Art and Literature

Youtopia? 3 Communities

Question:  What do NOLOSE, Comic-Con, and Animal Crossing have in common?

Answer:  They all propose alternative, utopian spaces where the attendee/player can develop alternate identity(ies), meet new people, and obtain a different sense of embodiment.

Here’s a rundown.

  1. nolose: the revolution just got bigger BUT DON’T CALL US A UTOPIA (YET)

Boasting a Facebook page with almost 1000 fans, NOLOSE offers an annual conference in Oakland California for fat women of all orientations and self-descriptions. Embracing body positivity, and now open to cis men, NOLOSE‘s conference features an exhilarating schedule of aerobics, history, painting, parties, writing workshops and more.  Returning revived and happy, one of the members of Magically Real HQ regaled us with the hidden histories of fat ladies in the circus, displayed a picture she had made at the conference, and discussed how the group-activities she participated in deconstruct the ways in which white privilege tended to dominate discussion.

Our expert reports that this year’s conference revolved around the question of safe space, and the challenge of making NOLOSE a positive space for everyone.  So, our resident expert cautioned, NOLOSE would probably not welcome the designation of utopian, since this feeling of ideality is not experienced as such by everyone.

On the other hand, the very promise of a world where “fat” is a positive term, and whatever kind of body you have is a good body, a fun body, and beautiful body makes the editorial staff of MAGICALLY REAL jump for joy.   NOLOSE gives us a taste of that world and even a a taste of the utopian possible is pretty darned groovy in our book.

Check out the organization at http://www.nolose.org/10/

2.  Comic-Con –

Say what you will about the Movie/TV mogulization of what started out as a comic book convention, Comic-Con remains the sine qua non of the fan convene-circuit.  People come in costume as characters, attend panels, go to various parties, and gawk at the celebrities prancing down the hall.  Jenthefangirl, an esteemed associate of Magically Real, has been faithfully attending the convention and has established deep friendships at the con.  She looks forward to attending every year.

But a single overarching statement about Comic-Con is doomed to falsity. Jenthefangirl notes, “Comic Con is a city of communities. Some overlap and others are separate. There are layers and it means things to different people.”

Fair enough.  In a bleak world of bleak opportunities, dressing up as a Star Wars storm trooper may give you the lift you need. But, as Joe Scott Coe notes, you have to pay.  A day ticket at Comic Con costs $40, and the full experience costs $175 and that’s without lodging and food.

Check out this mega-event at http://www.comic-con.org/

3.  Animal Crossing — And now for something completely different.

Equipped with 2 different plastic manual controls, yours truly braves the oddly adorable libertarian, late-capitalist world of the Animal Crossing videogame with the kindly assistance of Lillian Beelz Behrendt.

  1. First, name your avatar (in my case XenoCute).
  2. Next buy a house.
  3.  Meet everyone in the darned town.
  4. Then get to work at the retail store for Tom Nook.  It’s all about earning those bells (dollars).

Or is it?  There’s a museum to donate fossils to in Kokoton (the player [in this case, Behrendt] names the town), and there are fish in the river and oranges on the trees.  As I navigate the hills and dales in the diminutive body of XenoCute I have to admit that there’s something pastoral about the world of Animal Crossing.  While you have the ability to be downright nasty to other people, it is so very much easier, to get that fishing rod or butterfly net out of your magically deep pocket or — better yet – go plant some flowers.  As XenoCute, I get to be small (!), do things I don’t know how to do in real life (fish, earn money), as well as practice talking to my neighbors (something that as a New Yorker I was trained to studiously avoid).

So perhaps Animal Crossing is not libertarian at all – it might just be a little bit socialist.

To learn more about Animal Crossing, click here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Crossing

and here:  http://www.animalcrossingcommunity.com/

What utopian/alternative communities have you visited this July?

2 replies »

  1. The thing is with Comic-Con was that for a culture that was built on being the counter-culture, for being ridiculed by the mainstream…it’s pretty mainstream. More and more independent publishers and comics are being pushed out for the big names. The convention is less on “geek” culture and more on media. The slogan for the convention was “Celebrating the Popular Arts.”
    For those of us who are seeking to find a niche within an already niche community–this is perfect. Comic Con is such a global phenomena that people from all over the country (even overseas) comes to San Diego to participate. But with it being mainstream and open, it allows for those who do not want to participate to also come in and criticize the entire community. They are given an “in” to the community and try to tear at it. I’ve heard very negative remarks about certain communities within the communities (steampunk people making fun of the anime people. Comic book fans saying the TV fans should get their own convention).
    It’s messy and complicated. It’s like a disassociated Utopia that thrives on consumerism and elitism but also thrives on community, volunteerism and just helping someone out (but only if you ask nicely). More to follow soon.

    • Hi Noel! Thanks so much for this insightful and informative comment about Comic-Con. Your point about the “niche within a niche” positioning connects with a film and culture theorist whom we admire alot over here at Magically Real and who I will probably refer to again. That is David James, the author of POWER MISSES. David argues that even within mass commodified (capitalist) culture, progressive work can get done, and “good” things can happen. I see you saying that here. Yes, the mainstream is here, and yes the corporate media are dominant, but at the same time there’s a groundswell of people from very different places interacting in fractious but possibly healthy ways. PS — I love the steampunk folks vs the anime folks — sounds like a game show (or a Survivor episode).

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