DIGITAL DEBATE WEDNESDAYS: Conventions and Dress Codes

Welcome back to Digital Debate Wednesdays! Every Wednesday, the staff of The Ace of Geeks will get our keyboards ready for a good, old fashioned nerd argument, and you get to hang out with us! Feel free to email us any ideas you might have for future debates, or let us know in the comments! Until then, here’s this weeks topic:

Today we’ve got an interesting one. Salt Lake Comic Con, AKA That Con That SDCC Was Suing For a While, has run into a big issue with their newest iteration, coming up this weekend. Apparently, someone mentioned to the local businesses that sponsor the con that hey, sometimes people come to these things in not-church-clothes. After looking up some “shocking” pictures of cosplay, those local business threatened to pull out of sponsorship if the cosplayers didn’t cover their godless bodies.

Salt Lake Comic Con, needing the local sponsors’ money to, you know, run the convention, responded by creating a dress code that states, among other things:

– No skirts can be above knee length (on either men or women, so at least they’re inclusive.)
– No men can be shirtless
– No underwear can be showing

Given that the con is this weekend, and many cosplayers have been working on their outfits for months, this has caused a bit of an uproar.

So, I pose to you, Ace of Geeks staffers: Did the convention do the right thing, given their circumstances? And if not, what would you have done differently to save the con?

Malkontent Blizzard: This is the nightmare “Damned if you do” situation. I just hope that they can learn better ways to choose sponsors and keep them happy.

Scott Woodbury: The event organizers made a knee jerk reaction to “complaints”. I don’t think it was very fair to make stricter rules in such short notice.
I would further even say that any business that doesn’t research thoroughly what they are sponsoring shouldn’t really be in business, or be in business for that much longer. Seems like someone didn’t do their homework and is looking for a scapegoat.
The event organizers should have taken it to the chin and not cave to pressure from sponsors this late in the game. They should have held course and spent the following year getting better and more thoroughly vetted sponsors.

  • Joe Hadsall: In this case, not sure that’s the best path because of the short notice. We can talk about the evils of “selling out” for days, but the reality is that a con needs to pay its bills and meet its obligations.Fans would be right to be angry about it and back away, however. That would probably send an even more important message to sponsors.
  • Scott Woodbury: This late in the game a majority of funds have most likely been secured by event administrators. My personal experience with event planning was for venues 1/8 this size and we locked in every cent at sixty days out.
    I would have risked impending legal action than let them dictate what is against the grain of very well established con trends.

Joe Hadsall: Mal is right. Short notice really limits the ability to think a response through and do the best thing. They probably had to make concessions in order to keep sponsors, thus keeping the con running and solvent. But in the future, the con will need to find sponsors with stronger backbones.

Mary Anne Butler: See: Arizona Comic Con issues from earlier this year. Also, sorry SLCC, I’ll be too busy at DragonCon this weekend with all the semi clad cosplayers to notice!

  • Korbl Klimecki: The best endorsement of DragonCon I’ve heard was a podcast saying he wanted to climb up to a balcony and dive into the cleavage of one congoer.

Korbl Klimecki: Hm, admittedly I have no experience in running cons, but my inclination would have been to tell said businesses “I shouldn’t have had to tell you. You should be culturally aware enough to know what a comic convention is like, and we’re not going to tell our guests that they have to dress to the standards of a religion most of them aren’t a part of,” and then looked into whether this was something I could pursue a breach of contract suit over if they pulled.

Mal’s right, it’s a tough situation. But I think it’s draconian for these businesses to try to dictate things this way. Also I recognize that cons are becoming a safe space for queer nerds, being one, and so I’d be even more against stifling guests’ expression on that basis.

So, yeah, I’d probably have told them they should have known and looked into breach of contract proceedings in case it became necessary.

And maybe try to come up with some kind of inspiring “right side of history” speech…

Seth Oakley: Yes, they made the right call. Write a dress code that pleases your sponsors and then do nothing to enforce it. Apologize to fans out of one side of your mouth while shaming them out of the other. Then take the money that the sponsors gave you and get the fuck out of Salt Lake City.

  • Mike Fatum: Apparently, they are setting up security checkpoints to enforce the dress code.
  • Seth Oakley: Then they are following my plan perfectly. “Yeah, we have checkpoints! And guards!! And rovers!!! And plane tickets to leave as soon as we can!!!!”

Raven Knighte: Con attendees would be well within their rights as consumers to demand refunds. Sure – take the flight or bus trip, stay in the hotel. But skip con attendance. Take a vacation of sorts since it’s been planned already. Ultimately, it’s the attendees that determine whether the con is profitable or not – not the sponsors. That is what will send a louder, clearer message. I am curious to know how many professional cosplayers got tables and will now be canceling…

  • Malkontent Blizzard: Agreed this is a story that will develop.
  • Korbl Klimecki: Maybe instead of going to the con, they can go in their non-church clothes cosplays to drink caffeine and alcohol outside of mormon… temples? Do they call them temples or churches?

Megan Fox: This is the kind of thing local revenue comparisons can change minds on. Idealism and moral arguments are nice in a vacuum… less nice when they fail to fill city coffers.

Mary Anne Butler: In all seriousness, I understand the need/desire for rules on costumes. HOWEVER, I personally would word it more like what we’re expecting their reasoning to be, “Family friendly, church sponsored, etc” meaning nothing less than a bathing suit.

  • Mike Fatum: Yeah, it does seem like, unless there was specific wording from their sponsors, they could have gotten away with some more vaguely worded guidelines than an actual dress code.
  • Mary Anne Butler: But again, a dress code isn’t a bad thing. Almost every convention across the country has the very basics- must wear shoes, must have nipples and other private parts covered…..
  • Mike Fatum: Nipples?! But muh freedoms!
  • Mary Anne Butler: I feel like all these events that have been having issues like this would benefit from a better Social Media manager, honestly.

Mark Foo: I would agree with others that the attendees would be within their rights to ask for refunds if the show is no longer what they bought tickets to.

Personally, I think the rules are a bit… Puritanical, but I wouldn’t be attending in anything that violates those rules anyway?

JC Brown: The whole thing is just disappointing to all involved. It’s hard to plan out a cosplay and have a rule like this come in at the last minute. It’s gotta be hard to a con and drop news like this and deal with it. I don’t think there’s a win-win, but hopefully attendees can still have some fun.


Mike Fatum
Referred to as a God Among Men, the Greatest Man that Ever Lived, and That Dude Over There…No, The Dude with the Long Hair and the Goatee…Yes, That Guy, Mike has grown up being known and loved around his apartment. In addition to being a successful film director and editor, he loves video games, movies, comic books, board games, and his wife and cat. He’s been friends with Jarys for over a decade now, and they started hosting a radio show together on college that became the genesis for the Ace of Geeks Podcast. When he realized he had so many talented friends who could write, the Podcast became an entertainment website, and here we are.

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