Friday, August 23, 2013

Cosplay – Fun or A Playground for Tyrants?

Okay, cosplay. For those of you who are scratching their heads, I’m gonna try to explain. First, this is what wiki states.

"Cosplay - short for "costume play", is an activity in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea from a work of fiction. Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture centered on role play. A broader use of the term cosplay applies to any costumed role play in venues apart from the stage, regardless of the cultural context."

So, it’s about dressing a part and playing with it. Fun? Well, I dress up like a pirate, but no particular pirate so…am I a cosplayer? According to one of my sources, no. I might be a semi-cosplayer. That’s fine, I’m good with that. I could say I’m dressing up as Miranda…or if I felt confident enough I could be Jack’s girlfriend in the last movie. If done very accurately, I might qualify as cosplay.

Though, since I am not the slender Penelope Cruz…I would likely be ridiculed and harassed by the royalty of cosplay.

This is where it can get nasty.

I’ve been watching the Heroes of Cosplay on the SyFy channel. It follows several serious cosplayers all over the country as they compete against each other for prize money and really nice ribbons. And they are SERIOUS about this. And one judge is part of this show, and she is radically serious.

Now, I enjoy watching the costumes put together and it’s entertaining to see the conventions they attend. (I gotta get to a comicon one day…looks insane! MY PEOPLE!)

But an episode this last week cast a shadow on the funness. A newbie to the competition, but not to the idea, came to compete. Chloe Dykstra. She was a kick! And competed as Lydia Deetz from the Beetlejuice cartoon. Along with a sandworm. (Loved the sandworm! Made from a bunch of kitty tubes and a lot of foam…)

Chloe is a rail thin tall woman, who hosts an internet show about all things nerd/geek. And she’s funny. The night before competition, she joins several serious cosplayers, along with a judge, for coffee. Where she is informed that it is frowned upon for someone to attempt a character whose body type they don’t resemble. So…no fat superman. In fact, if you think about it, no fat anyone. Because let’s face it, there are no fat characters in fan world. Men or women.

You could cover yourself completely, try a costume that doesn’t show yourself.

But Chloe objected, saying ‘what the hell, cosplay should be for fun!’ She was stared down, and considered a naive amateur.

Ah! Blood rose across the world and Chloe’s popularity is exploding. She stood up for US! I liked her on FB…as well as many, many, many others. A question I didn’t hear posed, which I wonder about…so…can you be a black superman? An Asian Luke Skywalker?

I don’t know, but I’m curious.

I could probably really get into cosplay…if there were someone I could portray realistically. I asked my source, ‘Bob’, if my lavender wig put in mind someone. He said, yeah, the female hero in KickAss. Probably with that? She’s tiny, she’s young…not a chance I could do it.

Maybe I could do her after she’s retired and taken up eating bonbons for a living?


So, what is my point in this blog. Well, it’s Friday, so why be too serious. At the same time, I find the idea of being laughed off a stage, no matter how fabulous your production and creation…because you don’t fit the physical perfection of the character…disturbing.

Nerd/geekdom is facing a lot of internal conflict right now. Accusations of sexism run rampant. And are based on fact, trust me.

Growing times for the scifi/fantasty world. And it’s about time.

There are the strict gatekeepers for every enthusiasm. Be it writing historical, or dressing up like superman.

Do you know anything about cosplay? Have you ever been part of a group held hostage by the gatekeepers? Anyone else watched this show?


Marnee Bailey said...

I know nothing about cosplay. I actually needed your definition to understand, that's how clueless I was. :(

But, I don't even like to dress up on Halloween. So this probably isn't my place to play. LOL!

As to gatekeepers, I've been in a sorority. Mine wasn't that kind of sorority. You know, the ones that everyone hears about. We were diverse. I liked these girls because they were sharp, witty, wry and sarcastic. And it was the best decision I made in college, I think. They became family to me.

But.... I saw and heard other things from other sororities. I wouldn't have dealt with that kind of behavior.

Terri Osburn said...

I don't watch anything on Sci-Fy. In fact, I have my guide set to my favorites and that one is not included, so I never even see it. However, to each her own. I'm glad you found a show you love. And Chloe sounds like my kind of girl. Of course it's supposed to be fun. The word play is right in the name!

This is something that always makes me nuts. When people take something that's meant to be fun and entertaining and treat it like religion. Put boundaries on it and try to fit it in the box they want it to be. If there was ever anything that should be free of boundaries, it's cosplay.

I'm all for if you're going to do something, don't half-ass it. But don't suck the fun out of it either.

Terri Osburn said...

I forgot to say, you can be Kick-Ass if you want. Screw 'em. I'm not the dress up type, but I did buy the start of a costume yesterday. And I'm looking forward to adding the perfect touches. I'm starting to think the older I get, the more I'm finding my inner child that has be tied up and gagged for pretty much my whole life. LOL!

MsHellion said...

I've never heard of cosplay--so I'm glad you defined it for us. I do love to costume though; and frequently will dress up as characters from literature/movies I really like. Harry Potter springs to mind. However, when I dressed as Harry, despite the fact I do NOT actually resemble a scrawny, underfed 11 year old boy, people immediately recognized who I was portraying and thought it was great.

In fact at the book release (which is why everyone was in HP costume), lots of folks were dressed as various characters and there was so much creativity and fun. I loved and preferred the ones which were a little more thought out than an ordered costume to make you a Gryffindor or Slytherin. One little girl was dressed as Ms. Figg, with cats pinned all over robe--hysterical costume.

Yeah, there are those killjoys in EVERY passion you pursue. They're trolls. And that is crazy to call someone out like that on stage like that, though by stepping on the stage to compete, you are opening yourself up for that kind of behavior. You just have to do as Chloe did and let it roll off--I'm sure she made a great Lydia. She's still going to cosplay; she's still going to rock it--and those critics are exposed for the trolls they are.

Maureen said...

Marn - Yeah, good parallel to draw. From what I'm hearing it is a bit like a nasty sorority. One of those that is made fun of by media, not a real one. At least, I hope there aren't any that are really that nasty...

Where the 'in' kids rule over how everyone is to dress and look...

I honestly feel like this tyranny has one foot on the whole sexism side of things...but I could be wrong.

MsHellion said...

There's a sorority of sarcastic, witty chicks? See, they never advertised those when I was in college. It was always the dump, vapid drunk ones... What sorority was this?

Maureen said...

Ah, Terri! I'm sorry, no SyFy? Too many Sharknado stories got ya gunshy? ;-)

There's a lot of 'I'm not sure what it is' on SyFy, but I still find programs that I find fun. Another one is Face Off, where special effects make up artists compete against each other. Like PR, without the drama! And with zombies...

But yeah, that's what I's called play! So, let's play - as in running around like little kids, not like we're playing competitive dodge ball!

What's funny is that these cosplayers they are far, none of them have won the mondo big prize. One won last week for a fantastic Merida. And a pair won for taking something from D&D... But none of them took a prize this last week...

Maureen said...

As for doing KickAss...I really should watch the movies before I consider portraying anyone!

Maureen said...

Hels, she did a wonderful Lydia...had the black wig with the topknot ponytail and the spiderweb cloak and everything! She sorta caught the bug and was talking about doing more from here on out, so hopefully she keep the fun and play aspect of things going and not be lured into the Thou Shalt Only Portray Your BodyType. Though she is thin as a rail and could do a lot of characters...

I remember the HP parties and they were so cute!

Maureen said...

If there is a sorority of sarcastic, witty chicks - then you'd be their queen, no doubt!

Janga said...

That in-group mentality seems to exist in all groups--unfortunately. Yay for Lydia not letting them cow her.

All I know about cosplay I learned from my youngest nephew who is a huge anime fan. He times his vacation around an anime convention held in Atlanta every year, and he always comes home with stories about the cosplayers. Some people attend the convention, kids in tow and everyone in costumes. I really love the idea of its being a family affair.

Maureen said...

I do, too, Janga! The one I watched where the woman playing Merida won a prize, a little girl in princess garb...Belle, I think it was, ran up to her and she stayed in character and talked to her about archery!

It was totally delightful!

Next time you see the nephew, ask him about the size/color stuff and see what he says. I'm curious... I mean, this seems to be an accepted attitude and I wonder if it trickles down to the rest of the convention goers!

Terri Osburn said...

I set my favorites nearly 3 years ago. Sci-Fy has never made the cut. LOL! I was non-Sci-Fy channel long before Sharknado.

Though that is all the more reason to continue my avoidance.

This convo reminds me of the hoopla about having a female Doctor Who. Or one of Asian or African descent. Which will clearly never happen.

Maureen said...

I don't know...the longer the program goes... I never thought I'd see an older Dr. Who again, after the early ones. But now the next one is older!

I started with SciFi Channel when it used to show the old b&w episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea...ah, the good old days, before WWF made it on the channel...

It's a bit odd to be watching now, because the actors from cancelled shows are all over the new ones, with people they acted with on the canceled shows... Head spins...often. "Isn't that the sheriff from??? Wait, he was the scientist on...?"

Maureen said...

I taped Ghost Shark last night...going to watch it sometime today...


And Sharknado will be back, taking on New York!

Marnee Bailey said...

I was a Kappa Alpha Theta. The thing about sororities is that they're different at different schools. It's all depends on the chapter/school. The Thetas at my school were awesome. You can't pledge the first year at school. But I kept feeling like all the cool girls I was meeting were sisters there. I wouldn't have rushed if not for them and I only rushed because I wanted to be a sister there. In fact, I sabotaged myself at one of the snooty sororities. Talked about shopping at KMart. Wasn't invited back. Thought it was funny. LOL!!

And yes, the girls were great.

Maureen said...

I love the idea of sabotaging yourself! KMart was the deal breaker?


Marnee Bailey said...


When thrown in casually after one girl I was talking had just mentioned that her father bought her boots in Milan and the other girl was whining about how she needed to have her horse flown from CA to PA because "she couldn't bear to be without him"... yes. Yes it was.


P. Kirby said...

Um...I saw several body types that didn't match the character at the recent Albuquerque Comic Expo. A rather pudgy, out-of-shape, pimple-faced Captain America, comes to mind.

There was also some gender bending, some within canon, some not. Of the two Lokis I saw, one was the canon Lady Loki (he's a shifter after all), but the other, also female, was pretty much dressed as the male version. Oh, that reminds me, there were a couple of flabby Thors, too. Nearly all the Jaynes (Very male character from Serenity/Firefly) present were female (probably because its fun to wear the ridiculous knit hat).

Also, there was a young woman wearing an R2D2 tutu, yes, a tutu. With the poofy skirt and a shiny blue and white body that looked like the robot. And a crash mash-up of Winnie the Poo and Darth Vader. Poo Vader.

People have a lot of fun with cosplay. Mash-ups will happen.

My take on this is that in the higher echelons of cosplay, the competitive side and probably at bigger events like Comic Con, the fandom gets pickier about body type, race, etc. And...the criticism is leveled most heavily at women, because...SEXISM. No matter what a woman does, no matter what she looks like, there is always someone who will try to bring her down. She's too skinny. She's too fat. She's too old.

We're going to try and get tickets to Comic Con next year (hard to score, they sell out in like a couple of hours). Even if we don't go there, I'm going to volunteer/attend the local con again and cosplay.

But I'd never compete in any contest. Too vicious for me.

Maureen said...

That is good to hear, Pat. But yes, it strikes me that most of the criticism would fall on women, because of the sexism.

You mean ComicCon San Diego? I was thinking it would be fun, but the show on SyFy has highlighted one in Portland and one in Seattle. If the San Diego one isn't possible, I'm sure one of the other two is. I'm thinking it would fun! San Diego, definitely, but the madness...oh, the madness!

What would your cosplay character be?

P. Kirby said...

We're going to attempt to get tickets for the San Diego madness. Dragon Con in Atlanta (?) sounds pretty good too.

Current possibilities for cosplay are: Lilith the siren from Borderlands (video game), Harley Quinn (Batman), or Death from the Endless (Neil Gaiman's Sandman series). Death would be the easiest because all I'd need would be a black tank top, tight black pants, combat boots, an ankh necklace, gothy makeup, and poofy black hair. Harley the next easiest, then Lilith, the most complex.

Hit Girl from Kick Ass would be kinda fun too? Can I borrow your lavender wig? ;P

Maureen said...