Pop Culture Conventions: Camaraderie, Creativity and Cosplay

By Jennifer Allen

With the world gradually returning to some sense of “normalcy" as the months continue on, one of many fun activities I'm most looking forward to enjoying a few fun-filled days at one of many annual pop culture conventions.

While some conventions have chosen to go virtual again this year just in case, some others have taken a leap of faith to run as they usually would in various locations around the world. Regardless, there will be plenty of chances this year to celebrate whichever branch of pop culture you prefer.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. While some of you may understand what the concept of a 'convention' is, it's another thing to understand how many of them work when it comes to pop culture.

We should start with the clear definition of what pop culture is, I think. A term defined initially in the mid-19th century, popular culture (or “pop culture") refers in general to a material culture of a particular society. In modern terms, pop culture refers to cultural mediums such as music, art, literature, fashion, dance, film, cyber culture, television, and radio that have mass accessibility and appeal.

A pop culture convention is then an event where fans for specific mediums congregate and appreciate that fandom in the company of like-minded individuals. Often also these gatherings include opportunities to meet people who have worked on these pop culture projects such as actors, writers, producers, designers, performers and the like who are generally designated as “Guests".

At many of these conventions you'll be exposed to a wide variety of activities such as workshops, Guest speaker panels, premiere film or TV presentations, gaming sessions and demonstrations, and so much more. On top of that there's also opportunities to visit a designated area with various retail and Guest booths where you can buy anything from memorabilia to books to clothing.

Speaking of clothing, you will no doubt also be exposed to various fans (and sometimes Guests, too) dressed up in various types of Cosplay. Some are as simple as wearing a special top or mask to celebrate their favorite genre while others go so far as to pull off elaborate costumes that had to have taken many months or even years to create. Often the best sign that you've found a great Cosplayer is if a ton of other fans ask to take his or her picture. It's even more gratifying if the other fans are wanting to take pictures of your own Cosplay.

As I've previously mentioned in another article, I've only personally ventured into the realm of Cosplay for a few years now, with my outfits gradually growing more detailed as time has gone by. It can be extremely fun, but also equally as exhausting to walk around in a multi-layered outfit all day. If considering trying out Cosplay for an event, you're always welcome to ask others for advice on how to manage such a hobby.

Attending your first pop culture convention will no doubt be a bit of a culture shock. It certainly was for me back in 1990 when I attended my very first Star Trek one. This unique experience turned into a mishmash of bizarre and comfort that I wasn't quite sure how to deal with at the time. Eventually, I realized these were kindred spirits as fellow enthusiasts of a genre I enjoyed.

Some recommendations for when you do decide to visit your first convention:

• Be sure to have some cash on hand. Some of the retail vendors simply do not have capability to accept credit cards. Also at some cons, Guests charge for photos or signing memorabilia and generally will only accept cash as well.

• Bring along a small bag (or a coat with a lot of big pockets) to hold all your various purchases made throughout the day. If you're flying to and from the convention, you may need an extra suitcase to pack all those goodies to bring back with you. Some vendors are now willing to mail more delicate items (such as collectable statues or art) to you as an alternative, but this is rare.

• You'll need to get used to spending a lot of time in lines to see some of the more popular panels. At least you'll have plenty of friends to talk with while waiting!

• You won't be able to bring food or drinks in with you to most cons, so expect to disobey that restrictive diet while there since most of what's offered will be less than healthy. Luckily, some food shops do offer alternative items for vegetarians and so forth.

• Some of the larger conventions now have free phone apps to download so you can more easily keep track of all the various events offered throughout each day. Much handier than flipping through a printed booklet!

• Many conventions nowadays do accommodate for handicapped and elderly attendees. There will always be staff on hand to assist if you're having mobility issues.

• You will be walking around a lot, so wearing comfortable shoes is a must. This is especially important for Cosplayers as trekking around in high heels is not always ideal.

• This goes without saying but… always be kind to your fellow attendees. If they like a particular genre that you don't then that's fine! Ultimately it's all about everyone involved having as much fun as possible.

If you'd like to visit a convention sometime this year… here are a few notable ones in 2021:

South Carolina Comicon (Greenville, SC) - April 17-18, 2021
Hickory Con (Hickory, NC) - May 6, 2021
AtomaCon (North Charleston, SC) - May 7-9, 2021
Animazement (Raleigh, NC) - May 28-30, 2021
Carolina Fear Fest (Raleigh, NC) - May 28-30, 2021
Atlanta Game Fest (Atlanta, GA) - June 3-6, 2021
PAX East (Boston, MA) - June 3-6, 2021 (Cancelled)
E3 2021 (Los Angeles, CA) - June 15-17, 2021
HeroesCon (Charlotte, NC) - June 18-20, 2021
Wizard World Chicago (Rosemont, IL) - June 24-27, 2021
Wilkes Comic Con (North Wilkesboro, NC) - July 10, 2021
San Diego International Comic Con (San Diego, CA) - July 22-25, 2021 (Online only this year)
Gen Con (Indianapolis, IN) - August 5-8, 2021 (Postponed until further notice)
Atlanta Comic Con (Atlanta, GA) - August 6-8, 2021
Official Star Trek Convention (Las Vegas, NV) - August 11.15, 2021
Awesome Con (Washington, DC) - August 20-22, 2021
DragonCon (Atlanta, GA) - September 2-6, 2021
Incredible Con (North Charleston, SC) - September 18-19, 2021
Power ComicCon (Florence, SC) - September 25, 2021
Origins Game Fair (Columbus, OH) - September 30-October 3, 2021
Empire City Con (Charlotte, NC) - November 12-14, 2021
Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle, WA) - December 2-5, 2021
Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (Chicago, IL) - December 10-12, 2021

All dates are subject to change...

Photos by Jennifer Allen

----------

Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer, Graphic Artist, Gamer, Martial Arts Practitioner, and all around Pop Culture Geek.