Blerd Problems: Making Comic-Cons More Inclusive

Comic-Cons are no longer just for fans’ love of comic books.

Video Credit: Blerdcon

As nerd culture becomes more mainstream, comic-cons have now become annual celebrations of pop culture with movie screenings, celebrity photo-ops, and panels featuring the minds behind some of the biggest trends in entertainment. However, even amid all this growth, Comic-Cons aren’t always the most welcoming. It’s an unfortunate reality for black nerds (Blerds), but they continue to be woefully underrepresented even in spaces where we all share the same interests. This is one of the reasons Blerdcon, “a convention that celebrates black-nerd culture (Lefrak, 2018)”, came to be.


For conventions with predominantly white event teams, one of the unintended consequences is that there is a lack of black actors, writers, scholars, and artists invited on the panels. While many folks behind conventions may be working diligently behind the scenes to accommodate a more diverse audience, a great start would be hiring more diverse employees who can bring the ideas and make the suggestions necessary for a more inclusive experience. Seeing black creators on panels is a crucial part of black Comic-Con goers feeling a part of the celebration of geek culture. Being more inclusive means investing money in black writers and artists instead of just your standard white-culture programming.


Another significant aspect of the Comic-Con experience is the rising interest in active cosplaying and its racial dynamics. Though cosplaying isn’t new, Black cosplayers feel pressure to only cosplay as black characters. Black cosplayers are met with criticism when they choose to portray white characters (Rockett, 2019). According to Black Nerd Problems (2018), the hashtag #BlackCosplayerHere was created to combat that criticism and lack of media representation of the black cosplaying community. While microaggressions and explicit racism may always be a factor, an excellent way for the Cons to be a part of changing the narrative is to give more opportunities to black cosplayers to showcase their talent. This includes reaching out to the cosplayers who post or respond to hashtags such as #BlackCosplayerHere and #29DaysofCosplay and inviting them to your Cons. Diversifying the judges of cosplay contests also is a move toward more inclusive cons. Not only might it reduce the anxiety of black attendees who cosplay, but it’ll reduce trolling and help restrain regressive Con gatekeepers and participants.


Since the first Comic-Con in 1979, comic conventions have evolved tremendously over the past 41 years. They keep getting more popular, and it’s through increased diversity and inclusion that these spaces become safer and more enjoyable for black nerds and fans.

References

Brown, T. (2019, July 18). Comic-Con is not just about comic books anymore. That feels like a loss — and a win. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2019-07-18/comic-con-2019-comic-books-fans


Lefrak, M. (2018, July 26). Blerdcon Is Back: What To Expect From The Convention That Celebrates Black-Nerd Culture. Retrieved from https://wamu.org/story/18/07/26/blerdcon-back-expect-convention-celebrates-black-nerd-culture/


Anti-Blackness in the Convention and Cosplay Community: An Interview With Cluelessxbelle. (2019, July 20). Retrieved from https://blacknerdproblems.com/anti-blackness-convention-cosplay-community/


Rockett, D. (2019, Aug 23). To cosplay or not to cosplay: All are welcome in the community, but don’t bring color into it. Chicago Tribune Retrieved from http://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com....


Originally published at http://mediacommons.org on February 3, 2020.


Blerd Thoughts

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My name is Ashley K. Smalls and I'm just a Black nerd from Brooklyn sharing my perspective on what's happening in pop culture. 

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