Cosplay is big news these days. It’s no longer merely just fans dressing up as their favorite characters. Creative interpretations of existing properties are popping up at every showing from Steampunk Ghostbusters to Star Wars armor built entirely out of LEGO bricks. It isn’t just the expansion beyond stock characters that has changed. Cosplayers are now entrepreneurs, selling their creations to other fans. They’ve become commodities, gaining sponsorships to underwrite their production and travel costs and companies like Sega have been tapping the cosplay community by bringing Aliens cosplayers to trade shows to promote their upcoming Colonial Marines title. All of this success and popularity has a down side, however, and that is the fans.
That is not to say that all fans of cosplay are bad. In fact, it is fandom that gave birth to cosplay in the first place and hopefully that cycle of creativity will never end. But there are some people who push things too far. For the sake of argument, we’ll call him “That Guy”. The rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr means the distance between fan and icon has shrunk to almost non-existent proportions. This allows tremendous give and take between both parties. Sadly, some people abuse this situation in the most crass and unpleasant ways possible. As we move forward, let’s point something out. Cosplay is not about sexual exhibition for most cosplayers. It’s about the love of the characters their bringing to life and the pride they take in their craft.
So then, why does That Guy (and those like him) feel the need to reduce female cosplayers to sex objects? It seems like this a natural function of the male human: See woman. Pretty woman. Woman sex. This may have been fine at the dawn of civilization, but its time has passed. There is nothing wrong with appreciating the beauty of a woman or the skill of cosplayers. There is also nothing wrong with telling them so. But phrases such as “t**s or GTFO”, “nice ass”, and “great rack” are not the way to do it. As sad as it may sound, those are some of the nicest of the bad comments that show up on these cosplayers’ Facebook pages and Twitter streams. Respect is seemingly in very short supply on the Internet and in cosplay fan circles. Fans need to remember that cosplayers aren’t just a physical embodiment of the characters they portray. They are someone’s daughter, sister, or mother. Reducing them to simply someone you want to “bang” dehumanizes them and, though a far lesser crime, invalidates the countless hours of work they invest on each and every project.
Cosplayers aren’t characters on a page, they aren’t cartoons dancing around the screen. They are living breathing people and not an embodiment of personal fantasy. As people, they deserve the same basic respect that every one of us is entitled to. It’s very easy to fall down the slippery slope of compliment to harassment. Every cosplayer is different and what one may laugh off, another will be offended by, just like any one of us. It’s impossible to lay down a complete set of rules for avoiding unsavory interactions. But considering the possible offenses at stake, wouldn’t it be prudent to err on the side of caution and avoid being That Guy? A simple guideline might be of some use there. When planning to post a comment on a cosplayer’s Twitter feed or web page, ask yourself two questions:
- Would I send this comment to my sister or mother?
- Do I really want to be That Guy?
It may sound corny and naïve in today’s world, but the “golden rule” still holds true: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.