In this article we look at the Do's and the Don't of Cosplay Culture.
Cosplay isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and if you're one of those geeks that wants to join the cosplayer herd that show up at your local comic con every year dressed to impress as anyone's favorite superhero, Jedi, Stormtrooper, or red-shirt Star Trek Enterprise officer, then the cosplay phenomenon is an obsessive matter. The costume has to be "right," and it has to be "perfect."
As a fan, you're probably already aware that the cosplay phenomenon exists at comic-cons all over the United States.You're even more aware of the Steampunk movement Like many people, you probably enjoy attending comic con each year to check out the celebrities but also to spot all the great cosplayers who make the comic con that much more fun every year with their amazing costumes. It's all very give and take. Whether you're a newbie cosplayer looking to go to comic-con dressed as Batman, Superman, Harry Potter, Captain Kirk, or Darth Vader and are wondering how to handle it all, or you're a seasoned comic-con cosplayer, here are some quick tips to make the experience much more perfect.
1. Remember, Cosplayers are NOT the actual characters that they are portraying.
We've all been to comic con and seen the cosplayer gallery; where kids walk up to cosplayers to ask them questions about the character they're portraying, how they made their costume, etc. There have also been stories and pictures/videos that have circled the internet over the last few years that have shown cosplayers being bullied, harassed and even attacked in public for dressing up as their favorite pop culture character--this is a real, bad idea. Why do these things happen? Is it because some fans have a hard time deciphering between what is reality and what is fiction? Or are some people just flat-out stalkers and crazily-obsessed with a character that it can inspire such behavior?
Why would someone think that it might be acceptable at comic-con to attack, stalk, or assault a cosplayer verbally or physically? While it makes sense that some passionate fans might want to engage a cosplayer in a healthy and lively or spirited discussion or debate about the character or their methods for assembling their cosplay outfit for comic-con, etc., let's not lose sight of the fact that the person is NOT that character in reality. So verbally berating them for a decision they made in a comic book issue or as the character in their favorite episode of a television series isn't something likely to be applauded by anyone that attends comic-con this year.
2. Remember, you're at comic-con not a all-ages Halloween party, nor are you out at a bar with your best buddies... There are kids present: Watch your language!
While it's easy for anyone to appreciate the love and attention to the tiny details that one might put into a cosplay costume for comic-con--we have to remember, this is an all-ages event! That means that showing up to comic con dressed as a sexy Lois Lane or a super hot Supergirl with barely any Superman costume covering your body parts might not be the best idea when you know that children are planning on being in attendance.
While we realize that the above request is sort of common sense, one element that we'd like to add to the discourse here that seems to, often get overlooked, is how we can tend to use offensive or abrasive language in front of younger children at comic-con because, sometimes, we forget where we are, who we are, and what's going on around us, when we're all geeked out!
We can certainly understand how some people playing their favorite characters from a comic book, television series, or movie could get carried away reciting their favorite lines of dialogue. But given the massive body of children present at any comic-con wandering around with their parents--as the torch is being passed--it can be especially upsetting to a parent or child who witnesses one of their favorite superheroes or movie characters cussing up a storm. Whether it's dialogue or just everyday, casual banter with a friend or fellow fan or comic con goer--it is something that they're bound never to forget. Who could forget Superman dropping the F-Bomb in a crowded aisle of comic book fans?!?
Lastly, treat any fan of your cosplay work with great, caring respect. If someone comes up to you while you're in character, DO take the time to let that character shine through. DO talk to them in a specific voice, tone, and DO be sure to take an interest in them, allowing some time to answer their questions about your costume or the character that you are playing. If a kid comes up to you, and you take the time to talk to them on a person-to-person basis, you'll be sure to be laying the cement that will have them forever interested in superheroes, characters, or comic con and pop culture iconography. And as a Fan: DO take the time to talk with a cosplayer.
Ask about their costume, the attention to the tiny details. Ask about how long it took to assemble the outfit; how much money it cost them to produce; did they have to create any of the pieces by hand, etc. They'll thank you!
3. Just because you're a comic-con and see someone dressed up as your favorite character doesn't mean that you have the automatic right to touch them or take a photo with them.
There's a saying in the cosplay world: Cosplay is NOT Consent. What that means is what you think it might. Regardless of whether someone is dressed as your favorite comic book, television, or movie character, it is not okay to walk up and touch them without their permission. And the same rules apply to the cosplayer: don't touch a fan just because you're dressed up as Superman or Captain Kirk from Star Trek. No excuse in our world would allow for anyone to have the immediate right to start touching them or groping them. While any comic con most likely will have some on-the-move security team or con volunteers in place wandering about through the crowd in the aisles, it is not cool, or okay, to sexually harass anyone (cosplayer or fan).
Even if you're dressed as a sexy Supergirl at comic-con--a choice of costume, arguably not appropriate for comic-con or is exactly so--it doesn't allow anyone the right walk up to you and touch you on the assumption that you're "asking for it." No means no, and DON'T allow nor tolerate this behavior to happen when you're supposed to be enjoying your character and having the time of your life at comic-con.
Fan: If you'd like to take a picture with a cosplayer that you see dressed up at comic con, the best practice is to ask: "Can I take a picture with you?," or "Can I take a picture of you?" Doing this will alert the cosplayer to your interest in them and their costume/character and will also show that you respect their character, work, craft, and the art that it took for them to create the costume in the first place to bring your favorite character to life.
A great rule to remember: Never bother a cosplayer who is away from the public aisles at comic con. If you see a cosplayer, dressed up as Chewbacca from Star Wars, or maybe, only partially dressed up as your favorite wookie while he or she is enjoying lunch with friends, it's not the best idea to walk up to them and bother them for a picture.
Granted, usually, that person in the role of your favorite character will probably, accommodate your request without thinking twice, it is a good practice to think of the cosplayer as an actor for the day that deserves their own time away from the crowds. Imagine what it must be like for someone like actor Brad Pitt, who can't go anywhere without being recognized in public? Imagine what it must be like for him if he's being bugged for an autograph or picture when he's trying to enjoy his lunch or dinner with his friends and not be bothered?
4. If you're going to be a cosplayer, why not take the time to make your cosplay accurate even if you can't afford to go all out? Fans: Don't make fun of any cosplayer's costumes.
Fans and Cosplayers: Just because a cosplayer may not accurately look the part of the character they are playing, doesn't discount their love or admiration for the role that they are trying to bring to life at comic-con. It's never a good idea to ridicule or poke fun at anyone's race, body type, or disability juxtaposed with the character that they are playing; it is never a good idea to bully or attack anyone, regardless of what they look like. Being a cosplayer takes some incredible effort and chutzpah. What's the point? Cosplayers work on their costumes for months some times. It takes a lot time and guts to put oneself out in front of the public dressed up in a unique fashion.
After all, not just anybody can spend a ton of their time, without earning money in some way. Cosplayers will have difference budget and time available to try and be as accurate as the real thing in the comics or off the screen as we have come to know it through our favorite movies or television series. So always so respect for each other. Your cosplayers, whether they're dressed up as someone from The Walking Dead, a Japan manga character or Luke Plunkett at you next con, will appreciate it.