My family spent last weekend at a comic con in Chicago. It was not the first con I've been to, but it was the first time I was there for an entire weekend. We arrived Friday and left Sunday not a moment too soon.
The trip was a birthday/Christmas gift to our daughter. We're not quite sure where we're going to be in the next year and once I learned Matt Smith was going to be there attending seemed like a no-brainer.
Sofia is an enormous Doctor Who fan and Matt Smith is the 11th Doctor. Though she enjoys David Tennant's run as 10 I think, for her, 11 will always be her Doctor and Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan) will always be her favorite companion. (Gillan was also at the con this weekend.)
So, we bought fancy passes that got us photos and autographs with both Smith and Gillan. My kid was over the moon. I was also feeling pretty awesome that we'd been able to do this for her. She's 11, in that strange place between little kiddom and the teenage years, and it feels like a good time to have done this for her.
We didn't only go for meet and greets, however. One morning we went to a panel featuring Tom Cook -- a former Filmation animator. He worked on He-Man and She-Ra and we learned a lot about the animation process and how cartoons come together. My daughter thinks she might want to be an artist one day so I think it was cool she got to see what a love of art could lead her to down the road.
Another panel featured Joel Hodgson, creator of MST3K, riffing on his life and talking about what went into the creation of the program. (Did you know he was a kid magician? Or that he wrote for a Seinfeld stand-up special pre-NBC's Seinfeld show?) My husband introduced Sofia to MST3K years ago and Tom Servo makes her laugh so it was a pretty big deal when they got Hodgson's autograph later because she got to "meet" Tom Servo.
During Hodgson's riffing of himself he talked about his struggles as a kid to get things right. Eventually, though, he learned that mistakes were just a part -- an important part -- of the creative process. That was something my daughter needed to hear. She plays violin, trombone, and drums in addition to creating visual art. Sofia's always struggled to get things right. I remember a few years ago her in tears as she tore up another page because she couldn't get a drawing to look the way she wanted.
She wanted everything to be perfect the first time.
Hearing from Joel Hodgson, this person who created a show and characters she enjoys, that messing up is okay was pretty huge. (And maybe a lesson for all of us?)
Another great thing about comic cons is, of course, the cosplay. Friday afternoon Sofia chased down a pretty amazing Iron Man cosplayer so she could have her photo taken with her/him. There were, of course, a lot of Doctors and several Groots from Guardians of the Galaxy.
The preteen and teen years are such a difficult time -- so fraught as you try to figure out who you are and where you fit. Seeing all these individuals embracing their love of movies or comic books or novels (I did see one Sansa Stark) I hope will have a positive impact on my daughter. Show her it's okay to love the things you love, it's okay to be who you feel you are.
That's not to say everything was roses and rainbows. Our special passes meant we spent a lot of time in line with other people with special passes. Most of them were nice. Saturday, waiting to meet Karen Gillan, I even chatted with a rather wonderful River Song and her children dressed as the Doctor and Amy. There were some, though, who certainly felt a sense of entitlement that was ... unbecoming. I'll just leave it at that.
The competitive "let me show you how much bigger a fan I am than you are" was also something hard for me to swallow. That reared its head in a few places, including Sunday morning's Q&A with Smith and Gillan.
By the time we got in the car Sunday I was ready to go home to my cats. The noise of that many people was just overwhelming. Standing in line for hours on end (3 to have photos with Gillan Saturday night after she got in late) with other fans as we all grew increasingly grouchy and frustrated was no fun.
Don't get me wrong, I had a great weekend. We all did. I think we just, to quote some friends, had "too much birthday."
P.S. I am no scholar of fandom but this weekend really made me wish I was. There's just so much there.