This post on 20 things I learned at Dragon*Con reminded me of something Katie and I noticed at Comic-Con. During the screening of the musical Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, “Once More With Feeling,” it seemed like half the audience would boo Dawn, and would shout out things like, “Shut up, Dawn” when she spoke, or “No!” when she sings, “Does anybody even care?”

Okay, I get that you don’t like the Scrappy… but shouting “Shut up!” when she’s spilling the beans about Willow & Tara’s fight? That sorta implies that you don’t want Tara to find out that Willow has been altering her memories. That’s psychological abuse by any standard. Is it better for Tara to stay in an abusive relationship than for Dawn to be the one to open her eyes?

Or how about when she mentions to Sweet that her sister is the Slayer? That sets the rest of the story in motion — in fact, it sets the rest of the season in motion. Not only does it make it possible for them to “beat the bad guy,” but it sets up that Buffy/Spike relationship, and I’d bet 90% of the people booing Dawn just lurve “Spuffy” to death. (Excuse me while I gag.)

It’s hate for the sake of hating the character, even when she does things you like — or things that are necessary.

Personally? I couldn’t stand her through most of 5th season. I’m not sure what turned me around, but it was during the last episode, “The Gift,” that I decided, y’know, she’s okay. Katie, who has a younger sister, found Dawn to be the best characterization of a younger sister on television…and couldn’t hate her for that reason.

Perhaps it was the realism of that sister relationship, seen through Buffy’s eyes, that made so many viewers dislike her. Well, that and the Scrappy effect.

(20-Things post found via Blog@Newsarama)

A couple of things I’d like to do for next year’s Comic-Con International, assuming vacation time and financial situation are compatible:

1. Take the following Monday off. Comic-Con is not relaxing. Even if you don’t go out to parties every night, it’s still exhausting. It wasn’t so bad when we left early on Sunday, but the last two years we’ve stayed all the way to the end of the show. Two-plus hours of driving, plus a stop for dinner, meant we weren’t home until Sunday evening. You’re supposed to be a zombie at the con, not after you get home. It would be much better to take a day to sleep in and recover a bit. (Plus it would allow extra time to do things like sort through photos and post them quickly.)

2. Take the whole week off and make it a vacation. We missed maybe a grand total of 4 hours of daytime programming this year, and still didn’t catch everything we wanted to. (Admittedly, a lot of that involved choosing between simultaneous events.) That doesn’t leave much time to just be in San Diego, except for nighttime. It would be nice to head down the previous weekend and spend a few days as tourists. Maybe hit the Wild Animal Park or something. Then switch hotels on Wednesday and do the con. Certainly our trip to WonderCon earlier this year benefited from taking extra time to do other things.

As Comic-Con International strains at the boundaries of the San Diego Convention Center, it’s begun spilling over into the city. Go back 4-5 years, and the most you would see would be the occasional street light banner or bus stop advertisement. Now, there are people handing out flyers as far out as the trolley stops, and walking around the Gaslamp in ridiculous mascot costumes (the sandwiches a few years ago, the donuts this year). There are displays near the trolley stops. There are buses wrapped with full advertisements for movies and TV shows, shuttle vans labeled U.S.S. Enterprise — there was even an ice cream truck parked for several days on 5th street with a Eureka ad on the side (and probably something inside it, but I was always on the other side of the street when I saw it).

It’s mainly the TV and film studios (except for the flyers), and it ties into something that author Robert J. Sawyer mentioned at his spotlight panel: Convention-goers are nexuses (well, nexi). We’re the people who are so into movies, TV, games, comics, etc. that we’ll put in the effort, time and expense to go to this kind of event, and we’re likely to talk about it. They’re counting on us going back to our offices or dorm rooms, hanging out with friends, blogging, posting on Twitter, or otherwise telling everyone we know about how cool this and that new movie is going to be.

In short: It’s an advertising blitz designed to kick off word-of-mouth hype, aimed at the crowd that’s both most primed to receive it and most likely to spread it.

With the massive convention floor and unbelievable crowds, they’re doing everything they can to stand out. So we get the viral marketing, like the ads for TruBlood, the Humans-Only Restrooms signs, the army of people in Quarantine outfits, the Neighborhood Watch–style sign for The Spirit. We get the swag. We get the celebrity appearances. We get displays of terra-cotta warriors to advertise The Mummy and replicas of the Owlship from Watchmen.

All that brings in more people, which of course makes the event more attractive to the studios, so they put in more effort, which brings in more people, and they start promoting movies that have nothing to do with comics, sci-fi, fantasy or horror, the genres that used to be the main focus for the con. (I remember thinking that Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was an odd choice to promote at Comic-Con. This year, the sequel blended right in.)

The con seems to have reached an upper limit in terms of the number of people it can handle at the current venue, which is contracted through 2012. I wonder whether Hollywood will demand bigger crowds — which would probably be best handled by spilling into neighboring hotels — or be satisfied with the numbers it’s got.

We had an earthquake about an hour ago — 5.4 in Chino Hills, a bit east of Los Angeles. We’re all long-term Californians at work, and there wasn’t any obvious damage (a couple of precariously-balanced objects fell over, but that was it) so discussion was mainly curiosity. Where was it, how big, what type of quake, etc.

But it got me thinking: What if it had happened during Comic-Con?

The quake was felt in San Diego, though there haven’t been any reports of injuries or damage, well, anywhere. Now consider 120,000+ people crammed into an already overcrowded building, many from other parts of the country who have never experienced an earthquake before and aren’t accustomed to them. Some of them would undoubtedly freak out.

Now imagine a hundred or so people in the middle of that Comic-Con crowd panicking and deciding they need to get out, now.

Yeah. I’m thinking stampede. Not a pretty thought.