Thoughts From A Nerd: A Response To ‘Masking Reality’

I was in the middle of writing a post about my adventures at San Diego Comic Con when my friend Dianne turned my attention to this video:

Before I continue with those posts I must address this video. I have gotten a lot of grief for being a nerd in my life, but never have I come across someone who so condescendingly vilified a group of people and their passions as Kristine Frazao from RTAmerica.

In this video Ms. Frazao simultaneously insults comics, among others mediums, as a form of art and expression along with criticizing the mentality of the people who attend this convention. She constantly refers to the attendees such as myself as not living in the “real world” and spending exorbitant amounts of money on something that could be put to better use. In the video she addresses the large number of homeless in the San Diego area and comments on how Comic Con attendees should instead be using their travel money to fly to Washington DC to protest.

The caption during the entire report reads: “Comic Con Groupies Escape Reality And Leave Others To Save Dark Economy.”

 

Where do I begin with this response?

“Couldn’t that energy be put to better use, say fighting in the real world to save the US economy?” 

First I’ll start with the economic aspects of this report. So, we nerds are leaving others to save the dark economy by escaping reality at Comic Con. We are criticized for spending exorbitant amounts of money on something we care about when we should be spending it on protesting in DC.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but as the lovely cosplayer Victoria Schmidt pointed out, a lot of the revenue made in downtown San Diego businesses come from people who are in the area for Comic Con. By spending money at local AMERICAN OWNED businesses, are we not supporting the economy?  Also, one of the reasons we are forced to spend so much money on a hotel is because a little thing called “supply and demand.” Supply and demand refers to the prices of a coveted item increasing because of its popularity. If anything, by spending more money on a hotel, we are contributing more money to the economy.

Another criticism made by Ms. Frazao is the large number of homeless in the downtown San Diego area and how we nerds just aren’t doing anything about it and being selfish and spending money at the convention. First of all, I give money to every single homeless person I come across and I give my leftovers to them as well. I am not claiming to be solving the homeless problem by doing this, but I just thought Ms. Frazao, along with everyone else at RTAmerica, should know that there is at least one nerd out there who is doing something. Also, may I point out that the reason as to why the number of homeless is growing in the United States is because when Reagan was president he cut funding from domestic programs that assisted the poor in order to create more revenue. The issues of homelessness in America is not something as simple as nerds spending lots of money on a convention, it is a lot more convoluted than that. So, specifically with the case of homeless people maybe you should be angry at Reagan, his economic legacy, and other policies rather than specifically singling out attendees of Comic Con and acting as if we personally are causing homelessness in America.

Ms. Frazao criticizes Comic Con attendees for the saving a large amount of money over the year to spend on a convention. Does she extend this criticism to families that go on vacation together? Does she ask them how much they spend and then immediately vilify them for it? For a lot of us Comic Con is the only major event we spend money on all year. How is that any different from going on a yearly trip with a friend or a family reunion across the country? How is that any different from going to the Superbowl? If Ms. Frazao is going to make this criticism she needs to realize that just because its a convention doesn’t mean it isn’t comparable to a vacation (something many Americans do). If anything, Ms. Frazao should be criticizing people who vacation outside of the United States if the “dark economy” is her focus because at least we, the nerds, are spending our money on American businesses and not spending it in another country therefore depleting American Gross Domestic Product.

Also, if Ms. Frazao is going to condemn attendees of Comic Con for frivolously spending their money when it could be put to better use, why don’t we use the same argument. That is a very nice necklace you’re wearing there, Ms. Frazao. Nice earrings too. Do you think it was maybe a bit excessive of you to have spent your money on jewelry that seems to be giving you happiness when you could have spent it on supporting something else? If they were gifts, then maybe you should pawn them and then send the money to charity.

 

Next I’ll address cultural aspects of this report.

Why do you think that this [Comic Con] is such a huge attraction?”

Comic Con has become insanely popular over the past years. It’s not just about comics anymore. It includes movies, video games, television shows, books, etc. It celebrates forms of art and expression that aren’t necessarily considered mainstream and allows the fans to meet people who share their passions, along with the possibility of meeting the people involved with creating that very art. Have you ever gone to a book signing for an author you like? Have you ever gone to a gallery opening? Do you ever go to concerts, classical or contemporary? These are all events celebrating art, and Comic Con is no different. For us it’s a four day event instead of an evening because of the numerous options there.

It seems that Ms. Frazao is passionate about politics and is lucky enough to have a job where she gets to be around people who share that interest. Not all of us are that lucky and Comic Con is the one time out of the year where we get to be amongst our peers. Am I, are we, to be vilified for this? No.

Ms. Frazao says, “Comic Con, not so much reality, that’s for sure.”

Admittedly I can see why there are people who say these types of things. Mind you, they are usually uninformed and seem to lack the effort to try to understand a culture that is not their own.

Not so much reality, is that right? Why don’t I let you in on something about some of the characters and stories that are celebrated at this convention. I’ll start with the more obvious ones: Superheroes. To some people, superheroes are simply people with powers who wear ridiculous outfits and have a silly name and are very one dimensional. Right? Wrong. First of all, superheroes are a very American enterprise. One of the first superheroes was Superman whose outfit sported the colors of the American flag. Superheroes are also an excellent representation of American culture during the time of their creation. For instance, the ideals of Superman are heavily influenced by the social injustices occurring during the time of his inception, which was right before World War II officially began. Superman, being an immigrant from another world, was representing the growing immigrant population in the United States due to the growing political tyranny in Europe. Spiderman, another popular superhero, gains his powers through a bite from a radioactive spider. This is representative of the Atomic Era, because many of the superheroes created during this age acquired their powers not through birth, but by outside means. The nature of his creation can reflect the social circumstances and fears of people during this time. Superheroes are nothing but reality because, like many fictional characters, they are representative of society and used as a means for inspiration. Just because they may have a cape does not negate their social relevance nor the artistic endeavors used to create them.

Let’s use another example: Battlestar Galactica. Battlestar Galactica is, without a doubt, one of the most political shows I have ever come across. Just because it is in the genre of science fiction and has artificial beings called “cylons” does not mean that it should be immediately scoffed. It brings up issues that were discussed in my anthropology courses and are relevant to today’s politics. Women are portrayed as strong, powerful, and fiercely intelligent. The President in that show is in fact a woman and started off as the leader of the Department of Education. That alone is worthy of so much discussion and social relevance. It brings up the issues of genocide, the effects of one’s socio-economic status, the balancing relationship between politics and war, and terrorism. If someone took the time to not judge a book by its cover and give it a chance, they would realize how completely related to reality it is.

Then again, perhaps we are “masking reality,” but when we mask it its with creativity. What we love is reality that is retold in a creative form that breathes fresh air. How many respected pieces of fiction are simply retelling the injustices of their times in a creative light? How is what we love any different?

I could go on and on about the relevance of various characters and their connection to society and reality, but I think I’ve proven my point for the time being. I suppose I’m suggesting that a person should do research on a subject before saying something critical about it and the people who enjoy it.

The artistry used in many of these different forms of storytelling is also remarkable. Comic Con is an opportunity for these artists to be celebrated. Just because their art is featured in graphic novels does not make it any different from an oil painting featured in a gallery. It is neither fair nor right to deny the integrity of the art because its used in a popular medium. When this type of disrespect does occur we refer to in anthropology as ethnocentrism. Many of the different stories and mediums featured at Comic Con are just as rich in allegories, literary allusions, and artistry as work you may see in more traditional establishments.

Just because what we celebrate and love is not what you celebrate and love does not mean it deserves to be treated with utter contempt. Comic Con is four days out of the year. Four days! Ms. Frazao’s report is shallow in that she makes assumptions of the lifestyles of the attendees when we’re not at the convention. She, along with another reporter on RTAmerica, paint a picture of us living in some bubble and ignoring the world around us.

I contribute to my political party. I religiously check Huffington Post. I’ve also attended protests and spoken at Human Rights Summits. Yes, spoken. I sponsor a child in Honduras and am constantly trying to raise awareness of the constant and perpetuating injustices happening in New Orleans as an effect of Hurricane Katrina. I’m also working on a journalistic piece about the shootings that happened at the Danziger Bridge to raise awareness about the injustices there. I support the Sierra Club. I’ve volunteered in soup kitchens and health centers. I also like to go to Comic Con.

Just because I enjoy attending Comic Con does not mean that I or my fellow nerds are out of touch with the real world and to depict us that way is cruel. We do care about politics, we do care about the real world, but the fiction we enjoy just happens to be different from the fiction you enjoy and the way we celebrate it is different. Picking on attendees and propagating us in a way that makes us look vapid and disconnected from reality is horrendously unfair. Judging by the other piece done by RTAmerica, that network must not like Comic Con attendees, which is sad because their other pieces, such as the ones concerning famine in Somalia, are great. So pardon the schoolyard vernacular, but you’re all acting like a bunch of bullies.

Next time you talk about a group of people you don’t understand, don’t make uninformed accusations and assumptions because that’s bad reporting. Comic Con enthusiasts are no different from sports fans or music fanatics. We are a group of people who are passionate about what we love and we like to share that joy with others. Four out of 365 days of the year is just for us and we have every right to look forward to it and enjoy it. Are there those of us who may be genuinely disconnected? Of course, but that’s applicable to any demographic. We may not be “choosing an issue that’s going to be making a difference in the world” in your eyes, but then again I’m sure every person has a hobby that they love that falls into that very category.

I suppose it’s easy to pick on us because we’re just a bunch of nerds. Laugh at us, treat us with contempt, blame us for homelessness, go ahead. At least we’re not mean spirited.

 

 

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Written by Gizzy B