Wizard World Tulsa 2016: A Quick Visit

Due to some personal matters, I only stayed at this year's con for a couple of hours, but still had tons of fun.
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During this, my third Wizard Con experience I came to realize there is a certain sameness to these things.  You get a lot of the same vendors, see a lot of the same cosplayers, listen to a lot of the same celebrities who say a lot of the same things.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing and I think there are enough different experiences to be had to keep it interesting, but it is starting to make me wonder if it's worth the cost to attend every year.  Or, rather, since I get comped press passes, whether its worth it for my wife to attend every year.  She was actually on the fence for this one up until the day, when I practically begged her to come.  In the end, she did come and we had lots of fun, even if we didn’t stay that long. 

My wife’s parents were in town during the event, and as we only get to see them a few times a year, it felt really rude to run away just to look at a bunch of costumed nerds.  A couple of days prior to the event I hurt my back helping my mother move a couch.  Standing for very long exasperates the pain (and cons are nothing if not a lot of standing around).  Both of these things weighed on us as we headed to downtown Tulsa for the event.  Looking at the schedule, I realized that quite a few of the celebrities were on the guest list of my first Wizard World con three years ago (including William Shatner and James Marsters).  For kicks and giggles, I’ve watched videos of different Wizard World appearances by those two and come to the conclusion that they tell a lot of the same stories at these things.  That’s not a knock on them as they get asked a lot of the same questions too, but it did mean that my interest in seeing them again was slight.  There was a list of guests that I was interested in but we decided to narrow it down.  Billy Boyd would be there noon on Saturday directly followed by Evanna Lynch.  That seemed like a fun pairing so we decided to hit them up, walk the convention floor, maybe buy a trinket or two, enjoy the cosplayers, and be home by supper.

I’ve found that celebrity speakers at cons tend to fall into three categories.  There are the “old pros” who have been to a million of these events and are so used to answering all the fan questions that they’ve developed a schtick.  William Shatner and Bruce Campbell are the kings of the "old pro" school.  They have a routine.  They don’t so much as interact with the audience as put on a show.  It's comic con as performance art.  This can be a lot of fun but it's also very fake.  We never really seem them as people. On the other end of the spectrum are the “shy kids.”  These are usually lesser-known celebrities, or ones with one really popular franchise on their resume and not much else.  They seem utterly surprised to be talking at a con and aren’t quite sure what to do with themselves.  They are polite and kind, but not very exuberant and can border on becoming dull.

Somewhere in the middle of those extremes are my favorite talks.  I don’t have a cute name for them but these are celebrities who are obviously excited to be at a con, who are engaging and funny, but don’t slip into a schtick.  I have no doubt that they are putting on something of a performance but it feels much more genuine than the “old pros.”  Billy Boyd falls straight into this category.  Though there was a nice-looking chair for him to sit down in, he mostly stood, commanding the stage while he regaled us with stories from the set of Lord of the Rings, joked with audience members who said those films were extremely important to them while wearing costumes from some other fandom, and generally entertained everyone the entire time he was there.

Evanna Lynch was definitely a shy kid.  She walked quickly to her chair and I don’t think she moved more than an inch the entire time she was there.  It took her several minutes to adjust to the microphone and talk more than a whisper.  First thing I learned is that the sweet, slightly askew voice she used as Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies is not an affectation, but her normal speaking voice.  In fact, the actress seems very much like the character she is best known for.  She was very kind, sometimes funny, but always turned way down.  She genuinely seemed surprised that anyone would come to see her talk.  As she answered questions, it became clear that she is one of us, a fan at heart.  As a young teenager, she read the Potter books as they came out and watched the movies, before she was in them.  She laughed as she noted that she had to take down all the Harry Potter posters plastered all over her room when she got the part in the movies.  When asked if she would want to reprise the role if a new sequel came out she said she would love to but didn’t want to talk about it for fear of jinxing it.  What I mostly noted during her panel was all the weird kids in the audience who praised the actress for giving them a character that made them feel less out of place.

Which is really what Wizard World and any con is all about.  It's a place where nerdy, geeky kids who feel like they don’t belong can gather and feel a sense of place.  Can find love.  That’s the magic of fandom.

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