So, my kid wasn’t allowed bring her cosplay into Six Flags over the weekend.
We’ve gone to the annual Halloween Fright Fest almost every year for about a decade now and usually have a good time. One thing my kid always looks forward to is the kids’ costume contest – a harmless fun activity where kids can show off their outfits for prizes and goodies. We decided to up our game this year by bringing her TARDIS costume–yes, my daughter has a no-kidding wearable TARDIS which is sized for a middle-schooler.
Half an hour before the contest, I ran back to the car to get it, brought it back to the gate, and…no dice. The security guards stopped me and said I couldn’t bring it in. They didn’t point to a specific rule in the park policies other than that it “wasn’t safe” because it was too big and could get in people’s way in an emergency. We disputed and she cried, but no dice: the park security force wouldn’t let it in. We got back into Six Flags, but missed the costume contest. I took it up with guest services, but they just said that security is a different aspect of the park and, while they took my information to give feedback to corporate, there wasn’t anything that could be done today.*
Now, let me say up front: this was private property. Their park, their rules, and they can let in anyone they want short of the law saying otherwise. However, the lack of clarity on why a TARDIS is unwelcome was frustrating. The contest advertisement says “You can be whatever you want” and doesn’t provide any limitations on size of manner of outfit.
I checked the “park policies” page for clarity, and there’s nothing on there about oversized props either. A number of their prohibitions make sense: sure, no weapons or profane clothing or spray paints. Those make sense. The cosplay restriction is a lot vaguer and really not clear from the web page, though. Certainly, Six Flags is going to need some discretion in what it wants to allow on its grounds. I’m not a literalist monster who wants to hold them to a “gotcha” because “TARDIS” is not listed on the park policies page. I’m just saying: if it’s a safety hazard, this isn’t clear from what’s advertised. And if the bulk is concerning, that’s great, but the park still allows in wheelchairs and oversized strollers (as they should, but that doesn’t help us).
What I am saying is that it’s disappointing to go through the effort of bringing a cosplay outfit to a famous amusement park knowing that it’s an open invitation to show off your skills, and then be told “no” based on a vague and uncited rule. We’re at least fortunate in that we live a short drive from the park. I can only imagine how a family that traveled a further distance would have reacted.
The thing is, cosplay and costuming has grown a considerable degree in the past decade. Halloween events at major amusement parks should consider accounting for this. People are now building some amazing, complicated costumes that go beyond simple clothing. It’s not unusual to go to a fan convention and find people in giant robot outfits or full-sized dinosaur disguises. Costuming is getting considerably more complicated than simply going to Target and picking a pre-packed outfit off the rack. It’s becoming very personal.
If Six Flags wants to continue its Halloween traditions and its junior costume contest and not account for cosplay, that’s their perogative. They run amusements and aren’t there to cater to mega-fans and their costumes the way a convention is. I get that. But as cosplay continues to rise in the culture, they’re going to have to be prepared to the possibility that they’re excluding a customer base and source of revenue. And they’re going to leave people frustrated if the rules aren’t clearly spelled out. If the costume contest has size and material restrictions, state so up front, not when the customer is at the gate.
* Confession: It turns out the age limit for costumes is 10, and my kid just hit 11, so she would have been disqualified anyway. That’s on us for not seeing the limit. However, that’s not why we were stopped at the gate, nor is it what this article is about.