By Rizwan Merchant
Published October 26th, 2012
I have been a member of the anime fandom for about a decade, if not longer. In this time, I have attended my fair share of conventions and even hosted a few meet-ups of my own. At these events, I’ve come across more cosplayers, or people dressed up as their favorite characters, than mathematics can actually calculate a number to describe.
Many of these cosplayers are my friends, and through these friends, I’ve heard some horrifying tales that are unfortunate, but not uncommon. I’m talking about stories in which convention attendees see a person cosplaying their absolute favorite character and, for lack of better wording, go crazy, surprise-glomping the cosplayer and causing some level of disaster. Such disasters can include cosplayers’ discomfort at the sudden contact by a stranger, damage to the costume or props, or most importantly, injury to the attendee, the cosplayer, or others in the vicinity.
There are also countless stories of female cosplayers whose outfits are a bit on the skimpy side, who attract the attention of many males (and some females), some of whom are looking for a quick grope to get their rocks off. The reverse is true for male cosplayers, as well. I have actually known a cosplayer to break down from frustration that, despite the great deal of craftsmanship, time, and energy put into a costume, all people see is a sex object rather than the pure artistic value.
To better illustrate my point, take a look at the following picture:
This is a photo of a very dear friend of mine, Kio, who I met at the close of the Winter 2011 Cosplay Contest held by AnimeSecrets. In this photo, she is cosplaying Alexstrasza from World of Warcraft, who is clad in a bikini-armor-type outfit in the game, as befitting a dragon. Now, the reason I chose this photo to illustrate my point is that I had the unique experience of watching Kio develop and create each piece of the cosplay by hand, through detailed progress photos on Facebook. This isn’t a cosplay created in one night or over a weekend. If I remember correctly, this took about four months of effort to create and perfect. There is true artistic value in this costume, as well as in a large percentage of costumes seen at conventions and meet-ups around the world.
Cosplayers generally do not cosplay for money or sex. They cosplay for fun and for the love of a particular character or series. It is truly beautiful to see a cosplayer at a convention, smiling and excited to show off months of hard work. For this reason, it is better to encourage and support fellow cosplayers instead of raining on their parades with comments like “Sailor Moon wasn’t that large!” or “Damn, check out that rack!” There is nothing wrong with plus-size cosplayers, especially when they’ve put in the same level of craftsmanship and time as any other cosplayer. Sometimes they even put in more effort, factoring in how to alter the costume to fit them, but still maintain the integrity of the piece. For an example see Teh Princess Cosplay photo on the right.
Any cosplayer can become the victim of inappropriate commentary. It is pretty easy to deter girls and guys alike from cosplaying if all they feel is everyone watching them like a piece of meat rather than a person. Recently on Twitter, I ran across a blog entry from New York Comic Con 2012, in which a girl cosplaying The Black Cat from Marvel Comics was harassed by a group of men who wanted to do an interview with her. Unfortunately, the interview was highly inappropriate, with lewd comments and questions concerning her cleavage. Thankfully, the girl had the strength to defend herself, putting the interviewers in their place and walking away. For the full story, click here, but beware of adult language.
The best advice I can give to cosplayers and other convention attendees is to respect one another, and just have fun with the cosplay. I understand that sometimes the excitement of seeing a character from a particular anime or game can cause one to lose one’s mind, but please remember to control yourself and respect the cosplayers—they put their hearts and souls into their costumes. It would be really tragic if a costume were ruined by one momentary loss of thought. Also, if you have negative feelings toward a cosplayer’s work, keep them to yourself; don’t berate the cosplayer for a shoddy job. Everyone must begin somewhere. There is a good way and a bad way to offer advice and critiques on how to improve a cosplay, so please be sure to use the polite, respectful method to help everyone improve. By being respectful and encouraging the love of cosplay, everyone wins. Cosplayers can show off and improve their craft, and non-cosplayers get amazing costumes to fan over, which is what makes so much of the experience of a convention or meet-up so much fun.