Not too long ago at San Diego Comic Con, something awful happened. If you’re in the nerd community, then you heard the news: an unnamed teen, a minor, was found unconscious and bloody one morning near SDCC. While a man was arrested in connection with the horrible incident, that doesn’t change that the incident happened. We here at Nerdy Minds are taking this opportunity to remind you of a few things that you might not think about while at a convention.
The word “con” has almost magical connotations. “Con season” is like an extended holiday, a chance to meet up with friends you haven’t seen since the last con and a chance to make new friends. We’ve met people at cons who have become some of our closest friends. We’ve seen people instantly bond over something as simple as cosplaying the same character. We’ve heard squeals and shouts as people see old friends for the first time across the con floor.
At any given moment you’re likely to see a large crowd of people sitting, standing, or walking together like a High School Reunion, and there’s a good chance that most of those people had never met before. Conventions are a fantastic place to make friends because you can be sure that everyone there has at least ONE thing in common with you.
Recently it has become “cool” to be a “nerd”, and the con scene has exploded. Conventions are having to rent out more hotels and sell more tickets than ever before. Sounds good, right? What could be better than MORE friends to make?
What you might forget amid the endorphin-filled adventure is that, just like in your day-to-day life, the con crowd is a microcosm of the “real world”. Everything might seem wonderful and fun, but the fact of the matter is that there are jerks, creepers, and criminals everywhere, including conventions. There is no morality requirement to buy a ticket. No one runs a background check before letting someone in the door. Have you ever noticed all of the security at conventions and how the guests tend to have escorts or handlers? If all con-goers were kind, light-hearted, and thoughtful like you and me, do you think that would be necessary?
Of course not.
The seemingly new concept of con-harassment isn’t new at all. It’s a simple numbers game. You probably didn’t hear much before because cons were smaller. If .5% of con-goers are harassed in some way, the number of people affected changes drastically when the number of con attendees goes from 5,000 to 25,000. What was once ten people being affected has now become fifty.
And that giant swarm of people who all love the same things you do? That’s a perfect hiding place. With greater numbers comes greater anonymity. It’s easier to get away with something when there’s a seething mass of 15,000 people to disappear into once the act is finished.
Remember, liking Joss Whedon doesn’t make someone a good person. Giving the Vulcan salute in no way indicates someone’s moral compass. Someone may be dressed as Captain America, but you never know who the person in the costume really is.
So this con season, and every con season, be careful. We love to hear wonderful stories of great celebrity encounters or lasting friendships. Two of our writers even got married thanks to a little show called Firefly.
But there are bad people out there, just like there are everywhere else. Have fun, but keep your eyes open. That kind, caring, helping person that you wish every con-goer was? Be that person. If you see someone that needs help, whether it’s help escaping that creepy guy (or girl) that won’t take “no” for an answer or just help removing that clumsy piece of armor that won’t fit through the bathroom door, offer to be that help.
A con is only as good as the people attending. For every terrible action, you have the power to the be equal and opposite reaction. You may not be dressed as a superhero, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be someone’s hero and prevent another incident like last weekend’s from happening.
Anyone can make a convention a better, safer place. In the words of Captain Planet, “The power is yours!”
Are you already a con hero? Maybe someone stepped in to help you when you needed it? Share your story in the comments below, and we’ll share these stories of REAL heroism with the rest of our readers.
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