In the ninth episode of the fifth season of Supernatural, I LOVE WHAT THIS SHOW HAS CHOSEN TO BE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of anxiety, bodily injury, blood.
I have a lot to say. Buckle in.
My First Convention
I had actually been going to various conventions over the years before I was invited to speak on my very own panel in the summer of 2011. Just eight months prior to this, I’d completed my Mark Reads Harry Potter project on the site that belonged to the company I used to work for, and it had propelled me to a surreal version of Internet fame. Having found it rewarding to be writing again, I created Mark Reads and this very site you’re on in November of 2010, and I’ve since not looked back. But at the time, my life was in a very weird place. Mark Does Stuff, in that first year, was very much a hobby that was beginning to engulf my life. I was still a professional community manager and I’d quit Buzznet to get a job up in San Francisco that actually paid me what my services were worth. I’d fulfilled a lifelong dream to live in the Bay Area, I was writing about The Hunger Games and The Book Thief and discovering His Dark Materials, and Mark Watches Doctor Who did way better than I expected. And then the lovely folks who run LeakyCon sent me an email that changed my life in innumerable ways: I had a panel for Mark Reads Harry Potter at their convention in Orlando that summer.
It’s important to note that this would be my first public appearance of any sort. As I said, Mark Does Stuff was a hobby in 2011, albeit one that was taking over my personal life so much that I wondered how I was going to sustain. But I’d never been to Orlando before, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Even though the Harry Potter fandom had been an absolute dream, I was still very intimidated by the idea. I’m not a shy person these days, but I was going to have a solo panel at a con, and it was going to be MY FIRST PANEL EVER. I remember getting updates via email from the programming staff about the panel, and as the day approached, I got more and more nervous. I apologize to Addie if she happens to be reading this, because I was a DISASTER in the weeks leading up to LeakyCon. I must have emailed her a thousand times with every question in the universe. HOW DO I GET MY PASS. WHAT DO I DO. WHERE DO I GO. HOW LONG. WHAT IS MY NAME. WHY AM I ON THIS PLANET.
I got my room assignment for the panel a few weeks prior to the con, and it was a small room. I think it fit maybe thirty folks, and I was convinced that only five people would show up. I was happy with this. If one person showed up, I’d be pleased. Because I was traveling across the country for a CONVENTION. And I had a PANEL. For MYSELF. And all of this was very overwhelming and terrifying and exciting.
Then the room got updated. To one four times the size. And the anxiety started. And oh lord, when I get hit with anxiety? It is an unending avalanche, y’all. It starts off small, so my first thought when I looked at my panel’s room on the hotel’s website was this:
Wow, what if only five people show up?
Wow, that’ll look super weird if it’s in a room that big and there are only five people.
Shit, what if no one shows up?
Do I know anyone in Orlando that I can pay to show up so I don’t look like a fool?
What if no one wants to talk to me and I’m alone all week there and then everyone stops reading my websites and then I turn into an utter failure and I have to close my websites and then I fade into complete obscurity and then J.K. Rowling reads MRHP and hates it and then she finds a way to tell the whole fandom to hate me and then my plane crashes on the way to Orlando but I’m the only one who doesn’t make it
That’s my brain in a nutshell.
Thankfully, when I arrived in Orlando, a blessed person who was a reader of mine and a cast member at Disneyworld helped calm my anxiety by gifting me with a chance to get into the park for free. And let me tell you: Stick me in a Disney-related park, and absolutely nothing can ruin me. I am invincible there. (You better believe I have an annual pass to Disneyland that I will cling to until the sands of time fade away.) So, when the Friday of my panel rolled around, I was nervous, but I wasn’t that bad.
Until I looked in my panel room ten minutes before noon and saw that IT WAS FULL OF PEOPLE. To this day, when I have larger events, I experience about 5 minutes of complete stage fright, and then it fades away, and I can totally speak in front of hundreds of people. But that was the first time I’d ever been hit by such an intense wave of anxiety and terror when faced with public speaking. I’d been the salutatorian at my graduation, and it was nowhere near this awful. I stood out in the hallway, watching more people flock into the room, and each person made the anxiety worse. I had spent so much time worrying about whether or not anyone would show up that I forgot to mentally prepare for the possibility that a ton of people would show up.
The thing about anxiety is that even if you have a coping mechanism for dealing with it, its very nature means that it’s easy for it to snowball out of control. I’ve gotten so much better over the years at dealing with it, recognizing when an attack is about to start, and minimizing the things that trigger anxiety in me. (Shout out to my boyfriend, who is such an ideal partner when it comes to this. He’s great about helping me manage my anxiety!) At the time, though, I was thousands of miles from home. I knew no one. I had no friends to talk to while I was panicking, and I was about to step into a room full of strangers to talk aboutâ€¦ what? I’d prepared a general outline of stuff and hoped that the Q&A would last the rest of the time. But what if I ran out of shit to say?
The time came for me to start, and so I took a deep breath and walked into the room. People clapped and a few folks cheered; I waved and smiled and headed to the stage where the table and chairs were. I saw the three steps I needed to ascend to get up to the table. They registered in my mind. I stepped onto the first one and rapidly reasoned I could take the last two at once, so I leapt up to do so. My left foot connected with the stage, but only briefly. Very briefly. VERY BRIEFLY. Because then it slid out from underneath me, and I was laying on the stage because I’d just faceplanted on it.
If you are ever nervous or anxious about speaking in public, fall down very dramatically in front of everyone ten seconds before you’re about to speak. It will cause all of the anxiety in your body to float into the ether because you’ll realize that this is it. This is the moment you have hit rock bottom and nothing worse can happen than this.
It was strangely freeing.
I’ve since attended more conventions than I can count and hosted nearly 75 events of my own since that summer. It was the response of those people at LeakyCon that convinced me that there was an interest in taking Mark Does Stuff on the road, which I later pulled off in 2012 for the Intensity in Ten Cities Tour, my first Mark Does Stuff outing ever. But I distinctly remember laying on that stage and realizing that aside from a collective gasp, no one laughed at me. Not one person laughed at something that PROBABLY WAS SUPER FUNNY TO WATCH. Bless any of those people who I met that day and then spent hours signing stuff for. You’re the reason this is my job now and the reason my current appearance schedule looks like this. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to tell this story, which is what I referenced in the video upon seeing Chuck’s terror at having a crowd full of fans eagerly awaiting him.
(Interesting side note: I actually hurt myself fairly bad when I fell. The lower portion of my left quad connected perfectly with the edge of the stage, and I sliced open my leg. I spent the entire panel with napkins stuffed under my shorts so that the bleeding would stop. This is the impetus for the greatest story I have ever told or will ever tell: how me falling on stage at LeakyCon in 2011 led me to getting food poisoning which led to me throwing up on a German tourist on Star Tours the next day. If you ever come see me live, ask me to tell it. It’s a doozy.)
Convention Culture and Loving Tributes
I think it’s important to analyze how this show breaks the fourth wall, and we got a chance to do that for “Sympathy for the Devil.” It’s fitting that Becky returns here, but I worry if the same issues that made some folks uncomfortable are only embellished here. Becky feels even more ridiculous than she did in the first episode, so much so that I don’t know if she’s just a joke anymore but some weird (and possibly cruel) commentary on fandom culture. What’s so jarring about it is that the entire depiction of the convention is INCREDIBLY WONDERFUL. The writers toe the lie respectfully between parody and actual adoration. The people attending the convention are real people whose enthusiasm for Supernatural may be comical, but is sincere. This series means something to them, and they share that love with other people.
Of course, all of this is filtered through Sam and Dean. Dean in particular spends most of “The Real Ghostbusters” filled to the brim with fury for a number of reasons. He’s completely shocked about people idolizing him, and then he’s irritated that many of these people’s RP impression of him is a little too on the nose. YOU KNOW I’M RIGHT. Oh my god, it’s so much fun to watch. And I loved that Sam largely kept to himself here! He definitely wasn’t anywhere near as annoyed as Dean, and he kind of looked like he was enjoying the weirdness and the spectacle.
And what a spectacle it was! Oh my god, the Q&A session was way too real. I can speak from experience here. People are exceptionally specific, and I’ve had people ask me about a single sentence I wrote four years ago that I don’t even remember. AND SO MUCH WORSE THAN THAT. There’s LARPing and in-depth panels and merch and Y’ALL. This episode did a wonderful job giving the first Supernatural con the feel of a small con in a hotel. Now I wanna know about the con parties and the con suite and the staff and SO MANY OTHER DETAILS.
This is a fun episode that made me cry not because of a sudden turn of sadness, but because it inherently validates the reason people get attached to fictional characters. Sure, the writers have a lot of fun making Dean constantly uncomfortable, but at the end of this episode, he comes to understand Demian and Barnes. Now, I wouldn’t proclaim that everyone gets attached to fictional narratives as a form of escapism, but I certainly started off doing that. And I know I used books and television to motivate myself to leave an environment I felt stifled me. It’s also EXTRA meaningful that Demian and Barnes are a couple because it’s not often that a show outright acknowledges that they have queer fans. (Which is why Dean’s reaction isâ€¦ really weird? I think the show was trying to convey how strange he found it that a couple LARP’d as him and his brother, but dude. If someone chooses to come out to you, it’s probably a terrible idea to grimace and act mildly grossed out. I guarantee you that you’re more likely to appear to be a bigot if you do that.)
I doubt we’ll see these two again, but BLESS. They were so wonderful.
HAHAHA HOLY SHIT, PLOT TWIST. I like the nod to Aleister Crowley, since I assume that’s where the name came from. BUT THERE’S A LEAD ON THE COLT. And now I miss Bela. 🙁 🙁 🙁
LET US DISCUSS THIS IMMENSE EPISODE, Y’ALL.
The video for “The Real Ghostbusters” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
– Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often.Â My next Double Feature will be Farscape.
– I will be at quite a few conventions and will be hosting events throughout the US, Canada, and Europe in 2014, so check my Tour Dates / Appearances page often to see if I’m coming to your city!
– Inspired by last year’s impromptu event in London, I am taking Mark in the Park on the road! You can see all currently planned dates and pitch your own city here.