Photo by: Leonard Lee
Hell hath no fury like a cosplayer scorned – especially since most cosplayers craft their own fury. In an Aug. 4 review of Syfy’s new “Heroes of Cosplay” reality show, New York Post writer Linda Stasi called the series subject “weird” and questioned whether cosplayers are “confused,” presumably, about reality.
And the nerds seemed pretty upset about it. Out of the many Facebook threads and Twitter feeds I’ve seen, most cosplayers and cosplay-friendly posters have criticized Stasi for not having researched the community and for being opinionated in her piece. To be fair, Stasi herself admitted to being confused about the community, which is new to her, and while her review read as amused by the quirkiness of the cos-world, she still gave the show three out of four stars.
Also, it is worth noting that Stasi wrote a review, which is by definition opinionated, and that her research into a community is not a requisite to review an entertainment product. Helpful? Yes, but not mandatory.
Still, we wanted to sample a few self-defined cosplayers (and one costumed performer) out there and give them the forum to reply to Stasi’s article. And since there is not one agreed-upon “correct” definition, they took the opportunity to clear up confusion by explaining – to Stasi and to the rest of the mainstream -- about what cosplay means to them.
Bob DeSimone, Westchester County, NY
Day Job: Customer Service Representative
Cosplays As: 1966 Batman (pictured above), As a member of the 501st Legion’s “Empire City Garrison,” Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Stormtrooper
Cosplayed Since: For almost 10 years as a member of the 501st Legion, and as Batman for one year.
Define Cosplay: To portray a specific role where the costume basically defines the character.
Article Reactions: To me it appears that the writer of this article is more interested in mocking the whole concept and therefore not even trying to understand the reasons one would want to engage in cosplay. First off, those “nutty Civil War” re-enactors serve a purpose that some may not realize. As a Revolutionary War re-enactor for almost 20 years, we serve as an educational presence at many historic sites throughout the U.S. When someone chooses a character, it usually is an expression of what they may aspire to be. It is a creative expression, no different than being a painter. From the design of an original prop to recreating a recognizable character from our youth, most people enjoy the works that they see when attending a convention. Perhaps, the writer should have spent some time getting to know some folks who enjoy this hobby. … Judge these people no differently than you would someone with a tattoo. It is basically the same thing. I have seen people’s reactions very similar to the way they respond to characters at Disney World. It makes people happy, specifically when the costumer is dressed as a recognizable character. I have personally used my costumes for charity events and hospital visits. It simply makes people happy. It’s a win/win situation. Who doesn’t like dressing up? Really? Halloween is the second biggest holiday for the retail industry. Plus, if you see what most people are spending for costumes, there are obviously a lot more folks who understand this concept than the author may realize.
Linda Kim Chi Nguyen, San Diego, Calif.
Day Job: Store designer for Sony Electronics
Cosplays As: Kitana (pictured, right), Slave Leia, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn
Cosplayed Since: I’ve always dressed up elaborately but not until five years ago was I like, “OK, I don't care how much it costs I'm doing this costume right!”
Define Cosplay: Cosplay is a passion for finding creative and imaginative ways to recreate/embody fictional characters from video games, movies, books -- pretty much anything! I love the gender-flipped ones ’cause the girls have to be very creative to take a male character and create a female version!
Article Reactions: I think writing the article is a positive act just because it’s spreading more light on a community of creative individuals. So that's an awesome thing if it lets other people know this is a fun hobby that can turn into a passion. It is great when adults and kids get super excited and want to take pics of my Wonder Woman costume or Leia costume … I think if the article missed one important point it is that cosplaying is so much fun. People wouldn't be so crazy about it if it wasn't. I'm a cosplayer for sure, but before I knew about this huge community I just considered myself someone who really loved dressing up and took it to a whole other level. It's an amazing community of friendly helpful people who always like to share how they make things. I met Yaya Han this year and that girl was awesome and down-to-earth. She started just like me, and I'm guessing like most other cosplayers, by wanting a costume and saying ‘Hmmm I'm not paying someone else to do this cause I'm going to make it myself!" To the author I'd like to say you’re pretty awesome for being interested and shedding more light on the subject and, hell, I hope she gets into it too!
Wade Finch, Acworth, GA
Day Job: IT professional
Cosplays As: Captain Jack Sparrow, Sirius Black, Lumiere (“Beauty and the Beast”), King Louis of France, Adam Ant, Kai Last of the Brunnen-G, Mad Hatter, “Bobble” from “Disney Fairies”
Cosplayed Since: 2002
Define Cosplay: Cosplay -- I hate that word -- as I see it, is people dressing in costume taking photos at conventions or wherever. A small portion do act out the character but photos can’t show this. I never saw myself as a “Cosplayer”; I am a performer. This is street improv to me. To me it’s performance. “Cosplay” the word, I think, is something that came from anime. So, in its simplest form, it’s people dressing up in costumes they made or had made, taking photos or just hanging out with friends at a con etc. There are a few who try to use it to gain popularity and fame, but the fame only goes as far as cons and the fan base of costuming. Hollywood isn’t going to come knocking for you unless you offer up drama like the new Syfy show.
Article Reactions: The writer of the article is expressing her bias “cool” opinion, she reads like some jock’s girlfriend trying to gain cool points by making fun of others. It’s going to backfire on her. As for the show “Heroes of Cosplay”. I won’t even waste my time on this show. The people who are the subject matter are now seen to me as the gateway to negativity that has now lead to this. Nothing but fame hunting for something again in its basic form is akin to tracing someone else’s art work.
Renata Gatti, Connecticut
Day Job: Full-time nanny
Cosplays As: Robin, Wonder Woman, Stormtrooper, Mara Jade, Arica, Psylocke, Arisia Raab
Cosplayed Since: 2009
Define Cosplay: For me, it all started with the 501st and the charity work we do! But most of all, it's a hobby; it's a fun way of letting my creativity flow – to create and learn new things. To challenge myself. Four years ago I had never sewn in my life. Now I do. I make all the costumes I wear.
Article Reactions: I don't think I can even take this article seriously because, clearly, the person who wrote it has no clue of what she was talking about. First of all I have never competed, entered a costume contest or anything like that. I have never made a costume thinking about competition, wining prizes, etc! My very first costumes were made to join the 501st Legion (a Star Wars costuming organization) with the sole intent to wear them to the many charity events the Legion is part of all around the world. Does that disqualify me as a cosplayer? Does this writer even know about this side of the "dressing up in costume"? I don't think so … Cosplaying, making costumes, dressing up or whatever you want to call it is a huge world -- even if it is unknown to a lot of people! But because it’s so large and it has different meanings to different people it’s very hard to pick just one person to be the spokesperson. Don't get me wrong, I love Yaya's work! She is amazingly talented, and created beautiful things. She doesn't just wear them well, she makes everything she wears. But I can guarantee you that her reasons for cosplaying are not the same as mine the same way my reasons are not the same of the next person. I have friends that are mad about this article. They think it makes cosplayers in general look bad. Of course I didn't like the article and I'm sure that people reading it, that have no clue about cosplaying, will believe it and may have a bad idea of the whole thing!
Marlene Bonnelly, New York City, NY
Day Job: Research Project Assistant in a hospital’s child psychiatry department
Cosplays As: Blue Beetle, Eliza Maza from “Gargoyles,” Edd from “Ed, Edd & Eddy,” and The Flash
Cosplayed Since: 2008
Define Cosplay: Cosplay is the art of creating and/or wearing costumes based on, usually, fictional characters from comic books, video games, TV, movies, etc.
Article Reactions: Ms. Stasi was unnecessarily critical in her article. She had never encountered the cosplay community before and, to some extent, I understand that; it's an admittedly strange concept to someone who does not frequent pop culture conventions. Her ignorance does not excuse her condescending tone, however. What cosplayers do for a living and how they fund their projects is personal information, not a basis for the judgment she implied. I felt like I was receiving backhanded compliments while reading. Cosplayers are, in essence, artists. They deserve respect for the significant time and effort they put into making and showcasing their creations. There is enough controversy in the cosplay community already, with how costumers are often treated by their peers on the convention floor; we don't need more. While it seems like her piece was well-intentioned, it really only serves to paint us as fanatics that have taken a hobby too far. I haven't watched the show just yet, but I think she’s probably missing its whole point … I am looking forward to [the show]. I'm excited to see how other cosplayers prepare for conventions, especially, since just that aspect of it is sometimes pretty arduous. I hope I can learn some tips and tricks from the pros, too.
Ruby Rinekso, Queens NYC
Day Job: Graphic designer/ musician
Cosplays As: Black Adam, Batman, Solomon Grundy, Black Manta, Hulk, Chewbacca, Stormtrooper
Cosplayed Since: Much longer than I've known the term. I've been doing the convention circuit since 2005.
Define Cosplay: The extensive activity or hobby of wearing costumes in a public environment that represent characters from the world of fiction, or pop culture.
Article Reactions: I'm thrilled that cosplay is being featured to the masses, however, like most media that features or reports on cosplay, it seems to concentrate more on the women. I would like to see both women and men equally represented in a positive light when it comes to the media featuring cosplaying. This also seems to be some sort of competition show, and those in the cosplaying community know that costumers can somehow feel needlessly competitive, when it should be just for fun. I will be curious if and how this show will fuel that sentiment amongst cosplayers … Cosplaying is a growing activity and keeps getting larger worldwide. This global community consists of people from varying degrees of all walks of life. Throw out the negative stigmas and opinions of what a traditional "nerd" or "geek" is. This is a community/activity that doesn't discriminate and should be enjoyed by all. I will check out the show at first, simply because I have friends that are featured there. If it's interesting enough, I'll program it on my DVR.
Michael Koske, Atlanta, GA
Day Job: Multiple Walkers on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”/graphics shop owner/retired chef
Cosplays As: As a member of the 501st Legion Stormtrooper, Biker Scout, Chewbacca; member of Georgia Ghostbusters; Cobra Commander from the new “G.I. Joe” movie.
Cosplayed Since: 2007
Define Cosplay: To me, the term cosplayer is just what it sounds like: costumed player. It is someone who likes to create and wear costumes, and sometimes even act out scenes from different genres.
Article Reactions: I think the author of the article just seemed uninformed on cosplay and cosplayers as a whole. Cosplaying can be anything really. When your kids dress up for Halloween, in the costume you bought from Walmart, that is cosplaying. Cosplay is merely a way for individuals to express likes and interests among other cosplayers and not be ridiculed. I have yet to see anything but positive sentiments between cosplayers. They are all very supportive -- no matter the degree of skill used -- because at one point, they were all beginner cosplayers. The groups I'm involved with, the 501st and Ghostbusters, also do charity events year-round, generating millions of dollars for various charities. If you ask me, I'd say that's nothing to ridicule I'd like to see more people embrace cosplay. For some people, it's a way of opening up, when they may feel they are alone on this crazy planet -- and what better way to feel important than to dress up like your favorite superhero, or in my case, villain, and have your only concern be to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!... I mean, get along with your fellow human being in a group of like-minded cosplayers. I'm definitely looking forward to “Heroes of Cosplay” just to see how cosplay is evolving and being elevated to the next level.