Open Letter to the Management Team at San Diego Comic-Con

This last weekend, I had the pleasure to attend San Diego Comic-Con for the first time in my life. I have a post about all the amazing things I experienced coming, but before I get to that I would like to openly post an email I have written to the SDCC management team regarding a booth placement situation that occurred this year. If you feel the same way I do on this topic, I highly recommend you also contact SDCC management on this topic to help ensure that it will be appropriately dealt with and fixed in the future, which you can do at this link: http://www.comic-con.org/contact

-The Ginger Doctor

RE: Con Floor Booth Placement Concern

To whom it may concern:

I attended SDCC this year as part of a larger group. One of our party, a nine-year-old, is a HUGE Whovian (we are a large Whovian family), so the first day at the convention we immediately made our way to the BBC America booth for Doctor Who merchandise, photo ops, and chatting with the BBC America representatives onsite about Doctor Who and upcoming events. We found that the booth was sandwiched between a booth for AMC’s The Walking Dead and Starz’s upcoming series Ash vs Evil Dead. Though problematic on its own, we were extra upset to find that both horror booths had their walls covered in TVs playing, on loop, terrifying clips of zombie horror (The Walking Dead) and absurdly gory violence (Ash vs Evil Dead), of which the latter’s level of violence I, even as a 24 year old man, actively avoid because it’s an anxiety trigger to me.

That night our 9 year-old woke up screaming with nightmares about zombies attacking her, and the next day she burst into tears when we tried to enter the con floor (despite the fact that we were far from the horror booths). For the rest of the con, while we were able to get her onto the con floor without a meltdown, we had to make a wide berth around the BBC America booth because of its proximity to the Walking Dead and Ash vs Evil Dead booths, which was secondarily upsetting for her because she was previously extremely excited to be near the Doctor Who things (especially the TARDIS set up at the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum booth, also placed next to the Ash vs Evil Dead booth – she wanted to take her photo with the TARDIS so badly).

We realized as the con went on that the Nickelodeon booth was also next to the BBC America booth, in full view of every terrifying zombie attack and blood-gushing stab wound from the TVs on the two horror booths in question. It could be argued that BBC America fare like Orphan Black or Copper is adult enough in content to be appropriately placed near the horror booths but Doctor Who is infinitely more popular right now and has a 50 year history of being family-friendly. Nickelodeon is exclusively child-oriented and has absolutely no place near the violent horror genre in any way, shape, or form. We were informed by several artist friends that anything overly sexual in nature had been relegated to its own corner in the back of the con floor to avoid exactly this situation, so why the horror hadn’t at least been removed from the children’s area is problematic at best and downright disrespectful at worst.

Every night since then, our nine-year-old Whovian has woken up with nightmares of “The Monsters,” and it has been extremely stressful on all of us, not least of all the child. Having a very good idea of how popular Doctor Who is with children, I cannot even begin to pretend that this is one isolated incident of a particularly timid child being scared by tame fare. While I don’t remember anything overtly violent in the Walking Dead trailers (zombies are simply scary), the Ash vs Evil Dead red band trailer being played on loop outside the booth in full view of the entire con floor on several screens was extremely violent; there’s no way it would have been approved for airing on standard TV, and certainly not in concurrence with Doctor Who or Nickelodeon (the trailer in question can be viewed in full here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdRyAVsWVJ0 ). I don’t even want to know how many children, 9 and under (even older, I’m sure), had exactly this same experience and have spent the last week waking up terrified of being violently eaten by zombies every night because they visited either the BBC America or Nickelodeon booths.

I know that the San Diego Comic-Con management tries to keep abreast of situations such as this (hence the sexuality being moved to its own location) and I honestly don’t believe this was an intentional placement under the misguided assumption that children love gory, violent horror-comedy, but I wanted to make sure that this situation was brought to the attention of the SDCC management so that future cons do not inadvertently cause more children undue terror. Perhaps the placement was due to the standard merging of sci-fi and horror as one genre, but I’d strongly recommend separating the two inasfar as child-friendly content is concerned. The horror genre is very popular and has every right to be showcased in full at San Diego Comic-Con – but it is entirely inappropriate for it to be placed in such proximity to places that will be actively drawing a young and easily-frightened audience.

Thank you so much for all that you do to organize and present this convention every year. Beyond this, we had very little issues with the rest of the con and overall had a great time. It’s simply unfortunate that the experience was marred by the emotional trauma inadvertently caused to our child stemming from the placement of BBC America’s booth between two of the biggest horror booths at the convention. I truly hope that next year, this will be fixed, and it will never be an issue again.

~Alex Murphy

For those who didn’t click through the YouTube link, here is the trailer for Ash vs. The Evil Dead that was playing on loop next to the BBC America booth.

EDIT 7/17/15: As this post is picking up publicity, it seems important to people to weigh the actual content next to each other, so here we go. Doctor Who is rated TV-PG in America, and largely rated PG in the UK with a few episodes bumped up to 12 (and one episode rated U). The Walking Dead used to be rated TV-14 but was bumped to TV-MA following major complaints from The Parent’s Television Council due to the level of violence and gore. Ash vs Evil Dead is not yet rated (but does anyone actually expect – or even want – it to be less than TV-MA?).

EDIT 7/18/15: As much as it truly pains me that the internet does not understand the difference between child-okay and adult-only television programming, here are sources for the rating certifications of the shows in question. I’m sorry, but “Doctor Who has scarier monsters” is not a valid argument as The Walking Dead and Ash vs Evil Dead are explicitly made for adults and Doctor Who is not. Why is it controversial to request the adult-only content be moved from the child-friendly areas? The sex has already been zoned out for exactly the same concerns as I and this child’s parents have about the violence.

Doctor Who – IMDb
The Walking Dead – IMDb
Ash vs. Evil Dead – IMDb (currently incomplete as it has not yet been evaluated)

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About Alex

Alex is a writer, actor, tailor, and professional loudmouth. He has no professional or celebrity endorsements, though he did once meet Conan O'Brien while dressed as the Tenth Doctor. He's just a guy who needs a healthy outlet for his internalized rage once in a while.
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37 Responses to Open Letter to the Management Team at San Diego Comic-Con

  1. Morgue Anna says:

    I do agree that there should be a child safe area of the convention floor where Hasbro, Mattel, Nickelodeon, etc are easily accessed at one end of the hall away from the more disturbing content of Comic-Con. However, unless you’re heavily censoring what Dr. Who episodes this child watches, there are some seriously creepy characters/monsters that are featured. Blink is one of the most highly praised episodes of the show and it’s one of the scariest. There was an entire season built around The Silence, with episodes showing an abandoned orphanage with messages written on the wall looking like blood. To say that Dr. Who is ‘family oriented’ is a little bit of a stretch.

    • Alex says:

      Doctor Who is rated TV-PG in both America and Britain. The Walking Dead is TV-MA and Ash vs. Evil Dead will almost certainly be TV-MA when it gets its rating from MPAA. Doctor Who has always skirted the line between child-friendly and scary, but it’s never crossed the line into adult-only content.

      • Kristina says:

        Aren’t most of these big Cons more for adults anyways? I watched the Ash vs. Evil Dead trailer and it doesn’t seem anything worse than what I watched when I was a kid (born ’81). If blood splatter is truly violent, then maybe someone needs to redefine their views of that. Maybe the parents needed to talk to their child and explain what was happening. Explain the whole ‘not real’ aspect? Sucks that your kid had nightmares, but kids have nightmares. Kids have nightmares unassociated with anything they see in waking life. If you think sex is on the same level as violence/horror.. well, I’m glad you didn’t raise me.

      • Alex says:

        Reply to Kristina:

        Sorry, WordPress won’t let me directly reply to your message. There are many big cons that are mostly aimed at adults but Comic-Con tries to accommodate young audiences explicitly without sacrificing the adults-only bits. The panelists are told to watch their language now (to varying degrees of success) and plenty of child-oriented material is showcased: Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney, the Hub, etc. We’ve spent every night since the incident (still waking up every night, poor girl) that zombies and monsters aren’t real and giving her some tools to help combat her fears with (guided meditations where she beats the monsters or makes them too silly to be scared of, distractive techniques to get her mind off of it, etc), but it’s still affecting her pretty bad. I think mostly she just wasn’t prepared to have so much thrown at her at once and it got to her.

        None of our party nor her parents think of sex on the same level as violence and horror – the point I was making with that was to show that Comic-Con is already aware of what is aimed at adults and what is aimed at children and needs to take horror and gore into consideration for future cons.

  2. carolpinchefsky says:

    Horror is a little too horrible for me at times. If I knew your kid, I’d tell him/her that zombies don’t exist, and although they look real, these people are wearing good makeup and prosthetics. I would show how makeup works. How zombies _don’t_ exist, but really talented filmmakers _do_. Maybe by making it real, this could help dispel some of the stress and anxiety your child feels.

    Here’s hoping your child gets the peace of mind a 9-year-old deserves.

    • apendragyn says:

      I second this. I had nightmares when I was a kid from watching “American werewolf in London” until I got to see the making of documentary and saw how they did the effects. Offering them pictures/video of making of segments that aren’t horrifying might help them cope with the fear a little better. Best of luck.

  3. Joseph Luna says:

    I didnt get to attend and if I had, I have two young who fans myself 7 and 8 years old theyd have been thrilled to see the tardis and anything from Nick, but the Ash VS The Evil Dead And The Walking Dead would have freaked them out a bit. Hell theres been an episode or two of The good Doctors that have freaked them out (Weeping Angels/The Silence) but can usually talk to them to let them know tje doctor keeps all those things away. While some folks im sure will just say suck it up, those of us with young fans of doctor who or adventure time etc know that kids get scared sometimes its silly things but still you want to be able to take them to something like this with out having them disappointed or coming away from it terrified.

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  5. Craig W Chenery says:

    As a horror author who has worked with the crew of The Walking Dead and special effects artists and as a father to a five year old girl, I understand your concerns. While my daughter has seen me do horror and zombie makeup, she has seen the process from the ground up and realizes it is just pretend. However, on saying that, I don’t let her watch violent shows or movies. It is far too intense for young children. It’s not the effects, it’s the violence associated with it. Comic-Con is an event for all ages. Violent graphic content should be away from young eyes. It sounds like it could be easily resolved by moving some booths around. But as other have said, Dr. Who isn’t clean cut family entertainment. It’s been quite scary in recent seasons and as a kid growing up in England in the 70’s and 80’s, I remember hiding behind the couch at some of the more scary episodes. Not scary by today’s standards, but scary none the less. It sounds like SDCC needs zones.

  6. Diane L Urbanec says:

    Bring the child to BritishFest in Omaha next year. We had the standard blue box TARDIS as well as the inside control area, Daleks, K-9, a Hobbit hovel, as well as numerous actors and authors. We do have various adult panels and parties, but it’s mostly kid safe and I think it was $40 for the
    weekend. It’s not Comic-Con but a good time was had by all.http://britishfest.weebly.com/props-and-sets-room.html

  7. Sid Terror says:

    Sounds like their molly cottled 9 year old has led a sheltered life controlled by nerdist adults with tunnel vision. I was ALL ABOUT Monster/Horror movies by the time I could walk and think for myself. Guess what? Kids have nightmares… And I haven’t heard of one causing damage yet.

    Seriously, by the time I was eight years old I was already correcting the tour guides at Universal Studios because I knew more about how the classic Monster films were made than they did. I already knew the difference between real and film. Has this child been sequestered under a rock by overly protective parents all her life?

    I find it a bit interesting that NOT ONE mention is made of the scores of cosplayers wearing adult oriented costumes that populate this convention. No calling out for a censored dress code? It makes me think this is all fake and is to promote one of the Horror projects mentioned.

    • Alyssa Murphy says:

      Cosplay and Booth Placement are two completely separate entities at a convention and are hardly related. This is specifically about a matter that SDCC executed poorly and was in full control of.

      Sid, your experiences as a child do not negate the experiences of other children. There are children who are more sensitive to these kinds of things than others. Children with disabilities especially; and I promise there are all kinds of Whovian children, from kids like you were to kids with autism to kids who are just plain scared of zombies and blood and gore. These children should be able to enjoy their interests without having to worry about things their afraid of being shoved in their faces.

      • Smell_the_glove_Alyssa says:

        No, they should not be watching the violent, gorefest that is DR. WHO, or any other adult programs they can’t handle. There is some incompetent parenting going on here.
        The reason why we have “Blue’s Clues,” “Playhouse Disney,” “Thomas the Tank Engine,” etc. is so these candy-ass wussy children and their candy-ass wussy parents can enjoy the non-triggering bland entertainment made just for them without trying to pollute the scary grown-up shows with their kindergarten nonsense. Why don’t you just give up and spend the rest of your lives in your crib?

    • Maggie McGee says:

      Sid Terror, just because a child does not like/is frightened by violence and gore, does not make them “cottled” or “sheltered”. (By the way, the word is “coddled”.) It makes them gentle and compassionate…something you seem to be entirely missing. If you haven’t heard of one (a nightmare) causing damage yet, it’s only because you don’t see the world beyond yourself. Just because a child is shocked by graphic violence does not mean they have overly protective parents, it means they have parents who care about them becoming too desensitized to the world around them, as you have obviously become. You sound like you are of a “wet behind the ears” age yourself, Junior. And you clearly do not have any children. Please do us all a favor and don’t.

  8. Anna C says:

    How selfish you sound, Sid Terror! Calling a frightened 9 year old child ‘molly coddled’ and parents ‘over protective’ proves you have no compassion for those who didn’t know it all at the age of 8. You said it yourself – you had the opportunity to visit the Universal Studios where you corrected the Tour Guides with your knowledge of classic monster films. Of course you did! From a precocious (and possibly ‘spoilt’) 8 year old’s viewpoint, of course you knew more than the adults – and I can imagine your constant butting in of the poor guide’s narration as the tour progressed! Were your parents proud or embarrassed by your behaviour?

    Children generally have vivid imaginations and can cope with lots of scary stuff – including Dr Who episodes and classic monster movies. But to compare their effect on children to those zombie/vampire/apocalypse type TV programmes/films deliberately aimed at adults who choose to watch them is very silly at best. What we experience as children stays with us forever – especially when it comes as a sudden shock – so stop scoffing at a parent who takes his role of protecting his daughter and other children from unecessary frightening experiences, and instead wonder about the brains that allowed gory, bloody scenes on a TV to be broadcast across a crowded area in full view of families having a fun day.

    By the way – seeing adults dressed as scary monsters is very different to watching them eating people on the TV screen. You can touch Cosplayer costumes and have your photo taken with them! What I find interesting is how so many adults who watch horror films are afraid of clowns!!!

    • Sid Terror says:

      Yes, I’m completely selfish… Because I think children should be taught that movies aren’t real life and real life isn’t the movies… That people think these movies up in factories called “Movie Studios” then film them with actors in goofy make-up… The understanding of which would pretty much END all the issues in this whiney letter. I am also selfish because I prefer “Teaching and Education” to “Sheltering and keeping someone ignorant”.

      Yes I believe in good parenting that educates and informs, so that makes me an awful, selfish, bad person in your eyes. Guess what… Your opinion means nothing to me, because you are all attack with no intellect. You obviously are not smart enough to give kids their due, which is obvious by the way you dismissed my own experience as a kid. pffft.

      Don’t hate me because I was an awesome kid… Hate yourself because you are a failure as an adult.

      • Alex says:

        If you think we haven’t explained to this child that zombies and movies aren’t real then you’re an idiot. She’s even known for years in going to Disneyland that the princesses and other characters walking around aren’t real – we even know some of those actors in real life. Unfortunately, some people are genuinely terrified of monsters and there should be a reasonable expectation of being capable of pursuing what they are interested in without having what scares them shoved in their face.

        I guess it’s just too bad that not everybody in the world can be as awesome as you were as a kid. But not every child loves horror and gore and violence. Not every Whovian should have to be subjected to that at a convention like Comic-Con simply because it wouldn’t have bothered you when you were 9.

      • Maggie McGee says:

        Sid Terror, I am the parent of grown successful children and it always involved telling them what was real and what was not real…but imagery on a TV or movie screen, even though the child (or even an adult) knows it is not real, doesn’t change the disturbing image it leaves in their memory. Impressionable young children may get over their “fear” of the scary images, but may never be accepting of the images of graphic violence because of their natural compassion for life and living things. (You are apparently devoid of these things.) These images will always be disturbing and it has nothing to do with whether they are perceived as real or fake. It’s what the imagery is depicting: human suffering. And to some people that is unacceptable no matter what – even in the world of the Hollywood imagination.

  9. Kate H says:

    “Doctor Who is rated TV-PG in America, and largely rated TV-PG in the UK with a few episodes bumped up to TV-12.”

    There’s no such thing as “TV-PG” or “TV-12” in the UK. Neither the BBC nor any other terrestrial broadcaster has any kind of rating system for their programming. Some Doctor Who episodes will have been rated PG or 12 by the British Board of Film Classification for DVD release (and occasional theatrical release) but this doesn’t extend to television broadcasts.

    • Alex says:

      IMDb clearly states the certifications for Doctor Who in the UK as: UK:12 (Some episodes) / UK:PG (most episodes) / UK:U (one episode)

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436992/parentalguide?ref_=tt_stry_pg#certification

      • David K. M. Klaus says:

        I’m truly sorry that in performing the genuinely manly act of protecting your daughter, you have drawn the attention of pseudo-“Real” Men, who clearly are unable to recognize what you did.

      • David K. M. Klaus says:

        Doctor Who is telecast in Britain before the “Watershed Hour”, the time before which children are considered most likely to be watching, and after which more adult programming may commence.

        Torchwood was conceived as a “post Watershed” Doctor Who, a related, spinoff science fictional program with more overt sexuality and explicit violence than could occur in the original.

  10. Patricia Maroney says:

    It is a shame that trolls feel the need to comment on what is a perfectly reasonable letter. There has long been a fading of the line between what should be considered for adults and what is for children. Sometimes I think it is because oblivious adults assume kids don’t actually see or hear or absorb what is going on around them. Possibly because the oblivious adults were oblivious kids who didn’t see or hear anything except in what they were self absorbed. Thankfully, there are self aware people who realize that there is children’s television for a reason and it would be so easy for a convention that sells children’s memberships to reevaluate some of their policies towards the placement of children’s programming. I hope they take this letter into serious consideration.

  11. ventingall says:

    I have to agree that I think it’s the parents jobs to take care of this and not expect the con to. Leave the kids at home if you think they’re too likely to get scared. Or as was said, explain to them that it’s not real and familiarize them with it ahead of time so they’re not shocked by it.

    • Daniel B. says:

      Yes, let the kid miss the thing they’re huge fans of, or just “tell” them such things shouldn’t bother them. Yeah, that always works for people that right there. While there are certainly times “it’s the parent’s job” is applicable, standing in line at a freaking Dr. Who booth should not be a place where parent’s (or really anyone) should ever expect to have that level of violence blasted at them. 100% agree with the letter here. It’s not unreasonable at all.

      • Maggie McGee says:

        Applause to Daniel B.!

      • ventingall says:

        So they miss Comic-Con. Boo hoo. It’s not the end of the world. There are likely things all over the Con that kids shouldn’t see. If they’re that sensitive, they can stay at home. There is not some special right that kids or parents of kids have to be at Comic-Con and that the rest of us should have to change our behavior to compensate for. The world does not owe you or your kids anything more than the rest of us. A few nightmares is not going to hurt a kid, either.

      • Maggie McGee says:

        Ventingall – spoken like a true inconsiderate, in-compassionate, self-centered being who is obviously not a parent. If you are a parent, I feel for your poor kids.

  12. Dawn Wolf says:

    BBC America and AMC are jointly owned. This letter needs to be send to BBC America or AMC since comic con just asks if they want to be placed next to any other booth. Guarantee that BBC America asked to be next to AMC.

  13. David K. M. Klaus says:

    I’m sorry that some of the fans here don’t understand the difference between “scary monsters”, which created the fine British tradition of children watching from behind the sofa so they can duck and hide at the scary parts, and bloody gore-spatter. I’m 59, and it upsets and triggers me as much as it does you and your child.

    Some people are so inured to bloody violence that they aren’t capable now (regardless of if they were before) of seeing this distinction.

    YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG. You are being a good father, doing the same as I did for my now-adult sons when they were wee ones.

    And there’s this, which by metaphor may explain some of the above:

    “Open your eyes, Lisa. You can’t become desensitized to the violence if you don’t watch the violence.” — Bart Simpson to Lisa as they sat in front of their living room television.

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  15. Larry Newman says:

    What a big girl’s blouse.

  16. David K. M. Klaus says:

    Sorry — I seem to have posted above in the wrong spot for my intended recipient, the Ginger Doctor.

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