Don't Say Anything At All... (An Article on Cosplay Bullying)
Article by: Rogue Benjamin|
Geek Girl Northern Belle shares her thoughts on cosplay bullying and judgement and also shares her latest photoshoot...
Cosplay is a world full of many avenues and outlets. A hobby that has no age limit and no skill restriction so long as you’ve the passion and desire to portray a character, it is no wonder that this hobby has taken the world by storm. To that end there are many people who cosplay and all for different reasons. Cosplayers are made up of costume makers, models, enthusiasts, burlesque performers, gamers, actors, artists of all kinds and the list goes on.
One of the things that hurts me the most in this community, as with any community, is when I see members of it turn on each other and bully each other. “This person isn’t right size/race/gender to play this character so it’s a fail”, “This costume is wrong what you should have done is blah blah blah…” and even “What a slutty costume, she/he is trying too hard.” I’ve never understood this mentality of wanting to tear people down or “correct” their work, particularly online. Sure, I may not agree with everyone’s costume choices, I may even think something looks terrible but with every image I try and challenge myself and ask – what was this person trying to accomplish?
In a day and age where everybody and their grandmother has a digital camera, (more often than not, now attached to their cell phone) there is no shortage of pictures floating around in the digital world. In less than 25 years pictures went from being a relatively expensive commodity saved for special occasions to people documenting every daily action on services such as instagram, twitter and facebook. I feel that all of this has contributed to a general mentality of instantly judging the photo we see in a second and then scrolling onto the next. People rarely actually read captions particularly when they are more than a line or two long. As I mentioned before Cosplayers are made up of so many kinds of artists that I feel sometimes we don’t stop to consider what the work really is that we are looking at.
Sure, we can take a photo at face value we either find it appealing or we do not. However I prefer to look deeper, who was the photographer? What was the setting? Who is the character/what are they from? Is the costume trying to be accurate to an incarnation already in existence? Did this model make her costume? Is this photo about showing off the costume or the character? Is this cosplay an original design? Has it drawn from other inspirations other than the original source material? Why did they make the choices they did? If the costume has been made more revealing why were these design choices made? If the cosplay is a hybrid of two characters, what is it about the two of them that made the artist want to amalgamate them? Why are they choosing to cosplay? Is it a personal challenge for them in either craftsmanship or in putting themselves out there? Is it a bucket list item or an outfit they always dreamed of? Was is it something they whipped up over night because they were bored or was it a shoot that took hours, weeks or even months to plan and prepare for?
As I mentioned earlier what particularly flabbergasts me is the abuse that happens online. In person, you have to own your actions/words and I think as a result people are less inclined to be aggressive. But as we’ve seen, many are happy to hide behind their ‘wall’ of technology and lash out at others. Words hurt, we all know this (even if we have thick skin the wrong words from the right person – hurts). However what hurts more is print. Text in print can be revisited and lingers ever so much longer than an insult said in person. These words can be found months or years later when you click on an image that was posted however long ago.
It’s an unfortunate truth that haters are going to hate. In fact our Geek Girl Dana complied a wonderful set of memes to that fact here
. It also seems to be a truth as of late for people to lash out in both directions – those who are not sexy enough and those who are considered too sexy, both lashings in my opinion are grossly inappropriate. While convention centers and other events are welcome to have dress codes and some have, when it comes to photography and visual art - the sky is the limit in either regard. Recently I had an idea for a photo shoot concept but due to the crucifixion of so many “sexy” cosplayers I was instantly nervous and began to doubt myself, maybe it was a concept I should abandon. The idea? Felicia Hardy, in her hideout, lounging in a bed of diamonds.
Why would you even want to do that concept? Truthfully there were a few reasons:
1) I’ve always found Felicia Hardy/Black Cat to be one of the sexiest characters.
2) I firmly believe that given the chance Felicia would lounge around in nothing but fur and diamonds.
3) I wanted to push myself as a model and actor and do a sexy/nude character without it being overtly sexual.
4) Without a real costume to speak of, it falls to the character in my face and strategic props to capture the desired result.
My primary concern in deciding to do this shoot was selecting a photographer. In photography/visual art it really is a team effort between the individuals working together. Neither one of them can create their art without the other (which is why I also get so frustrated when I hear stories about models taken advantage of by photographers and photographers being taken advantage of by models… but I digress, that is an article for another day). To that end I needed to work with someone who could help me realize this vision I had for Felicia. My biggest concern is that if I picked the wrong photographer that the shoot would be cheapened and hyper-sexualized. I count myself very fortunate to have been able to work with Derek Cutting of Firemate Photographic
. He is an extremely talented photographer, who takes great pride in film with a healthy dose of digital. He created a comfortable environment in which we could both do our work and most of all he took the time to understand my concept and what it was I was trying to achieve.
Now sure, many may now string me up along side many others who have been labeled as ‘slutty’ or ‘using our body to get attention’. Unfortunately there is little I can say to the latter as yes, you know what, as a cosplayer, model and actor - my body, my face as well as the make up/costuming choices are all a part of my craft. However I will fight any claim that I did this shoot to “seek attention” because this, like all my art, I did for myself. I did this to challenge myself and quite frankly was hesitant on whether or not I would even want to release it to the public, but I refuse to allow the negativity that has bubbled up to hold back my art.
I challenge all you cosplayers and cosplay consumers to think critically about what it is you are seeing, but at that self same time, remember that this is passion, art, a hobby and as a result – subjective. Constructive criticism is always appreciated, but remember that there is a difference between ‘constructive’ criticism and bullying. Think positively about what you are seeing and if all else fails remember the wise words of Thumper... “If you don’t have anything nice to say...”
Article/model: Geek Girl Rogue Benjamin/Northern Belle
Photographer: Firemate Photographic
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February 17 2014