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Cosplay Bullshit - Part One

It's about time that someone went upside the collective head of the cosplay "community"; a strange land of people who believe they deserve to be worshipped because they go out in public dressed as imaginary characters from Japanese children's shows. Put down your foam swords, take off your Tina punky wigs, and prepare for a reality check - from one cosplayer to the rest with love. <3
~ COSPLAY BULLSHIT (AND HOW TO SURVIVE IT AND STILL HAVE SOME FUN) ~

Before we start, maybe you want to know who I am. Here's who I am. I've been cosplaying for almost three years and frankly, I haven't recently counted how many costumes I have. I'm not particularly award-winning, particularly famous, particularly powerful, or particularly anything. But I've seen a lot, I've heard a lot, and I've made just about all the stupid mistakes I could have. A few times I've done it "right".

I'm someone who fell into cosplaying completely by accident, grew to have some good intentions and some overly high hopes for it, and then nearly walked away from it completely - more than once. I'm someone who now tries to be completely straightforward with myself about what cosplay is, and what it isn't. I'm someone who thinks it's about time someone tried telling the honest, public truth about cosplay - especially the ugly side. I'm someone who refuses to make a Real World or Diary reference right about here.

So here goes.

PART ONE: COMMON BULLSHIT COSPLAYING AS THE TRUTH

BS: I have more right to cosplay ____ than Soandso.

TRUTH: You're a cosplayer. You imitate someone else's work. That is at the core of what you do. Therefore, you are an imitation - the only person with any "right" to the character is the person who created them. You have the same right to cosplay that character as EVERYBODY ELSE on the planet. You are not Coca-cola, you're not even RC Cola; you're store brand cola. Let me know when you get a letter from the creator saying that you're the "Official" such and such and then we'll talk about how you're inherently better than everyone else.

BS: (reverse situation of above) Soandso has already cosplayed ___, I can't do it now!

TRUTH: Get over it. What do you think are the odds that you're *really* going to be the only person on the planet with a certain costume, or at least the first one to make it? If you want to make the costume, make it and forget everybody else. If you can't do that, then you picked some pretty poor reasons to make it in the first place and you should spend your money and time on something else. Otherwise you'll show up at the con, someone else will have the same outfit by complete coincidence, suddenly you're second by a few minutes and your world is crushed. Again, you're fundamentally an IMITATOR - if you have to be completely original, make your own design (and copyright it). If anybody copies you then, maybe you can sue them.

And if it's a question of so and so being better than you, again, you only want your costume to be the "only" one people think of. So, you should stick to something you know you can do extremely well. Or, a novel concept, make a costume because you love it, learn from the experience, and remember that you can remake things in the future if you're not happy with them. Failing is 99% of learning; otherwise you never get to that 1% that's a success.

BS: Soandso has a good costume, they must be a cool person, I should be nice to them.

TRUTH: The quality of a costume says absolutely nothing about the quality of the person wearing it. You should be nice to them, because that's the right thing to do; but be nice to the person in a costume you DON'T think is good, too. People cosplay for different reasons, with different budgets; don't make assumptions about them on the basis of what they're wearing. By the way, jeans brand is a great way to tell what kind of person you should hang out with. Only the people who buy designer are worth your time.

Also, remember this - think at least twice before you judge someone, for better or for worse. There are lots of rumors flying around - some of them are true, some of them aren't. Someone might be having a bad day when you try to talk to them. And some people seem nice on the surface but may not be so nice after all. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt; but don't trust too easily, either.

BS: Well, I'M going to avoid "the drama".

TRUTH: Good luck, because you're going to need it. Everyone says this when they start cosplaying, and I haven't met anyone yet who's succeeded. You take a bunch of people who lead very different lives but just happen to have one common interest, stick them in the same hotel for a weekend, remove personal space, food, and sleep, and add in stress - what do you think you're going to get out of that mixture? DRAMA. This is the inherent danger of interacting with other people. And the faulty conclusions relating to the above BS statement make it worse, as does the element of competition.

And before you blame it all on someone else, think about your OWN behaviors. If you find yourself attracting drama, newsflash: it may be largely due to the way YOU do things and YOUR attitude.

BS: My costume has to be PERFECT!

TRUTH: There is no such thing as perfect. You've probably seen the Walgreen's ads. WE DON'T LIVE ANYWHERE NEAR PERFECT. This is the real world, not an anime, not a manga, not a video game, not the inside of your head. Perfect doesn't exist in the real world. You're not going to get sucked into an alternate dimension of hot guys, or save the world in a giant robot, and you're not going to have the perfect costume. Sorry to burst your bubble there. That was hard on me, too.

Looking EXACTLY like your character is IMPOSSIBLE, no matter what race, size, or shape you are; you are not two-dimensional. (And in the case of games, you are not made of polygons, and in the case of j-rock/other live action cosplay, there is only one of that person in the world and you are not them.) There is always going to be one trim that you can't find, one color that isn't quite right, one line of stitching that isn't quite straight. Those people you've seen you think are perfect? Bet you $100 they've got frayed edges on their inner seams, a safety pin hidden somewhere, or a hem that's not quite even.

Try your hardest, but don't assume you've failed before you start because you have the wrong __fill_in_the_blank__. Cosplay has a great deal to do with compromise, and if you don't know that going in, you're headed straight for disappointment. You may be surprised what the right outfit, a wig and careful makeup can do for you.

BS: Someone said something mean to me about my costume, I'm a failure!

TRUTH: First off, I have a definition for you from Dictionary.com.

e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism

1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
2. a. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.
b. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.

So "an elitist" is someone who buys into the above view. But let's talk about what that means in cosplay (and most other communities, too). An elitist is someone who enjoys putting others down because it makes them feel cool. They'll create barriers and divisions so that they can have (the illusion of) power and superiority. Unfortunately, a lot of people let them get away with it because they think if they pet the right egos, it makes THEM cool in turn. Are you really going to give them the power to decide what YOU do and how you feel about yourself? What makes them qualified to judge you? Elitists are like the emperor with no clothes - except not only are they naked, they're not even royalty, and no number of people going along with it anyway can change that. This is a hobby where grown men and women dress up as Japanese schoolchildren and robots. Where do you think anyone in it gets off thinking they're royalty?

If someone can't give you constructive criticism or criticizes without being asked, guess what . . . the true technical term for that is an "asshole". Ignore them. People who get kicks from going out of their way to be mean to others are a waste of your time, and their opinions have no value.

BS: I hate when non-cosplayers make fun of cosplayers. BTW, check out this stupid person on Fan's View. Doesn't their costume suck?

TRUTH: WTF is that?! You don't get to ride on the high horse when, as has happened many a time, a "bad cosplay" thread gets opened on some game forum or whathaveyou . . . complain loudly about non-cosplayers ripping on your hobby, yourself, and your friends . . . and then turn right around and post links to people you think are crap. It doesn't matter if you made a freaking operational, to-scale Gundam, and the other person is wearing a paper BAG on their head with a face painted on and calling that a mecha costume - you have no right to put them down for fun. Ever. Sure, I can't stop you - but you don't get to whine when people call you an elitist. And when a gamer who can't even staple fabric together is ripping on your costume, you don't get to complain and say they're pathetic for doing so. If you think making fun of some guy wearing a paper bag makes you cool, you're pretty pathetic yourself. Being called an elitist is NOT a compliment. There are a hell of a lot of easier and cheaper ways to get a reputation as an asshole.

If you want to get respect, maybe you should try respecting others.

BS: Cosplay is suffering.

TRUTH: I've actually had this as my signature file I believe. But you know what? I've clarified what I meant since then. Cosplay is a lot of hard work; blood, sweat, tears, and hot glue burns. But the hard work is supposed to lead up to the PLAY. If it's not, you've got it fundamentally ass backwards. COSPLAY IS NOT IMPORTANT. (I could hear some worlds shattering right there.) Cosplay will NOT cure cancer. Cosplay will NOT make you rich, happy, and popular. Cosplay is a HOBBY; treat it as such. It's supposed to be a break from the other things you do, something that you can get involved in - but still enjoy, because you're involved by CHOICE. Exercise your right to make choices about how you cosplay. You can take it seriously and put a lot of thought and work into your costumes, but at the same time don't ever forget that it's supposed to be fun. If it's not, you should STOP, because I can tell you from experience it will gain you nothing but misery.

For the record, the signature that replaced "cosplay is suffering" was "if you're not having fun, it's not cosplay".

I'm sure I've left something out, but there's only so much bullshit you can sit through in one article. Coming next is Part Two: The Good, the Bad, and the Giant Shiny Weaponry.

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