Cosplay should be encouraged not discouraged among peers

 I'm often asked why I decided to dive into the wonderful world of cosplay and my answer is always the same: "Because it looked like fun". And it is! The imaginative world of costuming allows us to literally become our favorite characters. It is a creative process, a form of self expression and we have the freedom to decide which character to choose, what variant and add in any personal touches. The more, the merrier right? So why are some people getting their spandex in a bunch? Apparently some individuals get offended when they see a fellow costumer dressed as the same character as they are. Their reasons are everything from admitting low self esteem to feeling that there should be only one character per convention or event. I was even told of an incident where someone asked a fellow cosplayer not to dress up as a certain character because it was something she wanted to do. Since when was it okay to behave like this among peers? Why are some people discouraging others instead of encouraging them? Unity has seemed to have gone out of the window and an attempt at dictatorship has taken it's place.

This isn't taking place everywhere in the world of cosplay but among a small circle. Among some of the best cosplayers in the United States (also known as "Elite Cosplayers"), it is encouraged to cosplay any character you choose and some of them even act as mentors for aspiring cosplayers. The Superman portrait (seen above) taken at the 2011 DragonCon is a perfect example of unity among cosplayers who share the love of the same character. Each respective cosplayer is portraying a different version of the Man of Steel and the result is nothing short of stunning. Recently I was at a charity event and was one of two Wonder Woman cosplayers in attendance. We were two different variants; I was the traditional version and the other was the New 52 pants version. I learned a few months later (indirectly) that this was apparently a problem although I was told I could wear whatever I wanted. Now if four grown men can cosplay Earth's Greatest Hero in glory, why can't the same be done between two grown women? I certainly didn't have a problem with it. I actually make it a point to approach a cosplayer who is dressed as the same character as I am because clearly we have something in common. I love taking pictures with these women and marveling at their version of the character, asking questions and telling them they did a great job. Some people however have become competitive about it. True, there are some cosplayers whom I feel are the best version of Supergirl or Wonder Woman that I have ever seen but I don't compare myself to them. I am satisfied with my version of those characters. I don't sit there thinking how can I "beat" someone like Margie Cox. It's not about beating someone, it's about being the best Wonder Woman I can be.

Friend and cosplayer Jonathan Carroll is one of the best in the country and acts as a mentor to people wanting to cosplay Superman, one of his signature characters. Says Jonathan:

"I think it's very important to encourage any cosplayer, whether or not they're portraying the same character. We can all learn something from one another. You go to a con, and see things on other costumes that you may not have thought about, like "oh! i like his boots, that guy's cape is great! or i really like the way his symbol looks", and from that you grow, change, and evolve. We're all there to represent our favorite character, in our own way, the best way we can. And it's up to the veteran costumers, who've been on the scene for a while, to help those that are just beginning. Be it in the actual costume, the work out and diet, or the product we use on our hair to give it the perfect quaff, I believe, we should help one another, so that this culture survives and grows into something even greater than it is today."

Jonathan's brother and fellow cosplayer Danny Kelley (who is also a good friend and is highly respected) concurs with Jonathan's views and digs deeper on why we cosplay in the first place and all the hard work that goes into practicing our craft.

"I am very honored that people come to me with questions about fitness and costumes. It makes me feel like I am doing justice to this craft that I love. I think everyone no matter what size or shape, color or origin should be able to for a few times in their life, become those characters that they love. Most grownups have forgotten what it was like to be a kid and dream. We in the cosplay world never have and never will."  

Another good friend of mine, Iggy Cosplay (the Joker pictured on the left) is best known for his portrayal as the Clown Prince of Crime. I asked Iggy if he felt competitive towards other Joker cosplayers and he had this to say:

"I am far from competitive about it and I certainly encourage it. The only reason why I'm still doing this is because another Joker cosplayer encouraged me to keep going. I've become good friends with other Jokers through cons as well. You can't have one definitive version. It's fun to see where each cosplayer takes the character in their own imaginative way."  

I often read articles and say to myself  "Well, that was pointless!" I want to avoid that with this article and make my point clear. Cosplayers should be encouraging each other not discouraging one another. I am by no means saying that someone does not have the right to express their opinion if they are feeling hurt or insecure about their cosplay. However when you start making unrealistic demands and are becoming competitive amongst your friends, clearly you have crossed a line. You are not cosplaying for the right reasons. You are cosplaying for the wrong reasons. Cosplay is suppose to be fun. Personally I feel it boils down to a certain level of maturity and of course, insecurity. If you have issues with your image whither it be the quality of your costumes or your body, you need to address and take care of those issues but please don't rain on everyone elses parade. Learn to accept yourself, be proud of your accomplishments and count your blessings. There are times you will be the only Harley Quinn at an event, at others you may run into a dozen. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a positive thing. It's love. A dark attitude will leave you trapped in a hobby you no longer enjoy and the possibility of loosing your friends in the process.

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