Gearing up for San Diego Comic-Con 2011

11/07

Consider this a primer for the inevitable comic-con wrap-up(s) and reflections coming at the end of the month (I  predict I will be addressing cosplay in some detail, as the 2 different couples costumes we are prepping pose an interesting geek litmus test).  Full disclosure: I have been attending San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) for the past 5 years as a fan, not an academic.  Though I did parlay my experience of the gendered Twihate protests at SDCC 2009 into a dissertation chapter and several conference presentations, and I frequently mull over the idea of working on the shifting promotional/fan space of SDCC as my next major (read: book) project, my attendance thus far and this year is attached more firmly to the “fan” half of my “acafan” identity.  Case in point:

Though debating gains and losses of the “mainstreaming” and “industrial takeover” of SDCC has become something of a hobby for fans and bloggers, and lamenting the ballooning scope and capacity crowds is now a rite of passage, this year’s repeated registration fail seemed (at least to many on twitter) to be the death knell signaling that the “real” fans have been officially edged out by industry types and casual consumers. I finally, luckily, scored tickets from a friend with “professional” status, after spending a sum total of 10 hours on three different days trying to buy tickets through the system, and remarking somewhat melodramatically on twitter that seeing the registration confirmation page for would be like seeing the faces of the final five cylons.

All of this said, the recent release of the SDCC 2011 program suggests some significant shifts and new strategies, and I’ll be interested to see how they pan out, as both a fan and a media scholar:

– Supposedly, this is the year that the movie studios have “abandoned” SDCC as a marketing space.  This is mostly an overly dramatic response to: A. The Scott Pigrim box office disappointment of 2010 (more on this in an upcoming blog post), and B. the news that there would be no panel dedicated to Joss Whedon’s The Avengers movie.  It should surprise no one that they will still be marketing the film heavily at SDCC.  As I already have my S.H.I.E.L.D. badge (thanks, Wondercon!), that is one less piece of swag I need:

– Television has finally made its way out of the Ballroom 20 ghetto, and into Hall H (we can mostly thank the good Doctor for this, along with the vacancies left by the movie studios).  And, for anyone who is scratching their heads why The Cleveland Show is getting the Hall H treatment, I’ll refer you to the truly awesome season finale episode, “Hot Cocoa Bang Bang,” which deals directly with the Hollywood takeover of SDCC:

Twilight returns!  Admittedly, they made a point to slot this panel in on Thursday, with absolutely nothing of interest programmed around it in Hall H to spur on a repeat of 2009’s Twihate/Avatar debacle, but it will be interesting to see if the return of Twihards, coupled with the Glee panel’s upgraded placement in Hall H renews the protests and debates re: generically acceptable/unacceptable programming content (and, by extension, acceptable/unacceptable audiences and performances of fan affect) at SDCC.

– Twihate redux aside, there’s an abundance of fangirl-centric programming this year…or, at least, panels that seek to decode and debate the elusive “lady geek.”  Some of these are now annually recurring panels at SDCC (“Girls Gone Genre”) that have proved massively popular, others sound counterintuitive to put it mildly (“Oh, You Sexy Geek” proposes to debate “whether fans can be sexy and geeky at the same time – and if they should!,” which is an unfortunate pitch for a panel full of interesting women).  I will be trying to attend as many of these as possible, but in case I miss one…

Is anyone else going to Comic-Con this year?  I’d love to run into some academic pals or former students in the “Comics Arts Conference Session #16: The Culture of Comic-Con: Field Studies of Fans and Marketing” panel (Sunday @ 2:30pm, Room 26AB), but I may be too busy tracking down a 7 year old kid to sign this…

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