The Convention of the Dragon

This was my first experience ever at any kind of nerd convention.  (Yes, I've been to several math conventions, but it is quite apparent to me that those aren't nerdy enough.)  Dragon*Con was this weekend, and it was a blast.  I loved it.  I'm just going to share a few of the thousands of thoughts I had while experiencing all of the splendor and geekiness that is Dragoncon.

My first thought was about the costumes.  At Dragoncon, not everyone dresses up (in fact, I'd say it was a minority--most people were in street clothes) but there are a good number of people wearing anything from just elf ears to a complete storm trooper costume.  And, of course, there were also some people who mixed up costumes a bit.  For example, I saw one storm trooper whose mask was actually Animal from the Muppets rather than a storm trooper mask.  I thought many of the costumes were rather creative and impressive.

While I was admiring all of these costumes, I started wondering why it isn't socially acceptable to walk around everyday life wearing that kind of clothing.  Why do we have such a narrow view of what is acceptable and appropriate for people to wear?  I mean, it was clear that some people in costume here would never dream of wearing that kind of thing anywhere other than at Dragoncon.  Some would die if their friends "back home" knew what they were wearing.  Others, I'm sure would have no problem dressing like that and walking just about anywhere.  But, I would say that for the most part, people had an extra dose of courage that was lent by the knowledge that at the convention there would only be other nerds like them that would appreciate the costume, rather than ridicule them for it.

It was something that I seriously considered, though.  What would be so bad with letting people dress up like Gandalf or Darth Vader or the tenth reincarnation of the Doctor?  (I must say, I did find certain situations rather comical, like watching a Roman soldier get money out of an ATM.)  Yes, these are admittedly "unusual" outfits, in light of the fact that "no one" wears that anymore.  But, why?  Why is it that we expect businesspeople to wear business suits, and nothing else?  Why is it that we expect only women to wear dresses, and not men?  Why do we expect casual dress to include only t-shirt and jeans/khakis/shorts?  Why can't we have Hogwarts uniforms and Starfleet uniforms?  Why can't we have wizards, hobbits, and aliens?  What's wrong with diversity?

I know.  I know that people would just tear someone apart for wearing something like that.  I know that the Japanese proverb "The nail which sticks out is pounded down" is quite true.  We, collectively as a society, immediately pressure any non-conformists into conformity.  We hold a strong disdain for anything out of the ordinary.  In many circles, "hippy" is an insult.  Until just recently, "nerd" and "geek" were also insults as well, and still are in most cases.  But, why do we do this?  Why not celebrate the differences between us?  Why not let nerds be nerdy, and let jocks be jocky?  Why expect everyone to be the same?

Another thing I noticed (which is kind of along the same line) is that people at Dragoncon were far more open-minded and less judgmental than society in general.  It seemed that most of the people at the convention were liberal.  John Barrowman made a dig at Mitt Romney.  One rather silly game show that I attended made fun of republicans and the RNC for a few minutes.  I wouldn't be surprised if there were also other panels which made fun of democrats.  But it was all in good fun.  No one meant any offense by it, and I'm sure if there were republicans in the room, they had a good humor about it.  But, more important than the party bashing was the fact that people really just didn't care if you were gay or straight, black or white, skinny or fat.  Oh, that's definitely one of the things I forgot to mention in the costume section.  Several of the men in costume were shirtless.  And it wasn't just skinny guys with ripped bodies.  Chubby and fat guys were walking around shirtless too.  And that made me so happy.  As far as I saw, no one made fun of them either.

There was one session on "gay themes in Doctor Who" that kind of devolved into just a discussion about homosexuality in general because apparently there haven't been many episodes of Doctor Who since the last Dragoncon.  I attended another panel called "sex in videogames" that was about homosexuality and sexism in video games.  That was rather interesting.  And, just last night I attended a panel about polyamory.  It was a small session--at most 100 people--but, I was surprised at the number of people who raised their hands when the speaker asked how many people were in a polyamorous relationship.  It was basically half of the audience.  It was so nice to see the matter being discussed openly and seriously, and to see that polyamorists were welcome at the convention.

Overall, I would say that the general feeling I got from the convention was "Live and let live."  I heard one person comment to his friend that "furries are gross", but the whole three days I was at the convention, surrounded by literally thousands of people, that was the only disparaging remark that I heard--and I have to at least give the guy credit for not saying it directly to a furry.  I was just thinking how nice the world would be if people were more like Dragonconners.  Just let everyone do their own thing.  It won't hurt you if someone else has two husbands or a husband and two wives.  It won't hurt you if someone wears elvish clothing to school.  So just let it go.  Relax.  Enjoy life and let others enjoy their own lives.

I'll probably write a couple more posts about my experiences at Dragoncon.  There was a lot packed into a short amount of time and I have a lot of thoughts to share about it.