DCCon: Notes from the Trenches (part I)

My friend and I, we are Washington cool, because in Washington, people don’t geek out over celebrities.

“In Washington,” my friend said, certain, leaning back on her heels, “our celebrities have real power.” She shook the last of her coffee and looked back at the general admission line behind us, one that stretched around the corner and beyond. “If anybody fangirls in DC, it’ll be over somebody like John McCain.”

So spotting Misha Collins in the wild by the elevators? We were cool. Mark Sheppard zipping by us on his way to yell at a locked door? Eh, no big deal.

Some of our fellow fans, on the other hand? Posed more of a challenge.

Maybe it’s true at any Supernatural convention, I don’t know, but in DC: con world was not our world, at first. It took us some time to adjust. But in the end–plot twist!–we had a great time.

Neither me or my friend had been to a con before–professional and academic conferences? yes. fan convention? no.– so we had no freaking clue (except what we’ve seen on tumblr and YouTube) what to expect.

And that ended up being the defining theme of the weekend, of DCCon, for us: the unexpected, the ground from which both the best and the WTF? of our con experience grew.

First, in this post: the best.

 1. The audience on day 1 (Friday)

Intermission! And lots of chairs.

The vibe on the first day was, relatively speaking, pretty relaxed and groovy. A fair amount of people, sure, but the last 15 rows or so of the ginormously long ballroom where the con was staged were empty.

We were in the cheap seats, so undoubtedly our sense of the crowd was different than in the premium seating areas. That said, many of the fans on our end were, like us, on the older side (that is, mid-30s and up). Yeah, they were fired up and ready to yell, as necessary, but overall, everybody seemed just happy to be there. By the end of the day, there was even an in-joke–asking the actors if they’d been to the zoo. Hee! (Hey, it was funny in context). But that Friday crowd was tres cool; a great easing into the whole con thing.

2. Kim Rhodes

We spend a lot of time in certain corners of Supernatural fandom (hello!) flipping tables about the show’s, shall we say, cavalier attitude towards women.

Or, as Rhodes, who plays Sheriff Jody Mills on SPN, put it during her spot at DCCon:

Twitter   catchclaw  Kim Rhodes  On SPN   women ...

Now I don’t have strong feelings about Rhodes’ character either way. I enjoyed her interactions with Bobby, blah blah blah, but I haven’t been watching the show of late so I’ve missed her most recent appearances. Hence, I had zero expectations when she stepped up to the mike for a Q&A.

But damn if the woman didn’t kick some serious ass on stage. Rhodes was funny and profanity-happy and, oh yeah, totally willing to point out the Thing The Powers That Be Don’t Like To Talk About: Supernatural‘s knee-jerk inability to create women as fully-formed characters, rather than simply expedient narrative objects. It was beautiful.

And she said shit like this (that I swear made sense at the time):

jody sam

Rhodes was one of the highlights of the weekend, for sure.

3. Richard Speight, Jr. & Rob Benedict (with an assist from Matt Cohen)

I’d heard great things about Richard Speight, Jr.’s mad hosting skills, both from people who would know and, uh, tumblr. Because, you know. Always double check your sources. But man, I was still fucking impressed, especially by his abilitiy to keep the electric clown show moving along–with the help of his sidekick, Rob Benedict, and Benedict’s band, the Elastic Waist Band/Loudon Swain (depending on which songs they were singing).

Basically, anytime Richard and Rob were onstage together–even during brief interstitial bits between panels–they seemed to be having a blast. As my friend put it: “It was like, they were just there hanging out, having fun with each other, and would have been if the audience was there or not.”

So their panel with Matt Cohen was just more of the same, with a twist:

rich rob

I think the key was that Richard and Rob seemed relaxed on stage, or at least relaxed when they were together, and that ease translated back to the audience. They didn’t seem like they were being held hostage, you know? They seemed happy to have a chance to bicker and cajole and laugh at each other, and we, hey, we were happy to see it.

Now I want Speight to chair my next academic panel. Or maybe the Q&A at my dissertation defense.

And I so need a house band.

4. Misha Collins’ TSA America

So it was really hard for me not to slip into critical distance mode at this con, especially anytime I was uncomfortable with the mojo, what was happening on stage, the questions being asked of the actors, etc. In those moments, I dove into live-tweeting or groped around for a fan studies lens through which to read the proceedings.

But one of my favorite moments of DCCon kicked me so far out of that critical shit that I couldn’t see straight; that is, all I could see was Destiel.

That moment of fangirl zen was Misha Collins’ debut of TSA America: Level Orange, a set of three satirical shorts that explore the, uh, problematic nature of the Transportation Security Administration. Collins screened two of the shorts at the con and streamed the event to his loyal (and fee-paying) minions online.

So why did this send me into shippy fangirl mode, you ask?

Because the second of these shorts featured Collins as a TSA agent who, basically, tries to seduce a Dean Winchester-doppleganger via private pat-down.

misha tsa

If you know what I mean.

Go check gifs of the money shot here. And no, these aren’t manips.

HA. You ready? Ok.

Not only was the damn thing hysterical–especially watching it in a room stuffed with like (dirty) minded people, but the short was top-level trolling at its best–a way for Collins to acknowledge fan narratives around a possible Dean/Castiel romance AND a way for him to provide new raw material for fans’ creative fire: scenarios, images, and dialogue that shippers could damn well near immediately translate into AU fodder for fanfic, fanart, gifs, and manips.

Ok, so maybe my fangirl brain and the scholarly one share some real estate.

Anyway, that short was a beautiful thing. Or, as past me put it:

past me

(I may have even written an academic abstract about this damn thing already. Yeah, I know. I need a life).

But the icing on the cake was Misha pimping a live onstage demonstration of Destiel during the costume contest:

Twitter   catchclaw  Misha pimping Castiel and Dean ...

You can read all about that moment from the parties involved here and here.

From the cheap seats, the moment they smooched and the whole room went crazy? Was amazing.

In my next post: the unexpected at DCCon gives rise to some WTF.

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