by Aitch Cee
Looking back upon this year, it was a good year for fandom. There were many movies that were released catering to our needs. There has been an increase in the number of TV shows over the years that have done the same not to mention an increase in the ways we can consume them. Also, the numerous big announcements of upcoming shows, movies, comics and games almost make this a perfect nirvana for anyone who calls themselves a geek. But as the year is closing and we look back on this year, as big as it was, one can’t help but note the rise of underlying negativity that has occurred within fandom. Whether it has been an issue with where the line is drawn with cosplayers and the general public about what is acceptable to some of the more blatant racism and sexism that has become rampant, we need to do better as a community if we want this period to thrive. Let’s take a look at some of the issues.
Cosplayer vs Vendors
One of the most recent trends that has happened lately is there has been a number of artists and vendors who are complaining about cosplayers at shows. Their biggest complaint has been that they feel that cosplayers are taking over shows. The claim is that cosplayers are ruining their sales because they are rude, obnoxious and never buy anything. Still, others, such as George Perez, have come to the defense of cosplayers saying they are integral to the shows and that they enjoy being there for the energy that they provide. Speaking for myself as a cosplayer, I know when I go to shows, I usually come back a few dollars lighter but I have bags full of stuff that I saw that I liked. While I cannot speak for every cosplayer out there, I can say for myself that if you are an artist or a vendor who feels a need to avoid shows based on a group of people who you feel are ruining sales, don’t come. There are many others who would be glad to come that appreciate us. We understand that you guys rent tables and want to make some kind of profit for what you do, but some of the complaints about us charging money and acting ‘privileged’ is unbiased. Many of us, myself included, spend money on tickets to get in, lodgings, gas and transportation, food and other amenities. Most of this is before we get into the show. Also, if we aren’t renting a table like you guys, we see no profit from what we do. We are fans just like everyone else.
Likewise, cosplayers, some of us need to do better at shows. Some have been targeted because of their behavior. There are some that DO act as if the show is all about them and ruin the experience of others that is there. We all have to learn to co-exist at shows. Some of us as cosplayers can do a better job at being aware of our surroundings. Making sure that we aren’t blocking someone’s table just to take photos is number one. Number two, if you have the dollars to do it, we CAN support some of these vendors by buying something from them. Even if it’s not something we want, it won’t hurt to buy an item as a gift and giving it to someone who can use them. Also it’s good to support people who have something to sell. Lastly, some of us must do better in knowing our audience. It sometimes bothers me when I hear complaints about someone’s behavior and how it reflects on us as a whole. If there are kids there, try not to do something that a parent may object to. Let’s all do our part to make the con going experience a fun one and support the shows beyond the price of admission.
“Planting the flag” in franchises
If there was anything that bothered me about some of our people is watching them try to ‘claim’ everything as theirs. I get the idea that as a lot of niche things have become more mainstream, many people will cling onto them. But, we have to stop getting upset over some of the changes that has occurred in some of the franchises that we adore, especially those that has been around for ages. For instance, I consider myself a big Star Wars geek since 1977. I have seen the ebb and flow over the years and I have learned to filter what I like and what I don’t like. But what’s bothersome is to watch people ruin it for others by saying things like ‘They are making changes? That’s not MY Star Wars!” I get the idea for some that it’s a change they aren’t comfortable with but others are fanatical. Guess what, about whatever franchise you hold dear; no one person has claim on it except the one who created it. Many of us need to take THAT to heart and learn that franchises have to change if they want to stay successful over time. Some stories will change characters or stray away from canon because if some stay slaved strictly to how it’s been told, audiences can be lost. Something to consider as well, have you noticed that there hasn’t been a Star Trek show on in nearly 10 years? It’s not that there are no good stories to tell, it’s possibly finding a way tell new stories and balance out how to do so to cater to longtime fans as well as new fans. It’s ok to fall in love with a franchise. Just like with any relationship as well, we have to learn that with anything we fall in love with, there will be things we like and hate. Most of all, it will change over time. We just have to learn to adapt.
-isms in our Geekdom
This is the biggest sticking point for something that we all have to do better at in our community. The geek community always seems to boast that we are a community who has come together because we are different and because of that, we look past differences. We were the ones who was bullied, insignificant, or simply ostracized because we liked something that others found odd. However, as the community has grown and more people seek the refuge of the online world to rage about what they like and dislike, our community isn’t that much different as we like to believe.
First off, when it comes to race, what we all need to do better is learn is respect for each other and as mentioned earlier, have respect for change. It’s a shame in this day and age how people can get so upset because Captain America is black now or a movie role of a usually white character goes to a non-white character. Going back to planting flags, these characters that we have grown up on aren’t meant to stay the same forever. Even though they somehow do in the media we have consumed them in they have to change. If you look at Superman or even James Bond since their inception, you can clearly see how they evolved. So, it’s not right, to me, when people get upset because their favorite characters are no longer white and male. Some of the people who got upset over the latest Star Wars trailer about a black stormtroopers are among the biggest hypocrites. Did we not remember that, Billy Dee Williams ran Cloud City? Or, perhaps Sam Jackson was head of the Jedi order? So why are we getting bent out of shape over a lowly stormtrooper especially not knowing what role is being played? And if you consider the clones, they were played by a Maori.
The next is the sexism and there are so many places one could go into. Lady Thor was a sore point for absolutely no reason. Gamergate was a black eye on gaming if there ever was one. People, there is NEVER a need to cowardly threaten to do harm to someone because they have an opinion that you don’t like. Then of course, there was the Milo Manara cover for Spider-Woman. Many people forgot that Manara has done this kind of stuff for years. Likewise, Marvel and Disney while trying to show a more family friendly side, erred in even entertaining the cover which caused the furor. But again, we have to do better. Men, yes, there are women that game and some who game harder than you. Men, there really is a credible lack of female lead characters in games. MEN, yes what Ubisoft said was insensitive and disingenuous at best about not having a female lead. Men, it’s ok for Thor to be a woman for a while and NO, it’s not ok to inappropriately touch or photograph a cosplayer. Just as importantly, it’s really not ok for you to tell a cosplayer that they can’t be a character because they are the wrong color or sex. Lastly you should think before you paint your skin to fit a particular terrestrial race ‘for accuracy’. It may not go over well with all people.
Women, it’s critical to remember that those who yell the loudest do not represent all, or even most, of the men who game, read comics, etc. Most geeks think its awesome when you cosplay any character you choose to be. Its great if you game, read comics, play table top games and whatever your heart desires. And no one should have to defend their choice to do that or spell this out. But for all of us, when approached with ignorance, let’s not meet it with ignorance.’
As we move into 2015, let’s try to do better making our geek communities a safer and more fun place to be. It’s going to go through changes but we must be willing to go along with those changes especially if what we love is something we want to pass on to our children. If we want to demonstrate to the world that we are all inclusive, then we have to do a better job than what we did this year. Sometimes just listening and trying to understand differences goes a long way to improving our small parts of the world. Most of all, as we learn about what each of us has in common as fans of a particular genre, we also have to be more cognizant about what makes each other tick. We are more than people in costumes, more than people with a joystick and comic in hand. Most of us are very knowledgeable of socio-political issues that factor into our growth as a people and that is something that geekdom has no say in. In fact, some of those issues are why the way some of us are and a bigger part why we must do better in being accepting those from different backgrounds. I can’t tell you how many people I lost as friends because they didn’t get to know me outside of my costumes or gaming. Once the real world comes into play, that is when we find out who our real friends are. Take time to know your fellow geeks outside of what you do for fun and it can help you grow a lot.
Let’s try to be better at taking care of each other in 2015 .