Ms. Geek Speaks: Cosplay and Common Courtesy

What is it about Cosplay that breaks down the boundaries of common courtesy? Or have good manners so completely gone out of style that a few people don’t know what common courtesy is?

At the recent Stan Lee Comikaze, Cosplay etiquette was clearly displayed under banners that read: “Cosplay is not consent.” The signs tell you to “Please keep your tentacles to yourself” and to ask if you may take a photo with or of a participant.

There was even a 50-minute panel moderated by Dave Turner with Ivy Doomkitty, Meredith Placko, Geri Kramer and Chris Mandeville. That would seem counter productive. Shouldn’t etiquette be covered before the event or at the beginning?

Elsewhere, a Cosplayer posted a somewhat humorous account of transgressions that made me think that either there needs to be a serious effort for people to learn common courtesy or that all Cosplayers need bodyguards. If you thought people were just groping the female Cosplayers, particularly those in proud cleavage display or skimpy garments that are merely bikinis in a wispy comic book disguise, then you were wrong. While women’s issues of harassment, trivialization and marginalization continue and are reasons  to speak out, men are also speaking out.

Charles Conley of Kennesaw, Georgia, posted (and this is reprinted with his permission) a discussion for Cosplayers and prop builders:

“Here are a few things you should not expect from me and should not do when I’m in any sort of armored cosplay.

  1. DON’T EXPECT a John Hancock-level autograph. My armored fingers take my writing level to that of a 4th grader.
  2. DON’T EXPECT me to see your Yoda-sized child standing directly at my feet since most of my armors don’t allow me to lower my head past a certain level. I try my absolute best to check my surrounding but for some odd reason whenever I prepare to walk is when some child wants to make a bee-line for my blindspot.
  3. DON’T EXPECT for me to hear you calling my characters name as I’m walking away or at a distance. I’m not ignoring you purposely, most of my buckets create a personal resonance chamber on my cranium that makes hearing very difficult.
  4. DON’T EXPECT me to accept your offer to ‘take a load off and have a seat.’ I will laugh, hard. Ninety-five % of my armors don’t allow sitting, at all. That’s why I pace the convention floor, not staying still for too long. That’s also why I avoid stairs like the plague. Yes I may be able to traverse them but it’s the biggest pain in the butt and I don’t even wanna know what would happen if I misjudged and missed a step.
  5. DON’T EXPECT me to break character, ever. Like a method actor, when I cosplay I go all out with the theatrics. I BECOME that character I’m playing to a T. Some characters I portray, like the Witch-King of Angmar and Boba Fett, rarely speak so at times the most you may get is body language to answer your quiries. THE ONLY TIME I WILL EVER DO ANYTHING OUT OF CHARACTER IS IN DEALINGS WITH CHILDREN UNDER 5.
  6. DON’T EXPECT me to give you my weapon for a fan pic. If I offer it to you, great, but don’t assume it’s your right to just peel it from my hands. I make most of weaponry to be sturdy, but that doesn’t make it okay for you to test that fact when you get your hands on it. We are taking a picture, not going into combat.
  7. DON’T smack my helmet. Yes, we get it, you wanna see how strong it is, or what it’s made of…but like I stated earlier I’m wearing a resonance chamber on my head. YOU ARE HURTING MY EARDRUMS and quite frankly though the helmet might be sturdy I don’t need you to test that fact.
  8. DON’T try to make off with any weaponry I have secured in a side holster or pouch…I don’t care what character I’m portraying, I will go “LEFT 4 DEAD ‘Witch'” on your behind. I will find you no matter where you go, I will beat you into a pulp, and I will do all of this while screaming at the top of my lungs to make it that much more terrifying. You’re not slick.
  9.  DON’T grab my cod piece. This one is more specifically for the ladies. To this day I don’t know what your fascination is with that particular piece of armor but it’s awkward and just not classy. I will smack your hand if you go there and give you a firm “no” and a shake of the finger as if you’re a toddler.
  10. DON’T be afraid to ask questions. I will break character to answer questions in regards to learning more about “foamsmithing” or propbuilding. Cosplay is all about growing and becoming a better artist. Any way I can assist others in that regard I will gladly do so. I promise, I won’t bite, as long as I’m not cosplaying a zombie…then I will bite you, all for the horde.”

The conversation that followed indicated people regularly slapped the heads of strangers, grabbed at breast plates or codpieces or took and destroyed props.

Dennis D. Panganiban  commented, that some kids treat you like their toys. Oh, that’s surely is a parental fail.  Vincent Grenier recalls someone smacking his chest piece while he was in Garrus armor. Another Cosplayer, a woman named Nicole Mesh’la Naast Reid, confessed “I had a guy smack and grab my mando chest plates.” At some point, the guy realized he was groping a woman’s breasts and his reaction was “sheer horror.”

Alex Martin Arritt confirms that people make crotch grabs when he’s been dressed as Agent Venom. “That gets old and makes my wife want to kill people.” Women, you wouldn’t want a stranger grabbing your breast or crotch, so why go there with a stranger just because he’s in a costume?

William Edward Flores commented, “I can’t express how angry people smacking my helmet makes me. While being in armor may make me feel like a badass, I feel like a cricket being shaken in a tin can when I’m pushed around.”

Judy Grivich was dressed as Gimli and a guy punched her. He was shocked when she started screaming at him, but he was more concerned that he hit a girl. Why would hitting a guy be okay?

Props are also up for grabs as well. Cayla Christine commented, “It took every ounce of restraint I had to not football kick the 4-year-old who started wailing my Mjolnir on the ground without warning. That was the day I learned no one is ever to touch my props again.”

Sarah Grenyer Hagan confessed, “I made that mistake…gave a 10 year old child my Hawkgirl mace since he asked to check it out and he bashed it against the floor. Last time I’ll ever do that.”

You might wonder where are the parents, but parents aren’t always helpful. Nicole Mesh’la Naast Reid wrote that she “had a child grab and try to make off my bow made of worbla and foam (so not sturdy at all). I kept pulling it back and the mom would laugh and laugh as her kid continued to pull.” The prop was bent in half at the end of that incident.

Sometimes the adults are just as bad, too.Joshua Murphy opined, “Why do people feel the need to grab/smack on my costume. At least once at every event, a kid or even adults will grab a hose or try to ‘activate’ the switches on my tie pilot chest box.”

Other people commented that armored Cosplayers aren’t the only ones with a problem.Elizabeth Anne wrote, “People do this even if you’re not wearing armor. I can’t tell you how many times people have tried to grab my ($600) lightsaber hilt off my belt, touch my headpieces, pull my hair or my lekku.” 

Cosplayers are people. They may be people you know or they may be people you think you know from your television or from the movies or from your fertile fantasies. They are still people and in Japan, the U.S. the UK and Europe it is not good manners to pull hair, hit heads or chests, or grope breasts or codpieces. You should not walk up to strangers and grab purses, backpacks, or any other possessions such as hammers, swords or lightsabers. Should someone let you touch their possessions you should handle it with the utmost care and should you damage it, you should be willing to replace it.

Good manners, or what used to be called, common courtesy, is to look with your eyes or ask before touching. When it comes to Cosplay, common courtesy is still required.



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