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The Start Of A Nerd War
There has been an uproar in both the convention circuit and cosplay community as a war has begun over Elite Con, a comics and collectibles event in Tampa, Florida and one of their dress code rules that they declared. The worst words that anyone who is a fan of dressing up as their favorite characters; “No cosplay allowed”. Of course, once news of this broke out, the cosplay community exploded, immediately commenting, tweeting and posting where they could about how unfair, wrong and even discriminatory it was for an event that dared to call itself a “con” take away the right for attendees to don their favorite works.
The Response: Proving PR Is Key
Anyone who pays attention to social media knows that good PR (or Public Relations) is important. They need to know how to defuse while still being firm yet fair when their client gets hit with a backlash of any kind. From most perspectives, I think it can be agreed upon that whoever is in charge of the responses from Elite Con on the cosplay debacle doesn’t quite have their craft mastered yet. And by that I mean they really dropped a major ball here.
Yes, the responses they were receiving were at times outrageous however this does not make it alright for their statements to the public to be as poorly-worded and handled as they were. First, using an actual picture of a cosplayer without crediting or permission on their Facebook page? Huge no-no among the community ranks. If you want to get a rule like this across, maybe spend a few minutes in paint making word art of “Cosplay” with a circle and slash over it. Or screenshot the rule itself again. Or just don’t have a picture at all. If they had just forgone this, it might have saved Elite Con from some of the public relations infractions they incurred.
While going through the list of responses Elite Con made, while they did have good points, there is a way to say what you want without being flippant or dismissive about it. Understanding and humility goes a long way when people feel alienated, attacked and offended; it doesn’t matter whether they feel this way because of miscommunication, overreaction or justifiably so. Again, PR is important and this was a huge misstep on Elite Con’s end. One of their original posts that were displayed definitely made me flinch, maybe not the whole time as the thought process was valid, but it comes down to the wording and the emotion coating the syllables.
Hello, we are well aware that this rule is not desirable to some collectors, however the intention of this post was not to argue the merits for or against having cosplay at our convention. It was simply to make the rule known prior to the event so that no one makes the trip out and is denied access to the event. There is no cosplay and no exceptions. If your primary concern is the allowance of cosplay and not the premium collectibles we will offer then our show may not be the right one for you. Our focus is solely on the collectibles as we have stated many times. We respect your decision not to attend and ask that you respect our decision to be a different kind of event even though you may disagree with us.
Honestly, a little bit of humility and sympathy for the hurt parties would’ve gone a long way here.
For Funsies, Let Me Try
As someone who may not be in PR but is a human being with feelings, empathy (and who writes an obscene amount of fan fiction in her spare time), allow me to attempt a reaction that might’ve gone over better.
Thank you to everyone who supplied feedback, comments, and concerns, whether they be in a positive or negative light. While we highly sympathize for those of you who were hoping to enjoy our event while in your carefully and lovingly crafted works, we are standing by our rule of no cosplay allowed. Please understand that this is a gathering geared towards the vendors and collectors in attendance as well as the hard-to-find comics, toys and geek wares. Elite Con is not offering panels or guests as that was not our goal; we want the collectibles themselves to shine and are taking steps in making sure that they and the avid collectors have the spotlight.
We apologize if our rule has made anyone feel alienated in any way. That was certainly not our intention. We are only trying to shape our event into what we have wanted it to be from the humble beginnings as a group of enthused collectors meeting in a Florida resident’s house to network, trade, buy and sell collectibles.
Elite Con and all its moderators hope to see many of you in attendance despite our no cosplay rule so we can show you what we are all about and to enjoy the rush that comes from our comic and toy show/convention. If not, we highly regret our inability to cater to you but hope that one day, you will give us a chance to show you our part of the nerd community that we pride ourselves on.
Just a shot but what do we think? Better? I like to think so but I’m sure there is something wrong with my wording too that would still get people up in arms. Not everyone will ever be happy with publicly-made responses, especially if you are the offended party, but “catching more flies with honey” applies heavily here. (Little side note: this self-induced exercise makes me highly respect PR’s that are good at their job. Well done, guys. Keep that up!)
And In This Corner…
Out of fairness, I thought it would be important to know both sides. On one side, we have the cosplayers: an enthusiastic bunch who put a lot of work, time and money into their craft. Who wear what they make with pride and honor and at the end of the day, want to have a good time and make friends (maybe while earning a few looks of awe, pictures or even a fan base while they’re at it).
But what’s EC’s story? I did a little digging and here’s what I was able to find out.
Elite Con (or full name Elite Con Premium Comic & Toy Show) is a Florida-based convention scheduled on March 12th that’s putting collectibles such as toys, Legos, Pops!, and comic books in the spotlight. Their focus is to gather as many vendors as they can hold to bring fans all of this and more. Within their doors, attendees can network, trade, buy and even sell with other collectors. So anyone who needs to find a rare Captain America comic, or a Lego set they’ve been having issues tracking down, this would be a great place to go and hunt.
They actually got their start at the Central Florida Comic Swap Meet which started with a handful of serious collectors getting together at the house of one of their own and held a “mini-con” of sorts. Slowly but surely, they grew into bigger and bigger showing where big names in the collector population would come along with anyone else interested in the toys and comics that bring them smiles. Quiet beginnings and quick growth in their part of the community; it really does inspire the idea that any event could evolve into something bigger, doesn’t it?
Ok, That’s Great. But Why No Cosplay?
Back to the matter at hand, like any other convention, they have their rules and regulations to make sure it goes off without a hitch. Tucked in among the other bullet points of do’s and don’ts, cosplay landed in the “don’t” column. The biggest reaction has been, “Why? Why ban cosplay?”
It’s understandable to want to argue against all this. Seeing a rule like that at a con for nerd paraphernalia and collectibles is confusing and surprising to say the very least. But I’ve attended conventions in cosplay for 7 years and counting, I’ve met plenty of people who will go to a convention just to cosplay and see other cosplayers. They don’t go to panels, don’t see guests, just go for the cosplay. Which is fine! I do that myself sometimes as well. Many events have accepted cosplay as part of the festivities. But Elite Con wants to keep their core attractions strong without attendees detracting from the collectibles.
Which is absolutely within their right.
However, I think it’s time for us all to realize something about this favorite hobby; it’s a distraction. Not necessarily a bad one, though. Whether it’s positive or negative, it’s definitely an attention grabber. Any convention or event you go to that has cosplayers walking around, you’ll look. It’s like a train wreck or a way-too-low cut shirt; you may not mean to look, but you’re compelled to. Some people will stop cosplayers for pictures, talk about them with their fellow attendees or will geek out with them for a while. Yes, that’s all great! Absolutely awesome! I’m all for it, certainly. But in this specific case, the event holders saw that as something they did not want for their convention and toy show. There is a time and place, and when a place says no, well, game over.
But What About The Children?!
This cosplay ban spreads even to children which surprise a lot of people, particularly families. Why can’t a small child come in dressed as Spider-Man or Wonder Woman to a collectible convention? Surely they can’t be that much of a distraction. While this really isn’t fair to the kids, there is a potential reasoning here. Say you’re a cosplayer who tried to get in but was turned away? While leaving a family with a small child dressed as Batman gets in. What do you do? Do you keep walking? Or do you go up to the gate and demand entrance, mocking the no cosplay rule as discriminatory? While you may choose to keep walking, others may go with the latter. To me, it seems to be an “all-or-nothing” rule. It’s like the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” signs you see at restaurants. Can’t let some people in who left their sneakers at home and not others. Would be even less fair than the rule itself. So while there’s a definite understanding as to why people and families get aggravated on this standpoint, the possible flip side also makes some sense.
What Makes You a “Convention”?
Throughout the fight against the ban, I’ve seen a lot of people complain that if Elite Con is going to take away cosplay, then they have no right to call themselves a “convention”. They’ve been called “Elitist Con” during retaliations. They’ve gotten complaints hurled at them and huge posts calling them out for their decision. Saying they’re alienating an entire section of the nerd community by not making certain fans feel welcome, particularly the anime and manga variety.
The definition of a convention (as per Dictionary.com) is “a meeting or formal assembly, as of representatives or delegates, for discussion of and action on particular matters of common concern”. Elite Con represents people who are coming together in celebration of comics and toys, discussing, trading and buying. So yes, they’re a convention. They have every right to call themselves that. Cosplay does not make it a convention. I know many of you out there will argue this point that has come about and what makes a con a con until pigs fly, the cows come home and there’s a second coming, but it’s a valid part of this “nothing is an absolute right” debate.
To add to this, Elite Con actually made a statement (granted still not perfectly crafted but better than previous attempts) in comparison to larger conventions that does also prove a sound point in why they can’t cater to a cosplay surge.
While we appreciate the concern for low attendance, we are a small show in a small venue that could not hold all of you even if we were to have cosplaying. The larger conventions are better equipped to handle that volume of attendees and activities that are not vending related. Our show is focused on comics, action figures, lego, die-cast, funko pop and artwork. We honestly do not have anything in the way of cosplay vendors. –The moderators had actually posted a huge list of a response however it has been hard to track down the full posting as a lot of their posts have been edited or removed. But if you manage to track it down, please let us know in a comment!
While it may be unfortunate to many out there, not every venue needs to hold all the same fandoms in the spotlight. If that were the case, every convention would be exactly the same, which means big costs, tons of people and similar vendors and showcases at every…single…one. Not sure about you guys, but I’m not always interested in being overwhelming and overstimulated at a convention I go to. Sometimes the smaller, specialty ones are just as enjoyable, if not more so. And though I do love cosplaying, I don’t feel a need to cosplay all the time. I’ve enjoyed one or two Sundays (or one-day cons) in civilian clothes, taking the time to just catch up with friends and take in the sights, panels, and merchandise.
The Ban Is Here To Stay
Might not like it, but the fact of the matter is that the collectible fans that run their event have the right to draft and enforce their own set of rules. Does it take away from some potential attendees? Sure it does. Does it kind of suck that they felt a need to list it officially as a “don’t”? Of course. But is it wrong? No. Cosplay is for fun and if it is allowed at an event or convention, it is a privilege. Enjoy it! But if it’s not allowed, don’t take it as an attack. That’s likely not the point. In this case, the con runners want to make sure the collectibles are the stars. This is completely understandable, especially given that a lot of the attendees are there to support not only the event but other collectors.
Elite Con made a post on their FB on the morning of 3/9 reporting that not everyone is up in arms about the cosplay rule; namely their vendors and pass holders aka the ones who are going to the convention to enjoy the collectibles that are the whole reason the con/trade show is happening in the first place. Also looks like they’re improving on their PR a bit. Nothing like trial by fire, eh?
So cosplay isn’t allowed at an event you were interested in and now you don’t want to go? Understandable; don’t go. Then Elite Con will have to deal with their attendance record whatever it may be and for whatever reason. While I don’t believe it will deliver as big a blow to their numbers as many may believe (most people that bought tickets are mainly traveling for the hunt of an uncommon comic, Lego set or old school action figure), there will certainly not be as many people as they could’ve had. And that is something that EC will have to deal with. Most likely was a risk they weighed when debating the ban. When it came down to it, though, they likely decided their goals of showcasing the meaning behind their event as well as the vendors and collectors was more important to catering to another part of the population. It might feel like a child refusing to share too many, but it’s a solid thought nonetheless.
One Big Nerdy, Dysfunctional Fam
The fact that this rule is in effect remains and I feel should be respected. Just like if you host your own gathering or event, or a bride and groom asking you to come to their wedding in formal wear, Elite Con has the same right to make recommendations and enforce rules so their gathering can be shaped into what they dream it to be. Everyone deals with the consequences of their actions as well as any policies they enact. It is unlikely that the flood of comments and arguments will force them into changing their minds so, at this point, it might be time to cut losses. On both sides.
What this boils down to from my angle is that no one handled this well. The initial introduction to the rule, the over-the-top backlash that was delivered by many (but not all) and the disheartening public responses all were catalysts to this community explosion. Those who want to go to Elite Con will still go. The people who decided against it will not. Whatever happens, will happen. EC made their bed and now they get to lay in it, whether it be of nice feather-down or lumpy and full of pointy, uncomfortable springs. While I don’t agree with a lot of the specific feelings and hurt people had over the ban, I do get why. However, if everyone was more courteous and composed in their communications on all ends, perhaps this blow up could’ve been avoided?
We’ll never know, though. What we’re left with is a need to all work on getting passed it, healing and growing stronger as a big, nerdy community and family. We all earned our keep here; our little niches. Whether we’re here just for the rare comics or to get dressed like our favorite heroes, we all deserve to be understood and treated with respect.
As with any opinion piece, this is entirely my own thought processes and does not share each and every view of any reader, or even Word of the Nerd staff (there was a nice, civil debate on the topic amongst our ranks prior to this article going live). Also, much of my reasoning on this is a clearly social hypothesis that I deduced from fact and concocted on my own.
Given this, obviously not everyone will agree with my views, which is the cool part about opinions; we’re not all the same! If you would like to share your thoughts on the matter, please feel free to leave comments on this article. Everyone has a right to a voice, I and the staff of Word of the Nerd would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on the matter!