At about 5:30 on Saturday, July 24th, a tussle before a presentation in the famously busy Hall H, where the major announcements and biggest panels are held, led to one guy stabbing another guy in the face with a pen. It was serious enough for the attacker to be arrested and for the attacked to be wheeled off for medical attention.
I was nowhere near Hall H when this happened; I was in a different meeting room area, floating around before deciding to go to a panel about the work and influence of special effects guru Stan Winston (the designer of The Terminator, the Alien Queen from Aliens, the Predator, and, before he died, the live-action Iron Man suits).
I learned what happened hours later by signing onto a hotel computer terminal and checking Twitter. I was surprised, and saddened. I saw several online reactions. I added commiseration for the victim. And I also thought, The Joker only needed a pencil.
We geeks have -- an often harsh sense of humor. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about the Bad Thing or the person hurt by it, but we may express that by saying “We’re going to see if we can make ‘I’ll go Hall H on your ass’ a synonym for ‘shiv.’” Or what I saw at the con Sunday morning: People were made up to look like they’d been stabbed in their eyes.
I’ve seen this before. Joke macros (photos with bizarrely funny “I CAN HAZ CHEESBURGER”-type captions) went online within hours of the 2007 Minnesota bridge collapse. People I know with connections to the Twin Cities, who had in the past driven over that suddenly-not-there edifice, joined in on the smart-assed snark. I know the loss and damage affected them. I know people were sad. I also know people cut through and ameliorated that sadness with humor. Brutal humor. It’s a well-known defense mechanism, but we geeks seem especially ready to jump to it. We need to laugh. We want to keep laughing.
We also, ultimately (and joking aside), don’t want this to be a Bad Thing that lingers. I believe nothing like that fight had ever happened at San Diego Comic Con. I’ll really hope it doesn’t repeat.
Is there more going on than a defense mechanism? I wonder. But those thoughts don’t seem to be coalescing. But trust me: I did not ignore The Bad Thing. Most of us at Comic Con didn’t.