First off, I apologize for my long absence from the blog. I am a teacher above all things and the spring is a very busy time for those in our profession. The exciting news is that I have lots to talk about. After just returning from a two and a half week vacation to Japan and SDCC, my head is filled with all things geek. This post is just focused on the Comic-Con portion of my trip (I will try to get the Japan portion done in the upcoming weeks).
San Diego Comic-Con International needs no introduction. It's the largest pop culture convention in North America, and because of its strong Hollywood partnership it is the largest of its kind in the world. Having attended multiple Cons in the past (having missed only two conventions since 2007), I have seen how its popularity has evolved over the last decade. A lot of long time attendees will often complain at how much the convention has grown over the years, but personally I am happy to see how the geek culture is growing and being shared. I keep telling that to myself when the sheer terror of badge presale or general sale comes each spring, or when I see the line ups continually growing for Hall H panels. This year I had badges for Friday and Saturday and was lucky enough to attend some great panels. Having decided to avoid Hall H and Ballroom 20 in order to not spend my whole Con in lineups, I caught some good ones in hall 6BCF and Indigo Ballroom. Orphan Black, Vikings, American Gods (the new show based of Neil Gaiman's novel), the Expanse, The Magicians, and Gotham, just to name a few. I'd have to say that the theme for 2016 had a strong focus on women and diversity.
I know Comic Con has had the "women who kick ass" panel, but it has often been seen as a joke to many convention attendees. In doing research for my Masters I came across an article by Kohnen (2014). She noted that "but this spirit of inclusiveness comes up against lingering divisions between male comic book geeks, who might imagine themselves as the rightful audience at Comic-Con and who are embraced by the industry via the fanboy auteur discourse, and female geeks, who, despite a long history of fan involvement, still often remain at the margins" (p. 77). That being said, this year women played a prominent role at the panels I attended. For instance, at the Vikings panel many of the attendees applauded Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha) and commented how they loved seeing such a strong female character on television. However, it was the words of Clive Standon (Rollo) that really stood out. In speaking on behalf of his wife and daughter, he implored that women and their roles should never be referred to as "strong". He said that women should be portrayed as women, and in doing so they are already strong. He pointed out that men would never be referred to as playing a "strong male role". Doing so for women is a disservice to them. Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn Ironside) jumped on this train of thought and suggested that women should be placed in more powerful roles. I have been guilty of using the "strong female" statements before, and this really opened my eyes to how women need to be portrayed and referred to.
Diversity was another theme at Comic-Con. It was most clear at the American Gods panel and The Expanse panel. At American Gods, Neil Gaiman was adamant that he did not want the series "white-washed" and that he wanted each character to be portrayed how he wrote them. The main character, Shadow, being the prime example referred to. Additionally, the topic of diversity was much of the conversation at The Expanse panel. They spoke of how in the future world there would be a mix of different ethnicity all over the planet, therefore this had to be represented in the casting. The majority of the cast comes from a wide range of backgrounds and this is a point of pride for the show. It seems that Comic-Con, which was once a place for middle class, white males has fully undergone a transformation in recent years.. and I cannot be happier about it. If you want to hear any more about Comic-Con, please feel free to contact me! Thanks for reading.
Kohnen, M. (2014). 'The power of geek': Fandom as gendered commodity at comic-con. Creative Industries Journal, 7(1), 75-78. doi:10.1080/17510694.2014.892295
Photo credit from Google.
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