strange like that

Cosplay Critique: Mind Your Manners

Poison Ivy and Catwoman Cosplay

Me and my Catwoman. (Photo courtesy of Mad Calamity Photos.)

Like many of my costuming compatriots, it was never my intention to become a cosplayer. Everyone has their own story on how they got involved. For me, it was happenstance and a Poison Ivy costume I’d constructed for Halloween. What started as determination, undergarments, fake leaves and hot glue has now become something people recognize me for/as. That’s neither here nor there though, and the real point to this is that there are a lot of us that are involved in cosplay and consider it a part of our lives. We’re from all walks of life and have different tastes and levels of technical costuming skill. It’s a passion where all who are interested should be welcomed, but that’s not always the case.

Let me lay this out first before going on: yes, you are entitled to your opinion. Also, yes, some costumes are “better” than others from a technical standpoint. There is no doubt in my mind that some people have more advanced costuming skills than others. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean any less effort and love was put into the costumes that aren’t perfection incarnate. We all had to start somewhere. For this reason, it makes me sad to read negative comments about anyones costume. From Tumblr to Twitter to Facebook, there is so much rude commentary on cosplay photos. Beyond just adhering to Wil Wheaton’s rule of “don’t be a dick”, there are some things I feel should be kept in mind when looking at and judging anyone’s work:

1.) Not everyone who attends a convention/party/event in costume is a professional cosplayer, or ever intends to be.

2.) We don’t all have the same pool of resources to draw on, whether they be time, money or technical ability.

3.) No one looks exactly, precisely like any comic character, and they shouldn’t be expected to. If they want to rock out as a character of a different ethnicity, gender, physical size, etc. let them do it. (By the way, some of my favourite cosplays are the Rule 63 ones.)

Please also bear in mind that negativity and critique are not the same thing. “This sucks” is not the same as “this might have been better if” or “I would have suggested doing”. I’ve seen plenty of posts that are nothing but someone trying to tear down another persons work for no discernable reason besides the fact that douchbaggery is an internet epidemic. It’s hard enough to put yourself out there and display your craft without the anonymous (and sometimes not so anonymous) nastiness in response. It’s unwarranted and unnecessary.

There’s also some definite cosplayer on cosplayer hate out there, which I believe largely stems from jealousy. Personally, I feel there’s room for everyone in the sandbox. As someone whose most known cosplay is Poison Ivy, I can tell you there are a lot of us attempting to fill her leafy accoutrements. (Yeah, I know that last sentence sounded sort of filthy.) Having other people at the same convention dressing as the same character doesn’t dilute my work. If anything, it can serve as inspiration to up my game and to keep working on new and creative portrayals. Besides, shouldn’t you be glad that so many people love the same character you do?

Another point of contention seems to be the assumption that this person or that person is only dressed up for the attention and not for the love of the character or craft. If that’s the case, who cares? Let them be whatever they want. If someone comes up to them and wants to talk shop, it will become pretty apparent what their intentions were, and they’ll have to deal with it. It should make no never mind to you. (Note, I am not advocating going up and quizzing cosplayers on their costumes, just stating a possible situation.)

On the whole, cosplayers are a pretty cool lot. They display their passion for a variety of the nerd genres in a unique and inspirational way. There’s no reason to put them down about it. If you don’t like what they’re doing, just leave them be. I doubt you’d appreciate anyone being rude and negative about your hobbies/lifestyle, so don’t do it to other people. So, as two wise men once said, “Be excellent to each other.”

“Party on, Dudes!”

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9 Responses to “Cosplay Critique: Mind Your Manners”

  1. Pablo Ramos says:

    Very well put. Basically, if people have nothing nice to say better be left unsaid.

  2. John Garcia says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with all your points. It’s very refreshing to get viewpoints like this out.

    When I started cosplaying a couple of years ago, “Cosplay Articles” were so elitist. Some even pretended to be very anti-elitist, but the rhetoric stays the same. One particular narrow-minded article was about hair and glasses, and the thesis was “We don’t care how you do it, but please, if your hair or glasses get int he way of ‘accuracy’ please please do something about it from cheap hair color, ro buying contacts, or taking of your glasses. Is that too much to ask?” To which I say, not necessarily, but who are they to suck all the fun out of cosplaying as one’s favorite character. Who are they to say that one’s comfort must always give away to these constructs of supposed community standards.

    Again, I reiterate how amazing your points are. Hopefully, rhetoric like yours will replace or overcome those elitist tendencies that some aspects of cosplaying have become.

  3. BDS says:

    I dressed up as Green Lantern using like you a Halloween costume. I had a homemade lantern that was simple. I picked GL because no single GL has to look the same, I wasn’t trying to be Hal or Guy or Kyle, and being white there was no way anyone would think me John. I was not the worst, but you can tell I am dealing with homemade and Goodwill stuff.

    I did Green Arrow the next year for Halloween and did not dress up at the Convention in Charlotte. I did work on it and this year to it to a small local Con. I won 3rd place and Twenty Bucks with my costume. It was cool.

    No matter what, the coolest thing about being dressed up is the kids. I had a blast that first year posing with little kids, letting them hold the Lantern. It was the best. I have had fun, and figure some of the cosplayers look at me as a big wannabe geek, at least the ones that are dressed as my favorites and my gushing over how great they look.

    BDS

  4. Lovely post Mac, I <3 you!
    -Your Catwoman

  5. Nadine says:

    Thank you so much for this. You expressed all my feelings, and you did so eloquently! Definitely reposting this, as it is heartfelt and meaningful!

  6. jonathan young says:

    honestly, I think if you can recognize the character someone is portraying…they did it right. I am amazed much more at ingenuity and creativity than I am by a big costume budget.

    Lot of skin doesn’t hurt either… :P

  7. Courtney says:

    I just came across your site (after seeing a reblog of the way you eloquently nutsacked the individual who tried to crap all over your Steampunk Poison Ivy) and aside from the general interest in your interests, I have to say bless this goddamn post. I’ve very nearly given up cosplay altogether because of the holier than thou’s that think anything less than perfection should be burned at the stake.

    A few years ago I cosplayed Quistis Trepe from Final Fantasy 8; being pretty chubby, I tried to contain the amount of thunder thighs with pantyhose. My efforts must have been horribly received because some asshat on DA felt it necessary to let me know how fat I was. Oh, and that my glasses were wrong, my lapel design wasn’t exact, and my wig wasn’t blonde enough.

  8. Macabri says:

    I am so glad you found my site, and subsequently, this particular post! I stand behind everything I said. There are always going to be douchebags, but I think some people don’t realize the damage they’re inflicting with their comments and not everyone has developed a thick enough skin to brush it off. (Which is not a weakness, just a simple fact.) As well respected as most of my costumes have been, I too have gotten negative nitpicks about accuracy. All they’re really doing is wasting their own time and aren’t worth getting upset over.

    Stand strong, and if cosplay is something you love, keep on rocking it!

  9. […] those who are somewhat regular readers, you know I am supportive of cosplayers feeling confident, comfortable and happy in the hobby they’ve chosen. I continue to stand by that. There is no […]

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