In the wake of Supanova's announcement that Adam Baldwin would be attending Supanova -- and organiser Daniel Zachariou's statement explaining the decision -- a number of high-profile artists and cosplayers have officially announced they will not be attending the show in protest. The Ledger Awards, a non-profit organisation designed to reward the best work done by Australian comic book artists, has announced it is dissolving its sponsorship relationship with Supanova following the decision.
Last year Supanova was a major sponsor of The Ledger Awards. The team posted the following on their Facebook page:
The Ledger Awards Organising Committee would like to advise that last year’s Platinum Sponsor, Supanova, will not be returning for this year’s awards. We thank them for their support and participation in last year’s awards. We are seeking new sponsors at the Gold, Silver and Bronze level to financially support this event and to join several of last year’s sponsors in acknowledging excellence in Australian comics.
We confirmed with Gary Chaloner, a member of the Ledger Awards committee, that the decision was a result of Baldwin's attendance at Supanova. He confirmed the team decided to return sponsorship funds from Supanova as a result of this issue.
"Hopefully our actions speak for themselves," he told Kotaku, "but the Organising Committee have to make decisions that best reflect the aims and values of the Awards and what they represent."
Daniel Zachariou, the event director of Supanova, confirmed The Ledger Awards refused sponsorship funds.
"The same amount of not-insignificant sponsorship money was provided this year as last but then returned," he told Kotaku. "We disagree that the two are connected in any meaningful way that should undermine our relationship. That’s their call to make however."
A number of previous Supanova supporters have informed Kotaku they would no longer be attending the event, with most individuals asking not to be named because of their fear of online harassment, from either supporters of Baldwin or Gamergate. One refused to speak publicly for fear their family would be targeted.
"I am fearful for my safety," said one cosplayer, who asked to remain anonymous. "Having first-hand experiences with stalkers, and a history of assault from strangers at conventions, including at Sydney Supanova last year, the potential for just one angry "Baldwin supporter" to follow through on a threat or physical or sexual violence is tangible."
Stand-up comic and feminist activist Kirsty Mac was among the first to withdraw her support in the wake of the Adam Baldwin decision, writing an editorial piece for Daily Life. Kirsty also received a significant amount of harassment post-publication. She says many are abandoning Supanova in the wake of Supanova's decision.
"Thousands of people are boycotting," she told Kotaku. "Women, men and particularly people with children."
Eve Beauregard, a popular cosplayer, is among those boycotting the show. She says Supanova was a fundamental part of her introduction to cosplay, which makes the decision to bring Adam Baldwin to the event all the more disappointing.
"Supanova was my first pop culture event," she told Kotaku, "and it's the one that sparked so much of my love for the geeky communities I'm a part of now."
Eve has been attending Supanova since she was 13 years old.
"The reason I love these events is that they are a safe haven where people are free to express their passion for the things they love. That's what geek culture has always been about for me -- inclusion, fun and safety. By hosting a guest who actively seeks to divide our community, Supanova is sending a message I simply cannot align myself with."
Eve had previously turned down media requests to discuss her reasons for boycotting Supanova, particularly since so many of her friends had suffered harassment after speaking out.
"Countless people have been threatened, harassed and targeted in the name of the movement which Adam Baldwin is the celebrity face of, many simply for voicing an opposing view,"she said. "To ask your attendees to publicly speak out against GamerGate is to ask them to make targets of themselves. This quickly became apparent as several community members were doxxed for speaking about why they disagreed with having Baldwin as a guest."
According to Eve, safety is the real issue. Many community members simply don't feel safe attending Supanova.
"From my perspective, the moment a guest or their supporters makes a considerable portion of your attendees feel unsafe, you have a very cut-and- dried decision to make. You either remove that guest from your event or you send a very public message that you're comfortable with your attendees fearing for their personal safety and in turn not attending out of fear."
Speaking to Kotaku, Daniel Zachariou expressed disappointment at the boycotts.
"Its clear that Gamergate brings out a highly emotional response in all too many people including some that we’ve helped build up, protected, worked with and promoted extensively through the years and who are now seeing us in a very negative light," he said.
Zachariou defended his decision to allow Adam Baldwin to attend, stating that Baldwin had already previously attended a Supanova event ("Adam was previously our guest and as strident in his opinions then as he is now"). He also made mention of the fact that he had "no knowledge of Gamergate" when Baldwin was originally booked and Supanova has a contract that they're "legally beholden to".
"The argument that we're being exclusive by being inclusive is vacuous and exactly the opposite of the historical mentality of the creative communities represented at Supanova," added Zachariou.
According to Zachariou, many members of the Supanova team have also suffered harassment in the wake of the Adam Baldwin decision.
"Our core team of about twelve has itself felt bullied and harassed," he said. "To see such emotion in trying to force Gamergate politics into what has up until now been, and which we’re still fighting for, an apolitical and asexual environment based around the mutual love of created and imaginary worlds that's always been family friendly in that everyone is treated like family, is disheartening and ultimately very sad."
But Eve Beauregard maintains that Supanova's organisers handled the Adam Baldwin issue poorly and fundamentally misunderstand concerns people have with his attendance.
"When Daniel Zachariou made the first statement on the Supanova Facebook page, I was disappointed at the approach being taken to gauging the response of the community," she told Kotaku. "The statement essentially asked people to voice their opinion on the matter publicly, with the aim being that Supanova could then make an informed decision as to whether they should still be hosting Baldwin. It's possible that this was written with good intentions, however it shows a complete lack of understanding of the reasons attendees were and are concerned about Baldwin's presence."
It's been difficult for Eve to part ways with an event so central to her passion for cosplay. She maintains hope this gap could be bridged in the future.
"Supanova has always been a fun event with some excellent people working to make it a great experience for everyone," she said. "It's difficult to express how disappointing it is that this particular decision has been handled so poorly. The bottom line is that Australian pop culture events are growing in size and number now. As a community we're beginning to have a lot of choice as to which events we want to support. I hope that Daniel Zachariou realises how vital it is to show Supanova values the support this community has given the show for so many years, and can work towards earning that back."