Thursday, July 23, 2009

Twilight at Comic Con-Yay or Nay?

So Comic Con is going on as I type this, and I really wish I could be there, but I just couldn't afford to go and it sucks, but whatever. Anywho, I've been seeing several stories pop up about the presence of Twilight at SDCC and whether or not it's a good thing. I imagine that if the Twi-hards incite a riot and somebody gets maimed or killed, we can all agree that it's bad, but if they're just there being annoying and screaming, how do you decide?

After some pondering at my desk while I have nothing to do, I've come to the conclusion that it's a bad thing. And here's why:

As best I can tell, comic conventions began as a means to unite kids who were into stuff that generally made them an outsider/geek/loser/whatever. You got to meet up with all these other people who liked the same stuff you did and understood where you were coming from. And if you look at most of the content that brought people together at these gatherings, it's all very positive. Superhero books are, for the most part, basically the classic tale of good vs. evil and rooting for the good guy to win; genre TV and movies, which have played a part in the nerd collective consciousness since at least
Star Trek, most often promote themes of peace and acceptance (Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Star Wars). Combine these two aspects together, and you have a group of people, who are normally outsiders, being brought together by things they love which promote good, positive ideals. So far, so good, right?

However, for good and for ill, companies have begun to catch on to the fact that there's this huge fan base with disposable income, so conventions are becoming more and more about product placement and selling people crap they don't need (you know, like everything else in this society). And so, enter the
Twilight crowd. On the one hand, I hate to criticize anything that has encouraged so many young people to read. On the other hand, it seems like it's a terrible, terrible chunk of literary crap (for those of you who read the books as a guilty pleasure and understand that they're not the cream of the crop, you're fine by me). I haven't read the books, but I've seen the first movie, and had the books described to me in great detail, so I think I get the gist. And while other geek-related media tend to have overall positive themes, I'm having a hard time finding the good in Twilight. It seems to be promoting both the 'prince charming' ideal of men, which I think is really unhealthy for developing minds, as well as a very strange take on the misogynistic idea of the submissive female who just does whatever a man wants her to do and constantly needs to be rescued, which also seems not so healthy. The books also reflect individualism in that these characters make rash decisions based on their own feelings, and seem to really only care about themselves and a few others, as opposed to other pieces of geek media which often revolve around the idea of the greater good.

As a more direct comparison, let’s look at Buffy vs. Twilight (I hear people say the two have nothing in common, but shut up, they do). Buffy, which is and probably always will be a staple of geek TV, is about a young girl who has great power and can defend herself as well as having to defend many others. She does have troubled relationships, but she actually experiences them and thinks them through rather than just doing the ‘I love you so much I can’t be apart from you and now nothing else in my life matters’ deal (most of the time). She and many of the other characters as well, often make sacrifices in an effort to save all of humanity, and so even though they have their own little problems, the theme of the greater good shows up again. Buffy shows that you can have a story about vampires and love and teen troubles that exists in the geek realm, and it can be positive and uniting and not just a sci-fi themed romance novel.

So I guess my main problem is that I don’t think Twilight belongs at Comic-Con, because it’s not really a geek thing. Just because it’s about vampires and the fans have that whole ‘I’m a geek’ thing going on, doesn’t mean it fits. I’m fine with the fact that conventions are branching out to incorporate other media and products, but it seems that the only intrinsic value that this particular phenomenon has to offer is financial gain. Yes, if you have a Twilight panel at SDCC, thousands of girls are going to come and spend money to see it. And while a lot of people say that maybe these kids will be introduced to new books at the convention, which is good for both them and the retailers and creators, will they? I’m sure some fans will wonder out and find Death Note or Sandman and lose their shit and then start reading all kinds of other books, but I’d be willing to bet that most of these kids only care about the Twilight books, and nothing else will faze them from a reading standpoint until the next big phenomenon happens.

So in short, I vote no on letting Twilight into my world of geekiness. Am I wrong? Thoughts?


  1. 9/10ths of EVERYTHING at Comic Con, and everyplace else, is horrible crap. Comic Con is as much a celebration OF crap as it is anything else. Transformers, for example, is pure-dee garbage, and that shit's the belle of the ball. I think most of the ire and disdain directed at Twilight is for them not being "the right kind" of nerds. Moreover its fandom arose organically and not because of any nefarious corporate attempt to cash in--I don't think anyone thought "hey, a teen romance about a celibate vampire by a Mormon, this is a cash cow waiting to happen." The fandom happened first and the phenomenon happened second. And again, compare it to Transformers, which really IS a giant corporation making hundreds of millions of dollars off an audience it clearly has nothing but contempt for. Even so, I don't think anyone would argue Transformers and its fans "don't belong" at comic Con.

    So I'd say yeah, you're wrong.

  2. i agree. let us nerds be nerds, right?

  3. I will agree that almost everything everywhere is devolving into crap, and it's not so much SDCC I'm specifically worried about; whatever happens there is a gateway to all the other cons, in theory, right? And yes, I agree that Transformers is a huge load of crap (at least this new incarnation of it), but I would say that it's place at Comic Con makes sense, since it's a big load of nostalgia for a whole lot of geeks.

    If the idea of SDCC is to just have anything that's popular and new and marketable that might generate revenue, fine, I'll get off Twilight's back (and I'm sure that a lot of people will argue that is already the case, but I'm speaking more to the theoretical 'way it should be'. I suppose). But if that's the case, and it just keeps swallowing in anything that makes money, eventually it has to re-name itself the San Diego Pop Culture Con. Or something.

    I'm not gonna say that Twilight fans aren't the 'right kind of nerd,' because the whole idea of being a geek or a nerd is that you're just not right to begin with (you know, from everyone else's viewpoint). I love all kinds of nerds. And I know that there's really weird levels of nerdom and certain groups hate other groups and none of it makes any sense. My arguement isn't so much towards the fans, but to the object of their affection. (Even though, to be honest, large groups of girls freaking out and screaming about anything, scares the living shit out of me.)

    In theory, cons should be about people coming together to celebrate these great works of media that don't really get a lot of love from the popular kids, right?(Battlestar didn't get nominated for an Emmy, fine, fuck off, I'll go show how it means to me and all my friends at a convention) But the best aspect I've been able to gauge from Twilight is that it's a great guilty pleasure read. As far as I can tell, there's no great literary analogy or progressive philosophy or role model of any kind hidden away in these books (somebody, correct me if I've missed out here). So yes, they may have a huge fan base and the plots are sci-fi in nature, but if they have no value does that mean they should be included in the great geek club? It just seems to that the only real reason for Twilight to be at SDCC is for monetary gain, and not because of it's geek status. (and yes, Transformers pretty much is as well, but Twilight to me seems so far off the original mark that they might as well have invited the Jonas Brothers) And again, I'm a bit freaked out by the fans, and I'm worried that the trend will trickle down into the smaller cons and then I can't hide from them. On the upside, I might be able to sell them wings.

  4. As a genre fiction (horror/goth) Twilight is right at home at Comic Con, which has always been a multimedia extravaganza involving things with tenuous ties to comics since its inception. Horror is a geek genre. Goth is a geek genre.

    I think your argument keeps circling back to "I don't like (what I've heard about) Twilight." It's fine to feel that way--I don't really like Twilight either, though I enjoy the role it plays in my wife's life--but to extrapolate that there's something uniquely bad about it that disqualifies it from properly fitting into something as gigantic and multifaceted as Comic Con seems to me to put personal aesthetic preferences ahead of logic.

    It's also a big leap to extrapolate that the only reason it's there is because of money. By that standard, that's true of everything that isn't the small-press aisle, and trust me, even those guys are there for the money. After all, lots and lots of things at Comic-Con have a huge fanbase and genre plots, to use your standard of comparison--Transformers, Iron Man, The Dark Knight, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc. And yet of all those mindbogglingly popular things--so popular that literally millions of people who don't consider themselves geeks or nerds enjoy them, often without ever having experienced their roots in toys/comics/books/whatever--it's only Twilight, which in film form is by far the least popular of all of those, that gets singled out for possible expulsion from the nerd club. That strikes me as an indication that those arguments are being made arbitrarily.

    I think you'd have better legs to stand on if you were talking about, say, The Office or Harold & Kumar or Kevin Smith, which lack even the basic genre-plot criterion. They're just kinda geeky/cult. Of course, I think that's fine too, because otherwise we're essentially arguing that comics is a medium more or less exclusively of genre entertainments--superheroes, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, action, heroic fantasy in general--and therefore things like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter are okay because they resonate with this supposedly fundamental characteristic of comics, but things like The Office aren't because there's no monsters or spaceships or punching. I think that's a self-limiting perception of what constitutes "comics and related media."

  5. I'm with Sam on this one. I'm a huge Twilight fan - I've read the books several times over, I own the film, I even have the record of the soundtrack (yes vinyl!) - but it just seems like the screaming girly crowd would be out of place at a con. Twilight is a very Hot Topic sort of thing, if that makes sense. I know Hot Topic has some neat stuff that you really want, but jeez, they are so overpriced and full of themselves. Keep Hot Topic away from the cons!

  6. I also love Hot Topic because it democratized outsider culture. No longer are teens penalized for not living in or near a major urban center.

    And don't you think nerd culture NEEDS more screaming girls??? :)

  7. If the context of having Twilight at Comic Con is all about genre, then yes, it's logical for it to be there. And in the sense of genre, there are all kinds of other things at conventions that in theory don't belong. But if this huge group of fans suddenly responds to something (be it a TV show, a clothing line or a food product) then it makes sense to have it alongside the other stuff they like. And that's where I feel weird about Twilight--it doesn't seem to have organically fit in. How many previous convention goers were excited about having Twilight there? It seems like most are rather indifferent to it. Jennifer's Body had a panel, and that is probably as out of place as Twilight, but because it's something that fans are interested in, it works (same thing with Alice in Wonderland and Avatar--which I really wish I could have seen that footage).

    So I guess my point is two things: no, I don't like Twilight-it freaks me out; and I would say as long as anything organically grows into geek culture then it's fair game.

    Oh, and Hot Topic broke my once teenage heart, yet I still stop in everytime I'm in a mall. Sigh.

  8. Definitely more girls... not so sure about the screaming, though. I totally met Draco Malfoy at Hot Topic, but have you SEEN how much they charge for t-shirts? Obscene.

  9. Well, that's certainly true. You kinda have to wait for sales. I did get an amazing Final Crisis t-shirt from their website for $15 and change including shipping one time, though!

  10. Was it planned for Draco to be there, or is he just as brooding and emo in real-life?

    And I still find random trinkets that make me happy at Hot Topic, but back in high school it was the coolest place for me to get my pseudo punk-crap and Rickey to get his uber raver gear. It's been along time since I found something really rad (with the exception of my Slytherin baseball tee).

  11. It was planned, but he was actually super non emo... he was exceedingly cheerful (especially considering he had signed about 700 posters no joke by the time I got to him) and he was suspiciously bordering on preppy.