There are two different forms of cosplay abuse. Abuse of the term, the ideal, and the activity is the one that I think is a bit more personal to me. The second is abuse of the people themselves. I don’t really mean physically, though that definitely does enter into it, I mean more almost emotional abuse. Let me first talk about the former kind of abuse.
This is something I feel a real need to talk about. Especially after some recent comments on my previous article. I’m going to start off by saying that I am a crafty person, and I became a crafty person because I wanted to make decent garb for the local renaissance faire. My first year at the local faire I wore a robe made out of a bed sheet. I immediately felt outclassed and completely out of place. I decided on that first trip that I would never again attend an event in anything less than my best. Not the best, my best. I put a lot of effort into every single piece of every costume I ever made for faire. If it was something I couldn’t make myself, I found someone that could make it for me. I was in my teens, and had too many extra curricular activities to have a job. Because of that I was almost always broke. My mom didn’t have much money either, so I didn’t get an allowance. Instead she gave me $10 a week for lunch. When I wanted something, I would generally just skip lunch for a week so I could afford it. I am very well attuned the idea that you make do with very little. I still never had a bad costume. I made sure of it.This is the reason I cannot even begin to fathom the people that would attend a con, in a costume that is created with less than the basic amount of care. I can understand the draw to wear a costume, I used to do it a lot as I mentioned, but to just toss something together without even a speck of concern for how it actually looks. To me, what this does is it makes cosplayers look bad. Imagine if you were running a game of Pathfinder and your player showed up with a d20’s that were numbered one to fifteen and had several numbers doubled or tripled. Or maybe you were running a game of GURPS and you had a player show up with their character rolled up in FATE. It shows a lack of respect for what they are doing, and belittles the effort that everyone around them is putting into it. Also, for me, it even shows disrespect for whatever property it is you are trying to flatter with your imagery.
I know this may not be a popular stance on the subject, but this is how I feel about it. My next topic though, is something I saw happen almost repeatedly while at GenCon. People being rude and almost dismissive of cosplayers. It seemed like every time I turned around I heard a terse “Stand still so I can take a picture.” or “Hey stop for a minute!” Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people asked politely if they could take a picture but there were so many who did not. Quite a few people were just downright rude to the people who’s picture they wanted to take. These are people just like you, and you are asking them to take their time to stop for a picture. You should at least be moderately respectful. Any good cosplayer knows that going to an event in costume means that you will likely never get anything done in a decent amount of time. Back when I went to faire in costume a good third of my day was taken up posing for pictures. It was fun, but it was also quite exhausting. Having people be cordial definitely helps offset some of the irritation and grumpiness that creeps in at the end of a long day.The biggest thing that I saw that really upset me was people almost taking advantage of people in costume. For example, there was a woman dressed up as Power Girl. If you aren’t familiar with the character she is basically in a white unitard with a red cape and blue gloves. She is also pretty well known for being a very busty character. This woman dressed as Power Girl fit the bill perfectly and was wearing a very good costume. I was taking a bit of a breather at this point and saw her walk by, I considered asking for a picture but she was talking to some guys she was with and I assumed they were making plans to do something. I let it go and kept up my Extended Rest. A short while later she returned sans companions. This time I did stop to ask her for a picture(sadly it was way blurry and I deleted it), and just as I was thanking her for her time this group of guys comes running up to her. I heard a loud “Dude, take my picture with this hot chick.” as he threw his arm around her waist and basically squished his face into the side of her boobs without a moment’s thought to asking for consent. The friend snapped the picture and then shouted “My turn!” I could see on her face that she was uncomfortable by many shades at least. Since I was still standing there I piped in with a “Hey fellas, chill out a bit its not a free show alright?” I of course was set on the other end of a withering look from Big Burly Dude Number 1 who was now behind the camera. Not to be outdone, I shot him my own withering look and a terse “Seriously, give her some space and next time ask her damn permission before just assuming you can run up and grope her for a picture.” Grabby McFingerson snorted and they walked off. Power Girl gave me a grateful smile and I smiled back and we parted ways.
I saw this particular scene play out time and time again all day long with various girls and women on the receiving end of unwanted attention purely because they were in costume. I even saw one guy do a covert boob grab. I was across the hallway and couldn’t do a damn thing about it, but that makes me sick. Just because someone is in a costume, no matter how bad or trashy or flesh revealing it is, does not mean you are allowed to get a free show. Put your hormones on low gear there Captain Jack, this time you aren’t getting a Jolly Roger. These are human beings, not sex dolls on parade for your perverse enjoyment. If you want to put your hands on someone, go to a strip club. Not a gaming convention.
And before I get accused of being sexist, I saw it happen with women as well. In this case it was even more overt and I would be even more likely to call it gross sexual imposition or something similar. A guy was wearing one of those full neon bodysuits head to toe. Don’t ask me what its from I don’t even know if its a character or what, but I see them all the time at conventions for some reason. His package was quite impressive I must admit, and apparently a gaggle of ladies agreed with me. Out of nowhere one of said giggly ladies runs up and full on grabs his junk and then runs away giggling. Why would anyone in their right mind think that this behavior is OK? No normal person in a normal environment would think that this is OK, but for some reason at GenCon when dealing with cosplayers its a perfectly legitimate thing to do for some people.
To clear the air a bit, I should mention that to my senses there was no alcohol involved in any of these instances. I have told these stories a few times since my trip and each time someone asked me if they were drunk. I really don’t think they were. I think it was just a matter of taking too many liberties in a non-standard situation. The lesson here, is just to be a decent human being. Ask permission to take a picture, thank them for their time, and for gods sake if you have to be in the picture keep your hands to yourself.