Monday, September 21, 2015


Keeping in the spirit of comic cons and fan expos (3 days left), it is a good time to talk about cosplaying.

The reader will find as old age approaches that everything that happens after the age of 25 will be thought of as 'new' whether it is or not.  For example, I still think of grunge music as 'new' - even though for many readers out there, it happened and died before being born.

[Well, sort of died.  There are still bar bands playing grunge music, thinking they'll be 'discovered' someday in a world now being run by Nikki, Taylor and Katy].

For an old fart like me, cosplaying has snuck up on me.  At least, the institutionalization of people wearing costumes as a means to emphasize their fandom for specific characters is a strange, new thing.  Like with the previous post, my childhood was also full of dressing in costumes, because that was something we thought was fun.  Hell, my whole Canadian generation was warped hopelessly by Mr. Dressup, who became a childhood institution for more than 30 years.  I was four when Mr. Dressup first aired.  [I went looking for an example of the show from back then, but it seems impossible to find anything on youtube predating the invention of VHS].

And I can remember a Halloween that predated excessive commercialism, predated the terror razor/needle/poison candy scare and predated parents chaperoning costumed children roaming from house to house.  These things are truly 'old' - long gone, never to be seen again.  But they did leave a lasting childhood association with costuming and the adoption of personalities.

That said, the first time I actually saw a DM dressed in a costume for role-playing I believe I associated the moment with a desire to vomit.  As I said yesterday, I was older by the time I began to play D&D and well past the compulsion to dress up in order to identify myself as a different being.  I had embraced theater and the arts by then and I knew from experience that the costume is only a very small part of the experience.  True character portrayal begins within.  After all, the most frightening monsters in our adult imaginations - terrorists, child molesters, serial killers, rapists - are terrifying because they look like anybody.

So on that level, yes, I confess, cosplaying seems a bit childish.  But let me rush to assure the reader that I don't think that it is, not for most of the participants.  I stick by what I said yesterday: cosplaying is free spirited lawlessness.  The same lawlessness I experienced as a child when we would pretend to be vampires and witches, capturing victims and burning them alive in pretend ovens.

[At 10 years of age, several free spirited same-age girls and I role-played some pretty intense scenes together - a bit beyond 'doctor' or 'house'].

If anything, I am deeply respectful.

This will seem like a big step to the left, but just go with it.  Some years ago, circa 2007, for a freelance story I was writing, I attended a meeting of transgendered persons to hear their views on the Alberta government's defunding a significant part of their reassignment process.  Because the meeting was more or less free and open, and because my 19-year-old daughter was interested also, I brought her along.  All told there were about 19 persons there.  The meeting's agenda was to lend support for those who would be most affected by the government's decision and to suggest strategies for the future.

It was an educational evening.  Not because either my daughter and I were new to the concept; she had gone to school for three years with a boy who was pre-op but living as a girl and I had known several persons in theater and film who were struggling with the lifestyle as early as the 1980s.  The educational part was the intensive fear associated with my role as a journalist.  It took literally hours of reassurance to convince most of the room that I had no intention of outing anyone or even giving details regarding their personal struggle.  I was there to get an overview of the problem and that was all.  Nevertheless, I could understand why several of the persons there who worked for the city or the government in particular were terrified to talk to me.

This sidebar connects to cosplaying because of two persons that my daughter recognized from Otafest here in Calgary - a Japanese Animation Festival that is a huge event each year (upcoming in November).  My daughter hadn't known that the two persons very much in love with each other were both transgendered; she did know that these same two persons were very dedicated furries.

"Isn't it amazing," my daughter said afterwards, "That two people who happen to be transgendered and furries can find love together.  The world is wonderful."

My sentiment exactly.

Cosplaying has become a community that supports individualism through copying the inspiration of other artists (who invent these characters).  It is a strange dichotomy.  I believe, however, that it does carry forward the most wonderful parts of the exploration into roles that we begin as children - the separation of guilt and repression, which are dumped on us at a young age, from desire and fantasy, that many adults have surrendered by age 30.

In three days I will be in an immense chamber with thousands of such people.  Is there any better place to be?


Oddbit said...

Believe it or not in three days I will likewise be in the company of many costumed fellows. Sadly not the same one, but anyhow it's going to be a good weekend.

Jay Murphy said...

"After all, the most frightening monsters in our adult imaginations - terrorists, child molesters, serial killers, rapists - are terrifying because they look like anybody."

Nah, they are terrifying because it is you.

Ktulu said...

Came in to read about a guy dressed as Drizzt. Left smiling from a well-informed and optimistic story that made my day. Thanks for that. Today, the world is wonderful, indeed.