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Editorial: Bad Guys Doing Good - An Inside Perspective on the 501st Legion

Discussion in 'SWNN News Feed' started by SWNN Probe, Jan 1, 2022.

  1. SWNN Probe

    SWNN Probe Seeker

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    <p>It’s a cold September morning. The parking lot outside of a Target store in Anaheim, California, is empty save for a few employee’s cars, some stray shopping carts that managed to escape the nightly wrangling, and a few bits of detritus blowing across the asphalt in the crisp autumnal air. It’s 5:30 in the morning, the sun has just barely begun to peak over the tops of the nearby apartment buildings and businesses, but there is already a flurry of activity. A dozen cars pull into the ghost town that is the parking lot and, like an impromptu caravan or a football game tailgate party, the cars, all adorned with bumper stickers that claim that the driver’s other vehicle is the Millennium Falcon, or license plates that read OCVADER, pull up beside one another. Seconds later, a group of bright-eyed men and woman ranging in age from retirement to eighteen years old, embrace each other with hugs, fist bumps, and smiles. These are just a small handful of members of the Southern California Garrison of the world-famous 501<sup>st</sup> Legion. Within the hour, these men and women in their patch-covered vests, looking less like fans of Star Wars and more like a kid-friendly biker gang, will be meeting and greeting with children, their teachers, and local fire and police officials. Within the next hour, these men and women will be marching through the aisles of the retailer, together with low-income children, not as themselves, but as Stormtroopers, TIE Pilots, Imperial Officers, and even Lord Vader himself.</p>


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    <p>By the end of the morning, with the sun fully risen, nearly a hundred children will stand awkwardly in front of the store, holding bags of their donated school supplies and clothing, and clamoring to stand next to Boba Fett and Darth Vader, vying for the attention of every and any Stormtrooper within earshot. As the kids have their photos taken and then board buses that will whisk them and their teachers back to school, they chatter amongst themselves, talking less about shopping for schools supplies with a cop or firefighter, and instead, in awed tones and breathlessly, about seeing Darth Vader in person and how that Stormtrooper found them the perfect shirt and pencil set. Even the teachers and fire and police officers giddily ask for photo after photo with the Star Wars characters, and show them the same sense of awe and joy as the little ones now pulling out of the parking lot and waving furiously as they head back to school with tales to tell their friends at recess.</p>


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    <p>When the newly christened Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader, marches solemnly to the Jedi Temple of Coruscant, ready to dispense Sith justice to those who he feels have slighted him in Revenge of the Sith, he is accompanied in his grim task by a legion of Clone Troopers – the 501<sup>st</sup>. When the film released in 2005, the 501<sup>st</sup> Legion was already the stuff of real-life legends and now, as a thank you to those who are referred to as “Bad Guys Doing Good”, the creator himself, George Lucas paid homage to the world-wide organization by canonizing them for all time as part of the celebrated Star Wars films.</p>


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    <p>Founded in 1997 by Albin Johnson and Tom Crews, the 501<sup>st</sup> Legion started out as just a couple of fans who wanted to dress in movie-accurate, homemade Stormtrooper armor for the theatrical release of the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition. Now, nearly 25 years later, the small group that formed in South Carolina, is a globe-spanning organization with members from dozens of countries. While the group is known for their diligent adherence to screen-accuracy in member’s costumes, the group is just as known for the work it has done and continues to do to not only bring the love of that galaxy far, far away to young and old alike, but for charity, literacy, and various causes around the world.</p>


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    <p>I joined the Legion and my local Garrison in Southern California nearly five years ago. In all the years of attending conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con, WonderCon in Anaheim, and Celebration, I always looked to the 501<sup>st</sup> as something I dearly wished to join, but never thought I had what it took. After attending many conventions as a member, I have come to realize that no matter how kind and encouraging a member can be when discussing membership, those interested will almost always face the same intimidation that I did knowing just what a prestigious group this is.</p>


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    <p>I have spent my time in the Legion bringing smiles to just as many children as adults, and I know my fellow members can easily say they have done the same. There is something truly magical in not only sharing one’s love of a particular fandom or franchise, but also doing so in the name of good works.</p>


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    <p>So recognized and beloved is the group that, when “Weird Al” Yankovik goes on tour, his tour reps reach out to the local members to appear on stage with him as he croons his beloved spoof of Don McLean’s Americana anthem 'American Pie' as the brilliantly rewritten retelling of The Phantom Menace in The Saga Begins.</p>


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    <p>When filming the first season of The Mandalorian, John Favreau and Dave Filoni were in need of dozens of Stormtroopers and reached out to the Legion. In the very first encounter between Mando and Moff Gideon, the Imperial leader is surrounded by men and women who make that shiny, white armor on the weekends and generally wear it to visit sick children in the hospital.</p>


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    <p>This gets to the very heart of what makes the Legion so special — it has never been a group that seeks out opportunities to appear on screen or for the sake of appearances. No, this is a group that puts its dedication to doing good and raising awareness of great causes above and beyond the accolades of getting a shoutout on a behind the scenes special for a Disney+ show. Most of the time, hard-working, dedicated members are not appearing at conventions, or parading around a Disney Park; most of the time, they are sweating it out in their hot, plastic armor while helping raise money for children’s hospitals or fundraisers for senior living. You will often find them taking photos at libraries during reading awareness events. The 501<sup>st</sup> members put a lot of their own time and money into making the most accurate costumes possible, but they do all their appearances for free.</p>


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    <p>While the organization is not without the occasional internal controversy or free from issues with cliques or gatekeepers, the vast majority of those involved are there to do good and to bring the joy of Star Wars to anyone and everyone they can. This is a group that has had a very close and unique relationship with Lucasfilm and has continued to do so even after the LFL acquisition by Disney in 2012. This is a group recognized by the Father of the Force and known worldwide. This is a group I am proud to be a member of. This is a group that has found that unique balance of sharing one’s love for laser swords and pew-pew with charity work and doing some real good in the world.</p>


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    <p>This truly is a group of bad guys doing good.</p>


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    #1 SWNN Probe, Jan 1, 2022
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2022
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  2. Lock_S_Foils

    Lock_S_Foils Red Leader

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    I have always wanted to join this organization, it is just i am not sure i can invest the time into it....
     
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  3. General Kenobi

    General Kenobi Rebel General

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    I've been a member for nearly 15 yrs and have met a lot of great people and made lifelong friendships and memories. Sometimes the internal politics sours me but that can be true of any group.
     
  4. The dinh

    The dinh Rebel General

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    The Tampa Bay squad is awesome, I see them at all sorts of events and fundraisers.
     
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