"people go to san diego to learn spoilers; they go to dragoncon to learn secrets."
I have a lot to say about con and a lot of pictures to share and a lot of stories to tell and inside jokes to preserve on the internet to re-read when I’m sad, and I’ll get to all of that, I swear. Here’s a tiny story to start off as I recuperate from the full body experience that is DragonCon.
I flew down to Atlanta early to make use of some voucher/points that I had. I stayed with caphairdadbeard and we had a great time and watched The West Wing and had feelings and talked about all manner of things including the continuous, unrelenting, exhausting negativity that seems to lurk in tumblr fandom.
Here’s my secret: I’m tired of it and it was making me tired of fandom. It was making me not want to write or contribute. It was making me want to further step away and hole myself away and keep my fannish feelings confined to emails I send pearlo. And I get it, I do, I get that once you learn about internalized misogyny and the patriarchy and feminism, you start to notice these things and you can’t turn it off in your brain, but at some point celebrating the problematic things we love became uncouth and it’s turned, at least in my corner of my fandom, into this stream of criticism. Constant criticism that seems to boil down to, “This thing we love is total awful trash and here’s why.”
Like I said, I get it. But nothing is perfect, you know? There does not exist a perfect piece of media with zero problems, and while I understand the need to validate your enjoyment of a thing by acknowledging its problems, something about the way tumblr is set up not as a conversation but as a statement makes me feel shamed and condescended to when I read page after page denigrating a thing I love.
I’m depressed. I hate my job. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I have great friends and a great social life outside of fandom, but I still look to fandom as a thing that makes me happy and it hasn’t been that place for me these past few months, it’s been a place that makes me feel shame. It’s been a place that makes me feel sad because I want to enjoy reading comics from the Big 2 without feeling like I’m a bad feminist and I want to love Days of Future Past without being told the plot/story/characters were trash and no one really invested in the characters would truly enjoy it.
So, all that being said, Sarah and I had a long conversation about the negativity we see in fandom and I went to Con feeling underwhelmed by the experience and less enthusiastic than I have been in years past. And then the first panel of con was a keynote address by kellysue about some of the exact things Sarah and I had been talking about and some of the exact things that have been getting me down.
Kelly Sue talked about owning up to mistakes and doing better rather than lingering in the shame of getting something wrong. She reminded the room that no one is born perfectly correct and progressive, that we have to allow room for growth and there’s nothing perfect in the world. She talked about other things, too (all of Brian Bendis’ comics are about feelings and kissing), but those were the ones I needed to hear.
As a perfect compliment to that, on Friday night, energized by hearing someone I admire say exactly what I needed to hear, my disparate groups of con friends all met up for the Carol Corps panel and it was like I stepped into my dream of what fandom should be. It was a room full of men and women who were so excited to meet each other. Fans were complimenting each other on their costumes and Carol swag, having conversations with strangers. The carolcorpsatl organizers hand-made 160 Carol-related bookmarks that they handed out to attendees. Everyone was wildly happy and enthusiastic just to be in the room together, and then Kelly Sue showed up and that energy amped up to 11. The room overflowed. There were people standing in the back. People were turned away at the door because there was no more space.
And you know what? Not everyone in the room agreed about everything. Questions and issues were raised that saw different opinions come out amongst the crowd and even between Kelly Sue and the fans. Kelly Sue admitted to mistakes that had been made in the Captain Marvel run. Even with that, there wasn’t judgement and accusations and anger and shame, but acceptance that nothing is perfect and people disagree.
The thing I kept saying was that it wasn’t a room of like-minded people, but like-hearted people, and that made all the difference.
The moral of this story, I guess, or at least the reason I’m telling it, is that I’m still energized. I’m still feeling the love that was in that room and that followed me to different panels all weekend. I’m still full of that positivity and respect for the things I love. I may still be depressed and in a job I hate and unsure of my future, but I feel like I can love the things I love again without feeling shame and without giving into the judgement of others, both real and imagined. I’m reminded that enjoyment of things, despite their problems, isn’t a sin and that I don’t have to justify myself to anyone.
I’m feeling good, is what I’m saying. I’m feeling like I could punch a dinosaur.
I’ll write up more about the panels I went to and post pictures and probably write some more gushy goopy stuff about the way this con was different from any other DCon I’ve ever been to, but for now: Thanks, kellysue. I really needed this.
As an addendum to this post:
At Friday’s Carol Corps panel someone asked a question about Jess and Carol’s relationship and Kelly Sue went on to talk about how Carol leads with her heart. Everything about her wants to rise skyward so strongly that I think she must feel a constant upward tug whenever she’s on the ground. Like reverse gravity.
That sense of aspiration is what makes me identify so strongly with Carol, but it also helps me to identify with Carol’s other fans. I spent all weekend having lovely conversations with strangers, because the Carol Corps loves the Carol Corps almost as much as they love Carol. No other fandom I’ve ever encountered is filled with as much bliss and joy and desire to help and make other people happy.
It’s because that’s what Carol would want for us and she leads by example. Kait hit the nail on the head with ‘like-hearted people’. All of our hearts aim for the stars.