Cosplay equality: Something on which I apparently take an unpopular stance. Now, I’m sure that most if not all of you have seen feel-good posts, talking about wearing whatever you want, portraying whomever you want, no matter your height, weight, gender, skin color, etc., in the name of cosplay, all over Tumblr and Facebook. That’s all well and good, and I actually agree with all that.
However, there is one group of people who seem to get left out often, because some people seem to have a problem with them–people who cosplay for competition. Suddenly, this has become a “thing” since the show “Heroes of Cosplay” aired, last year. Pair televised attention of these epic cosplayers with people who just like to bitch about anything and everything, and you have a problem that shouldn’t even exist. Suddenly, a community of people who are supposedly all-inclusive don’t feel like allowing anyone else into their little circle. Well, I think that’s bullshit.
Now, what are the reasons for this exclusivity and ridiculous hatred of these people?
First of all, I’ve heard that people think that it casts cosplayers and the cosplaying community in a negative light. I have to roll my eyes, because there are people in every fandom that cast their fandom in a negative light. I’m not going to bring up the obvious first choice that comes to mind, so I am going to give another example–Bronies and Pegasisters. Now, there are some fans who simply just watch the show and are casual about their being a fan of it. On the other hand, there are those who are obsessed, and make it a bigger part of their lives than it should be, and argue with people who call them out on it.
So no, negative attention is not exclusive to professional and competitive cosplay. In fact, while I enjoy watching “Heroes of Cosplay,” and am supportive of professional cosplay, I recognize when there’s a problem and am able to criticize it. I had few issues last season. One was when two of the cosplayers, who cosplay together, told another cosplayer that they didn’t want to cosplay with her because she wasn’t on the same level as they are. I found that to be really bitchy, and I’m not exactly fans of theirs, now.
Secondly, was when one cosplayer was asked if she made a component of her cosplay herself (which is a make it or break it factor in some competitions), she said yes, though it was a lie (her significant other made it).
And lastly, there was an episode last season in which a bunch of Doctor Who cosplayers (who were not professionals/subjects of the show) told the professional cosplayers to get out, because they didn’t belong there. (Ahem, see? Negative attention is prevalent even in “casual” cosplaying.) Yes, these are a few catty, underhanded things that have happened, but it’s hardly the norm, I think. Plus, “Heroes of Cosplay” is a television show which needs to get ratings, so of course there’s going to be focus on any and all drama to make it “interesting.”
So instead of blaming these professional cosplayers, maybe start blaming the creators of the show, who possibly amplify the negative moments. Oh, and if you want to be an equalist, call other communities on their bullshit, too. (I am nothing, if not fair).
Another thing that gets bitched about, when it comes to professional and competitive cosplaying, is the people who do it for a living. I especially draw attention to Yaya Han. The haters of this community and the show always bitch about how she (and others like her) make money because of various aspects of cosplaying (including judging gigs, competition winnings, the selling of props and merchandise, meet and greets, etc).
This is something that makes me really irritated, because it’s like they’re saying, “Hey, lady, get a real job!” So many other people take their passion and things that they love and turn them into jobs (authors, teachers, coaches, makeup artists, fashion designers, and even law enforcers, and so on). So why do some people seem to think that people like Yaya Han should play by different rules? They shouldn’t. People like this put their blood, sweat, and tears into their craft, and to have people say that they shouldn’t turn a profit from it is ludicrous–especially when they have to spend money to make money. Plus, if enough people felt it was so wrong, chances are they wouldn’t be lining up to meet these cosplayers, have photo ops with them, or buy their stuff.
Pair the above reasoning with competing for cash prizes, and you have the next reason why people bitch about professional cosplaying: It supposedly defeats the “purpose” of cosplaying, which is “to have fun.” Okay, first of all, I didn’t know that there was a Cosplayers Oath, or whatever, that had a prime directive of, simply, fun. Yes, most cosplayers do cosplay because it’s fun. Plus, they want to show off their fandom of certain characters and ideas.
However, there are many different reasons for cosplaying. Fun. Competition. Career. Camaraderie. People do it for different reasons, and just because someone doesn’t do it for one person’s reason, doesn’t mean that they’re trying to oppress that reason. It simply means that their reason isn’t your reason, or the only reason that they do it. Unless you’re being an intentional jackass with it, there’s no wrong way to cosplay. There just isn’t. Additionally, those of you that complain about the way these people cosplay probably would not like it if they came along and told you that your were expressing your fandom “the wrong way,” wouldn’t you? I think yes.
Then, there’s the complaint of cosplay snobs. I already addressed one instance of this, when I pointed out some of the obvious flaws of the show. To elaborate, I should add that this almost always goes hand-in-hand with the “it takes away from the fun” argument. Complainers about this show and professional and competitive cosplayers use this to say that instead of just doing a cosplay for the sake of fun, that those cosplayers scrutinize everyone’s cosplays, even if some of them are not competing. That’s a sweeping overgeneralization.
As someone who watches “Heroes of Cosplay,” I tend to tweet to the cosplayers that are on the show. A couple of episodes ago, there was a guy on there named Carl Martin. He made this massive, insanely detailed cosplay of Mannequin from Silent Hill. I was tweeting with him some, and we were talking about different cosplays, and I sent him pictures of my Daria, Quail Man, and Zombie Quail Man cosplays. He told me that he liked them, and that my zombie one was creative. These are all simple cosplays in comparison to the work he did on his and the work that so many others do on theirs. He did not nitpick mine at all. So no, not all professional and competitive cosplayers are nitpicking assholes when it comes to the cosplays of others.
And honestly, when there is nitpicking, it’s by judges, whose job is it analyze, critique, pre-judge, and/or judge cosplays, in competitions… that people are entering… on purpose… professional or not. (On the flip side, I know people who do not cosplay professionally, but still nitpick the cosplays of others, whether it’s warranted or not… so there’s that).
Lastly, this one also goes hand-in-hand with the above complaint. So many people bitch that it’s not about well-crafted cosplays, themselves, when it comes to competing, but only about how much boob and ass are shown. I have to shake my head at this one. It’s just plain wrong. Yaya tends to show a lot of cleavage in her cosplays. So what? That’s her prerogative. Plus, she’s usually a judge. The proof is in the pudding when it comes to the actual competitors, though. I hardly see only scantily clad females winning awards and prizes. In fact, one of the winners on a recent episode that I watched cosplayed as Sauron… who was covered, head to toe. I hate to throw out a cliché, but in this case, their “argument is invalid.” Does the cosplaying community, and geek community, in general, like to see scantily clad or revealing cosplays? I think yes. But they’re not always the ones who win.
I don’t know why this matters, so much, to people who apparently hate it. I don’t know if they’re jealous because these people have taken something fun, and made it successful, while they struggle with things in their own lives. I don’t know if it’s because they’ve been burned by a professional cosplayer before. I don’t know if it’s because they lost one… or five cosplaying competitions. But they should probably just cool it. There’s always going to be someone that’s better at something, or doing something that’s not always going to be the right reasons to someone else, but that’s life. You have to adapt and get over it, and find your own thing. These people are happy with doing what they do. And as a casual cosplayer, I’m happy with doing it, too.
I’m sure there will be more complaints that arise about these fine folks, but for now, I think I’ve covered them all.
I just want to add some final thoughts. Being inclusive when it comes to cosplay is great. However, if you don’t want to be called hypocritical, then be all-inclusive. You may not care for professional and competitive cosplayers, but they do exist, and need to be included too. If not, then those who shut them out are not being all-inclusive. How would it feel if your fandom or a community you’re in shut you out because of one small thing they didn’t like about you? It wouldn’t feel so great. Cosplaying means different things to different people. Try to be understanding and don’t make others feel like crap just because they don’t do what you want or think what you want them to think.