I’ve been in the anime fandom for a long time. Not as long as many, but certainly longer than most. I’ve been places, I’ve seen things. But today, it’s a different scene. It’s a scene dominated by run-of-the-mill fans, scraping the bottom-of-the-barrel both in quality and quantity. It’s about showing people online how you are King and Queen Nerd of Nerds, about who has the bigger crush on Matt Smith, and who can squee the hardest, ignoring the fact “squee” is not a word. Maybe I am seeing this in a different light. I appreciate form and function over vanity and flashy. Animation for me is a medium I find to be more versatile and molding for storytelling and universe-building. But more importantly, when I am among the fandom, I respect what it means to be a fan, and to be part of something bigger than myself.
By now, we’ve had a few days to process the immense failure that is Dashcon. If Dashcon were just a failure because of the content, then we’d have nothing to talk about. But Dashcon was a failure on the most fundamental level of the fandom. It was about teenage organizers who knew nothing about their fandom and had even less respect for it in general. They thought they could slap together a few rooms, reel in some big names on promises of delusion and grandeur, and capitalize on the fact that people are perfectly willing to throw away money to become temporary internet superstars for fifteen minutes, before realizing the folly of their errors, and crying in the hugboxes they delicately maintain as-is.
And frankly, it really sort of pissed me off.
I really, really do not like Tumblr. I don’t like it for the same reason I came to loathe Livejournal in the mid-2000’s, and Myspace around the same time. When you give people an outlet to express themselves, they will naturally express themselves in a way that only makes sense to them and ten of their closest friends, all of whom will say that person makes sense, but when given their own outlet, the game is afoot, wash with hundreds of thousands of unwarranted self-importance. Before the internet, you had to roll around in fancy cars, groups of jocks, or gum-smacking cheerleaders to be seen as the cool kid. Now all you need is the internet, a lot of free time, and a taste for terrible web design. Seriously, hot pink should never be used as a background color unless your text is white. But really, it’s because their userbase is fucking horrible. Listen, I get that you all have raging hardons for changing the world and hopes and feelings, but unless you are actually outside, volunteering with some local non-profit feeding the homeless, educating shitlords about the oppressive patriarchy, or otherwise contributing to society, than you are just another armchair social justice warrior sucking down bandwidth privilege and artificially making yourself feel like you’re part of something you are not. I’ve probably put more volunteering hours in one year than most of these kids have in their lifetime, and all I did was ride a bicycle for an hour.
But Tumblr aside, because that rant could last days, here we have a group of kids who want to make a convention for Tumblr-kind. Sure! It’s a free country, you can do this shit if you want. When I think of a convention based on a website, or a collection of micro-sites much like Livejournal or Facebook, I think of a convention where your guests are a few notable Tumblr bloggers or artists, maybe someone who is famous for writing, or an author. Your panels and content are basically interests that folks use Tumblr for, like writing, drawing, music, poetry, whatever strikes your fancy. Where most anime and gaming conventions focus on guests and merchandise, a Tumblr con would focus more on panels and content, because there really is no “fandom” to Tumblr.
No, apparently for Dashcon’s mostly-young organizers and crew, a Tumblr convention should be a giant circlejerking parade of superfandoms, orchestrated by kids who eat, breathe, and masturbate to fandoms like Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock. Let’s just go ahead and put aside the fact that most teenage fans of Who and Lock have never watched or read the original content, because it features actors and actresses who aren’t prettyboys they can ship in their Mary-Sue fanfiction or draw having sex with each other, or it’s a book and they can’t read at a reading level past Twilight. As for Supernatural… automatic yaoi there pretty much. Their initial organization consisted of “committees” divided by major or minor fandom charged with raising five thousand dollars each, through donations and fundraising. They’d try to get artists and craftmakers of the fandom to sell goods and donate the profits to the convention. Meanwhile they tried to contact as many top and mid-tier guests they could to come to their convention, especially David Tennant, Matt Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch, and anyone from their “big three”. These are people who attend San Diego Comic-Con as guests, because SDCC can afford them. I’m going to venture a guess that is because they are run by adults who aren’t screaming fanchildren. Committees were made for even small obscure fandoms, and then promptly told to raise money for the more important fandoms. Rather than plan how the convention was run, they intended to plan what to put in it in a vain effort to juxtapose what they thought fans would want based on their own warped views. It’s like putting the things in the box without a box.
The rest can be fast-forwarded in a blur of fundraising attempts, a scammer WHO HAS A FRIEND WHO WORKED WITH JOSS MOTHERFUCKING WHEDON who tried to skim money off the convention by claiming his totally rad side project would help promote the convention, some other noise no one gives a shit about, and then CON DAY.
I’m not even going to bother recanting what you know at this point. You can read.
Now I was sitting and watching people talk some kind of moon-language or whatever REAL PROFESSIONAL E-SPORTSCASTERS say at a League of Legends event at Connecticon on Sunday, you know, a totally legit convention with more than five-hundred people and no ball pits that started in a few rooms of a college campus twelve years ago, like many conventions. I started reading the tweets off my anime feed of Dashcon and first thought it was some clop convention or Las Pegasus Unicon II: The Delusion is Real, but when I heard it was a Tumblr convention, I knew this was going to be the best worst thing on the internet in six hours.
[12:10] [ @Delta ] but yeah, dashcon
[12:11] [ @Delta ] i heard about that when i was at connecticon
[12:11] [ @Delta ] at first i thought it was a clop con
[12:11] [ @Delta ] then when i saw it was a tumblr con, i winced
[12:11] [ @Delta ] because, you know, a room full of OTHERKIN CIS-GENDER PRONOUNS
[12:12] [ @Delta ] and opressive shitlords
[12:12] [ @Delta ] oppressive even
It wasn’t until reading the stories after that I began to truly despise the people who wrought this upon humanity. Tumblr culture is here to stay, progressive America has seen to that, but to drag legitimate fandoms through the mud again because you don’t have the slightly understanding about how organization, leadership, and finances work? Unbelievable. Again, if this convention just flopped because the content they put on was dull and boring, and the guests were vapid and lifeless, then we’d say “welp, first-year con, better luck next year!” and be done with it. But not only did they fail on every front, they had the audacity to demand seventeen thousand dollars from their attendees, and the internet, to stay another day, allegedly. All on a thin story of the hotel demanding the payment as part of the contract. But nothing brings money in like being told your money is going to save the convention you know and love… in its first year.
“Based on what I have read though, Dashcon was basically a circle-jerking superfandom convention dreamed by a bunch of kids who went to a couple cons and thought they too could be internet superstars if they threw their own. They went for the most expensive venue choice they had, tried to offset the cost with fundraisers, donations, and a high badge price, and tried to pull in high-tier guests, failing that, mid-tier guests, that they couldn’t even pay for. They were badly organized, head in the clouds, focused on their fandoms trying to one-up each other on who can be King/Queen Superwholock of the Dork Parade. I expect this kind of behavior out of pre-teen summer camp coordinators, not out of convention organizers handling real money.”
I wrote this on Facebook in response to someone else’s post, but the crux of it was that in order for them to have at least made this marginally successful, they would have chosen a smaller venue. Convention centers are big dollars, even for a single room. I’ve worked for two companies who rented space in our own convention center, the same site as Connecticon, and they could only rent two small rooms for their function. Connecticon rents the ballrooms, the exhibit halls, and a number of small rooms, as well as hotel space and hotel meeting rooms. But this is in 2014, when their numbers are well into the thousands, and they own their own local gaming shop. In 2005, when they first moved to the then-brand-new center, the story was different. Being told to donate money at the end of a convention because they were hit with end-of-the-convention charges makes more sense than surprise charges during the convention. Convention centers and hotels can be dicks, but this is why you negotiate contracts, and hold them to it under the terms, which usually include payment terms. Dashcon had no business being in an expensive venue in its first year. I mean, look at the ball pit picture again. Did they seriously rent that large of a space for a few tables, a ballpit, and a bouncy house? Know your priorities.
A number of people I know in the fandoms and convention-running scenes laughed, then apologized to attendees of Dashcon for their trouble. I disagree. I disagree because frankly, convention culture starts from the bottom up. The people who attend these things go on to run them. Either you feel you can do it better, your region has none, or your niche could use its own. They’re all valid reasons, but it’s like running a restaurant, everyone thinks they are easy because they’ve eaten at all the big chains, but can’t fathom why the family-owned hole-in-the-wall closed down last week. Serving people anything is a fucking nightmare, just ask anyone in food service, IT, or children’s entertainment. It’s a thankless job because the people receiving the service treat it like a goddamn human right, that they should just be given exactly what they pay for from robots every time. Convention attendees are no different. Some think the entire fucking fandom revolves around them, and so help you god if you disrupt their autistic itinerary of a weekend, they flip the fucking table and tweet you every word in the language. That kind of self-importance creeps its way to the top, where they believe that they can bullshit their way through running a convention for fame or profit, and fuck all whoever else is there to actually enjoy their fandom or promote it. Granted, this is not everyone, in fact, the vast majority of attendees I’ve met both as con staff and con attendee were awesome. But when you read the after-action reports and hear people causing disruptions, breaking hotel property, vandalizing rooms, or otherwise making life difficult for con and hotel staff, it’s unbelievable how some people treat these events like a goddamn frat party. It’s these kind of fuckwits that are the reason why when I tell someone at work I like anime, they chuckle, sneer under the breath, and ask if I LOVE Dragonball Z. To them, I am a twelve-year-old manchild with Aspergers Syndrome because I like “them big eyes and teriyaki chicken”.
Conventions, be they anime, gaming, comics, and more, are for people to gather and express their creativity and enjoy their fandom. Even if you don’t go there to attend panels, see guests, watch videos, or do anything else you pay a badge for, you often go just to hang out with friends, or a group, or just walk around people who aren’t going to judge you for liking nerd shit. It’s something I like to do a couple times a year besides looking for shit I want to buy. But for a bunch of obsessive fangirls to consider throwing a convention to become internet celebrities really calls into question the deeper corners of fandoms, and why these people should never run conventions like some people should never run restaurants. If all you know how to do is eat, and instagram what you eat, than keep doing that and let people with real passion continue making the food.
So if you attended Dashcon, accept the fact that you made a mistake, and attend a better con. It can even be a first-year con, but have some common sense, and do the math. If you call yourself a fan, there is a world beyond Attack on Titan. I ain’t asking you to become a shitty hipster like me, but come on, you’re just being stubborn.