Bullying is a widespread issue for attendees of Comic-Con, on multiple different fronts. Many of those who are drawn to Geek culture have been targeted and marginalized throughout their lives. Comic conventions provide a common forum for those with passionate -- even obsessive -- interests, and the same people who were once taunted for dressing as Batman in school are now celebrated as cosplayers at a con.
But even within Geek culture, there is a vast amount of peer victimization, harassment and bullying. The gaming industry has been plagued by a hotbed of vicious attacks -- male gamers versus female gamers and hardcore gamers versus casual gamers, with issues of misogyny and homophobia and discrimination coming to the forefront of our collective consciousness. Within cosplay, people attack each other over a myriad of issues -- is the costume genuine or not? Does the person have the right body for the chosen costume or not? The roles of bullies and victims can sometimes be blurry, especially when someone who was bullied in school grows up to be the aggressor. In a world that likes to simplify good guys vs bad guys, bullying dynamics are not always so simple to deconstruct.
It is for this reason that an anti-bullying panel at Comic-Con promises to be the start of a heated discussion. It is impossible to speak up about the importance of treating others with empathy and respect and not address the conflicts that exist in Geek culture. Additional special topics to be covered include LGBT bullying, cyber-bullying, and analyzing how media and entertainment affect our attitudes toward bullying and aggression.
The panel members are well-positioned to discuss challenging topics. NOH8 makes its first-ever Comic-Con appearance, with Founders Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley, along with Jane Espenson (Once Upon A Time), Brad Bell (Husbands), Chase Masterson (Doctor Who: Big Finish), Bonnie Burton (Girls Against Girls: Why We are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change), Jenna Busch (Entertainment Editor, Fan TV), Ashley Eckstein (Star Wars: The Clone Wars). It will be moderated by award-winning author (and mother of Katie the Star Wars Girl) Carrie Goldman (Harper Collins' Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear).
The response to the panel, which will be held at the San Diego Convention Center on Sunday July 21 at 4 p.m., has been so strong that there will be an additional anti-bullying press summit at Lou and Mickey's restaurant on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. The groundbreaking press event will feature celebrities as well as widely-influential anti-bullying participants such as the United Nations Association, Cartoon Network's Stop Bullying: Speak Up, the Anti-Defamation League, the International Bullying Prevention Association, and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Members of the press who would like to attend must contact rsvp@AntiBullyingCoalition to receive details and to be put on a list of attendees.
Comic-Con is setting the standard for pop culture conventions and geek culture conventions by taking on the subject of bullying and asking the questions that do not always have easy or popular answers. It promises to be an illuminating event with the ultimate goal of elevating Geek culture as a model for us all.