It started with a YouTuber named Natalie Gold. You don’t know her. She’s not “internet famous”. Natalie is in fact a new face on YouTube. Her channel just passed eleven thousand subscribers. Just another creative soul trying to produce content to connect with like-minded folks on the web.
But Natalie inadvertently did something incredible. Something that I thought was impossible. She did what every fan hopes to do. She inspired another to become a fan again. Here’s how it happened.
In the middle of the COVID outbreak Gold jumped on a rising trend of watching movies that she had missed. On May 18th, 2020 Natalie uploaded the video “Reacting to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (FIRST TIME WATCHING!!)” A video that you will be able to watch as I’ve linked to it in this article.
Gold began watching the Star Wars franchise. Not a groundbreaking idea. Not new. Many other YouTube creators have recently done the same. But Gold’s approach was perfect. She was walking into the series more or less blind. Her previous videos had anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand views. But once Gold started her Star Wars series the views skyrocketed to 50, 60, up to currently 75 thousand views per video.
At first, I began watching because I thought that it would be interesting to see a newcomer watch the old classics. How would the original trilogy hold up? How bad would Gold tear apart the franchise? It was morbid curiosity. I’ve become a cynic in my own fandom. Been there, done that, seen it all.
But then it happened.
I watched this woman sit down and fall in love with a film franchise that has been so vital to the geek community. She fell in love with the movies that were so important to my own pop culture journey, and that helped shape my love for all things nerd.
I watched Natalie take the first steps into the Star Wars universe and I was a kid again as I watched her experience the emotional highs and lows of the films. I was delighted as she asked all the questions that I and my friends asked when we had first taken our own steps into Star Wars. Why was C3PO so helpless and whiny? Why didn’t Han say I love you too? Vader is Luke’s WHAT?!?
Watching a newcomer react to the scenes and characters that had become second nature to me reminded me of what this crazy thing called fandom is really about. It’s born in a place of wonder. It’s a stirring of the imagination. It’s an emotional connection with characters that feel so real that they transport you away from your life and take you to a galaxy far, far away.
By the time I was done I had watched Gold take the journey through the original trilogy and then go back and consume the prequels. The prequels…ah those pesky prequels. But again taking this journey with Gold surprised me. It was through the eyes of a new fan that I found a deeper appreciation for the material that I had so quickly written off years ago because “It wasn’t my Star Wars”. Yes, there are some terrible elements…I’m looking at you Binks, but watching Gold root for the romance between Anakin and Padme made me see the series of films in a new light. That I had discounted the work without giving it the opportunity to really reach me.
It was Gold’s honest moments of reaction that stole the show. The gasps at the sight of the Wampa, cheering for the survival of her own favorite character R2D2, the tears at the fate of the young Jedi children in Episode 3. She was the perfect conduit back to my own childhood and my own initial reactions. It made me want to share the magic with others again.
When you become a critic and start getting involved with the inner workings of pop culture and entertainment you force yourself out of that place of wonder. You often don’t have time to get lost in the imagination and whimsy that most pieces of art are created for. Your job is to coldly dissect and analyze why something is successful or why something has failed. And if you do it long enough you lose your ability to enjoy any art at all.
I had gotten to that point. I was burnt out.
The daily grind of a reviewer is all about the balance of critical reviews and wading through an endless sea of promotion. Every movie, TV show, creator, podcast, comic, album, magazine, and website are more than willing to promote. It might be nice to get access to various media, but with that access is the parade of promotion. You think that it’s bad because you have ads on your videos and webpages… it’s my job to look at those ads and commercials and then decide what’s going to be successful and then write about it, which generates content to be used as more promotion for whatever I write about. I’m an unpaid advertisement. Plain and simple.
Now imagine doing that for years on end. Your inbox is full of content that you need to write about. You read to write reviews. You argue the merits and points of your reviews with others. Your creative life is spent shilling for others to an audience that has also become numb. It’s soul-crushing. It’s all too easy to lose interest in what made you want to get involved with pop culture and entertainment, to begin with.
Enter Natalie Gold. Enter a new fan. Enter a reminder of how wonderful this pop culture landscape truly is.
As the world wrestles with which lives matter, as cities burn and the street’s rage, as the evening news still reminds us that there is a deadly virus that could ravage us all, as the unemployment numbers and the economy bounce around… there is an escape.
For some of us, it is Star Wars. For some, it was the X-Men. For others it’s Batman… or Superman… or Halo… or cosplay… or millions of other options that make up our popular culture. It’s more important now than ever to share that love. To share the wonder with the world. To welcome in new fans.
Even in this heartfelt article, I have promoted someone else’s work. But this time I feel that I have focused the spotlight on someone deserving of a mention. A follow. A like. A share. A subscribe.
Go check out what Natalie Gold is doing. Show a fellow fan support. Then go out and share your own passion with the world because God knows we need it right now.