As the last two weeks before Gen Con 2012 tick away (as predicted, now taking their sweet time in doing so, though the Olympics have been an excellent distraction) it seemed particularly appropriate to post the companion piece to my earlier entry concerning the intentions, motives, and edicts that many other cosplayers and I operate under whilst meandering the halls of a given convention. While it's our job to be thoughtful, considerate cosplayers, it's the task of all other attendees to be mindful convention participants. Most of the below is elementary, but you'd be surprised…ok, if you've been to a con you're probably not surprised, that some of our geeky compatriots will find the contents of this post to be entirely novel. Head-shake-worthy as it may seem, the juvenile and often creepy behavior enacted by our geeky peers during conventions is not only unfortunately common, but remains a driving force that dissuades lady nerds from attending these events.
If I had even a modicum of artistic talent, I would have drawn the entirety of this post as a series of Goofus & Gallant panels because that's all I could envision while drafting the text. Anyhow, these are just a few basic reminders and/or not-so-subtle hints to all you con-bound nerds out there in the event that you encounter your costumed brethren.
The Do's and Don'ts of Cosplay Encounters (a.k.a. How Not to be That Guy or Gal)
Do…feel free to ask us for pictures. We're well aware that this is a staple of the cosplaying experience and don't mind in the slightest. Furthermore, taking a moment to explicitly ask for a picture will ensure that you get the full effect of the costume, as we'll break out any and all accoutrements and/or assume a fitting pose. You want a good picture? We're more than happy to oblige. Just ask.
Don't…skulk around leering at us and/or following us around the convention. We're more than happy to pose for pictures but also understand that many nerds are a bit bashful and aren't comfortable requesting a picture. If the latter holds true then just wait until someone else stops us and snap a photo then. It's awkward and more than a bit uncomfy when we realize that you've been trailing us for the better part of an hour and have yet to take a single picture despite having had couple opportunities to do so. It's ok to be shy. It's decidedly NOT ok to stalk cosplayers about the halls. We see you there. Despite your best efforts you do not, in fact, have stealth abilities or a cloaking device. While I can't speak for all of us, I can assure con-goers that the vast majority of cosplayers are very chill, amenable individuals. Just come over and say hi. We don't bite (well…most of us anyway) and if we do it's only because you have delicious delicious BRAINS.
Do…ask us questions about our costume. As mentioned in a few previous posts, our costumes are often the product of weeks or even months of work. Getting to walk the convention halls in the fruit of our labor is akin to running a long-trained-for race, debuting a painting/sculpture, or sharing your novella with your first crop of readers. (If none of those strike you, think of presenting a school project that you loved working on). For many of us, the costume is at least part homage to a favorite character or property. And, keep in mind, we're fellow nerds! Interacting with fellow fans is usually rewarding for everyone involved. So go ahead, chat us up.
Don't…point out every single inaccuracy in the costume. Most of us have a thorough understanding of the audience amongst whom we're walking. We get it; you have each facet of our character seared into your cerebrum. That's awesome! What's not awesome is being called out on minute inaccuracies or non-canonical material choices. While the majority of cosplayers go to great lengths to try and match the source as closely as possible, we are still normal people with jobs, school, and life occasionally interrupting our costuming and it simply may not be possible to capture every nuance of a character. More often then not, cosplayers have to make do with a less-than-ideal material either because it's easier to work with, more cost effective than utilizing higher grade items, or a combination of both. Instead of calling someone out on the perceived inaccuracy, try turning your observation into a suggestion. "Have you ever thought about casting your lekku in latex?" will be better received than, "A real twi'lek would never have lekku like that!" Similarly, "I know of a great online wig vendor if you ever wanted to upgrade," will go over better than, "Lightning's hair is pale pink, not magenta!"
This way, you'll probably get the rationale behind the cosplayer's material choices, maybe learn a thing or two, and avoid looking derpy at the same time. Everybody wins!
Do…honor the Rule of the Halls. While most cosplayers are prepared to be in character and/or stopped for pictures for very long stretches of time keep in mind that we are still humans. We need to eat, to rest, and to visit the little cosplayer's room on occasion. Please try to restrict all picture-taking to the actual convention halls and/or spaces devoted specifically to cosplaying. You're exponentially more likely to get a better shot and will simultaneously earn the gratitude of your cosplaying peers.
Don’t…turn a quick picture into an ordeal. An uncooperative camera, getting caught unprepared to take a picture, and inconsiderate con-goers meandering through your shot are all totally understandable reasons why you'd need to take more than a couple pictures. We sympathize. Most of us have experienced similar circumstances when we're not in costume. What's less understandable is conceding to a dozen pictures, being forcibly posed, waiting around for extended periods so your friends can get in the shot, or enduring attempted commands to follow individuals around the con. Be aware of your fellow attendees who may also want a picture or who are just trying to pass by. While we're more than happy to make every effort to get you a good picture, we'd also like to try and do the same for everyone else.
Do…ask permission before touching a costume or a cosplayer. Basic common sense here. Again, we're humans, just humans in costumes. You wouldn't just reach out and grab someone on the street; same applies in the convention halls. Aside from being personally invasive, making unwanted or unanticipated contact can produce disastrous results for both you and the affected cosplayer. You may think a costume is as solid and structurally sound as your street clothes, but that's frequently not the case. More often then not, the costume you see is held together with a mélange of wire, tape, epoxy, and hot glue and wasn't built to withstand more than the slightest abuse. Furthermore, a cosplayer may be wearing body paint or delicate makeup that is liable to smear and/or stain. Last thing you want to have happen is to be slapped with the housing of a set of wings that came apart at your touch….or just straight-up slapped.
MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: THE GOLDEN RULE IS UNIVERSALLY APPLICABLE
Seems almost silly to have to include this, but the vast majority of unpleasant encounters I've either heard of or experienced myself were derived from the fact that con-goers felt they could say or do anything that sprung to mind in the presence of a fellow nerd simply because the latter was wearing a costume. For the most part we're not deaf; we'll hear whatever unpleasantries you cooked up to make your friend laugh or because you troll chat rooms and treat reality identically. Yes, we're aware that this sort of thing is one of the hazards of cosplaying, but there's no reason for it to be. It wasn't ok when you got made fun of as a kid, it's not ok for you to do the same because someone's costume/body/appearance doesn't align with what you think it "should" look like. A few acerbic words could ruin someone else's convention. We're smarter than that. Don't be that guy/gal.