Comic-Con was a good one for me this year, but there's no denying it ended on a dark note for many in the community. Three incidents have been the topic of much conversation:
- The ZombieWalk accident in which a woman was hospitalized with a broken arm
- A brutal incident where an underage cosplayer wound up hospitalized with bleeding on the brain
- Immense anger around Hall H lines and accusations of line-jumping and special treatment
I realize that to an outsider, the last one may sound trivial compared to the other two. But it's stirred up a lot of enmity among dedicated Hall H nerds and serves as an example of how SDCC is cracking at the seams. In any case, in the absence of perfect solutions, probably the best thing we can do is ask ourselves as a community: what can we do better?
The cosplayer incident has caused a lot of people to throw shade at CCI for their failure to institute a stronger anti-harassment policy this summer. While I feel CCI should have made more of an effort in that direction, I don't think we can lay this crime at their feet. All the posters and policies in the world probably wouldn't have stopped this assault from happening. (ETA: It wasn't an assault as reported but an accident - but police have arrested a suspect for other reasons.)
What we can take from this are 2 things. One, some people really do have a frightening attitude toward cosplayers (or sexually attractive women in general.) It doesn't matter if they're a small minority - it only takes 1 person to grope, harass, follow or worse. Let's stop trivializing women's complaints. Two, it's important to be cautious in regard to who we trust. Let me be clear, I'm not blaming the victim in any way. But when the arrest report was published, and people saw the arrest took place at the Marriott Marquis, there were way too many reactions of, "No way was it another attendee!"
People seemed shocked at the idea that our friendly little community might harbor a few monsters. Whether it was an attendee or not, we all need to realize that there are 130,000 of us. It's easy to become instant friends with the people next to you in line or bond with strangers in the elevator. That kinship is one of the main things people love about the Con.
But given our numbers, it's statistically likely that we have sociopaths and criminals in our midst. Another attendee grabbed my chest in my hotel bar. Do you think he cared that I was a fellow nerd, someone in his community? No, he saw a woman rejecting him and he lashed out. Comic-Con isn't a magical safety zone where only good people can enter on their best behavior. So let's take this as a reminder to not place too much trust in the strangers around us. And if you do see anyone acting offensively, speak up.
As for lines - we all know how bad it was this year. I feel somewhat guilty because the advice I gave on when to get in line proved woefully inadequate. But I also wonder how complicit I and other outlets are in creating this level of insanity. When we all tell the world how horrible Hall H lines are, and how early you have to get there, are we in fact making it worse? Are we helping people get into their dream panels - or are we acting as carnival barkers, driving people to create the thing we complain about? I would feel as if I was lying by omission if I didn't warn people about the lines. At the same time, I know I'm feeding that panic.
I don't know the solution here. Tickets and room-clearing are one, but right now we have to deal with the situation as it is. I never thought anything could top the Twilight fans and their multi-day campouts but the arguments and bitterness over this year's lines were truly depressing. As someone who simply gave up on Hall H years ago, it's easy for me to ignore this but I know that many of you live and die for Hall H panels. At the very least CCI should provide a fair and orderly mechanism for lining up. The feuds and blaming that followed this weekend have been destructively ugly.
All in all, I believe SDCC is still a mostly safe place. People get assaulted everywhere, after all. But before the community is poisoned by arguments and distrust, we need to find whatever solutions we can, whether it's amongst ourselves or by asking CCI to do better.