David Duchovny shared an amusing story recently on The Tonight Show about the very avid X-Files fans. At fan cons, after a while just about every question that could possibly be asked had been asked. So, aside from asking the same questions over and over again, fans would break into off the wall inquisitions like "Whatâ€™s your favorite animal?" One time he got that question, wasn't sure, so he blurted out "Elephants." Next thing he knew, news stories announce "Duchovny's nuts for elephants!" His point certainly implied the cult celebrity life is that absurd.
I thought of this story after reading messages from several of my online friends who are in Vancouver this weekend for the Salute to Supernatural convention. I passed over Vancouver for financial reasons, but what nags at me is if I did have the money, I probably would have gone. I have no idea why.
Going doesn't look good on paper by a mile. Everyone pays extraneous amounts of money just to have small brushes with greatness, and after comic con my brush is dripping. I passed on my chance to pay over $500 for a gold admission ticket and $40 - $180 for each photo-op just for the privilege to stand in a long line and be hearded like cattle through a hallway to get 12 seconds to say "cheese." Sure, Jared, Jensen, or Misha might put their arms around me for the shot and that twelve seconds might feel like twelve days, but itâ€™s really gone in a flash. A lifelong pictorial memory comes out of that, but I hate being photographed so it would sit in a drawer.
Then I'd have to do it all again for the autograph line. At Cherry Hill on the final day, I waited over two hours, even with a gold ticket, and that was a small con. In Chicago, Jared and Jensen were signing so fast most people didn't get eye contact let alone a hello. I got lucky.
Then, on top of the ticket prices plus photo ops, Creation for Vancouver offered a limited number of set tours for a cost of almost $200 a ticket. Location tours were offered on top of that at $200 a ticket. Seriously? A location tour for that, when I could get in my car and drive around cheaper? As for the set tour, the Universal Studios tour in LA is part of the theme park admission, which for the whole day is $69. Yet I read of several fans excitedly throwing down their money to Creation for these tours without protest.
Stiil, I thought about buying a ticket from someone who couldnâ€™t go. I thought that amidst the circus of long lines and panels from the same actors with the same questions asked again, Iâ€™d have a great time. It defied all reasoning.
I mean, these cons really puzzle me. Not anywhere is a writer, director, or even Kripke himself in attendance. When I once asked a behind the scenes person why, I was told the creative types don't sell tickets. Huh? The brains behind the operation? The very people responsible for the story lines and material that make Jared, Jensen and Misha look so great? Have these people not been to Comic Con? Kripke was the rock star that day. However, the personâ€™s point was proven when I posted transcripts of all my interviews from the Comic Con. By an overwhelming margin, the highest number of hits went to the article with Misha Collins. We only talked to him for four minutes. The number of hits to Kripkeâ€™s interview, which was three times as long and shared plenty more information about the show had gotten less than one third the traffic compared to Mishaâ€™s. Celebrity rules.
I should have gotten that message online too. For the last several months, all I read was overexcited chatter about Vancouver, even though many of these fans went through the same experience a few months ago in LA and Cherry Hill before that and Chicago before that (and so on). They squealed like they were meeting Jared and Jensen for the first time and got completely stoked over meeting again guest actors that did the show a couple of times a few years ago in between their other acting jobs.
Doesnâ€™t this get old after a while? Someone clarified it for me; they get to see the boys. Sorry, but after doing these cons a while, unless seeing the boys involves going out and having a beer with them, itâ€™s the same experience. Yep, I still wasn't getting it.
Actors Are Real People
But then again, I'm not like others. Iâ€™ve never understood the hype of celebrity. Sure, in my experiences with Supernatural Iâ€™ve had a couple of big fan girl moments, but that doesnâ€™t change how I feel about the concept. Every morning while pouring through entertainment news, I read about this celebrity meltdown or this scandal or how so and so showed up at this party drunk and I wonder what's wrong with people. Why is this news? Why are Jon and Kate Jon Gosselin on my screen every freaking morning? What does the have to do with one TV show on TLC? Why am I getting numerous tweets daily about voting for Jensen or Jared in this hot sexy guy poll or blurbs about them and their dogs? Is that all there is to them?
Could it be this excitement from attending cons over and over again happens because of our overinflated sense of celebrity? Do we think we are getting a certain kind of access to their personal lives? Wil Wheaton, an actor and writer, found early fame from his role in Stand By Me and then later as Wesley Crusher in Star Trek:The Next Generation. He writes a lot about his experiences in his blog, WWdN: In Exile. In one fascinating entry, he talks about all the fan hype he got when Stand By Me became popular. This line grabbed my attention. "After a year of being part of that whole Teen Beat crowd, I was totally over it, I thought it was stupid and fake, and really wanted to get back to being an actor and having a normal life..."
That's it, actors want to do their job just like everyone else. Most do anyway. Their jobs are exhausting, repetitive, and grueling. For a lot of the journeymen actors doing small parts from gig to gig, I make way more than they do on an annual basis doing database programming, but I don't get a rush of people wanting an autograph from me (thank heavens!). For the lead actors, they often have to live in a bubble or they'll go insane. They can't go to the mall without getting ambushed by a fan girl or boy. There's very little glamour at all in the everyday existence of an actor. Theyâ€™re normal people trying to make a living under strange circumstances.
I remember when growing up how much I loved reading in-depth articles about actors and musicians in Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly. These were lengthy, up close and personal stories that got to the heart of what these entertainers were all about. For the most part they were ordinary people with stories of trial and tribulation, but they overcame their issues to become better people. I haven't seen an article like that in ages. Now, it's 140 characters about what they had for breakfast.
Back To The Con
I'm straying though. We were talking about fan conventions. I'm still bothered by them. The one part of Galaxy Quest that makes me laugh the hardest is poor Alan Rickmanâ€™s character being asked at every freaking appearance to recite his tag line, â€œBy Grabtharâ€™s Hammer, by the sons of Worvan, you shall be avenged!â€ It kills him absolutely every time, but he does it anyway, for heâ€™s a paid monkey. When Jensen and Jared are constantly asked to do things at these cons like sing â€œEye of The Tigerâ€ or say â€œI lost my shoeâ€ over and over again, I wonder what fans are thinking. These are real men, not trained animal acts, not characters in a sci-fi spoof. Yet they do it, and everyone screams. A part of me dies a little when I see that.
I'm still mad about the expense too. I had heard because of security concerns the set tours had been cancelled. While I felt bad for the fans that signed up to go, something incredible for a fan like that shouldn't be available to just the highest bidder during an exclusive con. What about offering public tours? Why can't they do in Vancouver what they do in Hollywood?
Once I looked beyond all that logic I listed above though, all the reasons why cons are a very bad idea, the real reason hit me as to why I wanted to go to Vancouver. At the two Creation Cons and two Comic Cons I've been to so far, I've met the most incredible fans. Sometimes you have to look beyond what's on paper. When we start talking about our show and where we traveled from to be there, it becomes all love. We end up drinking purple nurples in the bar and sitting in the lounge and lobbies of the hotels until the wee hours of the morning chattering away like we were long lost friends. Itâ€™s the extension of the online social network with the screennames and avatars removed. It's surreal, but pretty amazing.
Everyone should do at least one con, just to have that experience. Sure the actual events are diluted after each repeat appearance, but the bonding with other fans keeps getting better. Plus, the actors that get in front of us at a con for the most part have fun. They often have a fascinating story to share and truly enjoy spending an hour with us despite the excessive craziness out there at times and repitition in questions. That's the best experience a fan can hope for when attending a con. Everything else is hype.
If people start talking about elephants though, it's time to call it a day.