Saturday, 11 April 2015


Whenever I discuss my high school days with friends, I always try to explain that, whilst I was never one of the 'cool' clique, I was also never a social pariah, either.

Recently, I realised that I've been fooling myself for over two decades. This sort of language is exactly the sort of thing a social pariah would say to justify their existence and boost their self-esteem.

I was shocked one day when I looked at my ageing face in the mirror and realised that I had been a 'nerd' this whole time!

Luckily, these days, being a nerd isn't the terminal social illness it was in the late 1980s, and they even have events catering to this increasingly lucrative niche in society.

With this in mind, I decided to reconnect with my tribe and headed off to the 'Supanova' pop culture exhibition with my six-year old daughter in tow, resplendent in her 'Elsa' dress from the movie 'Frozen.'

Supanova was being held at the Royal Show Grounds in Melbourne, so the best way to get there was to take a train. Whilst I initially found it hard to locate the train platform that was going to the show ground, the gathering throng of assorted anime and comic book characters (who are known as cosplayers for the uninitiated), gave a clear indication as to the direction to travel.

Gogo Yubari.
I have to admit that I didn't recognise too many of the assembling cosplay stars. A lot of them seemed to be from the 'Manga' genre, which has never been my specialty. I'm more of a Star Wars and sixties spy movie kind of guy. I recognised one girl who was dressed like the Japanese schoolgirl Gogo Yubari from the movie 'Kill Bill', but incongruously she was wearing an eye patch. It was when I got closer to her that I realised it was for medical reasons. She was trying to be the character, but must have had a lazy eye or something and needed to wear a patch.

Also, the tall gangly red head guy in the Batman outfit had undoubtedly gone to a lot of trouble on the suit, but without the aid of a studio makeup department, the effect of his frizzy hair and dripping black eye make-up gave him more of an air of 'Colorado movie theatre shooting suspect', than a caped crusader. This was an occurring feeling throughout the day, with a lot of people wearing black and sporting authentic-looking replica weaponry. You would never get away with this if you were going to the footy!

We all ended up crammed into the train as if it was rush hour on a Friday and I instantly noticed the air-brushed posters for Supanova and compared the fit and healthy macrobiotic-eating Hollywood actors to my travelling companions, devouring bags of greasy take-away. The people in the poster looked like the sort of people who would pick on the people in the train carriage and I wondered how much of a divide there was between the 'stars' and their fans. Despite the painful-looking acne scars, wispy moustaches and poor personal hygiene, my sympathies lay entirely with the 'fans.'

The last time Clementine and I had visited the show grounds it was for the Royal Show and we had no trouble buying tickets at the gate. This time things were different. The line to buy tickets was about 200 metres long and there seemed to be about two people manning the booth. I frantically tried to purchase tickets online and join the (slightly) shorter pre-paid queue. Kids under 12 were free, so after making a lame joke in which I apologised for not having ID to prove my daughter was only six - followed by an icy stare - we found ourselves inside the main showground.

Georgina Haig.
Clementine's main goal for the day was to get an autograph from the actress who played 'Elsa,' so we went into the main autograph pavilion to see what time Georgina Haig would be appearing. My first impression was that it was not too different from the cattle pavilion at the Royal Show and there were fans lined up to get autographs from a slew of stars who I barely recognised. The names I did recognise included Star Trek's Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols and George Takei, as well as a action star Dolph Lundgren and 'Back to the Future' actor Christopher Lloyd. The others were all a bit hazy to me, even though I was aware of the shows they had been in.

The line for George Takei was already incredibly long and from my point of view I couldn't tell if people were waiting in anticipation, or he was already manning the desk. Takei is one person who really connects at these sort of events. He seems comfortable with his place in the world and is a star of social media. At events like this I wonder how younger actors feel. Do they still have ambitions to perform Shakespeare at The Globe or star in a Broadway show? It's the same feeling I get when watching soap operas on TV. At what point does ambition end and acceptance of your place in the world begin?

We discovered that Georgina Haig would not be appearing until 1:30pm, so Clementine and I had an hour to fill in. We headed out to the main merchandise pavilion and to check out the other cosplayers.

There were not as many Star Trek costumes as I was hoping for, and the ones that were present were
'Large' Scotty.
occupied by bodies that would never pass the audition when it came to suitability for wearing skin-tight lycra. The only exception was one middle-aged man who seemed to be channeling a rather authentic 'larger' mid-1990s 'Mr Scott.' The other impressive costumes included a transformer, iron man, storm troopers and a slew of medieval fantasy characters I could not recognise beyond the fact that they weren't from 'Game of Thrones.'

Overhearing some cosplay conversations, I noticed a bit of snarkiness creeping in. One girl rolled her eyes and lamented about how many people had dressed up like 'Deadpool.' I hadn't noticed this. Besides knowing that he's from the Marvel universe, I couldn't begin to tell you what he looked like. One girl even pointed at Clementine and said 'There's another Elsa kid.'

It struck me that the cosplay girls were no different than me in the 1990s, trying to seek out the most obscure music and thinking anyone else who didn't know what it was must be 'lame.' These days I'm happy just to listen to Gold FM. Maybe in 20 years these girls will all turn up to Supanova dressed as Elsa and Deadpool (whoever that is.)

Clementine and I checked out the merchandise, which she subtly angled for me to buy for her, before I even more subtly ignored her requests. We then returned to the signing pavilion to meet Georgina Haig.
Apparently this is Deadpool.

As if I was a character from a Star Wars film, about ten minutes before Haig was set to appear, I began to have a 'bad feeling about this.' I decided to check the IMDB data base to check her credits. I was dismayed to find that she had appeared in the TV series 'Once Upon a Time' and was not the actress from the hit Disney movie 'Frozen.' I explained this to Clementine who suddenly got all pouty and declared that she 'didn't care.'

I suddenly found myself in one of those positions that seem to happen frequently as a parent, where you find yourself stuck between trying to please your child, or not doing something pointless.

I explored the option of pleasing my child.

At these events they require you to purchase a photo of the star for you to give them to sign. The line to do this was incredibly long. Once again, I explained this to Clementine. Gradually she was coming around to my point of view, but the one deciding factor for me was that I was terrified of Georgina Haig asking either Clementine or I a question about her career and we would have no other recourse other than to sheepishly admit we didn't know who she was.

By the way, Georgina, if you're reading this, you seem like quite a lovely person and probably a great actress. I promise to educate Clementine about you in future, rather than risk falling into this trap again.

Eventually I managed to extract Clementine with the promise that we could get something to eat on the way home.

Heading home on the train, I realised the thing I enjoyed most about the day was the people that had taken the effort to 'dress up.' This seemed a little bit strange to me, because I have never been the sort of person who enjoyed costume parties. To me this always seemed like 'enforced fun' and consequently no fun at all.

However, I realise that there is a sense of community in the cosplay world and this can only be a good thing for people who may struggle to connect socially. Everybody needs a place where they can be themselves, even if it means having to act like somebody else.

I began to think that it wasn't too different from when I was a kid and wanted to be like Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones. It's good to have role-models and healthy to fantasise.

I certainly aspired to the traits of my heroes when I was younger, but these days when I look at myself,  I no longer see a character, I see me for my own foibles and strengths. It's not that I no longer possess an imagination, it's just the way it has to be for a man in hid forties and I'm fine with that. Those early days of fantasy and heroics surely were part of shaping who I eventually became anyway and I hope its the same for my cosplay friends.

I concluded that maybe the nerds aren't exactly my tribe, but nobody is, or should be, 100 per cent anything.

All I know is there is no way I'm going to start hanging with the jocks this late in the game!

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