Funnybook Babylon

July 23, 2009

Fanboy, Twihard, Otaku: Obsession is Never Good

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , — David Uzumeri @ 1:43 pm
Camp Twilight (from movieset.com)

Camp Twilight (from movieset.com)

I just read an editorial by Sarah Jaffe of Blog@Newsarama that largely centered around the negative reaction we’re seeing to the Twilight fans practically storming San Diego as we speak. I don’t disagree that a lot of the negative reaction to their presence this year is instigated by either overt or covert sexism, nor do I disagree that, say, G.I. Joe fans should probably not be throwing stones about literary merit in their glass house. There’s certainly a segment of the commenting population that’s pissed off that girls are invading their boys’ club. I don’t deny that.

But I think there’s another reaction, as well, one that doesn’t seem to be articulated or responded to as much: the inclusion of Twilight exclusive coverage is just the latest development in the ongoing transformation of San Diego Comic Con – which, to some degree, is some sort of “embassy” of comic culture – from a convention where people talk about comics to an all-purpose obsessive fan emporium. Twilight isn’t the first property, nor will it be the last, that inspires a certain demographic to follow it with quasi-religious fervor, and comics as an industry are basically letting themselves get ghettoized by association. Why is there Twilight coverage at the San Diego Comic Con? Is it because the book and movie share science-fiction/fantasy elements that could be of interest to readers of science-fiction/fantasy adventure comics? Is it because of the upcoming manga-inspired comics adaptation? Or is it because the premier comics exhibition in North America has allowed itself to turn into a dumping ground for every major property trying to attract the greatest concentration of most obsessive fans possible to get media coverage?

I admit I haven’t read it, and from what I’ve seen it’s probably not my bag, but I’ve got no grudge against people who dig Twilight. My point here isn’t to slam the book, and if any people attending the panel grab some cool-looking comics in the exhibition hall and start discovering the medium: that’s fantastic! Then it worked. But I’m not sure whatever small gains could be made in that area are worth the fact that, once again, comics are going to be associated in the public eye with people who wait like fourteen hours in line for a one-hour panel and some exclusive sneak preview footage of a movie. I’ll admit I’ve got my obsessions when it comes to this medium – I love the storytelling, I hate spoilers, I’m generally impatient and eager to read new material every week. But I think we’d all do the industry a huge favor if we’d stop trying to sell and justify our fandom, and instead just embrace being a readership.

12 Comments »

  1. Thanks for using the MovieSet photo for your post. Really intrigued by this backlash about Twilight fans and will use a quote from your article for a post tomorrow.

    Comment by Dvae from MovieSet — July 23, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  2. What has severely irritated me about the shocking success of twilight isn’t its throngs of adoring 13-year-old fans. It is the mind-numbing stupidity of the books, and that better, yet still trashy vampire fare is almost ubiquitous.

    They made a vampire movie with fucking Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt and people didn’t go this ape-shit.

    Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel, True Blood, even Kindred: The Embraced were all far superior. None garnered half of the excitement.

    I don’t think I know why Twilight garners such madness from some 13-year-old girls and such immediate revulsion most other people.

    Maybe it’s that the vampires in twilight are castrated older men. Edward is a rich boy from a wealthy family, who will make you a princess, but won’t ever threaten you with sex. It’s Shojo Manga where the men are drawn to be even more feminine than their paramours.

    If you take the “It’s a metaphor for abstinence” thing, then what the fuck is it about when he feeds her his blood? The traditional vampire metaphor is the replacement of blood for life & sex.

    The whole thing makes so little sense I just want to scream.

    And the dude looks like a fucking scrawny douchebag with access to way too much gel.

    I could go on for days about how terrible twilight is. And that’s just from the movie.

    Comment by Joseph from FBB — July 23, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

  3. I feel your pain, David, but I’ve come to terms with the bigger “Comicons” being the All-Purpose Nerd Festivals that they are.

    As “comic book fans”, we’re a market that is going to comicons. They obviously want a good showing of comic stuff, and comic creators/companies will always show up to these things. It’s a significant slice of the pie, but it’s a captive market.

    Now, if they can bring in a Sony or a Dreamworks or Nintendo or other big Entertainment company, that’s a big “get” in terms of exhibitor money. If those companies bring exclusive content about a television show or film or video game, that brings in a different segment of media attention.

    And simply by bringing in a handful of people from some non-comic media with a big fanbase — be it Star Trek, Star Wars, Joss Whedon shows, Harry Potter, Twilight, Family Guy, Lost or anything else — they’re also bringing in a group of paying attendees that likely wouldn’t have attended before. The Twilight Camp is just the most visible manifestation of that, but I know of people that attended comic conventions solely for the presence of people they were barely aware made comics (Neil Gaiman, Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, the guys from Venture Bros.) or don’t make comics at all (JJ Abrams, Steven King, actors/creators from TV shows).

    It all makes sense from a financial perspective, and while it can be annoying when it clogs up the convention center and drowns out all the titular COMICS content you or I are excited to see, I understand why it exists and can’t really fault them for chasing that dollar. I do agree that is the source of much of the resentment any sort of sublimated misogyny.

    Ultimately, I don’t think (outside of “arts festival” type comic gatherings) that this is going to change any time soon, so there’s not much point in rallying against it.

    Comment by Chris Eckert — July 24, 2009 @ 12:45 am

  4. ‘Twihard’, now I’m scared.

    Comment by Otaku — July 24, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

  5. There’s another issue as well. The Twilighters are shutting other people out of the con. People who might even like comics. They buy four day passes, they camp out and exclude guests from attending panels previous to the Twilight panel. They have to get good seats for the Twilight panel, so they are there four panels before, because the panels aren’t emptied after they end. So they end up attending four other panels they have no interest in and exclude other people from seeing those panels.

    And the books are sexist pieces of shit. I could not get through the first book, but I got a good enough impression of them, coupled with articles on the books, that I feel I can comment on them truthfully.

    Comment by Christian Otholm — July 25, 2009 @ 5:15 am

  6. Christian,

    It’s easy to blame the Twilight fans for all that, and it’s true that their fervor to see the Twilight material is disrupting other things, but doesn’t a lot of that come down to the structure of the convention?

    I know that I’ve been at big shows where everyone clamoring for [COMIC BOOK THING I DON’T CARE ABOUT] has messed up [COMIC BOOK THING I CARE ABOUT]. I think there are some popular comic books out there that are as bad (or worse) than Twilight.

    I don’t blame Greg Land (or Greg Land fans) when the line for his table disrupts the business of the guys I actually like near him in Artist’s Alley. I don’t rail against Neil Gaiman if his panel has a big line that screws up the scheduling of the panel I’d rather go to.

    It’s not Twilight’s fault that it is popular — unless you really think it’s an objective harm to the psychic health of the nation, which I’m not ready to cede — and it’s not the fault of the many people that want to see Twilight material that the way conventions work do not allow them to get to what they want to see in a non-disruptive manner.

    If you’re going to blame anyone, it ought to be the convention organizers, or the companies themselves for promoting their products in these ways to create sensational stories of FAN FERVOR.

    Comment by Chris Eckert — July 25, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

  7. I am more amused by it than anything specifically because I can’t recall offhand anything else getting fanfiction panels specifically for one book/movie/whatever before.

    That will never stop being funny to me.

    Comment by Syrg — July 26, 2009 @ 1:11 am

  8. Why is that funny? Serious question.

    I dunno, seems to me that sexism is a big part of the equation, and frankly we’d all be better off if we just admitted it. It’s the elephant in the room. Twilight might be shit (or it might not, I haven’t read it), but so are a whole helluva lot of superhero comic books. Twilight fans might swamp parts of the con and restrict access to certain events, but I strongly suspect that that sort of thing goes on all the time, it’s just that it’s more visible in this instance (because of, amongst other things, the aforementioned sexism). Twilight might help to marginalise the shit we’re interested in and signifiy the commercialisation of the con, but for fucksake that shit’s been going on for years. Yes the size of the Twilight fanbase might be disruptive to the normal con experience, but I have to ask a) has anyone got any actual figures to support the contention that Twilighters are swamping the con (the visibility of Twilight fans might well skew people’s perceptions) – are there more Twilight fans than Lost fans – and b) isn’t it the case that even if Twilight fans are disrupting the balance that they don’t represent a new set of problems but rather serve to highlight or exacerbate existing problems and the way that the con has changed?

    Comment by Zom — July 27, 2009 @ 5:45 am

  9. I haven’t been to Comic-Con in nine years but it sounds like the lines have just gotten totally in control. It seems to me like they should consider some kind of system for individually ticketed events rather than whoever can manage to get in where strategy they’ve got going.

    Comment by Dave Snyder — July 27, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  10. Zom, yeah, I agree (and acknowledged in my original post) the inherent sexism going on. I’m not denying that 90% of the complaints are that icky girl cootie shit is invading the epic man-cave that is SDCC – that’s totally true. But comparing it to Lost – it’s an issue of scale, really. Lost is huge, and probably had some huge lines to get into the panel and all, but did they have four-digit numbers of people waiting in an overnight line for over ten hours? The only property I can imagine drawing people like Twilight did was Harry Potter (which I’ll go ahead and state I really very much enjoy), but they don’t have Harry Potter panels at SDCC, likely for exactly this reason. I’d love it if we can get rid of ALL the extra media crap, I’d love it a lot, but that’s impossible.

    I guess in my initial post I was attempting to articulate something I thought a lot of people were feeling, and judging by some of the comments here, it looks like a lot of the rage really *is* against Twilight itself rather than the role it plays at the con. So I guess I was just talking for me. My bad.

    Comment by David Uzumeri — July 27, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

  11. “Why is that funny? Serious question.”

    I don’t know specifically, I just sat here a couple of minutes typing and deleting “Well, you see, um…” responses, but I guess the fact that the only thing to ever get its own, singular topic panel like this for fanworks is Twilight, meaning that the dudes running the convention either:
    a) couldn’t find something to fill an hour (not bloody likely), or
    b) think this ranks above so many other large-scale pop-culture phenomenons of recent years, that it gets this treatment.

    Alternatively, I could just have a broken brain to laugh like this! This is not out of the question either.

    Comment by Syrg — July 27, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  12. Maybe nobody will read this comment, but I really wanted to say something about the sexism accusations. I’ve been reading Kotaku (a Gawker media ghetto) for a long time now, and I have seen the exact same phenomenon play out with hardcore vs. casual gamers. It’s not about sexism, it’s about dedicated long-time supernerds with extremely limited tastes. They aren’t actually sexist or ageist or whatever, that is all secondary to their condescending attitude towards anybody who does not enjoy exactly the same disposable media as themselves. Hardcore nerds obsess over ‘legitimizing’ their favourite toy, and nerd culture is all about projecting an image of sophistication and maturity. Twilight and Wii fans alike destroy that illusion, and nerds get frustrated because they feel that they will never be legitimized or recognized (they are too ignorant to understand that nobody will ever respect them because they play with shit and call it art). Nerds also hate it when any resources of any kind (money, manhours, floorspace) are taken away from potential investment in their drug of choice (Disgaea sequels or Marvel Zombies 7). Sexism is just a convenient way to identify the enemy; they don’t really hate or disrespect women, they disrespect other nerds who are “against the cause” and Twilight fans happen to have a very visible female population. Calling sexism and stopping there is just avoiding inquiry into the real cause of nerd rage.

    Comment by Jum — July 30, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

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