Alright, dear readers! It’s the beginning of a new year. For a lot of us, that means convention season is right around the proverbial corner, so cosplay is on the docket! With cosplay, however, comes several different concerns for a lot of us. What do I cosplay? Can I finish this in time for [Insert Convention Name Here]? Will I be able to move around in this? And for a lot of people, there’s also, “I wonder what messed-up, crazy stuff people will say to me this year?”
I would like to talk about the latter of these.
We’ve talked before about cosplay and consent, about cosplay and kink, and a few other things when it comes to cosplayers and the way people approach them. I’m not here to re-hash those topics. At this point, we all know (or should know) the big things to avoid when approaching or talking to cosplayers. Still, there are some other, more subtle nuances of conversation that some folks out there still seem to miss. Those are what I want to address today.
So, I posed the question to some folks in the cosplay community: “When you’re out and about in your cosplays, how do you prefer to be complimented on them? Conversely, are there things that people should AVOID when trying to compliment you?” I got some really good answers, and some insight that a lot of folks may or may not have considered before. After reading over all of the responses I got, I thought that I would share with you some of their statements about approaching and complimenting cosplayers, as well as some things you should or should not say & do.
“Please don’t comment on my cleavage. Or my butt. Or how much skin I am showing. In fact, don’t comment on the meat suit at all. Just comment on my wig/prop/costume/makeup, please.”
The Ultimate Con Mom and Dad:
“Best compliment: ‘Can I have your picture? Wow!’ I also like, ‘I wish my mom would cosplay. You look amazing!’ I have heard snide, sideways remarks of ‘Old people trying to get into the act’, but they are few and far between, and those people are usually stared down or dragged away by their friends. [Also,] try to avoid the words ‘old’ or yes, ‘fat’.
I also loved when a whole photo shoot started cheering when they saw our My Hero cosplays!”
“For the love of God, if you are non person of color and you see a person of color cosplaying a character that is white, please do not say, “Hey are you the black version of…?” We are just that character, nothing more, nothing less.
“Best [compliments] I’ve hear word for word? ‘OMG I loved that episode, great job!’ Or, my absolute fave, ‘Every time I watch that episode, I see you’.
I had a RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officer one year tell me ‘Awesome costume! Can I take a pic for my kid?’. He was on duty patrolling, and I was dressed as Snape from Harry Potter.”
“I get annoyed when people want to get into hypothetical debates with me about who would be able to beat up my character. But, I love it when people tell me what the character meant to them growing up. The best compliment is when people say, ‘Thank you for bringing back my childhood’.”
Finally, there’s what inspired me to write this today. The below statement was written by a friend of PCU, and also someone who has tirelessly worked convention and nightclub security for the entirety of the 2 decades in which I have known him. A few of the points he makes are things that were also talked about above, but his statement was so well-put that I had to share it with you all in its entirety:
“Hey friends! Big conventions are coming up, and there will be lots of awesome cosplay around. Many of us will want to compliment the cosplayers on their fantastic looks, but some guys may not be sure how to do this without sounding like a creep. I’m here to help you!
- Be specific and genuine. Pick something to focus on, and base your compliment on that. Make it something you really like, and that the cosplayer is emphasizing. Smaller items work better (folks like it when you notice details). Glasses, hats, and accessories are all good choices.
- Compliment something the person created, not something they are. If you are complimenting strangers, be careful to select something they controlled and built. The color of a jacket, shape of a prop, or pattern on a dress. DO NOT COMPLIMENT BODY PARTS. Nobody spends a hundred hours on a cosplay just to hear, “Nice ass”.
- Learn some adjectives. Be descriptive about what you like about their outfit. A color is “bold”. A pattern is “wonderful”. A prop is “detailed”. Again, compliment the cosplayer on their work and your shared love of the genre/character. That is what we’re here for, right?
- Pause, and wait for a reaction. You’ve said your piece, now wait and see how they respond. Most folks will be happy and the conversation can continue, but some won’t. If you get an enthusiastic response, great! If they don’t appreciate the compliment, no worries. Move on. It’s not anyone’s fault that a genuine compliment didn’t go over well, but don’t compound the problem by continuing the conversation.
Let’s all have a great time at KatsuEscapeAwesomeComicExpoAllStarWhoCon!”
So what does this all really boil down to, friends? Well, if you just want an oversimplification of it, I suppose you could say that the over-arching message we’re trying to send here is simply, “Don’t be a dick”. However, that’s doing the message an injustice. What this lesson is really about is that a lot of people really need to examine how they communicate with their fellow human beings, and even work a bit harder to realize that everyone has something that they’re proud of, and we love hearing feedback on those.
Many of us hear the other stuff every day – both the good and the bad – but we reserve cosplay for special occasions like conventions or photo shoots. We work extremely hard on these projects, and when we’re in character, we want THAT to be noticed.
Now, before anyone gets their shorts in a twist and calling me “the tone police”, consider the following:
What would you think if it were you or someone you cared about in the cosplay? Consider what you would be feeling or thinking if someone made some back-handed or rude comment about you or something on which you worked extremely hard, just so that they could have a laugh or try to puff themselves up in the eyes of others.
So, let’s all just go out and enjoy the upcoming convention season for what it is: A time that we can all get together to enjoy the company of like-minded folks who all love our respective fandoms, and who work really hard to create something that everyone can enjoy. See you at the cons, friends!