Get Out Of My Subculture, You Tourist!

It the wake of Coachella, which I must admit I don’t go to, nor have any interest in going to, there have been posts in backlash about how it has become a “scene” and has strayed from its original roots. This has been an ongoing complaint for comic book fans at San Diego Comic Con for years. Rather than ask questions about if subcultural tourism opened up events to mainstreaming, or if mainstreaming made them more attractive to subcultural tourists, lets take a look at what subcultural tourism means. 

Subcultural tourism is when someone goes somewhere to see the scene, and thereby experiment with participation in it. Some communities can only exist because of this, like the Renaissance Faire or Magicians. Business models are built on the assumption that curiosity will bring people to participate. These cultures are relatively easy to access, for a small fee. 

Other communities are tourist averse. They are small enough to sustain themselves with little to no growth. Often times the barrier for entry is high. If it was mandatory to come in period dress to a Renaissance Faire, far fewer people would go. Some communities do have either a high physical, monetary, or intellectual threshold, such that they are not friendly to curious passers by. 

Conflict arises when interest in something expands via cultural bridges and those that consider themselves insiders, original members, or particularly dedicated to a community encounter newcomers who might not have the same shared experiences or knowledge base, and these newcomers are seen as threat.

Twi-hards at Comic-Con are one such example. The proliferation of the Fake Geek Girl stereotype coupled with a fandom that is not based at all in comic books, but does participate in their media fandom with the same fervor (if not more so) than their more traditional counterparts resulted in some immense negativity towards a fandom and therefor at the gathering at large. 

Where people are quick to blame a fandom for ruining another one, people are less inclined to see the business models and larger outside pressures that are encroaching on space. In the case of comic book fans, they were once marginalized for their affinities, turn into some of the folks marginalizing another fandom. 

Now I know that Twi-hate is ancient news in the media space. The franchise ended years ago, but the model behavior in fandom remains. Coachella seems to just be experiencing this. Other communities have yet to experience this. 

I wanted to write this in order to being a larger conversation on subcultural tourism, the tools and tactics of being a subcultural tourist, and how communities view this practice. 

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