In Defense of Cons and Cosplayers

Clothing and Cosplay Conventions GeekMom Travel
They Aim to Misbehave, Image: Nicole Wakelin

One of my favorite parts of attending a con is the cosplay. Seeing people dressed like Superman or Batman or Princess Leia is a big part of the experience. You don’t have to wait in lines or hope they’ll stop long enough for you to snap a picture because they want to have their picture taken and are happy to strike a character appropriate pose. Some spend months creating the perfect look, scouring stores for the right fabric for their shirt or the perfect buckle for their belt. These cosplayers stand out and draw lots of attention, but even the guy who just throws on a Superman cape is a part of the fun. It’s all about celebrating the things we love, no matter how we look. Or is it?

I just read an article over on Men’s Fitness called “NY Comic Con: Flabby Versions of Your Favorite Superheroes!”. (Note: I removed the link because Mens Fitness has pulled their post!) It started with a brief write-up about how cons are a “bully-free zone” but went on to showcase photos of cosplayers complete with snarky captions that turned the author into the con’s biggest bully. I understand that the site is all about getting those six-pack abs, but going out of the way to make fun of people who don’t have them, that I don’t understand at all.

A con should be a bully-free zone. It is the one place where anyone can be a superhero. You don’t have to have six-pack abs nor do you have to be tall, dark and handsome. And honestly, no one really cares if you’ve got the physique to perfectly replicate Thor or Slave Leia. Well, the bully at Mens Fitness cares, but his words and his attitudes have only the power we allow them.

If you’re a geek or a nerd or whatever you want to call it, then you’ve likely been dealing with guys like this your whole life. He was the one who looked down on you for no other reason than that you were being you. Your hair was wrong. Your jeans were wrong. You were too smart. You liked the wrong movie. You hung out with the wrong crowd. The reason doesn’t matter because no matter what you do “this guy” is always out there ready to rain on your parade and ruin the fun. But we’re not kids in high school anymore. We’re adults and these cons belong to us.

They belong to anyone who ever brought a Star Trek lunchbox to school. They belong to guys who say “Engage!” as they pull out of the driveway. They belong to parents making Star Wars pancakes and kids running around with lightsabers. They belong to the people in line for midnight showings of Iron Man and Spider-Man, people who watched the final shuttle launch with tears in their eyes, and to everyone who is currently bleary-eyed from playing Batman: Arkham City for two days straight. They belong to anyone who wants to celebrate what they love not some guy who thinks it’s cool to make fun of us.  They belong to us.
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24 thoughts on “In Defense of Cons and Cosplayers

  1. Right with you there.

    I also get irritated at sites that make fun of questionable fashion choices which OFTEN include obvious costumes in their stream. There are different conventions (pun intended) for costume wear than for street wear. Not the same category at all.

    That said, I’m hoping my current efforts will result in me looking good enough that I could wear a form fitting costume and not feel like a target for idiots.

    1. Some of the pics in Mens Fitness article were taken at the worst possible angles. It was just terrible. ANd good luck with your current efforts…hope there’s a spandex clad superhero in your cosplaying future!

  2. It doesn’t make it right, but… we’re not Men’s Fitness target audience, anyways. (I am male… and I have done weight training… and I’m still not in the target audience.) I am surprised, however, about the captions… it reminds me of TMZ, or some tabloid rag. I guess men can be equally catty. Really, though, when I think about it– we’re talking about a magazine where guys obsess about their bodies, so yes, this is classic bully tactics– put someone down to boost one’s own insecurities.

    1. Yes, definitely not their target audience, but the mean-spirit with which the article was written was just awful. I’d like to think that despite their very different audience, most guys reading their publication aren’t that nasty. Like you said, it’s putting people down to boost themselves, a classic bully tactic.

  3. While I’m terribly disappointed at the way we geeks and nerds, and just overall cosplayers, are bashed and insulted like this, especially when it’s done by a corporation, it gives me pride to see so many people stand up against it. The video responses, the blogs, the tweets, I’m very proud to be a geek, despite this article. I’m surprised that Men’s Fitness and Jordan Burchette haven’t learned the lesson that Bullies always lose in the end.

  4. pfffft, it’s Jordan Burchette. Look his bio on Google. Oh wait, you mean nothing pulls? Maybe it’s because he’s a hack writer who most of us has only just heard of because of a badly scribed article. It’s amusing to type in “Jordan Burchette” on Google, and manage to pull up tag words that include “douche.” Quite a writing career he has going on there. He had a career right? Right? Not that you can find anything on the guy, despite using one of the most expansive search engines in the world. Keep it up Jordan! You may even earn yourself “tool” as a tag line.

  5. This article is VERY inspiring. I myself am a bit bigger than normal people. I cosplay as Zoids, a mecha cartoon from years ago. I also am a fursuiter. I have had my share of rude comments telling me im not in good enough shape to do either. Which really bother me. But what you said was right, the cons are for us! People can dress up as whatever they want to, whether they have the body for it or not. A Convention is a place to be whomever you want to be, and to feel good about it! I know I feel VERY good being a Zoid at conventions, and no one can stop me from doing so!

  6. Thanks so much for writing this, Nicole… I’m a plus-sized lady who’d very much like to try cosplay one of these days; I loved my time with the Society for Creative Anachronism, and never felt in the least bit ashamed of being in garb there (after all, in medieval times being hefty meant you were wealthy enough to afford plenty of food!) – but the idea of trying to dress in superhero garb is a bit daunting. I think I need to learn a bit more… and go to a few more cons… to get my nerve up.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to share this article with my 6th grade students, too – we’re starting a book where bullying is a major theme, and I’d like them to see that bullying isn’t just a “kid thing”… and that there are people who do stand up to it!

    1. I would be thrilled and honored if you shared this with your students. It is so important for kids to see that bullying is something that adults deal with, too, and that we have to stand up for each other and support each other no matter what our age.

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