Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Conventional Behavior: Doing Cons Right

By Tali’Belle Cosplay

So I've gone over a few things in the con/cosplay community which are awful, absolutely inappropriate, and just not right. "But Tali’Belle, hang on there!" you say, "How can we have fun at cons if there are so many rules and so many things we can’t do?" Well, citizen, first of all, it’s all about using your head, common sense and all that. If it’s inappropriate and rude in everyday life, it’s probably inappropriate and rude at a con too. But then things can get blurry when we take into account that at a con, you know you are surrounded by your fellow nerds and people who enjoy what you do. Is it appropriate to ask the cute couple cosplaying as Tali and Garrus if they plan to do some ‘Talibrations’ later? After all, you aren't insulting them or touching them, you’re joking. Can you yell ‘PASTAAAA’ if you’re cosplaying as Italy from Hetalia? After all, it IS in character. Is it permissible to ‘ship’ other cosplayers when dressed as Nepeta Leijon or another shipper/matchmaker character?

Copyright flickr.com/siredgar Used under Creative Commons License

Well, here’s the thing: conventions are fun, exciting, and a place where a nerd can feel at home, so by all means, if people aren't bothered by your behavior and it isn't hurting/endangering anyone (including yourself, it’s probably ill-advised for a Batman cosplayer to think they can actually glide off a third floor railing in the Marriott Marquis, all told. Even if he won’t land on anyone.) have a good time. But here are some things to consider:

The first thing is asking for a photograph/hug/handshake/etc. Be mindful of the person you are requesting it from as well as your location. Is the person upset, preoccupied, or rushing somewhere? If so, wait. You’ll probably see them again. Also, are you asking in the dealer’s hall or another crowded area? If so, take it outside, step out for a moment to a place that’s more relaxed where you won’t be in the way.

Now, permission is also important.
Some cosplayers are shy, or self-conscious, or a host of other reasons they don’t wish to be photographed. Unless they have entered a contest on stage where photography is part of the package, you have to ask. Not only for their sake, but also for the sake of those around you. Younger con goers or parents who brought young children are there and what could be creepier than, say, a grown man with a camera aimed at a particularly attractive Sailor Scout without the cosplayer’s knowledge?

Robert Downey Jr. Invades Tom Hiddleston's Space. Don't be like RDJ!
As for the touching thing, from personal experience, let me explain to you: cosplayers of all ages, genders, and sizes have likely been perved on or groped before. They have no way of knowing you aren’t reaching for their crotch, ass, or breasts when going in for a hug, so please, ask before you do (and once given permission, keep in mind that isn't an invitation to go for those places, remember the picture of Tom Hiddleston with his arm around Emma Watson for a picture? Be like Tom Hiddleston, hug respectfully.)

Another thing to be aware of is your costume/prop. Cosplaying as Songbird or a Big Daddy from the Bioshock games? Awesome! Amazing costume, big ticket price or lots of hard work, I’m sure you’re very proud of it. But watch large parts or props like a wingspan or a weapon. I know from experience it is uncomfortable trying to sit with or carry one of these, but a staff should be carried upright and at your side or just ever so slightly in front of you unless you are posing. A sword should be sheathed or carried by your side; a gun must be holstered or, in the case of large ones like Seras Victoria of Hellsing’s Harkonnen Canon, carried like a staff. This is not just to avoid hurting other con goers but also to keep your prop from getting broken. Props are expensive and take a lot of skill and effort to craft; it is devastating for one to be destroyed.

On that note, same principal as touching a cosplayer applies to touching their props: Ask permission. You don’t know what it’s made of, how much it cost, how much work was put in, how delicate it is. Its owner does, so listen to them when they say whether or not you can hold/touch their prop and when they tell you how.

Copyright Doug Kline. Used Under a Creative Commons License
Remember the last article I wrote where our male model cosplayer Mark had a pregnant girlfriend who stayed home from the con? Consider your health. Not everyone follows con etiquette and accidents do happen. If you have a medical condition or are ill, it may be best to stay home. If not, most people do understand. Tickets are expensive and non-refundable and con plague IS a fact of life, as long as it isn't potentially life threatening, no one will hate you for showing up with a cold. As to being pregnant? If you still decide to show up, there is no shame or stigma. Maternity cosplays can be adorable (and who wouldn't think it was cute if our Drogo had had a lovely Daenerys carrying Rhaego inside of her cosplaying with him?) but please, be careful. Be alert for unruly congoers and dangerous situations because frankly some people are just plain stupid and think nothing of endangering fellow congoers. To those of you who are those people: stop it. There is NOTHING cute about someone getting hurt or worse because of your antics. Pouncing, glomping, etc. are NEVER appropriate unless it’s a previously agreed upon skit or photoshoot with a friend.

Thrall and Aggra from WoW
Both sides of the coin for harassment: For those of you who harass a fellow cosplayer; stop and think. This is a fellow human being with hobbies and interests in common with you. They are here to have a good time. Put your character hate aside. Appreciate the beauty of their cosplay. Are you cosplaying as Jaina Proudmoore and angry that Thrall was paired with Aggra instead? If you meet an Aggra cosplayer, here are some alternatives: Ignore her or else make friends, who knows what fun photos you two could have parodying that rivalry? As another example, say you ship Karkat/Terezi from Homestuck but a couple is cosplaying Dave/Terezi: again, that’s an opportunity to make a friend who just has a different opinion and get a funny photoshoot. I personally dream of the day I can do a Miranda Lawson vs. Tali photoshoot or aforementioned Aggra vs. Jaina. Even if you don’t like a character or a pairing, you still have something in common with this fellow human being who has the same enthusiasm you do for a fandom and you should embrace it.

Now, if you’re the one being harassed and the harasser isn’t rational enough to ignore you or simply be polite, go get con security.
If you fight back, you will get kicked out as well; your ticket is non-refundable. Con security is supposed to deal with this sort of thing and 9.9 times out of ten, they will.

Twin Lara Crofts with Squall Leonhart in the middle. Copyright Bruce Moyle, Used Under a Creative Commons License
DON’T INSULT OTHER COSPLAYERS. So you worked hard on your cosplay, think you’re amazing and all, and then you see another person cosplaying the same character (I am guilty of this, but I’ve moved past it, thankfully). Everyone has the right to cosplay as the character they want. You are cosplaying a fictional entity. Rose Tyler isn’t real. Vriska Serket isn’t real. Commander Shepard isn’t real. Luna Lovegood isn’t real. Yuna isn’t real. Katniss Everdeen isn’t real and so on and so forth. You are [insert your legal name here], a human living in [insert country here] in the year 2013 (or maybe you’re reading this a few years from now, if so: Good news, everyone! You’re in the future!), and that other person is [their name here], not the character. Besides, if you act petty like that, you’re missing out on a wonderfully fun pastime called twinning. Common in J-Fashion communities, twinning is when you are wearing the same outfit (or a similar, complimenting outfit). Most rational, friendly cosplayers enjoy twinning and since I calmed my tits about others cosplaying the same character as me, I’ve had offer after offer for twinning photos and they are so much fun! Even if you don’t want to twin, keep in mind as above, this is a fellow human being who worked hard or paid a lot of money to make this costume a reality and they have just as much right to enjoy it as you do. If they did better in some way, you could even ask for tips. If you did better in some way and they ask, then you can give them tips.

Overall, cosplay and the convention scene is a community, it is for fun and meant to bring people together, to tell geeks and nerds everywhere: You are not alone. You have a family that is millions strong, let your flag fly, we welcome you. Divisive, cruel behavior should have no place in that sort of setting.

 Tali'Belle is a fashion and costume design student with twelve years of cosplay experience. She operates Fleet and Flotilla: Dextro Couture and Salvage on Etsy. Her main cosplay is Tali'Zorah Vas Normandy and her current preferred convention is Dragon Con. You can keep up with her on DeviantArt  or Twitter. And of course, you can find her posts here on I Feel Delicious!

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