Hey Fanboy, it's Okay to Be a Fan
by Todd VanHooser
I love the convention scene. Big or small, I love the sense of energy that surrounds the event and the opportunity to escape reality for a weekend and submerge into a world of guilty pleasures. But over the last few years, I’ve noticed a growing trend that leaves me increasingly unsettled. With Phoenix Comicon heading our way in May, this felt like a good time to shed some light on the subject.
Where many of us attend conventions like Comic Con with the hopes of meeting actors, idols, artists, and authors, an increasing number of fans have lost their way into roles of self-appointed importance and celebrity.
Let’s look at the media frenzy that accompanies the larger events. Everyone has a camera, and who can blame them? However, it’s difficult to distinguish the average attendee from the “official” media when both are documenting the convention with the same Best Buy camcorder while wearing variations of an Avengers t-shirt. My contention with the current scene is that there is no difference. Too often this is the same person—ultimately a fan, not a journalist. So I’d like to know who runs a valid podcast with a loyal and measurable audience? Who are the hacks just trying to slip into a pricey event like Phoenix Comicon on a “media” badge? These weekend media moguls are not here to cover the event or add a unique perspective, they're taking advantage of the system as well as the other attendees.
There’s a degree of professionalism that needs to differentiate genuine media from mere Facebook fan pages.As for the real media guys & gals out there, I absolutely admire your work and dedication, and am always amazed by your tenacity when it comes to the con scene. You've earned your place through hard work. I just hate to see the parasites swimming in your wake.
Everyone knows that the convention floor is a buffet of costumed characters. I for one appreciate the enthusiasm in fans brave enough to craft their own costumes. Serious time, effort and passion go into these, and let’s face it—there aren’t a lot of opportunities to don the perfect Doctor Who tweed and bow tie, World of Warcraft armor, Batman cowl, or Spock ears in our normal lives. I think that most costumed guests pull it off fantastically, and have no other agenda than to celebrate those lovable guilty pleasures. Great. Excellent. I'm a fan of these fans.
But its those who begin to confuse themselves with the status of celebrity they are impersonating that draw my ire.
Ultimately, my question is this: when did we decide to reward fandom with celebrity? Or, in other words, when did it become uncool to just be a fan?
And maybe more importantly, why are we letting them get away with it? Are we so desperate to have a camera shoved in our face that we don’t care who holds it? Does a twenty-something anime or videogame fan really earn the price of admission simply by wearing the revealing costume of an obscure character? Specifically I'm talking about those who feel their ticket/badge should be covered simply because of their participation as a costumed guest. Where did the sense of entitlement come from? Why do certain cosplayers get in for free, when the average attendee who went through as much time and effort on their costume preparation pays the full ticket price? Is it assumed that part of the audience is actually coming to see cosplayers as an attraction rather than the plethora of comic book, acting, and writing talent on display?
Part of the problem is that some of these cosplayers masquerade not only as fictional characters, but also as the event media, which now compounds the two major issues I've mentioned. With a small handful of exceptions, many of these people are simply taking advantage of the system. Their media coverage is self-serving, pandering, and has little to do with the event and a lot to do with personal mugging to the camera. When the end product has nothing to do with media, these people should be paying their way just like everyone else.
There are notable exceptions to this observation--groups such as Arizona's 501st, and the local DC and Marvel groups among others whose participation in charity events, etc. have truly left lasting impressions. And its worth noting that there certainly are other individuals who are exceptions to the rule. Work and determination have helped set them apart, not to mention a sacrifice of their own personal lives. (Naturally these rare people have their swarm of parasites and vultures.) I applaud their drive and perseverance, but again this has been earned. And please remember, I'm not knocking the average fan who enjoys dressing up and escaping reality in their costume. I'm a fan of the fan. I'm knocking those who take the self-appointed title of the cosplay elite.
Let’s celebrate talent. Let’s reward originality. Let's encourage those who might ride the coattails of ambition to earn their own sense of accomplishment. Let’s give a nod to those who’ve really paid their dues and stand proudly in their vendor booths that display a life’s worth of work, heartache, and perseverance.
If you have something valuable to add, then I’m all for it. If you have something original to say in a blog, share it. Those podcasts or websites with an established audience, by all means feed your hungry listeners. If you’re a talented upcoming artist or writer, I say go for it. If you're just starting out in any of these fields, I entirely understand and offer you a helping hand in any way I can. Chase your dreams. But if you’re a fanboy/girl just looking for attention…get in line, buy a ticket, and just enjoy the show.
There’s a vast sea of talented artists, writers, videographers, and more who utilize these public events to showcase their work, to build a fanbase, and ultimately to make a little money on their hard work.They've paid their dues, let's give them a little elbow room.
Not only am I one of those guys, but I’m also a fan of those guys.