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 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.) 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.) 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.) 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.) 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.