In October, I traveled to Seattle to speak about the Psychology of Cosplay at Geek Girl Con. It was an amazing panel organized by Dr. Andrea Letamendi, a clinical psychologist and cosplayer, and included Jessica Marizan, Chaka Cumberbatch, and myself as panelists. We discussed a ton of really great concepts, and the inevitable topic of “inappropriate” cosplay was brought up and discussed by the panelists.
I want to be completely clear about my feelings on this topic: THERE ARE INAPPROPRIATE OUTFITS TO WEAR TO PUBLIC EVENTS, AND AS COSPLAYERS, WE HAVE TO BE AWARE OF OUR AUDIENCE.
Now, the main focus of these debates is often skimpy/sexy cosplay. While I tend to be more modest than many other cosplayers, I have no problem with revealing cosplays. I have worked with children long enough to know that the human body, contrary to what many believe, is not damaging to the average child’s psyche. I know I’ll probably get emails about that statement, but it’s true. The cosplays that really worry me are the bloody and violent ones. Those can really freak out kids in a way that cleavage never could.
My best example of this is from a convention that I attended in 2012. I was dressed up as Wonder Woman, and as always, was having a blast posing with kids. One of the most excited fans was a little Superman, proudly wearing his foam muscled outfit from the Halloween store. He flexed his muscles and flew circles around his parents to show me how fast he was. “Cute” doesn’t quite cover it. Later that day, I was wandering the halls and I ran into a mutilated Superman cosplayer limping around and posing with people. From a makeup/costume viewpoint, he really looked incredible. He really resembled Superman and his massive injuries/blood looked real even from up close. I was admiring his work from a distance, when I saw my little Superman friend from before stopped dead in the middle of the aisle. The look of horror on his little face made my stomach drop. He started crying, and had to be carried off by his parents.
We are portraying characters that people love, and in some cases, look up to as personal heroes. This is especially true for children, who are a significant portion of the con-going population. We have to balance self-expression with our responsibility to respectfully portray these characters that have left such a deep mark on pop-culture. The last thing our community needs is policing and limiting of creativity, but we need to be empathetic. Be reasonable with the blood effects, or save it for select events and photo shoots. If we have the passion to step into the shoes of the most powerful characters in fiction, surely we have the power to step into the shoes of young fans and their families.