Something happened immediately after the East Bay Comic-Con on Sunday. To set the scene for you, the convention took place at the Hilton hotel in Concord, CA. So while we had a few rooms off to the side to do our thing, the majority of people staying there likely had no clue what we were doing.
The show had just ended and all the vendors were scrambling to break down their booths and get out of there, myself included. I packed up my stuff and went to bring my car around to load up. Rather than pay to park in the Hilton lot I opted to park across the street at a shopping center for free, something quite a few people did. It was across a pretty major street, so this was going to be a bit of a walk.
I started the trek to my car the same time that an elderly group of two men and two women were leaving the hotel and crossing the street to that shopping center. They were all white giving off a slight hick vibe, and I’d guess in their late sixties. I was stuck with them while we walked over to the crosswalk and waited for the light to change. And I listened to them talk as if I wasn’t even there. And the conversation went something like this:
Old Man 1: What were they doing in there?
Old Man 2: I think it was some kind of comic book show.
Chuckles from all the old people.
Old Woman 1: I can’t believe grown men go to these sort of things.
Old Woman 2: Some of them are in their thirties and forties!
More chuckles from all.
Old Man 1: I don’t think I’ve ever read a comic book in my life.
Old Woman 1: There’s a reason for that.
Old Man 1: What’s that?
Old Woman 1: Because you had women who would date you!
Louder laughter from all.
Then I broke free from the group and headed toward my car. I immediately began to think about how small minded they were. Should I really feel ashamed of to be a part of a comic convention because I’m thirty-one years old? Were all the people there losers? Of course not. It was just the very narrow, outdated view of a group not familiar with the culture.
Then the big fat bearded guy painted like a clown wearing a tiny hat and a pink tutu that comes to all the shows walked by me.
Then I thought “I could see how an outsider might come to these conclusions.”
I’ve never considered myself a nerd or a geek or anything like that. Hell, I think I’m a pretty cool guy. Does liking comics and certain aspects of pop culture mean that I’m just living in denial? I don’t think so.
When I was young geek and nerd where insult words, now they seem to be more positive and empowering. I think my lifetime has corresponded with the rise of geek culture. What were once niche things that were only enjoyed by the dedicated few are now accepted parts of main stream popular culture. Just look at the meteoric rise in movies and tv shows based on comics as an example.
So if nerd is the new cool why do some people still look down on comic book culture. Was it just because these people were from another generation? I don’t think so. I’ve heard similar derision from people closer to my age.
Before the rise of the nerd I think there was a pretty strong stigma associated with people who were into comics, and I don’t think that has fully gone away. Comic book lovers were thought to be basement dwelling anti-socials who still lived with there parents and hadn’t fully grown up. Broad stereotypes that everyone finds so amusing.
Look how popular the Big Bang Theory is. As much as people want to think of it as some kind of celebration of nerd culture it isn’t. It’s a chance for outsiders to laugh at reinforced stereotypes. Open your eyes! They aren’t laughing with them.
Sadly, like most stereotypes this one was developed because there is some truth behind it. If you worked a booth at one of these cons you’d see a fair share of socially inept weirdos and nerds dressing/acting bizarrely. Just hang out in any given comic book shop long enough and you are likely to experience it. Hell, there’s a good chance one of them works there.
Of course that’s just a portion of the audience, and there really is no need to generalize. In truth the people who enjoy comics are a diverse group, and I’d say comics have made great strides towards variety that caters to virtually everyone. Comics today offer a lot more than they did in say the fifties, when a lot of comic stereotypes were born.
So what’s my point? I don’t know. I didn’t really set out to prove one. Don’t judge just based off of someone’s interests, I guess. I’m not really here to advocate for comic book fans’ rights, or anything. Just thought I’d share some of my observations.