Last month, some friends and I attended Motor City Steam Con up in Livonia, Mich. Good panels, good entertainment, seeing old acquaintances – all around great first convention. We had a great time. When I posted my photos from the event on Facebook a few days later, a friend of a friend got tagged in a picture of the two of us (I was dressed as a steampunk version of Garnet from Steven Universe), which started a thread of comments from people I don’t know. Most of them were complimentary but there always has to be one person who wants to try and ruin things, right?
“Why are you taking a picture with Whoopi Goldberg?” the wannabe ruiner asked.
Not only was her comment unnecessary and unoriginal, she didn’t get the laugh she was expecting from her “friends” and she caught the clapback she deserved (“The person whose face looks like a candle melting all over an old leather couch should probably keep her jokes to herself,” I replied).
But this is the world we live in – if someone doesn’t like your cosplay, they can’t just pass it by without comment; they have to get their little jabs in here and there because…the internet. When they’re behind a computer screen, you aren’t a real person, which makes them capable of saying any old ridiculous thing they can think of.
I was reminded of this need to defend myself and my cosplay when I read the recent Kotaku story titled “Black Cosplayers Talk About Self-Doubt.” The author sought out black cosplayers at Otakon, Baltimore’s annual anime convention, to ask them about cosplaying. A number of them, most in their early ’20s, talked about experiencing self-doubt because they were cosplaying outside of their race.
“I’ve been worried I don’t look like the people I was cosplaying, so I had to be 20 times better at craftsmanship,” one cosplayer said. (Ooh, if that ain’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is!) “I think that’s how a lot of black cosplayers feel…”
This quote and the other quotes in the story make me sad…sad for them, not necessarily for myself. I’ve talked about this before but because I’m older and I don’t do “traditional” cosplay, I think I catch less flack from the mainstream (read: white) cosplay community. I’m an “old” steampunk person. I’m practically invisible to people in their early ’20s who are into cosplaying characters exactly how they appear in shows and movies, and that allows me to have fun with this hobby that I spend an exorbitant amount of time on. And you know what? I’m fine with that.