I’ve been reading that ever since cosplay became accepted by broader society, there’s a trend of event organizers (EOs) organizing events that include the word “cosplay” in it. Now, I do admit that’s a great advertising technique in appealing to more potential customers, but is it what’s ruining cosplay as a hobby?
Before Facebook, information dissemination about J-events faced a lot of barriers. Now, with the rise of social media, an EO only needs to share information in the multiple cosplay groups or just create a page promoting the event. The results? An event packed with members of the general society and members of the various J-communities living in shadows. Seeing this, business owners who want to increase profits decide that it’s a good idea to hold these kinds of events, as they not only attract cosplayers (who can be used to attract attention) but also other segments of the J-community, like Gunpla lovers and J-rock bands. And don’t forget, these events also attract regular people.
It’s nice to know that you’re hobby is accepted and that people know that you exist. However, is there a hidden blight we can’t see behind these events? Are they the ones responsible for ruining a hobby or promoting a hobby?
The Bright Side
On the bright side, frequent events provide cosplayers a place to gather and socialize in real life (that’s a word I seldom practice). Heck, without these events, we would be doing private photo sessions and not hanging out with other people from the cosplay community. This is the main benefit of these events in the first place. Nothing beats a day of fun with your cosplayer friends; doing crazy stuff together, taking photos and interacting with normal people, talking and laughing, knowing someone new, crying on someone’s shoulder, and eating okonomiyaki and takoyaki together. Yeah, nothing can replace real human interaction. There are also Merchants who conduct cash-on-delivery transactions during events!
Another bright side is that fact that these events were created to appreciate a rather underground sub-culture in Indonesian society. If cosplay was once an underrated hobby, it sure as heck isn’t now. Did you see how many people went to AFAID 2013? Though most were from the otaku community, there were a lot of people from the general society there too. If you think that’s a rather biased example, take a look at some of the prominent malls in Jakarta. Most of them have hosted at least 1 cosplay event or J-event, like Mall of Indonesia and Gandaria City. In these events, mall visitors interacted with the cosplayers, the mall management got their share of free advertisement, and cosplayers felt appreciated. Everyone wins!
The Not-so-Bright Side
Too much of anything is bad for your health. Especially popularity. Popularity can drive you nuts. As a hobby, cosplay’s popularity has risen the past few years. In 2002, it was rare to hear about Indonesian cosplayers. Heck, I didn’t even know cosplay existed in Indonesia after 2010! Now, cosplay has gained so much popularity. Too much, if I may say so myself. Hence, we see a lot of people joining cosplay just because it’s cool. Now, if they were only following trends, they should leave after a year or so. But a year is more than enough time to cause a ruckus in the cosplay community. I’ve already discussed what happens to newcomers of cosplay in Indonesia.
You’re Holding a Cosplay Event but You Don’t Know Shit about Cosplay
Did I mention businesses hosting cosplay events? I’m not a fan of corporatism (I share similar views with Noam Chomsky and John Pilger). Now, since malls are the only gathering places left in Jakarta (during the Soeharto era, parks were discouraged because they could be used to organize against the government; hence, the lack of parks in Jakarta), cosplay events are held in malls. Wait… isn’t the mall the favored place for businesspeople? So, a large number of cosplay events are held in malls, which means that the mall management is the host, which means that they would actually benefit from these events.
It would be fine if the events were related to Japanese pop culture. However, the thing that’s happening is this: they include cosplay into events that, in any sense, do not relate with J-pop culture! From my experiences, I’ve been to three kinds of events like that. The first one was an event held by a prominent broadband provider in Indonesia. A community which I am a member of participated in this event. Sure, we gained publicity and I even got to perform on stage with my team and yes, the people loved it. But, really now? Why would we cosplay at non-Japanese culture-themed events? During this event, I learned that my team was “used” as free advertising (well, not free, we did get a small amount of cash in return, but what’s a couple of dollars to big companies?) because we were forced to include the brand’s mascot character in our performance. The second event was held by a large bank in Jakarta. Though the pay was good (I got 30 bucks for cosplaying for a mere 4 hours), I felt like our grade of cosplay was no less than mascot characters (that was in the job description). I don’t mind being weird and unaccepted if I can continue to cosplay with pride, but when you are forced to degrade your hobby for mere public consumption, it’s kinda sad. The last event which I attended was not too long ago, held by the EO of a famous beach festival in Bali. The pay was dismal and I kinda regret selling myself out. Not only was I unappreciated, I was forced to act like a clown in my best Kirito costume. How low was I supposed to take my art? I didn’t even get to perform on stage! My teammates were also disappointed and they’re newcomers!
I was weak. I was blinded by money. I needed the money to buy more props. Thus, I prostituted my hobby to big companies. Here’s my advice: If you really love your hobby, you’d be wiser in choosing which events to go to. Stick with only prominent J-events. Oh, a word for big businesses: please, for the love of whichever Supreme Being you decide to put your faith in, stop adding “cosplay” to every goddamn event you hold!
Remember the DSLR Rage? That’s What’s Happening to Cosplay
Thank you for promoting our hobby, cosplay events! Now that we’re famous, we should be able to get more followers. But, here’s the thing: more followers doesn’t bring more good. Remember the DSLR rage that happened in Indonesia a while back? Fashion-savvy teens with loaded parents would buy overpriced cameras and carry them around just to show “Hey! I haz DSLR, I’m photographer LOL YOLO” without knowing shit about photography. That’s what’s happening with cosplay. Due to the large amounts and frequency of cosplay-related events, members of the general public start to think that cosplay is cool and so, they start to cosplay. It’s cool if they actually are willing to learn (at least) what their characters are and act a mere 10% like them. That’s great, even. But, what’s happening is like this:
- Patience in costume-making reduced to instant purchase of any costume. While creating my Kirito costume, I was in no rush whatsoever. It took me 6 months to finish it, and a further 6 months to upgrade it myself. I spent over a hundred dollars on it and I never regretted it because it’s still my favorite costume. Now, try joining any cosplay trading forum and you’ll see posts like this: “Want to Buy any kind of costume, M size”. What the actual f**k man? This shows that you’re in the cosplay business just because it’s popular,a trend! How are you supposed to grasp the character if you don’t even know what to cosplay as?!
- I have the props, let me just ruin this character. And this folks, is where the term “noob” comes into play. Because cosplay is now cool, people think they can be excused for their minimum effort in cosplaying. Now, I’m not talking about physique (e.g. You’re too fat to cosplay as Lawliet) because that’s very offensive and hurtful. No, I’m talking about the attributes associated with the character. Take this poor kid for example. He must have loved Light Yagami so much, but he failed (miserably) in executing his cosplay. What’s worse is that he deliberately submitted this photo for an international contest on the Internet, making him a prime target for cyber bullies. This is what happens when cosplay becomes so popular due to frequent events; it becomes saddening when bandwagon-ers disgrace it.
Plus: Here’s a rather interesting theory by a commenter in my last post. Basically, he/she’s saying that the easy acquisition of Indonesian subbed anime is the cause of newcomers joining the bandwagon. Just so you know. However, he/she does make a point. Look at the second picture.
In cosplay events, there’s bound to be cosplay competitions. High schools hold events, independent EOs hold events, and even big businesses hold events that have an element of competition. But, that’s the problem. Too much competition and we’ll have a bunch of cosplayers stabbing backs and badmouthing each other through personal messages on Facebook. The problem is with the judges of these cosplay events. As I have mentioned in my last post, the judge can be anyone: a seasoned cosplayer, a professional, an acknowledged cosplay critic, or someone who’s important enough but doesn’t know shit about cosplay. When the winners step up on stage to claim their trophies, those who lost… well, let’s just say some do not have a very sportive attitude. The actual fun happens online, when they unleash their anger through hurtful posts and the typical “not mentioning” status updates. I know a friend of a friend (no names mentioned due to “respect” of Indonesian IT Law) who, whenever they lose a competition, badmouth it online and keeps ranting on and on for days. Now I trust other cosplayers have larger hearts than this spoiled brat. But the truth is out there. With more and more cosplay events holding competitions with unqualified judges, the possibilities of cat-fights and hatred in the cosplay community increase.
So.. What to Do?
Here’s my conclusion: too many cosplay events are ruining cosplay, especially those executed by incompetent organizers.
As cosplay gets more appreciation, events will emerge to cater to the needs of cosplayers. I don’t think it’s bad; at least I have something to do on weekends rather than gaming my ass off. However, I would always prefer quality over quantity. There are only a few good cosplay events in Indonesia worth mentioning. Let these events prosper. For the other crappy events, especially those posting “cosplay” with no relevance to the theme of the event.. well, they are subject to natural selection by Indonesian cosplayers. And don’t forget, this is all happening because cosplay is now a trend. Let that sink in for a while. You can always find me at prominent cosplay events in Jakarta (unless I have exams or other important business).