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Monday, June 17, 2024

Column: Somewhere only nerds know

Every summer, 130,000 nerds flock to San Diego for the event of a lifetime. With tickets that continue to sell out as quickly as *NSYNC seats in 2001, Comic-Con is the fourth-largest convention in the world. Contrary to popular belief, Comic-Con isn’t just about your Spidermen and your Green Hornets/Lanterns. In the last decade or so, the convention has become the ultimate place to be for all things pop culture.

Thanks to some extensive Harry Potter and “Lost” podcast-listening, I’ve just begun to see how influential this single weekend in San Diego can be. It’s the place where movie trailers are premiered, sneak peeks exposed and costumes flaunted.

More importantly, Comic-Con brings together thousands of people with shared passions. The event gives each individual the chance to interact with those who understand why they would wait in line for 17 hours to buy a DVD, or why they continuously enter the lottery with the same series of “lucky” numbers.

We believe in conventions. We believe in interacting with other people who aren’t afraid to “geek out.” The people who have experienced just how easy it is to become deeply engrossed in the lives of a handful of fictional characters.

But conventions aren’t just excuses for nerds (a.k.a. the enlightened folk) to get together and be their rockstar selves. Doctors go to conventions to familiarize themselves with the latest developments. Teachers gather to redefine education at conventions. And graduate students present their research at academic conferences.

Just as sixth graders have a hard time keeping anything to themselves, when we discover a new show or theory that makes our insides tingle, we have to tell someone. Maybe that someone is Mark Zuckerberg. Or maybe it’s your dog. Either way, when it comes to passions, sharing is absolutely necessary.

UCD sophomore physics major, Megan Clendenin has experienced the power of passion-sharing first-hand. She spent her middle and high school days in a mother-daughter book club. After I got over how exceedingly adorable the idea of 12 year olds eating cucumber sandwiches with their mothers is, I had the chance to talk to Clendenin about her experience.

“I grew a lot closer to my mom through the book club,” she explained, “because we read all the books out loud together.”

Not only did this small convention of book-sharing help Clendenin create a community of mom-supporters who she continues to keep in touch with, but it also helped her grow as a learner.

Maybe the mother-daughter book club of Palo Alto didn’t feature surprise appearances by Matthew or Megan Fox, but it is just as much of a convention as Comic-Con.

A New York Times article published before Comic-Con last year described the event’s attendees as people who “tend to be excited about a film when they think nobody else will be.” These “insiders” become the sole focus of big-name Hollywood “outsiders” for a weekend, forging an unexpected link between the fans and corporate machines.

In a sea of mass socio-economic diversity, forums like Comic-Con unify strangers on the premise of belief.

Gideon Cohn-Postar, UCD history major and proud all-star nerd, shared his experience as a Star Trek convention attendee at age 13.

“I greatly enjoyed being in a place where every nerdy inside joke I made was greeted by raucous laughter and a wistful recollection of the referenced episode, rather than the pointed stares I have become accustomed to,” he explained.

While they can definitely entertain, conventions can also serve as a source of aid for people seeking guidance and understanding. The International Autism Conference gives parents, doctors and non-profit leaders the opportunity to share their experiences with a disorder that is becoming increasingly prevalent in our world every day. Not only do they believe in their experiences, but they also believe in reaffirming what they’ve been through.

When my siblings and I joined thousands of “Lost” fans in a Los Angeles amphitheater the night of the show’s conclusion, I realized that it was okay for me to spend years re-watching seasons and picking apart facial expressions. For two and a half hours, I was immersed in a community of fellow island-loving, number-fearing fans who didn’t ask me to legitimize my love for the Lost-ies.

Conventions give us the chance to walk into a room as a stranger with a hidden passion, and leave as an ironic-T-shirt wearing member of a community. Embrace your desire to share what you think is totally rad and go to a convention. And while you’re there, don’t forget to give the guy with elf ears in the corner a high-five. He’ll probably be your boss one day.

MAYA MAKKER recommends that you avoid using the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42 for personal gain. If you’re down with the island life, let her know via mgmakker@ucdavis.edu.

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