This fall I attended my first and second comic conventions. The boyfriend and I decided it was time to take this next step into celebrating all things nerdy, so we bought tickets to both the London Comic Con and the Forest City Comic Con in London, ON. We went all out and dressed in homemade Captain Toad Treasure Tracker and Toadette cosplay. For those who don’t know, they’re characters from a Nintendo game.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect: would other people be dressed up? Would we look silly (well obviously a little)? Were there going to be a lot of those scantily-clad booth babes you hear about?
Nerd culture is, to a large extent, saturated with sexualized images. From boob-tastic and ultra muscular video game characters, to the highly exaggerated girls of Anime, all the way down to the wholesome Betty and Veronica: nerd culture has been a venue for artists to create their own fantasy.
While I do not want to criticize the whole industry (as I am quite the nerd myself), there is no question that the imagery prevalent in many comics, video games, movies, and artwork does nothing to help foster realistic body expectations. So, I perhaps expected something different from what I experienced.
What I expected was influenced by what I’ve seen in the news lately. Men using selfie-sticks to take photos up cosplayers skirts, groping, and general bad behaviour. Remember the story about Mandy Caruso at New York Comic Con from a couple years back? She was dressed up as Marvel’s Black Cat when she was asked to do a TV interview. Flattered (thinking they loved her costume) she said yes, only to be asked what cup size she wears.
Walking into London Comic Con, one of the first things I saw were these Cosplay≠Consent signs posted EVERYWHERE! And even better, people took them seriously. I did not witness any inappropriate behaviour – everyone in attendance was polite and there to have fun. I didn’t see one con-creeper. Taking it one step further was the sign that instructed no photos were to be taken without permission.
Cosplayers at London Comic Con and Forest City Comic Con came in all ages, sizes, abilities, genders, and levels of intensity. I was too shy to ask most people for their photograph, so I did not snap many, though the boyfriend and I posed for a lot; our costume choice was very popular. We even won second place in the novice division of the London Comic Con Cosplay contest. We are up many nerd levels!
Having said all this, hypersexualization was not absent from either comic con. Many of the games advertised, as well as merchandise available for purchase, depicted the usual over-exaggerated men and women of the fantasy world. There were even sexy Anime girl body pillows.
The important thing was that the environment of both events was friendly, inclusive, and non-judgmental. Both of these comic cons are only on their second year, and they were both total hits. They are very affordable too – we’ll be buying tickets for next year – and I hope to have a similar, inclusive, safe experience in 2016.
Image credit: Alana Fitzpatrick