I like to get dressed up silly costumes and run around pretending to be someone I’m not—and I like to do it on days other than just October 31st and not [just] for kinky bedroom This passion? It’s called “Cosplay” and my theory is that there are way more cosplayers out there than anyone realizes. No most people don’t wear capes on Wednesday because they can—but if you’ve ever put on a “work outfit” or a “gym outfit” and felt like you are actually altering your behavior to reflect the “version of yourself” that you are wearing—guess what, you just dipped your pinky toe in the pool of Cosplay. A costume doesn’t have to involve elf ears to be a costume and while a suit and tie for work isn’t what any competition would consider cosplay, I think it’s enough to understand how what you wear can create an entire persona. That’s why it is so frustrating to me that at best, my love of cosplay is greeted with very little understanding by those who don’t go to conventions.
Tonight airs the first episode of the SyFy channel Heroes of Cosplay. The point of the show, I hope, is to celebrate and detail this culture a bit more. Since most people who watch syfy channel are geeks to begin with I’d like to think the show is going to be at the least a competition based examination of the world—and not a Jersey Shore/Honey Boo Boo level mockery. The few preliminary reviews have been…less than encouraging. The first article to come out from The New York Post is a perfect example of people who just don’t get it, categorize the practice as strange/weird/childish and write it off. “The weird thing, (well, all of it is weird), is that these folks really want to be the fictional characters they portray.” I’m hoping that this is just one person failing to understand the point and not a reflection of the tone the show decided to take. You know a “look at weird and obsessive these geeks are” kind of patronizing bullshit. There aren’t too many articles yet but the show airs tonight and I’m just waiting, with some concern, to see what comes out of it.
When I mention that I go to conventions like SDCC the first thing I get asked is “OH do you dress up?” Occasionally this is the second question, the first being “What is a Commie-Con?” Anyway this question is inevitable and it’s why I always hesitate to even share my proclivity in the first place. The reaction I get when I say, why yes, I do dress up ranges from the following options:
- Amusement like I’m some sort of oddity found in the wild
- Patronizing comments about how it’s cute that I have such a childlike wonder
- Disbelief that someone who seems so “normal” would do something so “weird”
Regardless of the tone or attitude of the initial reaction, what follows is always the inevitable question: what do you dress up as? This one is even worse. I have never felt more like a hipster because most of the time I shrug it off and say “oh you wouldn’t know” and change the subject as subtly as I can. The hipster response is better than when I answer because they never know who the fuck I’m talking about. I’ll get a smile, a nod and “ohhh” or “cool” or some other generic mumble that screams “I have no idea what you are talking about.” Then I’ll get the obligatory request for photos and once again I feel like I’m some sort of rare lion in the zoo brought out for amusement and nothing else. I hate it. I don’t want this show to be about putting geeks on display for the gawking masses to view as something odd. Especially because, like I said, most people have some element of cosplay in their lives without even realizing it. If putting on a skirt suit makes you feel more professional guess what, you just put on a work costume! THAT is the very underlying core of cosplay—at least it is for me.
Keep in mind that why and significance of cosplay varies by person. For some people it’s about showcasing some legitimate costuming talents. For others it’s about celebrating a beloved character. For some it’s a chance to put on a totally new persona and be someone they aren’t for a little while. For some it’s just an enhanced version of method acting—getting to really put on that character and act it out. There’s a lot of bullshit within the cosplay community too, stuff I’d write about in another post, that has to do with race issues, body image and the debate over whether or not someone who buys costumes is a “true cosplayer.” It’s our own little culture and like all cultures we have issues both internal and external. Still I love it and I won’t be stopping anytime soon. Over the last several years it’s been cosplay that brought me some of the best friends I’ve ever had. It’s through cosplay that I got to meet several of my heroes. It’s through cosplay that I got a small opportunity to be involved on “The Guild” and other subsequent webseries.
Hopefully the series will showcase the best of the community—I’m already encouraged by names on the lineup including Holly Conrad (who I was lucky enough to meet and film with on The Guild—because I wanted to cosplay) and I can’t wait to see what she puts together. Seriously Holly is one of the most talented, sweet and totally humble people I’ve ever met and now that she’s all famous I can say “Hey she gave me a ride once and I had to tell her who the hell Nathan Fillion was.” She’s awesome and I’m so, so glad that amazing things are happening for her. I seem to know quite a few insanely talented girls that make me feel like a total hack. People like Jes Reaves and Leslie Crystal who are also amazing, beautiful talented costume designers and cosplayers. At best I’m anticipating that this will be a fun show for people who love the world to watch and at worst I’m dreading a mockumentary that will have people around me chattering about those weird cosplayers because I know what will follow—“Hey Olivia, don’t you do that??”
When I watch tonight I’ll be eating this: Chicken Saltimbocca. Traditionally this is an Italian dish made with Veal but dress that chicken up and it’s just as convincing as the real deal. 6 chicken cutlets will serve either 2-3 people depending on how much you eat. For me 2 of these is PLENTY.
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