Thursday, October 23, 2014

31 Days of Halloween - Beth V's Saturday Walker Stalker Con Recap

After a fairly inauspicious start to the con on Friday I was hoping for a little more on Saturday. More attendees, more celebrities, and just generally more to do. I got most of what I wanted and in some cases a little more than I wanted.
Thanks to the miracle of our train system, and it's inability to get anyone anywhere on time on the weekends I barely made it in time for the Andrew Lincoln/Norman Reedus panel. Seriously MARTA! The only thing you're good for is getting downtown for events that I'd rather not have to try parking for, and going to the airport. Those are two good and useful things, but how about rail lines and station placement that makes sense or is useful to people for more than two reasons? How about realizing that people want to go places in a timely manner on Saturday as well as during the week? The train I was on sat for 10 minutes to allow people the chance to get on, and then stopped five times in between stations to wait for another train to move. But enough of my rant against light rail. Suffice it to say that I only had time to grab a decent seat in the secondary stage area that was being used for the overflow of the biggest panel of the weekend. They were already announcing that the main panel room was full when I walked in the building so I knew I was better off just watching it on the big screen TV. On my way into the smaller panel stage I saw a huge line of people picking up badges (good thing I got in Friday). There were also huge lines around the celebrities and the vendors were jam packed too. Poor Bub from Day of the Dead was the only one not mobbed. I felt bad for him, but hadn't come prepared with any questions, and couldn't think of anything to talk to him about.

Since the Phantom stayed home to nurse his Ebola again I set in for a day filled with panels to keep myself occupied. I had planned for the "Bromance" of Lincoln/Reedus, The Grove with McBride/Coleman/Sharbino , Best Pals with Riggs/Gurira and was trying to decide between Abraham's Army with Cudlitz/McDermitt/Serratos and The Haunted Spirituality of the Walking Dead with a non-famous priest which were both happening at the same time.

Little did I know that the panel wouldn't get started until 1:15 so I could have tried to get a live and in-person seat up in the main room, but by that point the overflow area was packed too so I just stuck where I was. Better a crappy seat than standing at the back of a huge hall for an hour. Once the stars finally made their appearance it took another five minutes of screaming for everyone to settle down and get started. I also got needlessly excited because Greg Nicotero headed out the the stage with Lincoln and Reedus, and I had been sad to miss his panel that morning (knowing the train system as I do I would have needed to be up at 6am to get there in time for the 10am panel. I just could not face that. I blame the MARTA, and the 1/2 bottle of wine I drank while I stayed up too late playing video games. RPG's are tough to turn off guys). Anyway, I assumed that Nicotero had a little free time to come and sit it for this panel, and was looking forward to hearing his insights. All in vain though. He just popped out to sit with Lincoln until Reedus showed up. He sat next to them for a few minutes, and then took off back to his table. Boo.

So I guess there's this thing where Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus love each other enough to have a full-fledged "bromance" going on. I am starting to look like a terrible reporter, but I may just not be a big enough stalker. I love The Walking Dead, and most things zombie, but I'm not going to go online and read about what kind of friendship two actors have. If that makes me a bad reporter then I guess I'm just going to have to be a bad reporter. I have enough going on without trying to find out if Lincoln and Reedus are real life besties, and if they prefer creamy or crunchy peanut butter, or anything else silly like that. I'm far more interested in the theme, story, and production of horror than I am about the actors. But if you happen to be interested then I've got details about actors for you. Apparently when Andrew Lincoln shaved off his beard Norman Reedus put it in a ziploc baggie and still has it stashed in his freezer. I never heard a good explanation as to why exactly. They chatted randomly for a few minutes, and then the Q&A started up, and much earlier than I'd expect in a normal con panel too. But I guess since this was a con full of stalkers I understand now. A very lucky, little girl asked them if they ever got scared while filming. Not only did they pull her onstage for hugs and kisses, but they brought her mom up for more of the same. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of the love-fest. Norman Reedus said that if he could change places with any character in the show it would be Judith so he could just lay around all day. One girl asked him for a date when she turned 18 next November,  but as he had shacked up with a 15 year old in the show last season she might have gotten lucky this year anyway. I'll admit now that Reedus seems really humble, and grateful, and funny so I guess I get the appeal. I still just want him to take a shower. One guy asked a question so inane that I didn't even make a note of it or him until he was begging for a high-five. It seemed like everyone who had a question also had a demand. They were posed as requests, but they were demands. You can't ask someone for a hug in front of thousands of their fans without making them look like a dick if they turn you down. The guys gave out lots of free hugs and kisses. I saw why Nicotero retreated back to his booth. The fans were so fawning that one of them even complimented Andrew Lincoln's Southern accent. I think she was deaf. As Lincoln went on to compliment Jon Bernthal's acting he's clearly no judge of things that are good. They dropped lots of hints about things that were coming up, but offered no real information. I left knowing little more about the show than I did before, but a lot more about how needy, entitled, and downright creepy people can be.

Next up was The Grove panel featuring Melissa McBride, Chad Coleman, and Brighton Sharbino and it was a bit more insightful. As the name implies they were pretty much there just to talk about the episode where Carol decided "Damn. The girl's gotta go." (to quote Chad Coleman's reaction on first reading that Lizzie had killed Mika). Coleman also said that he tried to play his reaction to Lizzie's death as Tyrese trying to hold on to the idea that everything could eventually go back to normal. Killing a little girl kind of finalized for him that it wasn't going to happen. Lizzie (who's name is too complicated for me to keep typing out) is seemingly not permanently traumatized by her time in the zombie apocalypse. She said that she takes it as a compliment when people tell her they hate her. Melissa McBride seemed honestly surprised that Carol has not only survived, but thrived. In fact, I learned that Carol was almost killed off in season 3, but McBride went to the producers and obviously made a good enough case for Carol to stick around. Just think about the shit they would be in without her. Pig-flu would have killed off a lot more people, the gang would have all died in Terminus, and Daryl would have no one to snuggle. At this panel there were also some very small children asking questions. There were clearly some terrible parents at this thing. No 6 year-old should be watching The Walking Dead. I don't care how mature or smart you think they are; or however else you try and excuse yourself, this is not a show for kids. It's too violent, too gory, and your kid will have some kind of emotional issues later in life. It was a decent panel, but I was already getting sick of everyone trying to sneak in free hugs and pictures when they asked their questions. You go stand in line at their table like everyone else. Quit trying to be cheap or cut the line by sneaking in a selfie on the sly. It would also really speed things along if you could stop telling actors how awesome they are. Trust me, they know.

I was supposed to go straight to the Riggs/Gurira panel, but I was just too damn hungry at this point. And getting food was no easy task. By the time I got out of The Grove the rest of the floors were packed with people. There were celebrities on the first floor that didn't get much of a look because they were in a main walkway, and they were all jammed with a herd of barely moving people. If they are doing this next year they have to expand. One building was definitely not enough to hold all of those people comfortably. There was no way I was going to stand in line for 45 minutes for a Chik-Fil-A sandwich that had been sitting out for hours. Luckily I remembered the food truck lot across the street where I had seen the replica of Dale's RV on my way in on Friday. I considered taking the opportunity to take the tour of the inside of the RV as well,but there was a line for that too. By the time I got my grub I was seriously late for the Riggs/Gurira panel. I needn't have worried though because when I got up there it was just Chandler Riggs sitting onstage with some little white girl. I guess Gurira canceled, but I was too late to find out who the white girl was. So these kids onstage were mostly being asked questions by some kids in the audience, and I left pretty quickly. I don't care what Chandler Riggs does for fun. I hope you're all able to fall asleep tonight without knowing what video games Chandler Riggs plays when he's not working.

I then had about half an hour to kill and make up my mind on what I wanted my last panel of the day to be. I bought a few buttons, tried not to lose my mind when pressed in on all sides by the crowds, and tried in vain to get close to anyone famous. Below is  a shot of how close I was able to get to Norman Reedus without standing in a two hour line. That's him in the trucker hat way in the back there. What you can't see is how many times this line wraps and curves around. It was crazy!

By this point I was pretty tired of hearing actors praised, and seeing them hugged so I decided to skip Abraham's Army go to the spirituality panel. It may seem like a strange choice given my relative indifference towards religion, but spirituality is a part of what makes us human whether you believe in Jebus or not. A big part of what makes us human is our ability for higher thinking. Everyone has some sort of spiritual or moral code even if they don't have it defined in a book, and maintaining your humanity during the zombie apocalypse is an interesting thing to think about. The panel was run by one of the hosts of the convention and an Anglican priest. The priest said that in the south we have a haunted relationship with religion. What I could pull out of that for meaning was that it's something that's removed or out of our reach. Maybe if I knew more about religion I could put that better. Anyway, the characters in the show go into various churches during their time together, and some of them stop to pray. But the way they pray is like the way Rick talks to Lori's ghost. Something that they think is gone, but don't want to or can't let go of. Dale and Hershel are pretty much the moral centers of the show. Andrea and Beth to a lesser extent as they were kind of preachy. I found Dale kind of pushy and overbearing in his morality too, but maybe that's just me. Hershel especially was effective because he was never preachy. Just his quiet confidence gave them hope. So what does it mean for the show that three of those characters are dead, and one is missing? What character will carry on hoping for the group now, and can they go on without it? To the priest religion is about hope, and that is what makes us human and gives us this moral base. We can't change the zombie apocalypse or the world, but we can change ourselves. We live in a world now where we don't really need anyone. We can be just fine on our own without knowing our neighbors, but at the end of the world you need people. We've now gotten so used to virtual and unreal connections that we don't know how to need people anymore, and that's what the people in the world of The Walking Dead struggle with. They are re-learning how to need people again, and have to accept and forgive things that they never would have before. Here is the panel where I expected the amens and hallelujahs, but it's not where I got them. Sure a few people talked about how they related the show to their religion, but it wasn't too much. This and the zombie ethics panel were the best ones that I saw all weekend. See, even at the end of the world we've all got something to learn.


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