Thought Bubble: Be Excellent at Fan Expo

Today is the first day of Fan Expo Canada in Toronto. I was originally planning to note the occasion with some kind of article examining the issues surrounding cosplay and consent, a topic that is particularly salient in the wake of the “Cuddle a Cosplayer” controversy back in March. I still think it’s an incredibly important discussion, one that I hope to revisit in greater detail at some point in the future.

Unfortunately, August turned into one of the most depressing months in recent memory and I didn’t have time to put everything together, at least not with the nuance that I want to bring Dork Shelf. It’s too bad that the subject has never felt more relevant.

The past two weeks have dredged up the absolute worst aspects of the Internet, especially as it relates to nerd culture and women in gaming. I’m not going to rehash everything here, but chances are I don’t need to. It’s painfully obvious that there’s a problem.

I don’t know how much of that toxic culture will manifest at Fan Expo. I’m optimistic enough to hope for the best. I’m not so naïve as to expect the entire weekend to pass without incident. When tens of thousands of people gather in one building, something will inevitably go wrong.


But after the events of the past month, it would be nice to close the summer with something positive. So that’s how I’m going to choose to approach Fan Expo.




I’m looking forward to Fan Expo because I always look forward to Fan Expo. I think conventions are amazing self-contained ecosystems in which everyone collectively agrees to a new normal. Cosplay is a huge part of that, largely because it feels like a more honest expression of the people we want to be. The rules governing fashion – the surface trappings of day-to-day life – are completely rewritten in favor of a code that says an X-Men uniform qualifies as business casual.

That’s what I want to hang onto, if only for a weekend. Fan Expo is supposed to be fun. Thousands of people gather to share their collective love of wonderful works of art and entertainment, and that enthusiasm should be cause for celebration rather than foreboding. I want to peruse Artist Alley and remember why I became a nerd in the first place. I want everyone else to be able to do the same.

Sadly, it’s become increasingly evident that the same break with reality that encourages people to rewrite the guidelines of fashion leads other people to throw away any sense of basic decorum. That baseline human decency desperately needs to be kept. Cosplay is not consent, and cuddling without consent is inappropriate in any walk of life because every human being has the right to say no.


So with that in mind, here are a few quick tips for a great Fan Expo experience:

Be friendly. Be polite. And respect other people’s personal boundaries. If you like someone’s costume, say so, and then leave it at that. There’s no need to drag it out into a ten-minute conversation if the other party doesn’t appear interested. We all like geeky things, but we’re all human beings and that needs to be acknowledged.

If we can remember that – if we can remember to be excellent to each other – then Fan Expo should go off with out a hitch. We’ll all probably end up spending more money than we should, but if that’s the worst that happens I’d consider the weekend a success.

Please stay safe and appreciate the people you care about. I look forward to seeing everyone on the convention floor.