Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Feature, Favorite Posts Revisited: Where Does Normal End and Crazy Begin?

This post seemed sort of extra-relevant to me since Comic-Con was just last weekend (and I couldn't go....drat!). When I originally posted this it generated a lot of comments, so I'd like to hear what people have to say now that the conventions seem to be getting a little more mainstream. **Original Post** Stewart over at House of Sternberg has put out another writing assignment. I admit, I look forward to these. I used to write a lot more than I do now and I like the kick in the behind the assignments give me. This weeks assignment is on "Weird Addictions." Before you tune out let me reassure you this post is not my writing assignment. No, the assignment just got me to thinking. I like to ponder the assignment for a bit before I actually write it. Luckily, the assignments are only about 1000 words in length, so I usually have plenty of time to work out in my head what I plan on writing. In fact, I usually plan the whole thing out in my head and spend about 15 minutes actually writing the thing. But this week has been a little different. I wanted to write about a subject I had heard about but had no real knowledge of. So I did what I always do and googled the subject. And an interesting thing happened while I was looking up various fetishes. Star Trek conventions were listed under fetishes. Huh? For clarification I went to and looked up fetish. fet·ish –noun 1. an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency. 2. any object, idea, etc., eliciting unquestioning reverence, respect, or devotion: to make a fetish of high grades. 3. Psychology. any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation. Ok, I get the first two definitions, those make sense when applied to Star Trek. It's the third application that I have a hard time with. According to this article, Star Trek conventions appear to be a popular stomping ground for pedophiles. I must admit, this really threw me. I've always liked pretty much anything that deals with sci-fi and fantasy, but I think I've always been able to make a pretty clear distinction between reality and fantasy. That said, I never really thought anything of people who liked to go to various sci-fi/fantasy conventions. I would certainly never label someone who does as kinky or assume they have a sexual fixation of any sort. But there seems to be a common attitude that sci-fi conventions of most sorts have some sort of erotic undertone to them. Honestly, I never thought this. But I found some sites that seem to underscore this sentiment. One offers advice to newbie convention goers. It explains that many of the costumes may be scanty and the etiquette for dealing with some sexually charged behavior. Ok then. So I'm wondering if I have stumbled onto a couple of sites that offer a very limited view of conventions. I know there are some people who post here who have gone to conventions in the past and have had very fun, positive experiences. So why do you think these kinds of articles pop up on the subject? Do you think sci-fi fandom is mostly misunderstood or do you think there is an element of truth to what they are saying? I haven't been to a sci-fi convention, but I already have an opinion on the subject. I think conventions are like anything else and cover the whole spectrum. I bet if I went to one, I would be able to meet a ton of people just like me; someone who doesn't dress up in costume and doesn't know every line of Star Wars by heart. I also bet I could find the rabid sci-fi fan who knows every trivial tidbit of information on Spock. I bet I could also find people who speak fluent Klingon or Ferenghi. Maybe William Shatner was right when he told a group of trekkies on Saturday Night Live to "Get a life." Whatever. But I also think most of those people can distinguish fantasy from fiction. At least I hope so. But at what point does the fantasy go to far? When have we crossed the line into the crazy zone? Personally, I think if no one is harmed in the process, then who cares? But am I being too liberal? Or maybe I am naive. Should society look at conventions as a potential breeding ground of deviants? Should I keep my children far far away? Really, what do you think?


furiousBall said...

the guy on the left looks like paul holmgren, flyers enforcer in the late 70s. i don't think that's really him tho

Charles Gramlich said...

I've been to quite a few SF cons with big Star Trek contingents. I never thought of them as erotic.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

The Star Trek classification was weird.

Steve Malley said...

I think the 'unquestioning reverence or devotion' is more the sense used. Rent the DVD 'Trekkers' (a docu exploring the world of hardcore Star Trek fans) to see what I mean.

Sexuality in conventions? Well, yeah, bless 'em.

Any convention, *any* subject (meatcutters, dentists, stamp collectors, whatever), you've got a bunch of people under one roof because of a common interest. Among the grownups, sex figures in.

What's odd about SF/F cons is that the hobbyists are both adults and kids, and that a certain amount of costuming happens. I say, big deal. Kids and grownups have their own worlds, and the odd ability to make them overlap without touching. That 190lb. woman in a Sailor Moon outfit may be saying one thing to us, but to the kids she's just dressed-up.

Besides, where else will the furverts (people into that 'funny animal' porn) find each other? :)

SQT said...


I have no words for the furry fetish. Where does that even fit in?

Heather said...

Cosplay is huge in Japan, and it certainly has an erotic component *at times*. However, I doubt that cosplay in the U.S. is as eroticized as it is in Japan. Imho. That would be news to me as well.

As for where does normal end and crazy begin, well part of the definition of a psychological disorder (speaking as someone with a background in counseling psychology) is that the illness causes dysfunction in one or more significant areas of a person's life.

So unless these cosplayers are losing their jobs or getting divorces or losing custody of their children or are completely disregarding personal hygiene or can't even feed themselves because of it, then cosplay behavior falls within the bell curve of "normal".

The fantasy goes too far when it impairs a person's judgment in a life threatening way, either to that person or someone else or both. I don't think this is true of the majority of cosplayers. They just have a more visual way of expressing their loyalty to the genre.

I know of one fan who carries around in his head encyclopedic knowledge of SFF Japanese shows, both live action and animated. This in addition to his extensive video/dvd collection. He doesn't dress up and to look at him you wouldn't think he's into SFF at all. However his devotion (obsession?) blows almost anyone else's out of the water.

But sometimes we forget to mention these types of fans because the folks that dress up as their favorite characters are more visible. Is there a difference between those who dress up and those who "merely" amass ridiculous amounts of genre knowledge? Sometimes, of course, they are one and the same.

Ah...was my answer a little overkill, lol?

SQT said...


Lol. Not at all.

It's funny you mention the fans that are more in-your-face vs. the quiet collectors. My husband is a huge Kiss fan but you wouldn't know it to look at him. But we have a bedroom dedicated to his collection of memorabilia.

But I never think of it as a problem. It's confined to one place and he hasn't gotten tattoos with various band members, so it's all good.

Can you imagine if someone got a tattoo of Captain Kirk? That would seem strange to me.

Heather said...

>Can you imagine if someone got a tattoo of Captain Kirk? That would seem strange to me.

I might find it strange if someone who never before got a tattoo decided to have Kirk plastered on his/her body. Now there's someone really taking their devotion to another level. Gosh, I'm sure it's been done and now I'm curious to see an actual one.

Okay, I just googled star trek and tattoo and a few images came up. One lady had the faces of Kirk, Data, and some other character I couldn't make out on her back.

However, if the person is already into tattooing, but is a Star Trek fan and adds one of those, then that wouldn't seem strange to me at all.

Actually on second thought I don't know if it's strange to me vs. I wonder if the person who gets a Kirk tattoo will still enjoy Star Trek as much when she's 95 years old. Because the surgery to remove it is expensive, isn't it?

SQT said...

The reason I bring up the tattoo thing is because it seems strange to me to put people you don't really know on your body permanently. I bet it feels strange to the actors too.

Heather said...

But I'd wager those fans feel that they really know the characters/actors. There's the rub--does something like that represent a break from reality?

And I agree, I doubt the actors would want to know about such tattoos.