James Gunn was asked in a Q&A about whether he would be attending San Diego Comic-Con. His response was that he likely wouldn’t be since he would only be going if Marvel sent him, and that this was unlikely as Marvel was not going to SDCC this year. To say the online geek community reaction was rather seismic is a bit of an understatement.
Some responses have been, somewhat amazingly, indifferent. Some have been rather interesting, certainly the speculation that Disney may well fold Marvel and Star Wars into the D23 Expo, Disney’s own convention in August, and begin to have these properties bypass SDCC all together is. Some of it has been some rather well made points about how, with regards to the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least, Marvel may not need SDCC anymore. SDCC has become essentially a trade show convention, and the D23 Expo removes the need for a duplicate appearance so soon after it. Also, Marvel’s own Phase 3 announcements earlier this year showed that they can get as much or more coverage in both the genre news and the mainstream press without such unveilings being done at SDCC. Looking at those two things together, it’s easy to make the argument that Marvel might feel that it doesn’t need the extra expenditure of SDCC where they may actually get less bang for their buck due to having to share that geek news cycle with everything else being covered at SDCC.
Then there have been the responses, fortunately a minority of the overall responses, which actually bother me a bit. While they’re responses to this new bit of news, they are not new in their tone or the overall message they convey. There’s actually a contingent of fandom out there that has grown to greatly dislike, or outright hate, SDCC, and some are even rooting for this to be the beginning of the end for it. I’m not really sure I get this mentality by anyone calling themselves a geek.
Now, I’ll be honest here. I’ve long said that I have zero interest in going to SDCC. It looks like nothing more than a corporate trade show to me, and I have no interest in that. The thing is, I don’t see SDCC being a trade show as a bad thing. I just don’t see that as my thing.
I understand that there’s a certain coolness factor for some people to be at an event where news breaks first, where the opportunity to see exclusive clips exists at multiple points during the weekend, and where there are a number of exclusive collectibles. SDCC, more so than just about any other convention, is that place. SDCC is the place where you go to see pristine footage for upcoming geek related films and TV shows that no one else will see for days or weeks outside of briefly on Youtube via bad cell phone video with spotty sound and people’s heads in the way of part of the image. SDCC is where you go to get your exclusive action figure or collectible bit from the line of collectibles of your choice. SDCC is where you go to see what the studios are planning to sell you in the coming year.
For a lot of people in the geek community, that’s a big deal and a big part of what gets their geek on. It’s actually a pretty common aspect of human nature. A lot of people, and not just geeks, love being in the know on a good secret that most of the other people around them don’t know the details of. A lot of people love getting things that are unique or limited in their availability to place in their homes as conversation pieces. That’s in part why there are so many corporate trade shows out there in more arenas of life than just geekdom, but in the geek community the desire to do these things seems to run doubly strong. For geeks who dig these kinds of things, the place to be once every year is SDCC.
Now, as I said above, corporate trade shows aren’t my thing. My solution to this is a simple one. I just don’t go to them. Now, I do like finding out what’s been thrown out there at a trade show, but I’d rather just read about it all for an hour one evening instead of going to a trade show or, as I have done in some years with SDCC, listen to the special coverage on my XM radio. But, again, I get where other people dig actually going to trade shows. The owner of the Needless Things website recently did two podcasts all about a trade show devoted to toys. A lot of gamers love going to electronic trade shows and seeing the games and the new tech related to those games. It’s a part of their geek, and they enjoy it. It’s also, as mentioned above, not merely a geek thing. There are trade shows out there devoted to hunting products, fishing products, and even law enforcement and security products that attract a lot of people who love to see the new toys coming out before they hit the market.
But there seems to be a type of attitude towards SDCC that, while not exclusive to the geek community, runs pretty strong in a lot of geek circles. It seems as if there’s an attitude with many that it’s not enough to simply not like something, but instead one must actively hate something. It’s not even an attitude new or exclusive to SDCC. Decades ago people threw around the term “Marvel Zombie” as a negative thing. It was a tag that people hung on other people for whom Marvel was the be all and end all of comic book creations and they would hate on anything else, whether they ever bothered to read it or not, as automatically inferior creations because they weren’t Marvel’s. I knew Trek fans who, having never bothered to watch a single episode, talked no end of trash about Babylon 5, deeming it a cheap knock-off of Deep Space Nine that they hoped would be quickly canceled.
There’s always been an “Us Versus Them” attitude in geek circles when it came to one fandom versus another or even certain aspects of any fandom versus other aspects of it. It’s never going to go away anymore than sports rivalries are going to go away and it can actually be a healthy pastime when not seemingly powered by negative emotion. But why would anyone calling themselves a geek ever want to see some part of the geek community die?
Interestingly, given the dislike I’ve seen for wrestling and some wrestling fans by some in the geek community, the closest thing I’ve seen to this attitude elsewhere is in online wrestling communities. You’ll see people that claim to be wrestling fans who seem to take great pleasure in seeing bad news about smaller wrestling companies in the states, sometimes practically rooting for their demise at every bit of bad news, while simultaneously complaining that there’s only one major wrestling company left in the states. It’s a head scratcher trying to figure out why anyone claiming to be a fan of something would actively cheer for there to be less of their chosen fandom out there and available to choose from, but you see it there and you see it here in the geek community as well.
Look, I hate most of the concepts I’ve seen coming out of Twilight. On a practical level I simply don’t support it with my dollars as I have no interest in it. When joking with horror geek friends, or when jokingly giving Twilight fan friends a hard time, I can rip on Twilight with the best of them. However, when seriously discussing Twilight fandom on a practical level the one thing I won’t advocate for is the death of the franchise or the fandom. If anything I like the fact that it’s out there. Twilight and things like it can act as a gateway drug to horror for some in ways that other properties can’t or won’t. Some Twilight fans will never ultimately be big horror fans, but some may develop a taste for horror and vampires of the more intense or traditional varieties as they grow older/grow into their fandom. The end result (hopefully) is simply a larger and richer horror fandom.
The same is true here. There’s a significant portion of fandom that enjoys the trade show kind of thing. SDCC has become the convention to serve that portion of fandom. The fact that it’s a trade show rather than a truly fan orientated convention doesn’t make it worse or better than the more fan orientated conventions, it just makes it different. But what its existence does do is to help provide us with a larger, richer, more diverse fandom. Disliking it and simply not going because it’s not your thing and expressing that opinion openly and publicly is fine. But claiming that you hate it to the point of wishing it financial ruin and repeatedly stating that you wish it would close up and go away when you will never have to attend if you so desire not to? Why would you want to expend that kind of energy to hate something to that degree, and why would you actively root for an outcome that would ultimately diminish fandom, a thing you claim to love, to some small degree?
Look, there’s always a place for the “Versus” mentality in fandom as it’s actually kind of fun. We’re always going to debate things like who would win a fight, the quality of remakes versus the originals, the best interpretation of a character, or whether or not zombies should run. But expending the time and energy to hate something that you never have to get anywhere near as passionately as I’ve seen some people hate SDCC, treating it as though it was SDCC versus the “good” conventions or the “good” parts of fandom? Why would you want to do something that uselessly negative. It can’t be good for you, and the outcome you apparently desire is certainly not good for fandom as a whole.