Author: Joe Di Gaetano
This past weekend, June 7th to June 9th, 2019, I attended a small but mighty convention held at the LAX Hilton. Honoring the works of the creator of such TV series as Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, as well as the director of numerous films, including Serenity, Cabin in the Woods, and The Avengers, this convention was rightly named WhedonCon. This nonprofit pop culture event is designed to gather fans to celebrate everything in the Joss Whedon universe.
As with other conventions, the setup is the same: merchandise, celebrity signings, cosplay, and panels. What sets this event apart is that it is fan oriented. The modest size allows for intimate engagements for all guests, whether actors, authors, artists, or attendees. This was highlighted the most during my attendance at panels.
Appeasing the fans, What Is The Best Joss Whedon TV Show centered around attendees and panelists debating which Whedon show was the best. Quickly the conversation changed to the better series, Firefly or Buffy. As the exchange was fan-driven, this morning’s panel, filled with Buffy lovers, concluded that it was the best of the two.
Star Trek Discovery: Where Do We Go From Here focused on where the series might boldly go. Of course, as moderator Brian Cook and panelist Thomas Parham are true fans, it was easy for them to go into tangents about other Star Trek series. Parham connected the franchise with his book, Communication Contexts on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
As cosplay has become key for individuals to show off their passions, another panel I attended was Cosplaying Singles, Couples, & Families of the Whedonverse. Created and moderated by Over 30 Cosplay, a worldwide group founded to encourage cosplayers 30 and over, this panel discussed how one’s cosplay might change depending on their current phase of life. They discussed character choices that can be made and focused on empowerment as the key to feeling comfortable in cosplay.
However, the two panels that meant the most to me were those focused on supportive messages. The first, Fandom Saving Lives, highlighted the viewer’s therapeutic relationship with various characters Whedon has created. Watching how these characters cope with their struggles creates a powerful connection for the viewer, who may relate to the same traumas, emotions, and responses.
Be Your Own Big Damn Hero discussed how people dealing with bullies might blame themselves for the abuse. Moderator Veronica Swarens and panelists Matthew Bromund and Jordan Munn emphasized to attendees that the bullying they experienced wasn’t their fault. They then expressed the importance of building self-esteem with positive affirmations as the first step. As someone who grew up with constant bullying, it was validating to hear my experience reflected. Looking around at the attendees, it was easy to see that these words also struck a chord with the crowd.
As a veteran of the convention scene, I find that smaller events that focus on the fans’ passion instead of the hype of the pop culture scene are the most meaningful. For anyone who is a fan of Joss Whedon’s work, it’s worth it to attend WhedonCon next year.