I was going through my social media feeds on Monday reading news out of last weekend’s New York Comic Con. One thing that I read a lot about, including it becoming a trending hashtag on Twitter after a few prominent comic writers mentioned it, were complaints from con-goers about people in elaborate costumes obstructing the traffic-flow throughout the con.
Personally, as a person who attends cons and does not cosplay, I completely understand the gripes. There were instances at this year’s Megacon where I absolutely wanted to pull my hair out because someone in an overly elaborate costume that took up an entire aisle slowly made their way through. I can’t remember what the costume was, but since you couldn’t get around them I remember after getting stuck behind them once avoiding the aisle he was on so I didn’t get stuck behind them again. And, if that’s not bad enough, there’s the people who want pictures. At Celebration in August, there was an instance where a group of cosplayers were getting their picture taken in the intersection between aisles, stopping traffic dead in every direction.
So, what can be done to allow cosplayers to showcase their works but still not aggravate others who don’t care?
Should Conventions Adopt the Japanese Model for Cosplayers?
After reading all of the complaints, the first thing that I thought about was how cosplay is done at cons in Japan. If you’re not familiar, here’s basically how it works:
You’ll notice a couple of things from this picture of a cosplayer at Comiket, a semi-annual comic book convention in Tokyo, in August. First thing I’d like to point out, the cone in the background with the divider. Yes, in Japan, cosplay is secluded to a certain area – usually outside of the convention hall like here. Second, notice her suitcase sitting next to the cone. At many shows, cosplay is not permitted on the show floor and cosplayers come to the convention in their regular clothes, packing their costume in a suitcase or trunk. When the time comes where they want to pose, they use a changing area set-up by the convention and then pose in the approved area outside.
While some conventions do allow costumes on the show floor, cosplayers may not pose for pictures and photographers may not take photos without the costumer’s permission.
How It Could Work Here…
Being here in Florida, I would never advocate kicking cosplayers out into the hot Florida sun. But, if you attended this year’s Megacon, think about that giant hall they had set aside for a couple private signing booths. There was a ton of space where they could have set up an area for cosplayers. I think if they could have set this aside as the designated posing area for the con, and then restricted posing and larger costumes to this section, the traffic flow through Megacon would be much improved. And, considering that unlike Japan, we travel by car and not train, a cosplayer could go to their car to retrieve their costume, change in one of the convention center’s many bathrooms, then hang out in the designated area, then change out and put their costume back in their vehicles without having to carry it around all-day.
Why It Probably Wouldn’t Work…
I think the primary difference between cosplay in Japan vs. the United States is the culture of each nation. In Japan, standing-out is frowned upon by society. A woman dressed as Sailor Moon walking down the street to a convention would be frowned-upon by many. And that type of ostracizing would be shameful to that person. So they just wouldn’t do it. Here in the United States, doing something crazy is just a way of expressing oneself, and if someone gave them a wayward glance it’s just more empowering.
If cosplayers were secluded to a certain area of the convention, they would feel castigated. Conventions are their only opportunity to don these elaborate costumes, and if they can only wear them for a certain amount of time in a particular area, they may just not bother with it at all. And there is a fair amount of the community who attend conventions merely to wear their costumes while another section of the community may not dress-up but may find the cosplay one of the more fun and exciting aspects of the experience.
So What Do You Think?
Personally, I don’t much mind having cosplayers on the show floor as long as their respectful of those around them. If you’re plodding through the con in some giant costume and people can’t get around you, no matter how awesome your costume is, I’m going to think you’re an idiot. If you pose for a picture in the middle of an aisle and then get pissed-off when people keep walking through the frame, you’re an idiot. However, while Megacon and a show like Celebration are major productions, most of the other conventions here in Central Florida are much smaller affairs, and cosplayers aren’t a major hindrance.