By Jesse Ulrich @rant9space
The hard truth that SDCC 2014 taught me was this: The best version of itself is across the street at Petco Park.
I am not the first to say this, nor will I be the last.
SDCC is a grueling, miserable, depressing, dehumanizing clusterfuck. I don't want to curse, but there is not another word in the English language that perfectly encapsulates the swarming mess of people, bags, costumes, lines, people, bags, lines and odors that is SDCC.
But there is a deeper, more frustrating problem with SDCC as it currently exists. It has turned into a High School Pep Rally. Whether it is for shows you like (i.e. Grimm, Sleepy Hollow, Orphan Black, Community, Agents of SHIELD) or shows you hate/don't watch/or didn't know existed (Big Bang Theory, Legends of Korra, Reign) pep rallies are not the preferred location for nerds. You know who had pep rallies? The Nazis. (Just kidding, I just wanted to throw that in there to see if you were paying attention)
These panels have become a celebration of the Beautiful People, the actors, the cheerleaders, not the writers or creators. They have become inane beauty pageants that almost always include at least the following 3 facts/lies.
1. They all have the best crew in Television/Film
2. They all have the best fans in all of Television/Film
3. They all will refer to the stupidest question asked by a fan as “That's a great question!”
NO IT IS NOT!
IT IS A DUMB QUESTION! ASKED BY A DUMB PERSON!
YOU ALL CAN'T HAVE THE BEST CREW IN TELEVISION/FILM AND THESE IDIOTS SURROUNDING ME ARE CERTAINLY NOT THE BEST FANS IN THE WORLD!!
People wait in line, uncomfortable, hot, in a constant state of stress and dread, and they never take the time to come up with a good question.
It makes you want to punch someone in the face..... and I know exactly who:
He is there ever year and always asks a ridiculously stupid question. Hey Deadpool/Waldo just die already.
This is what I waiting in line for all night? This is what people are referring to when they talk about how great Comic-Con is?
If you desire to hear from creative and interesting people about their work, whether current or past or future and celebrate that work with like minded people, NerdHQ is where you should be. While SDCC is a celebration of Celebrity and the marketing prowess of the big studios, NerdHQ is a celebration of creativity. Why would moderators ask questions to the actors about what is going to happen to their characters in the next season or next movie? THEY NEVER KNOW! They always jokingly ask the writers. JUST ASK THE WRITERS!
Maybe I have changed, maybe I used to accept passively appreciating the TV shows and movies that I love, but recently, as should be obvious with this site, I want to be an active part of the conversation, a creator, not a bystander.
Whether it is at a live taping of a Nerdist Podcast or at a NerdHQ panel with the Thrilling Adventure Hour, I want to feel in the presence of popular art and those who create it. That is not the feeling you get at a SDCC panel and certainly not inside the Convention Center. You get pomp, you get flash, you do not get substance. If you happen to like flash and pomp, you still have to deal with the hundreds of thousands of people, not just in line at 4am in the morning, but on the way to the bathroom, on the sales floor, outside the convention center, trying to cross the street, trying to get away, you can't; you are trapped.
As SDCC has grown to become this monilith of popular culture, all of the artists, comedians, writers, and other creatives are in San Diego and they are who I want to meet and hear from, at least now we know we don't have to constantly endure the dystopian hellscape that is the San Diego Convention Center to enjoy it.
It has taken me quite awhile to recover from Comic-Con. I still don’t know whether it was amazing and fun, or frustrating and exhausting. Obviously it must be a combination of both. This is of course not the first write-up about Comic-Con on the Internet, I am just adding to the noise (and late to boot), but as a lifelong obsessive lover (and hater) of things, especially nerdy things, there are some aspects of that I need discuss.
In my mind I always thought Comic-Con would be a big nerd party, a place where I would have epic discussions on the minutiae of the different Enterprises, and deep arguments on who the hell was Tom Bambildil. But that is not what Comic-Con is, Comic-Con is a nerd theme park, where the majority of your time is spent waiting in line in an exhausted haze. It is like a trip to Las Vegas, it is anticipation and excitement followed by exhaustion and shame (I yelled at a poor security guardswoman as we rushed to the Buffy “Once More With Feeling” sing-along on Sunday afternoon, in my defense she was guarding a single door that hundreds of people were trying to get through and she tried to make us back up to let someone in a wheelchair go, which was impossible, when if she has just let the mob take its natural course the wheelchair bound women would have gotten in 10 seconds later)*. That long digression aside, Comic-Con is Caradhras, an unassailable mountain. Even though I saw almost everything I wanted to see, there were tons of things I did not get to see, because they were at the SAME TIME AS OTHER THINGS I WANTED TO SEE! We had to choose between not only TV shows and movies that we were interested in, we had to choose between how early we wanted to get up and which line we wanted to wait in. I know I sound whiny, and I suppose in a way I should feel lucky that we got into the panels we wanted to see, never being turned away, but there were plenty of “fell voices in the air” to be sure. I am amazed that we got to see the pilot episode for SHIELD and the trailer for the 50th Doctor Who special, which in even more amazing news is still not officially available.
What no one can explain to you ahead of time is that it is not only the 150,000 people attending Comic-Con you have to navigate and swim through, it is the other 100,000 people who show up because it is a party in southern California with its beauty and temperate climate. It is a beautiful and frustrating clusterfuck. As a lifelong nerd, I never thought I would feel inadequate around other nerds, but man was I wrong. The costumes and the conversations one overhears reminded me of that old saying that there is always going to be someone richer and smarter than you, so don’t be jealous, but in this case it was people being more dedicated and more knowledgeable than you (not always the case, as I heard people misquoting and flat out being wrong about things, but those douchebags can’t be avoided) on the things you love. It can be both and frustrating. I can tell you within the first minute of a Star Trek: The Next Generation what the episode and plot are, TNG was my first nerd love, but I recently have fallen in love with Doctor Who, or NuWho as the reboot since 2005 is called. The whole weekend was a reminder of how limited my Doctor Who fandom is, not only where there hundreds of people dressed up as the Doctor (every regeneration of the Doctor as far as I could tell) or any of his companions, there is the whole backlog of episodes, books, radio shows, and a movie that I have not watched and I probably will never have time to see them all. It did not take away from the joy of seeing Matt Smith at the Nerdist podcast, nor did I feel unworthy to get in line at 1:20am Sunday morning to make sure that we got into the Doctor Who 50th anniversary panel.
I guess because I watch Doctor Who alone, I never contemplated what the fanbase would look like, and I was surprised and a little scared. Overall, Comic-Con is an intense bootcamp-like experience for fandom. Todd Vanderwerff, TV editor of the A.V. Club, wrote about Hall H for Grantland.com and he describes how it becomes a swell of positive emotion about whatever movie or TV show they are currently talking about. It is kind of troubling in a way, not everything is great nor do the writers or actors of the show need to have their egos stroked by the squeals of nerds everywhere over trailers, nor do we need to get over-excited about show runners not telling us anything, or actors being asked questions they have heard a thousand times and can’t answer because the person asking the question knows more about their character then they do. Yet, you can’t help getting swept up in it. It was fantastic; I can’t wait to go back and get in line again.
*That description makes me sound like a huge asshole, but you had to be there, the woman in the wheelchair was going to get in the door literally 10 seconds after us, and it was not like we had control, we were being pushed from all sides. I am still pretty annoyed by the whole thing.