Wednesday, 26 June 2013

“Bad Geeks Equals Good Press” or “Why Does The Media Hate Fandom?”

So today there was an article published on called, I believe, “Supanova Cosplay Convention – A Glorified Beauty Pageant”. I say “I believe” because the article itself has been pulled due to some backlash by local cosplayers, although a verbatim copy of the article still appears on as “The bullies behind the bizarre world of Cosplay”... for how long we don’t know yet, but I plan on copying the article at the end of this post so it will at least have a record here as well.

Before I talk about why this article is disturbing, and in turn why everyone should read it, I should talk a little about the “subject” of the article; the fact that she was interviewed seems to be more than a coincidence this close to Perth Supanova. As full disclosure, I neither know this person nor do I wish to as I know too many people who she has “used”, including borrowing money and lying to in order to get what she wanted, until she had no use for them. I know this is all hearsay but I choose to believe my friends (who didn’t tell me it was the same person, I only found out about who she was after being directed this website... hell she even has an Encyclopedia Dramatica article!). You may notice I’m not using her name, I don’t think she deserves it and I know a few people that won’t refer to her by name either and I’m being respectful to them.

Now this person paints a very dark and grim picture of the cosplay scene in Australia, and I admit I’ve heard some really nasty stories about the bitchiness and backstabbing that goes on in competition, but this article makes it out that everyone in a costume is a mean, petty drama queen out to get this person... and this is rich coming from that particular source. She makes a point about bullied for being “... a large girl,” and I suppose she may have a point (I’ve not had the greatest of experiences being a large person in costume) however I’ve read way too many stories about her own conduct and I can imagine it’s because of her own dealings with others. I find myself treading lightly here as I write this, has whilst I don’t think she’ll ever in a million years read this, I cannot in good conscious directly insinuate something about someone I do not know but neither can I hide what I know as private information about this person that is getting in the way of my personal bias. What ultimately amuses me is after a page of pointing the finger and being bitchy, she uses ‘Star Trek’ as a point of why we should be nice to each other and “’s OK to be different.” and yet I feel this person is not practicing what she preaches or perhaps hasn’t really learnt the lessons that Trek tries to imbue on us. She tries to make is seem like she is bullied about her appearance, whilst at the same time she is notorious for photoshopping any image of her to make herself more thin, etc, much to the chagrin of some photographers who have had their work butchered by her (as a photographer I take offense at the idea that someone distorts my images for their own gain).

So why does this even matter? It matters because there does seems to be a disturbing trend within most media sources to either downplay or sometimes even demonize geek culture and things like cosplay, and I can’t help but feel like is never going to go away. Articles like this, which in all credit gives a few lines of opposition to the argument by the Supanova "event director" (although it isn't mentioned if he has anything directly to do with the cosplay competition), makes us look bad or worse, like a bunch of children who should ‘grow up’. I’m not saying the article says or even implies that, but there have been plenty of times when reporters make it seem like we’re all just a bunch of misfits or manchildren that have yet to face reality. It’s pathetic that this type of press still exists; especially that geek culture is rapidly becoming more and more mainstream in recent years. Admittedly most reports nowadays do try and focus on the positives of these events, but they are never really taken seriously, even when some big name celebrities do show up to these things. You’d be lucky to see five minutes of convention reporting occur on a news program, they’re too busy talking about who beat up who on “Da Footy”. When was the last time you saw a major article in a newspaper about an upcoming convention, or did you ever hear of a convention in the newspaper (I’m sure it might be buried deep in the back of a colour supplement a week later). I was on board to help out with an article about Swancon last year in the West Australian, promised to be a decent size to help promote the event and hotel it was at that year... it ended up being a footnote on a “Whats on” thing and you could blink and miss it.

People keep bringing up Big Bang Theory as a positive geek spin, and yet I can’t fucking stand that show. It’s your standard craptastic sit-com full of poor jokes and canned laughter, but this time it’s full of overly stereotypical nerds with the occasional geek joke to appease the bespectacled neckbeard crowd that secretly wishes they could get a girl like Penny (and there is your demographic folks). I have an absolute man crush on Wil Wheaton and I watched 5 minutes of the episode that aired tonight that had him in it (for about 5 minutes) and it bothers me that he loves this show. I know that some of that love is him knowing the cast, but this show just always rubs me the wrong way when I see how the nerds are portrayed. It’s not the casts fault (although some are known to not be nerds, but that doesn’t bother me) but it’s just the jokes at their expense and with absolutely zero tongue-in-cheek style humour to it. I know no one who acts like those guys act (well some come close to Sheldon) and it really bugs me that it’s so crass about it. I would love to see a show where the “nerds” are just like regular people, kinda like Drew Carey in that obscure show from the 90s, he had nerdish tendancies but they weren’t the butt of every joke (one of my favourite lines when they’re watching scrambled porn on cable was someone asked why he didn’t pay for it. the joke was along the lines of “I already ordered ‘Cartoon Network’ and I heard if you order both they put you on a list!”).

I think my ideal geek sit-com wouldn’t even make it to the air, let alone a pilot, although it would go like gangbusters on the internet, I mean isn’t that what ‘The Guild’ is essentially? And that’s exactly my point, despite all those character’s eccentricities, they are never pointed at and ridiculed for who or what they are. Possibly the best example of this is Vork, a horder/tight-ass whose life revolves around “The Game” in which he plays a heroic Paladin and sometime leader to their guild. Yes some of his humour comes from his habits, but it’s not in a degrading way which is used to generate laughs like some other shows would do. The fact that the other characters don't make fun of him as well shows you how different these shows use these characters; the characters in ‘The Guild’ bond and stick together whilst in Big Bang Theory it all seems to be about insults and you get no real sense why these people even interact with each other beyond ‘going to the comic shop’. I don’t mind playful jibes, and banter is always good, but these just seem to be near constant putdowns or gross over stereotyping. I was talking about this with my friend Eric that there is one thing that would make that show actually interesting even in the way it is, if from Penny was a closet geek from the first episode, that would have been a great hook and tells the audience “Hey, it’s fine to be a nerd, come along and see these people having to deal with each other”. I caught a bit last night (because it’s screened nightly here and my mom puts it on as background noise whilst she’s playing DS) where Penny is mad because what-his-face-the-glasses-on/off-boyfriend-guy wants to help her with a test, which she doesn’t want any help because she wants to prove how smart she is... then 10 seconds later she’s getting help from the nerdy girls because she doesn’t want to do it or something, I lost interest at this point and continued making my Wreck-It Ralph costume, because I can’t get bright orange shirts in my size because everyone hates me for being large.

TL:DR Nerds are awesome, despite the media being a bunch of dicks.

And now the article (copied from the article, no editing has occurred only formatting)!

The bullies behind the bizarre world of Cosplay
Jun 25, 2013 10:04am
GEEKS from all walks of life have celebrated their passion for pop culture at fan convention Supanova in Sydney over the weekend.
The convention is where enthusiasts of Cosplay, a Japanese-coined term short for "costume role-play", come together to dress up as their favourite characters from TV shows, films, comics and video games.
One of those people is Nicole. She is on stage lip-synching a TLC song with her girlfriend Narcissa - both dressed up in costumes based on the fantasy series Once Upon A Time - when she pauses, and pulls out an egagement ring.
The audience cheers for the pink and green haired duo as Narcissa tears up, turning her face away from the crowd, trying to keep it together. In this arena at Olympic Park they aren't 'weirdos' or 'freaks'. Everyone is behind them.
But despite the applause Nicole says Cosplay communities aren't as supportive as you'd think.
"I've been bullied for eight years because I'm a large girl," says Nicole. "Cosplay has a very seedy side and very nasty side. It's basically a glorified beauty pageant.
"Because Australia is so small, gossip flies around the country very quickly. People are so busy putting each other down to try to gain an edge in the competition."
Narcissa and Nicole have been running Cosplay support groups on Facebook for years to try to reverse the trend.
"Anyone can go in and talk to each other, we all support each other and help each other. We're trying to bring the sportsmanship back into this competition," Nicole said.
Daniel Zachariou, event director at pop culture convention Supanova told that he was "quite flummoxed" at the news that cosplay participants have been bullying each other.
"This is news to me," he said. "I'm sad to hear about those individuals who have been casting aspersions on a really good form of entertainment and fun. I would ask that they cease to do it and go somewhere else."

Zachariou said he would be looking into instances of bullying, and said that the cosplay community was usually "wonderful and inclusive", whether it's people teaching each other how to design a good costume or competing or getting together with friends at the various expos around the country.

"Cosplay is one of the core activities of Supanova and of course we support all cosplayers, so to hear of this bullying, it's something I'm really surprised at."
The Supanova director theorised that perhaps as the popularity of cosplay increases thanks to shows like Doctor Who and The Big Bang Theory, the more people it attracts, increasing the chances of "bad eggs" poisoning the event.
"I guess unfortunately you get good and bad types in every society - every family even - so you're going to have some bad eggs," he said. "We hope to extract them nice and quickly and get back to the spirit that Cosplay is meant to be done in".
Narcissa and Nicole have been competing in the two major Cosplay championships, Mad Men National Cosplay Competition and the World Cosplay Summit, for years.
Naturally, the pair plan to have a Once Upon A Time themed wedding.
After being awarded runner-up three times, they are hoping for first place at their next competition on the 30th of June.
But even if they don't win, Narcissa says she's not going to stop because she owes it to the next generation of cosplayers to show them that things can be different.
"Shows like Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory helped cosplay become mainstream," she said. "They really helped the poor little geeks.
"I was raised on Star Trek, and I grew up in a household where sci-fi and cosplay were encouraged but not everyone grew up in those environments.
"Nic and I want to show people that it's OK to be different. Things can be different."

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