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Cosplay Is Creative, Not Crazy: An Open Letter to the New York Post

Jonathan Stryker, cosplaying at Florida Supercon 2013.
Jonathan Stryker, cosplaying at Florida Supercon 2013.
Christina Mendenhall

Yesterday's New York Post review of upcoming SyFy reality show, Heroes of Cosplay, angered quite a few of us in the geek community. The article portrays the cosplay community as "confused" and "weird," all while looking down its nose at those who might enjoy the creative pursuit.

Yes, cosplay is insanely time-consuming. Yes, cosplay is expensive. Yes, cosplay represents a subset of fandom that not everyone is into, and that can be jarring to an outsider. I haven't seen Heroes of Cosplay; maybe it wrongly portrays the subculture. But it's your job as a journalist to educate yourself about your subject matter before jumping to conclusions based on a reality TV show. Cosplayers shouldn't be scoffed at, lumped in with "nutty Civil War re-enactors," because you were too cool for school to inform yourself an extra smidge about the industry.

We here at Cultist love ourselves some cosplay, so we felt we needed to set the record straight, just in time for any future cosplay articles and reviews you might try to run.

1. Cosplayers come from all walks of life, from full-time employees to students.

No need to wonder anymore "what these folks do to earn a living"; anyone from your dentist to that adjunct professor/freelance writer over there (cough) can be a potential cosplayer. I spoke with one Miami-area cosplayer, Jonathan Stryker, who is a marketing personal assistant for an author, videographer, and photographer but manages to find time for his favorite hobby. Another cosplayer, Alexa, happens to be a full-time writer for gaming journalism juggernaut Polygon. Ryan, a Miami lawyer, attended his first ever con (Florida Supercon 2012) in full Doctor Who regalia, fez and all.

2. Cosplay can range from store-bought pieces with handmade accents to full-fledge custom creations.

Stryker's effort here took about $1000 bucks and countless hours.

This cosplay is NOT to be trifled with.
This cosplay is NOT to be trifled with.
Jonathan Stryker

This writer's Game of Thrones-inspired get-up, on the other hand, took a just a couple of days. I bought the dress, and made everything else--only half that hair is actually mine.

The night is dark and full of hot glue guns.
The night is dark and full of hot glue guns.

Sure, some people will spend a ton of money on construction or commissioning custom creations. Many others are just starting out and don't necessarily abide by hard and fast rules regarding construction. They just want to express their love for these characters and show off some artistic skill. Which brings me to my next point...

 

3. Cosplay's not all about the competition or the cash, but it's nice if and when you get it.

Stryker says, "It all becomes worth it when you walk up on stage and people cheer for your hard work; or when you're walking around and hundreds of flashes follow you to capture a beautiful moment in time." South Carolina cosplayer Jessica says it's a great way to connect with other fans. For Alexa, it's just something to do with her friends.

4. Not all of us want to be the characters we're portraying -- but performing can be part of the fun!

It's the challenge of creating an homage to beloved characters. For Jonathan, cosplay is "the ultimate art form. It combines make-up, sewing, painting, sculpting, crafting, designing, acting, etc." But you don't have to be a method actor to cosplay -- you just have to like something enough to dress up as it and have fun.

If you can pull a character off completely, though, it becomes a more impressive feat. Take these awesome creepy folks (from survival horror game Silent Hill) from this year's Florida Supercon:

They just stayed there. Being nightmare fuel. Forever.
They just stayed there. Being nightmare fuel. Forever.
Elisa Meléndez

5. You, at some point in time, may have been a cosplayer and not even known it.

Next time you think about disparaging a cosplayer, you might as well curse yourself for any time you've ever dressed up and performed a character for yucks on Halloween. If you cared one iota about the authenticity of your costume and your ability to do them justice; if you ever had a glimmer of worry about being recognized--then the joy of seeing someone's face light up when you walked into a room because they got it; if you ever been crowned the winner of your office Halloween party for absolutely nailing it, then congrats! You've actually walked a mile in our finely crafted shoes. And that makes you just as "weird" as the rest of us.

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