August 26, 2013

When did the Art of Cosplay Become so Exclusive?

Salve Omni!
And a Happy Monday to you, Dear Reader! 
Today, I would like to rant a bit regarding one of my personal con pet-peeves.  As a frequenter of cons such as the Dallas Comic-Con, Dallas Sci-Fi Expo, Dallas Comic-Con:  Fan Days, and A-Kon (Dallas anime convention), one of my favorite things to do (other than shop for that one-of-a-kind objet de geek in the vendor room) is to check out all of the cosplay going on.  I love dressing up in costume, and I would love to cosplay (whenever I get the patience to construct an awesome costume), and I admire those guys and gals who wear their costumes gladly and represent their favorite characters, shows, films, etc.  What a great feeling it must be to don the garments and become the character, and to be amongst those who appreciate what you do…or do they?  Cosplay is supposed to be fun?  Right?  So when did the joy of doing something that brings one joy, become so exclusive?
I was reminded of one of my biggest pet-peeves when it comes to con cosplay, while watching last week’s episode of the new TV show, Heroes of Cosplay, on the SyFy Channel.  If you ask me, this show should be renamed, “The Divas of Cosplay”!  This week, the regulars to the professional cosplay circuit welcomed the newbie, Chloe, who actually hosts a show that is all about cosplay.  In the beginning of the show, she lets us know that she has cosplayed for fun in the past, but has never competed professionally, so she thought she would give it a go to find out what it is really like.  Unlike the other competitors, Chloe seemed a bit out of place; she was genuinely excited to be there, and she was enjoying herself!!!  But I digress…When Chloe went to dinner with a few of the other professionals the night before the competition, a discussion arose that really left me quite bothered.  It started out as the group naming the various pet-peeves they had about attending cons, but it quickly changed direction.
The issue quickly turned to size and cosplaying.  When Chloe voiced the opinion that anyone should be able to cosplay whatever character they choose, because it is all about having fun, the other dinner guests quickly weighed in…and did they!  The consensus – there is money involved, and when you cosplay and compete, you need to be able to look good as a courtesy not only to others, but to yourself.  Their excuse…because overweight people don’t want to end up on the Internet or on sites that make fun of their cosplay.  Does this sentiment indicate that only perfect people need apply?  Perfect thin and crowd-pleasingly beautiful individuals?  When did the local convention become the Hollywood red carpet?
When did having the freedom to represent your favorite comic book/Fantasy/Science Fiction character become so darn complicated?  Forgive me, but I thought that comic-cons and Science Fiction cons and the like were created by geeks, for geeks, to be able to gather and cosplay and celebrate in a setting where all like-minded individuals could let their geek flags fly and for once not feel embarrassed or harassed.  But now, it seems as if the joy is being taken away by people who feel that because they tap into a few geeky activities such as liking a superhero or by attending a con, that they are now entitled to set the norm as to who can or cannot cosplay.  I understand the appeal of perfect men and women with perfect bodies, I also agree that men and women with perfect bodies look good, but I also understand that having the perfect body is not all there is to the art of cosplay.  Especially when it comes to female cosplayers – when women who obviously are not interested in any way in geek culture attend these cons and only do so to get attention – yeah, that is my biggest pet-peeve!!!  They choose characters with the skimpiest costumes, and pose for photos with the sole purpose to draw attention to their sexuality, not to celebrate or become the character they represent.  I, in no way am hating on those who bring a bit of sexy to the con – let’s face it, there are many sexy female characters who also wear very revealing and sexy costumes.  But that is not the case here.  There is a difference between a woman choosing to dress as a sexier character with a sexy costume because she truly likes this character and if given the chance would become this character, and a woman choosing this character because it merely gives her the opportunity to prance around in practically nothing and gain attention by just looking hot and becoming a geeky fantasy.  When the latter, who care nothing about fandom or representing their favorite characters, purposely attend in scantily-clad attire for the sake of attention, thus silently rewriting the perspectives and expectations and attitudes towards who is fit to cosplay because they are suddenly not the “ideal size”, well, I have a problem with that!  This is not a modeling agency, folks!  Last time I looked, Marvel and DC Comics did not hold a model search for suitable types to cosplay their characters.
These rules of cosplay are silently being written and established by what I call “the cosplay divas”, who take things way too seriously, and don’t understand what it means to do things for the sake of enjoyment.  Cosplaying becomes more of a duty than an enjoyable experience – where one is always in competition to go bigger and better and brighter rather than to wear what makes one feel happy.  These sizeist attitudes towards cosplay make it difficult for those who do so for the sheer joy of it, to do so without ridicule if they do not live up to this invisible standard.  If a larger woman (in today’s society, I believe that encompasses anyone who wears a size 8 or above) loves Wonder Woman and wants to be her for the day…what’s wrong with that?  It is sickening to think that because a woman is not a stick figure, that she will be ridiculed and made fun of for wearing certain outfits; this goes for men, too.  Especially when it comes to competing for money and prizes, those who really work at the quality of their costume and body image become the sensation…according to the show.  It makes it truly more difficult for image-conscious attendees who do not fit these parameters, to get out there and express themselves, even though they are completely free to do so.  And female cosplayers wonder why many who choose to dress in skimpier costumes get harassed!  Because it becomes ingrained into the mind of the male con-goer through these sizeist actions and unwritten laws and rules of cosplay, that all female cosplayers must possess great bodies and be the visual epitome of the male sexual fantasy.  It is one thing for those who choose to put their bodies on display and gain that sort of attention, but for the unfortunate women and girls who cosplay these same characters because they actually choose to become the character, they must often suffer varying degrees of sexual harassment because “they obviously want this attention by dressing this way”.  Perish the thought that a woman would want to wear a costume because, maybe, she genuinely likes the character!
Where do we stop with the restrictions and begin with the enjoyment of being among like-minded comrades?  Between the harassment and the ideal body images and the competitiveness, what time is left for fun?  The con becomes the dreaded high school scenario all over again, with the “cool” crowd, comprised of close-minded bullies, setting the tone for what is acceptable.  My Fellow Geeks, our safe havens are being changed and rewritten by those who want to Hollywood-ize everything we hold sacred – from indie comics to the breakthrough superheroes and characters lucky enough to be immortalized in film.  To sum it up, cosplay should be open to anyone who wishes to have fun and pay homage to their favorite characters; not just select elite groups who show up to the con with the hopes of becoming the con.