Phoenix Comicontroversy: Props Prohibited

Phoenix Comicon, the largest entertainment convention in Arizona, has just issued a directive that has fans in an uproar: following an incident involving an individual with real weapons, Phoenix Comicon has now banned all props. What does that mean, exactly? Well, let’s take a look at the mass e-mail notification sent out this evening:

“Convention Director Matthew Solberg here with an important and urgent message:

In light of recent events, Phoenix Comicon, in cooperation with the Phoenix Convention Center and the Phoenix Police Department, will be implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees. This screening includes three dedicated access points, no longer allowing costume props within our convention or the Convention Center, and other methods as determined in conjunction with the Convention Center and Phoenix Police Department. We anticipate some delays as you are entering the building and we encourage you to carry as little as possible to make the process easier.

These new policies will take effect starting tomorrow, Friday, May 26th.

The three access points for entrance into the Convention Center with those who have a valid badge:

West Building entrance at 2nd Street, between Washington and Monroe.
Third Street at Washington
Third Street at Monroe

For those who need to collect their badge from registration you will ONLY be able to use the access point at Third Street at Monroe.
Con on Third will no longer be open to the public, and will require a valid badge to enter.

Costume props will no longer be allowed on-site. All costume props should be left at home, in your car, or in your hotel room. This includes costume props for staff, crew, costuming groups, panelists, and participants in the masquerade ball. Any panels or activities impacted by this change will be updated on the website soon.

All costume props are no longer allowed, including foam and cardboard props, shields and sabers. Purchased props will be wrapped by the vendors and must remain so while they are on-site. We encourage you to take your purchases to your car or hotel as soon as possible after purchase.
We understand these are last minute changes as a result of recent events.

We appreciate your patience as we continue to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all our patrons and we look forward to a great event.

Matthew Solberg
Convention Director”

Wait a minute–All costume props should be left at home? What, pray tell, constitutes a “prop”? Outcry has erupted as this new edit, implemented in light of a heavily-armed individual being found inside convention grounds, was announced. Does my son’s bow tie count as a “costume prop”? What about my wig? Is that a “prop”? The plastic mask we bought our kid at Halloween? You know the ones–they have the little slits for the mouth that’ll cut your tongue like a knife if you’re not careful. Is the backpack for my Finn from Adventure Time cosplay a “prop”? Aside from specifying “foam and cardboard props, shields and sabers,” Phoenix Comicon has left things wide open for turning down just about anything that could possibly be construed as a weapon, no matter how harmless it truly is.

The fan in the photo above, which I carried around the con today, is four feet high and as you can see quite large when opened. Even prior to today’s events it has been considered by con security to be a weapon prop, meaning that I have to have it “peace-bonded” before I can bring it into the convention center. What does that “peace bonding” entail? For that fan, one little piece of bamboo is wrapped with a zip tie. One of those little things. There is nothing preventing the fan being opened, nor preventing it from being used to beat someone over the head (not that I would do something like that: just saying, the peace bonding doesn’t do too much to bond it). This year, security didn’t even really check it; they saw a zip tie from previous cons and said that since it was the same color as the zip ties they were handing out, it was fine. I was honest; I offered it up to them even though they didn’t give me a second look as I walked by with this four-foot club. Tomorrow? Tomorrow I’d be sent back to my hotel room to deposit that same fan before being allowed to return.

And what about this smaller, more fan-friendly fan? Will this be barred when I get to the doors of the con on Saturday? I mean, surely they can’t deny me the ability to fan myself in the triple-digit Phoenix heat…can they?

Oh, and that fancy lightsaber that cost my husband and I a pretty penny just last year (purchased at the con, mind you)? Well, it’s verboten, too.

My husband is livid, as are a majority of the con’s attendees. People are calling for refunds en masse, and I’m sure any toll-free number the convention has is being inundated with irate calls. Social media is exploding. Me, I’m a little more on the peeved side than the outright-enraged side of things, but the big question now is: How will Phoenix Comicon recover from this? This knee-jerk reaction to a hazardous situation could spell trouble for this hugely popular con. Will we have mass celebrity guests cancelling at the notion of weapons being slipped past security? Will panelists quit in protest? Will con officials have to cave and refund thousands of dollars worth of admissions?

Yes, I know, they had a serious incident. People–lots of people–could have been seriously hurt. Just look at the Ariana Grande concert. Big gatherings are becoming increasingly popular targets. But will bottlenecking points of entry really help? Yes, you’ll have a keener eye on who is entering the convention, but you’ll also have–you guessed it–large crowds of people in a small space. I’m sure many of you can already imagine the possibilities.

I, for one, am not going to let this random act of terror hinder my con experience. Do I have to change up my cosplay lineup (potentially scrapping entire cosplays in favor of less threatening street clothes)? Yeah. But I can still go to panels…kind of. Not any on prop making, obviously. But other panels. If there will be any panelists still presenting….


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