Aka: The rift between old guard ‘Costumers’ and us
goddamn millenials Cosplayers?
Image thanks to H Morton
I’ve been watching an interesting discussion happen on Facebook and saved the best tidbits that I’ll be talking about here…
I… I don’t know either bunny.
I saw a lot of misinformation and resistance to the ‘new’ influx of cosplayers into the whole… costuming-and-costume-wearing-thing. I’ve rewritten the introduction to this post a half dozen times and it doesn’t get any less rude or grouchy so I’m just going to go with it.
It’s time for a changing of the guard.
Ready for a truth bomb? Guards change. It is the nature of having a watch: Shifts. Rotate. If you have only one shift guarding a chest of gold for a week, and they’re expected to be on duty the whole time, they’ll either go crazy and kill each other or fall asleep due to sleep deprivation.
Guards change, it’s a cycle. Sharing the load. SHARE. Hell. Up here in northland we have a whole event every day during the summer for tourists to watch about changing guards.
Image (c) changing-guard.com
Passing the Costuming baton back and forth benefits everyone. So why are people so adamant about nomenclature and pretend rules about playing dress-up?
But First Some Definitions
Cosplay: The act of wearing a costume. Can also be used to describe a costume. Usually, but not limited to, refers to a reproduction costume from visual media.
Costuming: The act of making a costume.
PS: from a Cosplayer Millenial (aka Satan) you can add paragraphs in facebook comments.
Since Orange-Person in the quote above mentioned Venn Diagrams. I made a few Venn Diagrams for People that Are Confused.
Cosplay != Millenials, We Just Really Like to Cosplay
Years ago I wrote an article on how I felt attending World Con in San Antonio. A lot has changed since then. And unfortunately a lot HASN’T. I’m not against going to another WorldCon but let me be clear it would be as a writer. I saw the costumes at WorldCon and it’s… honestly not worth the effort to compete in a competition that wouldn’t be a) fun, b) challenging.
BUT. I do plan on attending more and more Costume Cons, and by God I will drag each side of the Costumer/Cosplayer rift towards each other until people who blossomed at Anime Cons no longer feel out of place at Costume Con, and maybe -just maybe- this will translate into World Con being more youth friendly.
But Calamity, why bother becoming more Youth/Cosplayer Friendly?
The people who don’t actually know me might ask. A Few reasons:
- There is an untapped market of cosplayers who want to learn more techniques, and want to get into historical and other diverse forms of costuming.
- Older SFF con goers are literally dying as the population ages. With no ‘New Blood’, traditional SFF cons will follow
- Cosplayers have a wealth of knowledge that can be shared to more traditional Costumers like:
- Community Outreach
- Oh sorry did you think that our social networks popped into existence without any work?
- Or that Companies magically decided we were the generation to create patterns for?
- Or that Society just decided to be like ‘nah this is cool now’ without people going out and advocating the hobby?
- 3D Printing , wearable tech
- Let’s be honest, SFF cons are often far less organised, less optimized with respect to funds, and attendance is significantly lower
- SFF websites are TERRIBLE. It drives away more con-goers than you think
- Not to be exclusionary and misguided elitist jerks
The Main Divide: History, Respect & Appropriation
This… is not going to go where you want it to, Old-‘Skool’ Costumers.
Costuming has a long history going back as far as clothing. You can try to tell me that the first bands of Homo Sapiens never put on the elder’s cloak, made faces and talked in the elder’s voice while pretending to scold others, but I won’t believe you.
We wear costumes for many reasons. Halloween, Fancy Dress parties, recreating historical events or for entertaining others. Fan Specific costumes are newer to our society, but no less worth studying.
History is important, just as it’s important to learn from our history and grow from it. I’ll repeat that last bit for the people in the back. (ahem)
IT IS IMPORTANT TO GROW FROM OUR HISTORY. Stagnation is bad, it leads to cholera and mosquitoes.
Then we have people like this.
I’m just going to take a moment.
So I don’t get angry.
While, by technical definition, cultural appropriation can be applied to the Costumer-Cosplay divide, let me make one thing absolutely clear.
DO NOT. EVER. EQUATE. YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT COSTUMING VS COSPLAY. WITH THE GENOCIDE OF SEVERAL NATIONS OF PEOPLE.
DON’T. THERE IS NO WAY YOU COME OUT OF THIS LOOKING LIKE ANYTHING BUT AN ASSHAT.
Discrimination and cultural appropriation is a very real and very impactful issue in our society right now, and it affects cosplayers as I’ve discussed before. But. Cosplayers wanting to join and talk about a hobby are not a threat to your way of life. Cosplayers who want to learn new techniques from you are not stealing your culture. We want to share.
And frankly, it’s comments like this, and the demand for ‘deference’ that turns us away, not the fact that we ‘don’t know the history’.
We do not owe you respect beyond being a person and human rights.
We do not owe you deference because you have been playing dress up for longer than we have.
[You have NO IDEA how hard it was not to put a picture of Cartman here. NO. IDEA.]
Respect is earned. And let me tell you about my generation and my culture of cosplay:
- Respect is based on your actions within the community.
- Respect is based on your accomplishments within the community
- Respect is based on your contributions
- Respect is based on your skill and abilities
- Respect is not based on age.
- Respect is not based on a self-chosen title of ‘costumer’ or ‘Smof’
- Reaching out with one hand and demanding deference with the other is an easy way to alienate us. We get enough of that in the media and workplace, thanks.
But Calamity, I don’t like the ‘Play’ connotation Cosplay has!
So… you don’t like fun? That’s… that’s really depressing.
But Calamity, Cosplay is just copying other designs!
Um. That’s… that’s news to me.
Apparently also news to Costume Con 32, where my COSPLAY of an original design got two Master level awards.
Does this mean I need to return my ribbons? ;_; But I LIKE my ribbons.
How do we resolve this?
This post has gotten a lot more negative than I like my blog to be, so I’m going to end on a constructive note. This issue is trivial. It can be fixed. And if Costumers choose not to, … frankly… we’ll just wait until you die out and continue having fun on our side of the imaginary line you’ve drawn in the sand.
Step 1: Kill the Term ‘SMOF’
I hate the term SMOF. Secret Masters of Fandom. I haaaaate it, because it excludes anyone who is not part of the secret club. It is not an inclusionary term like ‘Con-runners’ or ‘Con Organizers’, it specifically says that these Smoffers are better than the rest of fandom (Masters? WTF guys) and it’s secret.
Step 2: Drop the Attitude of Superiority
Cosplay and Costuming can continue to co-exist in a creepy twin-existence with little problem so long as people stop putting down the other side as ‘less creative’ or ‘less difficult’. There are challenges to historical recreation just as there are to designing a mashup of a pokemon that remains true to the original design but is innovative and exciting.
We are all people that love creating. We are all constantly learning. Stop shitting on others for doing things differently, or having different aesthetic preferences.
Step 3: Stop Cosplaining
You don’t want to be called a Cosplayer? Alright, just politely correct anyone who gets it wrong. But do not tell me that I am only a cosplayer if I’m in character all the time. I’ve met maybe five of those people in my decade plus of cosplay, and half them were steampunk fans.
When we as Cosplayers tell you that we are just people that wear costumes for fun, don’t correct us automatically with an incorrect definition of role playing or ONLY doing reproduction costumes.
Now Ciri, remember. We aren’t allowed to have fun. Or define ourselves.
We know who we are, thanks. Mansplaining is an issue, so is Cosplaining
NOTE: I reserve the right to make portmanteaus about Cosplans, Cosnews, Cosplaining because I’m a writer and I like words. You don’t need to use them. But I plan to continue doing so. If my friends can’t stop me from making puns, you sure as shit won’t stop me from making new words.
Step 4: Include instead of Gatekeeping
If people are interested in your con, please don’t start talking down to them. If they ask questions, answer them. If they look lost, ask if they’re managing okay or if they have any questions to help them out with.
Hobbies and fandom is more fun when everyone feels welcome. How else will we share advice and horror stories and make new friends?
Step 5: Accept that both Hobby names are valid
And Frankly, unless this is your main income, why do you care if we call our costumes cosplays? I can guarantee you that we are just as passionate and excited about making costumes to play dress up. We do it for fun, same as you. We bleed on our fabric, same as you. We stay up later than we should puzzling out pattern pieces, same as you.
There’s a lot more similarities than differences. We’re not here to pick fights over nomenclature of hobbies. We’re not here to steal your culture. Language changes over time, English especially. Accept it.
We’re here to have fun.
And we’ll keep having fun with, or without you. So why don’t you come join us, we have beer and patterns.
xox a fighty-Calamity