If you attended the Pop Culture Uncovered/CosLove cosplay panel on Saturday at Baltimore Comic Con, you probably learned two things:
- Conventions should be a safe place for all.
- It’s impossible to do make-believe wrong.
Because that’s all cosplay really is, isn’t it? Make-believe. Conventions are that one place where we truly get to be someone else for a day. We get to be heroes, villains, and everything in between. We don’t even have to be human beings from the planet Earth. Kids get to pretend they are their favorite characters all the time, but as you get older, you’re discouraged or downright forbidden from the practice. “Cute” becomes “childish” or even “crazy.” Conventions have always been that one place where we could go to actually BE someone else for a day. As cosplay, costuming, and conventions have grown in popularity, so have the negative experiences. Cosplayers are told that they cannot portray the character they love because they are the “wrong” color, gender, or size. They are made uncomfortable by the unwanted advances of a fan or they become the butt of a cheap joke taken too far. In order to combat these negativities, and preserve the safe haven that is the convention, PCU founder and CosLove member Harry Crosland organized this panel to go over the following:
Jerkpools – Deadpool cosplayer Harry Carpenter detailed some tips and tricks for other Deadpool cosplayers. The Merc with a Mouth, while amusing in comic book format, can be too abrasive and over-the-top in cosplay form for many congoers. Carpenter noted that even the simple act of photo-bombing, a favorite of Deadpool cosplayers, can be taken too far if it ruins the photo. He suggested a quick jump into the background for a photo or two and then moving on, so the photographer and the cosplayer get a few “Deadpool-free” shots.
Harry Carpenter demonstrating a proper photobomb… and an improper one
Cosplaying While Black – PCU Contributor Britany Marriott discussed how, when she began cosplaying, she only picked characters that looked like her. After attempting to cosplay as a character that she didn’t particularly care for, she realized that she had far more fun when she cosplayed characters that she liked and that she connected with, regardless of their race. She encouraged others not to feel limited by their physical features and to cosplay anyone that they want.
Cosplaying While Female – I discussed the experience as a female cosplayer, including bodyshaming and potential safety issues. I suggested that female cosplayers come up with a plan of action to deal with potential issues before they attend a convention and always attend with friends. I also encouraged the attendees to stand up for a cosplayer that is being bodyshamed.
Cosplay is for Everyone – Liam Stillman of the East Coast Avengers reiterated that everyone can cosplay and be a cosplayer, regardless of age, gender, race, size, knowledge of a particular character or sewing ability. Stillman discussed the difference between “costuming” (making costumes for yourself or others) and “cosplay” (playing a character, while in costume). He reminded us that we are all playing make-believe at conventions, and that we shouldn’t judge others for the way they choose to play this silly game of ours.
The panel as a whole also asked the audience to be more engaged in the fight against negativity in cosplay and the preservation of the convention as a safe, inclusive space for everyone. Con goers and cosplayers should be aware of their surroundings and stick together in groups. They can take pictures of those who are harassing others and show their images to convention staff. They can ask a fellow cosplayer or con attendee not to judge another cosplayer for their weight, race, or gender. A simple “hey, that’s not cool” can go a long way. In response to a question, the panel noted that cultural appropriation is not cosplay and that any attempt to change one’s facial features in order to match the race of a character is not, and should never be, cosplay.
Cosplay is what you make of it. No matter what character you choose to portray, you are welcome in the cosplay community. All that we ask is that you extend the same welcome to other cosplayers and spread the (cos)love around.