Episode 79: Who Is Comic-Con For?

Episode 79’s cover: the San Diego Comic-Con logo

In Episode 79, Elizabeth and Flourish try to answer the question “Who Is Comic-Con For?” They talk about their experience at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, the third time they’ve attended the event together after meeting on a panel there in 2015, and consider the con from different angles. How has the arrival of film and TV franchise attention changed SDCC? And from consumer behavior to celebrity-watching culture, how does SDCC construct an idea of “fandom” for entertainment industry execs?


Show Notes

[00:00:00] Awel by Stefsax is, as always, our intro music! And all our interstitial music this week is “His Last Share Of The Stars” by Doctor Turtle.

[00:07:06] Twilight Ruined Comic-Con was a thing. Like, there were protests. No joke. They made it into LA Weekly.

[00:10:45] Leslie Combemale’s episode was #27, “Fan Art Insights.”

[00:13:40] Miranda Larsen on affective hoarding is on the blog On/Off Screen, and you can read the post here!

Our coverage of Comic-Con was mostly on Instagram this year, so enjoy some pictures! Also enjoy a delightful video which was a GIF TOO BIG FOR TUMBLR

[00:41:25] If you don’t follow Kenyatta Cheese, we recommend you do—he’s smart and influential in the fandom meets entertainment world.

[00:48:47] Elizabeth’s article is entitled “You’re Gonna Love This Franchise” because that is what Comic-Con is all about. And you should read it right now.

[00:49:33] We were gonna put some articles about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard here, but then we started looking for them and, friends, it is too depressing to even begin to try and comb through them for articles that aren’t awful, because the situation is so awful that everything is awful. Please just google it if you aren’t familiar. We give up.

[00:51:07] Our episode about Fandom and Capitalism is Episode 65.

[00:51:46] One memorable time we’ve been asked about Johnny Depp was anonymously, hereAnother listener wrote in to share their thoughts too.

[00:56:23] If you are this dude, who wandered into our meetup, reach out—we can’t find our card and would love to plug your book here!

In the meantime, have some images from our meetup which was a DELIGHT!! Early in the evening we had a great turnout already…

About 11 people gather around an outdoor fire pit at the San Diego Marriott, drinking and chatting.

Annie Nocenti, a comics writer who will likely be on the podcast soon with her back-in-the-day SDCC war stories, turned up to say hi…

Annie Nocenti and Flourish pose on a sofa, holding the camera above their heads. It is very sunny.

…podcast guest and YA writer Alexa Donne and booktuber Katytastic showed up too…

Katytastic and Alexa Donne pose in front of greenery. Katy wears a TARDIS dress and Alexa a spangled black dress.


[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Minkel: Hi Flourish!

FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!

ELM: This is Episode 79. The title is “Who Is Comic-Con For?” Question mark.

FK: Who is it for?

ELM: Oh God, that’s what we’re gonna have to find out.

FK: Well one person it was for, it was for you and me, and it wanted you to stick around so much that your flight got canceled.

ELM: Don’t remind me! [laughing]

FK: So that’s why this episode is a little late, cause certain people had to spend the night at LAX.

ELM: No no no, I did not spend the night at LAX. Let me tell you what happened. Let me break it down. Alaska Air, I just need this on the record, this is the doing of Alaska Air! 11:15 departure, redeye to New York City. Supposed to be boarding. They get on the loudspeaker, they say, “plane is dangerously hot.” So we’re like, “That’s bad.” They say, “It’ll take five minutes to cool off.” We’re like, “Oh, dangerous to fine in five minutes! Great.” We’re all just feeling a little bit like this is not a great sign. It’s late. It’s Sunday night.

All right. 45 minutes pass. Then they say, “We can’t find the pilot.” We’re like, “Excuse me? You just said it was because it was hot and now you can’t find the pilot?” Another half hour passes. Very poor communication. They say “We’ve found the pilot, we can’t find any flight attendants.” Was this flight on the schedule? I don’t understand! Right? It’s the redeye, it’s their redeye to New York, I don’t understand. OK.

Then they find the flight attendants. And they say “We’re boarding.” It’s almost one in the morning at this point. I have never in my life seen people mobilize so quickly to get on the plane, they were like “WE’RE GETTING ON THIS PLANE RIGHT NOW.” And then they start to board, maybe a few dozen people get on, and they pause. There’s like half an hour of utter silence and confusion and no one will say what's going on. And then they get on the thing and say, “The pilot is unfit to fly.” [FK gasps] We’re like, “What the fuck.”

Then, they’re like, “We’re gonna call HQ and we’re gonna see if we can get a new pilot.” It is one in the morning Pacific time. Where are they gonna get another pilot to fly across the country at the drop of a hat on call? So they cancel the flight and there is almost a riot. People are just like, and they’re like, “You’re gonna hear from my lawyer!” and all this stuff. Then it took another, I would say two-and-a-half hours to get rebooked, to get a hotel voucher, to get my food vouchers, [sighs] and then my rescheduled flight was delayed by several hours and I burst into tears at the Alaska Air counter. That was my journey, and I want everyone to know exactly what my experience was.

FK: Well, now everyone does know. We have been informed and I am really sorry that that happened.

ELM: It’s OK Flourish. Thank you though. I made it. I’m in my house right now.

FK: I like framing it that Comic-Con just loves you so much it didn’t want you to leave.

ELM: It was in Los Angeles, that doesn’t even make sense. It allowed me to leave San Diego.

FK: It also doesn’t make sense to personify Comic-Con, so… [ELM laughing] I don’t know what you want from me.

ELM: But people do! So, travel drama aside, we are back. We are somewhat tired but we are full of analytical thoughts about what was a fun time but also a very interesting time. Our fourth time at Comic-Con. San Diego Comic-Con. We haven’t actually done an episode debriefing the sort of stuff that we see there, even though we have been there together every year since we met there in 2015 on a panel. So I think it’s time to break down, this is the most important…would you say it’s the most important geek-media-oriented entertainment industry fan-focused event in the U.S.?

FK: For sure. For sure. Certainly by size. Yeah. In general, yeah.

ELM: In terms of the weight that the entertainment industry gives to it?

FK: I think that it’s a little bit complicated. There’s some things like Paleyfest that people go to and there’s panels and those are a lot more industry focused, although fans are also present.

ELM: Isn’t that the one where they do the upfronts?

FK: Paleyfest, whenever you see a panel that seems to actually be saying something.

ELM: I’ve never seen that!

FK: Well, it happens at Paleyfest sometimes. And yeah, of course there’s the upfronts, which fans are not involved in, which for those of you who don’t know what upfronts are, that’s when the new TV shows are shown to advertisers and that happens in New York.

ELM: And critics. And critics are there as well.

FK: And then advertisers decide…yes, and critics are there also.

ELM: But is Paleyfest that fan-focused? Because Comic-Con, despite being this entertainment industry event, is, hundreds of thousands of attendees are there.

FK: And Paleyfest is not. You can get a ticket and go see a panel, but it’s not a…it’s not the same thing. And more to the point, it’s especially not as exhibitor-focused.

ELM: Sure, right. And that’s one massive component of San Diego Comic-Con, is the consumerist angle of all sorts. So we should get into that. But I guess the main question that we’re asking with this title, who is it for, I think that there are assumptions or generalizations or impressions that people in the entertainment industry have, also people who are broadly quote unquote “in fandom” or interested in pop culture, who don’t attend, who actively choose not to, or would never desire to. Obviously, people who attend have an idea of who it’s for: they might think it’s for themselves if they actively choose to go! But who those selves are definitely varies. So where do you want to start? How should we break it down?

FK: I think one thing that's interesting to think about is the history of San Diego Comic-Con, which we don’t need to get too deep into, but I think it does impact who people think it’s for. Because in living memory, San Diego Comic-Con was a bunch of comic book sellers in a room. You know?

ELM: Within, what, in the ’70s, the ’80s.

FK: Yeah. My friend Annie, who we met there, who I think we’ll have on the podcast sometime, was telling us stories of her time—she's a comics writer and her first times at Comic-Con, which were, if you’ve ever been to maybe even, I think even smaller than Boskone or some small science fiction convention where you really just have a room full of people selling books. In this case it was comic books. So I think that that has a big impact on who people still think Comic-Con is for, even as the show has changed and literally grown by possibly a million percent. [both laughing]

ELM: Break that down a little though. Who are the people who have an impression that it is first and foremost a space for comics artists and comics consumers? And obviously those aren’t two wholly separate groups. There’s crossover.

FK: Yeah. Well, I mean, you've heard people say, there’s a couple of things. One is people who have been there since the beginning. I think we’ve all heard people say, do you recall the “Twilight Ruined Comic-Con”…?

ELM: Absolutely, yes. You even still get this with people who are, even there’s an attitude towards the film franchises around comic book properties. Even, there’s a very purist, gatekeeping kind of attitude.

FK: Right. And to some extent, Comic-Con is the place where the Eisner Awards take place, which is basically the Oscars of the comic book industry. Imagine if the Oscars themselves were taken over by actual comic book fans.

ELM: This is a tortured metaphor.

FK: And, you know, turned the most important film awards into something that was entirely about a different medium, right? Do you see what I’m saying? It is a little tortured, but there’s no way to make it not tortured.

ELM: I think it’s also a bit of a fantasy that there was ever a time when different mediums were so utterly cloistered. Obviously you would have spaces that were primarily for comics, made of paper, whatever. But the idea that any of these, I almost said IPs because this whole scene has infected my brain, but obviously this has exponentially grown. The idea of taking comic book characters. But the idea that any medium of any kind was wholly separate from any other 50 years ago or whatever, 20 years ago, is a bit of a fantasy. It’s a bit of a rose-colored glasses about the way things used to be. “Movies used to be movies and now everything’s a crossover,” whatever. It feels very curmudgeonly to me and also a little ahistorical.

FK: I agree completely. I do think that people hold the belief, but I don’t hold it myself, you know what I mean. But I do think there’s another group of people who still see the comic book—and when I say that, I mean more than even comic books is deep geekery, so I think in the past you had, there was a higher barrier to entry to a con in general.

ELM: You had to feel like you were welcome in that space.

FK: Right. And also, a lot of people really felt like they were unreconstructed nerds. “I’m sorry, I’m just super super into this, really really really really into this. I can, whatever, I’ve-read-every-Marvel-comic-ever-written into this.” And I don’t think that that is as much the case any more, for all of the people who show up at Comic Con, but I do think there are people in the entertainment industry sometimes who perceive it more that way.

ELM: That everyone is this deep level…but a very specific kind of fandom, a few different kinds, but it definitely seems like the consumerist, the collector fandom—which, consumerist and collector, I don’t think that’s a direct one-to-one, I also think these are amorphous labels that don’t necessarily mean much. But collectors versus people who wanna buy merchandise around their favorite property, may not necessarily be the same thing.

FK: Certainly not.

ELM: Collectors are specifically acquiring things for collections, that sort of thing. Whereas you could just be like, “I wanna go there and get all the Marvel merch.” You’d probably say “merch” because everyone says it, even though the word hurts me, I hate it, I hate it.

FK: I can’t help you with that.

ELM: It’s fine. Also, it feels like a space that venerates the sort of fandom that is very…what we consider curatorial fandom, the kind of fandom that privileges canonical knowledge. “We’re gonna give you more information.” It’s definitely a space like that.

FK: Except for in the case of fanart, because I do think that fanart is somewhat elevated and has historically been elevated within this, but that’s partially because of fanart as a bridge to a comics career.

ELM: Sure, but there's also different kinds of fanart. Remember when we had Leslie Combemale on, maybe a year into the podcast do you think? It was around the first Comic-Con we went to together since we had formed the podcast.

FK: Yeah, I think so.

ELM: Talking about fanart in these spaces, and the kind of fanart you see now at San Diego Comic-Con at least, and other cons too, the kind of fanart I see on my dash at Tumblr, stuff that feels a bit more transformative and very different artistic styles, different takes on characters, but you still see the very traditionalist comic book accurate, very realistic looking… The stuff that Leslie expressed concern over, because where’s the line between that and just plagiarism. If you’re just stylistically copying it directly from the source, there’s still a ton of that. You can get fanart, you can get art of any of your favorite characters that looks a lot like the official versions of the way these characters are drawn.

FK: Absolutely, absolutely. So yeah, in a very particular type of deep geekery. I think that that is not…even given this particular type, et cetera, I don't think that that’s as true, I don’t know that it was ever that true. Not to say that there aren’t people who are big nerds about Property X there, I think everyone goes there because they like geek media, they like the things that are being shown there. They want to buy merchandise or whatever. But I do think that a lot of people attend, I was talking to my cousin who said “Oh yeah, my friend works in the industry and I figured they could get me a pass and I figured I could go down, it seems like it’s a crazy scene.” She’s, I mean, she watches superhero movies but I don’t think that she has any particular engagement with nerd culture. It’s just the spectacle that she wants to go and encounter.

ELM: Sure, sure.

FK: “Let’s go see the life size Bumblebee in the Transformers booth.” That’s cool, even if you’re not a deep nerd about it.

ELM: It is pure spectacle. That seems like a bit, obviously there are a ton of people there who are coming via the entertainment industry, whether it’s their job or like your cousin just has a friend who’s like “Come along, there’s a bonkers time.” That’s not necessarily the same as who it’s for, because, I mean, who is it for?

FK: I will say that I think that from the entertainment industry perspective, one of the major categories of who it’s for is “people who buy stuff.” Especially in the film franchise space. It’s not just that a film franchise is going to have their own booth at Comic-Con, it’s that you have WETA and Gentle Giant who make those big figurines. They’re going to do, I think they probably do the most business of the year there. I don’t know for a fact, haven’t asked ’em, but I wouldn’t be surprised. You’ve got Funko Pops. You’ve got Lootcrate that people sign up for. You’ve got all of these things and they all are getting on the same page to exhibit things from the film franchise, and one of the reasons the film franchise goes to Hall H is in order to drive those sales.

ELM: This brings up a big category of people who I think are interested in attending San Diego Comic-Con, did you read that Miranda Larsen piece about affective hoarding?

FK: YES! YES! OK, give the summary, because that’s so relevant.

ELM: I’ve put a few of Miranda Larsen’s pieces in “The Rec Center” over the years, I think she’s a PhD student who studies Kpop and Jpop, based in Japan possibly? This piece was about affective hoarding, was the term. Affect. Like, you know, excitement, enthusiasm. This term that people use a lot when talking about, in fan studies, to talk about fannish pleasure.

So affective hoarding is about people who derive fannish pleasure from having access to something that other people don’t. So the joy of it, hoarding the affect as it were: “I enjoy being in this space. There’s one seat and I have it.” Not necessarily, that makes it sound so vindictive, which I don't think it necessarily needs to be framed.

FK: But it’s less fun, this is…all of the things where they say, “This is a very special release. It’s only you in this room.”

ELM: A pleasure from exclusivity. So this is something that struck me across the board. From the consumerist side, there were so many things that were SDCC exclusives, and there are obviously people buying them so they can just resell them on eBay for even more, and people will pay more for them because they’re SDCC exclusives, because there’s scarcity. Right? You’re looking at some of this stuff and you’re like—I guarantee there are people buying it just because it was an exclusive to Comic-Con.

FK: Of course.

ELM: It’s not because they were the world's biggest Moaning Myrtle fan, which was one of the Funko Pop exclusives. [laughing] I’m sure there’s some Moaning Myrtle fans out there, but I bet there are Harry Potter fans who wanted those just because it was the special thing that was there. Right?

FK: And that you’ll never be able to get again. There’s a fear-of-missing-out aspect to this.

ELM: Absolutely. And so then the parallel to this, and we’ll get into the culture around Hall H in a bit, but over and over again when you're in Hall H, you constantly hear, “You waited for this, to be in this space, you are the one who’s in this seat,” kind of a vibe of “You deserve to be here, you’re special,” and they always say—the head of Hall H is always saying things like “Don’t photograph,” when they show the footage or whatever, and half of it is trailers that just get put online immediately by the studios anyway, but some of it isn’t. And he says, “Don’t record it, because we want these people to keep bringing this stuff, these studios to keep bringing this stuff, but you get bragging rights, you get to tell your friends you saw it first.” And that’s the line they hit over and over again. “You get to brag that you were the one who had access to this experience first.” I guess people find a lot of pleasure in this. I don’t know, I always feel slightly uncomfortable when he says that.

FK: It seems to me to relate, too, with some of the smaller panels and also autograph lines and signings and things. There is something about the physical presence of a human. You can’t reproduce that. And only a certain number of people can have it, because there is scarcity in that there is one human and they can only say hello to so many fans in their entire lifetime.

ELM: You’re literally buying a physical moment of their time. Not necessarily at Comic-Con, but you know, at the Supernatural cons, you buy autograph time. Not just those, but at certain… 

FK: Yeah, you’re buying a moment of their time. Exactly.

ELM: You can pay a lot more and get ten minutes of their time or an hour of their time at a mixer or something like that, right? Or even just to be in the room with them, even if all you do is say hello once, or not even at all.

FK: Right. And the thing is I think when people say, there are people who say “Oh I don’t understand that why would you ever do that,” I guess I believe there are some people who are uninterested in it, but I do actually believe there’s something…there is something you’re paying for, right? It’s not just “Oh, I love this person,” it's also there’s actually a different experience of a person who is physically there. If you’ve seen someone on your TV and you want to understand what they’re like in space… 

ELM: In physical space, not in… 

FK: In physical space, you know?

ELM: Not in outer space. [laughing]

FK: Oh, not in outer space. Although actually I would love to understand what they’re like in outer space also, that sounds awesome.

ELM: I would actually pay money to put celebrities in outer space.

FK: That’s a winner, we're going to make this into a reality show. [laughing] You see what I’m saying, right? There is something there. On our way out of Comic-Con, we were at the train station and Nichelle Nichols was there and man, I had to go up to her. You know what I mean?

ELM: So pure, Flourish, it was so charming to watch. Cause we were [laughing] We were like “Go Flourish, go!” and just to watch you from afar. I almost took a picture of you but then I felt like…and you just looked like, you looked so deferential and it was just the purest thing to watch.

FK: Well, how could I not be?!


FK: I didn’t know what to do! I was literally just like “Thank you!” And she was like “...what the fuck?” And I was like “Thank you for your entire career” and then I ran away.

ELM: [laughing] Beautiful!

FK: But it was funny. You were saying, too, she looks so presidential! She totally looks very presidential, 100%.

ELM: Amazing, we should vote for her.

FK: I sort of knew that from photos, but I didn't really know that till I saw her, and I was like “OH YEAH. YEAH. THAT’S MY PRESIDENT.”

ELM: If I didn’t know who she was, that was a stately woman right there. The white hair was majestic.

FK: Just the physical presence.

ELM: I mean, I definitely don’t…I would not pay money personally to get an autograph. I, having gotten the autographs of a few writers I deeply admire, it’s never not a disappointing experience for me, and it’s never their fault, but I’m always just like [sighs] “HERE” and they’re like “OK thank you!” And I’m like, “Oh.” Cause I think we’ve discussed this before, you have a relationship with them in your head, and it is always going to be inadequate. I think paying money for that would make it worse for me. I would feel… 

FK: For some people the transactional nature of it isn’t a big deal, and for other people it’s like, the fact that this is transactional makes it not interesting anymore.

ELM: Right. Cause in your head, especially with these writers, I have a two-way conversation in my head. The fact that if I had to pay money to have a…then I would have to…in my head I can still have the fiction that we’re having an equal conversation, but if I’m paying money for it then that really would ruin that illusion for me.

FK: Yeah, totally. But at the same time, there are people for whom that’s not a barrier.

ELM: Absolutely. Also, I don’t think that for everyone who’s interested in being in a physical space with a celebrity, I think my two-way conversation thing is not the only reason why you would wanna get your favorite actor’s autograph or whatever. You may just want to see him up close. You may just wanna have him say hi to you or take a picture with him or whatever.

FK: Yeah, and that’s I think one of the things also that happens within these panel spaces, or even things with our meetup. There are some people who are like “It’s great to meet you,” like, you and me.

ELM: Yes, we are celebrities, Flourish.

FK: We’re not, no, I mean, the point is that we’re not celebrities, but it’s an opportunity, here’s a person who you sort of know about who you would get a chance to meet, who you might otherwise not get a chance to meet because whatever. You’re not friends with Noelle Stevenson or—she’s way more famous than either of us by a million times.

ELM: I didn’t actually meet her.

FK: Or Britta [Lundin], or whoever. I just named Noelle Stevenson because I did actually get introduced to her and I was like [gasps] “Noelle Stevenson! That’s the person for me!” But you know, or Britta or whoever. And that’s not the same thing as a Hall H. It’s not the same thing as an autograph line. It’s just literally, here’s a panel, and you might get to say hi and introduce yourself, maybe become friends with this person possibly. But even that is a very physically embodied, you can’t do that outside of a con really. Please don’t show up to someone's apartment and knock on the door and be like “Hey, wanna be friends.” You can’t do that, it’s not a thing!

ELM: “I’ll pay you a thousand dollars if I can spend ten minutes just staring at you!”

FK: Oh my God, oh my God, no. But you know what I'm saying. There’s obviously the super heightened version of this physical meetup thing and then it goes all the way down to the turn up to the Tequila Bar and Grill-E.

ELM: “Grill-E.”

FK: I have to say “Grill-E” because that’s how you spell it, and come to the Fansplaining meetup, and hey!

ELM: Going back to the exclusivity and the consumerist elements of it, I think there are a lot of people I know in fandom who are not really from consumerist fandom who disdain San Diego Comic-Con in particular—but other big commercial cons like it—for being so commercial, for being so consumerist-driven and for being this bastion to capitalism. And it’s interesting to me. 

I was thinking about this as we were walking around on the con floor…you weren’t there. As I was walking around. You’re walking around on the con floor, it’s easy for me to despair about humanity, because everyone just turns into a total zombie when they get in that room. They’re just, people just stop short constantly. You’re like, “Could you walk? And I don’t know why you’re stopping?” I know it’s overwhelming, there’s thousands and thousands of people in this giant space and it feels super weird, but it’s also just people being like “Shiny object!” And they just stop. And I was thinking about all the disdain I’ve heard from people saying “Everyone there’s a mindless consumer just spending all this money,” and it’s like “All right, chill out! Also, you could go to a mall on Black Friday…” Obviously they critique that too, but there are so many spaces…

I think sometimes people get very critical of fans doing this in this space, doing behaviors that you see all over our consumer-driven capitalist society every day. So it’s really weird to pin it on fans, to make the active choice to be in this space, when people buy useless shit all the time. People buy shit that’s meaningful to them, not just useless, all the time. You know what I mean?

FK: Not to mention that the stopping-and-looking-at-the-shiny-object thing is highly familiar to anyone who has ever been in midtown Manhattan and walked around and observed a tourist stopping to stare at, like, a totally normal storefront and goggle at it as though they have never seen anything in the world so interesting.

ELM: Like the H&M. Yeah. Flourish. Do not get me started. I’m sorry, I worked in Four Times Square, that’s the name of the building, that’s the number, for five years.

FK: I know you did! I’m just saying.

ELM: And now, and now, I work in the World Trade Center.

FK: I know.

ELM: It’s too much. It’s like, I gotta go, I'm late, and you’re staring at a store that you have in your town also, it’ll be like, H&M, come on!! Come on!!

FK: But at Comic-Con, for comparison, there definitely is not a life size Bumblebee statue. There’s not a one-to-one WETA Workshop reproduction of Alita Battle Angel that you do actually want to stand…and by the way, everyone at Comic-Con has paid to be in this space to gawk at these things.

ELM: I think there’s more interesting stuff to look at sometimes in Comic-Con than in the fancy mall that leads into the entrance to the World Trade Center!

FK: There is definitely more interesting things to look at than at the fancy mall. I’ve been there. It’s, Comic-Con is way more interesting. So yeah, I think part of the point of the exhibit floor is for people to stop and become zombies. That’s what it’s FOR.

ELM: Still, sometimes there’s some thoughtlessness to it. People just stop and they’ll be like, “WHERE ARE YOU?!” Shouting in their phone. Step to the side, please!

FK: Or there’s someone in cosplay who someone’s taking a photo of, and you don’t wanna get in their photo, but it’s across the entire aisle and you’re like “Yo.”

ELM: “Let’s go.”

FK: Of course people are jerks about walking and not walking. But. On the whole, the space is intended for staring at things, purchasing things, it’s the exhibit floor. That’s what it is.

ELM: Right. Obviously when I talk about “who is Comic-Con for,” I know a lot of people who say “I would never attend that because of the crowds.” And I think that’s completely valid and it’s just not gonna be a space for you, there’s really no way around it, it’s just getting more and more crowded. They added more venues this year. Our hotel lobby was, it has been for years, ballrooms on the lobby level are actual sites of panels, and this year too there were…not activations but, they were things to do. There was this Dragon Ball Z card game zone that I was staring at from our balcony overhead, you know. So there were tons of people passing through there. There was no way around that. Obviously you don’t have to stay in a hotel in the center of it all, but it is very hard to not be stuck in a crowd while you’re there, and obviously if you have a fear of crowds, or if you have a difficulty navigating even though… 

FK: Yeah, it’s not for you.

ELM: Even though they do work to make it as accessible as possible to people with physical disabilities, I think it would still be a harder time if you did have limitations.

FK: For sure. One of the challenges with the meetup that we ran was the bar that we picked to meet at has food and non-alcoholic things as well as booze, and is very ramp friendly, pretty accessible in all those ways, but there’s still just no way around the fact that there’s gonna be a lot of humans in that space. So.

ELM: That line for the bar, man. That was a lot of humans in a space.

FK: And a long line for a bar that maybe, if you can’t stand for a really long time, it’s gonna be hard for you to get a drink. You know? There’s only so much that, when there’s that many people around, structurally there have to be choices made that aren’t or can’t be made to make it for literally everyone. And some things can’t be for literally everyone just by their very nature, I worry.

ELM: This is tricky because we’re saying this on the backs of talking about how so much of the culture there is about exclusivity and about access. It’s all well and good for me to say “this isn't the space for you,” but if part of your fannish heart is to be in Hall H and see the…you know. Hall H for God’s sake, people sleep out over night for that. Not everyone can do that. It doesn’t matter if you’re… 

FK: Yeah, although actually Hall H is one of the examples of a case where if you have a disability, there is a separate line which does not involve sleeping out overnight.

ELM: I’m just saying, if you don’t have a physical disability, there are still a lot of people who still can’t manage the night on the sidewalk.

FK: [laughing] Oh, yeah! That’s true.

ELM: People who are over a certain age, perhaps. You know. Or just people who don’t want to sit outside in the…people putting umbrellas and things like that up.

FK: But the sun is a lot. Let’s take a break and then let’s talk about Hall H culture in specific. Cause I think we had a lot to say about this.

ELM: Absolutely, and one thing I really wanna touch on is I would like to talk about the entertainment industry’s view, I think we talked a little bit about how they view the consumers, but I really want to know about in terms of consumers of media how people are viewing the people who go to Comic-Con, and specifically what happens in these really big celebrity fueled places like Hall H.

FK: For sure.

ELM: OK, let’s do that.

[Interstitial music]

FK: We are back. OK. So the first thing that I think has to be addressed with Hall H, and also with the exhibit floor, with the exclusives, is this thing I was calling athletic fandom, athletic feats of fandom, right?

ELM: Yeah, yeah.

FK: Which is the thing where you express your fandom in a really extreme way, a physically extreme way, like sleeping out.

ELM: Or like “I saw this, this, this,” or “I acquired this, this, this.” You see people hauling these massive things, it is clear you are doin’ it, you are 1000% energy, getting all the experiences, “I went to every activation, I saw every panel, I slept outside…”

FK: “I did the scavenger hunt, and I was the first person to finish the scavenger hunt, and it took me only 30 minutes cause I ran.” You know. Whatever else it is. Or
“I was sitting there, I didn’t eat, I didn’t drink, because then I’d have to go to the bathroom and I might miss it…” 

ELM: Sounds frankly exhausting.

FK: It is exhausting! But I think that’s part of the point, and I think some people enjoy—I have in the past enjoyed, I mean I’ve enjoyed a line party. There is not, I've never done the Hall H line and slept out, but I’ve enjoyed a line party before.

ELM: I should say too, sometimes people talk about this line, Hall H isn’t the only one, there are very long lines for Ballroom 20.

FK: Oh yeah, Ballroom 20.

ELM: Which is the second largest space.

FK: And there are people lined up for the activations, people line up for events, people line up for… 

ELM: Famously Hall H, which for anyone who doesn’t know seats like 7000 people and for the big, especially for Saturday, which historically has been bookended by Warner Brothers in the morning and Marvel in the afternoon—at least in the last few years of my attendance, until this year, Marvel in particular was the big showstopper, and people definitely camp out.

FK: And Marvel was not there this year, but people still did in fact camp out.

ELM: Yes. It was interesting, we were in the Riverdale panel on Sunday, and it was in Hall H, and I don’t think people had to camp out overnight to get in there but they asked, that was one of the questions of the thousand people who got on the stage, that was the largest panel I have ever seen.

FK: I think there were sixteen.

ELM: Sixteen people, the entire cast. It was delightful! It was very well managed by Kelly Ripa, the greatest moderator of all time.

FK: And also clearly a genuine Riverdale fan. That was delightful. More people who are actually fans of the things they’re moderating a panel for, please.

ELM: At the Riverdale panel, they asked at one point towards the end is there anything that you would camp out for. And a few of them, especially the older people, the parent-aged people in the cast, said they had. They slept out for Michael Jackson tickets or whatever. Sleeping out for Michael Jackson tickets doesn’t seem like a weird nerd thing to do. That’s a cool thing to do, right? Especially with any music thing…not any music thing, I think people do side-eye boy band fans for doing this.

FK: Yes. I also side-eye people who sleep out for multiple nights. Because there is a line for me, and I feel like there should be a line for everyone at a certain point.

ELM: But I feel like if you said “I slept out for Michael Jackson tickets for this amazing concert,” or whatever, people wouldn’t be like “you weirdo,” they’d be like “Whoa! You saw that concert?!” That kinda thing. But it was still interesting to think about those parallels and think about the way people talk about getting into this space and what they do for it.

FK: And I think that the perception of getting into this space and doing the Hall H line is really different. I think that in the past, as few as five years ago, it was like “Look at those freaks in the Hall H line,” and now it’s like, “Yeah! the Hall H line!”

ELM: So the language inside that you get, you get this from the Comic-Con organizers who would do introductions, you get this from the moderators who are pretty high-profile, at least for the really big panels, and you get this especially from the directors and producers on the panels, sometimes from the actors. But it’s definitely more from the behind-the-scenes people. Repeated, repeated, almost ad nauseam emphasis, on just how important people are as fans for making that physical and time commitment to being there. “You are the true believers, you are the ones that care the most, you deserve to be in this room, you deserve this footage, you deserve this experience.”

And it struck me as really weird observing all of this, because I’ve also listened to those conversations, and a lot of people I think are in that room because they like Hall H! They’re not there because they’re the number one fans of Halloween or The Predator…I’m trying to think of all the things I saw. Obviously there are people in every panel who were in the room for everything, and there were people who were there for that one thing. They’ll sit in that room all day because at 5 o’clock their favorite franchise is going to be up.

FK: But the reality is that if you like celebrity culture, Comic-Con is probably your best shot of getting a big dose of celebrities all together. If all you care about is celebrities, you can get a lot of celebrities at one go. On stage, on that…how were you describing it? The horse chute?

ELM: Let me…no. That’s not how I described it. [laughing]

FK: The horse chute. I like “the horse chute.”

ELM: Let me tell you about this. Back behind on the marina, behind the convention center, there’s a bunch of parking lots where the studios bring in all the people who are going on stage in Hall H. It’s very…it’s very locked down. You can tell that they have a really good, I think they genuinely do a good job. I think it would be a mob scene if they didn’t have a way to secret in these A-list actors and get them out. Just for everyone’s safety, this is correct. It’s very well controlled.

I don’t know if this is new this year but it’s the first time I noticed it. They have these yachts, right? And I have seen the yachts before and every time I pass them I burst out laughing, especially with #IMDBoat, which I can only say as “hashtag IMD Boat.”

FK: Yeah, so the studios and IMDB rent these big yachts, or in one case a Hornblower Cruise vessel… 

ELM: Yeah, good job Warner Brothers, it’s fine. [both laughing]

FK: …on which they host parties, which I actually suspect is probably financially responsible at that point, because SDCC is so expensive, right, as far as having an impressive venue.

ELM: Event space is limited, the marina is gorgeous, California in the summer, sure, great idea. OK. This year, and I’m not sure this is the first time but it’s the first time I really noticed it, they were filming from the top open deck of the #IMDBoat. A lot of the people who were in Hall H before or after their panels. So they had to create this channel to bring the celebrities through with their handlers. It was a freakin’ mob scene every time I walked by there. 

I work at a racetrack, all right, and to get into the grandstand, the racetrack has stables on the other side, the horses need to be brought across the street and there’s a horse crossing. I’m from a horse town, there’s a lot of horse crossings. There’s a horse crossing, and then they need to be led through the entire park and there’s a path for the horses and there’s spots you can cross through. When the horses walk by, the security guards pull up the chain and we all stand there and watch horses, and usually I’m running late and I have to watch a freakin’ horse trot on by and I’m really annoyed. And everyone gets really excited because the horses are beautiful, the horses cost millions of dollars, and this is what it felt like to me. We were watching the little path.

FK: They are the show ponies.

ELM: The thoroughbreds are being led through by their hotwalkers and their trainers.

FK: Oh my God.

ELM: I know this is very cynical, but honestly it felt like that to me, and obviously people aren’t usually mobbing the horses in the same way. But it was just so weird, and I definitely have seen this in New York. I haven’t actually seen it much in L.A. because I don’t spend much time there, this kind of “I THINK THAT WAS SOMEONE FAMOUS!”

FK: In L.A., they chase the car.

ELM: It’s like, “You think it was someone famous?” You don’t even know who it is, but it’s just the excitement of knowing. Some people next to me when I was waiting on this horse path, sorry, the #IMDBoat path, they were like “Oh my God oh my God what is she on?” and I was just like, [laughs] this is such a funny reaction, this instinct of the thrill of a celebrity and not a particular person or any connection to them or anything, you know what I mean?

FK: I definitely think that from the perspective of a studio exec, the level of celebrity culture happening at Comic-Con is underestimated, and the level of true franchise believerness is overestimated.

ELM: I need you to say a thousand more things about this right now, cause that’s a fascinating statement to me.

FK: OK. I think that because this is the only place that…if you’re a film producer you see situations where there’s celebrity culture all the time. You, whatever. You go to a red carpet, people take photos. You understand about paparazzi, all this stuff. But you almost never see a situation where it really is about this movie that you made. Obviously again, there’s the premiere, but in the premiere there’s all of the people who are around there, not there for the movie, they’re just into the celebrities.

ELM: You think so? I think some people go to the premiere because they’re excited about the movie.

FK: We’re talking about different kinds of premieres.

ELM: You mean the people who stand outside to take pictures.

FK: Exactly, I mean red carpet premieres.

ELM: People definitely I think go. I’m thinking about big franchises when there’s a new installment, people who went to the Harry Potter premieres. I tried to go, stand outside when I was living in London the first time. That wasn’t to see the actors, that was because I was…I mean, I obviously wanted to see them because I was like “HARRY POTTER,” but it was about Harry Potter, not the actors.

FK: But most movies are not big franchise movies, and most executives worked on things that are not big franchise movies for a lot of their career, right?

ELM: But most of the stuff that is brought to Comic-Con and most of these celebrities are here in the capacity of a franchise.

FK: Oh yes absolutely!

ELM: Or this is genre-y.

FK: This is exactly my point, though. So if you are a producer or a director and you've worked on a bunch of independent films, done a bunch of stuff, you at that point are familiar…even, you’re a studio executive. Most of the stuff that you’re doing I think is mostly trafficking in celebrity culture. Then you get into this genre space and you go to somewhere where people actually do care, at least some of the people, about the franchise, about the movie. And that’s wild. That's like, whoa.

And I think that it’s easy then to overestimate, especially when you see the numbers of what collectibles are selling, et cetera, et cetera, all this, again, you’re not thinking at that point about “Oh yeah, most of these collectibles are being sold to people who are going to resell them.” You’re not thinking about that. You’re thinking “Wow, these fans came and they went bonkers for these collectibles and then they came into Hall H and they slept out and they stayed and obviously they’re here for me. They’re here for this franchise.” And a lot of them are, but a lot of them are there because Jason Momoa is famous. You know.

ELM: And he, first of all, he came out, Warner Brothers utilized the entire…I went into the Warner Brothers Hall H panel, Flourish did not. We’ll talk about some of the other bits of that experience in a second, but Jason Momoa’s entrance was quite impressive. They utilized all of the screens all the way around to be like a giant rushing water flow. He just burst out, and I was half expecting him to be soaking wet just based on the amount of water animation happening. Just like, WOOSH. And at one point he lifted a chair over his head, he did everything I wanted him to do.

FK: I’m glad that he satisfied all your expectations.

ELM: He satisfied everyone in that room. He’s very satisfying as a figure. He’s exactly who he is, and you’re like “Yes, please, thank you.”

FK: Right. And for some of the people in that room I’m sure it was about Aquaman, but again, like you, when I’ve been in that room often it has been about celebrity. So anyway, all I’m saying is I think that it’s easy for a studio exec to overestimate how much, at San Diego Comic-Con in particular, it’s about their franchise, because there are a number of people who feel very strongly about it, and how much is about celebrity. And there’s a lot of people who feel very strongly about that.

ELM: Yeah, this was really put on display for me in Hall H, and I went to…I wanted to go to the Doctor Who panel, which was the second one Thursday morning. So I went into the one before it, which was the only thing Fox brought into Hall H, which was The Predator, a new movie in the franchise, which I haven’t seen admittedly. Looking around, I think there were a lot of people there for Doctor Who. They were literally wearing Doctor Who dresses. I’m not saying there’s not a crossover audience between the Predator franchise and Doctor Who, but the response to the Predator was…it was interesting. It didn’t seem like the right crowd, compared to…not to say that a 15-year-old girl in a TARDIS dress isn’t going to be interested in The Predator, I don’t want to assume.

But it was interesting because it was clear that so many people had come to Doctor Who because they were huge Doctor Who fans. And it was an extraordinarily emotional space to be in, because it was the first time that Jodie Whittaker and the whole cast were there. It was the only time I’ve ever seen this in Hall H, they had a presentation that was fan focused that was truly, truly…in four years of going to Comic-Con and observing a lot, I’ve never seen anything that truly felt like it understood organic fandom. And I know it’s probably made by Everybody At Once, who also does Doctor Who's Tumblr, and they have a really good on-the-ground sense of how fans engage with stuff.

FK: Shout out, Kenyatta Cheese!

ELM: Yeah, I was so impressed. Basically they did a long extended montage where they had people filming their reactions to the reveal. And it made me cry multiple times! It was so emotional and beautiful and inclusive, and after all the garbage about all these dumb men being mad about a female Doctor or whatever, it was just like…who needs it? This is people who are weeping about their excitement over this thing. And it was one of the few things I’ve ever seen at Comic-Con where I felt like it really connected to fandom I understand on an emotional level—and I know there’s a lot of things there that connect to other people on an emotional level, but it’s just not really me.

So that was kind of a weird juxtaposition to see in that room, where it often feels like there’s kind of a misunderstanding—and I tweeted about this, there’s a misunderstanding between this idea of “You’re gonna love what we’re bringing next in this franchise." And I’m not picking on Predator, cause I see this a lot. And people saying, “I understand who you are as someone who loves this.” Not least because half the stuff in that room is stuff that people take a gamble on, rebooting a franchise or trying to present something new, so all throughout Comic-Con they’re like “Check out our new show on NBC!” And you’re like… 

FK: I think there’s a difference between something that has consistently engaged with fans and people who love it, as Doctor Who has over the past many years… 

ELM: 43 years?

FK: Yeah, but I mean… 

ELM: 45 years? I can’t do math.

FK: They’ve been very involved with fandom since the reboots.

ELM: Yeah.

FK: Similarly, something like Marvel or even Warner Brothers to some extent with some of their properties—not as much, but, NO, there’s a difference between that and… 

ELM: She said “no” because I shook my head. Those feel quite different.

FK: They are different, but I’m saying that there’s even a difference between those and something where it’s like, “We gave you a movie. We went away for a long time. Now we’re back with another movie.” We only, here we are, we went away, we came…you know what I mean? Which is not just Predator, there’s a lot of other things. Or something that’s like “Here’s a new thing.” There was that new show Mayans that was premiering, and I hope they do great, best wishes to them… 

ELM: After Supernatural and Riverdale slots in that room. Those are specific audiences.

FK: There were people in that room who were thrilled to see it and excited, people who loved Sons of Anarchy, which was the previous show by the same showrunner I think, but the room really cleared out, you know? I think it was a difficult transition, especially for new shows or for things that have been off the air awhile, or there hasn’t been a new movie in a long while.

ELM: Yeah and it also felt like some of the programming was, I would not have put this after this. But I feel like they have to coordinate all the schedules of everyone, sometimes they have to. The guy next to me when we were sitting in Riverdale was like “Are you staying for Legion?” which was the final thing of the day and I was like “I wish I could, but we have to catch our train.” It was Supernatural, Riverdale, Mayans and Legion, and there’s crossover, I’m sure there’s someone out there who watches all four things, but it felt like different audiences. And through that Riverdale panel he was foolishly looking at some fantasy sports gambling on his phone and I was like “Are you not observing this delight on the stage?!” And he was probably just gonna sit through the Mayans thing too and just waiting for the thing that he wanted to see, and he clearly had come four hours early just so he could get, move his way up close as the room cleared out.

FK: Right, which is part of that athletic fandom bit. “I’m gonna come and dedicate myself, and I’m gonna sit through these things I don’t care about in order to get to the thing I care about.”

ELM: I just think that when you bring up Warner Brothers and Marvel, I think that they are, especially the Marvel presentation, saying “You are the fans, you look forward to this,” but I don’t see them…it feels more like, I feel like for Marvel it’d be much easier for them to equate fan with consumer or viewer than with the way that the BBC was presenting Doctor Who.

FK: I’m not trying to equate those two things.

ELM: I’m not saying you are, but I think this is a huge distinction, does that make sense?

FK: It does. One of them is about the community and the group of people and the emotional reactions and the other one is about “Here is something that we have brought that you will consume.”

ELM: Right, and it’s not to say that the Marvel people think any less of their fans, and I’m sure they know there’s all sorts of kinds of fan activities within the Marvel fandom, but this is just like—when they present it they’re like “Got this for you. You wanna see your faves?” 

And every time I’ve been to the Marvel presentation, any time they reveal any…and everyone knows what characters are gonna be in these movies cause they’re extraordinarily highly publicized. But I remember when we watched the Infinity War trailer last year, every time one of the 35 characters in this film showed up in the trailer, it was like we were watching a football team be introduced. “Here’s…” I almost said “Troy Aiken.” I tried to think of a current football player and I came up with someone from 1990…that’s fine. Spider-Man would show up on screen and they’d be like “WHOA SPIDER-MAN” and yeah, Spider-Man’s gonna be in this. And then the next person would show up and it’d be like…what’s his name.

FK: It’s interesting comparing it to sports, because it is almost a different style of fandom.

ELM: Yeah. “AWW, PETER PARKER, NO WAY!” Yeah, awesome. Again, you knew he was gonna be here. He didn’t do anything, you just saw his face, and you’re like “I can’t believe these movies, they’re my favorite.” So I can’t imagine viewing that and, you’d have a very specific takeaway about what fandom is like if you saw that.

FK: Right. And I don’t think a lot of people in the entertainment industry attend enough different presentations and understand enough ways that people interact like this… 

ELM: They don’t go to the small panels where it’s fans talking to fans?

FK: But they also don’t necessarily go to other people's panels very much. A lot of people, especially high up, come in, have a bunch of meetings, go to their Hall H panel, leave. I mean, I can’t blame people because it is in fact work. It is not in fact fun.

ELM: Absolutely, sure.

FK: But it does mean, I think, that people lack the understanding of the different possible ways that fans can react to these things.

ELM: Not only that, too, I guess it depends on what capacity you’re working on a franchise, but these actors who are brought on stage for the big crowd for 10 minutes also then have to go to every media outlet under the sun, it’s basically a press junket for them. As with Warner Brothers, the whole crew for each of the various films was let out when the cast was let out. They had to follow them around, basically. You’d get a very specific view of how this all works, and I think that’s tricky. I’m not saying anything that they might be observing is wrong, it’s just cloistered. It’s only one kind of, or a few different kinds of fannish engagement, you know?

So that’s a little tricky and it just makes me feel…it’s why I always feel like the gulf between the fan space I live in and the kind that I see people talking about, on the creator side of the fan-creator exchange, at Comic-Con, it always feels so distant from what I know. You know? And that’s fine, because I'm not necessarily going there as a fan, I’m going there as a fannish person and a person who enjoys the Tequila Bar and Grille. I’m going there as a journalist, as a media critic, you know.

Side note, plugging my article on all of this on Medium.com/fansplaining. The biggest, I think—cause we’re short on time but I really don’t wanna end this conversation without talking about what I thought was the biggest gulf, though, between my own experience of what I thought fans were thinking and what the studios were thinking, and honestly what the fans at Comic-Con were thinking, was during the Warner Brothers presentation when they brought out Johnny Depp. Which, you weren’t there, I don’t know, were you surprised when I texted you?

FK: Well actually, when you texted me you said “Guess what just happened” and I said “Did they bring out Johnny Depp? Oh no.” And you were like “Yup” and I was like “Oh boy.”

ELM: But you were half kidding, right?

FK: I was half kidding. I was not…I mean, I sort of thought it was likely, but then I was also sort of like, “Oh wait.” Because Amber Heard is in Aquaman and that seemed like maybe they would not do that.

ELM: Right. So. Aquaman was the final presentation, these were the two bookends. Fantastic Beasts went first. They had the whole cast on talking, Jude Law Hot Dumbledore blushing beautifully in his gorgeous scarf, and then they were like WHOOSH, and the light show went up and they were like…and then Johnny Depp was there in full costume. And it’s not the first time any of these big presentations will bring out someone in full costume, and it’s always quite confusing. And it’s like “OK, cool.” 

But he basically gave this speech that was like, it’s unclear who the audience, if we were wizards meant to become supremacists or if we were going to be the victims of wizarding supremacy? It was very scattered, and the room was dead silent, and I was just like, “This is so weird and so fraught, and the negativity around his involvement in this franchise is so strong online…” And then the crowd went wild, shouting “WE LOVE YOU JOHNNY.” Everyone around me was like, “I can’t believe he’s here, I love him so much.” All these people on Twitter were like “Way to misread the room,” and literally they did not misread that room.

FK: I saw someone tweeting about that, and I thought that was interesting. I was like, “Elizabeth just told me that Hall H flipped out with JOY when they saw Johnny Depp.”

ELM: “We. Love. You. Johnny.” Someone shouted that at the top of his lungs. It was a man. Loves him. You know, and the people behind me were like “That’s why he’s so incredible, he can just come on and say something random and then leave and it’s incredible,” and I was like “Well, it was random, that’s true, but…” And the reaction online was just like, “How gross. How tone-deaf.” And it was like, well…this gets back to our “Fandom and Capitalism” episode too. They’re listening to the signals, you could listen to all the online chatter you want, there’s 7,000 people in the room. Obviously I saw other people in the room who were like “whoa, bad look,” right. I wasn’t the only one.

FK: Yeah, but it;s complicated, because on the one hand the chatter online is quantifiable, but on the other hand they heard those 7,000 people screaming.

ELM: Absolutely. And so I was on the Harry Potter fan panel, as I have been for the last few years, and beforehand we were all like, “We’re gonna talk about Johnny Depp, right?” And then no one brought it up, so I used my final answer to hijack the question and bring up Johnny Depp and say that actually, his involvement in the franchise is actually a real challenge for a lot of Harry Potter fans, I know this because our listeners have written in to talk about it. I’ve had conversations with people about this. They don’t know if they can participate and engage with this franchise. And someone in the audience tweeted about it and she was like “I’m really glad you brought this up, cause I’m having a lot of trouble processing this,” and someone tweeted back to us being like “Just fucking get over it.”

FK: There’s also the point of, who waits in line for Hall H if they are unsure about seeing Johnny Depp? If you are waiting in line for that Warner Brothers presentation, you’ve already self-selected into that category, so some people are eliminated. I mean one… 

ELM: It was one small segment, it was a 20-minute segment among the day of programming.

FK: Of course. But if you really love Aquaman do you even care about Johnny, you know what I mean.

ELM: Exactly.

FK: There’s a lot of people who have…a lot of actors have been accused of doing bad things. You may just not care one way or the other.

ELM: Some other people on that stage have also been accused of quite bad things.

FK: Right. I mean I’m just not, I’m saying we all pick our battles as to what we really care about, and it’s not surprising to me that people in that room would be enthusiastic, and I don’t know, maybe the world is enthusiastic still. It’s hard for me to say, not having researched it specifically.

ELM: I think the disconnect, it was really driven home, the disconnect between what my feed was saying and what the atmosphere was really really struck me. Or the questions that are vetted and allowed are so affirmational. They’re so gentle. They’re rarely critical. Actually in the Riverdale panel the final question was about queerbaiting, and you and I kind of clutched each other. We were like “Oh here we go.” You know? It’s also, no one ever brings up stuff like that in these panels, because you would have to kind of trick the people who are vetting the questions. Say like, “I want to talk about representation,” or whatever, you wouldn’t say “I want to accuse them of queerbaiting.” They’re never gonna let you go on if you say something like that.

So the gulf between the very critical side of fandom and the kind of stuff I see there is like, “Oh come on, lighten up, have a good time, why can’t we just like this stuff…” That’s a really strong vibe there, and that’s really hard, because I don’t accept the idea of “Oh, can’t you just be uncritical for a few days.” These franchises being these properties have massive problems that deserve to be critiqued, and so it’s kind of hard to say “Oh why don’t you just chill out for a few days,” know what I mean?

FK: I definitely know what you mean.

ELM: So conclusions, because we’re short on time.

FK: I think Comic-Con is for a lot more people than the average person thinks Comic-Con is for. A really large mix of people, even a larger mix of people than an exec thinks it’s for, or than a lot of individuals think it’s for. I think that it’s just so big, there’s all these different groups, and I think that is both its strength and its weakness.

ELM: I think that one thing I would mention, that we kind of overlooked a little bit, is also there are bazillions of small panels. There, if you scroll through the app, you’re like “Oh God, these I have no interest in any of these things, but I’m sure there’s a few dozen people who are interested in this panel about this topic.” You know what I mean? There are lots and lots of niches and pockets, and it’s not all the big stuff, and it’s not just buying stuff too. And I think it’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that.

Also I think there are people who go, as in other con cultures too, I know a lot of people who do this for Dragon Con, they go because their friends are going. It’s a place where you can meet up, it’s a centralized space, and you get drinks and dinner. It’s actually a time when I see a number of my friends, and they’re also going for work, but it’s definitely a very social experience for me. So it’s not just a relationship between fans and creators. There is plenty of fan-to-fan interaction, and I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that.

FK: Yeah, but in terms of what the entertainment industry thinks it’s for… 

ELM: Exactly, I think that’s a big gap, you know? And I have to wonder how many people who just see the exchange between fan and creator or fan and vendor, if they also understand the exchanges between fan and fan.

FK: Or fan–celebrity for that matter.

ELM: Well, that’s fan–creator in my book.

FK: OK, I think that they’re different. I think they’re subtly different.

ELM: I’ll give you that.

FK: I think there’s weightings that maybe are off.

ELM: Of course, too, and another category is industry to industry. There’s so many things on whatever level you’re at, whether it’s that you’re at the fancy NBC party, or if you’re just beginning creators on a panel of people who are doing their debut novels giving you tips, you know?

FK: Right. We met a guy who met his collaborator—he’s a writer and he met a comics artist to collaborate with at a SDCC speed dating, need-someone-to-collaborate-with event.

ELM: That is so charming.

FK: And they made a comic book together!

ELM: There’s tons of stuff like that, and it’s frankly not the stuff either of us spend a lot of our time—you’re often doing biz and I'm often sitting in Hall H being like “WOW,” you know? Or observing the #IMDBoat. So it is what it is, and I know cause otherwise I feel like if we don’t mention some of these…there are spaces for more organic communication. But I think that the big show element of it, and what a lot of people who are making this media, the big media, see, people who think this is a great place to plaster what’s-his-name, Scott Foley’s face on the side of a hotel…you know? I think this is what they see. I think they see consumers ready for their next thing, but they don’t really understand why people love stuff. Cause they see it as a marketing opportunity or a place to create a big show to dazzle people for a moment.

I have a line in the place where, I literally see any random object in the street and I’m like “Is this public art?” And it is almost always a promotion for some show that I will never hear from again. I’ll be like “Oh, OK! Sure.” And I don’t wanna pick on NBC, but it’s often some scripted primetime drama on NBC that gets one season. I’m like, “Sorry guys, good marketing campaign.” Sorry NBC, call me. [both laugh]

FK: All right. I think that on that note, uh, on the note of the car half submerged outside, across the street… 

ELM: That was Hulu, I think.

FK: Whoever it was.

ELM: That was for J.J. Abrams’s Castle Rock. I also saw billboards outside LAX, where I was for a hundred thousand hours.


ELM: Yeah.

FK: I think that that should be where we end, because we are running out of time.

ELM: Yes, we are.

FK: So as usual you can contact us at fansplaining at gmail dot com. You can tweet at us at fansplaining. Our Tumblr is called Fansplaining and the ask box there is on, please send us your thoughts, especially if you were at San Diego Comic-Con. Tell us what your experience was like. We’re always here for that. 

If you want to support us, one good way is to subscribe to our Patreon, that's patreon.com/fansplaining. Very very small pledges, super super important! Most people who pledge to us pledge less than $5 a month, significantly less, often, $2, $1. And, if you don’t or can’t do that, you can leave us a review on iTunes! That really helps, helps us get the word out, we believe we deserve five stars, you can give us however many stars you think we deserve.

ELM: All right, I think that’s all the details.

FK: I think you need to go sleep, Elizabeth.

ELM: I think you’re right.

FK: OK. [both laughing] I’ll talk to you later.

ELM: Bye!

FK: Bye.

[Outro music, thank-yous and disclaimers]