A few years back Utah was determined to be the nerdiest state in America based on Facebook posts and their contents. I live approximately a 4 minute walk from ground zero of the Salt Lake Comic-con and I’ll testify. Not like at the big churchy building across the street, where I’m not allowed to do that. Anyways, off-topic. I’m rambling.
My point is everywhere else I have visited or lived I am considered a hardcore nerd. I know many people here who believe the same thing. But those are people who don’t know the other people I know here. The real nerds. The ones who argued when the list came out that the nerd criteria and method of data gathering lacked empirical validity. The ones who model what commitment, enthusiasm, creativity and camaraderie can accomplish. And the alphas of those nerds are the cosplayers. The hundreds of hours that go into a costume are truly mind boggling. Not to mention the positive self image. I can’t even get away from using facebook avatars that look like this:
So I will never understand those that laugh at these grownups playing dress up. They must not be not aware of groups like Heroic, who perform good deeds for charity and delight children and adults throughout Utah as the walking avatars of beloved fictional characters. Or the Mandalorian Mercs– an international group of Star Wars cosplayers who perform charity for underprivileged families while counterintuitively dressing as bounty hunters. (Side note- this is where I display my casual rather than deeply embedded nerddom by admitting that I don’t know if all Mandalorians are bounty hunters or if I’m racially profiling. If this is the case, I apologize for my insensitivity #notallmandalorians)
I’m not sure if it was evident before, so let me state explicitly that I do in fact have a point. Back during SLC Nerd in 2013 someone took a truly epic pic of Batman of Heroic riding off with a Mandalorian from the Krayt clan. It was a great pic, but the background was asphalt. Boring asphalt. So I made it into this: It just felt better. I’d like to do it again. If this is the sort of thing you’d like to see more of, I’d like to invite all of our cosplay heroes to send me anything you have that you just know could be epic with a push. I can’t promise to get to everything, but once or twice a week at least I’d like to share these inspirational moments. And a big shout out to our heroes above for their kind permission in letting me put this out there.
So here I sit in my living room, about two blocks from ground zero of the Salt Lake City Comincon and contemplating my hermitage this weekend. You’ll forgive me for not attending, I’m sure. It’s just that Martin hates a crowd (but likes third person pretension from time to time).
Given the away from crowd time I am taking this weekend, it gives me some time to ponder the nature of Comicon itself and the pop culture explosion we’ve all witnessed in the past two decades(ish). I’ve mentioned my dislike of crowds to a few people and they largely agree but then get all judgmental on the con people, who are having some innocent fun in a way that strikes me as a uniquely Utah sort of thing. We here know how to get our Nerd on. And we know how to judge people for getting their Nerd on, which is less Utah and more just the world being on the mean side. (Mean Side of the Moon- it’s not dark, it’s just snarky).
And I wondered when it was that imagination became the province of being “kids’ stuff”. At first my inclination was to go people used to be more open about these things, but then I decided that didn’t work because what we call “make believe” today we called “religion” yesterday. People in the past my not have been more open to all things made up, but just might have had different ideas about the way things worked.
Or maybe they didn’t. We weren’t there. We don’t know how the people who actually made the myths that made the world actually thought. Maybe they knew they were speaking in elaborate metaphor. Maybe they had some ideas about the pacifying nature of rhetoric.
But I have an “or” as well. It’s ALSO possible that people are starting to look at pop culture a lot differently these days. Maybe it seems a little more… plausible than it has in the past and the lines a little more blurry. There are people in the world right now who patrol our streets in costumes and do good deeds. Our comics and movies have “characters” in them like Thor and Hercules who embody the same values now that our ancestors admired a thousand years ago and that’s timeless and when I think of it, kind of beautiful.
Legacies change, but they link in a chain instead of floating disembodied in space (like the Silver Surfer), each story cycling through obscurity and dominance from one generation to the next, taking root in our childhoods for us in turn to pass on to our children.
I guess what I’m trying to say is when you pass a cosplayer on the street, try to cut them a little slack. They may seem everywhere today, but a ComiChameleon will come and go.