There was one thing I was truly looking forward to at Dragon*Con 2012. Over the years I’ve gotten a bit jaded, it’s true, but I’ve seen all the True Blood panels, the Battlestar Galactica, the Firefly, all my favorite shows, and while I still queue up and love them each year, 2012 had something new: most of the cast of my favorite on-air show, The Vampire Diaries, was going to be there. I KNOW, RIGHT?
Oh, you don’t care? You think the show is stupid because it’s a crappy teen drama on the CW? Whatever. I love it. I love the storylines, I think Damon Salvatore (portrayed by the inimitable and smokin’ hot Ian Somerhalder) is one of the best characters on television right now. My husband even loves the show, and we were excited to experience this together.
The sad thing: It started to fall apart a month before Dragon*Con, and just got more disappointing as things went on. Oh, all the guests we wanted to see showed up. That’s not the problem, and boy, were there problems…
PROBLEM #1: WHERE DO WE BUY WHAT FROM WHOM AGAIN?
Conflicting information abounded on where to buy the photo ops with the stars and when they were going on sale. Dates were changed, we were all confused, and then…
PROBLEM #2: TECHNICAL ISSUES
…when it *was* time to order photo ops, either (a) the site crashed under the traffic load or (b) the site was never tested properly and the code was just plain bad. But that’s okay, right? There’s a number here, we can just call or email, right?
PROBLEM #3: SURPRISE! YOU DON’T MATTER.
No one returned my calls or emails. Not to tell me they were sold out. Not for anything. I’d expect this crap from Froggy’s, whose customer service… gah, don’t even get me started. But from Celebrity Authentics… it was very disappointing. By the time the site *was* working, there were only full-cast photos left, which I didn’t care about as much and couldn’t afford. Bummer, big time. But that’s okay, I’ll at least get to meet the cast on the Walk of Fame…
PROBLEM #4: NO PEEKING!!!!
Not only did Celebrity Authentics keep the stars away from the Walk of Fame, but they put them in a tiny little corner of the Hilton, where I was scowled at by security for daring to catch a glimpse of the stars. No photos, I get it, but this was very frustrating as a fan. By the time we finally got to the panel, I understood. This was not a Dragon*Con crowd they were attracting. Oh no. This was something different.
PROBLEM #5: THE AUDIENCE (siiiiiigh)
I’ve always been proud of the crowds at Dragon*Con. They respect one another. They respect the stars. They wait in line patiently (sometimes grumbly, but patiently) for their panels. The Vampire Diaries crowd put a horrible face on Dragon*Con that made me embarrassed.
When the doors opened, there was the first stampede I have ever seen at Dragon*Con. It wasn’t Black Friday at Walmart bad, but it was bad. Teenagers pushed, shoved, cast dirty looks, but eventually everyone got seated. And then it got worse.
The scream when the stars were announced was shrill and deafening. You know those old films of the Beatles and Elvis that show girls screaming and crying? They were at least halfway there, but whatever, people were excited. Let’s get to the questions…
PROBLEM #6: MODERATOR? WHAT MODERATOR?
The first audience member’s question was forgivable. It was a kid who wanted to know what character from The Hunger Games everyone would be. This could have been cute, if the answers were the quick ones that the silly question deserved. But no, they wasted an incredible amount of time going through every single actor, who gave increasingly awkward and apologetic answers about never having read the books or seen the movie. Ian offered up that he would be “Peter”. (The right thing to do? Moderator: “Have any of you read the books or seen the film?” Actors: :: show hands :: Those who can answer the question do, quickly, then we MOVE THE EFF ON.)
But then it got worse.
What’s your favorite food?
How do you like Atlanta?
Where are the questions about the show? Is no one going to ask whether Paul Wesley thinks Steffan is inherently a good or an evil character based on the vicious mood swings? No one is going to ask if Joseph Morgan if Klaus truly cares about his family or he just cares about power? No, we’re going to ask Ian Somerhalder if he likes effing grits.
This is why, at many of the bigger panels, they screen questions, and they should have done it at this one. But that’s okay because honestly?
PROBLEM #7: THE BLOODY SOUND
We couldn’t hear a word the actors said.
I have seen countless panels in the Mariott Atrium and never once have I heard the awful echoing that I heard that day. Not only were the mics barely audible, but one of the speakers seemed to be on a delay. It was positively dreadful and NO ONE DID ANYTHING TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION. We moved. Twice. No improvement. We used our press access to get closer to the stage, but the sound was still awful. Where was the person in charge of fixing that? They had to know it was dreadful because even on Dragon*Con TV the sound was dreadful.
At this point, I got angry. I walked out of my first Dragon*Con panel. The first I have ever walked out on in 7 years, for my favorite on-air show, because I felt disrespected as a fan on many levels, first by Celebrity Authentics, then by the young fans of the show, then by Dragon*Con itself. The awful sound was absolutely inexcusable for a professional convention and they should have appointed a moderator who would balance the teeny bopper questions with real questions that showed Dragon*Con’s maturity.
I’m not saying the teeny boppers had no right to be there. We’re all fans of the show. They had a right to be represented. I’m bummed that Celebrity Authentics felt that they had to make the stars entirely inaccessible for fear of a teen mob, but I get it.
But this put a stain on my entire Dragon*Con 2012 experience, if I’m honest. I spent that evening wondering whether I was over the whole Con experience. Luckily, it was some smaller panels in the Science and Skeptics Tracks that made me fall back in love by the end of the weekend.
A selfish point of view to take? Of course it is. I’m a fan. This is a fandom show put on by fans for fans. The whole Vampire Diaries situation felt corporate, like Creation Cons or Wizard World. I don’t collect autographs or usually pictures, but I love being able to meet my favorite star, shake his hand, and say thank you for what they bring to Sci-Fi. Maybe they care, maybe they don’t, but it’s one of my favorite parts of Con.
I can only hope Celebrity Authentics isn’t going to be a new trend in celebrity guests for Dragon*Con. Fingers crossed.