The Internet lost its collective hive mind on Tuesday when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice actor Jesse Eisenberg told the Associated Press that attending Comic-Con was akin to “some kind of genocide.” Just in case you think I’m taking his words out of context, here’s the full blurb as it appeared in the Hollywood Reporter:
“It is like being screamed at by thousands of people. I don’t know what the experience is throughout history, probably some kind of genocide. I can’t think of anything that’s equivalent,” he said.
That’s some pretty heavy sh*t, no? I mean, if you interpret Eisenberg’s words literally, then you probably think he thinks the celebrity experience at the premiere comic book and fantasy convention in the world is equatable to imprisonment and death at Auschwitz. Then again, if that’s your honest reading of it, then you probably don’t know what the word “hyperbole” means.
Eisenberg is bad at hyperbole, but right about Comic-Con. For all the hype about upcoming properties, trailer bootlegs, and talent-filled panels, spending a long July weekend in San Diego can be a crapshoot, especially if you’re a much sought after celebrity.
Yes, Eisenberg is a well known actor who has starred in popular and award-winning films like Zombieland and The Social Network. Compared to your average Joe and Judy, his life — for all we know — ain’t half bad. Yet everyday attendees must endure lines for Hall H panels on Friday that begin on Wednesday, cosplay oglers who don’t know the meaning of “cosplay is not consent,” and prices hiked up into the stratosphere. (Why else would a Tumblr called “Convention Horror Stories” exist?) So, if the mouth-breathers have it that bad, how much worse can it get for people who can’t go anywhere without being asked to pose in a selfie?
There’s no way in hell celebrities can walk around the convention floor in peace. Hence why MythBusters‘ Adam Savage and others often do so in costume, so that everyone else will leave them the f*ck alone. Even if there was every chance that one could cross the floor without incident, most publicists and hired security won’t allow it. This kind of constant attention is what Harrison Ford refers to when asked about his younger co-stars in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With intense seriousness, Han Solo himself says, “It’s too late for them.” Performers, filmmakers, writers, and artists attached to properties popularized at San Diego aren’t — and never will be — free to enjoy Comic-Con.
Even lesser known personalities attached to popular titles, like Doctor Who‘s Peter Capaldi, run into trouble. In his conversation with the Nerdist podcast, Capaldi talks about his desire to walk the floor and how he had to beg to be let out of his hotel room:
“I arrived on Monday, and really spent two days locked in a hotel room doing press. People kept saying to me, ‘Are you nervous about what’s going to happen out there?’ And the more they said that, the more nervous I would get. And I would look out the window, and I would just gradually see someone arriving, dressed as a Yoda.
“I thought, ‘I really want to go out there. I really want to go out and meet everyone and be part of all this.’ And they said, ‘You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.’ But then the night before the panel, I said to the security guys, ‘Put yourself in my shoes….Let me go out there.’
“So they let me go out, and like one little kid came and said hello, and that was it. And then I thought, ‘Oh, this is the way it’s going to go.’ And then another one came, and then some guys came, and some gals came. Gradually, there was just a whole pile of people around me.'”
Though Capaldi later emphasizes that he had a “fabulous” experience, he had to jump through hoops to have it in the first place. Otherwise, he was literally and figuratively “locked” away in his hotel room doing press, and at the Doctor Who panel in front of thousands of fans and more press. This is the very thing Eisenberg refers to when he describes “being screamed at by thousands of people.”
In his subsequent clarification, the Batman v Superman star explains he was “a normal person who has normal sensory experiences, so Comic-Con was very overwhelming.” Think about it. If you were sitting on a panel at the front of a massive conference room with a 6,000+ person capacity, every light and camera focused on your person, and and endless barrage of shouts, claps, and questions, you would probably reflect on the experience as being “overwhelming.” You might even, in a moment of candor, equate what your senses underwent to “genocide.”
It’s terrible wordplay on Eisenberg’s part, and something he’s already fessed up to. But when performers and the films they promote are so desired by attendees and offsite observers that they become commodities to be stolen, ripped and uploaded online, it actually makes a tiny bit of sense to define the experience in terms associated with the cessation of life.