Wizard World continues to provide fans with ongoing virtual panels featuring celebrity guests from TV shows and movies. On November 30, 2020, wizard world welcomed Moderator Dr.Travis Langley along with Dr. Billy San Juan, Dan Dayo, Shawn Coss, and Justine Mastin. In this panel, the guest discussed how pop culture helps people cope with mental health illnesses. Since we’re isolated from conventions and other gatherings, I found this panel helpful.

Dr. Travis Langley is a psychologist and author of “Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight”. His writing analyzes the psychology of heroes, which has helped others develop a broader understanding of mental illnesses. I liked that Dr.Travis Langley discussed the hardships of facing the reality of mental illness. Although he gets criticized for writing about fictional characters, he learned that the filter of fiction helps people understand more. He then added that people who read a lot of fiction can empathize more.

Before this panel, I never thought about how many fictional characters experienced mental health illnesses. Dr.Travis Langley’s discussion about fictional character depiction leads to other guests’ comments about their feelings towards fictional characters with mental illnesses. One fictional character, in particular, is the Joker. When the “Joker” movie was released in 2019, it received mixed reviews because of its graphic content and depiction of mental illness. Daniel Dayo liked the Joker movie but didn’t agree with how his mental illness was depicted. In his opinion, this meant that mental illness leads to murder and treating the illness like it’s a monster.

Shawn Coss defended the negative depiction of the Joker by relating his artwork to the movie. Shawn is often criticized for his dark artwork which highlights the dark perspective of mental health. He could relate to the Joker because he believes that the reality of mental health illness shouldn’t be portrayed as sunshine and rainbows. The Joker is also a representation of people who seek help but is overlooked because of society. I agreed with Shawn’s opinion because the movie wasn’t created to make people feel good, it was to show how ugly mental illness gets without support and resources.

A follow-up question in this discussion was “Do you consider the accuracy of the depiction of characters with mental health issues, such as “As Good As It Gets” or films about murders and their causation? Justine Mastin agreed that some of the depictions are accurate. She mentioned that Klaus from “The Umbrella Academy” was a great example of what addiction looks like. Shawn Coss added that all of the members of “The Umbrella Academy” have some sort of mental health illnesses. Dr.Billy San Juan who is a clinical social worker didn’t degree with the depiction of Dissociative Identity Disorder in “Avatar: The Last Airbender”.

A question that I had for the panelist is “What are some activities that you do that involve nerd culture and pop culture to help cope with a mental illness other than binge-watching TV series and movies?” I asked this question because I was curious about what other nerds are doing to keep themselves mentally occupied indoors, we can only sit on the couch for so long. Justine Mastin’s go-to activity is yoga. She teaches yoga classes and explained that yoga can be incorporated with any fandoms. Here at The Game Of Nerds we also offer nerdy workouts that involve pop culture check it out here Nerdy Workout Review – Batgirl

I was mostly drawn to what Shawn Coss had to say throughout this panel because of his honest answers. He was unapologetically him as the rest of them are and talked more in-depth about the problems people face because of their mental illness. He also mentioned his own experience during convention season. Many of us are feeling this depression because con season is the time of the year where some of us gather and force ourselves to socialize. Shawn also discussed how the conventions bring all of the outcasts together. Some of the people who made fun of others for liking a certain fandom now wants to join the social group. This brings hope for nerds who battle mental health illnesses. Let’s keep supporting each other and choosing kindness every day, you never know who needs it.


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