While attending a recent convention it occurred to me that I was witnessing, yet another example of poor etiquette from people at the show. It is always embarrassing to me, when I witness some dweeb making a fool of himself or being down right insulting, especially when it is obvious that he has no idea of the problem he is creating. Lets look at a few examples of what I mean.
Lets call him John. John walks up to a beautiful rendition of Batman. The costume was pristine and the actor was playing the part to perfection. John asks, “Wow, great costume. Did you buy it?” How is that insulting you might ask. Well for one it implies that the cosplayer does not know how to make a good costume or it could imply that you think the costume looks cheap and store bought. Either way it is very insulting to many cosplayers for various reasons. Never ask if it is store bought. Better yet, compliment them on it and move on.
Latter we returned to John who is dressed up as Captain America. He runs into another Captain America and says, “Awesome costume dude, it is way better than mine.” Now this is a compliment, right? Well more so of a trap. If Cap agrees his costume is better then he is dissing John’s costume. If he says nothing he could be perceived as disrespecting John. Furthermore, compliments like this create competition where there is none. I believe you should never compare, out loud, your cosplay to another persons. It is better to compliment without caveats. If you want to tell someone that you like their outfit, then simply tell them that is is great, awesome, or cool.
Another incident with John was rather embarrassing. He was talking with a girl dressed up as a Tardis when Amy Pond walks up. He says, “Whoa what a hot little number you got on.” Moments latter he realizes she is also in costume and says, “OMG your in costume too, Who are you supposed to be.” Now this series of exchanges has so many things wrong with it that I wanted to hide my face in shame. It is one thing to ask “what character are you playing” or to compliment someone with “the costume looks great” but you don’t walk up to total strangers and tell them they look hot, sexy, delicious etc. Some people consider such comments demeaning, sexist, or worse. Never tell someone that you didn’t realize they were in costume. That too is hurtful and insulting.
John was with me on another occasion when a large woman dressed up as Catwoman walked by. He went on a tirade for ten minutes about how some people should not even bother with Cosplay. Cosplay Shamming is a tradition at many conventions but it is a bad tradition. Every costume, good or bad, deserves respect. Every Cosplayer deserves to be treated with courtesy. To bad mouth someone because they are not the perfect image that you imagine is not only poor manners, it is a demonstration of ignorance. Think about it like this. When that Catwoman put on her costume she did so to have fun. She knows her flaws and probably sees far more of them than you do. Still she chose to wear a skin tight outfit and flaunt herself for the world to see. She is probably a bit self conscious but really wants to Cosplay and have fun. You shamming her takes away her dignity and ruins her fun factor. She might never Cosplay again. She might even walk away from the entire Nerd world all together. You shamming has done a disservice to all of us.
Pictures are always a big thing with Cosplay as it should be. It is a way to immortalize the costume but it also is something that should only be done with consent. NEVER take a photo of someone without first asking their permission. It is one thing for a reporter to snap a photo in a crowded place for a story they are writing but if you are not a reporter doing a story related to the image, you should never just snap an image. Ask politely and if they refuse thank them for their time and walk away. Remember, just because they are in costume does not imply consent in any way shape or form. Remember, Cosplay is about having fun and exploring the realms of fantasy.
My last rule of thumb is this. If you see someone breaking these general rules, politely inform them of what they are doing wrong and why. They may simply be ignorant of the rules of courtesy. If you see them being abusive in any way, either step in and help or run and get help from a convention worker. I have witnessed my share of assholes at conventions but the general people going to the conventions are courteous and appreciate the Cosplayers as much as I do. If we all can work together to create a better environment for Cosplay, then we shall see Cosplay grow and flourish in the future. While these are just a few of my rules, remember that courtesy is rule number one and if you are courteous at all times then you will make every one else’s experience a better experience.
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