The Mainstreaming of Geekdom?

You can’t get tickets to Comic-Con that easily anymore.  Back in 2007, the passes were already being sold at a record rate.  It’s accelerated since then.  My boyfriend and I were thinking about going this year, but everything is sold out.  So until we can find a new time to get there, I’ve been reflecting back on my time there — especially as the new viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight sequel ramps up and we are going to possibly see some new gameplay marketing there.

So in the spirit of looking back, I found the notes I took on the Thursday, the main opening day, for the 2007 convention.  I thought I would share my impressions from back then, and to look forward to hearing how the 2011 convention is: what difference will four years make?

Thursday @ CC07

For some reason, it feels like the presence of Hollywood on the exhibitor floor is not as grandiose as it was last year, but this is probably because my first exposure to it last year was with a crushing crowd.  This morning, given my pass because of presenting at CAC, I greeted it wit the opening rush, which was not a huge crowd.  But that subjective first impression itself was replaced by the awareness of swag-hunters — those who made beelines for specific industry booths such as Warner Brothers (for large vinyl bags) and Heroes (to register for a raffle).

Industry booths thus became apexes for swag-hunters, autograph hounds, and people who wanted to get in line for tickets to allow them to get in other lines, such as tickets for limited autograph sessions or to buy limited release items.  Thus did the industry half of the floor again dominate the exhibitor hall, with the replica of a pirate’s ship holding court for Disney, and SciFi Channel again recycling OS Star Trek sets.

The Pirates of Disney
SciFi Going Star Trek

The presence of video gaming appears to have increased, with more companies (producing and distributing) having set up play areas to promote their wares.  I saw two teens girls pretending to be Britney Spears at a PlayStation Karaoke spot.  And the advertising is not confined to booths.  While not spending much resources (or time apparently) on their booth, the SciFi Channel did pay to carpet sections of the aisle — to lead to their booth — with a golden pathway to promote their upcoming Wizard of Oz miniseries, Tin Man.

Even Darth Got in the Gameplaying Game
We're Off to See SciFi Channel"

Also interesting was TV Guide’s booth.  I asked the lonely man manning it, and he said this was their first time as a booth — and, indeed, they were sponsoring several panels, and have had a special double issue on science fiction in the upcoming television season prepared for the con.

Those reaching out to the “geek crowd” do appear to be expanding, as the incoming CC programming director noted to kick off the Paramount presentation in the con’s largest hall, Hall H.  Curious, while appearing to want geeks and fans, how in his opening remarks, the outlined the rules for how fans would be able to ask questions.  The key to which was that they would be screened, and any deviation after the screening would result in the application of a kill switch on the mike.  Regulation of interaction with rhetoric glamorizing and empowering geeks: what an interesting, hegemonic mix.  Another indication of this new relationship between the producer and the consumer.  The producer recognizes the importance of the consumer, and wants to allow the consumer to feel importantly involved, but always under the producer’s purview.

At the panel sponsored by TV Guide, there was again the rhetoric of glamorizing the fan.  A spokesperson for the publication said they wanted to come to CC because of the fans.  He called science fiction the most inclusive genre of them all, with the most themes and storylines.  Producer Ira Steven Behr said that meeting fans online is not the same as meeting fans in person, adding that the science fiction genre has the most repertoire with fans.  Producer Tim Kring said that the science fiction genre audience has become a mainstream audience, to which producer David Eick agreed, and said it was okay, because the mass audience has become so compartmentalized.  In other worlds, instead of one mainstream audience, now there are multiple mainstream audiences.

Are they right?  Have the geeks taken over Hollywood and influenced general popular culture tastes?

It could explain why survey results out today appears to illustrate a cultural and social sentiment that being a geek is not seen as a handicap that it might have been only two decades ago.  “Geek” is no longer a strong derogatory word when it is linked to all of the technological advancements that make American’s lives easier and more fun.

Why should science fiction not be considered more mainstream and less for social outcasts when we as a society and culture appear to be living in science fiction stories every day of our lives when we play our X-Box Kinect, surf the Internet with a phone, or drive in hybrid cars.

Being a geek is becoming increasingly mainstream: is the same true for nerd?  And is it a good thing when a geek’s passion for something is being manipulated by people who do not care or share their passion, and only want to benefit financially from it?

4 responses to “The Mainstreaming of Geekdom?”

  1. […] has been steadily growing bigger in recent years, due mostly to another huge difference: there is a much larger presence of Hollywood at Comic-Con.  Comic-Con began as C2E2, and so many other cons, as a place for comic book geeks to […]

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  2. […] In going back in 2006 and 2007, Hollywood’s presence had increased; and, being trained to recognize these things through graduate school, I took notes and wrote down ideas about what I was seeing.  I was first of all seeing massive crowds, as it was the beginning of the sellout registrations for Comic-Con.  The swag offered by Hollywood booths to promote their productions were big commodities — perhaps more important to attendees than the comic books and similar wares that are traditional con offerings.  Groups of fans would strategically plan their panel visiting, staking out good seats in the larger auditorium halls used by Hollywood for their premiere panels and presentations — even if it meant staying in the room for hours and sitting through panels they did not care about.  The energy levels of fans, cosplayers, panelists, promoters, producers — if any green energy technician could tap into it, I’m sure it could power all of San Diego for at least a month. The con funk alone would make a great fuel source. […]

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  3. […] What has changed with the emergence of social media is the amount of such interactions, and the way producers can capitalize on it: “The ground rules may remain the same from analog to digital, but the latter offers many more opportunities to enter the corporate walled garden, as producers seek to profit from the mass of user-generated content the new technologies engender.” (p. 89). The formation of these fan-specific social networks – especially the one by the MLBPA – demonstrates how individuals and corporations can profit off of fans’ interests and activities. I liken it to collecting lightning in a bottle — doing so allows the companies to profit off t… […]

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  4. […] It brought the attention of the mainstream media. More coverage by the news, more word-of-mouth spreading about how Hollywood stars and debutantes can be so accessible. With the spreading of this news, the attendance by the casual fans — those who are lesser involved fans or fans of just a particular text or person — steadily increased. And while this attention didn’t save Catwoman, it did highlight the change in the mission that Comic-Con was undergoing. This metamorphosis meant a definitive shift from being a pure comic book convention to being a gathering of fandoms, a “meeting of the tribes” as academic and author Matthew Pustz put it at the convention. A representation of all things pop culture for anyone interested in pop culture (which essentially means everyone who is not an elitist), all serviced by, and servicing, Hollywood. What Jensen et al (2007) describe is what I lived through in 2007. […]

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