The use and abuse of Star Wars

Two weird things involving dejected children and Attack of the Clones happened on opposite sides of the planet....

Mark Adnum

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In late May and early June 2002, weird things involving dejected children and the new Star Wars film happened on opposite sides of the planet.

In London, hordes of British children were priced out of C3PO’s autograph – while in the Australian desert, young Afghan refugees were treated to a rare excursion: a trip to the movies, and a free screening of the film.

According to the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), Anthony Daniels, the actor who has played C3-PO in all five Star Wars films, was charging young fans at an east London collectors’ fair £23 for his autograph. IMBD reports that many teenagers and children left ‘empty-handed because they couldn’t afford Daniels’ expensive scribbles’ (1).

The article continues: ‘Andrew Davy, 16, who travelled all the way from Lancashire, north England to meet the actor, moans…“The queue was a mile long and we waited there for well over an hour with our autograph books ready. But when we got to the front of the queue, we were told it would cost us £23. That was just for the autograph on a piece of paper. Some of the younger kids were crying”.’ (2)

Now, I’m not an especially big Star Wars fan, but even so, I can’t see what would be so valuable about having Anthony Daniels’ autograph. Wouldn’t I have to tell everyone who he was? Daniels has created his famous character from behind a mask and full body costume, and he himself isn’t really famous at all.

But Star Wars fans are different. They’ll pay top dollar for any kind of memorabilia, whether it’s a vacuum-sealed two-inch R2-D2 figurine (US$999) (3), or, even more worthless, admission to the new film Attack of the Clones… (£8).

Star Wars is a volcanic cash cow with no precedent – its dolls, toys, books and millions of cinema tickets have generated billions and billions of dollars. This is what makes Daniels’ attempt to make a bit of holiday money out of selling his autograph seem so sad. Come to think of it, I don’t hear much out of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) these days, and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) turned to writing years ago. What are they doing to earn a living?

If you think you’re going to bump into someone out of Star Wars, don’t forget to bring your change purse.

Meanwhile, in the Simpson Desert here in Australia, young Afghan refugees were reportedly whisked from their razor-wire detention camps and taken on an impromptu excursion to see Attack Of The Clones. Though camp organisers deny it, the excursion coincided with allegations that the camps were being spruced up in time for a UN inspection. Apparently, flowerbeds and fake turf were laid, and food rations increased. Other refugees were taken to see sheep being sheared.

The Woomera refugee detention centre, 44 hours’ road journey from Sydney, has been at the centre of controversy for more than a year – with inmates protesting against the sluggish processing of their asylum applications by rioting, sewing their lips together, and setting fire to the premises.

I wonder if the movie excursion included popcorn and a drink, or whether the children concerned had the faintest idea what they were looking at?

Recently, the Australian government offered each refugee $2000 (that’s Australian dollars) to return to Afghanistan. Depending on how impressed they were with the flim, some may want to spend that money on 33 Anthony Daniels autographs.

Read on:

spiked-issue: Film

(1) Celebrity News: 19 June 2002, Internet Movie Database

(2) Celebrity News: 19 June 2002, Internet Movie Database

(3) See item on ebay

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