Journalist “Slut and Body Shames” Cosplayers at Comic Con Africa

Knowing that the majority of my readers are not South African, I thought I’d bring to your attention a controversial article that has been making the rounds in the South African geek community as of late.

From 14 – 16 September, South Africa held its inaugural Comic Con Africa at the Kyalami Race Circuit in Johannesburg. This was the first event of its kind being held in South Africa (or rather Africa in general), basing its inspiration from other Comic Cons around the world. It included almost everything that you would expect from a Comic Con: cosplay, board games, comics, video games and panel discussions. For the most part, the public feedback for the event was positive, with one criticism being that the venue was too small to fit a large number of people inside (which amounted to roughly 18 000 people). While that is all nice and dandy, the Sunday Times, one of the leading newspapers in South Africa, wrote an article about the event that was simply in poor taste.

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Image courtesy of @PlayStation_SA

The article, which was titled “My Big Fat Geek Expo”, was accused of “slut and body shaming” cosplayers and was quickly criticised by the South African geek community. Kinpatsu Cosplay, a prominent South African cosplayer, slammed the article as being “in very poor taste” and said that the newspaper “had the perfect opportunity to expose people to it [geek culture], but instead [they] decided to ridicule and belittle so many of the attendees and further perpetuate what so many people think it is to be a geek or a cosplayer”. Similarly, Linda Jager, a writer for online geek site GES SA, called the article “appalling”, hoping that the organisers “think twice before granting you [the Sunday Times] a media pass next year”.

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Cosplayer: Kinpatsu Cosplay. Image courtesy of @ComicConAfrica

Those of you who have studied media in one way or another will know that media outlets tend to have some sort of agenda that they want to get across to its audience and it is clear that the article comes off as ignorant and insulting. The writer of the piece clearly didn’t enjoy himself while he was there, choosing to fall back on existing negative stereotypes about geeks and cosplayers rather than writing a balanced, objective piece about the event. Some of the appalling phrases that he uses in his article include the following:

“Like the obese, puffing Darth Vader or the bedraggled PR girl eating her sad polystyrened lunch, hunched desperately under an industrial staircase…”

“Things that happen at Comic Con: people dress up as superheroes/villains/video-game characters (this is called Cosplay and on the right kind of girl it’s maddeningly sexy)…”

“From what I observed at Comic Con, a geek is essentially anyone who is overly enthusiastic about something. Like I think what separates an everyday person from a geek is that the everyday person can experience and express excitement over a particular thing, but they do it in a more reserved and perhaps controlled way; what a geek does to express their passion for something is go completely over the top about it and, as a result, sometimes or often, become a bit annoying”.

“Another thing I believe defines a geek is their cringing politeness. Whether they’re purchasing a new HD monitor from some clerk who looks suicidal or buying a fizzy water or insisting that you walk through the door before them, geeks are so intolerably polite and sycophantic that you feel like being intentionally rude to them to see what would happen”.

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Image courtesy of @VSGamingWorld

Honestly, I’m just shocked that the editor of the Sunday Times allowed this negative, mean-spirited article to be published in a national newspaper. With geeks and geek culture slowly starting to be seen in a more positive light these days, the article sets this progress back by a few steps as there will be those who will read this article and agree with the writer’s depiction of a geek. As of writing this post, the writer and the Sunday Times have not issued an apology regarding the article, which is a sad turn of events. I hope that more independent news outlets (particularly online ones) will take first preference covering events like this in the future as they seem to be more well-versed in geek culture than any national newspaper.

 

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