For those uninitiated, a cosplayer, a portmanteau word for costume player, is someone who goes to a convention dressed as a character from a movie, anime, comic, book, etc. These are people who choose to embody, temporarily, the image of a character they are a fan of and at a convention they may behave in character. This is for the most part a fun hobby for them, but sometimes wearing a costume can come with a risk: the over-zealous fan. Chris covered one aspect of this last month in his article Cosplay: The Problem with “That Guy”. But objectification isn’t the only peril of cosplay, so I’ve put a guide together to help you, the fan, make sure you’re not “that guy” when approaching a cosplayer in person.
1. Cosplayers are People Too
Treat them as you would others — be polite and respectful as you would with anyone. “Please,” “excuse me,” etc. can go a long way. Yelling “Wonder Woman, over here!” is rude. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, as my mother says. Most cosplayers will be more inclined to pose for pictures (with our without you) or listen to you if you use everyday manners and remember that just because they are in costume doesn’t mean they owe you anything. They are there for THEIR enjoyment, not necessarily yours.
2. It’s OK to be Excited, but Remember Rule 1
If you see someone doing a particularly good rendition of your favorite character it is okay to be excited, it is okay to tell the cosplayer that you really like it, but remember Rule 1. If the person is swamped or is talking to others, wait your turn, don’t just barge up to them. Use your inside voice and don’t shout at them that you like their costume, even if you’re just passing in the hallway and have no intention of stopping to talk to them. Don’t run up and give them a hug; ask first. Sometimes people spend a large amount of time and money on their costume, and if you’re over excited and jumping on them you may be wrecking something inadvertently.
3. Personal Space
Remember Rule 1. Cosplayers, just like you or me, have a right to a personal space bubble. As mentioned previously, you should politely ask before posing with them for a picture, hugging them, or shoving a camera in their face. Cosplayers, as I have said, are much more likely to spend time with you if you’re polite and not jumping at them. I want to take this a step further. Just because a woman is dressed as Slave Leia doesn’t give you a license to get touchy-feely. I have seen this too many times. That is sexual harassment, and should not be tolerated. There’s being silly, and then there is stepping over the line. Keep your hands to yourself unless you ask first or are invited to do anything.
4. Don’t Interrupt
If a cosplayer is talking to someone (I’d say especially a little kid) wait your turn and don’t interrupt. This goes double if they are on the phone, eating, or heading towards the restroom. Remember… Rule 1. I’d especially say if they are talking to a kid be patient, because to that kid they ARE that character. Just wait a moment, and usually that person will be free. I’ve been with cosplayers who will stop what they are doing even if they are in the middle of eating to take a picture, but still use your best judgement. If you’re at a convention, chances are that person will be free soon enough and you can approach then.
5. Be Appropriate
This may sound like a rehashing of all of the above, but this goes to words and deeds. Consider the age of the cosplayer, if they are younger (especially under 18) you may want to temper what you say, and telling any woman that she is a hot piece of anything is just crude. If you think someone is attractive, say so, but no need to be crass. Also, there are times when you will feel a person doesn’t fit the role they are trying to play for one reason or another. There is absolutely no reason to point out what you think their shortcomings are. That’s inappropriate just like groping is inappropriate. Remember what Thumper’s mother told him: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.
If you were wondering how to approach a cosplayer, I hope this helped. And if you have been approaching cosplayers but not following the rules I hope this opened your eyes! Cosplayers, what are your biggest pet peeves, how would you like people to approach you? Have any stories of someone who either really failed at these guidelines or someone who surprised you? Tell us!