Monday, February 3, 2014

Starter Quests Are the Worst! (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Newbies)

By Keelah Monster Cosplay (Formerly Tali'Belle)

No matter what your goal in the cosplay community or any alt scene for that matter, it pays to be nice. Better to be a Margaery than a Cersei, after all if you intend to be queen. When people like you, they are more likely to do things for you and more likely to genuinely want to see you succeed. To better explain my comparison to non-George R.R. Martin fans, when Cersei Lannister was queen of king’s landing, she acted like it put her far above everyone else and flaunted her wealth and influence and all her family could do to punish people who crossed her, Margaery Tyrell played the game better, though, she walked among the people, helped them and took personal interest in them. Guess who that worked out better for? (At least so far, no one’s lifespan is guaranteed in those books.)


Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones

But anyway let’s begin with the cosplay community. There are people who are just starting out and they all go about the anxiety that comes with taking to such a new, involved, highly critical cosplay in very different ways. Some put up a front with bravado and pretend they know more than they do, some are quiet and frightened to ask for advice and then become defensive when someone might be better or offer advice, and then there’s the dreaded weeaboo. Loud, excitable, overly obsessive, unable to interact properly or politely, taking most of their public mannerisms from GIR of Invader Zim fame or Foamy the Squirrel with disastrous results for the image of their fandom and the cosplay community as a whole. These people, like their gothic equivalent, Baby Bats, like to believe that they and they alone are unique in a world full of Barbie clones and posers, they often spawn internal misogyny or nice guy syndrome where they believe that other members of their gender are vapid, cruel, and mean as I mentioned before in my ‘fake geek girl’ post. Above all, this kind of person is very annoying.

However stop and think for a second. Everyone’s been in a situation where they felt different and ostracized. In those scenarios isn’t it a kneejerk reaction to believe that you are Wednesday Addams in a world of Amanda Buckmans? Of course it is, and isn’t it fun to see Wednesday screw up that trite, uncomfortably racist first Thanksgiving play by setting things on fire? Of course it was, and that’s fine, movies where someone like you is the protagonist and makes the
vapid jerks pay are cathartic, but in real life it is never so black and white. Even Kim Kardashian and Megan Fox have feelings and dreams and things that make them human no matter how awful they may seem as human beings. Not every slender blonde with a Prada bag and Abercrombie and Fitch outfit is an evil bimbo who hates you. But can a kid who’s grown up with nothing but movie interpretations of interactions with ‘normies’ possibly fathom that?


Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones
Consider, many people who latch onto fringe cultures already have trouble fitting in, they can feel ostracized, some may have social anxiety or be awkward around others. As a young teen or preteen who already has these feelings, also finding a love for alt culture is one more thing they can feel prevents them from fitting in, throw in that at that age everyone is immature and bullying is a very real problem, and it can become very easy for them to conclude those movies were true. Someone is going to dump pig’s blood on them at the prom or lock them in the Harmony Hut or even physically hurt them in their mind and so an all too common defense mechanism is to lash out first or write off everyone as a vapid poser Barbie wannabe clone. Believe me, I know. That’s why it’s so hard to write my Lipstick Love Letter piece.

When I was twelve, I went to regular public school. I grew up on a heavy dose of sci-fi, horror, teen comedies, and geek culture. In elementary school that’s really okay, few people are going to bully you because everyone plays Pokemon in elementary school, everyone collects action figures, everyone watches cartoons, things are pretty well universal when you’re a child no matter what the glittery pink aisle that boldly insisted ‘GIRLS’ at the toy store wanted you to believe, as far as we were concerned in elementary school, Esmeralda could be rescued from Frollo by the timely intervention of the Autobots and no one would bat an eyelash, Princess Aurora was secretly the pink Power Ranger and sleep fought Rita Repulsa...and/or Maleficent, same headpiece style and all. But I digress. The point is, suddenly as you grow up, everyone’s interests shift…or stay relatively the same but start to incorporate new ideas and feelings from a maturing mind, suddenly all my friends who used to want to trade Pokemon or play Sailor Moon were into the dreaded makeup, boys, cheerleading! And of course being raised on teen movies that taught me cheerleaders were mean bullies, I panicked.

So I put on my Hot Topic gear, got some makeup of my own (ANTI-MAKEUP) and shunned things like Charmed and The OC and other things teenage girls watched in favor of Utena and Hellsing. And like so many weeaboos and baby bats before me, I was loud and proud about my interests to the point of being disruptive and rude, but you couldn’t tell me that, oh no, everyone was mean to me because I was different and special and they just couldn’t handle that, not because I went off on tangents about my anime to the point that we never got out of a lesson early even when other classes had. Not because I begged my English teacher to let me read terrible fan fiction in class as extra credit or because I openly told people from my school that I hated it and everyone there was a baka gaijin who didn’t understand the amazing depth of my manga collection (to be fair, I still enjoy a lot of my manga, I stand by it being pretty trippy and cool.)


Hurtful meme found on the Internet directed at Weeaboos


 I never once stopped to think that I was being rude and forcing something these other kids had no interest in on them, they didn’t hate me because I was different, they hated me because I was an insufferable jerk who took it upon myself to force my interests on them when for the most part none of them ever tried to do the same. And even then there were people who were still nice to me. The cheerleader who secretly loved Card Captor Sakura, the football captain who chatted cheerfully about his favorite Final Fantasy strategies, but I overlooked these people and acted like a grade A jerk. Which doesn’t excuse the older kids beating me up or shoving me down stairs, but rest assured I was not just some innocent victim that everyone hated because she was so special.

Then I went to a private school where most of the kids were just like me, creative, into what I was, weird, quirky, artsy. The problem was most of us brought our clique problems and social structure beliefs with us to school but no one wanted to admit that so did they, which continued the cycle of bullying and hatred, except now it was geek-on-geek bullying. There were only really two upper classmen who ever really stood by me and befriended me entirely instead of bullying or ignoring me and my group. One of those people was Caitlin Seida, who brought me into writing for I Feel Delicious. She was also the one who took time (in small doses) to talk to me and show me that not everyone was against me and eventually I grew up into a half-way decent person. I still have moments of vehement dislike for people I don’t know based on something they do that rubs me the wrong way, but with time and patience, I can look past whatever my initial dislike came from, be it annoying over enthusiasm, bravado bordering on Miles Gloriosus, or genuine rudeness.

All most newbies need is a gentle guiding hand to push them in the right direction and learn to understand what they’re doing wrong and why it bothers people. Everyone needs a friend, everyone deserves to be loved and cared for and to experience an element of human kindness, and every young kid just getting into a subculture needs to be taught the basics. You weren’t perfect when you started wearing Lolita, your first cosplay wasn’t screen accurate, perfect, and handmade, your first goth ensemble wasn’t top of the line Euro-goth couture or Harajuku finds, you started somewhere and so must they. So offer your hand in friendship, not in punishment. Be a Margaery, not a Cersei.


Keelah Monster (formerly 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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