Hello dear readers. I am once again about to talk about something that no one wants to talk about, so get ready to have the blood angered up a bit. Feel free to Hulk out even! If you do pull a Banner however, I will ask you to send photos because that sounds hilarious and would love to see a thousand green, angry gigantros in torn clothing in my inbox. Clearly this is why I write on the internet. It’s the little things that get me through the day.
So it was announced recently that the newest Twilight movie, “Breaking Dawn” is going to be showing footage from the new film at Comic Con this year. This is not the first time they have done such things and it will not be the last. And yes, it’s going to suck.
A lot of people blame the crowds and the difficultly to get tickets to SDCC on these newer fan base. As Comic-Con has grown and as more and more genred teen fiction has taken the forefront of modern literature it is absolutely no surprise that the two subjects would eventually collide in a sticky mess of acne and angst. The history of nerd and fan culture is a cavalcade of hatred and vehement anger towards groups, so I wanted to take a minute (or 20) to take a step back and talk about dealing with new fandoms in this here modern-day time.
NERDY HISTORY CHANNEL TIME!
Or as I like to call it, “The More You Knoooooow!” *cue shooting star*
This is not the first time nerd hate and convention status has clashed, so for the sake of perspective why don’t we take a look at the birth of convention culture. Hop in my proverbial interweb Tardis and let’s learn us a thing or two!
Fan culture is widely acknowledged by scholars to have begun with the emergence of one great American television show in 1966, the infamous series “Star Trek”. It was not the first science fiction show of its time, but it was the ship that launched a thousand fangirls. Women in collegiate academia caught on to the little space show that could and did not let it go. Captain Kirk and his courageous crew inspired some of the most influential parts of pop fan culture today, specific examples being fan fiction, fan vidding and most importantly fan conventions. The greatness of something as large as SDCC can be traced back to a few little collegiate profess-ettes sitting in a hotel convention room talking about starting fan magazines and the feminist implications of Science Officer Spock.
Flash forward to 1977. George Lucas come out with a little thing we the world likes to call “Star Wars: A New Hope”. Suddenly this film inspires fan culture of its own. Trekkies suddenly start to see the culture they have made for themselves over the years slip away as a younger fan base starts their own fan magazines, their own fan fiction and most terrifying of all, their own fan conventions. Ever wonder where the Trek/Wars feud started? BAM! Right there. Star Trek fans felt their culture being taken away by a younger audience who loved something that was ripped off from a japanese movie and sprinkled with some kind of outer space magic called the force.
Now, I’m not saying that Twilight should be compared to Star Wars. Lets get that straight RIGHT now folks. But the journey of one fandom’s plight to the next is very similar to what we see now.
People like to think that the Twilight “Saga”, a word I use in its most generous sense, is the first of these major teen dramas to ruin the face of literature and as a result our beloved Comic-Con, but this is not entirely true. Thusly enters my personal nerd rage subject, the Harry Potter series.
Obviously the incredibly popular Harry Potter books have done very well for themselves and yield very little hatred from most fan based groups. Heck, there’s a theme park now. That counts for something.
Its growth in fan phenomenon is very similar to the idea of the Japanese school girl in the anime/manga world. Fantastical stories involving magic bring forth fans of all ages, young and old (and older) to dress in sexy school boy/girl uniforms and parade around conventions as their favorite teenagers. While yes the boys and girls of the Harry Potter series grow up, a lot of the culture is based more around the idea of dressing up as the highschool incarnations. Quidditch uniforms, house ties and button down shirts are usually the norm when thinking of Harry Potter cosplay, though I do realize that there are exceptions to this. I have been (begrudgedly) dragged to a few Wizard Music Concerts, college Quidditch matches and costumed movie/book openings (for the record I have WAY to many friends who are diehard Potter fans) in an attempt to understand the culture in its relation to fandom. It actually shocks and amazes me how similar it is to Twilight fandom.
Twilight character costumes are now sold on common cosplay websites. “Cullen Covens”, groups of people who pretend to be vampires within the Twilight universe, are popping up from east to west coast. The book preorders and movie tickets are as coveted beyond belief.
If you think about it, what is so different between the mother who reads and loves the Twilight series and the father in the Snape outfit at the Wizard Ball (without his kids I might add)? What is the difference between the tween who dresses up like a Slytherin fan fic character they made up on the internet and the one who goes to con as Bella?
One of these things is widely accepted as rational fandom and the other is not, with the most common argument being that the literary range of one far outweighs the other. However if you ask most literary scholars, the only real “intellectual” difference between the two series is the theme. Harry Potter fandom is based in the love of the created world, whereas Twilight fandom is based in the love of the emotional story. People flock to Harry Potter for Hogwarts and Hogsmeade and the Quidditch fields. People flock to Twilight for the idea of torrid love affairs and personal vulnerability and the trials sharing yourself with an everlasting soul mate forever. Of course it can be argued that Harry Potter also holds a compelling emotional story and the vampiric world built in Twilight is why people enjoy it, but predominantly these are the things that the fan base evolves around. Both series are also written for teenagers, so the bulk of the intellectual verbage is on the same level as a result. Neither of them is academically considered brilliant and neither of them is winning any Newberry Awards or Pulitzers any time soon.
And in my personal opinion, they are both terrible. But that is not the point.
Regardless of your feelings about Harry Potter or Twilight, they are the most mainstream unique cultures that have evolved a cult fandom following in recent days, with James Cameron’s “Avatar” following close at their heels (again, another world based fandom frenzy).
MORAL OF THE STORY
So how do we deal with these people? Even if we hate these stories, we should still respect their fandom. SDCC is a place where adults dress up as men in tights and women in chain mail and for a few brief days, we celebrate the fact that nerds have come so far. We shouldn’t be pissed at the Twilight fans for bringing more people to Con. We should be happy that fandom has moved up to the big boy table in mainstream culture. Comic-Con has become a force to be reckoned with. It’s gone from going to your local High School theatre award ceremony to going to the Oscars. You’re always going to have the Paris Hiltons and the James Francos. But you’re on the goddamn red carpet, so don’t bitch about. I don’t like Harry Potter fans, but I tolerate them because what they do for the bigger picture means more to me than what they as fans prefer to associate with.
I read an article a while back where Kevin Smith was interviewed about “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” and while he has become a crazy person here in his later years, he said something very interesting. It is widely agreed by Star Wars fans across the board that Jar-Jar Binks was the worst thing to happen to the franchise. Ever. But Kevin Smith said that when he saw the film in a theatre filled with children, every child was entranced by him. And you know what that does? It opens up a whole new generation of Star Wars fans. It’s understandable to hate Jar-Jar Binks if you’re above the age of eight years old. He’s fucking terrible. But for these innocent, easily impressionable minds, it is exactly what they need. It makes them want more. And personally, if exposing the children to Star Wars isn’t important then this is a world I do not want to live in.
*Slight disclaimer, I could not for the life of me find that old article, so this is vastly paraphrased. I’m not super concerned, as I am sure Kevin Smith will never read our blog. However if you are Kevin Smith and reading this blog, good on you! “Dogma” was awesome.*
So this is all about tolerance people. Today’s Twilight fan may be the True Blood writer of tomorrow, giving us unique gothic tales of intrigue and the supernatural. Today’s Harry Potter fan may be the next Pixar graphic designer, developing and bringing fantastical new worlds to life in vivid Technicolor. Today’s tiny Binks fan may be the next George Lucas or Peter Jackson. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt, no matter how improbable it may sound. Theres no way of knowing what fandom may bloom into. So put your “Twilight Ruined Comic-Con” signs and your pitchforks away and just accept the fact that these people are going to be there. If you do not choose to acknowledge that these people, despite our personal chagrin, do deserve to be there, think on this…
When I see a jock who used to push me in a locker for holding a copy of “Lord of the Rings” in highschool at the opening of a Chris Nolan Batman movie, I don’t like it, but I tolerate it.
When I see some slutty hot girl dressed up as Super Girl for Halloween not because she actually reads comics and/or knows who super girl is, but because she knows it makes her the hottest girl in the room, I don’t like it, but I tolerate it.
And when I hear girls and boys talking about how sexy and sensitive vampires are or how they wish they were getting their letters to Hogwarts, I WANT TO FUCKING MURDER THEM! But I tolerate it.
We have been set apart as a community for a very long time. I certainly remember the dark days of swirlies and other such nonsense. And while it feels great to take out our rage on something, lets take it out on someone who deserves it more. Not on our own kind.
I personally vote for the religious folk who picketed Comic-Con last year because it was “based in idol worship”. Westboro Baptist Church (the same ass hats that picketed Matthew Shepard’s Funeral fyi). Not that I have anything against religion, mostly I just want to because it is HILARIOUS. 😀
So let us be more tolerant and leave our hate at the door. Or get all your anger out on the internet. Either way leave the Twilight kids alone. Just for a few days. They won’t ruin your experience, so theres no need to ruin theirs.