Call for Chapter Proposals: An Academic Reader on Cosplay!

YES, I’m a cosplay mom, but I’m also a scholar. As part of my academic and professional life, a fellow cosplaying academic, Dr. Amy Lewis and I have interest from several academic publishers for an edited reader on different approaches to cosplay!

If you are working cosplay as a scholar, or know someone who is, please share this call!

 

Call for Chapters

Discipline and Freedom: Social Norms, Social Identity and Financial Implications of Cosplay

Cosplay, as a worldwide phenomenon, draws fans of film, television, and video games to express different aspects of their identity through both amateur/hobby and professional performance of characters and genres. Cosplay is an increasingly important aspect of both fan practice/produsage and franchise control of intellectual property.

This volume will address two fundamental questions related to the practice of cosplay: Why do people cosplay? and How do they cosplay? This project is envisioned as an interdisciplinary reader viewing these questions though then lenses of various fields and approaches, and submissions should be targeted at a generalist audience. Several academic publishers have expressed interest in this proposal and the editors are working to finalize agreements with a publisher.

Editors Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols and Amy Lewis will provide an introductory overview of some of the key concepts related to these questions in an introduction to the volume, setting the stage for individual chapters to take deeper dives into related questions and topics. We expect these topics to include (but not be limited to):

– Gender identity and cosplay identity

– Racial identity and cosplay identity

– Beauty work identity and appearance in cosplay

– Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-concept in cosplay

– Intra- and inter-group competition in cosplay

– Professional and amateur/hobby cosplay

– Benefits and drawbacks of fandom activity

– Fan perception of franchise “ownership” vs. Corporate and intellectual property view of “ownership”

– Fans’ economic investment in cosplay practice

– Entrepreneurial angles and aspects of cosplay

We seek proposals from an interdisciplinary slate of scholars working in the fields of fan studies, media studies, beauty theory and business among others. We particularly seek proposals covering the following topics:

  • Marketing and branding in the business of cosplay
  • Racial and ethnic identities for cosplayers and characters
  • Gender fluidity, sexual and gendered identities for cosplay and cosplayers
  • Permanent body modification as a form of cosplay

We invite potential authors to submit chapter proposals by October 5, 2020. Please submit a 1000 word (maximum)_abstract that describes your chapter proposal and the disciplinary len(es) you seek to take. Separate from this abstract, please also include a brief biography of all authors and a reference list of 3-5 key works from your discipline related to your proposal.

Submissions may be sent, with the subject line “Cosplay and Identity” to

Dr. Amy C. Lewis

Associate Professor of Management

Texas A&M University San Antonio

Amy.Lewis@tamusa.edu

Accepted chapters should be approximately 4000-7000 words. Contributions must be original—we cannot consider previously published work for this project. Final selection of chapters will be determined through editorial review.

  • Our project timeline is dependent the editorial’s eventual requirements, but we anticipate notifying selected authors by December 1, 2020, with first drafts of chapters due by March 30, 2021.

Harley Quinn Cosplay and Fan Identity- THE VIDEO!

Greetings from self-isolation, friends. I’m wishing everyone health and easy days.

As professor, and as a volunteer for my local con- the Quarantine  Quarter has been a  challenge. Zoom classes, online office hours, and then eventually Virtual Visioncon!

I volunteer with  Visioncon’s marketing team and assisted, in a small way, while the amazing Zack Wilson hosted a panoply of guests, panels, and celebrities. Zack and the team did an amazing job in providing content on our original con weekend,  but of course, all did not go according to plan. When does it ever?

At one point,  one of our guests (sadly, the one that cosplay husband and I were looking forward to most) could not make it.  We had an empty slot and no plan to fill it. So…..into the fray I jumped, and gave a presentation on  Harley Quinn!

I happened to have a powerpoint ready,  but my delivery is, well,  less than prepared.

In any event, I provide the video here for you if you’d like to check it out!

It’s a bit more academic than my usual post, as it was prepared for the Fan Studies Network conference, and my actual presentation was thrown together,  but with those caveats, here it is!

Craft Stash JUSTIFIED!: Surviving the Pandemic as Artists and Crafters

So here we are. Are you all ok?

These are hard times.

Many are struggling financially, many are struggling emotionally and most of us are feeling trapped and stir-crazy.

I know I am. I am very privileged to not worry about having enough to eat or a place to stay. But I am still very stressed.

I miss my students. I miss my workout friends. Cosplay husband is at half salary. I worry about my high-risk friends and family.  I fight migraines every day. (This is not in order of importance).

So much I can’t do anything about. What can I do though? MAKE MASKS.

I sew! I’m a crafter! And what’s more, I HAVE A FABRIC STASH.

I, like my mother before me, like so many of us who costume, craft, and sew, have a hard time throwing out ANY supplies.

Especially if you cosplay! You never know what you might need or be able to use!

As I’ve shared here before, Kiogenic (cosplay daughter) and I started cosplaying as a financially-strapped single Mom and daughter. Thrift shops were our friend, and we reused EVERYTHING.

The shotgun shells for Yang’s Gauntlets here? Wine corks that Kiogenic painted red. (I drank the wine).

So yes, over time, the arts and crafts room turned into, well, a disaster area of a dump of all the things that “we might have a use for.”

Yikes

Yeah. It was a disaster. But also an opportunity. I wanted to make masks,  and luckily, one of the sf/fantasy academics I follow on twitter had posted a great pattern and tutorial. All credit and love to CZ Edwards fro this great pattern! You can print directly onto printer paper and then there are step-by-step instructions, even for beginners. There is a simple double-sided mask with interfacing (or an extra layer of cotton) and an additional pattern if you want to make a pocket for inserting an additional filter (folks are using coffee filters, kleenex, etc.)

If the above pattern seems daunting, the CDC has a less complex (but arguably less effective) pattern and set of instructions here. 

It was exactly what I needed to make masks for myself, my family, and an increasing number of friends who want to keep themselves and others safe.

But first Kiogenic and I had to clean up the arts and crafts room. And we did (which turned out to be necessary anyway- Kiogenic is pursuing an art degree and ended up having to complete her  advanced painting class at home)

The artist at work

All best practices, as described by reputable sources, indicate that tightly woven cotton (quilting cotton) is your best bet for mask material.  The tight weave does as good a job as possible in providing a filter but still makes it possible to breathe. The room more organized, I found a LOT of cotton, saved from previous projects, and took the advice to hold it up to the light to see how much light penetrated. This is an easy way of picking the pieces with the tightest weave. Since I am leaving the house only rarely (grocery shopping for us, my parents and in-laws) I was grateful to have the stash of fabric AND a stash of interfacing! My pack-rat sewing/crafting habits were VINDICATED!

The room cleared out, we now had room for Kiogenic to paint AND for me to sew.

I made masks for me, cosplay husband and Kiogenic, as well as for our folks. Then, when former students and other friends asked if I could make them masks, I, of course, said yes (I still had PLENTY of fabric). Small problem: I was out of interfacing. Here, I was saved by my mother, who- though she has not sewn regularly for a decade, came through with her stash. I called, on the off chance she had interfacing. She didn’t think so, but she would “check” and call me back.

She had a bit.

Something like 15 yards.

And so, not only was my fabric stash justified, so was that of my Mom! We win!

So the next time someone gives you trouble about your fabric, or craft stash, tell them that it is just prepping for disaster, being ready for (if not the apocalypse) then at least big emergencies. If you keep things that can be useful, then you can help protect yourself, your loved ones, and others in the community.

Stay safe, friends. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Care about others and WEAR A MASK!

Faces of Cosplay: The Porcelain Princess

To me, cosplay is a kind of therapy, a way of expressing my creativity in a way others might enjoy and appreciate.”

As I’ve mentioned before, Kiogenic was lucky enough to have an internship with a local armory that made awesome Mandalorian gear. That place has since (sadly) folded, but I’m still in touch with the great guy who was her mentor.  Recently, he shared that the intern that followed Kiogenic: Gabriella Ward, was seeking to get some exposure for her work in special effects makeup, and asked us all to take a look at her work.

Folks, her work is AMAZING. Gabriella, who uses the cosplay name Porcelain Princess, is seriously talented, and I’m delighted to be her honorary Cosplay Mom and present her to you. If you need costuming or SFX work done, consider hitting up Gabriella!

Name:  Gabriella (Gabby) Ward  AKA The Porcelain Princess

Age: 20 years old

Day Job: I am currently a professional freelance SFX makeup artist. Recently I graduated from Tom Savini’s Special Makeup Effects Program in Pittsburgh, PA. My passion lies in creating effects for haunted houses like from Springfield’s Dungeons of Doom, to Pittsburgh’s Hundred Acre Manor! I’ve created many effects for local theater and personal events such as A Class Act Productions and Thriller on C-Street. Cosplay really helped me get into SFX in the first place!

Why do you cosplay?:
To me, cosplay is a kind of therapy, a way of expressing my creativity in a way others might enjoy and appreciate. For a little while I’m not Gabby, but Captain Marvel or an elf from a forbidden forest, and I find joy through that. It’s a form of art and entertainment that almost everyone can try! And having a supportive and inspiring community around you really helps boost your confidence as a person and as a cosplayer.

How long have you been cosplaying?:
I’d like to think that I’ve been cosplaying all my life, Halloween is my favorite holiday, and any chance I got to dress up I would! But my cosplay adventures started officially 7 years ago with a character called HoneyBooBoo Klingon (it was just as ridiculous as it sounds😄). From that my first big cosplay was Harley Quinn from Batman the Animated Series.

How do you choose your characters?:
I usually choose characters that I adore from mixed media, whether I look like them (like Drew Barrymore’s character from Scream), or not (like Nightcrawler from Xmen)! I always do deep research into the characters, so that I can play the part as much as I can. It’s just as much fun making and wearing the costume as it is playing the role. I also like to have a mix of popular characters and more obscure characters, to keep fans of the shows on their toes!

Do you have a signature or favorite cosplay?:
Well, my first, fully handmade character costume was my first Harley Quinn, with her I really started my passion for cosplay! Another more recent cosplay that’s recognizable is my Nightcrawler from X: Men-Evolution. And my most used and social character is my Ghostbusters costume of Holzmann or just me as a Ghostbuster with the cosplay group Ghostbusters of the Ozarks! I love that group and we love to support our community and bring a little fun with us!

Do you make, or buy your cosplays?:
I do both! I try to make more than I buy absolutely. But sometimes I just don’t have the time or skill to make my own, that’s when I’m thankful for other costume artists to create awesome cosplays!

What advice do you have to other cosplayers?: ‘

Keep creating, and keep inspired! Do the best you can, keep practicing, and you can always improve!

What’s the best thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?:
I met Stan Lee before he passed and he complimented my Captain Marvel cosplay, which meant the world to me! I’ve met animators, voice actors, and fellow cosplayers of the characters I’ve created, and they’ve all been so supportive, which is absolutely incredible!

What’s the worst thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?:
I’ve only had one experience with someone giving negativity, and it was about my weight. But I’ve learned that I love what I do and, as long as I’m having fun and bringing joy to others than my weight doesn’t matter!

Do you attend conventions? Which is your favorite?:
I love to attend a lot of local conventions including Visioncon, Planet Comiccon, G.A.M.E and Librarycon at my local library. I found most of my cosplay friends and love for conventions at Visioncon! I’ve attended every year for about 5 years now, and now on my 3rd year hosting a horror panel called Fear Factory!

She met Stan. How cool is that?

Check out Gabby’s work:

Facebook @TheOfficalPorcelainPrincess

And if you’d like to see more of her makeup and SFX, or want to get in contact for her services, you can find her on Facebook or Instagram
@gabriellanicolesfxmakeup

The Badass Possibilities of Harley Quinn Cosplay

I love Harley Quinn.

I love how she, as a character, represents a combination of fun and mayhem, vulnerability and power, love and violence. Really, I love how complex she is.

I also appreciate- deeply, how her character, over twenty years, has moved from abuse victim to empowered survivor.  Yes, I’m VERY excited for the Birds of Prey Movie! (That’s the trailer. I just watched it again. CAN’T WAIT).

So, as you might expect, I also love Harley Quinn cosplayers.

Anyone who spends any time at conventions (or even looking at cosplay online) knows that Harley is one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) cosplay for women, and crossplayers. I have found this to be true in both the United States and Mexico- speaking to the very broad appeal of Harley as a character.

Part of what makes Harley so appealing, I believe, is that her overall evolution offers choice and agency to many cosplayers.

There are cosplayers, like The Batgirl Pierce, for example, who grew up watching Harley on Batman the Animated Series, and who love “identify with her happier, playful side.” Pierce shared with me that “I like to poke fun, but not in a violent way.” The version that Pierce cosplays is often referred to as the “Classic” version. 

Springfield, Missouri Cosplayer The Batgirl Pierce as “Classic” Harley Quinn

This is true of many Harley cosplayers, who identify with the comic, bubbly and mischievous characterization of Quinn in the animated series. This is, of course, a valid choice for cosplayers, and I love to see it.

This version, however bright, cheerful and geared toward comic relief, is also very sad. Her optimism and humor cover for her child-like vulnerability and a desire to love and be loved. She desperately seeks The Joker’s affection and he abuses her regularly and violently. As the authors of the DC Animated Universe Wiki describe her, Quinn is the “epitome of the battered wife syndrome.”

This is another way in which cosplayers often identify with Harley- with her pain and suffering, and therefore her anger.

This anger is on display in the more “Modern” versions of Quinn’s appearance- first demonstrated in the New 52 versions of the comics, and then continued through the Arkham games and Suicide Squad comics and movie. The dichotomy between classic and modern versions is clearly represented on the cover of the DC Comics omnibus special issue dedicated to Quinn.

Cosplayers who choose this version often identify strongly with a Harley who, in the words of Mexican cosplayer, Bernadette, remains ““fun despite the tragedy” of surviving an abusive relationship.

Bernadette at La Mole: Mexico City 2019

Harley represents a woman with significant trauma in her past, who escapes and becomes truly empowered. For Missouri cosplayer Raylene (pictured above as the featured image), this is key to her admiration for, and identification with the character. Raylene shared that “that’s why I like her. While she’s still hung up over Joker’s death it’s the first time in the Arkham series where you actually get to see what’s she’s capable of and how she’s able to organize herself and an entire gang just by herself.”

Raylene says that “I’ve always just really liked her and the depth of the character they portray in her. I’ve had a lot of issues in my own life and when I saw her grow as a person, whether it was in comics, movies, games, etc., it really helped me out in my personal life. When I saw her separate herself from certain situations and stand up for herself against Joker, or Deadshot, or even her own demons it was always so inspiring to me since I resonated with her on such a personal level.”

This is not an uncommon sentiment. Harley Quinn cosplayers in the United States and Mexico have expressed this feeling of resonance with a character who is abused, and mistreated, and then breaks free to find agency and self-empowerment.

That this agency is often violent is, I believe, cathartic. As French feminist Julia Kristeva noted, when women have been systematically abused and gaslighted for decades (and we all either have suffered this and/or have seen it happens to friends and family), it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the backlash against that abuse may be violent.

What Kristeva says is that a woman fighting to free herself from oppression by a partner (or a society), “may, by counterinvesting the violence she has endured, make herself a possessed agent of this violence” and that sometimes this violence and the weapons she uses may seem disproportionate, but are not so in comparison to the suffering she has endured.

I would argue that even women who do not become violent in their personal lives can find satisfaction in role-playing and cosplaying a woman who represents the chaotic energy of one who is fighting back against her tormentors.

Cosplay is perfect for this. It allows for identification, exploration and, in the end: creativity. Cosplayers can choose from various versions of Quinn to cosplay, depending on their experience and desire to play with the idea of being a “possessed agent of violence.” Given the nature of the practice, then, Harley cosplayers can even then invent their own, new versions of the character.

When I spoke to Mitsuko in Mexico City, she was cosplaying her original, steampunk version of Harley Quinn.

MItsuko at La Mole 2019

Mitsuko told me that she cosplays several versions of Harley Quinn, but this one is her favorite. In her creation, she sought to portray a version of Quinn who was “passionate, not afraid of anything,” as a way to express a combination of parts of the persona she identified with, along with the parts of the persona she aspired to.

Mitsuko appreciates the liminal, conflicted nature of Harley, saying that she saw her as a villain, but also someone who helped others.

And that, right there, is the badassedness of possibility in Harley Quinn. It allows for both villainy and helpfulness. Playfulness and mayhem. In Harley, we can identify our pain, and appreciate her revenge.

Cheers to all the Harley Cosplayers that I have met! (and those I haven’t!)

 

 

 

 

 

Desperately Turning 50

I turn 50 this year.

 

So does my best, oldest and dearest friend. We’ve been tight since 1981.  We agreed that we should do SOMETHING awesome in honor of our big birthday year. Not something appropriate, really, just something ridiculous and badass.

Let’s go to Vegas!

Let’s see Def Leppard!

Ah, the 80s. Hair and denim. Still love it.

Chess and I saw Def Leppard in…1987? The Hysteria tour, so what better way to celebrate our birthday year than to see them again?

We booked a nice hotel, planned a spa day, and purchased MUCH better tickets than we could have afforded in 1987. Such are the benefits of being middle-aged with a steady income.

Now, Kiogenic (aka cosplay daughter), has recently discovered the joy of 1980s rock. (Another post incoming eventually about her badass Motley Crue cosplay). She wanted to come too- and why not? Clearly, though, we would need appropriate attire.

What’s the point of doing something slightly ridiculous for your birthday if you wear boring clothes? (Ok, many people would, and did, wear appropriate and even classy outfits to the concert. Chess did. But she’s not a COSPLAY MOM.)  I decided that I would make……..the jacket from Desperately Seeking Susan. 

Haven’t seen it? As of Sept 2019, it was on Amazon Prime. Recommended! Super fun, circa 1985. And the jacket is both amazing, and a key plot point!  The costumers made at least two of these, (see photo below) one for Madonna and one for Rosanna Arquette. The one worn by Madonna in the film – and in her video for “Get Into the Groove,” sold at auction in 2016 for $70,000. (!)

Anyway, here I go. I do NOT have the sewing skills to try and tailor a jacket from the ground up, especially with the time constraints (and fighting terrible migraines- a joyful benefit of approaching menopause). It was a really rough summer, but I was DETERMINED to make this jacket.

I decided to the thrift shop and upcycle. (Thrift shops. Where would cosplayers be without thrift shops?- we sometimes say that the Macklemore song “Thrift Shop” is the cosplay anthem). I was also lucky that Kiogenic has moved back home, and was available for consultation and advice regularly! (Since going off to college in art and costuming, she has much better, and wider skills than I).

Step 1: Find a jacket that has the right general profile, and FITS.

In the first store I go to, I strike gold: the PERFECT jacket. I have wide shoulders, so finding a jacket that fits across the shoulders is hard. This fits, and while it’s not exactly the right color, that’s why we have RIT dye!

This will work- and IT COST $2!

Step 2: Tone that green down a bit and hack away

The canonical jacket is not only more olive but had gold flecks. Kiogenic was pretty sure she could get the gold effect with an airbrush, and time, but time was short. I cut off the collar and the flaps for the pockets (this gave me fabric scraps for testing the concentration and timing of the dye). I also needed to cut and hem the bottom for the tuxedo points in front and back.

This left me with a good base for adding all of the fancy extras that make the jacket amazing.

Step 3: The collar and cuffs

The auction site actually has the best and most details reference photos. Kiogenic also watched the film (she hadn’t seen it) to get a good look at the details. The collar and cuffs seem to be a brocade lining that doesn’t line the whole jacket, just as a strip along the tuxedo collar and cuffs. It’s got texture in swirls and arabesques. This fabric was going to be impossible to find exactly

Looking around the internet (I’m not the only one out there desperately seeking to make the jacket), I see that many other folks cheat, or make do with tiger stripes. Here’s an example that someone else made:

Credit to “Q is for Quilter”: she made this for her daughter.

Props to her for the gold in the weave on the fabric (and the fact that she made the jacket from the ground up!), but I wasn’t loving the tiger stripe look. I spent probably entirely too long looking at brocade to buy online. I found some, which had the right gold base and similar patterning, but would need some amendment ($8 on EBay). Kiogenic suggested fabric paint- and NOT a fabric marker. I painted with a brush.

I used newspaper to pattern the right shapes for the cuff and collar pieces, cut them out of the brocade and got to work. The silver needed to be covered in black.

This would get me very close to the original, and closer than a tiger stripe pattern. Once these pieces were done, I fired up Peggy (my trusty 1960’s vintage machine) and sewed the pieces on. That got me to here:

Step 4: The iconic pyramid on the back

Ok, so now the fun begins. time to take on the image on the back- which is the pyramid, eye, and slogan from the back of a dollar bill- only in 1980’s gold lame and embroidery. On inspection, I see that the pyramid and eye are outlined in red. I decided to applique the lame on the red for stability and to get that outline.

YIKES. Lame is a pain in the ass! It frays like a mofo. Ok, now using glue.

Once the lame was glued on, I dug out my embroidery skills, learned, oh, 40 years ago from my mother, and hand-embroidered the details. (Thanks mom!)

I cut the pieces out and then, again, glued them to the jacket.

Gluing these pieces to the jacket wasn’t laziness- Since I wasn’t building it from scratch, if I had sewed these on, I would have had to sew through the lining, and that would have made it hang funny.

Here we are before I add the extra embroidery details:

And now the ribbon. I am TERRIBLE at hand lettering. Thank goodness that Kiogenic is AMAZING at it. She lettered the slogan on the ribbon and I attached that. Now we are T-20 hours before the plane leaves for Las Vegas. I thought I was going to sew sequins around the ribbon, but Kiogenic swears that it’s a brocade trim. Crap. So I try to bust out an embroidery outline.

This is one of the two things I’m NOT happy about with this jacket. Before I wear it again, I’m going to pick it out and go with the sequin idea.

(You don’t get a close-up photo of that. I’m going to fix it.)

And………

TA-DA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ready to rock out at the Def Leppard concert!

I need to redo the outline of the ribbon and add some interfacing at the tip on the back, but really? In and amongst the health issues I’ve had? I’m pretty happy.

For the record, Kiogenic basically cosplayed Blondie / Debbie Harry for the concert:

As always, significantly cooler than I am. : )

We, all three of us, had a GREAT time.  And I WILL wear this jacket again!

Cosplay and Assault-Allies and Enablers

I’m getting ready to head into the first day of Visioncon 2019 , the biggest and best regional Comic-Con in my area (and I don’t just say that because I’m on staff!).

From my hotel room, I can see cosplayers walking in, and I am STOKED to go in and see the cosplayers, and all the fans, the amazing JEWEL STAITE is our guest of honor *browncoat fangirl scream*  

Kaylee_0

and the Cosplay Club of the university where I work is doing a group cosplay of “Disney Warrior Princesses.” (More on that later). Also, today I am rocking my new 40th anniversary Alien Stompers (replica Ripley kicks from my favorite film EVER, Aliens) 

But as I sit here, I’m worried, as ever, about the possibility of assault at the con.

Have you all seen the story of Cosplayer Elora Kay?

Cosplay Assault

I’ve linked to her whole story above, but she his this visual evidence of this person assaulting her. She had multiple witnesses to his assault, her rejection of his advances and his continued manhandling of her, and also had multiple other reports from other women that he did the same to them.

AND.

NOTHING WAS DONE TO THIS MAN.

HE WAS NOT EVEN KICKED OUT OF THE CON.

She had to file a police report. AND NOTHING WAS DONE.

So, first, folks. Let’s put some pressure on StarFest in Denver. in particular and the culture, in general, to put a stop to excusing this behavior. What we need are allies. ESPECIALLY MALE ALLIES. And we can start, all of us with two really big steps.

  1. Stop excusing the bad actors. With “well, he was drunk.” or “Boys will be boys” or “It’s just locker room talk.” or  “she was asking for it” or “she shouldn’t have worn that” or whatever bullshit you tell yourself and your bros to make it ok.

2.  and. AND (this is really important) CELEBRATE THE ALLIES.

So I want to do that, right away.  First, a Mexican example.

Y’all know I study cosplay here in the U.S. and in Mexico. In Mexico, a blogger, vlogger, artist and commentator El Jagr, who works with Mena on a couple of YouTube channels and at cons like Mexico city’s La Mole (where I met him) to talk about popular culture, cosplay and comics. He’s great, his content is in Spanish, but if you’re Spanish speaking, I highly recommend him.

He’s also an ALLY. He has a series of videos in which he calls out the kind of toxic machismo that treats women as objects and figures them as dolls to be manipulated and manhandled.  He also, in these videos, offers empowering messages to female cosplayers about their rights to not HAVE to put up with that bullshit, no matter what prevailing cultural norms might tell them. This is good an important messaging and I am here to give a BIG ass APLAUSO TO El Jagr.

(if you’re Spanish-speaking, consider checking out his zombie-hunting superheroine Fatima as well)

cronicas-de-fatima-tpb-n°-1-8

Ok, and back to Visioncon and the Allies that I’m so lucky to have close to home. I’m lucky to be married to the best one ever.

But also, though many female cosplayers sent me the link to Elora Kay’s story, the admin to my local Costuming Guild, a cosplayer whose cosplay name is Flash Dixon also posted it in the guild’s Facebook page. And he posted it with this message, verbatim:

Just so everyone knows, if this ever happens to you and I’m nearby, shout out to me. This is utterly unacceptable and I will end it. I’m old, I fight dirty, and I’m not afraid of prison.”

other comments from male members of the group then included, “We got a tarp and shovel should it be needed. Totally unacceptable” and “I’ll help. Just point me in the direction. A few ‘fu-hok’ peeps may want to assist”.
THIS IS WHAT WE NEED.
God bless these men. I love them. No excuses. Don’t do this. Don’t excuse other men. We don’t need you to beat them up, necessarily, but the key word here is UNACCEPTABLE.
Folks, everyone, everywhere, cosplay isn’t consent, and sexual assault is always unacceptable. As con season begins, no one should accept it.
Ostracize the ones who do it and the ones who excuse it. Celebrate the allies who shut it down.
thank you.

What I Learned at La Mole: Captain America and U.S.-Mexico Relations

I was lucky enough to go to La Mole Comic Con in Mexico City again last week.  It’s Mexico’s biggest fandom event and to me, at least, it looked bigger than ever. It was packed. 

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There were times when we could all barely move for the crowd of fans thronging the Centro de Convenciones Citibanamex.  Which was GREAT!

The center was also filled with cosplayers, rocking amazing looks, from superheroes to zombies. (Even the chihuahuas were in cosplay):

IMG_0879

One thing that surprised me, however, was exactly how many Captain Americas I saw. There were nearly as many Captain Americas as there were Spidermen/Spider Gwen.

(I sat next to this perfect couple for the cosplay competition)

IMG_0943

Spiderman and the recent movie Into the Spider-Verse have done a great job of promoting how “anyone can be behind the mask.” \

Spiderman (and the spider-verse) are a fan and superhero identity that encourage wide participation.

But Captain America? He’s so…….AMERICAN (and here I mean specifically U.S. of American).  As the official Marvel site says: “World War II hero Steve Rogers fights for American ideals as one of the world’s mightiest heroes.” Cap’s whole uniform and supersuit is an American Flag motif and his original incarnation even wore a capital “A” on his head.

I’ll be honest, given the treatment of Mexico, Mexicans and Latin Americans in general by the current presidential administration of the U.S.

-(not sure what I’m talking about?, check this out)-

I would have thought that Mexican fans would be frankly a lot more mad at the United States, and mad enough to not want to wear our colors.

Recent polling by Mexican firms indicates that for the first time ever, a majority of Mexicans hold negative views of the United States:

“two in three Mexicans (65%) express an unfavorable view of the United States, while just three in ten (30%) have a favorable view. This represents a stunning reversal of opinon from 2015, when the two in three (66%) had a favorable view of the United States and three in ten (29%) had unfavorable views. 

And I don’t blame them. My day job as a professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies has given me a front-row seat to the deterioration of U.S-Mexico relations. I cringe daily at the bile, hate and outright lies that come from our Republican elected officials about Mexico, I cry for the children separated at the border from their parents, and I rage against the stupidity and idiocy of the idea of a wall. Frankly, the last two years have been a struggle for me against depression and fatalism.

I’m ashamed of the U.S. policy toward Mexico and Mexicans. So I wanted to understand why Captain America was still so popular. So I asked, and these two cosplayers were nice enough to talk about it with me:

IMG_0939 (1)

So I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t get the Cap on the left’s name (hit me up if you see this!) but the WWII vintage Cap on the right is Captain Pete Solo. The former, a citizen of Mexico and the latter, a Chicano cosplayer from San Antonio, Texas.

What these two guys had to say made a lot of sense to me, and gave me hope in general. I asked them why, when they agree that our current president Trump is a nightmare (Pete used a much stronger word), why they would choose Captain America.

Their answer? Because Trump and the GOP don’t represent the America they admire. Steve Rogers does.

Both cosplayers, U.S. and Mexican, said that they had loved Rogers and Captain America since they were children. They admire Steve Rogers as the “Classic Good Guy/Boy Scout”- an example of American values of justice, fairness, and honor.

For these Captain America cosplayers, the superhero is an example of traditional U.S. values, those that we could all feel good about. This, of course, is how Marvel also describes Captain America.

Cap represents an America that hadn’t yet gone to the dark side (as Dick Cheney famously announced that we had to do after 9/11). Captain America is symbolic of the U.S. as the good guy: a nation that doesn’t torture- an America that protects innocents instead of locking them in cages.

(Cap’s main weapon is a shield- inherently protective and sheltering, as I would like strong men to be. His is not a toxically masculine figure, but a good man, a paragon of positive masculinity. He is a knight- ready to defend others. For a perceptive discussion on this, I recommend this piece).

Steve Rogers, like the Statue of Liberty, is a symbol of truth and justice, and as such, represents the America that we were, and can be again.

The fact that Mexican and Mexican-American cosplayers can still see that America is a blessing.

That they are willing to still embrace us through those core values that have been so trampled of late is generous, and I hope, perceptive.

The Captain America cosplayers of La Mole gave me hope: hope that we can return to the values that I grew up with as a child. Hope that we can move away from the anger and hatred of so much of the current environment.

Because the America of truth and justice is still here. Good men and women exist and are fighting to protect the weak and take care of others. As Captain Pete told me, Chris Evans, who plays the current film incarnation of Captain America, is a good example. His public discourse and positions oppose anti-immigrant and racist policies. He is, as a public figure, fighting just like his on-screen character.

Evans tweet

One example. I recommend him on Twitter, where is profile photo, incidentally, is of him visiting troops deployed abroad.

We need to emulate both of them- superhero and actor. Captain Pete told me that one of the things he likes about Cap is his “Never Say Die-Never Give Up” attitude. I think we need to remember that and act in the same way.

We may not have vibranium shields like Cap, but we can prevail.

Faces of Cosplay: Tranquil Ashes

Remember to Listen: Cosplay, Racebending, Racefacing and Privilege

As a professor and as a blogger, I’ve written a lot about gender-bending, gender-blending, and crossplay.  I am, in the day job, a scholar of Gender Studies and the mother of a queer cosplayer, I have felt that I can offer a genuine and even valuable perspective on these phenomena.

I say this, but I have to also note two really important things:

  1. It’s absolutely imperative for me to remember that I am sometimes, often or occasionally WRONG. My personal experience or even experience in my family is not representative of a whole group.
  2. Because I DON’T know everything, because I don’t live the lives of all the cosplayers, it’s that much more important for me to listen to them and really hear what they are saying about their practice and their experience.

I’ve been thinking about this in the last few days. There is a renewed interest and debate that I’m seeing in various places on the internet on the practice of racebending. Let me say at the outset, please, that I am not an expert on this in any way, and as a white woman, I am aware that I do not understand the position or experience of people of color. But I’d like to learn more. So I’m thinking out loud here not so much about POC cosplaying white characters as I am in the other direction: white cosplayers cosplaying characters of color.

This debate has really taken off in regards to a Ukranian cosplayer: Pugoffka who came under fire for racefacing and doubled down on her privilege and assertion that it was right in an essay she posted on her Facebook page:

I want to wade in on that debate. I welcome your comments on this. Teach me things. Share your experience if you like.  I will listen. Here we go.

So What is Racebending?

Just as genderbending is the practice of presenting a character as a different gender from the canonical version (e.g.: Femme Joker or Male Harley Quinn), racebending is the practice of performing a character with the appearance of that of a different racial or ethnic group.  So in this case, perhaps an African American cosplayer performs Wonder Woman, or here is an example of a favorite cosplayer of mine, the U.S. based Tranquil Ashes cosplaying, racebending (and genderbending) the Japanese character Akuma.

I can see how the ability and freedom to cosplay characters of a different race are of great importance to cosplayers of color because their options are so much more limited than white cosplayers.  Many of us who study cosplay and the fandoms talk about “affective resonance.” Affective resonance is that concept of how we as individuals see ourselves (either as we are or who we want to be) in a fictional character. We want to be strong and badass, or sexy and desirable, or smart and effective. We feel a resonance with the character as presented, an emotional or affective resonance.

That’s what leads many of us to cosplay.  My first cosplay was of a smuggler-pirate- it is a chance for me to be the bad girl that my every day, eager-to-please self shies away from. I also think Storm from the X-Men is fascinating and an aspirational ideal of a powerful female superhero who overcomes trauma.

So I, personally, think it makes perfect sense for cosplayers of color to racebend characters like in the examples above, to maintain their identity and show how it works with that of the character they are playing. But I don’t think I would ever racebend Storm, because I don’t understand what that would mean to cosplayers of color, and I’d rather err on the side of respect for experiences I don’t have the background to understand.

So What About White Cosplayers Who Want to Cosplay Characters of Color?

This is a question that I’ve been thinking about basically since the Black Panther movie came out. What would it mean if a white kid wanted to cosplay the King of Wakanda?  I really didn’t know and didn’t presume to know.  The phenomenon that is the success of that film is something I can’t understand the importance of fully- because I am not part of the group to whom it means the most.

So I’ve been sitting back and listening.

What I’ve read and heard is:

  1. While racebending characters of color is ok for some, (AS LONG AS YOU DON’T CHANGE YOUR SKIN TONE), it bothers other people of color.
  2. It’s just really NEVER ok to change your skin tone with makeup (Doing blackface or Asian face, etc.) This is called “Racefacing” and is highly offensive.

Let me expand.

Point #1: It May Be Ok, But Some Will Still Be Offended

In a piece in the LA Times,  they interviewed Mike Le, from Racebending.com, who discusses the position of superheroes as figures that supersede individuality and stand as avatars of our ideals. Because of this, he says it’s not the canon (and the canonical race) of the character that’s important.   He does not see the need to “stick to canon” in race (so, you don’t NEED to cosplay Superman as white because he’s canonically white) any more than the President of the United States can’t be Asian because no President (yet) has ever been of Asian descent.

This makes sense to me. It embraces the idea of affective resonance (which is such a powerful way for people to explore identity and worth, and representation.). So this opinion is that it would be ok for a                 white girl to cosplay Shuri from Black Panther…..if she was very, very careful. No tribal markings. And not, under any circumstances, blackface.

Full disclosure, long before I knew enough about Avatar the Last Airbender or cosplay to think this through, Kiogenic cosplayed Katara.

Cosplay daughter as Katara in like….2012?

I think we would both make a different decision now.

WHY?

Ok, whether any of us want to recognize it or not WHITE PRIVILEGE IS A REAL THING.  If you don’t believe that after all the shootings, the rise of Nazism in the U.S. and the way white folks use 911 as customer service, I don’t have the space to debate it with you right here. Please go read:  this,  or this,  or this, or this. 

We are privileged, and we need to acknowledge that. This means that our INTENT doesn’t matter. The EFFECT does.  Cosplayer of color Sophia Bravo puts it this way: 

“The problem with white cosplayers taking on characters of color is that even though the characters we all love live in a world separate from ours, we don’t. We as fans of all races still have to live with long histories of racial tension and trauma as well as other forms of injustice in this society. When white cosplayers dress as characters of color, they are reinforcing (Unintentionally! Yes, you don’t have to step on someone’s foot on purpose for it to hurt) a long history of Hollywood’s exclusion of people of color. The trouble of it all is that race and skin color simply are not costumes and paint fans of color can take off anytime they want.

When white cosplayers dress as characters of color, the clock strikes midnight and they can take off their costume and go back to the lily-whiteness that protects their lives. They can decide who else they’d love to cosplay, because Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Wonder Woman, all of the Doctors and their companions, and so many other fandom icons look like them already.”

So you can do this, but be aware that you might be offending some people, whose experiences you should defer to.

Point #2: NEVER NEVER CHANGE YOUR SKIN COLOR

And here I’m not talking about anyone wanting to cosplay Gamora.

Painting yourself green is DIFFERENT.  There isn’t a long global history or contemporary problem with the repression and enslavement of GREEN people. You’re not going to be appropriating anyone’s experience, or misunderstanding anyone’s background if you paint yourself green, or blue, etc.

That’s not true of racefacing: using makeup to look like a different race.  There is a whole history of this practice that white folks have the privilege of ignoring, but people of color have to live with.  As Cosplayer WifufuxBelle notes, racefacing “has been used to further the marginalization of black people, to limit roles from PoC in Hollywood, and lately to profit off blackness.” And this isn’t just about people of African descent. Yellowfacing is just as much a problem and has been for a long time.

“In a world where black people are killed due to a fear of our skintone” WifufuxBelle says “it is salt in injury to wear it for a [photo]shoot.”

We’re talking about centuries of murder, rape, subjugation, and oppression. Why would you want to add salt in those wounds? And really, frankly, how little empathy do you demonstrate by refusing to even hear these objections and listen to them?

Back to My Original Thought: For the Love of Pete, LISTEN

So back to the Ukranian cosplayer.  Here is part of her statement (which I’m copying verbatim with no points off for English not being her first language):

“Whenever a cosplayer uses different greasepaints, wigs, contact lenses etc to match the character’s appearance he or she does it because of great appreciation and love for the character but not for deriding this character or someone else. For those who accuses me in racism. Rasism – is the belief in the superiority of one race over another. In what way a portrait of a girl with cosplay makeup fits in this belief? Cosplay is all about love of the character. Also I’ve mentioned in post that I will ban any negative comments.Till now I haven’t ban anyone and I’ve heard all of your oppositions. My page for me place with positive things, rainbow and unicorns XD I don’t like when people use my page for their discussions and bear negative.”

 

Pugoffka is here arguing for affective resonance:  “love of the character.” I get that. But she is also resolutely refusing to read, listen to or acknowledge the flood of comments answering the question that she pretends to pose: “in what way a portrait of a girl with cosplay makeup fits in this belief?” – here referring to racial superiority.

Lots of people (including myself) made an effort to explain on her page to help her understand about privilege and more importantly STRUCTURAL racism.  But as she herself notes, she “doesn’t like negative comments” and only listens to rainbows and unicorns. Sigh.

I get that white privilege (like all privilege) can be hard to see and harder to accept for oneself.  I’d like everyone to give it a try, though. Please.

Racebending, Racefacing, Cultural Appropriation

The debate on racebending and racefacing is similar to the one on cultural appropriation (which white folks are only forced to think about at Halloween, and PoC all the time).  And the same rules, I think, apply.

No, black people are not committing cultural appropriation when they dress like white people. Cultural appropriation has two key components:

  1. An unequal power dynamic
  2. Lack of permission

The group with more power appropriates. Period.  The group with less power is forced to conform out of necessity, generally.  The group with more power generally WANTS everyone to look like them (i.e. permission) and actually has the power to prevent other groups from stealing their cultural products. The group with less power has no ability to hold things to themselves or keep more powerful people from appropriating their culture.

Be Excellent to Each Other and Listen

And because one of the things I love most about cosplay is the way that it has the very real possibility of being supportive and empowering for ALL people, I would like everyone to think about having empathy and sympathy for our fellow cosplayers:

Cosplayer of color DelaDoll:

Look at it this way: If I attempt to toss you a ball and it ends up hitting you in the face, it will still hurt you, and I still hit you in the face, even though I didn’t mean to. Rather than me growing indignant and laughing off any reaction you may have, the right thing for me to do would be to apologize and be more careful next time. The same rule applies when it comes to the issue of blackface in cosplay, as it does with anything else in life.”