Dragon Con is a science fiction/comics/cartoon/all-things-nerd convention in Atlanta, GA. It is not far from the Olympic Park and is similar to the Summer Games in size, scope, pageantry, and spandex. Both showcase obsession and those who have dedicated their lives to a single pursuit, no matter the cost. Dragon Con is nerd woman breasts, exposed much more than they should be considering the barer’s body mass index, catching the eyes of nerd men who have never seen breasts.
Sorry, that was below the utility belt. When one first encounters Dragon Con as a non-believer, it’s difficult not to crack wise at the expense of the nerds. And they are all around you with four hotels full of panels, autograph sessions, costume contests, and most importantly, photo opportunities with other nerds. The official costume contests are good fun, but the essence of the convention is the constant contest for the prize of nerd respect.
Costumed nerds wander the four host hotels, soaking in admiration, through a knowing nod, an “oh, you’re that guy/girl/thing”, an “OH! You’re that guy/girl/thing!!!”, or a photo request. Costumes are either deadly accurate (the result of spending half of one’s net worth on probably the actual film’s wardrobe department), homemade in a seriously-you-made-that? sort of way, intentionally terrible (think trash bag Batman), or a sexy version of a regular character (purely subjective especially considering the previously mentioned BMI, but for example, sexy Iron Girl, Robin with cleavage, sexy Darth Vaderette).
Walking about without costume, I worried about how any nerd interaction would play out. If it was so easy for thoughts such as, “I wish we were on the Ice Planet Hoth so that you’d cover up,” to enter the mind, would it be just as easy for the nerds to sense my mind’s rolling eyes, not like me, and then let me know about it? Suddenly I was preparing comebacks for a verbal war that didn’t exist. What am I dressed as? “Someone who doesn’t live in his Mom’s basement,” I’d reply if it came to that. But it didn’t. Everyone was really nice.
Nerds never turn down a photo request. Most of Dragon Con is spent trying to get your picture taken with that guy/girl/thing, and they want to be the guy/girl/thing with whom you want to take a picture. They understand each other, obviously, and why another nerd would want a picture with whomever they’re dressed as, but they’re just as accommodating of plainclothes Con attendees, those most likely to be non-nerd outsiders. Or is there such a thing?
Maybe everyone who is there is at least a little bit nerd. Why else would you be there? If you went to the trouble to secure a hotel room (the other half of one’s net worth during this particular weekend) and/or purchased a day pass just to get drunk and make fun of costumed nerds, maybe you are the loser at this convention.
Or maybe this is a place outside of reality, where for one weekend the rules of civilized life don’t apply. Sometimes nerd women grow up to be hot, and in no other time and place would a man who had earlier that day argued in favor of keeping the red underwear outside of Superman’s blue pants be able to stare at an attractive woman, walk straight up to her, take her picture without saying a word, and remain unslapped. This is a place where people go to a Harry Potter prom, which is just like your prom was, except it’s much worse at sports and probably has fewer assholes.
Or maybe it’s just the perfect lesson in not caring what other people do, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. This came to mind when I met Batman. I thanked him for everything he’s done over the years and let him know I’m a big fan of his work. He said, “Maybe it’s time you suited up.” I said, “Shouldn’t you use a more gravelly voice?” He said, “I don’t really do the voice.” I said, “Oh, that’s such a disappointment because the costume is dead on…it would be perfect if you did the voice.” And he said, “I get that a lot.” And I said, “I probably won’t be suiting up, but I wouldn’t ever tell you to stop.”