It’s now time for one of my unpopular opinions. Yesterday, I was at an event. It was a corporate event, sponsored by a company that sells Japanese vehicles. I don’t approve of these corporates using cosplay as a means for cheap advertisement and a crowd magnet. At least give them a form of reimbursement, like snacks or a small fee. Which brings me to the topic at hand. With cosplay becoming so mainstream, there are instances where cosplayers are “used” by certain companies, especially malls or large corporates, under the pretext of a “cosplay event”. Even though we know it’s total bullshit; they just attach the word “cosplay” to attract more people. Thus, the question that needs to be asked is: should cosplayers under these circumstances be provided with remuneration/reimbursement?
First, let’s review the situation. For you savvy event goers, you might notice a trend where companies that are completely unrelated to cosplay (such as malls and vehicle companies and banks) hold events that use the word “cosplay”. It’s usually to complement a certain event that they are holding, such as a grand opening, a certain holiday, or just because top management felt like they needed more traffic. Now, if you tried thinking like a white-collar asshole, you’d want to cut down on your event cost; you want more people coming without spending too much cash. Then, you know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy’s cousin, who knows about a group of cosplayers. Great, now you have a bunch of people in weird costumes, thirsty for a stage to show themselves off. “They’ll invite their friends, and I’ll have a free attraction!” you think. So, you meet up with an event organizer and design the event to include 10% cosplay and 90% product PR. Oh, and don’t forget to add in a few cheap musicians just to give the sense that you actually give a fuck. You hand in your proposal to your boss, and voila, you get a pat on the back and a good chance of getting on the Employee of the Month wall. Now, these cosplayers, organized by one of them acting as an intermediary (ideally), gather at the event and walk around like human billboards, interacting with people. The corporate jack-off gets money and a pool of potential customers; the cosplayers get a stage to show themselves off. Everyone wins. Or do they?
Of course, this issue is not monochromatic. It’s like a grey area. It depends on where you decide to stand. I, for one, don’t like it when cosplayers are “used” and lured under the pretext of a “cosplay event” held by someone that knows jack-shit about cosplay, but are then used solely as a crowd magnet. To me, it’s a waste of time. Cosplayers come from faraway places, hauling their costumes, taking time to dress up, and when they’re finally in costume, they’re just there to stand around and act as walking photo booths. Cosplayers are creative artists, and being like that is selling out. Additionally, cosplay is not a cheap hobby. Hundreds of rupiahs are spent on costumes, and not to include the effort poured into the making process. Yet they “perform” for free, being treated and viewed as nothing but a free human billboard that can attract visitors.
But you might also think that these “events” actually do provide a stage for cosplayers to show off, or at least, hang out and be weird together. I recognize that there are still very few stages where cosplayers can freely express themselves. Also in Jakarta, you’d have to play hide-and-seek with either thugs or security when you wanna do a photoshoot in a semi-public area. Furthermore, these events can be used as a means by those companies to scout talent, and maybe perhaps land someone a job. Or at the very least, build some good connections with owners of large spaces so that in the future, these cosplay communities have a place to do something for their own sake.
Let me share an experience of mine, when I was still cosplaying as part of a cosplay team. We took on a lot of cosplay jobs, and I earned some good money (which I immediately blew on nendoroids). We were once asked to “perform” at a bank on a Car Free Day in Jakarta. They asked for 10 of us, and they designed a “cosplay competition” to justify giving us remuneration. So, each of us got IDR 300K just for cosplaying and “performing” for 4 hours. Of course, we were walking photo objects, but at least I was reimbursed for my time. Quite well, if I may add.
See where I’m going with this? I’m not saying that every “fake” cosplay event needs to reimburse the cosplayers present. If they have the budget, then it would be nice to do so. It’s a way to appreciate cosplayers and make sure that they’re properly reimbursed for their time and craft. It’s a matter of respect and keeping market prices stable. If cosplayers “sell out” too cheaply, it would affect the market price, and organizers would start thinking that cosplayers will do anything as long as they’re given a chance to show off their costumes in front of a crowd of people. Reversely, if we suddenly go all protectionist and jack up prices, organizers would refuse to give a stage for cosplayers as they would see the high fees as an additional cost.
As for me, I would love to see cosplayers not being “used” just as a free crowd magnet under the pretext of “cosplay event”. At least they should be reimbursed for their time and effort, because making a costume requires hard work. Or given some snacks. It shows that the company actually cares about cosplayers, and it gives a sense of pride for the cosplayers. As for the technical details, I’ll leave that to the organizers and community reps to talk over. And for the case of cosplayer bounty hunters, that’s up to the person.
Until next time, jackasses.