In previous columns I’ve gone over the ins and outs of being a trooper in the 501st Legion, what it’s like to wear the costumes, building the costumes and more. This time we are shifting the focus to outside of the costumes.
The 501st is a lot of things, but first and foremost we are a club. A place for like minded people to gather and celebrate their shared love of Star Wars and costuming. There were a lot of things I did not realize about the Legion before joining, one of the biggest things was the friendship and bonds that would form. Never was this more evident than at the most recent Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim. The 501st Legion is a worldwide group and a major event like Celebration pulls people in from all corners of the globe.
Even before arriving in Anaheim I had already met several Legion members en route in the Atlanta airport. I’m not the most outgoing person and I’m usually the last person who will talk to a random stranger, especially in an already awkward and stressful place like the airport. But seeing others wearing their Legion T-shirts was like seeing a familiar face in the crowd. As the convention progressed I found myself spending time with Legion members from all over the world including Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and all over the US.
How does something as silly as dressing like plastic spacemen connect us?
Just from my own experience when I first took the plunge to join I had no idea what I was doing. That forced me to join the various forums and community for tips and tricks on building. Going through that first build was an experience unto itself, but it was also one that every member had been through. The agonizing late nights as you try desperately to get the pieces to work, the frustration as it doesn’t work and you have to undo or redo hours of work. We’ve all been through it before, so we want to help others in getting it done.
Once you are approved and you are out there trooping you spend countless hours side by side with the same people. Trooping is physically exhausting so most events end with a gathering for food and sharing stories. It’s easy to see how bonds can form.
In Star Wars this connection is mirrored with the Clonetroopers. As soon as the troopers were introduced in the Attack of the Clones the expanded universe began to write stories of the troopers being a brotherhood, sharing a common bond and being a part of something bigger. They were all brothers in arms. The 501st is much the same. We all come from different backgrounds but share this common thread that connects us. I like to think that the way the clones acted and connected may have been at least partially inspired by the Legion and it’s members.