Saturday, January 2, 2016

When interviewing 'Star Wars' superfans goes very wrong

Amanda Avery shoots the camera a look during her interview with this model builder.

I don't know why, exactly, but I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos about Star Wars toys and the people who collect them lately. I don't collect Star Wars memorabilia myself; in fact, I try not to collect anything these days. It eats up money, and I don't have the space for it anyway. I'm not even a Star Wars fanatic. I grew up with the movies and still enjoy them, but they're not essential to my life. I even waited a whole week before seeing The Force Awakens. In recent years, I've become deeply ambivalent towards so-called "geek" or "fanboy" culture in general. I don't go to conventions or do any sort of model making or cosplay. I've been called a nerd many times in my life, but I don't identify with real nerds, the ones who know all the trivia and have pristine collections of mint-on-card action figures. I can't keep up with those guys and don't want to try.

So why do I watch Star Wars toy videos? For one, I love to hear people patiently explain things to me, as long as it's not about anything serious. Nothing about the news or health or finances. Just silly stuff. That's why I frequently watch product reviews for as-seen-on-TV gadgets I would never think of purchasing. It doesn't matter if I really care about the subject, just as long as the host or narrator cares about it. And that's what you get with Star Wars collectors. They can talk on and on, usually in a very calm and zen-like manner, about the various figures, playsets, and vehicles in their possession. A particular favorite of mine is Micahc6v8, who seems to have gone AWOL a couple of years ago. Those videos were my gateway drug into the world of Star Wars fandom on YouTube. Another great channel is The Budget Jedi, where the host only collects less-expensive, more-recent figures and builds homemade dioramas to display them. These clips are extremely soothing to me.

But sometimes, it can all go wrong. As proof, I just discovered a video in which a young woman named Amanda Avery interviews a Star Wars superfan who has built a gigantic, movie-accurate model of the Death Star in his North Carolina garage. To say the least, there is a profound disconnect between these two people. This plays like an extremely subtle but devastating Saturday Night Live skit, something that cringe-loving weirdo Kyle Mooney might have cooked up for the coveted "ten to one" slot. I can find no evidence that this was staged or scripted. For all I know, it's genuine. The model builder seems to take no joy whatsoever in his creation, and the hostess cannot help but roll her eyes at the camera throughout the conversation. What's more amazing is that this was the second attempt at filming a conversation between these two people. I repeat: This was Take 2. Amanda Avery is pilloried in the comments, but I think some viewers will sympathize with her. In a way, I sympathize with both of these people.

Anyway, I don't want to oversell this. Just watch. Thanks.