If I Can’t Squee, It’s Not My Comic-Con

Comic-Con was under siege.

An epic queue of Twilight fans camped out to get into the New Moon panel with Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart in the grand Hall H, apparently disrupting fans who wanted to see some of the convention’s other big panels, including the panel for Tron 2 and the one for James Cameron’s Avatar.

I didn’t attend Comic-Con, so any information I have about the imbroglio is second-hand. It sounds like convention organizers could have done a better job of panel organization and crowd control, which is true of…. well, every single con in the history of ever. If what I read is correct, convention attendees have a legitimate gripe here.

But what, precisely, are Twilight fans guilty of, besides being extremely enthusiastic about their fandom?

They’re “twi-tards.” They’re a “screaming, twittering horde.” They’re hyped up on sugar and caffeine.

They are guilty of… being teenage girls.

Comic-Con is not a professional conference. It’s not an academically focused convention in the vein of some science fiction conventions, like Boston’s ReaderCon. It’s a media convention with a focus on comics and plenty of floor space for fantasy and science fiction novels, movies, toys, and clothing. So why is Twilight the red-headed stepchild?

Reading the articles and blog posts on the signs and T-shirts that read “Twilight Ruined Comic-Con,” one thing became clear to me. The Twilight fans didn’t belong at Comic-Con; they weren’t real nerds.

I can tell you the story of another convention, one that I actually attended, a large science fiction convention that will remain nameless. I was 21 or so. Most of the panels I went to were a homogeneous sea of white hair and beards. Now, I know my science fiction from Asimov to Zelazny. But I did not feel welcomed. With rare exceptions, I felt the old guard staking their claim: this was their science fiction, and I shouldn’t get my grubby hands on it.

Now fans complain about the graying of science fiction, the decline of subscription figures for magazines like Asimov’s. I love science fiction literature, and I love science fiction fandom, but in many ways they are lying in a bed they’ve made, through all the times they’ve ignored the enthusiasm of young people, women, and people of color.

The comics industry is healthier, and younger, but that doesn’t mean it’s always been better. A lot of my friends have stories of times they were made to feel creepy and unwelcome in a comics shop; and it took some comic shops a long time to realize that if they stocked a few manga, they might actually get some girls to come in.

Twilight is not my own personal cup of tea. But I want to be clear about a few things:

  1. 1.) There is a clear split on gender lines as to what constitutes an acceptable fandom. Comics are an acceptable fandom, but shoujo manga is kind of iffy. Transformers is clearly a more acceptable fandom than Twilight; Megan Fox is clearly a more acceptable target of lust than Robert Pattinson. Don’t hide behind saying Twilight sucks, or I’m going to tell you everything that sucks about all those ’80s cartoons you love.
  2. 2.) The criticisms of Twilight fans as a group are even more explicitly gendered. They’re too shrill, too squealy, too girly. This is the same moral panic we’ve seen since Beatles fandom, and frankly, it’s really old.
  3. 3.) You can’t judge a True Nerd by her “Team Edward” T-shirt. That same girl with an obsession with yaoi manga or Sailor Moon might run Linux on her computer and speak fluent Japanese.
  4. 4.) I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and – oh, sorry, excuse me.

Still: today’s squealy fangirl is the future of fandom. No, don’t run and slit your wrists just yet. You don’t know when she’s going to start experimenting with Anne Rice or radical feminist theory or vampiric folklore, and take a road straight into the heart of nerd-dom – but it’s going to be her nerd-dom on her terms. And it’s going to be sweet.

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7 Responses to “If I Can’t Squee, It’s Not My Comic-Con”

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  2. Lepas says:

    The real issue of the panels was that they allowed people to stay in the room for multiple panels, essentially allowing them to ‘camp’ the panel. So, hall H would fill up in the morning and the same people would be in there all day. They should have cleared the rooms out after each panel so that everyone had a fair chance to get in to see the one they wanted. It wasn’t just the twilight girls guilty of this, star wars kids did it too.

  3. Terry Blauer says:

    @Lepas Comic con has done that for YEARS. When I last went in 2007 people from all fandoms were camping.

    I have to say, I hate Twilight with the fiery burning passion of a thousand blue suns, but this article made a good point. I was into some things just as over-rated, just as anti-feminist, just as poorly writen and just as well…frankly stupid, not so very many years ago. If others had judged me based on my schoolgirlish hysteria then, I probably wouldn’t be the happy, well adjusted meganerd I am today.

  4. Beth says:

    As much as I hate Twilight for it’s failure to be intelligent and feminist-leaning vampire fiction, I must say, I agree! I don’t know a girl or woman who hasn’t been made to feel uncomfortable at a comic shop or a convention at one time or another, even if they were there for THE EXACT SAME REASON THAT THE GRAYING BEARDOS WHERE.

  5. Franklin says:

    “Megan Fox is clearly a more acceptable target of lust than Robert Pattinson. Don’t hide behind saying Twilight sucks, or I’m going to tell you everything that sucks about all those ’80s cartoons you love.”

    I’m currently college-age, so I probably dislike those cartoons even more than you do. And I’ve never been to a convention and don’t really have much interesting in going to one (though it would be cool to meet Stan Lee). But I don’t think you’ve identified why people dislike zealous Twilight fans.

    I’ve noticed that serious science fiction and fantasy fans are often very cliquish, and tend to grasp vigorously the nostalgia of their particular youths, and that’s certainly part of the problem (and probably, along with a certain tendency toward social awkwardness among the set, generally why you felt so unwelcome at the convention you visited when you were younger, from what you’ve said). But the problem has as much to do with the people excluded as it does with those who wish to exclude.

    I don’t think that Robert Pattinson is considered any less a valid subject of lust than Megan Fox (again, except among a certain socially awkward set). If fans were crazy about him because he was incredibly hot in Harry Potter, or in some other movie in which he played a handsome, non-vampiric character, I doubt you’d hear any more complaint than you do about girls going crazy over Orlando Bloom or Leonardo DiCaprio. To a lot of people, the lust is associated with the creepiness of the story. And there’s no small degree to which it seems that many ardent Twilight fans are lusting by transference (i.e. for Pattinson because he’s the awesomely hot vampire, not the awesomely hot guy).

    Altogether, the mass attraction to the danger and creepiness of the character, and fixation on books which have some very serious problems with unhealthy attitudes, makes the Twilight fans more than another group of excited girls and/or fans. I doubt many people would be disturbed by bunches of young Harry Potter fans camping out and running around. And, if I recall correctly, most of the really serious Potter fans were girls, too.

    “The criticisms of Twilight fans as a group are even more explicitly gendered. They’re too shrill, too squealy, too girly. This is the same moral panic we’ve seen since Beatles fandom, and frankly, it’s really old.”

    I’ve always wondered why so many female Beatles fans – and Elvis and, more recently, Bloom fans, for that matter – go crazy about them: pass out, chase them, etc. It’s also perplexing why that phenomenon is so uniquely female. You’d think that if so many girls did it as do/did, a fairly large number of guys would do it with female actors and rock stars, too. But you don’t see that, which is weird.

  6. Joey Manley says:

    Here was my take on this, having attended the con: the Twilight fans were imperviously awesome. I was walking by a line of them sitting camped out in front of a movie theater on fourth or fifth ave., and they were squealing as every guy walked by, and holding up ratings cards like gymnastics judges at the Olympics. They gave me a 10 (and that had to be ironic, because I’m a fat gray middle-aged gay man — but still). I like to think they were deliberately turning the harrassment back on the fanmen in a political way. But maybe they were just having fun. Or maybe it was a little bit of both. The fact that I got a 10, ironic or not, probably helps me appreciate this activity more than others, though … :)

  7. Emily Horner says:

    Franklin:

    Jonathan Gould’s book on the Beatles, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” actually has a really good section on teen-girl Beatles fandom and how it intersected with the culture of girl-friendship. There are actually a lot of similarities with Twilight. I couldn’t make it fit within the scope of this piece, but I recommend it. (The section starts around page 178, but I don’t own a copy, so I had to piece through it bit by bit at Amazon…)

    I agree that Edward is creepy and not actually boyfriend material, but I don’t think that’s the main issue.

 

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