Cospay to Cosplay: Earning Geek Cred on the Convention Floor
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
In case you missed it the other day, illustrator Tony Harris launched into it with a Facebook post, decrying women who cosplay but supposedly know nothing about the characters they’re cosplaying. It spawned an outrage on Twitter, rapidly swirling around a new hashtag in #CosplayAppreciationDay. Countless geeks, nerds, dorks and dweebs chimed in, lambasting Harris for his statement while defending the right to cosplay.
Because of the recent spate of successful superhero movies and SDCC’s ascendance as a marquis, pop culture event, people don’t really pay attention to the “comic” in the title. They just see it and think that it would be a great place to cosplay. There are some who attend the conventions, happen to be hot women and have no clue who (or what) they’re cosplaying as. They see it as a chance to be “discovered” and launch into a career as an actor or model. Yet there are still others who do know who they’re cosplaying, are hot and spend countless hours on their costumes. Seriously, if you look at some of the stuff that the big cosplayers create, you’d think they were Oscar-winning costume designers.
Like it or not, it’s hip to be square. That is, there’s an almost unprecedented coolness associated with being a geek. Maybe it’s the rampant success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, Twilight taking up residence at Comic-Con or both Marvel and DC being owned by larger parent companies. Finding the source for the geeksplosion is about as tough as convincing Han that tauntauns don’t smell worse on the inside.
It’s not a problem, everyone wanting to be a geek. It should be viewed as a good thing. More people wanting to read comics means more people buying comics, which inevitably leads to more comics being made. The same goes for video games. And movies. And t-shirts. Just about anything that geek culture can sink its teeth into. Yet, for some within the geek community, there’s a need to battle. It’s almost as if a civil war is brewing, where geeks will be forced to demonstrate their geek cred before they’re able to continue calling themselves “geeks.” Where we’ll have to choose sides and decide we’re pro-Twilight or against Twilight.
There’s a broad assumption (not necessarily implied by Harris) that, clearly, it’s impossible for a geek to be both a woman and a geek simultaneously. It’s like walking and chewing gum at the same time. And if that female geek is hot? Well, that’s a combination causing the fabric of space and time to swallow itself as we speak. Isn’t it obvious? Being an attractive person is something that is incongruous with being a geek. Face it…we’re all just unattractive slobs who resemble the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, hiding our hideous visages behind our Twitter account icons. Here’s a newsflash. Everyone who’s a geek isn’t living in their parent’s basement. Some geeks are actually quite pleasant, even (dare I say it) attractive.
How many times are we going to parade Felicia Day around as an example of a hot geek? Yes, she’s a geek. Yes, she’s hot. And yes, she’s doing all sorts of geeky things that make fans go crazy and deserves praise. Is she happy to see women getting more attention in all things geek? I don’t know her personally, but I’m sure she is. She doesn’t deserve to be the martyr for a cause though. There’s a good chance that “proving hot people (women) can be geeks too” isn’t on at the top of her to-do list. Just because she’s a hot, woman geek doesn’t mean she covers mutliple check-boxes in making a case.
It doesn’t really matter who you are. If there’s something geeky in you, that’s all that matters. Being a geek isn’t being part of some exclusive club. It’s not something we pay dues for. Fans of Glee are also known as–wait for it–gleeks. Natalie Portman starred in three Star Wars movies, killed it in V for Vendetta and was a main character in Thor. Does she lose all credibility as a geek because she won an Oscar as a schizophrenic dancer in Black Swan? Don’t think so.
The point is this. You can be a geek no matter who you are. Comics today have a mixed-race Spider-man, a married gay superhero and a beautifully illustrated assassin who’s half-woman, half-spider named The Stalk. The Stalk–by the way–happens to be illustrated by a woman, Fiona Staples. We’re in the midst of an almost unprecedented world where every year, a major motion picture release is about a superhero. Marvel is actually on “Phase 2” of their movies, indicating there was enough for a Phase 1. People are raving about shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch are doing fantastic things with America’s Got Powers.
There’s a reason the phrase is “geeking out” and not something like “Doctor Who-ing” out (aside from the aforementioned Gleek thing, but that’s just clever marketing). That is, it doesn’t require a love for any particular facet of being a geek to do it. If you’re really into something, you’re a geek. There’s no entry exam, there’s no evaluation. Being a geek isn’t looking at a rickety treehouse with a hastily scribbled “No Girls Allowed” sign hanging in front.
Harris’ broader point likely has more to do with the state of conventions in the industry and not necessarily hot cosplayers. Comic conventions have long since stopped being only about comics. You can argue the merits of exhibitors putting on shows not focused solely on comics (they’re primarily financial based), but the thing is, they’ve become grand geek affairs. San Diego Comic-Con is probably the guiltiest party here, selling tons of floor space to Hollywood and video games at the expense of comic book talent, all while maintaining the aura of a comic convention. While the majority of women (and men) attend the shows for love of the craft, there are some who attend it for more selfish reasons.
For someone like Harris, a convention is one of the best times to get his work out in front of new readers. From his standpoint, if there’s a woman cosplaying as Wonder Woman near his booth, diverting potential business away with a picture, then that hurts Harris. If the woman chose the costume because it made her look good, then basically a poser has cost Harris money. If the woman chose the costume because she knows Wonder Woman backwards and forwards, she still costs Harris money. Only she’s not a poser, she’s legit. There’s definitely a fine line in being a geek and using geekiness to make money, a line that’s rather difficult to discern on the fly.
These are heady times to be a geek. We should be embracing all the attention we’re getting. To throw a reference to True Blood, we as geeks should be mainstreaming. Living among the non-geek, showing them the beauty of being a geek. Teaching them what it really means to roll the hard six, what a “sing-along blog” is (especially when it’s horrible) and debating bone vs. adamantium Wolverine. Enough with the infighting and calling people out. Let’s all be geeks and just geek out about it. People are flocking to join the club and, last I checked, we’re not over capacity just yet.