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The Force That Binds
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens just weeks away, we enter the fan side of the force in Malaysia.
In 1977, a pop-culture phenomenon hyper-spaced its way out from the mind of George Lucas into the collective imagination of a generation. And grew it did, larger and more powerful than even a half-machine Sith Lord could ever imagine, until an entire planet and future generations was under its sway.
The stories and myths of a galaxy far, far away has led to one of the most passionate and enduring fan communities to date. Star Wars fandom is a force to be reckoned with. And the force is strong in Malaysia too.
Malaysia alone is home to multiple groups and societies like the Star Wars Malaysia Fan Club (SWMFC), The 601st – Outlaw Garrison, the Malaysia Chapter of the 501st Legion, The Force Arts Stunt Team, LightSaber League Malaysia, FightSaber Malaysia and Peperangan Bintang - a wayang kulit (shadow puppet) troupe who retell Star Wars: A New Hope through shadow puppetry.
Malaysian fans have built a local community that is as diverse, rich, and creative as the colourful mosaic of galactic systems and planets in the Star Wars saga.
“My gateway into Star Wars was with The Empire Strikes Back at age eight. And ever since then, I never looked back,” recalls Alex or Darth Ursa, a veteran of the local Star Wars fan scene. “The ideals of the series, its sense of wonder and how it actually fostered my love of science and understanding how things work, is why I love Star Wars. It definitely encouraged me to keep an open mind to many things in life.”
As a fan, Alex has amassed an impressive collection of Star Wars books, comics, toys, statues, memorabilia, costumes and elaborate, functioning lightsabers. In his role as Darth Ursa, he plays a self-created Dark Lord of the Sith at local Star Wars events organised by the SWMFC or when events like the recent KL Fashion Week require the presence of the dark and light side.
Alongside his wife, Jasz (also a dedicated Star Wars fan), they’ve recently set up the Malaysian chapter of FightSaber, an international Star Wars lightsaber performance and costuming organisation.
“Why I love Star Wars? Well, it was mostly because of Leia! She was the first female character I saw on-screen that wasn’t a damsel in distress. She was not just feminine, she took charge, had the best lines – “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?” is one of my faves – and she had that little spark with bad boy Han Solo.” As a female fan of Star Wars, Jasz was a little hesitant in sharing her love for Star Wars, but her passion couldn’t be contained for long.
The couple are also heavily involved in the costuming portion of fandom and starting Fightsaber has challenged them to gain new skills, which are not only useful for the real world, but also in the alternate Star Wars universe.
“Making and maintaining these costumes is no joke. Especially with costumes like Alex’s Darth Ursa outfit, there are many bespoke leather pieces like lightsaber friendly belts, gloves and tunics to care for. I took up sewing just to maintain not only our outfits, but also our members’ Star Wars characters getups – from armoured bounty hunters to Jedi robes to light saber holders,” says Jasz.
Their love and lives revolve around Star Wars too. They married with a Jedi and Sith guard of honour, the Imperial March as their wedding song, and share a home filled with their homemade costumes, combined collections of Star Wars related stuff, and Yoda, their wise and green pet terrapin.
“We feel a big sense of belonging with FightSaber members and with the rest of the Star Wars community in Malaysia. It’s about bringing people together to share something special and bigger than both of us. All of this passion is voluntary. Most Star Wars fan organisations here, like ours, are actually charity based. So all our events and performances are for charity.”
While Alex and Jasz represent a highly dedicated type of Star Wars fans in Malaysia, there is a rich, layered diversity to Star Wars fandom.
According to Ian, who joined FightSaber because he wanted to apply his martial skills to lightsaber performance, “There are many levels to fandom. You can be a casual watcher of the movies, a collector that specialises in Star Wars Lego Sets or action figures, a gamer that loves playing all the Star Wars related games, or someone who just wants to cosplay, it doesn’t matter. You’re a fan, and you can relate to anyone who loves the Star Wars universe.”
As Star Wars: The Force Awakens draws closer and the anticipation of a million fans grow, it’s worth appreciating the impact of this space opera and how it provided meaning to so many people.
We are all fans of a simple story about good vs. evil, about wielding the courage to overcome the odds, to have hope over despair. And if you ever need to feel the light side of the force (or dip into the dark), you can count on Malaysian Star Wars fandom to hyperspace you there.
Feel the force. Useful Star Wars links in Malaysia:
The SMWFC will be hosting events every weekend in the lead up to the Force Awakens. Get in touch on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/starwarsmalaysiafc/?ref=ts&fref=ts
Learn light saber skills with FightSaber in Kuala Lumpur: https://www.facebook.com/FightSaberMY/timeline
By Wong Tjun Tjen
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