We went to Supernova yesterday. Mainly it was a chance to let my inner geek out for a bit, but we were also keen to hear James Marsters speak. As it happened we were late for his talk, but managed to catch up with Gareth David-Lloyd (Torchwood) and Karl Urban (Star Trek, Lord of the Rings). All good fun.
But the main attraction was of course the cosplayers. While I didn’t recognise most of the Anime players (or maybe they were all Dark Lolitas, I couldn’t tell), spotting the SF players was fun. I saw at least five Doctors, one of whom might have been the 11th Doctor (David Tennent’s costume, but with holes all through it), two Dr Horribles, many, many stormtroopers, and a Cyberman and an Alien that were so good, the costumes had to have been professionally made (or possibly stolen from the set). It is also the only place I’ve been where the following conversation (reproduced verbatim) could sound normal:
Me: Look, there’s Edward Scissorhands.
Teenaged Daughter: Where?
Me: On the steps, behind Batman.
It became very clear that the whole show was a performance: the celebrities of course were playing themselves, and the cosplayers were simply walking around waiting for people to ask to photograph them. But the rest of us were performing in our own ways as well, as we enacted our fandom by recognising the different characters, and demonstrating our credibility by acknowledging the more obscure ones.
This is what I said about fan performance in my thesis:
A concert or other performance is the main site at which the dispersed—possibly virtual—fan community can meet in a face-to-face situation under the auspices of the object that gives that community its reason to exist: the performer. These events provide opportunities for the fans to enact their allegiance to the performer through the wearing of clothing appropriate to the relevant sub-cultural group, the purchasing of tour merchandise, and the performing of actions relevant to the event, whether it is stage-diving, or simply singing along (and thereby displaying the cultural capital of knowing all the words). While there may be implied competitions between fans as to who can demonstrate the greater devotion through the mimicry of costume or style, for the most part events such as concerts reinforce the camaraderie of the community. In this sense, it is not only the artist who performs, but the fans as well.
I suspect this might be even more true for events like Supernova. The camaraderie of behaving in ways that would probably get the living crap belted out of you in any other context means that the whole show was conducted in good spirits and generosity. I saw two tenth Doctors meet and amiably discuss their costumes and backgrounds, with little sense of competition or jealousy. Yes, there certainly was vanity and arrogance on display, but more than this, it was about community and solidarity.
And Final Fantasy costumes.