Now, you might be thinking – who is this person and why have I never heard of her? Well, friend, I’m Shattered Stitch Cosplay – and you probably haven’t heard of me because I’m a nobody on the interwebs. With the surging rise of geek culture in the mainstream now thanks to comic movies, TV series, and the general relaxing of everyone about nerd stereotypes – cosplay is also rising. Thanks to shows like Heroes of Cosplay on SyFy, cosplay has been thrust into the limelight as an entertainment source for ‘muggles’ outside the community – both for good and for ill.
There is so much going on in cosplay now that its almost impossible to keep up with all the emerging talent, the conventions, and yes – the drama. As with any community – cosplay has its fair share of cattiness, pettiness, and keyboard warrioring. Now, gentle cosplayer reader, before you say “But Shatter! Cosplay isn’t all bad! I’ve met some really great friends and they’re pretty cool!” – let me stop you and say “You’re right. Me too.” The community at large is very friendly. One of the things I’ve found most to my enjoyment is the readiness and willingness of one artist to help another. If I have a question about a build – it’s a simple Google search away to find a fully guided video tutorial on YouTube or an illustrated guide on Deviant Art. There is an immense amount of sharing that the cornerstones of the community do to help not only instruct technique but to also lift up beginners who might not feel so good about their work (yet).
There are a lot of really good discussions happening in the community along the lines of body acceptance, community comfort, and creative expression. It’s not just a group of weirdos and weebs – it’s a group of artists. Many times I’ve had people try to condescend to my cosplaying with “oh, you make costumes …that’s neat, I guess” or treating it as a silly past time. As I’m sure other cosplayers out there will tell you – cosplayers are nothing shy of magicians. Chemistry, physics, engineering, tailoring: you name it, cosplay takes it. Cosplayers do something that not everyone can do – and even a smaller amount of people than that can do all the things in conjunction with one another that building a costume takes.
Now – I’m a long time veteran of the fashion industry. I’ve been in and out since I was 17, many years ago, and I can honestly say that cosplay and fashion are mirrors of one another. If you think of cosplay as avant-garde or couture fashion – it wouldn’t be that far off the mark. Cosplayers face similar body issues to models, and its something the community is trying to wrap its hands around and deal with. While the cosplay community is generally more open and loving to those who don’t work with a runway size 4 – since the growth of cosplay on the internet gallery sites like Deviant Art, Cosplay.com, and so on – criticism flows freely. It can be very discouraging and upsetting for a cosplayer who hasn’t mentally prepared themselves for it. The community itself is very encouraging of its members to take risks and be adventurous with their character choices and builds – which to a muggle might seem odd. “Why would she/he wear that?” Well, because the community told her/him it was ok and we love them no matter what. Where else do you get support like that?!
So, I suppose I’ll address the elephant in the room – lets chat about Heroes of Cosplay. Now, I’ve done reality programming locally. What you see is most certainly not what you get. I worked with a Real World type production for a contest – and we were pretty much told the role we would play and if we didn’t, we’d be portrayed that way anyway. What people need to understand about reality programming is that they are under no obligation to tell the truth or portray events as they happened. “For Entertainment Purposes Only”. You sign a contract that basically says any media produced under the duration is full property of the production company and they can use it any way they see fit. And they will. Heroes has striven to create artificial controversy in the community for the sake of entertainment – and I hope it falls off the face of the planet, honestly. It’s wonderful that cosplay is being shown to a more broad audience – but I’m not sure if I like the price the community is paying for that. Don’t believe everything you see on TV, kids.
There is plenty of cattiness, factions, and clique wars occurring within the community – some of which was fueled by Heroes. Just like any other genre or subgroup – there are stratified layers of people who will go to war over their particular views (I will probably touch on my own tenants in a later article, for your reading pleasure). The drama is particularly blown out of proportion by muggles or just simply misunderstood. A cosplayer comments on another cosplayer – and suddenly she/he is ‘jealous’ no matter how sound or relevant his/her point was; wars are started over a tweet or Facebook post. Especially ‘famous’ cosplayers who have armies of fans who may not be in the community themselves find themselves embroiled in drama that perpetuates itself because warriors and white knights didn’t understand the context or content and just want to propagate hate and drama.
That said – the community is one of the best and most giving I’ve had the pleasure to be a part of. Its nothing unusual to see donations started for people with illnesses, hard times, or unexpected life events. The community often rallies around its members, unsolicited, to help one another in any way they can. While, just like any other family, we may squabble with our brothers and sisters in the backseat of the van – we’re all in this together, and at the end of the day usually hug and make up. So if you’re just coming onto the scene as a beginner or a muggle/observer – don’t take the drama too seriously.
Tl;dr – The cosplay community is very friendly and creative, filled with very talented artists capable of things that fall just shy of witchcraft. We squabble, but we love one another and want to be a successful weirdo family.