Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Little Cosplay Etiquette

Ah, cosplay. What was once a relatively underground aspect of geek life has come out of the craft closet and into the spotlight. I remember the days when people would spend the whole year working on their costume for DragonCon; now there's a TV show dedicated to people who pull elaborate costumes out of their ass in less than a week, and travel the Country doing so for a living. Don't get me wrong, I love cosplayers. My concern for cosplay etiquette stems from the drama and nitpicking and judgement that seems to be escalating throughout the community. So, here is a basic guide for everyone to keeping cosplay civil:

Tip #1: Keep it fair; judge the costume, not the person wearing it.

Whether you're cosplaying yourself, or you're just taking in all the eye candy, try to remember to keep your critiques to the costumes. These days, there's no need to get all judgy about who's wearing what when there are so many varying levels of craftsmanship out there to gander at. Elaborate costumes are much more common now, and people (both costumed and not) love comparing and contrasting everyone's creations. I think on certain levels it's natural that since cosplay has pretty much become mainstream, those who participate are now being judged with a bit more scrutiny than they were when Friendly Plastic was the height of fang crafting technology. There are some amazing materials available now that simply weren't out there for public use in the early 90s, unless you happened to have a buttload of disposable income at your fingertips or some serious connections. This, right here, would have cost a small fortune back in the day:

Now, that's not to say that cosplay is by any means an inexpensive hobby. It most certainly is not. If you're thinking of diving into the wonderful world of cosplay, remember: no matter how ingenious you are at cutting corners and DIY, cosplay is still both expensive and time consuming.

Nevertheless, Tip #2 is: If you're going to do something, it's best not to half-ass it.

If you've just picked yourself up an awesome piece of costuming (like dude-buddy's bracers), that's great! Show 'em off to your friends, or even wear them around without the rest of the costume if you want, but don't half-ass a costume like this. It can take years for a costume to come together (especially if you can only afford to piece it together one element at a time), be patient. Or, be creative. Paint the shit out of that hoodie. Make yourself some cheap wrap pants out of a bedsheet, or hit your local thrift store to scavenge for raw materials. Costumes don't have to be crafted on a professional level, but you should put some real effort into it. After all, this is supposed to be a labor of love, right? But, if you really don't think you can make yourself look like the character for reals, have some fun with it by using...

Tip #3: Go balls to the wall tacky.

If your goal is to get a laugh then you most likely will, and it will most likely be awesome. Check these guys:

They put about 10$ and 20 minutes into this, and it's awful. It's sloppy. It's fantastic! You can tell when a costume is bad on purpose. Sometimes, those are the highlight of a Con. They're the lighter side of cosplay, and sometimes that's refreshing. It's good to make fun of yourself sometimes, and it can be a good reminder that you're supposed to be doing this because it's fun. This lovely lady, for example, is having some serious fun:

Is it the best made costume in the world? No. Is her makeup perfectly even? No. Is it pithy and amusing? Absolutely! So who cares about the rest?

Tip #4: Chill out.

Some people have started taking cosplay much too seriously. They seem to feel that if it's not done right down to the letter, and at a professional level, then it's wrong. Look, you're going to see gender-swapped costumes. You're going to see mashed up costumes. You're going to see steampunk versions of traditional costumes. You're going to see costumes that you don't recognize. It's ok. I promise. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. Is the costume well put together? Is their makeup blended and applied smoothly? Is it an obvious play on something meant to be amusing? If you answered yes to any of those, you need to chill out. I came across this meme about a year or so ago, and promptly lost my mind:

In case you weren't aware (as the person who made this little gem of ignorance and hate obviously wasn't), that is a spot on Duela Dent costume. Seriously. Spot. On.

So, yeah. Chill out lest you look like a douche bag to your friends and everyone else on the interwebs. It's pretty simple: If you don't immediately recognize the character, either ask about it or shut up about it. If you must talk about a cosplayer whose character you don't recognize, then refer to Tip #1 and keep your comments relegated to the craftsmanship of the costume/makeup itself.

Tip #5: Remember that real people usually don't look like comic book characters. And that's ok.

We are, by our very nature, geeks and nerds and outcasts. Why, then, would we ever assume it to be ok to outcast a fellow geek because they don't exactly resemble the character they loved enough to emulate? This most often occurs when a plus sized geek decides to cosplay. Even more often, when that plus sized geek dares to be a female. Look, people, there are a TON of characters out there that are begging to be turned into amazing costumes. Sometimes, that character may lend itself to being portrayed by a larger woman:

More often though, that character was originally drawn skinny and with big tits because that's how our society currently rolls. So what's a zoftig She Geek to do? She straps on her +5 Big Girl Panties of Confidence and dresses up as her favorite character any damn way, that's what she does.

...and these ladies are owning it, like a boss.

Now, even more disturbing is when people go all Alpha Nerd about a cosplayer who happens to be a different race than the character they're dressed up as, or happens to be disabled in some way that the character isn't. Not surprisingly, I have never witnessed this in person, but the anonymity of the internet is sometimes a very dangerous thing. It's less common than the "fat shaming", but it happens all the same. I'm not even going to bother explaining the reasons why this is deplorable because I'd like to think that, deep down, everyone knows that shit is wrong. Instead, I'm simply going to put up a few pictures of some awesome cosplayers and move on:

Tip #6: Please remember that cosplay = eye candy, which means NO touchy, touchy!

As I said previously, it can take years for a costume to come together. It can take hours to then get into a costume, and even more hours of sitting or standing to get into makeup. Most of the intricate pieces you see on a costume have been painstakingly made by hands that have likely been scarred by hot glue or X-Acto blade mishaps. These are walking pieces of art, and they are, by and large, fragile. No amount of apologies will reattach a broken piece of costuming or magically fix a hand-shaped makeup smear, so please don't touch unless told you can do so. In fact, it's just good practice to not wander around touching strangers to begin with. I mean, you wouldn't (I hope) run up to a strange woman on the street, wrap your arms around her waist and expect her to pose while your friends get a picture of you pointing at her tits, so why would you expect that behavior to be acceptable just because that strange woman happened to be in costume? You're still complete strangers, and that's not just creepy, it's scary. It takes a lot of confidence and a LOT of guts to walk around a crowded area like this:

So keep it civil, keep it respectful, and keep your damn hands to yourself. That goes for the ladies, too. It doesn't matter what kind of costume that hunk-a hunk-a man-meat is strapped into, don't let yourself get handsy. I've been around plenty of women who honestly believed that it was perfectly acceptable to grab themselves a fist full of mancake simply because they are female.

"Come on! He's a guy; they always want you to grab their junk!" Um, no. He's a person, and your moral ambiguity makes me question whether you should be allowed in public. Assuming a man wants to be groped is no different than assuming a woman does. It's wrong; don't do it. So, let's all just agree to not touch the costumes or the people wearing them unless and until that person says it's ok (and even then, be respectful). Right? Good.

Cosplay is a time-honored and wonderful part of geekdom. It's one of the most beloved aspects of a Convention. It is a chance for us to be not just who we are, but who we wish we were, and to literally wear our fandom on our sleeve. Some people cosplay because they feel a connection with a character. Some people cosplay because they love the challenge of creating a new costume. Some people cosplay to showcase their artistic talent with makeup and prosthetic creation. Some people cosplay as an escape from the monotony of their everyday lives. Some people cosplay as a way to stay connected with family and friends through a shared project. Cosplay is open to anyone and everyone, so the community should be too. 

That's so fucking cute, I think my ovaries exploded.


  1. You sound like a jerk.

  2. anon sounds like a jerk. me gusta leerlo

  3. Thank you so much for your sharing of making the Hawkeye cosplay costume ! It really helps me so much ! I love cosplay and my favorite Hawkeye cosplay costume was got from