Once upon a time in San Francisco, a friend from overseas I knew since high school finally began school at the Academy of Art. We were so excited to finally hang out and make plans with each other. We would reminisce about how we did voice acting in fandubs and radio dramas whenever we got together. We went out to lunch during major cosplay gatherings and giggle at our injokes. Yet, something happened. I was happy she was getting gigs at conventions. I wanted to show my support for her. Yet, the hang out times were becoming less and less. The next time I had any face time, it was like she changed. She was not the bubbly friend from overseas anymore. Had I not been “the nice, quiet girl” back then, I would have said something, but even if I did, would it change anything? I knew she was different when she started going to cons just to get drunk and even forget to acknowledge our mutual accomplishments when we did fandubs and radio dramas. Behind the glitter, feather boas, and fake eyelashes, I knew this was no longer the girl I became friends with in high school.
Have you ever had that friend you made when you began cosplay? The Both of you wanted to make cosplay plans for a convention. You planned your annual convention schedule together and drafted friends for your hotel room. You imagined what it would be like to make a Sailor Senshi mega group with mutual friends and who tease your male friend to go as Tuxedo Kamen. Yet, all of a sudden, years down the line, the ego starts to get the best of your friend. They are not the adorable dork you once knew. The adorable factor is still there, but for different reasons. All of a sudden, they begin to become “cosplay famous.” They become a “cosplay celebrity” of sorts.
Certainly, I have friends who happen to be popular within the cosplay community, but for good measure. They’re still good people and we still can be nerdy friends by the end of the day. Being well known is not a bad thing entirely. People can be well known for organizing gatherings or just being a good person who helps others. However, in the wake of the so-called “cosplay celebrity” trend, there seems to be a race to fame. It’s hard to pinpoint a reason why cosplayers would be driven to go for cosplay fame. However, I’ve seen this motivation draw certain behaviors out of people that have been disturbing.
It’s natural to feel a hint of envy. When I spoke with the vice president of the International Costumers Guild at Arisia, jealousy is a valid feeling, but it’s not that we want to be in their position. We really do not care for the fame. We just want the memories with our friends back, or at least some acknowledgement to continue on to do things together. It’s not from lack of trying or reaching out, but it’s that being ignored and the sense of abandonment is what gets to us. What could have made someone trade friendship for popularity? This question is as old as middle school.
“Can you make me the next Yaya Han?” someone once asked me. I’m not a miracle worker, but I question why anyone would want to be someone who they are not. Other theories point to rising trends “cosplay celebrity” guests at comic conventions. I’m not talking about the veteran cosplayers like the Tristen Citrine’s or the Hanyaan’s, but the cosplay guests that have recently popped in the scene and are guests because they cosplay (ie: Tanya Tate) and they are a “gamer girl” (whatever that really is). Post-Anime Expo, several friends and I joked that if cosplay and being a gamer are what it takes of be a guest, then we all would qualify for cosplay and gamer guests. I feel that a cosplay guest is someone who has contributed something to the community and has a good reputation among their peers. A pretty face is a bonus.
Even so, I was reading a comment someone made on my Facebook wall that really got me thinking. The comment was about pressure to look like the characters people cosplay as. Where does this pressure come from? I’ve read posts about how cosplay should be just for fun and it should be enjoyed. Then it finally hit me. I was seeing more posts about people ranting about people taking the fun out of the hobby than actually posting about themselves having fun in the hobby.
And then it’s disturbing when you see friends changed from the hobby for the worse. I can tell stories about colleagues holding off college and thinking about quitting their day job because of cosplay and events. I’m sure you can think of some examples from your own experience too. However, it’s really tough to see friends go through the transition and there’s only so much you can do. You can tell them what they’re doing is wrong, though in their mind is right. Like any good friend, find out what’s really going on. Usually, when there’s a drive for attention and recognition, there is an underlying issue that motivates it. I can tell stories of examples where I have seen people fall into the void and I am sure you have as well.
I’ll admit. I’ve been a gypsy in cosplay – same libretto, different cast. It’s sad when friends start having that elitist ego that we all know about. The stuff you once laughed at becomes their way of life. I’ve known a few colleagues who have gone down that road and started picking apart cosplay newcomers on the most pettiest of things when they forget that they once bought a costume from eBay (or Setsuna Kou). Constructive criticism is one thing, it’s another thing to judge someone’s personality if they’re wearing something commissioned or borrowed – especially if it’s their first time. They then become a negative cloud of energy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen some examples of “pity me” on their cosplay Facebook pages and 100 or so followers will flock to their attention.
Perhaps these people come into our lives as lessons that we need to learn – friends come and go. Lifetime friends will be with you through thick and thin. If you have had a friend in the cosplay community for more than 5 years, call them…text them…thank them for always being there for you. Talk about the good times.
The cosplay community has been hit with a negative cloud lately. We post about how this hobby should be fun more than us having fun in cosplay, lolita, or whatever quirky hobby. Let’s begin to spread positive energy among our peers and make this hobby something we all love. Sometimes, all we need is one person to make us smile, not 100 anonymous followers.