by Debra E. Jenson
“Space at the Con” explores the motivations and goals of individuals who participate in discussions at Comic-Cons and conventions centered on diversity and representation of marginalized groups (women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people of color, people with disabilities, and more) in popular culture. Comic-con-style events occur across the United States and around the globe, showcasing movies, television, comic books, and even online content. These events are one way for individuals to encounter and learn about popular culture. A person of color, a woman, a transgender person, a homosexual or lesbian, can often encounter hostility, sometimes because they are seen as less “legit.” However, this geek-keeping phenomenon can also stem from the absence of marginalized groups in the representation of geeks in popular culture. People learn about norms and customs from popular culture. To better understand the narratives and themes around representation of marginalized groups in media and what impact participants believe these discussions can have. To realize this understanding, interviews were conducted with participants on panels about issues of diversity and marginalization at a comic convention. These interviews included questions about the motivations for participating and the perceived impact they might be having. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts identified three themes: creating representation through shared stories, creating understanding through shared stories, and creating advocates through shared stories. Panelists view their work as using narrative to help individuals in pain find comfort through common experiences and to build a more welcoming community and, eventually, culture.
representation, diversity, comic-con, marginalized groups, geek culture, thematic analysis, advocacy
Every year in September, hundreds of thousands of people make a pilgrimage to the desert of Salt Lake City. Devotees don Star Fleet uniforms, carry Captain America shields, eat Wookie Cookies at the concession stand, and stand in miles of lines for hours. Civilians can see Last Airbenders walking on the sidewalk and sit across from Wonder Woman on the train. The scene is at once overwhelming and inspiring. For a few days, the city is transformed and, with over 127,000 attendees in September of 2015, Salt Lake Comic Con[i] became the third most populous place in the state of Utah, just edging out Provo, the home of Brigham Young University (Davidson 2014).
The first Comic-Con[ii] took place in San Diego in 1970 (Comic-Con International 2018). What began as a three-day event, attended by 300 people, dedicated to sharing news and insights into the popular media of the day has grown to a five-day multi-media extravaganza wherein every major and minor film, television, gaming, and publishing company attempts to out-wow the over 300,000 attendees. It has become an international movement, inspiring conventions across the United States and around the globe. In New York, more than 167,000 attend, Toronto hosts 127,000, France’s Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Alger draws more than 200,000, and Tokyo’s Comiket had over 180,000 attendees (Salkowitz “How Many”).
So, comic cons are big business and well attended. But why? They are expensive—major cons cost at least $200 for a pass to attend all days—and crowded. What is the allure? The simple answer is access. Fans who attend comic cons enjoy access to the people who create some of their favorite media, celebrities who star in the film and television iterations, and experts who pontificate on the media. Important announcements and delicious behind-the-scenes tidbits are shared on panels, sneak previews are shown, and autograph and photo opportunities with celebrities are sold. Comic con is the place to learn more about pop culture and what its future looks like. The purpose of this qualitative research project is to better understand the narratives and themes around representation of marginalized groups (women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people of color, people with disabilities, and more) in media and what impact participants believe these discussions can have.
If one were looking for a place to directly encounter media and popular culture, a comic con would be ideal. As Smith describes it, San Diego Comic-Con “plays host not just to the comic book industry, but it has become an important promotional venue for the film, television, video gaming, role gaming, and toy industries, among others” (10). Beyond learning about the media they consume, attendees at comic cons find a place where fans can directly communicate with the creators of that media. Panels often include Q&A sessions that allow individuals to speak directly with artists and celebrities. They can share their opinions, ask questions, and even make suggestions. Bolling found that many of the creators “expressed genuine interest in consumer input in the creative process” (48). Beyond the ability to drive content, comic con panels are important signals of the culture. When a topic is important enough to merit a panel, it signals that that topic is something the community should be discussing or considering. Expected comic con topics include “Marvel vs. DC,” “The Future of Star Wars,” and general cosplay tips. In recent years, however, panels have begun to focus more on marginalized groups and their representation in popular culture.
Across the continent, comic cons in 2015 featured panels dedicated to discussing diversity. In Kansas City, a panel titled “LGBT and Comics” included “a gender non-binary writer… a lesbian comics fan, and … a transgender woman in an awesome supergirl [sic] costume” (Arnone). Yet another panel addressed the virtual absence of people of color in comic books. Panelists “all remembered going to their local comic shop, looking at the wall of comics, and finding few characters who looked like them.” In New York diversity was a theme, with events and panels dedicated to questions of diversity in media content and a focus on bringing more diverse voices to speak on the panels (Salkowitz “Diversity”). This last lesson was learned, painfully and infamously, by Denver ComicCon months earlier when they held a “Women in Comics” panel that featured only white men as speakers (Asselin). This misfire was repeated again on an all-male panel titled “Writing Women Friendly Comics” at Gen Con in Indiana. This has become a common enough problem at conventions and academic conferences that all-male panels have been dubbed “manels” and spawed a Tumblr page called “Congratulations, you have a Manel.”
Perhaps due to the firestorms created with each new manel, or perhaps out of a sincere dedication to make cons more intersectional, fall 2015 was dubbed “The Year of the Woman” at San Diego Comic-Con International. It was noted that more women attended and more panels were dedicated to discussing sexual and racial equality: “The default Comic-Con panelist is still a white man, but it does seem that more of an effort has been made to correct this lazy lopsidedness” (Scott). The dream of a more intersectional geek community will not be without a struggle, though.
The terms geek and nerd are often used interchangeably, and while there are similarities between the two categories, there are also distinctions. The term “nerd” is associated with above average intelligence and lower social acumen; and the geek is obsessed with certain types of fandoms (science fiction, fantasy, comics and superheroes, and anime) and socializes around those fandoms. In the Venn diagram of these two descriptions, there is often overlap. Nerds can be geeks, but not always. And not all geeks are brilliant.[iii] Where the stereotypes are most similar is in their rather specific demographic assumptions: they are white, male, straight, and cis-gender.
Tilton attempted to further categorize the geek / nerd / dweeb / dork using the four temperaments, or humours of sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. The sanguine, represented by blood, is a warm loving, charmer; the choleric is seen as the practical leader, often a hard worker; the melancholic is the conservative, loyal perfectionist; and the phlegmatic is the thoughtful and patient people-pleaser. Tilton further argues that the “nerd” is the choleric keeper of knowledge, one who learns for the sheer joy of gaining more knowledge. He describes the dork as the melancholic creative lover of esoteric knowledge of a thing. The dork is the cosplayer in any fandom. The geeks are the extroverted sanguine. In this, we see someone publicly reveling in their love for a fandom and socializing around that fandom. It is important to note that “these mediated representations are not exactly being created by real people” (2). For the geek community, much of what they know about themselves and each other depends on portrayals in media such as The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) or Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons. And again, they are overwhelmingly white men.
While there are occasional variations, they are almost always male. Varma argues that this is not so much a new gendered idea; rather it is “the logical extension of implicit and over messages to which both mean and women have been exposed ever since they were children” (362). Varma’s work is in computer science—trying to understand the gap between men and women in this STEM field—but the gendered stereotypes remain. Varma finds that hostility, whether latent or open, was a problem for women, just as in every other field. So when the label of geek is applied to women, they are experiencing an additional layer of social pressure.
According to Pustz, comic culture shares “a body of knowledge and information, an appreciation of a medium that most Americans have dismissed as hopelessly juvenile and essentially worthless” (22). Several methods of gatekeeping exist to keep the community closed. Wertley identified knowledge and gender specifically as measures for true geeks. Approaching this culture, a person of color, a woman, a transgender person, a homosexual or lesbian, can often encounter hostility.
Women and marginalized groups struggle to enter the geek culture often because they do not fit the stereotype and are not seen in the media. This is unfortunate for several reasons, not the least of them that girls want to be geeks. Currie, Kelly, and Pomerantz attempted to better understand the experiences of girls in secondary school. What they learned was that girls felt limited in their expression of themselves in two ways: pressure from peers to not stand out and dominance of male narratives and experiences. Surprisingly, several girls expressed a desire to be seen as a geek in high school—it was a label they embraced. For young women, to be labeled a “geek” was positive, particularly in comparison to the other labels girls are often given such as “slut” or “girlie girl.” Even more sadly, the labels that young women aim to escape by joining the geek community are not left behind in schoolyard. As Maggs described it, “Women are ostracized from online gaming, called out as fake, accused of being desperate for attention, harassed while cosplaying, and, worst of all, forced into silence” (11). This phenomenon, known as gatekeeping or geek-keeping, is not unique to women, though.
For people of color, the geek community can feel just as unwelcoming. Brandon Jackson describes his experience as a “blerd” (black nerd) in the 1990s: “They used to call me Urkel – and not in an endearing way either.” The stereotype of geeks as white is often not surprising, considering superheroes were around for just under three decades before a black superhero—Black Panther—was created by Marvel, and can lead to assumptions that there is a certain way to be a geek. Traditional geeks can engage in gatekeeping, leading to a hostile space for black geeks (Valenzuela).
In response to this gatekeeping, groups have begun organizing to create their own spaces. From Black Girl Nerds to the Mary Sue to Gay Nerds, marginalized groups are creating their own spaces to discuss their obsessions, address the problematic aspects of those obsessions.[iv] However, the content that these geeks obsess over often remains mainstream and includes movies and games created by major production houses. For example, in 2009, researchers found that white, male characters were overrepresented in video games released in the United States from March 2005 to February 2006. While men are only half the population, they are more than 85% of video game characters. And white characters are 80% of video game characters, when the US population is only 75.1% of the population (Williams, et al). The popular culture that nerds of all genders, colors, orientations, abilities learn from is shared.
The importance of understanding media lies in the power the media have in “shaping broad social definitions” (Croteau and Hoynes, 161). The influence media has on social norms and patterns has been found in several studies and does not need to be revisited here, but Postman described it as the power to “direct us to organize our minds and integrate our experience of the world, it imposes itself on our consciousness and social institutions in myriad forms” (18). Beyond the ability to categorize, popular culture familiarizes us with concepts. Most Americans learn about government, issues, each other, and themselves through the television, music, movies, and books we consume. And that learning begins at a young age (Foy). The media present to us images that categorize things as either normal or other, and prescribe the roles those others are to take.
In America, people whose race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity, are not in the majority learn early that they are not the norm. In short, anyone who is not a white, straight, cis-gender, male is other and the media teaches them clearly what roles to play.[v] As Douglas described it, “The mass media raised us, socialized us, entertained us, comforted us, deceived us, disciplined us, told us what we could do and told us what we couldn’t” (Douglas, 13). This is especially unfortunate, as scholars agree that mass media representations are full of stereotypes, shortcuts, and misinformation (Holtzman and Sharpe). The media helps to define our surroundings and our selves. And for geeks, the place they gather to better understand media, their community and themselves, is a comic con.
To better understand the experiences of people who participate in comic con panels about diversity and representation in media and popular culture, this project asked the following research questions:
What themes are present in discussions of representation of marginalized groups at comic con panels?
Who participates in these panel discussions?
What are the goals and motivations of these participants?
To answer the research questions, interviews were conducted at a comic con in Salt Lake City in March 2016. The researcher attended all panels with a title that suggested diversity or representation would be a specific topic of discussion. After the panel, individual panelists were approached about an interview.[vi] A total of 17 individual interviews were conducted with more than 12 hours of recording to transcribe. The only demographic questions asked of respondents were their proper pronouns and their profession. Of the 25 participants, 16 identified as female, 6 identified as male, and 3 identified as using they, them, their pronouns. This is an interesting breakdown, considering the usual demographic and stereotype of comic con goers. It also suggests that women are doing much of the heavy lifting when it comes to speaking about diversity and representation in geek circles. Of the in-person interviews, six were authors, six were artists or in the art community, and five had general professions.
Interviews at the comic con event were conducted in hallways or the green room available to panel participants. The interviews in hallways often occurred immediately following a panel, meaning the participants had just recently experienced the emotions of a panel. The emotions can run very high during and after some of these events. For example, following the panel about being LGBTQIA+ in the geek community a throng of people moved to the front to speak with the panelists. Several audience members were in tears while many others hugged each other; the panel immediately following was delayed because of the difficulty clearing the room.) Interviews were digitally recorded in order to avoid loss of context and comprehension, individual interviews were transcribed within 24 hours. Field notes were compared and added to analysis. The interview questions are added in Appendix A.
Thematic analysis of the transcripts was conducted by repeated reading and comparison for themes, at both the individual interview level and the overall question level. The researcher not only read through each individual transcript repeatedly, but also created documents with all answers to each question combined together to better understand how each question was answered. Using thematic analysis “identifies patterns (themes, stories) within data, and theorizes language as constitutive of meaning and meaning as social” (Braun and Clarke, 81). Thematic analysis is particularly appropriate for this project as the researcher did not wish to approach respondents’ descriptions of their experiences with existing theories or to place predictive expectations on the language and its own meanings. After repeated readings and coding, three themes were identified across respondents: individuals believed first, that they were creating representation by sharing stories like theirs; second, that they were creating understanding by sharing their stories; and, third, that they were advocating for themselves and creating other advocates at the same time.
For many interviewees, the act of sharing their stories was motivated by a desire to help to create representation in their community. While it may not have been in major motion pictures or a top shelf comic book, by putting themselves on the stage in front of 20 to 250 people, discussing their sexuality, their experience as a young, black geek, or sharing their frustration as a woman in the gaming community, these people believed that they were helping create representation. As Leia[vii], an author, said,
I think that it’s very rare to hear from a person of color and to hear from their perspective… I didn’t get to see my self in books when I was growing up… I’ve felt that it’s been important to share my story so that other people understand that these books can be published. I thought it wouldn’t ever be published because it had a person of color as the protagonist (Personal interview. 17 March 2016).
Whether it was in the form of speaking up or acting up, participation as their true selves was an important aspect of the event. Jessica participated in a panel addressing issues for the LGBTQIA+ community. She shared that her mere presence as an asexual person was an act of representation: “It’s talked about so little and acknowledged so little to the point that they’re just adding the “A” to the LGBTQ and it was just something I felt very strongly about and I wanted to talk about it in a public forum” (Personal interview. 17 March 2016). The first time she spoke publicly on a panel about her sexuality and the experience of multiple people approaching her and “one girl started crying! And she was like ‘Thank you for getting up there and talking about us because we’re barely acknowledged!’” (Jessica). The absence of popular culture representations for people to identify with seemed to be a motivating factor for participation in conversations where they could then proudly label themselves and let the audience relate.
For Tiana, a Black woman who dressed in elaborate cosplays, her participation was a response to the negative experiences she had as a non-conforming geek in her teens. She described always wanting to cosplay but being afraid that people would make fun of her and then one day deciding “to speak up as much as possible because I would have loved to have someone speak up that much when I was entering the field when I was 18.” She spoke of wanting to let people know that she knew what it was like to feel like you’re “the only one” (Personal interview. 17 March 2016). It became obvious that Tiana was a very popular presence at the event. Over the course of our interview, Tiana was interrupted twice to take photos with other attendees. One woman expressed that she had been waiting to see a Princess Tiana and just had to have her picture taken with her. This may speak to the fact that the population of Salt Lake City is overwhelmingly white—72.8% white according to the 2010 US Census—and with fewer than 3% of its people identifying as Black, there were likely few people to dress as Tiana at the con (US Census). But it also could be a result of the lack of Black female characters to represent: Tiana is the only Black Disney Princess and there are no major Black female superheroes other than Storm, though Black Panther and Deadpool 2 have given us several secondary Black characters. Whatever the reason, during the interview, people waved or shouted things such as “You look gorgeous!” to Tiana as they walked by. You could sense that attendees needed to see her.
Another interesting aspect of feeling a need to be a representative for audiences came from white participants. Becky and Luke, both white, spoke of their commitment to speaking to white audiences about the importance of diversity and representation. Luke discussed seeing himself in media and the way that inspired him:
I thought I could be a writer because every representation of a writer from, you know, Shakespeare to Hemingway to every white [guy], you know like, every movie about a writer is about a white guy that looks approximately like me. So it was very natural for me to say, ‘Yes, of course I want to be a writer. You know people who like me become writers; that’s something we become.’ And so standing back and realizing that not everyone has that experience is something that I like pointing out to people when I can, because my voice does come from place of that sort of privilege (Personal interview. 18 March 2016).
Luke seems to be describing a motivation to demonstrate a “wokeness” in his participation; a desire to show other white men that they can acknowledge their privilege and help create more opportunity for diverse stories. While Becky, a white woman who has a podcast about geek news, was motivated by the idea “that in our community there are a lot of people who are marginalized who are not represented and I have a very unique opportunity because I have this built in audience that I can speak to those things and people will listen to me, generally” (Personal interview. 18 March 2016). Both Becky and Luke describe their participation as a type of modeling for other white people; a hope that, through their speaking on panels, white audience members will think critically about media and be inspired to consider what such a lack of representation in media means to those who are marginalized. As Leia, a woman of Asian descent put it, “It’s important for others to hear my message of the importance of what it feels like to not see yourself in books and not feel like your story is important” (Personal interview, 17 March 2016).
The meaningfulness of story was the second theme identified. Respondents often described the idea that sharing stories on panels would help audience members understand their own experiences. Cindy spoke of being motivated to participate because of her 15 year-old daughter, who is on the autism spectrum. She described bringing her daughter to panels and seeing someone she could relate to. “Even if there isn’t someone that’s exactly like her, there’s probably somebody who also feels marginalized and that the feeling of being marginalized is not unique. And THAT is more broad spectrum than maybe she supposed and that actually really does help her mental health” (Personal interview, 17 March 2016). Cindy continued, explaining that this phenomenon was what motivated her to participate as a panelist:
If I can help them [the audience] feel like, yeah, their position is awkward or misunderstood but it’s not something that they have to be ashamed of. That is something that people understand and that is something that they’re capable of being sympathetic toward in a positive way.
The goal of helping others understand themselves, and come to a point of understanding others, was mentioned by individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community as well.
The “LGBTQ panel” is increasingly popular at Salt Lake Comic Con events. Over the past five years, organizers have had to move the panel to progressively larger rooms due to demand, as measured in volunteer reports of rooms filled to capacity and large numbers of attendees being turned away. The emotional reaction to this panel was mentioned by multiple respondents. Jessica said, “As soon as I said my name and what I was representing, there were cheers. And that, just, oh yeah. There were cheers. And I was just like ‘Holy crap!’ and I had no less than three people come up to me at the end” (Personal interview. 17 March 2016). This direct interaction after panels was also familiar to several panelists. Thor, a cosplayer, shared what happened when they “first did the LGBTQ panel, the first two times we did it, we actually one girl come up in tears because we told her it’s ok to be queer. She’s like, she was in tears, she said, ‘I can’t tell my parents. How do I tell my parents?’”
Storytelling can be an intimately experience, allowing us to share facts as we saw them and emotions as we felt them (Haigh and Hardy). And for several respondents, coming out stories served as a pivotal event to share. Thor admitted that “when we told our stories—our coming out—sometimes it’s positive, sometimes its negative.” Thor continued, “Well, I was scared to death for the longest time to come out to my parents.”
Then Thor shared their coming out story:
When we told her our stories – our coming out – sometimes it’s positive sometimes it’s negative. I’m like ‘You never know. Like I thought my dad was going to hate me; I thought my world was going to end because I love my mother and my father. And I thought it was going to kill them.’ And they were just ‘Meh. It’s probably just a phase.’ But they love me for who I am (Thor. Personal interview. 18 March 2016).
Yet another interviewee, Mal, shared his coming out experience, concluding, “While the Queer community has taken great strides in the past several years, I believe I has a long way to go before it reaches general acceptance and equality. Not everyone has a positive experience when coming out… I barely made it out alive myself” (Personal interview. 18 March 2017). This deeply ingrained pain in the LGBTQIA+ community appeared often in discussions about the motivation to participate in panels. Several expressed the desire to share a brutally honest truth about the experience:
I constantly hear “It gets better” but that just isn’t true… It does not always get better. Actually it can get worse. However, what did get better was me. I got better. I rose above it. I surrounded myself with loving incredible people who make me happy. I married a wonderful man and he is my family now. I like to feel that if I rose above it, others can too. I want to be a voice to those lost in the fear and dread, as their worlds are falling apart, that they will get better too. That is why I do LGBTQ panels (Mal. Personal interview. 18 March 2016).
Each interviewee appeared committed to the idea that they could use their past experiences and their standing in the geek community to create change for those in the audience. As expressed by Mal, these “panels are very personal to me. They are a place where I can be a voice to injustice and help bring healing to the con communities.”
And for many of the participants, the goal was to advocate for their community.
The third and final theme discovered in the interviews was the desire to be an advocate and even to encourage others to be one as well. Cisco said, “It is my goal in every panel I am on to try to say AT LEAST one thing that will make people think, make people want to research, learn, and inspire others to talk about the topics” (Personal interview. 17 March 2016). Participants seemed to share the view that panels were a place they could serve as a resource to the people attending the panel. Peter described it as the ability to “help answer a question, maybe direct someone to somewhere where they can maybe get some help because a lot of times you’ll see younger kids who might be wondering or questioning or asking a question because they would like some direction” (Personal interview. 17 March 2016). The issues that are addressed in these panels can involve deeply personal questions of experiences with racism, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexism, and more. Panelists share their experiences in an attempt to spread knowledge. Jessica said, “Any public form of conversation is an important thing to have because somebody out there is going to listen. Someone out there is going to be educated in some way” (Personal interview. 17 March 2016). Panels are a way to educate and activate the geek community, though admittedly, because panels can have audiences that range anywhere from 25 to 250 people, this can happen at small numbers at a time.
Some panelists saw their role as starting a thought process and a conversation. For example, Thor said, “You plant one seed, that person’s toing to go out and do it. And then they’re going to talk…they’re going to share. And then someone from them shares it. It’s going to spread” (Personal interview. 17 March 2017). The hope that this discussion about important issues related to marginalized groups and communities is also with the final goal, articulated by Becky: “We’re ready for people to start acting” (Personal interview. 17 March 2017). As far as what kind of action—beyond sharing information—panelists hoped they would see, the answers ranged from audience members being proactive media consumers to inspiring them to becoming media creators. Interviewees suggested, though, that participation on a convention panel is meant to help educate and activate the audience.
The power and influence of comic conventions has expanded, both geographically and culturally. As new cons appear across the nation and become more popular, the importance of studying geek culture becomes more important. With the demographics of geeks—that they are white, male, straight, and cis-gender—breaking down, there becomes a need to address the ways in which marginalized groups enter and experience geek culture. A person of color, a woman, a transgender person, a homosexual or lesbian, can often encounter hostility, sometimes because they are seen as less “legit.” However, this geek-keeping phenomenon can also stem from the absence of marginalized groups in the representation of geeks in popular culture. People learn about norms and customs from popular culture. And people in marginalized groups also learn that they are not the majority, what that means, how they can contribute, and what their value is.
It should be noted that this research was conducted over a short period of time and at a specific location. Future work could broaden the research site to more locations or to larger events, such as San Diego Comic-con. There is also the possibility that quantitative surveys—particularly with open-ended questions—would allow more panelists to share their thoughts and motivations about the importance and impact of panels addressing diversity and representation in the geek community. It would also be valuable to engage in this same conversation with those take time out of their precious comic con time to attend these panels, so that we can better understand what diversity and representation really means to this community.
The purpose of this qualitative research project was to better understand the narratives and themes around representation of marginalized groups (women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, people of color, people with disabilities, and more) in media and what impact participants believe these discussions can have. To realize this understanding, interviews were conducted with participants on panels about issues of diversity and marginalization at a comic convention. These interviews included questions about the motivations for participating and the perceived impact they might be having. Thematic analysis of interview transcripts identified three themes: creating representation through shared stories, creating understanding through shared stories, and creating advocates through shared stories. Panelists view their work as using narrative to help individuals in pain find comfort through common experiences and to build a more welcoming community and, eventually, culture.
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Please give your name, profession, and proper pronouns.
What is your chosen pseudonym?
What other conferences or conventions do you present at?
How did you get involved in comic con panels?
Why do you speak on panels that discuss representation of LGBTQIA / women / racial and ethnic groups / disability / etc.?
What other panels do you participate on at comic con?
What personal experience do you have with these topics?
What professional experience do you have with these topics?
What else would you like to add about your participation on this panel?
[i] Interviews were collected at the event known as Salt Lake City FanX, run by Dan Farr Productions. Subsequent to a lawsuit, this event has been renamed FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention.
[ii] “Comic-Con” is part of the trademarked name of San Diego Comic-Con International and will be used when referring to that specific event. “Comic con” will be used when referring to all other types of comic conventions.
[iii] For the most current understanding of these stereotypes, Urban Dictionary was consulted. Specifically, the entries for “nerd” (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nerd), “geek” https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=geek), and “Geek/Nerd Debate” (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Geek%2FNerd%20Debate). Retrieved August 30, 2018.
[v] In keeping with inclusive language practices, this article will use the singular, gender-neutral they when gendered pronouns are not appropriate. The singular they has been recognized as grammatically correct and was even named the 2015 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society. http://www.americandialect.org/2015-word-of-the-year-is-singular-they. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
[vi] It should be noted that the researcher has a relationship with Salt Lake City Comic Con and regularly participates in panels. Several of the interviewees were individuals who were personal friends or acquaintances.
[vii] To protect confidentiality, all participants chose a pseudonym.