Posted By Kathleen David on September 25, 2013
A number of years ago there was a debate (and I use the term loosely) about what Star Trek fans should call themselves Trekkies or Trekkers. There was a lot of mud slinging and a few flame wars before it was realized that it really didn’t make a difference. Yes, I know there are still hurt feeling out there over this. Heck there are a couple of t-shirt manufactures who have had a good run on making t-shirts related to this issue.
Now we have the cos-player or costumer debate, which is getting rather heated itself.
I always thought of cos-play in terms of Anime conventions. They have a contest where skits are done or re-enactments of scenes from the source material and the best one wins. I have watched these contests and they are very interesting to watch. Even if I don’t know the source material, I can appreciate the time that went into the costumes and the level of acting in the sketch. And they have given me a lot of new anime to watch.
The word Cos-play seemed to expand to those people running around the convention dressed up as whatever character they were portraying. It started with the anime set and quickly spilled over into the comic book characters. Since then it seems to encompass anyone running around in costume on the floor of a convention but not necessarily in one of the competitions.
I don’t feel that I have ever cos-played in all my years. I try to be what I am portraying in the costume but for me it feels more like me as puppet rather than me as character. But that is me. I am a costumer. I build costumes and I wear them although I build more for others than myself. I have built costumes professionally for various things. I compete at the Master or Professional level of costuming.
The current kerfuffle I have seen is those people who say that calling one’s self a Costumer smells of elitism and exclusion where as Cos-players are inclusive and fun. So they are setting it up as old guard vs. new guard but that is a straw man’s argument. I know people in these categories that see themselves as either or, in many cases, both.
Costumers are not elitist. The ICG is not trying to be elitist. Marty tried his best to get younger costumers to join the group and he went out of his way to anime conventions and media conventions to convince more people to be part of the ICG.
Like everything there are going to be some old timers that aren’t going to be happy with the new blood but without the cos-players, costume contests are going to go the way of the dodo. I have seen more literary convention give up on having a costume call. That use to be the place to go show your stuff. Just ask the Blackpool family back from the early 80s who stomped a swath of wins with their characters from Wizards and Warriors all over the southeast convention circuit. (Full disclosure: I know everyone in that group and call them friend but the Blackpool family sketches are how I met many of them).
The reason we have workmanship awards is that the costumers who spent a lot of time on their costumes were getting tired of being one upped by an OK costume and a great sketch. Workmanship allowed the person to show off their work that they put into the costume and not have to worry about stage performance.
So lets nip this one in the bud and allow people to call themselves what they feel most comfortable with and respect their choices. I don’t think we need to have any more flames fanned on the Internet.
I am grateful when people play nice with each other.