Sometimes, it can feel as though the entertainment industry exists in a bubble. Theirs is a world of superheroes and spandex, of exploding planets and time-traveling spaceships. But every now and again, you get a reminder that entertainment truly matters.
For fans of The CW’s impressive superhero slate, one such reminder rang out loud and clear over the weekend. Fans of DCTV gathered in London for the city’s first Heroes & Villains Fan Fest. What’s more, we did so even in the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Manchester last week, and even with the United Kingdom’s threat level still at critical.
For both Stephen Amell and John Barrowman (who play Oliver Queen and Malcolm Merlyn on Arrow, respectively), the fans’ commitment was truly inspiring. Both took the time in their panels to refer to the attacks, thanking fans for attending in spite of fears over security. Both noted that the terrorist who so callously attacked Ariana Grande’s concert was fueled by a hatred of the western world, and that he sought to make us live in fear. By attending, rejecting fear, and getting on with their lives, the fans proved that the terrorist had failed. Both John Barrowman and Stephen Amell described every fan as having made a simple declaration: we will not live in fear.
And yet, Fan Fest wasn’t just a note of defiance; it was also one of comfort. No-one better exemplified that than Mehcad Brooks — best known to superhero fans as Jimmy Olsen of #Supergirl fame. Proving himself to truly be a hero, Brooks spoke movingly about how Britain’s reaction to the terror attack inspired him. He offered free photos to anyone from Manchester over on Twitter.
When one fan stood up in his panel to thank Mehcad, he asked the obvious question: did she come from Manchester?
What followed was a moment I doubt any fan there will ever forget. As Mehcad Brooks suspected, the fan confirmed that she had traveled down from Manchester. Mehcad abandoned the podium, stepped down, and gave her a massive, heartfelt hug. The moment was filled with such raw emotion that everyone there was moved. Mehcad’s hug was a powerful symbol; of a man who plays an inspiring, socially aware character stepping down and embracing the hurt of Manchester.
Heroes and Villains Fan Fest was a unique experience, not least because London’s first Fan Fest took place so soon after tragedy struck my country. And yet, incredibly, that just added more depth to the event. The world of superheroes and spandex saw the pain of the United Kingdom, and responded by giving us both comfort and a chance to stand in defiance. In this time of suffering, we couldn't ask for anything more.