15th March marked an epic milestone in my normally mundane life. It was just one month back, on the 15th of February, after doing a minding stint with the 501st for their China Square Central trooping (minding is where you accompany your armoured buddies around as they mingle with the crowds, to ensure they don’t encounter anything serious like a fall or a boisterous crowd member wanting to peel stuff off his armour kit. Visibility inside a Stormtrooper helmet is severely limited as it is), I was asked by the Singapore Garrison CO if I had the time to borrow his spare armour kit and take part in next month’s St. Patrick’s Day Trooping. I was elated to know that it was on a Sunday (absolutely nothing on that day), and gladly accepted.
It was just two years ago when I first encountered the 501st legion, at a Cosplay event in Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza (later met them again at Cosfest the same year. I was still a greenhorn back then). They were doing promotional work and escorting duties, and I conversed a bit with a stormtrooper manning the booth, who handed me a flyer. He was a Blackhole Trooper, a black variant of the usually white stormtrooper.
I turned 18 in January, meaning I am fully qualified age-wise to officially join the legion. The only thing holding me back is the lack of funds to purchase my own armour. One needs to have his own so that he can file his application to the headquarters. And with the poorly state I live in currently, plus the added stress and time consumption of my ‘A’-level studies, joining this year, like what my other same-aged friend (younger than me by a few months) managed to do, would be quite the impossibility. While I understand and acknowledge how eager the garrison is to accept me into the family, I really don’t have the money to back myself up. Such is the misery of the world today, more so than your financial crises and MRT deaths and what have you.
While I present to you some pictures courtesy of Lester Lim, a comrade at the 501st, of the event, I thought I’d just say something somewhat related to this topic.
What kind of leisure do grown men and women, already settled down with jobs to work and families to support, partake in to walk among society dressed up as fictional characters with cumbersome, non-ergonomical costume designs?
A documentary, Heart of an Empire, was produced to answer that very question.
Human beings, from the beginning of time, have always felt the compulsion of being part of a large congregation in society, among breathren of a similar cause.
SEJA (Sub-Esplanade Jedi Academy, from this we all can derive where they go for practice sessions) guys get to sit down. Troopers can’t sit due to their armour. This guy’s called Spiff around these parts.
All interest groups, big or small, share this same characteristic, but the 501st distinctly involves Star Wars fans who have dreams of emulating their silver screen heroes, and set about bringing onscreen fantasy into real life, obtaining armour moulds from the original prop manufacturers and blueprints from movie costume designers, and building up from there.
The Stormtrooper, in particular to most other cosplay, enjoys the added value of having this aura of mysteriousness and anonymity around his costume; it is uniform, worn by many all across the world, and somewhat detaches the wearer from the rest of the world, which he views from behind his visor.
In extreme cases, the armour, bulky as it is, offers santuary to the wearer, a portable security blanket that covers him wholly, providing warmth (too much, during sunny days) and protecting him from the elements (I should say at this point of this that it poured heavily during the marching procession. I received ample shelter from the rain while inside my armour). It is like a life support system, emotionally speaking (as long as the person does not suffer from claustrophobia).
The 501st is also not just a costuming group who entertains the masses. We play a part in promotional events and charities, such as movie premieres and various fundraising programmes all around the world.
As an international community, we take the opportunity to bring the world closer by understanding each other’s lifestyles and cultures through regional exchanges, visitations and event participations. We have troopers from Australia and Malaysia coming over to join us in trooping events, members from our legion fly to Taiwan every year to take part in the Asia-pacific 501st showcasing, and a lucky few have attended the highly-acclaimed Rose Parade in CA, USA, which features a gathering of garrison members from all over the world.
Man, if it weren’t for the pictures I think you might’ve mistaken this post to be an errant General Paper / Knowledge & Inquiry essay without a conclusion. Yeah, I suck at writing conclusions.