San Diego Comic-Con ended 2 days ago. That means you're probably still reveling in your after glow - or realizing that sleep deprivation really can have disastrous effects - and trying to preserve that feeling for as long as possible.
Which means I'm reluctant to bring this up, but feel I have to. I know everyone is still excited about this year's Con, and I'll publish my summary tomorrow. I truly hope everyone had a great time. However, there was a disturbing dynamic in play this last week. I've been going to SDCC since 2002 and I have never seen such a ruthless group of attendees.
I'm under no illusion that Comic-Con has always been a bastion of angelic behavior. Attendees tend to be generous with each other, freely offering advice and help with badge sales and hotel rooms, but that's always coexisted alongside a certain amount of fighting and swindling. Tempers flare in an exclusives line, someone challenges a staffer. There was the unfortunate time someone stabbed someone else with a pen over a Hall H seat. These things happen in any big event.
But this Comic-Con felt different. At first I thought it was just me. On Thursday a man watched me walk across a parking lot, then approached, said "Hey, honey" and slugged me hard in the arm. I don't know why. It was bizarre. But I wrote it off as a weird incident - SDCC can bring out the crazies - until other people began mentioning problems. Such as....
- An unbelievable amount of line cutting and cheating. People kept contacting me with stories of people brazenly inserting themselves in offsite and panel lines ahead of them and refusing to move - and local staffers doing nothing about it.
- Open hostility and roughness in the Exhibit Hall. One massive man carrying big bags on each shoulder just plowed through a crowd deliberately smacking taller people in the face - painfully. One guy had to be restrained from fighting him. One of my friends was repeatedly pushed in the back by a stranger to apparently force her through the crowd.
- Vendor line shenanigans. I posted about a guy who got bounced out on Preview Night after getting belligerent in the Hasbro line (and allegedly was later seen in the Gaslamp complaining they'd taken his badge.) People wrote me about other attendees getting confrontational with vendors and staffers to a point that made them nervous.
- I got physically shoved out of the way by two rugby-player-sized men so they could get good seats at a panel. I was waiting at the end of a row for the current people to slide out; the men literally pushed me away, climbed over another woman and forced the exiting people to shrink back into their seats. They were huge and just moved attendees out of the way like furniture so they could claim the row.
- I also saw people try to save a ridiculous number of seats, including random seats that were nowhere near them. One woman screamed aggressively at anyone who sat in an empty seat that her friends were still in line and she was saving it, until a volunteer forced her to stop.
- I myself tangled with a satanic volunteer for asking a fair and polite question. I didn't even ask her but a volunteer near her and she stepped in and went on a tirade that was unhinged. Again - bizarre and purposeless.
- People reported a known Hall H line bully who terrorized people again this year. He not only cut in line but brought an estimated 40 people with him - and when people protested, he told the men "you better keep your chicks in check" (seriously) like some bad biker movie. Things got contentious; attendees recognize him apparently and so some of them filmed the whole thing and showed staffers - who did nothing.
- Attendees also reported anywhere from 200-300 people cutting into the Hall H line at the last minute, so that they kept getting shoved back despite originally being close to the front. This happens every year but apparently this year was especially awful.
- This may not seem like a big deal, but I repeatedly encountered people making scornful virgin jokes and disdainful comments about nerds, the Con and various content - like these women at the National Geographic Nerd Nite party who called the neuroplasticity presentation "stupid," "boring" and a "buzzkill" and talked over it. Guess what? If you think you're superior to Comic-Con, science and the nerds who love it, just leave. We won't miss your philistine ass.
- I met a staffer who was visibly upset after an encounter with attendees who were rude to her and said, "Everyone's so impatient this year. Everyone's in a bad mood."
Maybe none of that sounds earthshattering. It wasn't like we all descended into Lord of the Flies madness. But it was upsetting to see and experience - and I know of multiple attendees who left lines or the convention center in tears after being shouted at, bullied or cut out of a panel or purchase.
I don't know the solution; staffers told me they were short-handed this year and feeling it. I really hope this isn't Comic-Con's future. Because honestly, SDCC is stressful enough. The crowds, the lines, the glaring sun, the realization that you're not getting into the panel you waited for all year. Usually other attendees grasp that and try to make our little community a friendly one. And that was still in play for most of us, but it did seem that a significant number brought their worst selves.
Hopefully next year is more organized, less frustrating and, well, just more civil. Because no one wants to go to a Con this cutthroat.
I'll post my 2019 summary tomorrow.