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.
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.