Convention Culture, Vic Mignogna, and the #MeToo Era

Vic Mignogna
Image via WikiMedia Commons//tofuprod

A couple weeks ago, anime fandom was shaken when long time whispered accusations against voice actor Vic Mignogna were published by the Anime News Network.

The accusations against Vic Mignogna are nothing new.  The piece by ANN has pushed the conversation out in the open, but I recall chatter on forum boards and in private messages dating back to about 2010, with even more prominent accusations surfacing on Tumblr around 2015 or 2016.  Not only does the Anime News Network carry a significant amount of weight in fandom, but we’ve entered the #MeToo era where this type of behavior may actually lead to consequences.  Some are feeling confident enough to come forward in a way they never have before, but it’s still an incredibly frightening world for those that choose to speak out.

Vic Mignogna is far from the only celebrity harassing fans on the convention scene, though he is the first to be so publicly accused on the convention circuit in the #MeToo era.  For the most part the specific names remain whispered, the accusers still concerned about backlash and life destroying actions from overzealous fans.   My inboxes on various social media platforms are filled with other people – mostly women, but by no means exclusively – who have their own encounters with people at cons that are very similar to those told about Mignogna.  Many are desperate to share their stories with someone who will believe them and won’t attack them for it.  Private messages feel like the only safe place to do so when there’s a power imbalance.  You can generally trust your friends, but not the larger Internet audience.

It’s my hope that more people will bravely name names, but the first to do so is often the one faced with the most backlash. The moment fellow voice actor Monica Rial confirmed that Vic had exhibited similar behavior towards her, she began to receive hundreds of harassing and accusatory tweets almost immediately.  She wasn’t the first to say something in this instance, but she was the biggest name to say anything after the ANN story broke.  It’s clear from her latest tweets that she’s being severely affected by the onslaught despite the fact that she’s a celebrity with thousands of fans willing to have her back.

When seeing the hateful and threatening tweets she’s received, how is a fan with no fandom support supposed to feel about their odds when coming forward?  I’m not just speaking hypothetically in this scenario.  I, too, have been harassed at a convention and I, too, fear ever naming my harasser.  His name won’t appear here in this article. It won’t appear on my social media.  It remains whispered indefinitely.  The type of backlash Monica Rial is facing is exactly why.  Who would want that?

At least Rial’s courage seems to be making a difference. When ANN published the accusations against Vic Mignogna, things moved rapidly on the convention circuit.  People began contacting the conventions on his schedule and he was removed from most lineups within days (including from my local con, Kawaii Kon).  As of yesterday, Funimation has also concluded their working relationship with him.  Those in power in these specific situations have found the reports credible enough to take action, and for that I’m thankful.  Convention organizers and production companies can help balance the scales a bit. With the exception of Anime Matsuri, anime cons across the country will be Vic free and people can attend without having to deal with an unwanted encounter from him.  Future anime projects won’t have his voice as a reminder that someone in power has been getting away with this type of behavior for years.  Progress is being made.

Convention organizers and production companies helping even the scales won’t stop the harassment, of course.  I’m sure even this article will get a few accusatory comments, which honestly frightens me.  I’ve been hesitant to write about this situation for the very same reasons that targets of harassment or assault don’t come forward to begin with.  We’re tired of sharing statistics that show false reporting is low.  We try to explain why we don’t report, though that draws criticism and disbelief. We explain that “innocent until proven guilty” is for the court of law, not the court of public opinion.

We’re exhausted from these same arguments over and over and over again.  Even more daunting than that, we’re frightened of the threats and the harassment and the risks we take by saying something.  We’re also constantly triggered by having to relive the trauma over and over again as we argue with people who are coming into these debates with bad faith.  (If someone comes into these comments with the same arguments used time and time again, I’ll simply refer you to the above links.  I’m too exhausted to rephrase the same thing ad infintum.)

So where do we go from here?  Is Vic Mignogna the first of many who’ll have their whispered accusations brought out in the open, or will the backlash be enough to scare future accusers?  Will the supportive nature of the convention community and production companies hold strong as we attempt to clean up our community?  Will people start to speak out more?

I don’t have the answer to these questions, but as a frequent con attendee, I hope that the majority of the community continues to be supportive of those who bravely choose to say something.  Because one question I know the answer to for certain is that the harassment from fans towards those who accuse won’t be stopping any time soon.  They need our support right now more than ever.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.


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About the author

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She's contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She's written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.

Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this. It’s scary to even touch on the topic on a public platform but it’s important and I’m glad you’re approaching it.

  2. What’s really scary is living in an era where an SJW can play the sexual harassment card without any evidence and lose a nice guy his job. You people have the nerve to say to those who believe “Innocent until proven guilty” that it’s not up to his supporters to decide the law yet you talk like he’s already guilty, because he’s a man am I right? Funny how Monica Rial was given his jobs instantly after he was fired? But hey she’s a woman so it’s all true, special snowflakes have to stick together!

    1. “Innocent until proven guilty” is addressed in the article with a link and as I stated in the article I will not be repeating that argument ad infintum.

      1. You’re sounding like Monica Rial. Innocent until proven guilty should be public opinion. Again, if he’s guilty, he deserves whatever is coming to him. But if he’s not, not only was his career ruined, he has been branded for life. So please wait until solid evidence is revealed. Drop this mentality of labelling someone, and do your research. False accusations do exist. Don’t take everything at face value.

        1. Both “innocent until proven guilty” and “there are false reports” have been addresed within the article. 7th paragraph down (6th if you don’t include the bold intro paragraph). As stated in that paragraph, I’m exhausted from those same arguments so I’ll direct you to that paragraph with links to sources on my stance.

          1. You really don’t get the inherent flaw of the court of public opinion, do you? Once the court of public opinion makes a conclusion, it can be hard to change. And let’s not forget that it’s the one that often comes first. Take a look at Woody Allen. The man was investigated and found to have done nothing wrong, but the court of public opinion has been rather resistant to this fact.

            1. Nothing I’ve said has implied that I don’t understand the court of public opinion. I have not discussed the public opinion anywhere outside of linking to a separate article that discusses it. I was making the distinction between that and the court of law.

              If you don’t feel Woody Allen did anything wrong, I feel we have fundamentally different opinions of what “wrong” is. As far as I’m concerned, he deserves the stigma he has received. If you believe what he did wasn’t that bad, we will definitely not agree on the Vic issue either.

    2. Your argument would carry a little more weight if we hadn’t just had a dozen women accuse a man of sexual misconduct of varying types and have him confirmed to the Supreme Court without being interviewed by law enforcement, or if the President of the United States didn’t had quite so many on-camera sexual harassment incidents that people laugh off as “locker room talk” or “guys being guys” or “women like men with money, it’s natural for him to do that”.

      I mean…. I can right now name ten women who have had their reputations dragged through the mud for prosecuting a man who was convicted of sexual assault. I can name four men who were given no or very light sentences for sexual assault after being convicted with no reasoning other than “but this could ruin his life”.

      I can name one man who was falsely accused of sexual assault, and it did not ruin his life. In fact, it boosted his popularity because he handled himself like a gentleman and didn’t immediately slander the accuser.

      So honestly, you’re saying you’re scared of something that doesn’t often happen. I’m saying, women are scared of something that happens all the time at various levels of society.

      I empathize with your fear, but logically it’s not as well-founded as the fear of not being believed.

      1. That Kavanaugh guy? That case is rather murky, to say the least, and it’s not even because of the accusations. The Hollywood access tapes? He may have been lying there you know.

    3. When Monica voices Broly or Ed or Qrow you can say she stole his roles. Until then that argument is patently false.

  3. As a human with a halfway decent moral compass, I have to agree. Sexual assault is a serious thing, and ALL allegations of such should be taken very seriously. But as a man, I have to fear what a woman will BELIEVE is sexual assault. While some of the allegations against Vic are indeed of an illegal nature, a great deal are women complaining about hugs and kisses on the cheek. At what stage am I to assume my type of affection is harassment to a woman? Is it going to be when she ruins my job with accusations of harassment? But once again, as a morally obligated duty, one must always take every situation seriously. In the way that women wish us men can understand their difficulties in these matters, they, I believe, should take a look at ours. No common ground will ever be met when it’s words against words. It’s only when the same words are spoken by each side that we can call it an “agreement”. And no two parties agree on the #metoo movement. As a human, I hope that Vic is given his dues and that he stays away from other girls. As a man, I sure as hell hope he’s actually guilty.

    After all, before ruining a man’s life, we should at least agree on that, right?

    1. Respectfully, I think you’re overthinking it. Let me suggest this: no positive invitation means no hugs or kisses. If someone hasn’t invited you to hug or kiss them, assume it’s not okay. If you want to hug someone, ask if they want a hug and watch for uncomfortable body language. Use language that gives them an out. Like, “Are you a hugger, or could I maybe have a crisp high five?”

      Every photo op I’ve been to, the celeb asks me if I want a hug or what kind of pose I’m after. Usually, fans are way more grabby with them (which is another issue in my mind). Pretty simple.

      When it comes to friends, just be sensitive to body language and tone. Don’t assume someone is mad at you if they don’t want a hug, and don’t take offense if they’re not in the mood.

      Simple. Yes means yes. Anything else is no.

        1. I guess everybody’s definition of things is changing these days. If I meet somebody, I should not be happy, I should not be excited, I should not be affectionate. I should be concerned that if I hug them I could lose my job. If my two second “nice to meet you” hug is sexual assault, I don’t know what world I’m in. If you are touched inappropriately, if a hug gets awkwardly long, or if unwanted solicitations are said, sure, you’ve got a creep, but to think that there are women who think that a man can’t touch them without having sexual intentions is crazy.

          Also, on the account of the “innocent until proven guilty is only for a court of law”? You should be ashamed that you think it’s okay to throw out that premise just because you technically don’t have to follow it. I said earlier: If something bad has happened, it needs to be addressed. But if you can’t make me believe said bad thing happened, I can’t be held responsible for now believing you. Serious stuff is serious stuff, and to think that there even is an argument to be held in regards to whether or not you should be certain before tearing a livelihood to pieces is disgusting.

          For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure Vic Mignogna isn’t that great of a person, and the sheer number of allegations are somewhat indicative of evidence in itself. But as an overarching issue, I just can’t appreciate or condone how this was handled.

    2. Here’s a thought. Don’t touch people without asking if you can. Its not that complicated or even hard.

  4. Being in radio for 35 years, I have gone by the credo that when I speak on the air, I should do it as if I’m talking to my mom. I also adopt the same attitude when at conventions. It’s a damn shame that some who is popular in entertainment thinks that he can have any one that he wants. Thank you for your courage in explaining your thoughts on this. Please know that you are not alone.

  5. Whatever the hell happened to innocent until proven guilty? You mean to tell me that a hug and a kiss is supposed to make you a survivor?Many of the allegations against him were proven to be false. Many of the hugs and kisses were with the consent of fans. You people literally have him apologizing, for the oh so grievous crime of being friendly. The culture he hails from is like that. But all these SJWs and NPCs have already destroyed his life without any solid proof. And then I find this article, that pisses me off even more. If he’s proven guilty, he deserves everything thrown his way, but so far that hasn’t been proven. What I see, is an innocent man being slandered.

      1. He has been giving hugs and kisses for years and most of his fans enjoy that affection. Hugh Jackman, for example, sjows the same affection to his fans. If you don’t want hugs or kisses then speak out. From everything I ve read Vic has never forced it upon anyone. Rather those fans that didn’t like it chose to not say anything and speak out later. That is ridiculous. And it happens quite a lot in our world. Lack of communication. Its totally understandable to feel uncomfortable. But why go along with it, speak out right away and not later. What happens when someone gives you consent to kiss them but later they say that they never wanted it and start blaming you? Thats what i got to say about hugs and kisses. What happened between Vic and Monica, I ve got no idea and can’t make any statement. Maybe he is guilty. Maybe he isn’t. Regardless his career is already ruined.

        1. It’s not that simple. And I’m being forced to relive my own situation just like I predicted in my article, so thanks for being exactly what I was expecting. I knew I’d have to go through this to explain it to people so let’s do this.

          I was the recipient of unwanted hugs and kisses from someone in power over me. When someone is in power over you, it’s difficult to speak out. There’s an imbalance. For my own situation, it was fear of my career and project being damaged if I said no. I tried to skirt around it as politely as possible, but he kept insisting. I didn’t consent to the hugs or kisses or hands on my back and waist. I did not say yes to this. There was no enthusiastic consent. It’s similar with the stories coming out about Vic. He did this to fans, whom he was in a position of power over, and who were shocked and surprised at the lines being crossed by someone they idolized. The lack of a firm “no” is not enthusiastic consent.

          1. Once you get used to hugging a 100 people who wanna be hugged, it basically becomes an instinct to hug the 101st person . Should he have asked for consent? Absolutely. But to drag his name through the mud like this, without proof, is horrible. Don’t label him until he’s proven guilty. Stay neutral, or push for a proper investigation. This isn’t the way. And again, look up this Italian form of greeting. Get this SJW stick outta your butt and think like logival human beings.

            1. First, please refrain from personal attacks like the last line of your comment. Implying I’m not thinking logically or saying to take the “SJW stick out of your butt” lowers the level of discourse and is prohibited here. We can continue to have this conversation, but read these rules: https://thegeekiary.com/policies Particularly the first and third bullet point.

              I don’t agree with the premise that just because this is a habit for him, we shouldn’t call out the behavior. It’s a behavior that needs to change. And any other celebrities out there who exhibit this behavior should realize it’s not going to be tolerated going forward. I have had MANY consensual hugs with celebrities. I have lots of photos and they happened by me walking up, asking if I can have a picture and a hug, and them agreeing. Mark Shepard wasn’t good with hugs, so we settled on an arm around the shoulder. We both left that situation happy.

              However, another person in a position of power at a convention did similar things that Vic did. He hugged me, kissed my cheek, put his arms on my back and waist, etc. I did not consent to this. I did not ask for this. My body language was loudly saying no and I was politely trying to stop him. Like Vic, this man should not have assumed that because other people are okay with this contact, that I was as well. There was no enthusiastic consent on my behalf.

              Most people understand this. And those that don’t should learn.

              1. Well, sorry for offending you. Wasn’t my intention. All I’m asking is not to take everything at face value. Did he make some people uncomfortable, absolutely. But does je deserve whatever is being done to him, without a proper trial? No. And look at some of those images, he has both his hands visible. He’s following that rule. As for kissing, many of his fans did say he did that with consent. Anime news network was called out by a fan of his, since they were using a pic she took of hugging and being kissed by him with her consent, without her permission, for their own personal agenda. Until I see some solid proof, he’s innocent in my eyes.

                1. We will have to disagree. The stories resemble my own experiences and are believable to me as I lived this exact thing. As someone who lived it, I’d want people to believe me if I ever come forward with a name. This kind of doubting is why I won’t name him. And I will continue to keep the name off public social media and this website from the fear of people doing this exact thing with me. I stand by those who are telling their stories (even beyond the ANN article, as I discussed in this article).

                  1. I disagree, and I’ll support him unless he’s proven guilty. For me, he did nothing wrong, he just should have been more careful. And I don’t believe the allegations, since there’s little to no evidence to back it up, and it also seems to be fueled by certain agendas and malicious intentions. Offenders should be punished absolutely, but never without first proving their guilt. And side note: Once this is all settled, you should speak out. If you’re being truthful, justice will prevail.

                    1. I don’t have faith that justice will prevail. I am horrified of the backlash. Seeing what people keep getting in response to coming out is what keeps me quiet.

          2. Sorry I wasnt trying to have you relive the situation. And no im not the person you might ve been expecting. Please don’t assume that I think that it is always simple. Not its not. And im sorry you had to go through that at work, what you had to deal with is terrible. Im just trying to be a devil s advocate. Where in your situation the unwanted affection was happening on a daily basis. Vic had interaction with many fans but at most only once or twice. Again, lack of no, doesnt make it okay. But what are his intentions? Does he mean bad? Or perhaps he is just being nice because he is used to being this way to his fans. No doubt he made some fans uncomfortable. No doubt he shohld ve asked. And maybe he asked some, maybe he didn’t. We werent there. People make mistakes. I can see that he never meant any harm and is used to being this way. Since a lot of fans are fine with it. But yes he made a mistake. Should ve been more accurate and asking every fan what kind of picture they want. But dont you think its harsh that he is losing everything right now because of this? It is one thing harassing a same person over and over. A different thing where he was hugging over 100 fans and some of them didnt want to be hugged but were scared to speak out. What i am saying is i dont think he had bad intentions. Of course I could be wrong. I d like to think if he knew those fans better he wouldnt want to make them unconfortable. Where the person who was harassing unfortunately didnt care to notice or change. Its a tough topic. People make mistakes. Everyone does. Men, women. Happened to me too. One girl keeps touching me at work, i told her to stop but she does it in a joking matter. I could report her if i wanted. But i dont want. Its not that big of a deal. I dont know what else Vic did. But getting fired from every job and publically shamed for hugging people who were scared to speak out is a bit unjustified. Yes he is wrong. But he did apologize and said he will stop from now on. Doesnt matter though he lodt everything. Thank you fot reading. I dont think i have anything else to say.

            1. No my situation happened at a convention. It wasn’t a daily basis, it was a one time encounter with a person in power at a con. So my situation directly parallel to what these people experienced. This wasn’t office harassment. It was an interaction at a convention that would jeopardize my career and projects. So since it does parallel what these people went through, I thoroughly disagree with your assessment regarding how his interactions are a different context than mine.

              1. When you said your career was at risk, you made it sound like it was work related, daily basis. Sorry for misunderstanding. But I also do believe those fans weren’t risking their career if they would simply say, hey I am not comfortable with hugs or kisses, if they see that he is doing it to everyone, and they clearly see, because they are standing in the line to take a picture, why not say something, nothing foul in that. Why put yourself in a situation like this.Sure, maybe they haven’t seen him before, never seen how he is with fans, and it came out as a total shock to them, I understand that. I am just upset because he is being treated as if he abused people and did horrible things. He doesn’t deserve the hatred that is flowing to him. Could be wrong, maybe he is a perverted jerk. But for now I am just judging from what I see.

                1. We will have to disagree. There’s a power difference between him and fans. It’s hard for fans to say no in those situations. They happen fast and if you’re starstruck you might hesitate before saying no. And besides, a lack of no is NOT an automatic yes. Only a “yes” is a yes. This is referred to as “enthusiastic consent.”

                  Edit: Enthusiastic Consent: https://www.yesmeansyes.com/consent

  6. I understand that one must have boundaries with things like hugs and kisses. And speaking up for unwanted touching is tough, out of fear of consequences. The #MeToo movement I support fully, as it helps shed light on these kinds of things.

    However, I am SCARED of this as well as a guy. One could falsely accuse me just because they dislike me and I’d have little to no chance to explain and my lifeis ruined.While these aren’t common occurrences, I’m afraid this is a possible risk.

    I agree that accusations need to be taken seriously, but in that slim chance they’re false, I feel we can’t just go off of just one person’s word alone without assuming the accused guilty immediately. (Apologies if that feels insulting.) Like with Mignogna, many spoke up about his reported harrassment,so there’s little room for doubt.

    Basically, I just want to say, if only one person is claiming to be harrassed or many, believe them, but hear both sides before you cast judgement yourself. I feel a lot of people are forgetting that…

    1. I get where you are coming from. If Beale Street Could Talk is a film all about that. And as you said yourself, the Vic situation is different, it just wasn’t one incident. And people who have worked with him for years/decades also came out against him. And I do think they know Vic better than certain fans of Vic that are defending him and have likely also never met him in person. Also, internal investigations have been conducted. Companies don’t just decide to fire people and end contracts with them just like that (due to potential lawsuits, especially cos Vic is a big name). Their investigative team likely found evidence and gave this case its due process.

      Again, coming back to what you said, I hope other people, who are defending Vic and (some of them) being hateful against the people who have come forward to talk about what Vic has done to them, do realize that there is a high chance of these allegations being true and thus many (even people who have known Vic for years) have decided not to work with him.

    2. I get you. It is a risk. False accusations are not common, but can happen (link in article). Hopefully people being upfront about the fact that these types of encounters are not welcomed by all and that enthusiastic consent should be granted will help shift things.

  7. Men: I can’t force my affections on women because they’re done putting up with harassment

  8. This “article” reeks of personal bias and is more of a glorified blog then a real news article.

  9. I saw your local con is Kawaii-kon (chee-hoo), and I have to say, even in Hawaii I heard stories in person about how terrible Vic is with Con staff, and even whispers of inappropriate advances for years. Finally something’s been done.

    1. Yes I saw someone tweeting about some incidents at Kawaii Kon. I believe they were the one that ended up emailing them and bringing attention to it. I’m super proud of my local con.

  10. The amount of people with firsthand PERSONAL knowledge of Vic’s terrible behavior could fill the Grand Canton. Myself included. Open your damn eyes for once.

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