Alright, so: we’re on a little bit of a high (despite our illness) thanks to San Diego Comic-Con International this year. Because, well, women totally stole the show and it was great. Sure, there are still many strides that need to be taken equality-wise in the nerdiverse, but can we please just take a moment to applaud just how badass the ladies were at the 2014 convention? Because having been there ourselves, we can totally confirm that they were bringing it in spades. In fact we daresay that, of anyone, the women were the winners of San Diego Comic-Con in a big, big way this year. HEY LADIES!
From characters to cosplayers, nerd ladies were in no short supply at this year’s convention, unafraid to show their love, commitment, and total obsession with telling geeked-out stories from a female perspective. Some of the biggest stars of the convention were women this year — from Game of Thrones to Orphan Black to DC’s female superhero, Gal Gadot — and while, sure, that Wonder Woman costume/reveal may have been a bit underwhelming to some, throughout the entirety of San Diego Comic-Con, women and their place in popular culture and entertainment took center stage in a wholly positive way, daring to push past conventional representation in favor of the bigger, bolder, and better.
Even on just a superficial level, women were representing their fandoms with hardcore abandon. From gender-bending to mash-ups to just-plain-good imitations, cosplaying ladies at this year’s SDCC had some of the most involved, ambitious, and creative looks out there on the floor. And in a similar vein, the amazing fashion show put on by Her Universe blew many folks away with just how creative and inventive women are when showcasing their love of all things nerd.
Lest you think this was a one-sided affair, it wasn’t just the women demanding their presence to be noted. Men like everyone’s favorite (full stop), Guillermo del Toro and Orphan Black creators Graeme Manson and John Fawcett were both excited about the prospect of pushing the boundaries on female existence within their various mediums. Del Toro exuberantly said as much during the Legendary panel while discussing Crimson Peak, explained that he had long wanted to tell “a great story for a strong female lead,” pushing past the standard roles for women. “F–k that shit,” he so eloquently stated. “Let us see her become her own person.”
And that’s merely the beginning. There were many, many panels dedicated to the dissection, discussion, and downright destruction of old tropes and stereotypes in regard to how and in what way women are presented in comic books, TV, film, and more. Over 10 panels throughout the weekend (to say nothing of the panels for female-centric programming) dedicated to how women are represented in the various mediums, with many of them demanding for more empowered ladies in their geek properties. Some even called for women to get more involved behind-the-scenes. Heck, even Nerd HQ hosted a conversation dedicated to the cause:
All in all, it was a fairly enlightened outlook and programming slate, but perhaps the biggest instance of this was Entertainment Weekly‘s Women Who Kick Ass panel. American Horror Story‘s Sarah Paulson, Game of Thrones‘ Natalie Dormer and Maisie Williams, Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, Sleepy Hollow‘s Nicole Beharie, and Sons of Anarchy‘s Katey Sagal all weighed in on the increasing demand — and need — for complicated, badass lady types to be represented in popular culture, and how various geeks are trying to both course correct and lead the way. And the actresses, in addition to being at the forefront of the move towards more dynamic, interesting, and non-romance-partner-only roles, were also champions of the strides already accomplished.
Dormer was, perhaps, the most outspoken and spot-on at that particular event, explaining that “the best female roles are in television at the moment. Katniss Everdeen, as popular as she is, is an anomaly. She really is.” Thankfully, on television, the many ways in which women can wield power — as evidenced by her and various costarring characters on Game of Thrones like Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Daenerys Targaryen, Arya and Sansa Stark and more — is far more evidently on display and representative of how complicated those methodologies do and do not work.
“Where television is fantastic and way ahead of film, is it doesn’t feel the need to polarize women so much… Male writers — and I say this with all love and respect — often want to make a woman either the angel or the whore. Make her the witch, or put her on the pedestal,” Dormer said. “When people ask me about Margaery, I say they’re not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to be practical and politically savvy and not be a good person. You can be a good human being and just be shrewd.”
And it wasn’t just all Strong White Girls, either. Sleepy‘s Beharie is, in her role on the series, one of the most progressive at the con, given her commanding role as the star of a major network drama in addition to being a woman of color. And all of that is not lost on her, as she noted at the panel. “A lot of different men will come on as day players or guest parts, and I recognize that there’s a certain strength that I have now, or a certain command that I have being one of the leads on the show that I hadn’t had before … not being expected, as a woman, to shrink, or curtsy, or any of those sort of things [for example].”
Which isn’t to say that fear doesn’t exist anymore — hahaha, oh please. But where before those expectations were a source of anxiety, women are instead pushing the boundaries of representation and using any fear therein as fuel to take risks they previously would not have been afforded. It’s almost a sort of ‘why NOT us?’ mentality that’s truly exciting to see. “As soon as I have fears or doubts, it’s like that’s where you have to go as an actor,” explained Maslany. “Because then all the surprising stuff comes out of there, and you don’t know what you’re capable of.”
Perhaps the biggest example of this was this year’s con queen, the aforementioned Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany. Her beloved clones were sighted en masse throughout the convention and fan meet-ups geared towards the sestrahood, with many of the cosplayers and panel attendees lauding Maslany’s work on the series and her role in embodying and representing so many types of women. Fans opened up en masse to express their appreciation for the work she’s done and how her representations — including trans* clone Tony — have changed not only the way they see themselves, but how others see them, too. The actress appeared on several panels over the weekend in addition to her own show’s, showcasing just how receptive fans are to fully realized female characters that kick ass and contain multitudes.
Even in places where there is improvement to be desired — such as, say, certain representations of women in comic books and games, in addition to the con’s own issues with sexual harassment — the conversations and attempts to bucks those trends and create real change were not only visible but taken seriously by more and more of the community. This year there were real examples of big opportunities for female comic book authors, cosplayers, fans, actors, artists, and the like to not only make headway in their chosen fields, but be afforded chances and positions to affect real change — something that was largely unthinkable even just a few years ago. There was a very real and very vocal presence urging folks to be better this year, and it actually felt as if it were an accepted reality, at long last.
It’s an exciting time, and even with all the news, exclusives, and information that came out of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International, women, clearly, have a chokehold on geek culture at the moment. And hu-freaking-zzah for that.