by L. Christopher Bird
This is an odd move for WPLG Local 10, a newscaster in the Miami Florida area. Orlando was the recent host of Celebration VI, the official Star Wars convention, which brought fans from all over the world to Florida for the weekend event. WPLG Local 10 decided to cover the event with a photograph slide show called “What The Force???: Most bizarre Star Wars Convention sightings.” A series of 45 photographs of Star Wars fans, mostly in costume, with captions ranging from insulting, to derogatory, to even racist. A caption of an older gentleman dressed as Alec Guinness’ portrayal of Obi Wan Kenobi was captioned, “Someone got lost looking for the AARP convention.” Another photograph of a fan dressed as Lando Calrissian famously portrayed by Billy Dee Williams has a caption stating, “Without a bottle of Colt 45 in hand this costume is just incomplete…” With the 43 other photographs things did not get better, with a common theme that being a Star Wars fan are socially awkward nerds who have never experienced romance. Examples include: “Here’s a shocker… it’s dudes taking pics of the fake Princess Leias. Like they’ve never seen a woman before. Well, hmmm…”, ”A reproduction of their prom picture… no girls.”, ”Dateless men for as far as they eye can see. ”
What WPLG may not have realized is what Star Wars costuming is best known for within the community: Selfless public service, raising money for charity, and bringing smiles to critically ill children. The most prominent of these costuming groups, the 501st Legion, who dress as Stormtroopers and other “bad guy” characters have raised $11.8 Million dollars in 2011 for various charities. Along with other costuming groups, Star Wars fans have turned what was derided as a fringe activity as a source of great good in the world. That WPLG chose to disparage this part of the fan base, things did not go over well.
A torrent of complaints about the slide show began to pour into the station. They seemed to pull the slide show down, but had only just moved it to a different url, this time changing some of the captions and turning off comments. The outrage started to pour out onto WPLG’s facebook page. WPLG pulled the slide show and issued the following apology as a facebook status.
GOOD NEWS (or BAD NEWS… depending on where you sided) The infamous STAR WARS slideshow has been taken down.
For those offended (and let us know), sorry.
For those who enjoyed it (and let us know), sorry.
Remember… the force will be with you… always
The above apology was received by the community as insincere and responses to the post said so. WPLG began deleting comments and soon the status update was removed.
As far as this reporter can tell, there has been a steady deluge of negative comments on WPLG’s facebook page for the past 24 hours until a “cease fire” was called for at 11:30 EST, until 12:30 EST as a show of good faith while Rob Semas, a PR officer for the Florida Garrison of the 501st Legion negotiates with WPLG’s management for a formal apology.
At 6:00 PM EST, an apology was posted to WPLG’s website. It was written in the first person, but unsigned. The community of Star Wars fans remains divided on the sincerity of the apology, but most seem to think it was sincere.