Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Fake" Geek Girls and Cosplay Madness

Recently, the SyFy Channel (and I cannot tell you how much it pains me to type "SyFy" and not "SciFi") began airing a program called Heroes of CosPlay. It is your basic reality-show programming, but aimed at the "geek" target audience. When I first heard about the program, I thought it might be pretty cool. It looked more like a showcase of costuming talent than the typical competition show, as it follows a select group of cosplayers through the comic-convention circuit as they compete for recognition and prize money. Fair enough.

Now while I doubt anybody reading a blog site called Citizen of Oa needs to be told this, just in case, cosplay is the hobby of dressing up as a favorite character from fiction or comic books or films or videogames, preferably as accurately as possible, and attending a comic convention such as the famous San Diego Comic-Con to show off your character creation skills. I have a lot of friends who cosplay.  I myself have been known to cosplay as Hagrid from the Harry Potter books and as Uncle Fester from The Addams Family, and not just at Halloween. I've received grief from friends on FaceBook who reprimanded me for "liking" some of my friends' costumes because, quite frankly, some of my friends are attractive younger women who do some very skimpy, very sexy costumes. They are also amazingly creative people, who are funny, sweet, passionate about their hobby and wicked talented at sewing and fabricating the most insanely detailed props and costume pieces you can imagine. It takes a tremendous amount of talent to make a realistic real-life interpretation of a cartoon drawing come alive, and it takes serious acting chops to then become that character for a day on the convention floor. I'm proud to know 'em and even prouder that they consider me a friend.

And none of that good stuff appears in Heroes of CosPlay.

Instead, the show makes many of the cosplayers out to be naive, bitchy, obsessives who do nothing but snark at each other behind their respective backs.  I hate it. Right now there are shaping up to be two competing camps or philosophies among cosplayers.  The camp I'm in says that if you love a character and want to dress up as that character, go for it.  If you want to be a 300-lb Superman, you should. There are always going be people who will make fun of you, but frankly, if you're a 300-lb Superman fan, you are probably pretty used to that already. I developed a very thick skin a long, long time ago. The other camp, as espoused by the so-called "Ambassador of Cosplay" on the show, a woman named Yaya Han, says that you should be as accurate as possible.  Meaning you should only cosplay as characters you can physically pull off.  I guess that means that according to the Ambassador, people of color shouldn't try to be Batman, tall people shouldn't try to be Tyrion Lannister, and ugly and fat people in general should just stay home and leave the dress-up to the beautiful people.  Ms. Han is a talented costumiere and fabricator, but the show makes her out to be a pretty nasty human being. Another featured cosplayer, Victoria, is an acquaintance of mine through the Replica Prop Forum, a website devoted to costume fabricators, propmakers, and collectors. She is not the loony bitch that the show is making her out to be -- it seems that the only footage they have of Victoria is her whining or bitching or threatening her husband/fabricating partner -- and I know for a fact that she is nothing like that.  In typical reality show fashion, they have selected the worst moments of an individual's camera time in order to make the show "interesting." I hope they've done the same with Yaya Han and that she's a lot nicer than she appears to be.

One cosplayer who is not on the show is a young woman named Jessica Nigri. I also know Jessica through the Replica Prop Forum. She's brilliant. She has taken her costuming skills and is in the process of making a successful career out of them. She got her big break by re-creating the costume of the lead character in a videogame called Lollipop Chainsaw -- a quirky Japanese game about a zombie-fighting cheerleader -- and doing such a great job of it that the videogame company hired her as the game's spokesmodel. She has since done the same by creating female versions of characters in other games ranging from Pokemon to Assassin's Creed. Jessica's thing, though, is that her costumes are always pretty sexy. A lot of time was spent on Jessica this week on Heroes as Yaya Han went on and on over how Jessica had taken an unfortunate path, how that wasn't really cosplay, yadda yadda yadda, as part of Yaya's attempt to win back one of her proteges from the Dark Side of Sexy Cosplay.

It's all crap. One newcomer to the hobby was appalled on the show when she expressed the opinion that I shared above, namely that anybody should be able to celebrate whatever characters they love, and was universally shot down by the rest of the group for that opinion.  Which brings me to the "fake" geek girls portion of the program.

More and more women are being confronted and actually abused at comic conventions because they are deemed to be too attractive to be genuine geeks. Total strangers will confront an attractive cosplayer and grill them on the minutiae of their character in the hope of somehow revealing them as, I don't know, an infiltrator of some kind from the Cool Kids camp. I hate it. We geeks should know better and we should behave better towards one another. Especially now that geeks ARE the cool kids!!! We should be celebrating having found one another, and the fact that we all are so passionate about the things that we love that for years caused others to mock us for being, well, geeks.

So be warned. The next time I'm at a con, and I see someone trying to corner and bully some girl about whether or not she is a "true geek" (whatever the hell that is,) or be rude to her because she chose a sexy costume, or try to abuse somebody of any gender who is dressing as a character for whom they do not have, shall we say, the ideal body type, I'm going to step in. Because I may be dressed as Uncle Fester, but I am "6 foot 5 and I eat punks like you for breakfast" as John Cleese once said.  We geeks spent too much time being bullied to turn into bullies ourselves, and we should never allow it to happen in our presence.  Ever.  Especially at what is supposed to be a celebration of all that we hold dear.

1 comment:

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