Chad Vader - Day Shift Manager
Blame Society Productions, USA, 2006, 4:47
The brainchild of Matt Sloan and Aaron Yonda, Chad Vader initially landed on the web via YouTube and MySpace in the summer of 2006, the first of eight episodes. The comic short series follows the adventures of Chad Vader, the younger, lesser-known and mostly inept brother of the arch-villian Darth Vader from the Star Wars movies.
Chad, in full black mask and suit (which apparently cost $600) works as the day manager of Empire Market, and has all the powers, the lightsaber (and voice) of Darth, and ill-fortune to deal with the earthbound and mundane struggles of grocery store managing life - lazy employees, demanding customers, the vagaries of the dating world, and a major conflict with night manager Clint. The latter relationship propels the arc of the series, as Chad is shunted to the night shift, quits the market, goes on a roaring drunk, fails at other jobs, and then duels Clint in Episode 8 to regain the vaunted position of day shift manager.
Chad Vader is both a good example of the viral power of the internet (I first heard about it through word of mouth, before it began spreading outward to Good Morning America and the BBC among other venues), and also of the "remediation effect" mentioned in our reading on YouTube, the practice of reusing or reworking material from one media in a different media, in this case generating comedy on the internet with an iconic film character. Viewers also have to be in on the culture of Star Wars to get the joke (the dialogue from the films and his powers are assumed knowledge).
I enjoyed the series when it came out, and it's got higher production values (and much more thought process) than many other YouTube bits, but in an odd way, it also feels "dated" by the standards of our national nanosecond attention span, swept aside in the great onrush forward. My current webseries obsession, which is still playing out this fall, is based here in DC.
Meanwhile, time will tell if Sloan and Yonda are one-hit wonders. They're still based out in Madison, Wisconsin (the set location for the series), have added merchandising to their repertoire, and are busy working on Series 2 of Chad Vader, just two more lucky lottery winners of this new world order (or third screen) of internet celebrity-dom.