What I Know About Cosplayers

So I may not be wearing a nice shirt, but I'm hugging Romo. Good enough, right?

I don’t know much, especially about cosplay. I, at one point, had a notion that I would do it, specifically as Captain Marvel (the Shazam version) but the difficulty of finding double-breasted clothing caused me to give up on that pretty quickly. When I go to cons I actually tend to dress up, just not in costume. I imagine I’m not alone when I say that my usual attire is of the jeans and a t-shirt variety. But as for cons, I learned early on that as a white male, fitting in was easy, standing out in a non-obnoxious way was the challenge. As much as it may be a stereotype, there are some slovenly folks amongst us. Nothing wrong with it, but if I was looking to stand out I realized I could that my best bet was by getting a haircut, shaving, and wearing a shirt which contained buttons but was free from stains. I also will, from time to time, wear hiking boots at cons. Those boots are great for when you have to walk a lot, a perfectly acceptable piece of attire for my own scientific subculture, and I just don’t care what Josh thinks of me. So there’s that. Enjoy your Chuck Taylor’s and your back pain.

If you’re reading this and have no clue why I’m talking about a subject I admittedly know little about, consider yourself lucky. If you’re on the same page, just accept that I don’t care to promote negativity by linking to it, but yes this my take on that whole thing.

There seem to be two notions at play here, both equally tricky to tackle by an admittedly ignorant white male. But ignorant white males got the ball rolling, the least I can do is try to slow it down, however Sisyphean a task that might prove to be. The first notion is that women dress up in costume to garner attention from the shy nerds. The second notion is that there are “real” geeks, then posers who have infiltrated our ranks (for some reason no one has yet been able to explain to me). I’d like to start with the more narrow supposition that women are just out for attention.

Tell these guys that they're stealing your sales. Go right ahead.

First and foremost, men cosplay too. There’s a pretty fantastic Power Girl as a man costume out there if you’re skeptical. While I am not a cosplayer, mostly because of laziness, I am friends with a few of them, including our own Molly McIssac, as well as Jen and Kevin (congrats on the nuptials, by the way) and a handful of others. Yes, their costumes are sometimes revealing. My understanding is that most of time these costumes are designed by men, which is a separate, but probably still relevant, issue. But I don’t for a second think that the reason my friends, male or female, are dressing up just to show off their bodies. They are dressing up to show off a number of things. They dress up to show off their passion for characters (Jen is a huge Mockingbird fan), they dress up to show off their skill at creating costumes (which is incredible, and something any artist should be flattered beyond all reason by), and they dress up BECAUSE. IT’S. FUN. Is it fun because as a character in costume they will get a lot of attention? Quite possibly. Is that wrong? No. Is that the only reason it’s fun? No, and to presume so seems pretty insulting.

The ancillary contention is that attractive cosplayers distract from the hardworking comic creators sitting at their tables hoping to sell books. I empathize with this, I really do. Selling books at a convention has to be an incredibly stressful experience. I’ve only ever been on the purchasing side, but I can feel the tension. However, and this is a big however, if you’re there to sell books, you really shouldn’t blame cosplayers if your product isn’t flying off the table. I am easy sell at a convention. I’m there to find new stuff, if your stuff is the stuff I ought to find, the onus is somewhat on you to make sure I’m aware of it. There are plenty of times at conventions where someone at a table in artist’s alley calls me over to check out their stuff. And yes, the carnival barker attitude is effective at getting me to your table. If I walk over and scope out your stuff and think it’s not for me, I won’t buy it. If I even suspect it is something I might like, I will give you my hard-earned monies. I bring cash to cons, I bring a backpack. I plan part of my day around dropping off books wherever I’m staying. Point being: I go out of my way to make selling to me as easy as possible, if you have product and can sell it, I’m yours. But if you’re excuse for failing to get attention at a con is because someone in a costume happens to be nearby, my sympathy for your plight approaches zero.

Looking at the camera just proves the point that it's all about getting attention, right?

The other issue is the idea of a “real” geek. This one kind of floors me. Going to cons is not cheap. I imagine cosplaying is also not cheap. To accuse people at a con in costume of not being “real” geeks is just… well dumb. As loathe as I am to quote the Bible, I’m pretty sure there’s something in there about presuming to know the hearts of others. Your pronouncements are not likely to be very accurate. There’s also something to be said for another Biblical idea of “judge not lest ye be something or other.”

Ultimately, I would be thrilled if our culture could embrace an attitude of inclusion that accepted all comers regardless of attractiveness or proclivity to cosplaying. I will freely admit that there are geeks who annoy the bejeezus out of me, even concerning things that I like (Firefly, anybody?). Learning to cope with frustration of those who don’t express their appreciation for the things you like in the way you think appropriate is part of maturing as a fan. If you can’t handle it, then retreat with dignity and leave the cons to the cosplayers and those who admire them.

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Ryan Haupt knows cosplayers who carry weapons, pissing them off by insulting their spouses is probably not wise. He has a podcast, Science… sort of, which isn’t really relevant to this column, but is still pretty good.

Comments

  1. Ryan, thank you for this article. I share pretty much every opinion you express here.

    • One aspect of this that I have seen in the comments of previous, related articles is the “not kid-friendly” facet of some cosplay costumes. I wish you could have addressed this issue as well, because it is a complicating factor. I guess I come down on the side of “Zap-pow, comics aren’t for kids anymore!” If revealing cosplay outfits are not for kids, couldn’t the same be said about all the displays, posters, original art, and comic book covers that depict scantily-clad characters? Not to mention the oft-costumed booth attendants. All these are on full display at the cons, so I don’t see cosplayers as being out-of-place in such an environment. I suppose I can imagine a scenario where Dad and little Jr. are going to the con together to search out back-issues of some kiddie comic, and I do empathize if a perceived “sexualised” con atmosphere would prevent such an outing. On the other hand, it might be a more common scenario that cosplayers provide welcome entertainment for the kids while Dad spends hours flipping through long boxes. Without cosplayers, wouldn’t cons be sort of boring for most little kids?

    • Ryan Haupt Ryan Haupt (@haupt) says:

      Get rid of all the cosplayers and you still have booth babes.

    • Right. I guess I was calling them “costumed booth attendants” which is not the normal way to refer to them, I realize.

    • The simple answer is usually the correct one. Sex sells. No matter if its goods or services, if its appealing to folks they will pay attention. You gotta take the good with the bad.

    • I-Doll I-Doll says:

      Master Destructo, I tend to use more cloth to cover me than most of the characters’ original costumes ( like to be able to bend over in front of small children without giving them an anatomy lesson), but even then, the costume tends to be on the skimpy side. I vow that if I ever break into comics, I’m going to insist on a comfy, cute, easy to make costume for my female characters, lol.

  2. gobo gobo says:

    *slow clap* Great article Ryan!

  3. ColdWarKid ColdWarKid says:

    This whole debate intrigues me, specifically the “real” geek part. It’s very similar to when a sports team becomes good and everyone starts rooting for them. The fans who have been there during the bad years, rooting for a bad team feel like the bandwagon fans do not deserve their status as fans. Really, they just enjoy the sport/team a different way. Really, this whole thing could be a reaction to bandwagon comic fans (and yes you can have bandwagon fans in comics, especially after the success of the movies). What is really fascinating is the bandwagon fan growth is being tied into the feminist uprising in comics. It could be that the largest growth sector in comic readership/fandom (or maybe just the largest perceived growth sector) is the female demographic. So in turn, you are seeing a lot of bandwagon anger thrown towards female comic readers. Or maybe it could be that the with all the extra scrutiny thrown on the needed female presents in comics over the last few years has created a sensitivity to criticism on female fans. And I would argue that the most (or perceived to be) Cosplayers tend to be female and thus any attacks on cosplayers are attacks on females. It’s really interesting. Sorry for rambling, I’m a former Anthropology student whose fiancee is a women studies fanatic. These sorts of cultural discussions get thrown around my house a lot.

  4. DrBr00klyn DrBr00klyn says:

    I feel like all the rage comes from the fact that many to most con goers were probably turned down a lot in high school for being geeky (I know I was) and now they see girls similar to the cheerleaders who trashed their high school hearts dressed as the reasons they never got the cheerleader to begin with… which leads to them displacing the hatred towards which ever girl(s) turned them down onto complete strangers who’s only crime is being an attractive comics fan, which isn’t a crime… it’s freaking awesome.

    • flakbait flakbait says:

      I sense that, too. There are two uncomfortable realizations that can happen there – “Holy balls, there are attractive people out there who share my interests!” and “It might not be my interests that they didn’t like, but me!”

    • DrBr00klyn DrBr00klyn says:

      Exactly, it’s the externalization of self loathing.

  5. flakbait flakbait says:

    I find the “just doing it for attention” accusation so ridiculous. Of course. It’s fun. Getting attention is fun. Getting attention for dressing in an awesome way is fun. And I’m pretty sure most women aren’t wanting for attention, unwanted or otherwise. Why they would need to spend a significant amount of money to do so is puzzling to me.

    If someone is looking at your booth, and suddenly peels away to lavish attention on a cosplayer, they’re probably just using the costume as an excuse to get away politely. It can be an awkward situation there.

    • Quinn says:

      Seriously. How self-important is the “doing it for attention” argument? Yes, because there’s nothing women like more than getting attention from men based solely on their physical attributes. It’s why so many women walk back and forth in front of construction sites.

      If cosplayers are doing it for attention, I suspect it’s for attention to their craft, attention to their talent at making a costume. They spent hours making something beautiful for their own enjoyment, knowing that, at best, the mainstream world doesn’t care, and at worst their picture will show up on a snarky website making fun of cosplayers. What could possibly be more OG (original geek) than that? If this issue makes you mad, especially if your initials are T.M., then you need to go watch some Dancing Deadpool videos on YouTube and chill out. In fact, we should all go watch Dancing Deadpool videos. Right now.

    • Kamilo Kamilo says:

      It just seems like a slippery slope though. Yes, I can feel for the women who are completely swamped by the creepos, or stalked, or otherwise abused because of their cosplay choices at cons. However, when a young, thin 20-something is putting on an armored bikini and then getting annoyed about people not pretending this is a completely normal situation, it makes me wonder. I get the whole argument that these costumes are largely created by men to appeal to men and thus overplay the sexuality a bit, but at the same time, no one ever said you have to dress as the vanilla version of that character. For instance an armored Wonder Woman would generally desexualize her costume while still showing love for the character and an even greater sense of creativity than a plain version.

    • flakbait flakbait says:

      I don’t think the complaint is that guys are checking them out, it’s the comments, grabbing, snapping pictures, etc. I agree it’s probably not fair to use the same line, necessarily, but there’s still a line.

  6. i don’t know anything about the cosplay scene, but this whole “real geek” conversation really put me off to the entire comics culture in general. Basically, if you’re not hardcore 24/7 360 into it, then you’re not allowed in the clubhouse. Really dumb way to be, but its that weird tribal thing that happens to just about every subculture eventually.

    It reminds me of every music scene i’ve ever been a part of…showing your street cred papers to wear a band t-shirt or see a show. I guess my point is, this kinda of bullshit elitism is pushing people away even the argument at hand isn’t directly effecting them.

    Soooo chillax, calm down and be cool with people enjoying things the way they want and at the speed they want to.

  7. mockingnerd mockingnerd says:

    Hey, it’s me! Thank you for making me sound super cool.

    I’ve admittedly not been keeping up with this debate and have just seen it flying around all around the usual places I tend to spend my precious little internet time. But what I did see was quite disappointing. It’s a shame when anyone gets painted with the same brush as everyone else but I did think this was particularly unfair. I’m not going to type paragraphs defending myself personally because I really don’t think I need to – the apparent support for this silly hobby that I participate in maybe once a year at a convention is immense – but I will point out that people shitting on cosplayers, like anyone hitting out at something they’re rather ignorant about, should spend just a few extra minutes taking a look around. Did they know that a lot of us, myself included, wear these costumes to visit kids in hospital? To attend fundraisers for organisations that support chronically sick or underprivileged children? No, didn’t think so. Here we are, though: http://www.heroesalliance.org

    And of course everyone likes to be acknowledged in some way for something they’ve made, or designed, or otherwise been involved in creating. But some of us really like the more obscure characters few people actually recognise or care about… and we’re just doing it because we think they’re great. (And if they DO need someone to draw a Namora book, I’m waiting by the phone.)

    • Ryan Haupt Ryan Haupt (@haupt) says:

      I’d buy that book. Hell, I’d take a stab at writing it. I know some water stuff about fish and whales and junk.

    • Quinn says:

      Heroes Alliance is amazing, and a link to that website should be posted in every single discussion about this, everywhere on the internet. Thank you for doing it.

  8. itsbecca itsbecca says:

    Cosplayers are awesome, fearless and somehow both nerdier AND cooler than I will ever be.

    Regarding the recent hubub, I just found the entire though process behind it lazy. Saying that the women who knew were obviously the exception to the rule is just so silly, and then proceeding to use that an excuse for why any “legitimate” cosplayer should not be offended? Lazy. He’s clearly too stubborn to officially back down so hangs on weak little tidbits such as that.

    The thing I found weirdest (and didn’t really see people mention) was that in amongst the impressively offensive thoughts against female cosplayers was also inserted a pretty serious dig on guy guys, painting them as antisocial virgins who can’t help put pull it out and get to work right then and there if a semi-attractive female crosses their path. At that point I just gave up, the man clearly hates the fandom as a whole, hopefully he’s just going through a jaded period and his life’s work isn’t devoted to people he despises, but that’s HIS deal. I’ll leave him to his hate in peace.

    PS – I also found it laughable that he kept getting indignant that the internet was blowing it up, he didn’t want the attention and the rant was on HIS personal facebook, so “If you don’t like it then leave”. But… Mr. Harris, you ACTIVELY asked people to spread and retweet the message. They were only following orders ;)

    • yeah that was my take as well. Basically everyone got insulted indirectly at a point. Its like gee thanks for reducing men and women to pathetic stereotypes.

      Its always funny when someone posts a rant online, and then gets all butt hurt when people tweet, or link to it. Isn’t that the whole point?

    • I-Doll I-Doll says:

      As a cosplayer, part of the reason I love cosplaying at cons, aside from the fact that more people recognize the character I’m cosplaying, is that most geek guys have better manners, than say your average bar/club that I go into. Geek guys, by far, don’t grab on me nor say rude things. They compliment me, and maybe give me a heads up about comic/show/event that I might not have heard about, or I give them a similar heads up. So the reason cosplayers prefer to dress up amongst our fellow geeks is actually flattering to our fellow geeks.

  9. Hey, it’s us! Hey, Ryan, fun fact, that photo of us was actually on display at the bar at our wedding (I’m the big guy with the hammer, everyone else. Hello! How are you?).

    Thanks for writing this, man, it’s reeeeealy nice to have a rational and intelligent voice in your corner. As far as the “they’re not real geeks” thing… I don’t know, I’ve never heard anyone say that to me. Not to my face anyway. I guess maybe its attributable to the idea that we tend to hang out with other stable couples who ALL tend to also be costumers ( for the record, I know it’s getting to be the accepted term, but I still hate the term ‘Cosplay’).

    Maybe it’s a sign of success that people, both personally and as a movement, get hated on this way. At sort of thing always accompanies success. But I’m a pretty positive person and I can rationally look back at all the commentary and when only like 10% of it or so is negative, then it’s a pretty good indicator that you’re doing it right.

    Do we like attention? Sure. It’s not really for shy people. Most of us do it, as you said, because its fun, and we enjoy the craftsmanship and the esprit de corps. I can’t help but think that most of the grumbling is coming from people that for whatever reason don’t have the conviction to do something they want to without so many reservations. Haters gonna hate, as they say…

    Also, thanks for bringing up http://www.heroesalliance.org here, Jen. It’s something that could really change minds if they were aware of and understood our mission. Doing the costumes for fans at conventions is fun. Doing it for a sick child who gets comfort in the hospital, or a family at a community event with a special needs child who gets to meet a “real super hero” is amazing.

    Thanks again, bud.

    • Ryan Haupt Ryan Haupt (@haupt) says:

      “It’s not really for shy people.” Made me laugh. Can’t image you’ve ever been called shy in your life.

      It was my pleasure to write it, glad you dug it.

    • APoetSomeday APoetSomeday says:

      That ‘Heroes Alliance’ thing you posted is simply wonderful (I just checked out the site). You’re doing excellent work, my hammer-wielding friend, keep it up!

    • Ryan, believe it or not, as a kid I was very shy. Also skinny, and socially withdrawn. I have no idea what happened.
      Oh, and if you get the chance, try out the Lucifer Belgian Ale. It is exactly your taste.

      APoet, thanks, man. Its an enormously satisfying thing to do. We appreciate it. Spread the word!

    • APoetSomeday APoetSomeday says:

      Will do!

  10. JokersNuts JokersNuts says:

    I love Cosplayers and really don’t see the problem. They are a lot of fun to look at and add to my enjoyment of going to a con. It really wouldn’t be the same without them. If you don’t enjoy cosplayers… that’s fine because no one is getting hurt because someone dresses up as Batman or Jean Grey. It literally doesn’t effect you.

  11. 8bitErin 8bitErin says:

    Great article Ryan!
    And also, I want to express my excitement and gratitude at finally reading a comment section on this topic that didn’t make me want to log off the internet forever.
    Thank you iFanbase!

  12. kyleo71 says:

    Is it wrong that, despite this well written & thoughtful article, the only thing I could think about was that the guys in the guy-modified heroine costumes were freaking HAWT?

    Ok. I’m shallow. Sue me.

  13. Although this is. Very well written article and a lot of thought was obviously put into it, I think the world needs less articles about people dressed as comic characters and more articles about the comic themselves. I don’t know why all of a sudden everybody is so obsessed with cosplayers.

    • Ryan Haupt Ryan Haupt (@haupt) says:

      By my count there have been 6 articles posted on iFanboy today (at least as soon as the POW goes up). 1 about Arrow (a tv show), my article, and then 4 others about comics. Just saying.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      Agreed. I really just don’t care about cosplayers. I’m not one, I don’t find they add much to cons or that their absence would detract from my con experience. Cosplayer problems don’t hold too much interest for me. I like the diversity of articles on ifanboy, and both this and Molly’s were well written, but two cosplay articles in a week seems like overkill. I mean really? “I’m attractive, I’m confidience enought to dress up in a way that shows off my attractiveness, but I’m mad when someone notices me the wrong way!” Talk about first world problems…

    • Conor Kilpatrick Conor Kilpatrick (@cskilpatrick) says:

      Cosplaying is a part of the comic book community and as iFanboy covers the comic book community and not just the books themselves, they are a legitimate subject to explore, especially when a particular subject, like cosplaying, is so in the zeitgeist lately.

      If there are articles that we run whose subject matter is of no interest to you, there is a simple solution:

      Do not read them.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      Um, well my main point was in regard to the act of cosplaying and how I didn’t much care for it or about it. I only wrote one sentence regarding how I personally felt two articles on pretty much the same topic in one week felt a little much.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      I mean after two articles about how bad the creeping on female cosplayers is at cons how about an article about why so many female comic characters are over sexualized. If the argument is “all my favorite characters dress sexy so I have to cosplay sexy” wouldn’t the obvious discussion to have be about why so many female characters are drawn in revealing costumes? Isn’t that the real root of this whole problem?

    • Ryan Haupt Ryan Haupt (@haupt) says:

      @USPUNX No.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @ryanhaupt: Yeah you’re probably right. It’s much easier to complain about the problem then try to identify the cause.

    • Ryan Haupt Ryan Haupt (@haupt) says:

      @USPUNX is it wrong to design a revealing costume for a character? Not really.

      is it wrong to treat a person who wears that costume like crap? Yes.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @ryanhaupt: That’s not at all what I’m saying, I think you missed my point completely. I agree with you on both of the points you made, drawing or dressing in a revealing costume is not wrong, treating someone badly because they have dressed in one is wrong. Have you EVER seen a comment on ifanboy that suggested otherwise?

      I was suggesting an article/discussion about WHY this behavior has become common is in order. There have been many articles, two on this site alone in a week, about the prevalence of inappropriate behavior toward scantily clad cosplayers. We all understand, this is a wide spread problem and we need to address it, that point has been WELL made. Maybe now it’s time to move the discussion beyond the simply “this is bad” phase and talk about why this is happening, try to identify the root. I once saw a t-shirt at an anti-war rally I went to a few years ago that said : “Awareness doesn’t stop bombs from falling.” I have always thought that was a great point. Identifying a problem and raising awareness is a great first step but its doesn’t really do much to solve that problem. In order to solve a problem you have to find out what is causing it and address the problem from there. You don’t treat cancer by giving someone meds for the pain, you attack the tumor.

      I haven’t seen a single comment either here or on Molly’s article that is defending touching or photographing cosplayers without permission. Everyone seems to agree that is never okay. So why is it still happening? What is causing it? Is it as simple as the generally revealing nature of comic costumes, particularly female character’s costumes? Is it revealing costumes coupled with the generally voyeuristic nature of reading a comic books that makes certain people view cosplayers as appropriate targets for their personal fantasies? Is it the age old stereotype, which is propagated in many of these articles, that certain “geeky guys” are just ignorant of normal social rules? Is it that cons just attract a certain crowd? Is it that cons create a certain culture or environment where this type of behavior seems normal? Seems to me addressing some of these questions is in order now that we’ve all agreed this is bad behavior, if it was ever actually in doubt in the first place.

      If it was as simple as saying “that’s creepy, stop doing that” or “some people are just socially awkward” the problem would probably have been solved already. Since it’s not solved, maybe some insight a little deeper that “this is happening and its bad!” is needed.

    • @USPUNX I’d throw it out there (to venture an answer to your question) that the problematic behavior you’re talking about is associated with the suspension of conventional morays that can exist in a convention atmosphere. You’ve got a lot of people, many of whom don’t get to this kind of an event too often, surrounded by what is essentially a living fantasy setting. Once the perception of “not being in the real world right now” sets in, that may be when the bad behavior ensues.

      To contrast it, look no further than the beach. Any beach in warm weather with a human population around it (or indeed swimming pools or lakes… Something about sun and bodies of water) tends to attract scads of scantily clad women in extremely revealing outfits, usually much more revealing than your average cosplayer’s outfit. And is harassment the norm for these people? No. There is an unwritten social contract in place that says “people a going to wear fewer and potentially provocative clothing here. Everybody be cool!” And if some jerk DOES decide to go about harassing said people, it’s perfectly ok to stand right up to him and subject him to every appropriate means of containment.

      In regard to the geeky guy types being the offenders in this situation, I disagree. Of course there will always be exceptions to the rule (the odd mouth breather who stares in appropriately for way too long), but in my experience I’ve found that most of the problematic behavior comes from the “tourists.” That is, those who are either new to the scene or outsiders who are coming to the events for cheap thrills with per-conceived and outdated notions of what this swath of the culture is about. They don’t see nerdy types as people they can identify with (at first), and that sense of “otherness” manifests itself in terms of treating others not as people with emotions who are deserving of respect, but as mere playthings, objects for their enjoyment to dispose of as they wish.

      That’s my experience anyway. Every single convention I’ve ever gone to, I’ve regularly been interrogated more than once by a civilian (usually drunk) about what we do (it’s for fun,etc), why we do it (no, we are not a bunch of crazy sex pervs), and how we all seem to know each other (ever heard of the Internet?!?). Usually I’ll just talk to them. Once you’re engaging them on a human level where they can generate empathy and understand that you actually have more in common with them than you don’t, it helps normalize things a lot.

      Of course, about ten percent of the time, you’ll get someone who is unrepentantly rude, belligerent, or just unwilling to be reasonable, and that’s where I usually start using the stick instead of the carrot. I find public humiliation works beautifully, as does the threat of being ejected from the premises or arrested. And, you know, there’s always the big hammer. ;)

      An adage I like to live by is “people can’t walk on you if you don’t lay down for them.” It’s true across the board.

      So to me the answer to what you’re asking is through engagement and enforcement. Hope this helped!

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @supernovashock: See, this is what I’m talking about! A discussion about the actual causes of this problem rather than just continuing to reinforce that it’s happening! Excellent points and honestly I had come to many of these same answers myself from my own experience at cons.

      I appreciate you actually answering the questions I posed, and in a very intelligent way I might add, but the main point of my rant was that an article that actually attempted to figure this problem out might serve more of a purpose than yet another article simply pointing out that the problem exists and it is bad.

      It is really strange to me the idea of “con behavior”. I too had used the beach analogy and wondered why it is so different. There are plenty of other similar circumstances too; dance clubs, bars on Halloween, where woman will also be scantily dressed and yet not expect to be harassed. So what is it about cons? Maybe you’re right that its the fantasy setting that allows certain people to suspend typical social norms; that’s the only answer I can come up with that seems to make sense.

      I would take a little exception with your “civilians” comments. I have been a part of comic, and for lack of a better word, geek culture for almost my entire life yet I’ve only ever been to one con. That said I knew how to conduct myself as a person and though I was surprised by the energy of the place I never felt like I was in a foreign land whose rules needed to be explained to me. I think the whole “us against them” mentality is really negative. I have seen it from a lot of people, smart sensitive people, who also partake in geek culture and it really concerns me. It’s almost as if we expect “civilians” to not understand us and we walk around with a chip on our shoulder. Look, I was teased plenty in grade and high school for the shit I liked and back then I did my best to hide my geeky qualities in order to avoid the bullies who didn’t approve of my hobbies. But as I got older and finally got into college I came to the realization “fuck them;” I like what I like and if you don’t then that’s fine too. It’s the same for any subculture that grows to be a part of mainstream society, there will always be growing pains. I think it might be time to stop being to insular. Prophecies can often be self-fulfilling and maybe you regard certain people as “tourists” and their behavior as wrong because you are expecting them to behave wrongly. (Not talking about the specific behavior of creeping on women here but just generally behaving strangely at cons) Maybe I’m way off, I’ve only ever been to one con after all, but that’s how I see it. And I think it’s larger than just cons too. It extends to something as simple as comic book stores. I have taken friends of mine to my LCS several times, friends that have never read or purchased a comic before, and when we walk in I can tell they automatically feel uncomfortable. I’ve often wondered why that is as I’ve seen it happen to several of my friends who are confident in almost any other situation. Perhaps its that we geeks put off a “you don’t belong here vibe” or maybe its because my non geeky friends worry about being “caught” in a comic book store. Most likely its a little of both. Maybe “tourists” need to stop treating us like oddities but maybe we geeks also need to stop treating them like tourists.

      Well anyway, thanks for the response. It would be great to see an article that did some actual critical analysis of the problem so we could have a larger discussion like this.

    • @USPUNX Good points all around.

      I think I may need to clarify my position a bit, and I’ll agree that my language may have been unintentionally divisive. I’m a colorful guy, and I tend to use colorful language. I used the terms “civilian” and “tourist” only to distinguish people inside the culture from those outsiders who were hanging about, perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps to join. I in no way intended to be divisive. On the contrary, I actively try to win people over, thus my practice of talking to people and engaging them rather than trying to stonewall them and make them feel unwelcome. So for the purpose of this discussion I shall cease the use of divisive language and instead adopt the term “newcomer” to describe people who might be new to geek/convention culture. It’s at the very least, a bit more positive.

      I agree completely that the purposeful isolation, and the snobbery that ensues therefrom, of the “geek culture” (we should really find a better word for that, too) isn’t doing us any favors. I do think at the very least, most of the newcomers who show up at cons, stores, etc are there because they have some kind of passing interest in what we do. Not hatred. Not disdain. Just, at the very least, curiosity. That’s why I’m willing to answer questions. When we start talking, the conversation usually starts with a pointed question on the newcomer’s part along the lines of “what’s this all about, then?” and if they’re gonna ask about the costuming, I’ll talk to them about the craftsmanship that goes into it, the workout regimens you have to follow, the places you’ll travel for events, etc. To them it usually winds up being interesting and identifiable to their own interests. Then we get around to the even more mundane stuff like our jobs, our families, music we’re into, our pets… all that lovely stuff that unites everybody. Ultimately everyone will realize that we all are so much more alike than we are different.

      If we as a culture are being seen as an “other” by anyone on the outside, I’d assert that the onus is upon us to be ambassadors to the rest of the world. We have a choice, we can choose to be insular and perpetuate an “us v. them” attitude and always be uncomfortable with the outside world, or we could welcome everyone in, and show them how awesome it can be in here. I know a lot of us may fear the assimilation into the mainstream that comes from the success of a cultural phenomenon, it therefore becoming diluted into the mainstream, and no longer our special little thing… but that’s just how it has to go! It’s like when a band becomes successful, you will always have hip people complaining about the success of their favorite musicians because they’ve sold out, and that the people who are now into them don’t have the same cred that they did when they were playing in a dingy club for ten people. Know what I mean?

      But that’s a bit of a digression.

      For my part, even when I’m at work or just out and about, I try and spread the word in a way that gets through to newcomers who are open minded. I had a guy at work last month who came up to me and initiated a discussion about The Dark Knight Rises, and we talked about it for a while, and I made some references to the comics stories that were drawn upon to inspire the movie, and I suggested that he give the books a try. When he pushed back with the predictable resistance that you described with your friends at the LCS, I offered to loan him a copy of The Long Halloween so he could thumb through it (I keep loaner copies of this book in my collection, it’s that good of a tool to hook people in). After the following weekend, he was hooked. Now he has a pull list at my local shop.

      So, yes, putting people at ease and welcoming them in is an absolute necessity. As is us becoming comfortable with being a little more in the mainstream, the public eye, and the cultural zeitgeist. That’s the trade-off. Like it or not, it’s no longer going to be an underground, insular culture. And it wouldn’t have survived if it had stayed that way, to boot! But that’s the way things go. That’s AMERICA, man!

      I guess that’s the “where do we go from here?” question answered, as thoughtfully as I can. I bet you that this self-same conversation has been had with any fringe culture that has made its way to the center over the last few centuries. I bet fans of H.G. Welles and Jules Verne had the same struggles.

      This is a good discussion.

      PS – Hey, ever met a Civil War reenacter? Make no mistake, that IS cosplay. You’d think we’d be natural allies.

  14. Bluestreak says:

    Naturally people can do what they like, but I find the whole cosplaying phenomenon for men and women shockingly embarrassing.

  15. blackcanary blackcanary says:

    The last paragraph of this article is incredible. I mean, I enjoyed the entire article…but that last paragraph made me lift up a fist of solidarity. Which was subsequently followed by strange looks from my co-workers.

  16. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Wonderful stuff, Ryan. Truly.

  17. mrmarky mrmarky says:

    I don’t really have a problem with dressing up in costumes, but I have always been confused as to why cosplayers tend to gravitate towards the sexploitative characters. There is so much criticism of the comic books in terms of gender equality. I fail to see how dressing as the characters that wear the least clothing does anything but perpetuate the aspects of the comic industry that so many people are trying to change. Why are sexploitative characters more attractive to women? Why

    Perhaps it is just these people that are getting the attention and there are plenty of others that are dressing as more progressive characters. I doubt however that it would be as big of an issue for people if there were less T&A.

    • dix says:

      I think it’s a bit of a common misconception that cosplayers gravitate towards such characters more than others, so I think it is, as you say, that they get the attention. They just tend to be noticed (and photographed) a bit more often than the alternative, and often by people who aren’t necessarily around for the geekness (like, how many “Sexiest Cosplays of Comic-Con” galleries do you think are out there on sites that don’t care about comics, conventions, etc., the rest of the year?).

      I’ve never taken a count or anything, but in my con-going experiences I’d say I’ve seen at least as many (if not more) fully-clothed cosplays of some kind than the more risque variety. It may depend somewhat on what kind of con you go to, and which ones, though.

    • flakbait flakbait says:

      Yeah, I think the online galleries tend to be misleading. The last con I went to, the most common costumes by far were Captain America, Black Widow, and generic SHIELD agent (or Maria Hill, maybe), Star Trek (TNG-era), and Firefly characters, none of which are revealing costumes.

    • mrmarky mrmarky says:

      Yeah if that is the case then I really don’t know what the fuss is about.

  18. I dunno but cosplayers definitely gravitate towards certain characters, though I’m not sure if sexiness is a factor. I don’t ever need to see a Heath Ledger Joker costume again and I love the Joker.

    “Do not read them.” Damn, you told him.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      Yeah, he “told me” by ignoring the actual point I was making and focusing on the simplest response he could make.

    • ColdWarKid ColdWarKid says:

      Yeah, I’m confused on the connection of Cosplay=Female. I know plenty of guys who cosplay. I’ve been to a handful of cons and both men and women cosplay so why is the connection made and deemed fact? I think there is a lot going on with this topic and this article which needs to be broken down and analyzed properly. The standard reaction to this new drama bomb in the comics community is to rush to the defense of the geek girl and denounce the claim, which is the correct thing to do. My complaint is that all the articles never seem to delve any deeper then the equivalent of spraying the wrong do-ers with a written water bottle and yelling “Stop that”. I honestly believe this all ties into the expansion the comics community is seeing and the past drama over female creators getting incorporation into superhero backs. Everything is connected. These problems don’t exist in a vacuum. Has the current trend of lassez-faire comic fandom really just created comic fans that not just accept new and interesting things and people but also led to tolerance of intolerance?

      Just a thought.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @coldwarkid: Well said. Exactly right. I made this same point further up in this thread. It’s time to stop simply writing articles about this problem that go no further than “Oh this is bad we have to stop this!” No kidding. Let’s try to delve a little deeper and talk about what is causing this so we can actually try to solve it.

    • But the problem with that is that when you set out to “delve a little deeper” to solve problems at their root, we get into blaming the most innocuous and inane things for being the source of the problem. I don’t see that this is simply an issue of “solving a problem”, because this is a cultural issue affecting individual mind sets. We can’t just go around changing people’s minds, and blaming certain behaviors of people for the cause of this. What we have here is an issue that needs to be addressed and needs to be understood. Is female=cosplay a correct assumption? Who has the right to call themself a nerd? What gives someone a right to call themself a nerd? Is cosplay an aspect of the fandom, or something of its own? Does gender have any bound on what someone can or cannot read or experience? Do ‘fair weather fans’ have the same bounds as the life long fans? What exactly constitutes as elitism? These are the questions that need to addressed and talked about and understood, and that’s what these articles are here for. Setting out to “solve a problem” more often ends up to the type of action that leads to ostracization and to witch hunts, and it really isn’t far off from a certain psychologist who wanted to “solve” the problem of juvenile delinquency.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      @calebthetimetraveler: Honestly that all sounds pretty pathetic to me. Let’s not bother to try and solve this because it might be hard? Seriously? If you’re too afraid to try and solve a problem just say so, but acting like the attempt to solve one will automatically lead to marginalizing another group of people is ridiculous. You attempted to water down the actual problem in your post to the point of making it unsolvable but in reality the issues that need to be addressed have almost nothing to do with anything you mentioned here. If your main reason for posting was to say “we can’t solve this so lets not try” then mission accomplished. I guess we’ll just have to deal with this kind of inappropriate behavior because stopping it might be hard. Gee whiz I hate when things are hard.

      Also, no one has said cosplay=female. If you bothered to actually read this article you would see Ryan makes the point to talk about women AND men cosplayers. Did you read the actual article or just skim the comments?

      Perhaps to actually make your point you could discuss some instances when solving a problem similar to this one, inappropriate behavior toward cosplayers at a comic convention, has lead to, to use your words, “witch hunts”. Can you provide similar examples?

      You actually said this in your post: “Setting out to “solve a problem” more often ends up to the type of action that leads to ostracization and to witch hunts.” So what does that mean? We should never ever attempt to solve a problem? Because that is what you said in so many words. You didn’t qualify it in any way whatsoever. So simply said “setting out to solve a problem leads to witch hunts.” Not a certain kind of problem, but any problem at all. What kind of world do you live in where no problem is solvable? To be honest this post is on the verge of unintelligible.

  19. “judge not lest ye be something or other” is easily my favourite passage from the Bible. Great article.

    • USPUNX USPUNX says:

      My favorite Bible quote is “And then God created Eve from Adams fifth rib…” Or something that. Just always felt so Greek mythology to me.