Monday, August 10, 2020

Toxic Behaviors in Cosplay: Resentment

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Kaylah Vargas
I've been critically reviewing fandoms and geek culture for eight years. After spending four years of college focusing on literary analysis, I now apply that passion to my hobbies and love for the geekdom.
While Cosplay is generally viewed as a hobby, there is no doubt that it certainly has become a competitive industry. For those who choose to pursue cosplay in more of a business direction, the possibilities are endless! You can choose to sell photos, get sponsored to create items, host/participate in panels, have guest booths, model costumes/geek inspired clothing (etc).
With this, it is very clear that some have become more successful than others. It’s just something that happens in every business environment. Yet I have seen a onslaught of resentment against those who have a more auspicious experience in this craft. Instead of celebrating in the fact that fellow cosplayers have made a living for themselves through the hobby, a lot of those who have not yet caught their break turn to shaming and bullying. I see this in accusations often blaming more popular cosplayers for situations that they happen to be in. Regardless of the fact that the cosplayer has no direct connection to themselves.
Instead of understanding that some people just have had better opportunities, happened to be lucky enough to catch a big break, happened to know the right people, have astounding charismatic skill, have a fantastic marketing skill; they refuse to acknowledge that sometimes we just haven’t made it, and that it is nobody’s fault. They decide to become overly bitter at another cosplayer’s prosperity.
Now, I get it. Everyone can get insecure and even upset that they aren’t where they would like to be. Jealousy is a very human emotion and isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However; projection is. Jealousy should be identified and worked on. When you bottle it up and allow it to become resentment, it becomes harder to see reality. In these states we tend to justify what it is that we want to see and shift blame because it is an escape from self evaluating.
Examples of this can be found when we see a cosplayer shaming others by accusing them of *insert some harmful stereotype* in order to get where they are. “Lisa isn’t actually smart or interesting, she just has big assets.” 
We also see this when cosplayers bullying those who’s cosplays aren’t “elaborate enough”, “modest enough”, “hand crafted”, the list goes on. “I hand craft entire sets of armor, Lisa just does bikini cosplay and that’s why she’s more popular.”
By putting others down for doing things in a different way and accusing them of thinking they are better than everyone else is toxic. In reality, you are the one participating in bullying tactics and presenting yourself as “better” because you choose to do things another way.
No matter how a cosplayer got to where they were, chances are they didn’t harm other people to get there. Being sexually suggestive isn’t harmful. Buying simple premade cosplays isn’t harmful. Getting financially supported to do cosplay isn’t harmful. Having your costumes made for you isn’t harmful. These are individuals marketing themselves and the way they chose to do so is not a personal attack on anybody.
Every cosplayer is going to have a different way to market themselves. Some of them are indeed lucky that they have a huge following, that they don’t have to pay out of pocket, that they get super awesome gigs! But how is it their fault that you are not quite there?
There are cosplayers of the same skill level who are both well known and not known at all. Cosplayers that use the same tactics; some who become “cos-famous” and those still under the radar. There are TONS of cosplayers with amazing talent, charisma, and ideas. And the simple truth is that some make it and some don’t. There is no reason to play the blame game when there is no rational evidence that some have made it simply because *insert accusation insinuating the cosplayer has no skill*. Only stereotypes, rumors, and self convincing.
We need to start taking more responsibility and become more at peace with where we are
in this community. If we want to become more successful, then we have to focus on our game plan to get there. We also have to face the very real possibility that we may not get the audience that we strive for. It’s nobody’s fault in particular how successful or unsuccessful we are. Such as with everything, there are innumerable variables as to why things are unfolding such as they are. There is no need to project your jealousy.

You have a talent. You have a passion. You have people who care about what you do and who you are. You are the most important thing in your life. Not the others that you put thought into. Focus that energy into your work and becoming better than you were yesterday. Build a community around yourself, whether it is big or small. Watch how your world sheds the burdens of worrying about what it is that other people do. Without resentment, you can appreciate all the things that you do have.  Let’s go back to remembering how we started. Wasn’t it to have fun? Don’t forget: it’s cosplay –Costume Play.
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