Monthly Archives: September 2014

If it Weren’t for you Pesky Cosplayers

and your dogs, too, I’d have a million hits a day on this blog, and would be surrounded by legions of devoted fangirls.

All right, that’s probably (definitely) a lie. I get that Denise Dorman is upset. The costs to attended even local and semi-local conventions are going up – particularly when you’re not an invited guest who gets their hotel comped etc.. I’m just not sure why, other than the fact that they’ve been the convenient whipping girls (and boys) of the past couple years, she chooses to focus on cosplayers as a, let alone the, source of the problem.

Is she ignorant of history? I ask that in all seriousness, because according to his Wikipedia entry (not the most reliable of sources, I know) Dave Dorman has been illustrating professionally since 1979, got his “break” in 1983, and has attended 27 consecutive Comic-Cons. Ontologically speaking, comic conventions are simply a subset of the broader concept of science fiction and fantasy fandom conventions, as are such things as Transformers-focused conventions etc. Sci-Fi/Fantasy conventions have a long tradition, and some still continue this tradition, of featuring such things as cringe-worthy filking, fan guests of honor, fan panels, and any number of other ways in which fans were transformed into an active feature of convention programming.

And that’s presuming that we accept the erroneous assumption that fans, in any role, are simply passive consumers of the convention. During her essay on Bleeding Cool Mrs. Dorman asserts:

The hard-working artists and creators who are the very foundation of this industry…the reason there even is an industry…. those creatives who have busted their asses and spent money they perhaps didn’t have to spare in order to be there exhibiting for–and accessible to–the fans…have been reduced to being the background wallpaper against which the cosplayers pose in their selfies.

Those fans, including the selfie-taking cosplayers, are what allowed Dave Dorman and just about every other creator to be there. There is no level at which media consumption is truly passive, and the case of creator <–> fans among areas of geeky fandom the lines are particularly blurred, because what is often being produced are incredibly niche products that simply wouldn’t survive outside of that niche. While Dave Dorman likely could have taken his not inconsiderable skills and gone to work any number of places, he elected to enter a series of industries that are enabled solely by the fans. And as someone who has in the past done work in one of those industries (rpgs), he’s profited significantly more from it than any number of other people.

I don’t begrudge the man that career, though I do take umbrage at Denise Dorman’s casting of fans as passive consumers merely there to absorb a product. Not the least reason being because it’s a rather insulting and objectifying point of view, and because it doesn’t accurately reflect the ways in which consumers do engage with media both in what we (incorrectly) consider the “passive” mode of consuming it, as well as in the “active” mode of engaging with conventions and fan cultures.

In fairness, she does touch on the rising costs of conventions, but if these are a problem for guests/vendors/exhibitors, many (though certainly not all) of whom have their various costs either comped by the convention or offset by sales etc. how much more of a problem is it for fans? Fans, including cosplayers, don’t get to attend these events for free. In addition to the costs of admittance their are all the costs for travel, accommodation, and food, and that’s before you even get into the issue of having additional disposable income to make purchases at the event itself. For many fans these conventions, particularly larger conventions like Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, GenCon etc. are where they go rather than a trip to Vegas or Aruba. If I am already out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to simply be there, how much more do you expect me to drop at your table particularly when everyone else is expecting the exact same thing? This isn’t even to mention the work that some people put in, whether it’s to help with organizing, run games, or yes, make and present costumes – work that isn’t always offset in any way (yes, some conventions provide free admission, or accommodations etc. in these circumstances, but it’s far from universally true).

So yes, I can understand why Dave and Denise Dorman, alongside other creators, are upset at the current state of affairs, and there should be conversations happening about what we can do to change things. But to blame these problems on cosplayers not only ignores the history of conventions and fan culture, but it both avoids engaging with the actual problems while implying that at least some of the creators involved have an incredibly unhealthy attitude toward their fans.

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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Comics, Geekery, Pop Culture


On Fandom and Ethical Responsibility

I made a mistake today, internet – I read a thread on a forum, all 300+ posts of it. In this particular thread, some entitled manchildren were chittering their outrage over the fact that responses to “GamerGate” have painted gamers with an overly broad brush; moreover, they were offended that so many individuals seemed to be endorsing a “You’re with us or against us mentality,” and the shouting was just alienating them.

I’m not sure these people are worth caring about, and I say that specifically as someone who has previously discussed the existential absolutism of Alan Moore’s V. I’m also the same person who specifically examined the moral dilemmas raised by popular, reactionary activism as well as the underpinnings of existential responsibility on a social scale. I’ve also made it clear that on a personal level I have zero problems with drawing a line in the sand. I’d link to my track record of criticizing fanboys, but then I’d be here all day adding links.

As much as moral absolutism might raise troubling questions, I have problems giving a single fuck about people who feel that the criticisms of a fandom have unfairly victimized them. Because geekery has always been a rather cesspooly place to be; the internet has only made that more immediately visible, and attempts to change that have all-to-often resulted in pushback not only from the frantically masturbating fanboys, but from the creators behind them (the issue of Spider-Woman’s posterior on a cover being a recent one that springs immediately to mind).

I’m sure some of these people taking offense are perfectly good people in some respects – perhaps they do indeed find racism and sexism objectionable. Yet by taking umbrage because they’re accused of “not doing enough,” or because they think they can remain uninvolved, they are engaging in various degrees of moral cowardice, an accusation I have exactly zero problems making.

When it comes to culture, there is no neutral position. None. Zip. Zero. A bagel. Culture is not something we are simply passive consumers of, but something that we all have a hand in creating. So when your policy is to choose to not be involved, you are actively making the choice to allow the existing culture to continue. You can whine all you want, but that makes it no less true. Of course, there’s always that old chestnut, “Should I not engage in things I like just because they’re problematic?”. We can of course choose to ignore the fact that these things are problematic, or we can be somewhat less shitbaggy and admit that even though we enjoy them these things are indeed problematic.

We can also make the choice to not engage with these things whether or not we enjoy them because of their problematic nature. There are games, books, comics, etc. that I pass on either because I find their nature problematic in and of itself; or perhaps like the work of Card, Miller, or Goodkind the work is simply a mouthpiece for the creator’s infantile views; or because I simply find the creator, be it an individual, company, or even someone involved, to be so reprehensible that I won’t support the project, and thus given the impression that I would support future projects (Tom Cruise movies being a case in point – I find Scientology even more reprehensible than the Randian wankfest that is libertarianism, and his status as an actor has enabled him to serve as its face). I find the idea that we should avoid moral decisions that might in some way be detrimental to us to be a baffling one. If your values hinge on the condition that you never be negatively impacted as a result of holding them… saying that I am unimpressed is an understatement of near-infinite proportions.

There are people I like, and who I not only don’t think are bad people, but are people who actively speak up against injustice that I don’t associate with as often as I once did, or at times would like to, because my association with them is largely prefigured around mutual “geeky” interests; thus my interactions with them involve stepping into cultural milieus that I am increasingly uncomfortable with being an active part in. I don’t limit that to simply denying myself the products of fandom. I’ve lost friends because I’ve pointed out that I find someone’s  course of action morally objectionable. I wound up homeless for a while because I wasn’t willing to subject myself to a situation and persons I found morally objectionable.  Thus I’m willing to walk the walk, even when doing so has cost me in not-insignificant ways.

So when there are people out there taking the brunt and being shit on because they’re not male, not white, not straight, or whatever other factor and they dared to have an opinion about fandom or the products of its adulation, I’m going to give zero fucks about your bruised feels and desire to curl up in your fortress of solitude and not hear about it. Does this mean that each and every person must of necessity be out there on the “front lines.” No, there are perfectly good reasons for not doing so, though as I’ve pointed out “neutrality” isn’t one of them.

There are no isolated ethical actors, and there are no isolated ethical actions. Choosing not to be involved is an action, and it is the action of a coward. So if you want to get offended because you didn’t like someone’s tone, or thought they were shouting too loud, or are made uncomfortable because they’ve forced you to confront your morally bankrupt cowardice you are worth giving exactly zero fucks about, because you are not simply tacitly endorsing, but are actively creating the culture that you (might) claim to find objectionable.

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Posted by on September 7, 2014 in Activism, Geekery, Philosophy, Pop Culture


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