There is no great Council of Steampunk. No overseeing ruling class that decides what it is and is not. Yet, it seems many people on the internet think they are a part of this imaginary institution. These elite few believe they wield the power to dictate what is acceptable. They believe this so much that they seek out images on the internet to venomously critique. Fear their awesome judgment! Woe be unto those who dare don goggles, gears, corsets, or other sorts of traditional trappings!
I get it. Some people think Steampunk is played out, or that it’s too “mainstream”, or that “ur doing it wrong!!1!” To those I say: chill the fuck out.
I really, truly don’t understand the rampant hatred of most, if not all, Steampunk that some people hold. There are things I’m not particularly fond of when it comes to cosplay and personal style, but not enough to go about the internet screaming like a little bitch about it.
I’ve been aware of the Steampunk haters for quite a while, but the whole thing really came into shocking detail when I participated with a cosplay group that Steampunked notable DC Comics characters. Overall, the reaction we received was positive, but there were a few shrieking voices that decided we were, on the whole, rather crap.
I personally received scorn because I had goggles on my Poison Ivy costume, along with some pseudo-gears made of beads on my corset*. These two items were apparently an unforgivable transgression. I was accused simultaneously of not understanding my character and not understanding “correct” Steampunk. I won’t go into lengthy detail of the functionality of my costume parts, but everything had a very specific reason for being there. There were items I included, such as the goggles, because I was using the earlier incarnations of Poison Ivy as my reference. (You know, the days before she was part plant and was more crazy botanist.) But it became obvious that it didn’t matter to some what other things my costume contained, or what my reasons were, just that those two items automatically discounted it from being anything but a shoddy and lazy attempt at cosplay.
Here’s what I want to know of those naysayers: if all of these conventional pieces of Steampunkery are off limits, what is left? And at what point does it cease to be Steampunk and becomes simply Victorian? Or perhaps something where you cry that it’s not Steampunk enough? Where is this entirely arbitrary line? Will you just know it when you see it? Or is it more of a state of mind?
Here’s what I say: Steampunk as you see fit. Will you catch flack for it? Probably. Should you care? Not a damn. Remember that the nastiest commenters succeed only in making themselves look petty. Your pleasure at your costume/fashion aesthetic is what is really important. There are some versions of Steampunk that I don’t think are all that stellar, but I’ll protect the rights of the wearer to do whatever the hell they want regardless. I don’t get to decide what’s right, and neither does anyone else. Glue gears to your ass and make a corset entirely out of goggles if it makes you happy. Just be sure you’re doing it for you.
Lastly, because I know it will inevitably be brought up, I have indeed seen the music video ‘Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk)’. Admittedly catchy. Admittedly entertaining. But not the end all, be all, of the genre. Deal with it.
*I get asked about my corset a lot. It was purchased online and already had the beading stitched into it. I didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal, but it seems I was wrong.