Comic Con rolls back into Salt Lake City this week with an expected 120,000 attendees in tow.
It’s easy to heap scorn on these fans who are set to flock to the Salt Palace to talk about geek culture - comic books, sci-fi, anime and film.
But, instead of fanning the flames of hatred and derision, maybe we should take a hard look in the mirror and understand that these nerds aren’t too far removed from those of us who are political junkies.
First there’s the costumes. Yes, Comic Con brings out the cosplayers who spend months and years working on their costumes.
But, is it really any different than this?
Or even this?
I have no idea where one would even start to look for an American flag blazer, but she sure did. And she made the conscious choice to wear that out of the house to a place where she would be accepted and even celebrated for dressing up like that. How is this any different than the cosplayers at Comic Con?
Nerds spend years speculating who will star in the next Star Wars, Avengers or other science fiction/fantasy films. How is that any different than the endless discussion of who is going to run in this race or that one? It’s not.
In fact, politics is worse in this arena because there are whole TV channels whose very existence hinges on contemplation about who is going to run for president in 4 or even 8 years. We can’t get through one election without throwing out name after name about who could be a candidate during the election following this one. At least Star Wars fans are focused on the here and now - what will happen to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and company in Star Wars VII? Even the endless internet discussion about the next Avengers movie is a modicum of restraint compared to the “will she or won’t she” chatter about Hillary Clinton and 2016.
Both politics and nerd culture tend to bring out the crazies. There are people who will stop talking to each other because they disagree about the story arc for a particular comic book character or who should direct or star in the next big-budget movie. Remember the collective nerd freak out when Heath Ledger was tapped to play the Joker in “The Dark Knight Returns”? There was a near revolt online from Batman purists who couldn’t handle the possibility that the guy from “10 Things I Hate About You” would be in the next installment of their beloved franchise. That turned out pretty well. We’re seeing the same thing about news that Ben Affleck is set to play Batman in the next film.
How is that any different than the Tea Party on the right or progressives on the left? They both have wackos who demand purity and can be quick to turn on once favored figures who have strayed from the party line. Democrats cannot forgive Ralph Nader for mucking up the 2000 election for Al Gore while hard-right Republicans are no longer enamored with Marco Rubio because he dared to start moderating his views on immigration. (And, as aside, I got through this entire paragraph without a single mention of Sarah Palin.)
When it comes to the internet both comic book and political nerds can throw an online tantrum with the best of them. The immediacy of social media like Twitter and Facebook turns anyone into a political pundit or expert on pop culture - and they have no qualms about sharing their opinions with whomever will listen, whether they want to or not.
Both passions can involve big money. What’s really the difference between making a political donation and spending $500 on a statue of Iron Man, other than the fact that you get something tangible in the latter case? If you ever dare to wander into the cornucopia of wonders that is Etsy, you’ll find hand painted Doctor Who shoes, Star Trek kitchen items and other impossibly nerdy kicknackery. But, there’s a cottage industry of the political as well. In 5 seconds I was able to find Obama salt and pepper shakers, Rand Paul for president in 2016 shirts and this picture of Ronald Reagan riding a velociraptor that is utterly amazing.
So, your first instinct upon seeing the hordes of people wandering through downtown Salt Lake City this weekend dressed as Dr. Strange or a family of vampires or what have you may be to turn your nose up at them.
Don’t. Because people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw a Sarah Palin voodoo doll, yours for $20 plus shipping and handling. (Sorry, I really tried to keep Palin out of this).