I had the intention of writing this post a while ago, but go side tracked. Unfortunately I am prompted by tragic events in my hometown to take up writing this today.
Last week a 16 year old boy, who goes to the same school as my son, committed suicide. This individual was an advocate and activist in the local LGBT community and seen as something of a leader in the school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) group. He wasn’t bullied and came from a loving family. He struggled with depression. And depression is what ultimately caused this young man to take his life.
It saddens me. Had the signs been noticed. Had there been more support. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened. I am thankful where there is support out there in this world for youth. And that brings me back to this post.
The It Gets Better Project.
From their website:
About the It Gets Better Project
The It Gets Better Project’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.
What is the It Gets Better Project?
In September 2010, syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner Terry Miller to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.
The It Gets Better Project™ has become a worldwide movement, inspiring more than 50,000 user-created videos viewed more than 50 million times. To date, the project has received submissions from celebrities, organizations, activists, politicians and media personalities, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Adam Lambert, Anne Hathaway, Colin Farrell, Matthew Morrison of “Glee”, Joe Jonas, Joel Madden, Ke$ha, Sarah Silverman, Tim Gunn, Ellen DeGeneres, Suze Orman, the staffs of The Gap, Google, Facebook, Pixar, the Broadway community, and many more. For us, every video changes a life. It doesn’t matter who makes it.
That explains what the project is.
I have mentioned this in passing, but would like to remind con goers that American voice actor Greg Ayres also does a “It Gets Better: Con Edition” panel. He has done it at Anime Midwest for the last couple of years and as a parent of an out, gay son: I appreciate this, immensely.
I appreciate it as a parent, as a former mental health worker who worked with teens, and as a fan. Greg opens up the floor to let con attendees talk about their experiences being bullied or cast out. It provides a place for people to feel accepted and supported which is something I feel teens (and even adults) need more of. If you are at a con (or run a con): please support this kind of programming. It is good for the community of fans altogether.
Now to my say:
It does get better. There are people out there who love you and will support you. It won’t always be as dark as it seems right now. I am the dorky, nerdy, parent. I was a dorky, nerdy kid. I wasn’t popular. I was self conscious and felt bad about myself. I hated how I looked. I was intimidated by people who called my names and threatened to beat me up. It got better. I graduated, left school, had friends who cared and accepted me. It got better. I never faced the harassment that LGBT youth do, but I was harassed and I know that it gets better. I never had clinical depression, but know several people who do: and, when treated, it gets better.
Cosplay: Literally “Costume Play.” Dressing up and pretending to be a fictional character (usually a sci-fi, comic book, or anime character).
Cosplay is often a fun way to express your fandom. It helps show others what you like, escape into a character, and bond with other fans be it characters from sci-fi, comic books, or anime.
I have cosplayed. My sons have as well. I have done Kensei Ma from Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple and Yuugo Tennouji , aka “Mr Braun” (Steins Gate). My son has done Kululu from Sgt. Frog.
It’s fun. And I have had nothing but good experiences, as has my son. In fact, earlier this year at Anime Milwaukee, my son got invited to participate in the Masquerade (Cosplay competition) where everyone was very welcoming and supportive to him.
This, however, is not everyone’s experience.
I became aware that bullying was a thing in the cosplay community last year at Anime Midwest while attending voice actor, Greg Ayres’s panel: “Why Your Fandom Sucks”. He told a few horror stories where some fans take things too far and ruin the experience for others. It was through Greg Ayres’s Facebook page that I became aware of the documentary: “Cosplay With Kindness”.
The film maker was inspired to do this documentary after attending Greg Ayre’s “It Gets Better” panel at Anime-Zap. It is to address, and hopefully combat, bullying in the cosplay and convention going community.
Cosplay and conventions should be fun. I remember when I saw the “Why Your Fandom Sucks” panel Greg saying (and I paraphrase): “There is no wrong way to cosplay. If you are not the same size, race, or gender as the character that you are cosplaying as: Who cares? You are being a fan. If your outfit is not professionally perfect: It doesn’t matter. You are being a fan and sharing your love of something with others.”
That struck a chord with me. As a parent, and as a bit of an outcast myself, I appreciated this message. Support this project.
And more than anything else: Be kind!
-As a side note. It was my experience at Anime Midwest and seeing the Greg Ayres panel in 2014 that inspired me to start this blog.
Anime Midwest has come and gone. I am tired, but really happy. It was a blast and is my favorite Con so far. I packed up my two sons, their cousin, and my older son’s friend (my best friend’s daughter) and headed out early for Chicago. A nice option from the con: this year they started mailing badges for pre-registered attendees. However, I forgot to click the box for my boys to get their badges mailed so we had to pick theirs up at the con. Since we got there early, there was no line: no problem. We checked into the Hyatt Regency O’hare, got our badges, and brought all our stuff in to get ready for the con. The first panels, merch room, and other events began at 12 noon. My younger son and I went to see the opening ceremonies and the teens went their own way. It was a packed weekend and I had a hard time figuring out how to divide it all up to explain it, so here I go.
Panels and Guests
As I said earlier, the first panel that we attended was the opening ceremonies. This is where the convention staff do a little intro and introduce the many guests in attendance. It was running a little behind so we did not see the entire thing.
We left to see the “Meet Billy West” panel. Billy West is the voice actor known for Futurama (playing Phillip J. Fry, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, Dr. John Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan), Ren and Stimpy, and a host of other roles. A great speaker and seemed to be a genuinely humble guy who really enjoyed talking with the audience. If you ever have the chance, go and see him.
We also caught the tail end of “Meet David Matangra”. He has a much larger catalog of anime credits than I was aware of but some of his more notable roles are: Bertolt on Attack on Titan, Daichi on Say I Love You, and Tomoya in Clannad. We only were able to hear about the last 10 minutes of his panel where he was talking about theater and some upcoming work he was doing. One thing you find is that a lot of the American voice actors have a background in theater.
Most of the other panels we caught were on Saturday.
We started off with “Reviewing 101”. This was an interesting panel, but more focused on You Tube style reviews. It was put on by a person who was a My Little Pony reviewer (among other things). It was informative anyways and a good slow way to start out the day.
We also caught part of the “Meet Caitlynn French” panel. I found out from that she has serious nerd cred being not only a anime fan, but a video game player, and table top gamer. She was recently announced as the voice for Shiro in No Game No Life (which she was very excited about). My son’s main reason for wanting to meet her was for her roles in AKB0048 (Suzuko) and Girls und Panzer (Hana). She is also a pre-school teacher in her non-voice acting life. My son spoke to her briefly after the panel and she was very cool to him.
The highlight panels for me on Saturday were the Greg Ayres panels: “Why “Your Fandom Sucks” and “It Gets Better- Anime Con Edition”.
“Why Your Fandom Sucks” is a panel on how fans can go off the rails, take their fandom a little too seriously, and how this can ruin things for others. Greg told horror stories of where fans did dumb things, outrageous things, and sometimes downright hurtful things all kind of tied to their various fandoms. It is a panel well worth attending if you have a chance. Greg is a good storyteller and the over-arching message of the panel is a good one: Be a good fan, don’t be a jerk, make a supportive community of fans, and that as long as you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else there is not really a “wrong way” to be a fan. As a parent I can get behind this kind of message and find it to be important.
“It Gets Better- Anime Con Edition” is based off the “It Gets Better” project which was started in response to a series to teen suicides where kids were being bullied for being (or perceived as being) gay. Greg hosts this panel to talk about bullying of LGBT teens and bullying in the fan community as well. Being the parent of an openly gay teen, this is another panel I truly appreciate.
The only other panel attended that weekend by my younger son and I was the “Boxers or Briefs- Multi Guest Q&A” on Sunday morning. This was a rapid fire Q & A panel where any silly question was asked. Many of the guests were recovering from heavy partying the night before and it got pretty raunchy. Oh well…I knew there would be some questionable parenting moments at the con. I have come to accept this will happen.. he did find the repeated answer of “three dicks” to be hilarious (best in context I guess) as any 11 year old would. Guests : John Swasey, Caitlynn French, Greg Ayres, Chris Rager, David Matranga, Joel McDonald, Chuck Huber, Sonny Strait, Spike Spencer, Chris Cason, Blake Shepard, DC Douglas, and Eric Stuart.
There were many other panels I would have loved to seen, but only so much time in a weekend to see it all.
Anime Midwest really shined in the amount of musical guests they have…really quite a great line up of acts. I saw more than I planned on seeing (which was great) and wish I would’ve seen more.
Face Time Police
We wandered on this performance on the mini stage off of the Con Sweet ( a place for con-goers to get free rice, ramen, and soda). The duo does songs inspired by anime and video games. They had a lively acoustic set which was pretty enjoyable.
A comedian and musician who has a popular You Tube channel where he does video game music “With Lyrics” put on an entertaining performance. We ended up in this show thinking we were coming to the end of the Mega Ran and K-Murdock concert so we could be early for Steam Powered Giraffe, but everything was behind schedule so we saw most of Brentalfloss’s set. He was very fun and my son liked the “Mad Libs” song he did (a largely inappropriate version of “Let it Go”).
Mega Ran and K-Murdock
After Brentalfloss these guys came out and..damn! I am thrilled I got to see them! I had no prior experience with Mega Ran, but he was awesome live. He is considered to be the best known video-game influenced musical artist out there and is licensed by CAPCOM as their official rap/ hip hop artist. They ended their set with YT Cracker coming up on stage with them: it was awesome! I have gotten a couple of his recordings since the con and really like his stuff. Check him out!
Steam Powered Giraffe
We saw them last year and had to go see them again. The steam punk inspired robots putting on their show that is both music and comedic performance. They put on an excellent, entertaining show and are well worth a watch. My boys and myself were all looking forward to seeing them again.
There were Rave dances on both Friday and Saturday nights. The teens attended the rave on Saturday until around 1:00 am and I checked it out a little as well. While I don’t really dance to rave music, I could appreciate anyways. I like what I saw of Greg Ayres set more than the first and my older so liked his more as well. The downside of curfew for teens: they happened to leave right before $1000.oo in small bills was thrown into the audience. They weren’t happy to hear they missed that.
There are always so many great cosplays, so many that I don’t know, and I always mean to take more pictures, but never seem to get enough.
Holy Madoka! There were a lot of Puella Magi Madoka Magica cosplays at this con. I got so many pictures since my son was stopping everyone to take his own pictures of them. I have thought it would be hilarious/ disturbing if I cosplayed as Mami Tomoe sometime, but not shaving my beard and walking with an exaggerated “man” walk while complaining about the other magical girls and about getting older…
Zapp Brannigan cross-play and a minion.
Not sure who they all are, but video game related I think. They all did great jobs on their costumes.
Nudist Beach (Kill La Kill) and Mekakucity Actors
Clannad (Tomoyo and Tomoya) and Full Metal Alchemist (Lust and Greed)
Danmachi (Hestia), Ouran High School Host Club (Tamaki), Dragon Ball (Master Roshi)
Nisekoi (Chitoge and Onodera), A Spiderman, No Face, Winry Rockbell (FMA), and Stein (Soul Eater).
A few more pictures I took. A Jon Snow, some colorful people, and “Kawaii-Vader”.
It wouldn’t be a con without a couple of furries…
My favorite photo I took. A cross-play of Death The Kid (Soul Eater)
My son finally got Chuck Huber to autograph the headpiece for his Kululu cosplay, which was awesome.
Lesson: Never leave a horse mask unattended..
A ramen lunch at Mitsuwa is always a good idea.
Exhausted kids on the way home means a job well done.