Episode Four- A Nerd Hope
This is the fourth in a six part series celebrating the release of the latest Star Wars movie ‘The Force Awakens.’ After going through some awful stuff in the last entry, how about something uplifting and positive, albeit bittersweet?
Sometimes life is a big old bag off shit. That’s actually the most congenial way to put it. Sometimes, life is an awesome cornucopia of kindness, generosity, and compassion. Unfortunately there are many times you need the manure of life’s downs to grow the flowers that are life’s ups. We need the shit to fully realize how much good there can be on this planet. In recent months we have unfortunately, and then fortunately, been witness to both.
In my last column I put out a few examples of how nerds can be a bunch of whiny, derogatory asshats that make it so we can’t have nice things. But in the last couple of months there has been at least one shining example of how great the nerd community can be.
In July of this year, Star Wars fan Daniel Fleetwood was given two months to live as a result of a rare cancer called spindle cell sarcoma (a cancer of the connective tissue in the body). Like many nerds might in his situation, he feared he wouldn’t get to see the next Star Wars movie. This is an all too familiar feeling among the fan community, especially when dealing with a franchise that is planned out years in advance. Even in the case of Star Wars, people joked they hoped they didn’t die before the completion of the prequels. There was even a movie, ‘Fanboys,’ that dealt with a terminally ill friend who wanted to see ‘The Phantom Menace’ before he died.
But Daniel’s situation was not a joke. It was not a what if. It was not a movie. It was reality, and a harsh one. One that I hope was made better by a campaign to grant him his dying wish, and allow him to see the next Star Wars film, ‘The Force Awakens’, as soon as possible before he was no longer able. By all accounts, Daniel was past his prognosis, and could go any time.
In an age when that thing known as the Internet can be a wasteland of hate and despair, this was an instance of something good that can come from a community of nerds connected. I don’t know how the campaign started, you can Google that for yourself, but fans and celebrities used social media to get Daniel a screening of the movie. Star Wars actors Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Daisy Ridley among many more showed their support. Every day Joes tweeted #ForceForDaniel. And it worked. Daniel saw ‘The Force Awakens’ before any other fans.
But of course, some endings are bittersweet. Not long after Daniel saw the film, he died.
I meant to write this at the time of his death, but decided to save it. These columns with the new movie at their center had quite a bit of negativity at their centers, despite a lot of good, and I wanted to make sure there was some positive vibes. I like when I can stand loud and proud with other members of fandom and show others what kind of people nerds really are.
I didn’t know Daniel. I don’t know his widow, or his family, or any of his friends. I couldn’t tell you if he was an all around good guy or if people thought he was a dick (though, I doubt it). On the face of it, he was a hash tag and a collection of photos on the Internet. In reality, he was a fellow fan whose story reached a lot of people, struck a chord in more than just Star Wars fans, and brought together a community that can easily be divided by the most petty of creative choices.
The same folks who complain about a black guy playing a white character, or all leather outfits for the X-Men, or mechanical versus organic web shooters, are the same people who rallied together to help convince a global conglomerate, filmmakers, actors, etc to grant the wish of a single dying fan. This is an example of fandom at its best, and it makes me proud to be a nerd. It’s an odd thing when one is choked up by the experience of a complete stranger, and the actions of other strangers for his or her well being. But the more I eulogize someone I’ve never met, I find a lump in my throat.
As if there weren’t enough thoughts and feelings going into the opening of a movie, I will watch ‘The Force Awakens’ with slightly more meaning, a bit more emotional weight, and a deeper sense that these are not just movies. Daniel will most likely be in my thoughts at one point or another, and I doubt I’m alone.
Who better to give some words of wisdom than Yoda? Here’s what he might have to say on the matter:
“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.”
“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”
Daniel…May the Force be with you. Always.
None of the photos used are property of Rhymes With Nerdy. Though, in our defense, one of our own was going to make a Force Ghost Daniel. As you can see, someone did a heck of a job before we could. Kudos to that person. Please, PLEASE, don’t sue.