Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cosplay Experiences - Don't be a Prop

Stepping into the convention scene or any sort of event tied to geekiness in general, and you'll not only see cosplayers walking around, you'll find them in groups.  Like most people, cosplayers like to create groups of like minded and like dressed people for a variety of reasons.  I've joined some of these groups from time to time for various reasons, but there's one experience in particular that stands out to me and refuses to be forgotten.  For good reason.

I remember being a cosplay prop.

With anime and several other series, I have a tendency to like characters who stick around in the background.  I love odd series like Gankutsuou, Utena, Sorcerer Hunters, Saint Seiya and others that just don't usually fall into the normal anime fans' line of sight.  More so back years ago when we didn't have streaming anime and VHS tapes were astronomical in price.  (Wow, I sound old!)

It may not be so much of an issue now, but back then it meant that most of the characters I absolutely loved and wanted to cosplay as, no one would recognize.  This presented a problem because at the base of cosplaying is the desire to be noticed.  If you dress up as a character no one knows, most people will tend to ignore you and I had enough of people ignoring me in real life.  The whole point of my dressing up was to fit in and being ignored, well that obviously meant I wasn't fitting in.  So I compromised, I joined a group for a show I wasn't as crazy about, but still liked, and picked a character I wasn't crazy about, but still liked and dressed up as him.

Recognize this costume?  Yeah, this was him.  Duke Devlin from Yu-Gi-Oh.

Now, let me step back for a moment and provide some clarification.  At no point in this article am I saying I hate this character, this costume nor the people I cosplayed with.  Instead, once again this is a personal realization that I want to write about and again, it's related to this experience.  Don't take it as a negative, honestly it turned out to be a very positive realization for me.  Got it?  Just so we're all clear.

That part cleared up, I picked Duke Devlin because I thought the character was cool and two good friends already had Yu-Gi-Oh costumes, so it made sense.  Plus, their costumes were amazing and I wanted to hang out with them and take some awesome group pictures.  Ultimately I had fun cosplaying the character and we even found a closed mall attached to the hotel for Anime Iowa and got some amazing shots that looked like they fit in right with the show.

The problem was, I realized afterwards, that I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd originally wanted to.  By picking a show and character I kinda liked, instead of loved, I'd compromised and unknowingly basically turned myself into a prop for someone else's amazing costume.  I was thinking of myself as a way to add to their costume, rather then focusing more on my own fun and my own cosplay.

After reaching this realization, I honestly put the costume away, and it only made a later appearance for when the Yu-Gi-Oh movie came out in the theaters near me (cuz I'm a dork like that).  In the end I had had fun, but the realization after the fact kind of tainted the experience and made it not as fun in retrospect.

As a take away from the whole experience, I decided to only cosplay characters I liked for my reasons, and not just to fit in with a group.  I liked spending time with the group and getting some awesome pictures and I was totally up for doing that again.  But if I was spending the time to make these costumes and the pieces to go with them, it only made sense to me to focus that energy on characters I love, rather on halfhearted love for the sake of being noticed a teenie bit more.

The idea I'm hoping cosplayers take away from this, is to be yourself.  Honestly, no matter what your skill level is with your cosplay and whether you make it or not, you're not a prop.  You're a person who is also wearing a costume - which means you're also a cosplayer in your own right.  So if you want to dress up as someone to match another person's costume, there's nothing wrong with that and have fun!  But in my experience it's much more fun if you love the character you're portraying.  It shows through the costume, no matter what the skill and it can make a world of difference on how much fun you have in said costume and at said convention.

In the end, be yourself.  Be the characters you love and don't forget that you have the ability to be recognized for your own skill, not just because you're standing next to someone else.  There's nothing wrong with cosplay groups, but there's nothing wrong with your individual cosplay either.

**Any other cosplay/sewing/anime/geeky subjects you want me to write about? - Let me know in the comments! ***  

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