fangirls

I realize that we’re all supposed to be discussing homophobia in the common era what with Bruno being out and waving his nether parts at any unsuspecting Congressperson that rounds the corner, but I stumbled upon (through my friend Sara) this article at io9 that takes an interesting angle on this year’s Comic-Con.

With a title like Female Fans Prepare to Trample Men at Comic-Con, you know it has to be good.

Most of you know the small debacle about the Avatar panel being placed after the Twilight: New Moon panel this year, and the miniature ruckus it caused since a ton of website runners felt they would be hindered in getting in to see that sweet Cameron footage if 1) they would have to wait over 5 hours in line with screaming fangirls to secure a seat or 2) if they had to deal with fangirls taking up all the good seats and remaining for the Avatar panel. Because more than a few website runners complained, Comic-Con actually re-scheduled the Avatar panel…to a time that coincided with the Masters of the Web Panel. A hilarious move if I’ve ever seen one, and one that has since also been rectified.

Basically, what writer Annalee Newitz is throwing out to the unwashed masses is that:

  • An L.A. Times article ran attempting to get females at Comic-Con by tempting them with hot dudes
  • IGN hosted a contest to win a trip to Comic-Con that was only open to men
  • /Film’s Peter Sciretta complained about the logistical problem caused by the overwhelming amount of Twilight fans saving seats in panels they don’t care about

Through these three facts, she makes an interesting case that there’s a strong anti-female bias going on. To which I say:

Duh.

The concept of the fangirl isn’t a new one, but it’s certainly been a world dominated by guys since as long as sci-fi and fantasy have existed. I wouldn’t pretend to defend woman on this front, since I’m not one and they can generally handle their own defense, but it’s also pretty obvious that marketers and those putting on events like Comic-Con know that their bread and butter is male fans.

I do offer a few things I’ve noted, though:

  • Peter over at /film has an argument more against the unfairness of having large numbers buckle an already poorly-run system, especially considering those numbers will get into panels they don’t care about just to save seats
  • I assume his real frustration is over how poorly run Comic-Con is when it comes to press (considering that he and a few others might have seen the prospect of waiting in line for 5 hours to get into the room for something they HAVE to cover for their jobs a bit bothersome)
  • And he raises a better question: Why should Twilight fans have to sit for hours through stuff they don’t care about just to check out the Summit panel? Why should other fans have to miss out on stuff they care about because Twilight fans are taking up their seats? Couldn’t this be solved by understanding the numbers involved and planning accordingly?
  • The L.A. Times article is disgusting
  • The IGN contest is pretty reprehensible, too

I realized that I’ve mostly side-stepped the real issue, but to be honest, I’m not sure what it is. Is Comic-Con anti-fangirl? It’s a good question. I know that it’s easy to stereotype that environment as a male-centric world, and it’s clear that certain promoters don’t or can’t see the value in advertising to a female fan base, but maybe the major question sticking as a thorn in the side of this issue is whether or not it’s okay to decry the popularity of Twilight because the fan base is mostly young girls. Newitz throws out the hypothetical of having a Star Wars panel before the Avatar footage – claiming that no one would wanted to have moved it because its fan base is mostly male, and male fans are tolerated as the “normal people” of Comic-Con.

On the one hand, I wonder if sites would complain that a Star Wars panel drawing in mobs and mobs of fans could possibly “ruin” this year’s Comic-Con because of its placement in the schedule.

On the other, I’m not sure if that argument is an accurate analogy considering the likelihood of Star Wars fans to be genuinely interested in Avatar whereas most Twilighters fled Hall H as soon as Edward stepped off stage last year. I think that there’s a frustration from some film websites that don’t cover Twilight because their audience doesn’t care about it, but I’m surprised a bit by most of them because it seems like, if done right, a representative journalist could get in line in the morning, hang out in Hall H all day, and update from there. He or she would sit comfortably in a seat throughout all of the panels and never have to worry about the hordes, be they huge mobs of girls or boys.

Perhaps a better analogy is one that comes from my growing up on the beach. For 51 weeks a year, the beach was mine to play around on, but every Spring Break, a bunch of tourists would overcrowd the place, littering, and making it impossible for me to get any good surfing in. Twihards are, in no uncertain terms crashing the party, and seem to care very little about anything else going on at the Con.

As for the complaints of sexism lobbed onto the L.A. Times and IGN – I think that it’s a problem stemming from a lack of creativity in the advertising marketplace. Most marketers assume that guys at Comic-Con go for the comics and that girls at Comic-Con go for the hot male stars or because they are being paid to dress up like Lara Croft and hand out flyers. It’s a fairly common, pervasive sentiment in most advertising and something Con has had to deal with (along with the stereotype that it’s 100,000 unwashed, pimply doof-balls wandering around ogling hot girls dressed up like Lara Croft).

For the record, I don’t think Peter at /film is sexist. In fact, I know he’s not. His article has more to do with logistics – it just so happens that the straw that breaks the con’s back happens to be a film that’s fanbase is mostly female. But more so, it’s a fanbase that is mostly interested only in one movie and not in anything else Comic-Con has to offer. io9 has a good point about marketers and certainly the L.A. Times and IGN situations, but /film seems lumped in unfairly.

No matter what, there’s going to be a lot of girls at Comic-Con this year, so guys – get ready.

What do you think? What’s the real issue here? Did you go read Newitz’s piece? Honestly? Go do it.

Editor’s Note: I’ve made a few changes after thinking more about the situation. Hopefully this is a bit more nuanced than my article before.


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