Thursday, January 23, 2014

What Cosplayers Want You To Know

By Tali’Belle

We dress up as your favorite characters, brightly color and bring life to your conventions, show you that odango are legitimately possible hairstyles to do in real life, and defy reality, blurring its line with fantasy. You see us online, at cons, on the street, and even on TV nowadays, but did you ever wonder any more deeply about us? Our craft, our community, our hobby? Well here are a few things we, as cosplayers, would like you to know. First, some general things in the community, then specifics from some readers and friends.


Forrest Fairy Cosplay by Nina Yasmine. Used under CC License 
1. We are NOT there for your personal amusement.
Now to an extent many of us do dress up for others’ enjoyment. It’s a thrill to have a child come up to you and ask if you’re a princess or prince, to have a grown up tell you how much they loved that character growing up, to have a gamer who is new to fandom stuff gush how amazingly like the character you managed to look, but here’s the thing: those are all pleasant, kind, nice things. Street harassment and treating us as your comedy show for the day are not. We did not work hundreds of hours or spend thousands of dollars to be sexually harassed or mocked by a bunch of drunken dudebros during a weekend we spent another thousand plus dollars to go to and enjoy. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you know you shouldn’t say it to a regularly dressed person on the street, you probably shouldn’t say it to a cosplayer either. The girl dressed as Alexstrasza knows her cleavage is showing, it’s how her cosplay is designed, you look like an idiot when you sit there and point it out.

2. We come from all walks of life.
It’s true! Parents, teachers, engineers, actors and actresses, students, delivery workers, every walk of life can be home to cosplayers. Mark Meer, voice actor for Commander Shepard and many other Bioware games attends Dragon Con for fun as well as to host N7 events AND he cosplays as Commander Shepard. I myself build and repair computers as well as spearheading marketing campaigns for a fine art gallery (as well as offering small prop and costume piece commissions and working in package handling (ha ha, laugh it up, you know what I mean). I’ve met people through N7 and other cosplay groups I’ve joined who are doctors, nurses, models, retail employees. Hell, my own mother cosplays. So no, we’re not all just kids, immature adults, or basement dwelling weirdos. Come talk to us, you might enjoy it!



Dante from Devil May Cry - by Michael Mol. Used under CC License.
3. Our costumes and props are very time consuming and expensive!
So please don’t touch them without permission. The average prop costs between one and five hundred dollars to commission and usually a minimum of ten hours to create (again, depending what it is, but factoring in paint and sealant drying, even a small one can take that time). We work very hard and/or spend a whole lot of money to make sure everything is as accurate as possible. On top of that, before you allow your children near our props without permission, they can be dangerous. Yes, they adhere to con safety guidelines, but for instance I’m cosplaying as Squigly from Skullgirls this year, my Leviathan prop may be a plush creature, but he employs a thick cut wire inside to properly bend and move, if the polyfill spilled and the fabric ripped because of a child playing with it, they could be badly hurt!

4. We are NOT cam performers (Unless stated otherwise).
Cosporn and erotic cosplay modeling are legitimate pursuits for talented, confident people secure in their sexuality (and able to clean and repair and business related damage), however that doesn’t mean we all do it and even if we do, it does not mean we take your character requests. It is really creepy and inappropriate to ask a random person at a con to cam for you or send you sexy pics just because you like the character they are dressed as. On the flip side, if a cosplayer who does this as a business only does specific characters, it isn’t your right as a customer to ask for him or her to add another character to their repertoire that they didn’t plan to add, again, cosplay is expensive. Just because a cosplayer has Black Widow or Miranda Lawson on their cam cosplay roster, for instance, doesn’t mean they will fall over themselves to make a screen accurate Bayonetta cosplay for your enjoyment, the small amount a camgirl or guy would make from the show wouldn’t even begin to make up for the amount of time and money making a specific requested cosplay would take. Which brings me to….


5. This is not TRL, we cosplay who we enjoy.
Unless you are providing the costume or paying for it, you don’t get to dictate who we cosplay as. Even Yaya Han, who is famous and paid for her work, has outright said she’s uncomfortable cosplaying characters she doesn’t identify with and in costumes she didn’t make. Some cosplayers may think differently, as with most of these statements, but for the most part there is a reason we pick who we dress as, be it personality, design, challenge, etc. Just because you enjoy looking at us doesn’t mean we’re obligated to cosplay who YOU like. Granted, there are some cosplayers who take a more booth babe approach, and that’s okay if it’s the way they enjoy it, cosplay is, at the end of the day, about the person doing it having a good time.

Mario and Princess Peach. By Michael Mol Used under CC License
6. We generally enjoy being asked about our hobby.
If a cosplayer isn’t busy and you happen to bump into them during a con or a meet up of some kind in your general area, as long as they’re not preoccupied and as long as you’re nice about it, feel free to ask questions. If you begin with ‘Do you mind if I ask about your outfit?’ or ‘Hey, that looks cool, what’s going on?’ or something else friendly, most unoccupied cosplayers would love to tell you all the details of their craft, their character, and the event you’re witnessing. We don’t hate ‘normies’ or consider ourselves better, far from it, we enjoy when people are curious or take an interest, it’s all about how you approach it.

7. We are subject to all the issues you’d imagine from the sorts of costumes we wear.
Please keep in mind when asking for a photo or a conversation with a cosplayer where you are located and what’s going on. If it’s hot out, you probably don’t want to ask a Quarian to stand for twenty photos in the blazing sunlight. If there’s an enormous crowd, you probably shouldn’t ask a Jaeger or a Gundam to stand for a pic in the middle of it all. Again, we love when you are interested, but a few concessions for our health and the safety of our costumes and props is much appreciated. For instance, I missed the N7 photoshoot at Dragon Con due to a combination of heat stroke and a claustrophobia related anxiety attack. Then a fursuiter at my very first con, cosplaying an amazing Moro from Mononoke Hime, actually collapsed in line for the costume contest because she’d been stopped every five seconds almost for a photo on the mile long walk from her hotel (in a quad suit, mind you.) Also, your enthusiasm can make other cosplayers look rude, a Halo group at my fifth con stood directly in the way to the bathrooms for over twenty minutes because people wouldn’t stop for a second to consider moving to a different area for pics, eventually, people rushing by broke someone’s prop.

8. We work really hard to keep people’s negative image of us to a minimum.
The average con goer is there for the con. We are on vacation. Period. Will we drink and have sex? Probably, we are on vacation, but most of us are discreet about any ‘inappropriate in public’ behavior, most of us go out of our way to be kind to the locals and the hotel staff, most of us clean up after ourselves. When we see news stories about a rape or a particularly grody orgy or anything else unsavory that happened during a con weekend, we are just as disgusted as you, and we’re ashamed to boot. Bad con behavior is no different than bad spring break behavior or bad concert behavior. Do we really deserve to be viewed as less normal and less human than people who go to Warped Tour or spring breakers down in Florida? Again, cosplayers are a vast and diverse bunch. Riddle and Yaya Han spearhead Cosplay for a Cause, many Make a Wish helpers who visit kids in hospitals are cosplayers. Even more than that, many cosplayers are just average people, no horrible crimes, no wonderful charities, just everyday people having a good time.
Indiana Jones Cosplay by Cris. Used under a CC License


9. Cosplayers come in all shapes and sizes (suggested by Vanessa) We run the gamut from Victoria’s Secret model to BBW and everything in between, men similarly range from thin and lanky to heavyset to AHHHNUUUULD and that’s okay. Again, cosplay is about fun. There is no room for body shaming or bullying, especially not from someone who doesn’t understand the work which goes into cosplay.

10. Child cosplayers are not toys! (suggested by Yuki)
If you see a parent cosplaying with a small child, you do not have the right to touch the child or pick them up or touch their costume or props without theirs and their parents’ permission. Costume or not, this is still a small child. You could severely frighten them or ruin their costume, not to mention what you’re doing could be illegal, if you pick them up and walk off, that’s a kidnapping charge.

So hopefully this has cleared up a few misconceptions and mysteries about the cosplay community as a whole. Check back next week when I finally woman up and tackle my letter to my past self…in the words of one of my favorite characters to cosplay (Pinkie Pie), it’s gonna be a doozy. Also don’t forget to like my cosplay page: Keelah Monster Cosplay!


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