Before I start, apparently it’s forbidden to have an opinion on the Internet. But it’s the Internet, so f**k you. I’m not mentioning any names because I could get sued for breach of Indonesian IT Law (which has a lot of loopholes and were made by politicians without any sense of IT) that covers defamation on the Internet. This is a rather long piece of writing. This following points are all purely from my point of view. If you want to argue in a civilized way, post in the comments section. Flames, bashing, and troll comments will be disapproved.
Before I started thinking of diving into the art of cosplay, I was just another fan of all things Japanese, especially pop culture. But you don’t care about history. Long story short, after going to a few major events in Jakarta and witnessing the cosplayers, I decided to try it out myself. I thought cosplay was gonna be fun, exciting, and socially beneficial for me.
Now, it has almost been 2 years since I started cosplaying in Indonesia. I’ve been to events in Jakarta and just recently, I’ve tasted some of the events in Bali, my hometown. I always thought that cosplayers were a fun bunch of people to hang around with, but my experiences proved me wrong. I’m not saying that all of them are jerks; some are just way more civilized than the others. From there, I discovered a dark side of Indonesian cosplay and surprisingly, it all revolves around 1 thing: social media, in this case, Facebook.
All of the “fun” I’ve seen, all of the “camaraderie”… some are a just facades. What lies beneath is a rotten vortex of negative emotions. So, here’s what I’ve seen and found during my cosplay experience in Jakarta and Bali, both bright and dark.
Rule Number 1: Get Your F**king Theory Right!
I’m going to start with the most basic, the most fundamental: definition. What is “cosplay” exactly? Can I wear just a wig and call it “cosplay”? Or do I have to spend hundreds of dollars to buy the best materials to make the best costume ever before I can call it “cosplay”? Do I have to cosplay as a character from an anime? Can’t I make up a character in my head and cosplay as that character, known to the community as “original character”? These are just the tip of the iceberg.
We are obsessed with definitions. Only by abiding to the definitions can awesome cosplay be achieved. Wow, I should put that on a plaque and hang it. If you’re a member of the numerous cosplay forums in Indonesia, you should know pretty well about the “definition wars” that happen frequently.
The drama that often happens is like this:
>A person cosplays as an “original character” at a major event.
>Feeling satisfied, they upload their photos to their respective forums just to show that they can cosplay.
>When they classify it as “original character”, the wars begin. Some say there is no such thing as “original character” cosplay, some say yes there is, look at World Cosplay, and some just don’t give a damn, while some enjoy the flames as they merrily dance.
That’s just one example of how definition can tear a community apart. There’s a lot more, but it’s not worth my time to go scouring for every little bit of conflict. So, in Indonesia, before you even think of starting cosplay, go to college, study your books, pass the finals, and get a degree in Cosplay Arts.
Know Thy Neighbor: A General Classification
You can basically put Indonesian cosplayers into one or more of these categories:
- The Elite: these are cosplayers who have earned their fame for going international or making prominent appearances in the world of Indonesian cosplay. Some are highly revered by the community and their actions and words have power. Simply put, they are (and have done enough work to earn) the best.
- The Puritans/Perfection Seekers: these are the cosplayers who strive to “conserve” the ways of cosplay. They abide strictly to the Cosplay Codex, learn from prominent cosplayers abroad (some even worship them as gods), and do whatever they can to make their costumes as perfect as possible. They cannot tolerate any bullshit when it comes to cosplay and are serious about what they do. Sadly, there are some Puritans who take it a little too far and push their views on gullible newcomers.
- The Hobbyists/Pleasure Seekers: these people are in it for the fun or just because they have a hobby. They cosplay as they please, without pressure. These are normally the people I want to hang around with because they have a sense of humor and are very easy to socialize with.
- The Noobs: yes, “noob” as in “you don’t know what the f**k you’re doing”. These are the people who show no effort for cosplaying. Slap a DeathNote and long-sleeved white T-shirt on me and I’m automatically Lawliet. No dude, that does not make you Lawliet. Try some makeup, get a wig, just… do something! These are the most targeted people for bashing and cyber bullying.
- The Sensational Sensation: I don’t know if some of these people are bored or actually on to something. There’s always a hot issue in Indonesian cosplay, and these are the people who either create it or feed the flames of war on social media.
- The Watchers: the Watchers are people who watch silently from the sidelines because they either enjoy watching people hurting each other via Internet or just don’t know what to say, or are just afraid to voice out their opinion.
- The Merchants: these are people who have chosen to the path of money. They are the ones who make props, costumes, and other stuff for themselves or as a living. Some are highly respected, some are just frauds. A high portion are cosplayers as well.
This is just a general classification; it’ll take a long time of exhaustive research if I were to provide very detailed classifications.
Social Media is for Making Friends, Enemies, and Fun
The Indonesian cosplay community’s life revolves around social media. That’s where all the good stuff, like friends, transactions, and love occur. It’s also where the butthurt, drama, and jealousy resides. Also, one thing about cosplayers: I think they hate their real names seeing that most of their FB names are Japanized or Koreanized. Just saying.
Let’s start with the good.
- A lot of communities and groups have risen, allowing cosplayers to easily connect with whoever they want. This has also given way to more events and cooperation among communities.
- The economy benefits because makers can show off their goods and cosplayers can easily trade items. Shopping’s never been easier.
- Public relations and dissemination of information has never been easier.
Now the bad, and I mean, real bad.
- Groups. It’s so easy to make a group on FB. Just turn it to “secret” and you can talk about anything without the fear of anybody knowing. This is also used for backstabbing and behind-the-scenes defaming. In open groups, some people don’t know how to write a civilized comment or post which ends up in feelings getting butthurt. Some groups are just a bunch of cosplayers making fun of others behind their backs.
- Behind the Scenes Backstab. Social media is useful when you’re talking about someone you don’t like. It’s also the perfect place to start a hate wave towards a certain group/person. Don’t expect that friendly cosplayer you met to act the same way on Facebook. She may have a harsh tongue behind a veil of anonymity. So, let me just be short and blunt: the friendly exterior masks a rotten interior.
- “Oh why?! Why must woe befall me?” There’s a high amount of drama in the social life of Indonesian cosplayers. A lot of hypocrisy, talking behind backs, and drama queens making a small problem unnecessarily huge. Some internet conflicts have escalated into real conflicts.
So, the things that new cosplayers should watch out is what they say on social media. Just remember the Miranda rights: what you say in social media will and can be used against you. Talk only when necessary, don’t get into too many arguments, ignore the flames and trolls, and you should be fine.
A Competition? More Like a Contest of Connections
We Indonesians so love our friends. We’d do anything for them. In return, we also expect favors. Indonesian friendship knows no boundaries; it even surpasses the boundaries of professionalism. Just like DOTA, if you’re new, YOU SUCK. New cosplayers who have the guts to prove their skills on the stage or internet will have to face these truths.
In a performance-based competition (this means you act on stage), your performance will be judged by a panel of judges. The judges may be professionals, a rep from the event host, an acknowledged seasoned cosplayer, or a person that doesn’t know shit about cosplay but is a judge just because they’re important enough. If you’re being judged by a pro, you can assure that your win/loss is worth it and acceptable. If you’re not, then there’s something fishy. The most common practice around is the abuse of connections. Let’s say I’m a cosplayer from team X. I’m in a competition and my opponent is from team Y. It turns out that one of the judges is a member of team Y as well. You should get the idea.
In a likes-based competition, your fate depends on how many friends you have. Sometimes the epicness of your costume doesn’t matter; what matters is how many people actually vote for you. This is arguably the most practiced type of competition. Likes-based competitions can be divided into two: internet and on-the-spot. Internet likes-based competitions rely on the power of virtual friends casting votes on a certain page or website, while on-the-spot likes-based competitions are held during an event. The latter is rarer than the former. I’ve only once been to an event where people were asked to purchase coupons to cast one vote. Those with strong finances and support would clearly win, no matter how their costume sucked. Face it, that’s the reality.
An Unsupporting Community of Jerks
This section covers those jerks who are overly critical of newcomers to cosplay and those who don’t seem to be “doing it right”. We Indonesians have surprisingly harsh tongues and frequently use uncivilized language on the Internet. Perhaps it’s our way to relieve stress: by taking it out on other innocent people.
So here’s the thing: there are a lot of promising newcomers who quit cosplaying altogether just because they hung out with a bunch of jerks. These so-called “seniors” are overly critical of the newcomer, of their costumes, of their performance, or sometimes, of their plain existence. They criticize this newbie so hard, the newbie actually breaks and forever buries their dream of having fun cosplaying. Believe me, this happens a lot, but most goes unreported.
Conclusion: Cosplay is No Fun in Indonesia!
These are some of the dark sides of Indonesian cosplay. I’ve seen, heard, and read about these experiences befalling my fellow teammates and friends. Well, most of the info was really the result of exhaustive interviewing and heart-to-heart sessions, and also Facebook lurking (some people just don’t know who to set their privacy). Thus, my conclusion is this: it’s no fun cosplaying in Indonesia! You are always expected to “be in character” (whatever the f**k that means); if you’re not, you’ll get bashed by the “perfectionists”. Your right to have fun while cosplaying is constantly challenged by nit-picky definition debaters. You need to have a humungous heart to accept rigged elections and nepotism in competitions. And last but not least, you need to have the patience of a saint to deal with all of this shit.
You’ve been warned. Still have the nerve to cosplay in Indonesia?
UPDATE (11 September 2013): A fellow cosplayer from the Philippines has shared her experiences. Surprisingly, what’s happening in the Philippines is similar to what’s happening in Indonesia! Check out what Jiandra has to say!