I was so excited about going to Supanova. I had tickets lined up (in case the media pass fell through); I was meeting up with friends; I even had some early notice on the Supanova exclusive.
After all the dismissive BS surrounding last year’s Sydney Supanova, I was looking forward to a fresh start and a clear, distinct sign that Supanova was making the effort to welcome every character who crossed their threshold.
I was wrong.
For those new to the International Pop-Culture scene, Supanova is one of a few major events held in Australia. It is across many cities and happens throughout the year. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth. You name it; Supanova has mostly likely been there and done it.
And by done it, I’m including playing with highly controversial issues, like Gamergate. Last year, Supanova brought Adam Baldwin to our shores as part of a Firefly theme (along with Nathan Fillion). Thousands petitioned against it due to his high-profile role in the Gamergate cesspool. A huge debate enveloped social media. It wasn’t just a concern about what Baldwin might do to ignite the topic again; there was a concern about the type of people attracted to the event to support Baldwin. It was a genuine concern, with some more recognisable petitioners being targeted by the cowardly few who encouraged online abuse and bullying. Supanova chose to keep Baldwin as a guest, subsequently losing many long-time guests and supporters.
Personally, there was a LOOOOONG discussion in our family about whether to attend Supanova last year. The response from Supanova towards the petition was rather dismissive; on the other hand, it forced them to reconsider their “Safe Spaces” policy. There were a lot of signs up about it being a family friendly event, and reminding us “Cosplay is not Consent”. We erred on the side of supporting their efforts to change (with baby steps). No controversies took place; No protests were noted. There were still a large number of defectors but generally it looked like the Event Organisers as a whole had made a concerted effort towards improvement.
Fast forward to this year and just as my Supanova Preview was published, news came to light regarding the Event Director of Supanova, Daniel Zachariou. Check out this tweet, sharing a screen shot of Zachariou encouraging people to sign the petition against the ‘Safe Schools’ program in Australian schools.
This guy runs Supanova, one of Australia’s biggest pop culture conventions. Knowing is half the battle. pic.twitter.com/uERxGOqxfX
— Tristan Jones (@tyrannojones) June 4, 2016
Again – a little history. ‘Safe Schools’ is a government-funded program for public schools in Australia. It was originally set up to provide free resources and support to staff and students. Resources and support to combat ignorance towards sexuality, gender, identity, and anything else. It was supported by child psychologists and education specialists. It even survived a bias-led review, coming back with praise for its strength and positivity.
Until Conservatives started the usual political BS (read more about it on my other blog). And then other conservatives started with petitions like the above. Petitions that say “Won’t someone think of the children” but unfortunately mean “I don’t want anyone turning my precious little snowflake into some transgender posterchild”. Which we all know is a load of BS, because that is NOT how it works.
Thus the frustration of petitions like this – especially coming from a conservative individual like Zachariou, when the Event he founded is claiming to support the LGBTQIA+ community.
*sigh* Dude. Really?
Zachariou has since come out and apologised for his ‘lapse in judgement’. Which has not gone well with the good people on social media. However, there was one interesting addition to his apology: Supanova has stated they are putting on a Diversity Panel in the Sydney show, to directly address LGBTQIA+ issues in pop-culture events like Supanova.
This may be a cop-out. It may be a publicity stunt. It may even be a genuine apology from someone who is only capable of making baby-steps in improvements. I really don’t know him personally enough to judge either way.
However, I am willing to hear out the apology right up to the Panel. I’m willing to see if Supanova is able to convince its critics that it is listening. That they do want to change for the better.
Geeks already know how divisive society can be. We already know what it is like to defend our interests and passions. We shouldn’t have to defend ourselves in what should be a ‘safe place’ to be … ourselves. In all our complex glory.
As an event, Supanova still has potential. But it really does depend on whether one man can change for the better, and not just for the fans’ dollars.