Saudi Arabia is often considered one of the world’s most conservative places. It is a theocratic monarchy in which a highly conservative form of Islam provides a foundation for the rule of an absolute ruler. We often hear about how Saudi Arabia works to limit individual freedom as defined in Western states, with the ban on women driving often held out as a central piece of evidence.
So it is an interesting moment in globalization when this highly conservative country hosts its first Comic Con. Comic Conventions take place around the world. They are often associated with a free-wheeling individualism as people dress to fit their favorite fantasy universes. They are an example of globalization at the cultural and individual level that we often have trouble seeing directly.
At a Comic Con, you have a wide range of characters and genres represented. You have comic books, but also movies related to them. You also have anime, movies based in Japanese graphic novels, represented strongly. The characters and worlds in these fictional universes have a following around the world, even in an otherwise highly conservative country like Saudi Arabia.
Technology has spread these cultural artworks around the world and attracted a global following. Anyone with an internet connection can access a vast range of content, and then engage in a vast online world that discusses it. At Comic Cons, you can meet, in person, many other people with shared ideas and shared cultural symbols. This is globalization at work.
Comic Cons lack the shock value of wars or of humanitarian crises, but they show how a global cultural iconography can come to be shared by people in vastly dispersed areas. Unified by a shared cultural space, but separated by geography, people who attend these events represent a type of global community. So, the next time you see a movie that is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, remember that you are sharing a moment with hundreds of millions of your fellow global citizens.