On the Saturday of Otakon, an old man stopped John and I. He asked us for cash. He had just had dental surgery, you see, and needed cab fare. We would’ve been moved, but this same guy had stopped us with the same scam last Otakon.
I wasn’t about to forget him because I’m not too good at scams. Last year, we didn’t have any money so we vowed to wait with him and make sure he was okay. For some reason, he didn’t seem to want us to stay, and he wouldn’t let us call the police for help.
I’m sure that old man will be at Otakon year after year, because attendees are really compassionate people. At Otakon 2011, we collected $65,000 to donate to the Japan Relief Fund. Otakon was also recently named Customer of the Year by Visit Baltimore for being an all around great addition to the city. And if you want to really know about the kind things Otakon attendees have done, check out the comment thread on the Washington Post article I wrote about last week. The negative slant of the article has compelled commenters to recount random acts of Otakon kindness.
However, sometimes it’s tough for me to be nice because I worry it makes our fandom an easy target. There’s that perennial scammer, for one. But what really made me mad was watching this:
Do you feel transported back to high school? Just look at the popular girl picking on the nerd. Except these two are grown-ups, and the news station is framing it as if it is a relevant topic: nerds are having a grand old time and leaving everyone else in America to resolve the debt ceiling debate. We all know the two events aren’t at all dichotomous.
It’s stuff like this that makes me wish fandom was understood.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I tried to feed the trolls on Sunday of the convention. I was wondering if Baltimoreans knew we could see any tweet with the Otakon hashtag. I only got one response from an outsider, but several of my followers chastised me for getting mad. That’s just not how we behave. We aren’t supposed to ask outsiders to understand us. We’re expected to turn the other cheek.
After my poorly judged tweets, an observant Baltimorean wrote me an email:
“Have you heard the saying, ‘Never try to teach a pig to sing…?’ If you have you might not have heard the rest, ‘It wastes your time and annoys the pig.’”
The fact that hardly anyone responded to my tweets, even after I instigated an argument, shows that those outsiders didn’t actually want to understand. Outsiders view Otakon as they would a passing car crash, morbidly interesting for a mere moment.
If I want people to understand what I do, then as a professional fandom reporter, I’m in the wrong line of work. There are always going to be people who misunderstand fandom and take it out on me. But if I start to bite back, I’ll just get a reputation for being weird AND mean. If they want to find out more, they’ll look it up. They don’t need me tweeting my opinions at them like a Jehovah’s Witness pounding at the door.
Our best defense is to keep having a fantastic time with our hobbies and ignoring the naysayers. If you must say something, talk about how great the fandom is, like many of the commenters on the Post article. Stories about kindness help us. Lashing out just tires us out and wastes our time.
There are a lot of points of views on fandom out there. Our chance of ours being understood lies in our acceptance of everyone else’s.