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CONvergence Attendees Stir Up Controversy With Recreation of Cersei’s Shame Walk

Sorry, no, it's not exactly satire.

ConnieonCONvergence

Last night, we shared a story about CONvergence and the strides they’ve made towards improving diversity and creating safe spaces at conventions. Through that story, we heard about a group of cosplayers who got together to recreate Cersei’s shame walk from Game of Thrones. For some people there, and for people who caught wind of it through the shared Instagram video reblogged on the CONvergence official Tumblr, it felt strongly like a statement supporting slut-shaming and misogyny.

Upfront: yes, the Cersei cosplayer gave her consent for this all to happen. As far as anyone can tell, everyone involved was “in” on what was going on. However, I just have to wonder: did this really need to happen this way?

Let’s look at the shame walk in the context of the show and its audience for a second. In a lot of ways, it was a hard reflection on the internet and its hostile attitude towards the things people do (especially if those people are women). Cersei was walking through a veritable subreddit/comment thread/anon board thread/what have you and taking all the incredible abuse that comes with that.

It’s just that her abuse came in the form of people physically spitting on her, hitting her with gross things (seriously I have no idea what those are), and the constant verbal accusations. Which, when you think about it, isn’t really different from being a woman on the internet in general. Oh, and a bunch of people flashing her. Which, also, isn’t a far cry from what women experience these days as well.

So. Drawing this back to CONvergence, it feels strangely odd that they chose to do this, especially in a supposedly safe space. There’s a strange cognitive dissonance in recreating a scene from a show that was physically recreating the intangible space of internet comment threads. It’s so terribly meta. It’s life imitating pop culture imitating life. It’s “shame” all the way down.

For a lot of people who didn’t get the context or don’t watch the show, it just looked like a bunch of people yelling “shame” at a half-naked woman. To them, it just looked like straight up slut shaming. When someone took to the CONvergence Facebook page to talk about this, a 900+ comment thread (at the time of this writing) followed, which was soon drowned out by people spamming cat pictures.

The discussion focused mainly on whether something like this should be allowed to happen through public con spaces, and if it should happen at a con at all. The walk coordinators spoke up immediately to say that yes, the Cersei cosplayer gave full consent to the walk, and was quite happy with everyone involved. In a Facebook comment, she said she was treated “wonderfully,” and she “was super happy people were screaming ‘whore’ and ‘brother fucker’ and ‘Seven take you.'”

A bunch of other con-goers also chimed in saying that they, too, were glad that the walk happened. They gave accounts about how well-mannered the mob was and how they feel it’s completely fine. The reasoning they gave for why they did the walk was simple: comedy. It was supposed to be a “satire,” for the lulz, in a way.

Far be it from me (or anyone, really) to tell someone how to be funny, but it this feels like a lot of “playing Devil’s advocate” type stuff. Comedy–true comedy–punches up, not down. A satire subverts and changes the meaning of an established trope or belief. Simply recreating something isn’t a satire. It’s just a retelling. It’s a re-affirmation of the principles that the scene was meant to establish: that “fornication” and “falsehood” are enough to merit physical and emotional abuse.

Is it possible that the walk took on a more positive meaning, one that wasn’t captured in the video? Yeah, easily. Did it? One can hope. Does this change CONvergence’s past attempts at creating a safe, diverse space for attendees? No. CONvergence, from the sound of it, seems like it’s way ahead of the safe space conversation, at least well past other similar conventions.

Ultimately what this shame walk did was prove that yes, your fave is problematic, and being able to acknowledge that is always a step towards making yourself and the things you love stronger. Refusing to see the possible problematic nature of what you’ve done helps nobody.

I get why the walk happened. I understand what they were trying to do. But I still find myself wondering: did this really have to be the way to do it?

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.