By the Collectress
The Collective Crew has been to our share of comic and fan conventions around the globe, and we’ve written about most of them. Yet, for all the con coverage we’ve done, we’ve never really delved into the types of people you meet at conventions. So this past WonderCon, I spent quite a bit of my weekend just walking around and talking to people. It was the social exercise of the year for me because I’m a verified introvert, and this is by no means an all-inclusive list, because of course there will be people who fit into none or multiple categories.
Let it be said that we ALL start out as newbies…but there are some first-time con attendees who seem to be a little more fish-out-of-water than others. You can recognize a first-timer through their complete and utter confusion as to how the security line/weapons check/badge pickup works, the open-mouth blank stare at the hordes of people on the exhibition floor, or by the loud verbalized frustration over the ubiquitous lines for panels/exclusives/restrooms/etc. First-timers are also usually unaware of convention etiquette, such as asking permission to photograph cosplayers, but they are usually the most apologetic when you correct their unintentional faux-pas. Another way to spot a first-timer? They’re always the most excited about everything, and their excitement usually catches on to the people around them.
These are truly the most committed of the congoers, because they are usually the first to arrive at the convention and probably also the last to leave. They’re the ones who are first in line at the Funko booth, and if there’s a special release that you can only find at booth #C87 at 1:36 pm on the third day, you can bet that they’ll be there. The Exclusive-Hunter is recognizable by the extremely full shopping bags they’re touting around within a few hours of the convention opening. The great thing about the Exclusive-Hunter is that they find the good loot, and can usually remember exactly where they purchased all their goodies, so if you need help navigating the exhibition floor, make a friend who’s there for exclusives. Just be prepared to wake up early to get in line for them!
The Gatekeeper isn’t exclusive to the convention scene–you can find them in any area of fandom–but rather than them sending a rude tweet, demanding you to explain that obscure bit of Star Wars expanded universe that proves you’re a “true” fan, you can expect them to demand it of you in person.
Especially if you’re a woman, a younger fan, or someone who doesn’t fit their preconceived mold of what a “true fan” looks like.
My most recent encounter with a Gatekeeper was at Galiffrey One; a man approached me in the exhibition floor and asked who my ‘first doctor’ was. Apparently, I gave the right answer and passed his test, because he then deigned to compliment my Whovian taste and called me better than most women my age. I was so astounded, I couldn’t bring myself to call him out on his gatekeeping-ness before he moved away from me. I swore to be more prepared the next time, but the truth is, even though it happens, it is usually at such an unexpected moment that you don’t really have the opportunity to be prepared to respond in the way you want.
That said, 99% of convention attendees are delightful people who are there to enjoy the same things as you. The Gatekeepers are easily avoided–if you’re paying attention–because they’re the ones who look thoroughly unimpressed by everything and are often muttering about how the “original” was better under their breath.
I do my best to avoid the Gatekeepers, but I suppose if you enjoy engaging in heated debates on what constitutes membership in a particular fandom, you could probably have your fill of conversations on the subject. The Gatekeepers do tend to talk to people, particularly cosplayers who are wearing a costume from their fandom, while they’re waiting in line for a panel/signing/exclusive release. (If you really want to find one, walk by any Star Wars booth and yell “Han didn’t shoot first!” and I guarantee ten will appear before you can say “Greedo.”)
Conventions are meant to be a fun and immersive experience in fandom, but unfortunately, not every person who goes is there just for fun and geekiness. Creepers tend to lurk around the cosplayers, so it’s important that you recognize and assess the people who you instantly are uncomfortable around (and I’m speaking mainly to the cosplayers right now, because there are a LOT of creepy dudes who want to take your picture).
The Unintentional Creeper
This is a person who either doesn’t know or doesn’t understand the social cues you’re giving them that screams “I AM UNCOMFORTABLE. LEAVE ME ALONE.” They will usually approach you to start some conversation about a perceived shared interest. At WonderCon, a dude came and tried to talk to me about G.I. Joes because he thought I was cosplaying from that (I was cosplaying Black Widow from the Avengers), and after repeatedly telling him that I knew nothing about his fandom, I gave up and told him I had to meet a friend. Even so, he still asked for a selfie with me, and yeah…he probably didn’t intend to come across as creepy, but that vibe was still thriving.
The Unintentional Creeper will make you uncomfortable by standing too close, occupying your time for much longer than you’re comfortable with, and/or asking invasive/personal questions (such as, “oh what panels are you seeing later?” and then they tell you their entire plans for the weekend). They’re probably trying to be friendly, but not really succeeding at it.
The Unintentional Creeper tends to be alone at the convention, and will approach people (usually cosplayers) in the common areas or while waiting in line for a panel/signing/exclusive release/etc.
The Creeper McCreeper
This type of creeper is the one that’s dangerous. They’re predators and will seek out attendees (usually young women) and ask for photos, and possibly contact information or a date. I have heard many horror stories about Creeper McCreepers approaching young cosplayers and asking for inappropriate photos; it happened to a young (UNDERAGE) friend of mine at her first convention last year. If you encounter a Creeper McCreeper or see an encounter, please notify convention security immediately.
Also, no one has the right to touch you without permission.
the good samaritan
For every bad egg at a convention, there are dozens of attendees who are good people and are there to be a part of a community. I have seen, and heard, of many attendees who offer water, snacks, and support to other attendees, just because they happen to be in the same place at the same time. Speaking for myself, at this last WonderCon, my entire Black Widow cosplay started to fall apart in the early afternoon of day one, and Sgt Swiftstich, who donates her a lot of her convention time offering free cosplay repairs, helped me glue my pieces back together. Another cosplaying attendee noticed that my lacefront wig was slipping, and spent an hour of her time taking me to her car and using her own supplies to glue my wig back down, and offering me food, water, and even makeup to freshen me up.
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It was these true acts of kindness that really stood out to me amongst the weekend, and if you attend a convention and pay attention, you’ll probably see a lot of this going around. Or, maybe you’ll be the one to rescue someone else’s day!
the con(vention) friend
If you go to enough conventions in the same area, you begin to see some of the same people. You’ll attend the same panels, hit up the same parts of the exhibition floor, and probably find quiet corners of the lobby to charge your phones. After a while, you may even exchange social media handles, so you can follow each other’s real-life adventures. Congrats! This person has officially become your Con Friend! You never hang out outside of a convention, and probably don’t know each other’s middle or last names, but you’re super excited to see each other and snag a selfie at every event you attend together!
What types of people do you see at conventions? Tell us in the comments!