and their connections to the community. A single gr oup marching down the street has far less impact than seeing the better part of the community represented in a long procession of pride and celebration. Parade audiences ar e likewise composed of varied representatives of the region. They are acti ve participants cheering, clapping, and taking pictures. Parade par ticipants wave, throw beads and candy, and perform for the attention of onlookers. The amount of interaction at a parade is somewhat limited by distance and the c onstant movement forward, but there are dozens of one-on-one acknowle dgements along the route. A lot of these events involve ming ling with individuals who have never watched Star Wars There are so many people with so many different values and beliefs in our culturally fractur ed, postmodern society, asserts Kurt Lancaster in his discussion of interactive performance enter tainments, that some are unable to relate to mainstream performances (88). Thus, the level of recognition for the specific Star Wars characters, and even the films themselves, diminishes in these public, non-fan oriented displays, but Star Wars still retains some degree of familiarity. Because the films are so ingrained in our visual history through thirty years of film s and merchandizing, some of the main characters like Darth Vader, who was re cently voted the third greatest movie
102 villain of all time10, are implanted in the cultural psyche. As Lancaster continues, By providing arenas for people to socially express their own beliefs, values, and behaviors in our postmodern world, perfo rmance entertainments tend to bring conflicting voices together (88) The presence and acceptance of Star Wars in the community illustrates the general acc eptance and acknowledgement of visual media in our culture as we embrace establish communal bonds through newly realized performances of media representation. There are a number of spec ial gatherings that design their celebrations based on the participation of the Star Wars Costuming Legions including hospital visits, charity events, and weddings. These smaller events have no apparent, or initial, relation to Star Wars ; yet they both invite and welcome Legion participation, and, most of the time, they are the only costumed characters present. The novelty and availability of movie-quality Star Wars characters prompts some creative and thoughtful celebrations designed specifically for the Legions involvement. Costumers visit hos pital wards cheering many with their guises. Charity events public ize the involvement of Star Wars costumers and often take Polaroid pictures to raise funds. Members have been active collaborators with the Make a Wish Foundation and other organizations geared toward childrens needs. When the daught er of a founding me mber of the 501st was diagnosed with cancer, the Troopers sprung to action dedicating events and proceeds to Katies recovery quickly ni cknaming her the heart of the Empire. 10 American Film Institute, 100 years, 100 Heroes and Villains Darth Vader follows Norman Bates of Psycho chosen as number two and Dr. Hannibal Lector of Silence of the Lambs listed as number one. http://www.afi.co m/tvevents/100years/handv.aspx
103 The Legions continued involvement with childrens charities and hospitals was personalized by Katies plight. These ev ents remind costumers that they make a difference in the lives of children much like Star Wars made a difference in their lives as children. In Florida, a young fan passed away, and at the behest of his father, the Stormtroop ers appeared as pallbearers for the boys funeral. Star Wars costuming is built upon the compassi on and commitment of its members. Community service and sacrifice are a part of the Star Wars Costuming charter. Their participation legitimates their hobby and solidifies their connections to the community. Star Wars costumers take pride in their vo lunteer efforts. They consider charity work as a driving force behind t heir purpose as a cohesive organization. According to Robert D. Putnams analysis of the rise and dec line in American community involvement throughout the 20th Century, there is an increase in the number of voluntary associ ations but a decrease in the actual participation among members (49). Putnam indicates that people have continued to join voluntary groups, but they have stopped attending meetings and engaging in civic events. Their involvement is oft en limited to writing checks and receiving mail; and, as he states, their ties ar e to common symbols, common leaders, and perhaps common ideals, but not to each other (52). Civically minded organizations offer individuals fewer and fewer opportunities to participate within the organizational community never mi nd within their geographic communities. As a result, Americans have been droppi ng out in droves, not merely from political life, but from organiz ed community life (Putnam 64). Star Wars
costumers are both textually centered and civically minded. There are no dues associated with Legion membership; the requirements of membership rely on physical participation. Because they seek opportunities to improve community life; whether they visit hospital wards or collect funds for hurricane victims, costumers have proven themselves community assets. 104 Commercial entities invite costumers to participate in movie openings, game releases, celebrity appearances, and other Star Wars themed events. These gatherings generally have the most rules and restrictions expecting specific performances and outcomes. Commercial entities and Star Wars costumers have a mutual appreciation for each other. One supplies the stage for a performance and the other promotes their goods. With billions of dollars in merchandise and ticket sales, there are a number of outlets that distribute Star Wars materials. With the new trilogy of films to revitalize the Saga, there have been plenty of opportunities to celebrate Star Wars and costumers are on hand to add atmosphere and authenticity to each occasion. In Florida, stores like Toys R Us, Electronics Boutique, Target, and Best Buy have developed relationships with costumers alerting them to new release dates to scheduling appearances. Although these events are geared towards Star Wars materials, a large portion of the people the costumers encounter are casual shoppers who are surprised by their presence. Commercial entities utilize costuming enthusiasts to draw in crowds Figure 13: Star Wars Costumers at Toys R Us in Brandon Florida, October 2004
but costumers are there for exposure and the opportunity to wear their costumesthey are there for Star Wars. The release of a new movie, toy, or game promotes Star Wars continually renewing interest and keeping the imagery fresh in the public imagination. It does not matter whether or not the people that approach costumers are thoroughly familiar with the movies or the memorabilia. Whether or not they partake in the movies, the presence of Star Wars costumers invokes a cinematic response often similar to the public appearances of celebrities with the one exception that they are more accessible. Onlookers are drawn by the spectacle of seeing Stormtroopers in the mall. These public displays offer spontaneous interaction, prompting unsuspecting individuals to make cinematic connections and partake in cinematic interaction. Because of their growing exposure and reputation, Star Wars costumers have ascended into a different realm of representation where they are included in some higher profile events. The American Film Institute honored George Lucas in 2005 with a nationally broadcast, celebrity-filled evening of devotion and entertainment. No tribute to Lucas would be complete without acknowledging Star Wars and the film was referenced and represented throughout the night. The producers enlisted Stormtroopers from a local branch of the 501st Legion to participate in the festivities. The Stormtroopers did a little dance on the stage and physically carried William Shatner of Star Trek fame from Figure 14: Stormtrooper accompany William Shatner in a musical number during the American Film Institute's tribute to George Lucas 105
106 the stage, playing on the c ontinual and sometimes frustrating confusion between the two science fiction classics. Additi onally, the Lucas organization invited costumed fans to participate in a couple of significant events in 2005: for the release of a new video game, Battlefront the company paid for several Stormtroopers to go to New York City for a number of sc heduled appearances; and the company invited people in a va riety of costumes to open a new Star Wars themed exhibit at the Boston Mus eum of Science and Industry. Several people from Florida attended these events taki ng great pride in their participation. On a tour through Florida devoted to orchestral movie themes, the London Symphony Orchestra called upon the 501st Legion to walk among the formally dressed audience as they played the music from Star Wars These events have more rules usually based on maintaining characterization and bound to specific performance spaces, but they also link fans to the source of their fandom both in terms of ability and acceptance. As of 2005, the 501st Legion was officially recognized within the Star Wars canon with a mention in a novel of the expanded universe and the Revenge of the Sith film. Star Wars costumers have gained a strong reputation both nationally and in their communi ties for the quality of their costumes and the range of their activities. Star Wars costumers do not alwa ys need a specific event to interact in public spaces. As a matter of circ umstance, costum ers frequently find themselves putting gas in their cars, st opping to eat at local restaurants, and even shopping at stores for necessities. It is sometimes easier to be in costume than to find places to change and store ma terials when they arrive at their
107 destinations. I recently attended Megacon in Orlando, Florida. The weekend event was held at a huge convention center and attracted members from all over the state. Many of us shared hotel rooms in the area. Because of limited parking and the convenience of public transportation, we chose to take a trolley to and from the convention center. Star Wars costumers frequently obtain industrial sized storage bins for their bulky costumes and given the choice of toting their bins or dressing early, many will choose the latter. They are careful with their weapons using large, soft-sided duffels that can be easily stashed at the convention booth. On Saturday morning, eight of us set off to Megacon: four were dressed in combat gear from Resident Evil, a popular video game and movie; two were in Stormtrooper armor with one in the Feminine version of the outfit; I was in my Gunner garb; and one was in civilian clothes. Of the eight, seven had helmets and/or facial coverings. As soon as we left the hotel, we knew we were being watchedenjoyed. We were staying on International Drive in Orlando, a Mecca for tourism and amusement parks and the streets were busy with pedestrians and street traffic. As we made our way to the trolley stop, we heard several car horns and cheers from people passing. When we got on the trolley, it was nearly full with people ranging from infant to elderly. I chose a seat at the back of the trolley and my Stormtrooper friend joined me in sitting there; most of the others were standing or sitting near the front. By the time I got settled and looked back up, nearly every occupant of the Figure 15: Clone Troopers on their way to Celebration III, May 2005
108 trolley was turned around looking at us and half of them brandished cameras to document the moment. After t he pictures were taken, we took off our helmets and proceeded to chat with the other travelers about our costumes, our destination, and our hobby. A seemingly impersonal ride on a public bus quickly turned into an interactive experience for everyone; we were the binding element among people that may not have noticed each other before. I have yet to have a negative experience while in costum e and these improm ptu exchanges are valuable to costumers, representing not only the impact of their distinctive appearance choices on individuals but they also illustrate the acceptance and appreciation from various communities not inherently connected to their craft. Costumers reach out to their communities seeking ways to participate. Beyond superficial notions of appearance and personal collections, Hodkinson notes that organized activities are a key source of subcultural capital. As an event coordinator, in effect a coordi nator between fans and the community, the responsibility for subcultural organization al or productive activities constituted strong evidence of subcultural commitm ent and tended to raise the general profile of those involved (124). Through community endeavor s and charitable events, the Star Wars Costuming Legions have garner ed a great deal of respect around the nation. Many of these event s were not originally designed for costuming but they have grown to accommodate the practice as attendees have grown accustomed seeing Star Wars costumers. Star Wars.com posted a list of the Star Wars top ten for 2005 and the efforts of the 501st Legion are listed as number nine. In a year of premieres and finales and record breaking sales, the
109 performances and participation of this group of fans had enough impact to make the top ten. "It's inspiring how the members of the 501st will step up when called upon, no matter how grand or humble the need," says Mary Franklin, events manager for Lucasfilm. "From huge event s like Celebration III and the DVD release to local visits at children's hospitalsthis group can be counted upon to do their best."11 Star Wars costumers are representatives of a specific text but they are also representatives of their communities. Conclusion Costuming endorses performances of participation and interaction. In posing for pictures and participating in fan-generated video pr ojects, costumers and photographers become active participants in re-inventi ng their favorite movie images. As directors and initiators, s pectators compose new images. Picturetaking can categorize the producer-consumer relationship as costumers produce new images and the spectators consum e and capture the images with their cameras. By interacting with others while in costume and taking pictures, costumers share, create, and re-create popular cultur e. Costumers are watched and scrutinized, but they also have a physical relationship with the public interacting on different levels: as other human beings, as representatives of the text, as participants attending the same event, and as representatives of the narrative concerns of t he text. The nostalgic connec tion between costumers and non-costumers does not require people to have the same level of engagement 11 Star Wars.com Best of 2005. Last accessed on 4/10/06.
110 with the source material. People recogni ze costumed characters without seeing specific movies or televisions shows; cinematic images are frequently utilized for ad campaigns, newspaper and magazine articles, and merchandise. Others make extra-textual connections to co stumed individuals; a spectator may recognize someone dressed like Lara Croft as a representation of the actress that portrayed her. Costuming is a process of textual enculturation with fans choosing the texts as well as the manner in which they are displayed, and spectators recognizing the product. Peopl e do not have to see a movie at the same time, at the same place, or even in the same way to be a part of same audience; the interaction between co stumers and non-costum ers creates new, shared experiences. Costumers invite spectators to play out their reactions to the movies, and to play out their cinematic fantasies. Play promotes the dynamic interaction between costumer and observe r. Whether one is sorcerer or sorcerized one is always knower and dupe at once . one chooses to be the dupe. (Huizinga 23) A suspension of disbelief, an acknowle dgement of the source material, and reflexive comments about spectatorshi p allow audiences to participate in spontaneous performances of representat ion. Lancaster indicates that new forms of performances are giving spectato rs many alternatives to mainstream theater (77). They are liminal participatory events transforming spectators into performers (77). Costuming performances are enhanced by the interaction with non-costuming crowds, where participants have the opportunity to explore different aspects of themselves (87). T hese ritual entertainment events serve
111 as vehicles for social interaction, revealing an individuals personality and relationship to the community (87). Costumers are happily manipulated by photographers and organizers to set a particu lar tone or reincarnate scenes and images: Star Wars costumers have served as the entourage for scheduled guests, marching them into place; many Star Wars characters are asked to wield their weapons for pictures; and Stormt roopers have been employed as centuries, marking the boundaries of a given event of performance space. They are invited to be present. As fans, Star Wars costumers are representat ives of the text, but they are also part of unstructured, communal performances with non-costumers. Costumers are Star Wars While many people may not know the difference between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, most know that we represent Star Wars or even science fiction. Cost uming choices represent the expanse of popular culture delivering images to wider audiences and situations. It is a purposeful performance of representation. While performance presupposes a willful and volitional subject, Hills remarks that the performative is always a citation, always a reiteration indicating some degree of subservience to the text or the cu lture that fosters it. Star Wars costumers play with notions of representation through inte rtextual display and unlik ely appearances where the text becomes a citation to the perform ance. Of course, this can have a circular effect as costumers rely on previously conceived characterizations for design, and also for their ability to inform new meanings generated by wearing the costume. For Huizinga, play is transmi tted assuming fixed form as a cultural phenomenon. Once played, it endures as a new-found creation of the mind, a
112 treasure to be retained by the memory (9-10). While wearing a costume serves personal satisfactions, it is also an ex ternal display for ot hers. In fact, the costumer cannot get the full benefits of their own cost umes without a method of reflection like a mirror or a picture. Onl ookers provide that reflection through their reactions and appreciation. It is the re cognition among fans and non-fans that really inspires costuming. Through inte raction and participation, the line between culture and subculture dissipates as communal understanding builds.
113 Chapter Five Conclusion When I was a child in the 1970s, my fat her was a member of the Shriners. The Shriners are an internationally recognized, non-profit organization of professional men who head charitabl e campaigns and sponsor hospitals dedicated to children with severe burns and handicaps. I am certain that my father paid some sort of dues, and I know that he went to numerous meetings, but there are many other aspects of my experience with the Shriners that remind me of, and perhaps prepared me for, my experiences with the Star Wars Costuming Legions. First and foremost, they are both so cial clubs that organize members into service to the community. As Putnam indicates, social networks provide the channels through which we recruit one another for good deeds, and social networks foster norms of reciprocity that enc ourage attention to others welfare (117). Collective civic engagem ent among both groups strengthens their connections to their communities and to each other. They also share similar organizational structures. Similar to the way Star Wars Costuming Legions categorize their members by costume-type, the Shriners divide their membership according to their hobbies and talents that are showcased at charity and community events. Shriners can par ticipate in marching bands, horseback troupes, or brigades that build, main tain, and drive miniature cars and motorbikes. And some join the clown units.
114 By now, it is probably not a surprise t hat my father was a clown complete with red nose, elaborate face makeup, and baggy costume. His Sourdough clown persona was based on the cartoon character Yosemite Sam. He chose this image because of his childhood memori es of the Bugs Bunny cartoons, the playful connotations of the character, and the fact that he was unwilling to part with his full red beard and mu stache. Most of the clow ns in the Shriners design their costumes from existing clown-types or popular culture images. Ultimately, all costumers infuse their personal choices, image preferences, and physical characteristics into their costumes. Clown Shriners, like Star Wars costumers, take considerable pride and invest a great deal of time in designing and making their own costumes. Moreover, they a ttend conventions to showcase their costumes. Along with larger all-inclusive gatherings, clown units in the Shriners gather for clown competitions, earning prizes for costumes, make-up, and clowning talents like making balloon anima ls, juggling balls, and unit-directed comedy skits. As a family, we attended th ree or four clown competitions, and my father won many awards for the origin ality, quality, and cr aftsmanship of his costume. They were festive events, and I have fond memories of mingling with clowns, watching them apply their make-up, making balloon animals, and celebrating my fathers victories. Like popular culture conventions, these gatherings offer a space for like-minded individuals to share their hobbies and interests, reinforcing friendships and establishing new ones. By building quality costumes and displaying those costumes in performances of participation and intera ction, the clowns reinforce their
115 commitments to the Shriners, their co stumes, and, most importantly, their communities. While clown competitions and conventions are focused on specific aspects of clowning and co stuming, the Shriners are known for their community work on the behalf of children. The Shriner s introduced me to community service: as a Girl Scout, I learned to respect adults and build campfires; as an athlete, I learned to be a part of the team and play by the rules; but as a Shriners' daughter, and now as a Star Wars costumer, I have learned to be a part of my community. Shriners volunteer for parades, the Special Olympics, hospital visits, festivals, and fund-raisers, all in the name of community and service. By the time I was twelve, my mother and I had clown costumes of our own, and we became a clown family at events that welcomed t he participation of non-Shriners including the Special Olympics and community festival s. My mother and I were not allowed to join the Shriners, of course, but we we re part of their clow ning complement on multiple occasions. Volunteering fosters more volunteering, Putnam writes, in both formal and informal settings (121). T he activities I did with the Shriners inspired me to participate in my ow n communitymiddle school. When I was thirteen, I volunteered at a spring fund-raising fair at my middle school: there was a bake sale, carnival games, and me in my clown costume making balloon animals for school donations. By volunt eering, I made my newly-found hobby an asset to my community. It is unlikely that I need to spell out the strangeness of the connection between my Shriners past and my Star Wars present. But, it is worth noting that I did not consciously understand the simila rities between these activities until I
116 wrote this thesis. The connection between popular culture, play, and community service is so deeply ingrained within me that the trajectory between past clowning and present costuming was not an obvious one. As much of my past that I am happy to escape, this is one par t of my life that I am happy to uncover. As part of the Shriners, my parents and I found an instant group of friends. But, we also joined our community by participating in events. I am nostalgic thinking back on the time my family was involved with the Shriners because we did it together. Ironically, the only other activity that I associate with both of my parents is going to the movies, includ ing the first time we saw Star Wars in 1977. We were a clown family, but we were also avid movie-goers. As a member of the Star Wars Costuming Legions, I have unconsci ously reincarnated and merged many of my fondest childhood experiences: I have joined a new family of movie enthusiasts whose dedication and commitment to the community equals that of the Shriners. I am happy, and, perhaps more important, I am involved Decline in Community Involvement In American culture, people are cons istently and persi stently disconnected from one another; from hectic personal lives to darkened movie theaters, we are often isolated from thos e around us. Putnams comp rehensive study of the American community investigates this decline. He contends that a treacherous rip current is rippling through our communiti es; without at first noticing, we have been pulled from one another and fr om our communities over the last third of the century (27). Putnam trac es the collapse and suppos ed revival of American
117 society by investigating trends in ci vic engagement throughout the twentieth century. Utilizing organizational records, survey reports, time diaries, and consumer expenditures, he analyses the involvement of individuals throughout the United States. He concludes that community involvement and participation within clubs and organizations has been on a steady decline in American culture for several decades. While membership has progressively deteriorated, active involvement in face-to-face organizati ons has plummeted (63). People are disengaged from the world around them. From voting in public elections to playing cards with friends, our daily inte rpersonal connections are fading. The last several decades have witnessed a striki ng diminution of regular contacts with our friends and neighbors; and, as Put nam continues, we spend less time in conversation over meals, we exchange visi ts less often, we engage less often in leisure activities that encourage casual so cial interaction (115). In short, we seem to be avoiding each other. Group me mbership is in decline because people have stopped relating to one another, and even mo re detrimental to our society is the possibility that we have stopped looki ng for ways to relate to other people. Putnam measures social disconnection in terms of money, time, location, technology, and age. Contending that we spend less time doing everything social, the purpose of his study is not only to trace the decline but also to determine what has replaced civic activities in peoples lives. The only significant growth he documents in his study is among mailing list membership and the creation of an entirely new s pecies of tertiary associ ation whose members never actually meet (63). Clearly, this growth requires only a minimal commitment from
118 individuals, and does little to highlight or support communities. In addition, we are geographically separated from our nei ghbors and families by suburban sprawl, spending more and more time alone in ou r cars and our homes. Interestingly, one of the primary causes fo r social decline in American communities involves a rise in leisure activities, specifically watching television. Putnam makes the following declaration: Considered in combination with a score of other factors th at predict social participation (including education, generation, gender, region, size of hometown, work obligations, marriage, children, income, financial worries, religiosity, race, geographic mobility commuting time, homeownership, and more), dependence on television for entertainment is not merely a significant predictor of civic engagement. It is the single most consistent predictor. (231) From time diaries, he identifies a marked increase in television watching: Americans watch more and more frequently, watch different shows, schedule their lives to television programming, and often watch alone. Basically, we spend more time watching and less time doing (Putnam 115). Ultimately, the level of media saturation in American society has engulfed our communities: isolating individuals, eroding interper sonal exchange, and virtually annihilating our civic connections. The American community is in decay, and people are turning to the media for solace and escape. My experience with Star Wars costumers, however, reveals a direct link rather than a separation between media spectatorship and
119 community enhancement. We have turned aw ay from civic responsibility, but there is evidence that smaller groups of individuals are engaged in cohesive and highly productive activities. Putnam uses a study by Robert Wuthnow to point out small trends among vast areas of co mmunity decline. Wuthnow found that approximately forty percent of American society is engaged in some sort of focus group: most of these are involved with churches or hospitals, but about five percent are devoted to a particular inte rest or hobby. Quoting Wuthnow, Putnam recognizes small-group movement as a qui et revolution in American society, redefining community in a more fluid way (149). Putnams consideration of literary groups is comparable to Star Wars costuming where intense personal, intellectual, and occasionally even political bonds are forged (149). Additionally, active members frequently become more in volved in wider community affairs (149). By tuning into subcultural connections and encouraging involvement, small group participation is an antidote to soci al disconnectedness (Putnam 149). An increase in leisure activities over the last century has caused a shift in how people allocated their time and resources, promoting a rise in more informal forms of communication between individuals. Fluidity may be the key to growth of these smaller groups in American society as they ebb and flow according to everchanging cultural landscapes. Groups like the Elks, Shriners, the Ro tary Club, and the Masons are in steady decline. From their peak in 1960 through 1997, the Shriners experienced a 59% decline in membership (Putnam 439). Mapping the membership rates from thirty-two organization including the Shriners, Put nam calculates that 1997
120 membership totals rival those of duri ng the Great Depression. While economic crisis explains the latter, the former is harder to clarify. These plunging memberships represent, as Putnam contends a significant piece in the mosaic of evidence on changing civic involvement in American communities (57). In contrast, membership of Star Wars costumers is steadily increasing. Are costumers the twenty first c entury version of the Shriner s? Not exactly. However, they do represent a small gr owing faction of civic parti cipation within American culture. The most significant difference between Shriners and Star Wars costumers involves the ties that bind t heir members together: the Shriners recruit professional men, while Star Wars costumers recruit fans of the movies. One is forged by professionalism, by work. The other is forged by leisure. Within Putnams timeline of communi ty decline, we see that work relationships and civic involvement follow parallel paths of decay. As he suggests, structural changes in the workplaceshorter job tenure, more part-time and temporary jobs, and even independent consultancyinhibit workplace-based social ties (90). With weakening ties in the workplace and growin g interest in leisure activities like watching movies and television, people ar e slowly establishing new networks of communication. Shriners are prof essional men without a pre-determined connection to each other. On the other hand, Star Wars costuming, like Putnams literary groups, both widens and narrows the fi eld: the membership includes both men and women but their motivations, in one way or another, are all connected to the Star Wars films. These movies comprise t he glue that binds them together. Star Wars costumers have outgrown the confinements of com petition, the spaces
121 marked to contain them, and, perhaps the very idea of spectatorship without participation. They are, perhaps, a new trend in community revitalization. Emerging from Spectatorship into Participation If we are, as Putnam states, spendi ng more time watching instead of doing, then perhaps Star Wars costuming is a sign of an emergence from spectatorship into participation. With t he introduction of movies, television, and, most recently, the Internet, we ha ve been transformed into a media-based society ever more reliant on media outle ts for information, entertainment, and company. Furthermore, we have embr aced the technology that propagates media; the entertainment center is literally the centra l focal point in a majority of American homes. The daily lives and intera ctions of American citizens have been forever altered by the pro liferation of media. Accord ing to Nicholas Abercrombie and Brian Longhurst, the media and everyday life have become so closely interwoven that they are almost inseparabl e (69). Their analysis of audiences settles upon a new kind of diffused audien ce as a product of our contemporary, media-infused social existence (69) For Abercrombie and Longhurst, the essential feature of this [d iffused] audience-experience is that, in contemporary society, everyone becomes an audience all the time (68). We are inundated with images. With the increased dependency on te levision as noted by Putnam, it is easy to understand why Abercrombie and Longhurst indicate that being a member of an audience is no longer an ex ceptional event, nor even an everyday event. Rather it is constitutive of every day life (69). Our media-soaked society is
122 more accustomed to images than ever bef ore: we not only engage with images within certain narrative contexts, but im ages are also mixed and mingled with other contexts, both real and fictional. Ult imately, how we process media images alters our choices, our commitm ents, and even our perspectives. There is abundant evidence to support Putnams conclusions that people are tuning out of social experience and tuni ng into the media, but it is also relevant that people are relating to each other in terms of these new viewing experiences. We are bound by popular cult ure because it binds us togethertwo strangers suddenly have something in co mmon once they know they have seen the same movie. Interact ion thrives off of commonalities among individuals. Because media consumes a larger portion of peoples time, then it is reasonable to assume that rising commonalities in viewing practices, experiences, and perspectives among individuals may be re shaping our culture. The more the world becomes aestheticized, according to Abercrombie and Longhurst, the more it becomes drenched in images, the more it becomes a cultural object, the more it will becomes something that invi tes being looked at (88). As we spend more time watching, the more we look for things to watch. Media is completely integrated into our culture, and Star Wars is completely integrated into the media; thus, Star Wars is a part of our culture, de livering images common to large number of people. Encountering Star Wars costumers on public buses or in shopping malls effectively illu strates the integration of Star Wars into our cultural fabric. Star Wars costumers embody the meta morphosis of the American audience from isolated spectator to the physical manifestation of a media outlet;
123 their shared primary objective is to be seen by as wide a variety of people as possible. My first official outing as a Star Wars costumer was a parade in St. Petersburg, Florida. Although I have watc hed a number of parades, this was my first time as a participant. The event was posted on the Legion message boards, and I signed up. I arrived early, parking my car in the midpoint of the parade route and walking the distance to the starting point. We were number 19 of approximately 150 participating groups, and I was curious to see who, and what, was represented. As I turned onto Main Street, I saw blocks of people attending to last minute details of preparation: there was a high school marching band with several of its members adjusting their in struments or their uniforms; there was float sponsored by a local radio station, and its occupants were sorting through beads and other trinkets that they intended to toss into the crowds; there were six horses comprising a patrol, and their rider s were adjusting saddles and talking to each other; there was a gr oup of young cheerleaders fixi ng each others hair and practicing with their pom-pom s; there was new converti ble that would eventually carry the Mayor over the parade route; and there was a car hitched to make-shift Santa sleigh, while Santa and the driver talked. Among many, many others, I found the group of Star Wars costumers involved in similar acts of preparation. While Star Wars costumers are frequently perceive d as oddballs or fanatics, we fit right into the parade lineup. As I l ooked from one group to another, it became abundantly clear to me that we were all t he same. It did not matter if you were politician, a member of a high school marching band, or a Star Wars costumer,
124 we all represented the c ontours of our community. We then began to march, tenuously bound to one another but united in celebration.
125 References Abercrombie, Nicholas, and Brian Longhurst. Audiences London: Sage, 1998. Aden, Roger C. Popular Stories and Promised Lands: Fan Cultures and Symbolic Pilgrimages Tuscaloosa: UP of Alabama, 1999. American Film Institute Website 2006. American Film In stitute. 3 March 2006.
126 Conquergood, Dwight. Rethinking Ethnogr aphy: Towards a Critical Cultural Politics. Communication Monographs 58.2 (June 1991): 179-94. de Certeau, Michael. The Practice of Everyday Life Trans. Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984. Denzin, Norman K. Performance Ethnograp hy: Critical Pedagogy and the Politics of Culture New York: Sage, 2003. Fiske, John. Understanding Popular Culture Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989. 501st Legion Website Dean Plantamura. 2006. 16 March 2006.
127 Hodkinson, Paul. Goth: Identity Subculture and Identity New York: Berg, 2002. Huizinga, J. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture Boston: Beacon, 1950. Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture New York: Routledge, 1992 Lancaster, Kurt. When Spectators Become Performers: Contemporary Performance-Entertainments Meet the Needs of an Unsettled Audience. Journal of Popular Culture 30 (Spring 1997): 75-88. The Padawans Guide Maggie. 2006. 14 March 2006.
129 Appendix A Star Wars 501st Mission Statement and Legion Charter 501st Legion of Imperial Stormtroopers Star Wars Costuming Fan Club Table of Contents Article I Club Mission Article II Membership Article III Organization Article IV Offices Article V Elections Article VI Code of Conduct Article VII Costuming Event Standards Article VIII Merchandising and Promotional Standards Article IX Disciplinary Action Article I Club Mission The 501st Legion of Imperial Stormtrooper s (aka the Legion aka 501st) is a Star Wars fan club celebrating the movies using costumes and props, in particular those of the stormtrooper characters and their various incarnations. The Legion is a not-for-profit club formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts and giving them a colle ctive identity within which to operate. The Legion's aims are to celebrate the Star Wars movies through the wearing of costumes, to promote the quality and im provement of costumes and props, and most importantly to contribute to t he local community through charity and volunteer work. We the me mbers of the 501st hold no ri ghts to these characters and recognize it is a privilege to wear these costumes. We also acknowledge that while in costume we represent thes e movies and as such accept the responsibility to behave professionally and civilly while in public. Article II Membership The 501st Legion is an inclusive, equal-opportunity fan club and will not tolerate discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, or religion. The only requirement for membership is "ownership" of an accu rate, complete and professional quality costume celebrating the Imperial (D ark Side) characters from the Star Wars films or its expanded universe sources. Upon admission, members are assigned a uni que four-digit identification number following in the tradition of the stormtrooper character, TK421, mentioned in A
130 New Hope. Preceding this number is a tw o-character prefix code denoting the costume of the member. The prefix codes and what costumes they identify are listed below. Members owning more than one costume still have only one identification number but ar e referred to using whatever prefix codes are applicable. Identific ation numbers will be maintai ned by the Legion Membership Officer and are permanently assigned. If me mbers convert to inactive status, their numbers will be retired until such time as the member returns to active status. Persons under the age of 18 are not a llowed as listed members of the 501st Legion club. The 501st claims no responsib ility for minors at events that are hosted or attended by its members. Active vs. Inactive Me mbership Definitions: An Active Member of the 501st Legion is defined as a person who meets the following requirements: 1. Meets all 501st Membership Requirements (i.e. has an approved costume, is over 18 years of age, etc). 2. Has an approved membership record in the 501st Legion Membership Database 3. Maintains their personal and cont act information in the Membership Database (through either their local Garrison CO or other designated Garrison membership representative). 4. Meets or exceeds the minimum activity level requirements for an Active Member An Inactive Member in the 501st Legi on is defined as a person who either: 1. Does not meet or exceed the acti vity level for an Active Member Or 2. Does not have current contact information in the database Or 3. Is a person who has requested to be placed on Inactive Status Or 4. Is placed on Inactive status as t he result of a disci plinary judgment of either their Garrison CO or the Legion Council. Pl ease note that Garrison level judgments may be appealed to the 501st Council. See Article IX Disciplinary Action An Active member is eligible to: 1. Vote in all matters that come up for a vote/poll of the Active Membership 2. Vote in their local elections for Detachment Leaders, Squad Leaders, Garrison Commander and Legion CO.
131 3. Hold Elected or Appointed Of fices in the 501st Legion (including Detachment Leadership) 4. Coordinate/Host Offi cial 501st Activities 5. Purchase Official 501st/Member Only merchandise (i.e. T-shirts, cards, badges, etc) that are offered only to st Members 6. Have their picture posted on 501st.c om in the membership section. 7. Participate in Official 501st activi ties (i.e. Charity Benefits, Celebrity Appearances, Guest Escorts, etc). An Inactive 501st member: 1. May NOT vote in any 501st election or poll 2. May NOT hold Elected or Appointed Office 3. May not coordinate Offi cial 501st Activities 4. May not purchase Official /Member Only merchandise 5. Will not have their picture posted in the 501st.com membership section. 6. WILL have their membership information and ID number saved/maintained in the 501st Legion database. Once you are a member, your 4 digit ID number follows you from cradle to grave it will not be reassigned except by a Judgment of the Legion Council. To repeat, your membership number is yours FOREVER unless you do something so terrible that you are d rummed out, stripped of rank, etc.. So dont worry about this too much, when you come back, your 4 digits will still be here waiting for you. Minimum Activity Level Requirements 1. Maintain active contact with his/her Garrison CO or designated Representative (GML). Active contac t will be confirmed during the annual Legion Census held each year dur ing the month of October. 2. Maintain their contact information/ membership record in the 501st Legion Database (either through their Ga rrison CO or their designated representative (Garrison Membership Liaison). 3. Participate in ONE (or more) Garri son or Legion activity per year. Examples of an activit y are (but are not lim ited to) the following: a. Participation in a 501st activities at any convention Or b. Participation in any 501st charity event, either in person or through support such as donating toys, prin ting, time, sewing, publicity, transportation etc. Or c. Participation as ei ther an elected or appoi nted Legion, Garrison, Squad, Outpost or Detachment Officer. Or d. Participation in any Legion or Ga rrison support activity, such as hosting an armor party, sewing party, prop building party,
132 hosting/Web mastering their Garrison site, actively participating as a member of the local or legion web team, etc. Or e. Hosting or participating in a 501st Social Activity such as a party, movie day, picnic, etc. Or f. Any other event/activity that is considered as an activity by their local administrative unit by Legion Ch arter, Garrison Vote or local custom. These Minimum Activity Level Requirem ents should be administered as justly and with as much common sense as po ssible. If someone is Inactive their appearance at any of the before mentioned activiti es should instantly be considered as Proof/Fulfillment of t he Active Membership Requirement. They should be allowed to participate in/at the ev ent immediately, in all Official/UnOfficial activities unless their Inactive status is the result of a Garrison or Legion Council level Judgment. As a member, one of the most IMPORTAN T things you need to do is to STAY IN CONTACT with your local Garrison. If y our local Garrison doesnt really know WHO you are or WHERE you are or HOW to get in touch with you, it is hard to determine if you are actually taking part in any activities. You may attend a dozen events a year, but if you dont Keep in touch you may find yourself wondering why your picture just vanished off 501st.com. So please do yourself and us a favor, keep your e-mail and phone num ber up to date in the membership database. Your Garrison Membership Li aison can help you and their contact information can be found at www.501st.com under the Garrison section. A Garrison CO may determine that a member is Activ e even if they DO NOT meet the normally established Activit y Level Requirements. However the reverse is not true, if an A ctive member meets all mem bership and activity level requirements they MAY NOT be classified as Inactive except by a Garrison or Legion level Judgment or by their own request. In the case of a disagreement over your ac tivity status at the local level, you may appeal to the Legion Council after you have exhausted all local means of appeal (i.e. your Garrison). However the fa ct that you obviously cared enough about your status to: 1. Contact your local Garrison to object And 2. That you cared enough to appeal to the Council should be fairly good evidence that you at least want to be active with the Legion. The prefix codes for costumes are as follows:
133 TA-Trooper, AT-AT TBTrooper, Biker Scout TDTrooper, Desert Trooper / Sand Trooper To be posted as a Desert Trooper/Sandtrooper on 501st.com, a member must have: A Pauldron, Field Pack, and 1 other item fr om the following list: 1. dirty armor 2. modified armor (modified knee plat e, abdomen, flat lenses, etc.) 3. dewback prod/MG34/MG15/lewis gun or other similarly styled BFG 4. ammo pouches TITrooper, TIE Fighter Pilot TKTrooper, Stormtrooper TRTrooper, Royal Guard TS -Trooper, Snow TCTrooper, Clone (as featured in Episode II) TXTrooper Special Ops (troopers from the Star Wars expanded universe, including but not limited to: Swamp Trooper: Jedi Knight II Vi deo Game (not yet released) Imperial Commando (black biker scout): Star Wars Rebellion Video Game Red Troopers (aka Magma Troopers) are referenced but not shown in the Episode IV Visual Dictionary Black Troopers (aka Stealth Troopers) are Carnor Jax's personal troopers in Crimson Empire Black Hole Troopers (painted bl ack and coated in a stygianpolymer substance, answering dire ctly to the Imperial Intelligence agent Blackhole (source: Star Wars web site http://www.starwars.com/databank/o rganization/stormtroopers/eu.ht ml) Sea Troopers Aquatic assault sto rmtroopers trained to operate in marine environments, feat ured modified scout armor, with breathing tanks, flippers, and a helme t-mounted spotlight. (source: Star Wars website) Spacetroopers Zero-G armored troopers, massi ve suits of armor, powered by servomotors. Each suit functioned as a miniature spacecraft, with propulsion syst ems, sensor systems, and weapons. In full gear, a spacetr ooper stood over two meters tall and was twice as wide as an unarmored soldier. (source: Star Wars web site) Radtroopers, Radiation zone assault troops, were a little known division of elite stormtroopers tr ained to handle irradiated combat zones. Their armor featured a leadpolymer substrate and a silvery reflective finish. (source: Star Wars web site) Flying airtroopers (source: Star Wars web site)
134 Tunneling underminers (source: Star Wars web site) IDImperial Officer / NCOs / Wa rrant Officers / Pilots IGImperial Gunner Death Star Gunner INImperial Navy Death Star Trooper (personnel in the black open-faced helmets) ICImperial Crew any other tunicwearing non-officer serving in the Empire, such as scanning Crew ISImperial ATST Driver BHBounty Hunter SLSith Lord DZDenizens of the Empire a lien scum & villainy and any other Star Wars costumes of characters who coul d conceivably ally themselves with the Empire. Note: "Expanded Universe" costumes may also be considered for membership. These may include (but are not limited to ) Count Dooku, Mara Jade, Clone Emperor, Prince Xizor, Admiral Thrawn, Zam Wessel, Bossk, Greedo, Dengar, Boba Fett, Jango Fett, Aurra Sing, Zuckuss, 4LOM, Boussh, IG-88, Klaatu, Weequay, Nickto, Gamorrean Guard, Bib Fortuna, Jawa, Tusken Raider / Sand Person, Garindan. Final determination of costume eligibil ity is determined by the Legion Membership Officer in conjunction with the Legion Council and Officers. Article III Organization The 501st Legion is a worldwide club but it recognizes that most activities will be on the local level. For this reason, the Legi on is divided into subdivisions to foster local identity and to encourage teamwork and fraternity. The current list of Garrisons, Squads, Outposts, and Detach ments, as well as information on the boundaries between these units, is maintain ed by the Captain of the Guard. Garrisons The largest subdivisions of the Legion are the Garrisons, which ideally cover large distinctive regions that host unique geography, la nguage, borders or other distinguishing characteristics. A Garris on requires at least twenty five (25) members and is headed by a Garrison Commander (CO), who is elected every February by the members of the Garrison. The formation of a new Garrison may take place when an Outpost reaches sufficient membership or when a region within an existing Garrison finds pressing needs to break off and form a new Garrison. Applicants must complete a Garrison Appl ication Form in which they list their new Garrison name, roster of members from the 501st main membership roster, territorial boundaries, Garrison logo, wo rking website and email forum, and a brief statement of purpose outlining the reasons for t heir Garrison to be formed. The form will also list the administrative staff of the Garrison, including a CO, XO, PR Officer, Webmaster, and Membership Liaison who will work with the main
135 Legion Membership Officer in helping to make sure their Garrison members are properly listed and updated on the main 501st website. The application form must be submitted to the Legion Commander and Captain of the Guard. Upon their approval, the form is then submitted to the Legion Council and voted on by the Legion Garrison Commanders in a majority vote. If approved by the Legion Council, the applic ant group undergoes a one year trial period, during which it must demonstrate that it can operate as an independent body. After the one year period the C ouncil will vote again to approve the Garrison officially. It is highly re commended when a new Garrison forms within an existing Garrison that approval first be sought from the existing Garrison Commander. Garrison Commanders are free to assemble whatever rules and administrative staff they need in their area. A Garrison CO has the fo llowing responsibilities: Organize all 501st Legion events taki ng place within the geographical territory of his/her Garrison proper, or delegate garrison members to organize/coordinate specific events. Represent his/her Garrison members in the Legion Council where club policy is discussed and voted on Organize his/her Garrison by appointi ng an administrative staff to handle the Garrison website, logo creation, public relations, communication, and enforcement of club and Garrison rules Resolve disputes internal to the Garrison and make all potential problems known to Legion Command Keep in touch with all members of his/her Garrison, either personally or through an intermediary, and build good relations and good morale among the troops Help in deciding if new Squads or Garrisons should be allowed to form within his/her Garrison territory Perform his/her duties in a professi onal and level-headed manner befitting an officer Squads Garrisons can sub-divide into Squads fo r even smaller areas or areas where clusters of members tend to operate toget her regularly. A Squad requires at least ten (10) members and is headed by a Squad Leader (SLDR), who is elected every February by the members of t he Squad. Applicants must complete a Squad Application Form in which they lis t their new Squad name, roster of members from their local Garrison mem bership roster, territorial boundaries, Squad logo, working website and email foru m, and a brief statement of purpose outlining the reasons for their Squad to be formed. The formation of a Squad must first be approved by the Legion Co mmander, Captain of the Guard, and the Garrison Commander of the ar ea in which it is formed. If approved, the applicant group undergoes a six mont h trial period, during which it must demonstrate that it
136 can operate as an independent body. Afte r the trial period the Legion Commander, Captain of t he Guard, and Garrison Commander vote again to approve the squad officially. Outposts For areas that lie outside 501st Legion control and do not have enough members to form a Garrison, an Outpost may be formed. An Outpost requires only one member and is headed by an Outpost Leader (OL), who is elected every February by the members of the Outpost. Applicants must complete an Outpost Application Form in which they list thei r new Outpost name, roster of members from the main 501st roster, territorial boundaries, Outpost logo, working website and email forum, and a brief st atement of purpose outlining the reasons for their Outpost to be formed. Application for an Outpost must be approved by the Legion Commander and the Captain of the Guard, at which time the Outpost immediately becomes official. Once an Ou tpost contains twenty five members it may apply to be a recognized Garrison as outlined above and may waive the one-year trial period at the discr etion of the Legion Council. Detachments Given the diversity of costumes in the club, special 'theme' units may be created expressly to celebrate a specific aspect of the Star Wars universe. An example would be a squadron of TIE Fighter Pilots. These units are called Detachments and lie outside the organizational, rank, and voting hierarchy of the club. A Detachment requires five (5) members and is headed by a Detachment Leader (DL), who is elected by the members of the Detachment. Application for a Detachment must be approved by the Legion Commander and the Captain of the Guard. Members of Detachments still report to their respective Squ ads and Garrisons. 501st members may be members of multiple Detachments. Article IV Offices Two forms of offices exist within the Legion: command and administrative. Command offices exist to oversee the organization and deployment of troops and include Garrison Commanders, S quad Leaders, Outpost Leaders, and Detachment Leaders. Administ rative offices exist to perform the administrative duties required by the club and are appointed by the Legion Commander within an Administrative Staff. Admi nistrative Officers also sit on the Legion Council and are allowed to vote. The adminis trative offices are listed below. Administrative Staff Captain of the Guard The Captain of the Guard a ssists the Legion Commander by serving as arbiter in matters of cont ention within the club, policing the code of conduct, keeping track of the Garrison and Squad boundaries, and updating the
137 master garrison map. The Captain of t he Guard is appointed by the Legion CO, however the appointment is subject to the approval of the Legion Council. Membership Officer The Membership Officer is responsible for receiving and processing applications for membership tracking identification numbers of members to guarantee their uniqueness, and conducting a semi-annual census to assess the current number of active members. Webmaster The Webmaster will be in charge of the club's web site, maintaining its content and appearance and incorporat ing information from the other administrative officers. Merchandise Accountant The Merchandise Accountant will monitor all merchandising and fund-raising done for the 501st Legion for the sole purpose of record-keeping. The Merchandise Accountant will be responsible for making sure copyrights are not flagrantly violated or that funds are not misused. The Merchandise Accountant may be responsible for recording all transactions and making these records available to the public. While we are not an officially sanctioned extension of Lucas Film Limited, we strive to operate within tolerable limits of their control of copyright. For this reason it is the hope of this club to keep merchandise bearing the 501st name or emblems to a minimum that serves to identify the club and no more. Public Relations Officer This position will be responsible for accepting all news of events and activities from the club members and chronicling them. This will include field reports and pictures and will di stilling this information into a form that the Webmaster can use to update a gallery on the 501st main web site. The PR Officer is also in charge of making contacts with Star Wars celebrities, convention organizers, web and print public ations, and other fan clubs for the purpose of promoting the club and coor dinating cooperative relationships. Legion Talent Liaison (Coordinator) This position will be in charge of maintaining contact with Star Wars personalities, celebrities, and other people instrumental in the Star Wars field who make regular appearances. This officer will communicate with said personalities for the express purpose of advertising the Legions willingness to provide services during public appearances. This officer will also coordinate with regional Legion personnel to facilitate communications with personalities for local events. Executive Council Policy and administrative decisions for the 501st are handled by an Executive Council, made up of two representatives from each Garrison and the Legion's Administrative Staff. The Council is m oderated by the club President, the Legion Commander.
138 Titles commonly used and recognized within the 501st Legion LC Legion Commander LX Legion Executive Officer CO Garrison Commander XO Garrison Executive Officer SLDR Squad Leader OL Outpost Leader AO Administrative Officers appointed by LC to service the administrative needs of the club. AOs may also serve as unit leaders elsewhere in the Legion. Enlisted standard rank for all stormt roopers unless appoint ed otherwise as above Article V Elections The Legion Commander, Garrison Commanders, and Squad Leaders must be voted into office. All other positions are appointed by their respective local Commander. Elections for these positions are held once a year. Nominations for command offices may be made by any member within that office's region during the month of January. If no nominations are made for a particular office by midnight January 31, the officers holding th ese positions will maintain their posts. Voting begins on February 1. Votes are cast via email or online poll or whatever mechanism the Captain of the Guard deems appropriate. The voting will be open for exactly two weeks (fourteen days) a fter which no more votes will be accepted. Every member in "active status" or in "good standing" of the 501st Legion may vote. Members that are placed on "inactive status" may not vote until their status has been changed back to "active" by their Garrison CO and the Legion Membership Officer. Notice of upcomi ng elections will be posted on the main mailing list one week prior to the electi on. Notification of any elections to individual members is ultimately the j ob of Garrison Commanders for members in their region. The Legion Commander is elected by popular vote of the entire legion. The offices of Garrison Commander, Squad Leader, Outpost Leader, and Detachment Leader are all voted on by members of each respective unit according to rules that unit has adopted. Ad ministrative Officers are appointed by the Legion Commander, with th e exception of the Merchandise Accountant, who is also elected by popular vote of the Legion. This is to avoid any conflict-ofinterest between a Legion Commander and his/ her choice of appointments in this office. Issues of contention concerning the club may be voted upon by the Executive Council. A call to vote will require any th ree Council officers to request the vote. Following this, the Council members will have one week to cast their votes via email to the club's central mailing list or to an online poll overseen by the club's Captain of the Guard. Each member of the Council holds one vote. Calls to vote
139 can be on any topic, including the topic of removing or replacing office-holders. In this instance, however, the cause must be great enough to call for a vote. Thus, a call to replace or remove any office r must be made by at least 33% of the current membership, rounded up. This Legion Charter may be amended at any time by a popular vote. Article VI Code of Conduct The 501st Legion recognizes that its cost umes represent characters from the Star Wars films and as such, costume-wearers carry the responsibility of portraying these characters professionally and tastefully while in public. For these reasons, all members are prohibited from using foul language or behaving lewdly or obscenely while in costume and in public. The 501st Legion is dedicated to creati ng an environment of friendship and good will. To this end, the Legion will not tole rate the practice of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment by its members. Members who engage in such conduct wil l be subject to disciplinary action, including termination from the 501st Legi on. This policy applies to all 501st Legion members. It applies not only to unw elcome conduct that violates state and federal laws concerning sexual harassment but also to inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature. Article VII Costuming Event Standards The 501st Legion celebrates creating, ow ning, and wearing the costumes of the Imperial Forces as featured in the Star Wars films. To capture the magic of these characters, our goal will always be the accurate presentation and portrayal of these costumes. However, we recognize that the purpose of this hobby is for fun and creativity. Therefore, the 501st makes allowances for the creative modification of these costumes within the confines of decency (defined as being without profane or vulgar f eatures or statements and must be viewable by young children). By the same token, different events will call for different standards. For this reason, two categories are created to help 501st members communicate what standards will be in place depending on the event being hosted or attended by club members. FORMAL/CANON Costumes must be au thentic, canon Imperial costumes from the movies or licensed media (games, books, etc.). Costumes must be devoid of stickers, ornamentation, or any other decoration not found on the original costumes. Costumes must be complete, cont aining all the parts in good working order and appearance. If a member has a question whether his or her costume meets the specifications of a formal costume, they may refer to information provided by the 501st Chief Armorer. Fo rmal events include any event involving Lucasfilm and its affiliates or any other event where formal presentation is
140 expressly asked for or required. An exampl e of this would be escorting celebrities associated with Star Wars this is considered an o fficial event and calls for the group to represent the club in formal dr ess, unless the event organizer has specified that non-formal costumes are acceptable. INFORMAL/NON-CANON Costumes ma y be authentic, canon costumes or non-authentic, non-canon costum es never seen in any Star Wars movie or book and may be decorated and ornament ed as the owner desires within the confines of decency. Decency here is defined as bei ng without profane or vulgar features or statements and must be viewable by young children. Costumes can be painted alternate color schemes, adorned with stickers or cosmetic changes, or supplemented with articles not found in the movies. Informal events include public parties or conventions or wherever the 501st is not officially representing the club. NOTE: The default for any public appear ance of the 501st is INFORMAL, although the club's code of conduct st ill applies. Events must be designated FORMAL for the requirements to apply. The final decis ion is left to the Legion Commander, event organizer, or the senior officer present. Article VIII Merchandising and Promotional Standards It is recognized that any organization requi res promotion on some level to help it grow. It is also recognized that the 501s t Legion is a club based on a copyrighted property and has no legal rights to profit from the sales of merchandise bearing images or ideas from the Star Wars property. Consequently, it is agreed that whatever merchandise or promotional ma terials are created to advertise the 501st Legion will be sold only to members within the Legion and at cost. No material will be sold to the general public fo r a profit. All promot ional materials will meet the following gu idelines before being approved by the club. All materials not abiding by these guidelines will be cons idered unauthorized and forbidden to all members of the 501st Legion. Any me mber producing and/ or distributing unauthorized Legion material will be eligible for disciplinary action by the Legion CO and or XO and could face expulsion, as decided by the Legion Council. Members wearing unauthorized Legion mate rials at official events shall be directed to remove these items, and if members fail to comply, said members will be eligible for disciplinary action by the Legion CO and or XO and could face expulsion. 501st Promotional Items Set of Standards This set of standards includes any item print, or paraphernalia that bears the 501st Legion name or logo. 1. Any items bearing the words "501st Legion", "Fighting 501st", or "Vader's Fist" or the 501st Logo are consider ed representative of the 501st Legion club. Such proposed items are to be submitted to the Legion Commander
141 and administrative staff before being produced. The Legion CO, Legion XO, and administrative staff have final word on approval. 2. 501st items must be free of vulgarity 3. 501st items must be as free of copyrighted material as possible 4. 501st items must be sold only to club members and at cost 5. 501st items must not be advertised openly on ebay or othe r forums to the general public 6. 501st items must not be tied to any outside commercial entity or venture 7. 501st items must not misrepresent or misidentify its user/wearer in any role other than as a member or suppor ter of the 501st Legion fan club. No shirt will bear the label 'Security' or 'Staff' unless created with the full permission of an event organizer and labe led specifically for that event only. 8. 501st items specifying a sub-unit of the club are allowed and encouraged. Such examples would be items pr omoting 501st Garrisons, Squads, and Detachments. Article IX Disciplinary Action A member breaking the Legion code of c onduct or behaving in an unacceptable manner or violating t he tenets of this charter may fa ce disciplinary action. This begins at the Garrison level. Any me mber in good standing may bring a charge against another member from their Garrison. The c harge is brought to the attention of their Garrison Commander, wh o must then call a h earing. During the hearing both sides of the conflict are related and witnesses and evidence submitted and recorded. This process must run for at least one week after the hearing is called, after which time the Garrison Commander has the right to close the proceedings at any time at his or her discretion. Once the hearing is closed the Garrison Commander renders judgement and outlines the requirements for both parties to follow. The Garrison Co mmander has the option to assemble a panel of Garrison personnel to vote on a cour se of action or to decide for himor herself. If the losing party feel s wronged, he or she may then appeal to the Legion Council. A hearing is called and both par ties invited to speak and submit evidence to the Council. This process mu st run for at leas t one week after the hearing is called, after which time the Legion Commander has the right to close the proceedings at any time at his or her discretion. The Legion Council then decides if the charge is a minor off ense, a major offense, or one without resolution. A majority vote rules and a c ourse of action is laid down. A minor offense brings formal censure, to wh ich the charged member must respond with a public apology and restitution of goods or services if these are involved as well. Failing this, the member is placed on one-month probation, during which time he or she is not allowed to participate in club activities. If after probation the accused refuses to comply with the Council's directive then the Council votes on the expulsion of the member by majority vote. In cases of a major offense, the
142 Council may move directly to a vote fo r expulsion. An expe lled member may have his or her ID number removed and released for use by another member. Any unit of the Legion, from Outpost to t he Legion itself, may redress problems in leadership by calling for a vote of no confidence. A call for no confidence requires only one person at the Outpost and Squad le vel to make it. It requires three people at the Garrison level. And it requi res five people at the Legion level to make the call. If a call for vote is made, the Legion Captain of the Guard is called in to oversee the process. A poll is opened for one week and a vote taken of the members of that unit. If at least one-third of the unit membership votes in favor of removing the unit leader, then a one-week period begins wher e nominations are taken. At the end of the week, a poll is opened for one week to vote on the nominees to replace the leader. In the case of a tie, the vote opens for another week and is repeated. In the case of no nominees, Legion Command will appoint a new leader.
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Simpson, Dava L.
Stormtroopers among us :
b Star Wars costuming, connection, and civic engagement
h [electronic resource] /
by Dava L. Simpson.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is to examine the bonds that form between people as consumers of popular visual media and to discuss the relationship and impact of the resulting subcultures on the larger culture. Star Wars costumers offer a magnified glance at some of the ways in which people engage with images. As reflections of popular culture, costumers display their textual devotions and opinions; they embody spectatorship by reincarnating their favorite characters and contexts from text-bound sources. Moreover, they embrace modes of visual representation by performing the roles of both image consumer and image producer. I strive to understand the activities shared by audiences after the viewing experience is over; they are highly articulate interpreting media texts in a variety of interesting and unexpected ways. Whether they impart opinions or pursue alternative relationships with some aspect of the text, people do form communities and celebrate their connections to visual texts. As fans, individuals appropriate movie materials to fulfill personal goals and build social connections. While not all-encompassing, these smaller communities say a lot about the social impact of movies---the impact of images on individuals. This thesis combines an ethnographic study of Star Wars costumers within a theoretical framework of cultural studies and performance to investigate the ways in which media images impact individuals. In documenting events from the perspective of the costumer, I seek to understand the costumer as a member of a visual audience, a reflection of popular culture, and a participant in the dominant culture.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 142 pages.
Adviser: Janna Jones, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.