Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Conventions: A Joyful Spirit

I’ve just ended my third fan convention. They are my favorite places. I’ve been thinking about what makes them so wonderful, because it isn’t only the geekery. The geekery is awesome, but there is so much more to them than that. It isn’t only the presence of celebrities, although being in the presence of talented people is intoxicating. It’s more than the merchandise and the cosplay and the panels. What makes conventions the best of all the places is the spirit of the thing.

When I first went to my first convention last April I must admit I was afraid. I had never been to anything like this, and I was going alone. I was apprehensive that someone would mock me for not cosplaying, or call me out on my lack of knowledge on comic books. I had heard horror stories of girls being attacked as “fake geeks” who “only want to attract boys”, and that doesn’t sound like my cup of tea. What if someone asked me about issue 37 of the original Batman comics?

But as soon as I walked through the doors of the Salt Palace I knew that things weren’t going to go wrong. Not only were they not going to go wrong, but they were going to go very, very right. To be quite honest, it was love at first sight.

I have never met a rude person at Comic Con. This is not to say they don’t exist, but they are by no means prevalent. I have never felt judged for not cosplaying, or for not being a part of a certain fandom, or not knowing everything there is to know. I have never seen anyone else berated for such things either. The only thing I feel at conventions is unadulterated love. Love for television shows, love for books, love for cartoons and steampunk and obscure references. We rejoice to find others that feel the same fire of obsession, to be surrounded by it.

Standing in lines to meet amazing people who I’ve only seen on the silver screen can eat up hours, but I’ve encountered some delightful partners-in-waiting before finally reaching the prize. I love people who make me forget that I’m shy. I’m not naturally talkative around strangers, but these people don’t seem like strangers. That sounds cliché, but they are my people. Geeks may be “in” at the moment, but hardcore fans are still viewed as a little on the odd side by general society. Here we all fit in. (Except for maybe that one guy in a sports jersey who didn’t know who Carrie Fisher was. It's like the opposite of high school.) Trekkies, SuperWhoLockians, anime nerds, and a myriad of other fandoms mingle in harmony. No one is judging, saying someone is “too geeky” or “not geeky enough.” It’s an enveloping and welcoming atmosphere; it feels like home.

I don’t know if all conventions are like this, or just the ones in Salt Lake. Does it have something to do with the fact that they're new to the city? (The first one was in 2013.) Ours are certainly smaller than San Diego’s, but they sell out, and the number I heard bandied about was fifty thousand attendants on Thursday, which is nothing to scoff at. I’m sure that celebrity guests flatter every convention they attend, but it did seem they were particularly fond of Salt Lake. Tom Felton said that our con had more of a spirit of pure joy than he usually felt, and I accept that as true. Even when I was exhausted, sore, and frazzled, I was still so glad just to be in the presence of all these outstanding nerds.

I wish the world could be more like Comic Con. If you're obsessed with a movie that no one else has talked about for ten years, that's cool. If you aren’t into a certain show, well, you get a strong recommendation and a smile, but not shame. You came in a bathrobe converted into a Jedi costume? Sweet. You spent three years and a thousand dollars making a Wheatley that would speak, light up, and rotate? Dude, rock on. You can dress in thick layers to be Thor, or very little to be Poison Ivy, and I will be equally okay with you.

The sensory overload that overwhelms you at a convention is only the tip of a marvelous iceberg. Although the hundreds of booths, artists, and vendors are amazing to behold, it is not the merch which makes Comic Con. It is the people, and their instant acceptance of each other. Bono said that a geek is a person full of passion, unencumbered by cool. What an excellent explanation. We love what we love, and we love it with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. We have laughed, cried, and debated over fictional universes probably more than some of the people creating them have, and we are not ashamed. The rise of the fangirl is a splendid thing to be a part of.

I am already anxious for September to arrive, bringing a new convention and a fresh wave of geeks from out of the woodwork. To look around and realize you are among thousands of people who, without knowing you, accept you, and to automatically feel the same about them is glorious. Life is beautiful when we find something to love like this.

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