Comic, film, or gaming conventions: quite a few of us have been at one of these events at least once, surrounded by like-minded people, discovering stands selling things based on our favorite franchises, and, of course, meeting the stars. Your favorite people from THAT TV show, film, game, whatever are just waiting for you to say hello, take a picture, and have a bit of chat. How lovely, right? Well, most of the time, the answer is yes. BUT… there are those occasions where this meeting can turn into an awful experience for one reason or another. I have been reflecting on this after my experiences at London Film and Comic Con, and I wanted to share my own story about what happened there.
While I was at LFCC, I enjoyed meeting many people who came to my stand either to just have a look at my drawings or actually buy them. I also decided to meet some of my favorite people who were celebrity guests at the con. But if you’ve been on Twitter, TikTok, or any of the social media platforms lately, you might have heard about the unfortunate events that happened at this particular convention. You see, there’s this incredibly lovely guy named Joseph Quinn from a little show called Stranger Things. He got incredibly popular (over 6 million followers on Instagram in a month) thanks to his amazing portrayal of Eddie Munson in Season 4. So people were FLOODING in on Saturday just to meet him.
I am not joking when I say that my fellow vendors and I watched from downstairs as they let in the crowd at 9 a.m., and people were RUNNING to the signing era. I chose the safest option and got myself a Diamond pass, which gives me priority in the queuing system and guarantees both the signature and photo. This is something I almost never do since it is usually quite pricey. But, to be honest, I wanted to give this man my Eddie drawing and get his signature, too.
We all knew this was gonna be mental as literally three days after his announcement, all tickets for the con were sold out, and, yes… they were oversold BY A LOT. How do I know? Because at first, I purchased only a photo op ticket and saw that there were five batches available, which is a normal amount. A batch means a collection of around 30-40 people, and the batch number is what they use to call you in for the photo op. However, when I decided to get the Diamond pass, that’s when reality hit. There were 11(!!) batches alone for just the Diamond pass people! That’s way too much if we add the regular ticket holders to those batches as well. On top of that, they added a photo option with Joseph in an "Upside Down" set piece, and he agreed to do all this BOTH Saturday and Sunday.
It was madness what this guy had to go through at his first-ever fan convention. You just have to check the digital gallery for LFCC and to see the exact numbers, and - spoiler alert - he had the most photos taken with fans of any celebrity there, not even counting the ones at his autograph table. The final count: 2014 photos on Saturday and 1350 on Sunday for a total of 3364 pictures during the two days.
The craziness went beyond the numbers, though. I personally witnessed moments of his mistreatment by staff as well, who was literally dragging him around non-stop and also (yes, I was there when one of these events happened) yelling at him for daring to say more than two words to the people who came to see him. I was glad we stopped by at his signing in the morning because my friend and I actually got to talk to him. He was the kindest person ever, making me all teary-eyed with his reaction to the drawing I made him. I was later informed by one of the fans that she literally came down to get my Eddie print because Joseph had it on his table and told her that the artist was here, which is honestly the sweetest thing that ever happened to me. He was kind, respectful, and genuinely wanted to talk a little (not to mention he gives the absolute best hugs).
But we were among the few lucky ones who actually got personalized signatures. That's because, by noon, they wouldn’t even let him do that. It was madness how they rushed him and how people who paid to see him were only getting 10 seconds with him at the table.
However, it is also worth mentioning that while the LFCC staff and organizers are hugely at fault here, the fans did their part to stir things up, too. It started at the signing area. Even though there was a sign clearly posted that there were no photos or videos, the second he showed up, staff was trying to intervene, and many fans decided to cut the line to grab pictures and videos. This also blocked the way from other celebrities' signing tables. How rude can people be? The chaos was so bad at one point that the security guards had to step in.
This is not okay at any level. A lot of the big names who show up to these cons don’t mind getting videos and photos taken at the signing table, but those who don’t want that will always have a sign saying so. Sure, if it’s your turn, you can ask them if it would be okay. But maybe that's not the best idea: that can make the whole situation very awkward for this person you admire because if they say "yes" to you, others will rightfully complain if they’ll get a "no" later on. So, if you're in this situation, just try to be respectful. After all, they are human beings, too, and if they draw the line at a certain point—like you and I would—there’s probably a good reason for that.
This fan-generated chaos spilled over in the photo ops. One of Joseph’s photo ops was on the ground floor next to David Harbour’s photo op with Sheriff Hopper’s car, and it wasn’t barricaded with walls like the regular photo ops. Given fans' lack of respect for boundaries at the autograph table, you can imagine that the second these Stranger Things stars arrived, that area got completely flooded. Plus, this wasn't just the people who actually got a photo op ticket for the occasion. General convention-goers crowded in to be part of the action, too.
This is where both parties were at fault: both the organizers and the fans. We get it, you would like to get a glimpse at your idol, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like oblivious animals, completely blocking stairs, aisles, and my fellow traders who are trying to earn money at the con. Let’s not even talk about the constant screaming that comes with this situation, making it impossible for people who are there just to wander around to enjoy the show. Of course, most of this could have been avoided by those famous walls that typically separate these areas.
Now, I already talked about boundaries (both physical and respectful), but there was a particular faux pas that stood out even more than those. If they tell you before you even go in for the photo that the guest wouldn’t like to be hugged, touched, whatever, really… just accept that. Don’t start to argue with staff. This is something I witnessed and even stepped in to help with. I even heard one asshole say:
"Their job is to make us happy, so if I want to hug him, I will. I paid for it."
"No, dear," I thought. "You paid for having a photo with them, that's it. If that person requests not to be touched, you have to respect that. Be happy that you can actually meet them; you are already a million times luckier than fans who can’t attend these events or will never meet them in person."
Fans completely disregarding that these celebrities are people, too, is something that will never fail to surprise me. Fans have got their priorities screwed up if they think that the amount of money they paid to meet them entitles them to ignore their boundaries. This was something I saw, especially during David Harbour’s photo op, where the volunteer said that we can stand next to him for the photo, but please avoid trying to hug or touch him. Three of the people in front of me instantly ignored this request, and it was visible that David didn’t appreciate it at all. I don’t know how the photos turned out, but if the photographer captured his disapproving face, my days… that ain’t a good memory!
Here's my advice for you, my dear fellow con visitors: Yes, they are working in entertainment. Yes, they know you love them, and they do very much appreciate it if you tell them in person however… you need to understand that the fact they are participating in these events is already their way of showing how much they appreciate YOU. They want to see you, they want to meet you. If you can have a good conversation, great. Good old hug? Amazing. But… if they set clear boundaries, please, be mindful and respect that. It’s not a personal attack on you or anyone. The money you paid guarantees your meeting with them, but that does NOT give you the right to overstep a line.
Be mindful. Be respectful. And enjoy!