Playing the Villain

Playing the Villain

 

Article by: Rogue Benjamin

Geek Girl Northern Belle wrote about her experiences and feelings about cosplaying as a villain...
As a fairly new cosplayer, only having been active in the community for the past few years, it takes time to work through all the characters you want to portray. Even the most advanced of cosplayers can have a list a mile long of characters they still want to do. Personally, a lot of my first choices went to the strong women and heroic characters I admire: Rogue, Daenerys Targaryen, Resident Evil’s Alice, Coraline etc. Some characters I chose for fun such as Pikachu or Jughead, but generally speaking I seemed to always pick protagonists. This year, I decided to try my first real villain – but whom would I choose?

I’ve always struggled personally with the idea of playing a villain. So often I would think that as someone who attends conventions, where there is a large child populace, I felt that I should portray “better role models” for kids. Yet personal reflection led me to realize how arrogant that actually is. Who am I to decide what a role model is for a child? I am no parent. I don’t know these children or what their parents have taught them and value. Just like everyone comes to cosplay for different reasons, so too do people read into art differently. One of the best examples I can give personally is Harley Quinn. Personally, I’ve never been a particular fan of her, or the tirade of abusive art that surrounds her and the Joker. There was even a DC Art contest surrounding her that was the height of controversy back in 2013. All I could see regarding this character was the abuse, and with how hugely popular this character was – if felt as though by endorsing the character I was condoning these malicious fantasies. Yet one day, in a discussion with Roxy Lee GG who adores the character and did a fabulous photo set you can find here, I realized that while I was stuck on this particular facet of the character there was a whole world of Harley that I did not know. The differences between the original playful jester of the comic, versus some of the darker incarnations that have surfaced recently. She went on to elaborate how their relationship (Joker & Harley’s) was a pure love because she was literally willing to give up everything, including her sanity, to be with him. She talked about how everyone romanticizes the idea of sacrificing your life for love, but that is easy, to give up ones ability to have their sanity, their mind, their free will, that is something they have to live with forever and to Roxy, that is a true sacrifice. Similarly, my favourite hero: Rogue, could be seen in as damaging a light as Harley, with her fluctuations between X-Men and the Brotherhood and how she handles some of the drama thrown at her. I realized that my perspective of Harley was that self same arrogance I try to fight when people bring up the movie version of Rogue and how she basically teaches little girls to give up what makes them special all for the sake of a boy, when for me she has always been a true hero who sacrifices everything she desires to do what's right… (another article for another day). In the end it’s all about perspective, nothing is black and white, or red as Harley’s case may be.

So to challenge myself I knew 2014 would have to be a year of villains, but who would start the roster? I decided to look back into my childhood. I also knew that this cosplay would be for Cos-Skate For A Cure, and thus outside in February so warmth was key. Going back to basics I decided to look through my Disney films and I realized one of the villains that truly terrified me both in cartoon and live action form was Cruella DeVil, furthermore with my obsession of two-tone hair, it was perfect. I sent a message to my friend Project Pickles, asking if her Maleficent was still in working order and the two of us planned to be villainesses of the charity skate.

Playing the Villain

I began working on an original version of Cruella immediately and was rather pleased with the result. I decided to go with a more victorious villain feel, and used a Dalmatian print dress (that even feels a bit like fur) under a black faux-fur coat. With red satin gloves, and skates to replace my red heels, I added a red scarf to try and keep warm and white sunglasses for functionality. Of course, I also had to make sure to have my cigarette extender; no Cruella is complete without it!

Playing the Villain

Headed to the event I knew of course that there would be other cosplayers present, but I also knew that a few friends would be coming in Disney kit to match. In fact, my niece Juliet dressed up as a Dalmatian puppy to match my costume, making it probably my favourite team cosplay to date.

Playing the Villain

It was adorable being able to explore not only the costume aspect of cosplay, but also the play. It was fun, for the first time to select a character that I had no real personal connection with. Unlike the Rogues’ that I so often identify with, I had no understanding of what it is that drives this character. So to try and get behind the mind set of living purely for vanity and a love of fur was an interesting exercise as an actor. Furthermore, we had a blast playing around the rink. There were other kids too, all of whom wanted to save the stuffed puppy from becoming a part of my dress.

Playing the Villain

It was amazing how having a villain in the mix actually opened up the playing field in an entirely different way. (Every pun intended). It gave the kids a common “enemy” and a reason to team up. It also gave me an interesting new way to interact with the kids. I even ended up asking a few of them what kind of dogs they had when they kept following me. Eventually of course, as with all good Disney films, good triumphed over evil and the puppy was saved.

Playing the Villain

Being a villain also meant that we could play more on the ice. When it’s a group of heroes together, sure, they can still play, but there is something innately more interesting about seeing the good and the bad together. It opened up opportunities to meet new friends by “antagonizing” them as a villain.

Playing the Villain

Of course, one must be ever so careful when playing the villain. Swiftly, pretend can feel real, so we must be ever vigilant to make sure that our nastiness is not crossing over into the real world. The last thing I would ever want to do is put down another person, or make them feel small. However, giving people a villain to defeat can in fact do the opposite. When people have someone to unite against there is an instant bond of comradery. Plus when you choose to be the outcast villain, it’s not that you’ve been made to feel this way, but you’ve chosen to do so. We ended up having six Disney cosplayers (seven including my little Dalmatian niece). 3 Heroes: Belle, Anna & Tink and 3 villains: Maleficent, Cruella and Hook.

Playing the Villain

Of course we had many other cosplayers come out as well. It was a truly lovely event and an amazing chance to support Cosplay For a Cure. We had a great turn out, and have decided to make it an annual event. So next year keep your eyes peeled and if you see two villains running off with the donations, make sure to stop them in the name of good. ;)

Playing the Villain

All of these photos were taken by the wonderful (and villainous) Doctar StEvil.

This event was also great opportunity for me to put on a darker façade, and try my hand at a villain. Furthermore I think that there is an important take home message for everyone in the cosplay world – your relationship, connection and understanding of a character may be completely different from somebody else’s and how or why they are choosing to portray that character. Perhaps this is something we should think about more often when we see people choosing to cosplay.

-Rogue.

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June 04 2014



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