15 September 2010

I think we’re all familiar with the typical, standardized, homogenized reaction to cosplay (and, for that matter, all related expressions of fandom, be it fanfics or talk-like-a-pirate day) that people have. The reaction is one of either mockery or silent embarrassment.

The reaction of outsiders on cosplay, which will in most occasions range from amused condoning to cynical disgust, is completely understandable. Perhaps a little unfortunate, but understandable. What I’d like to discuss however, is the reaction that you’ll see a lot of times by people who themselves cosplay or don’t find it weird or laughable. Whenever they explain their hobby or passion to an ‘outsider’, they tend to adopt the voice of the outsider themselves. They suddenly view the whole thing from the perspective of the other, as if it’s a little embarrassing like a secret shame.

Their defense of cosplaying sounds like this: ‘But surely it’s fun to act ridiculously for one day?’ This seemingly reasonable compromise belies a simmering sense of selfloathing that I have decided is inseemly and absurd. Did you see the rock ‘n roll generation bending backwards to defend their music? Did you hear the ‘gabbers’ apologize for their behavior and justify their dancing as silly, temporary nonsense? It’s the argument that makes the traditional southern-Dutch carnaval such an atrocity: the idea that it’s OK to be ‘weird’ for a single week, but not outside that time frame, and we’ll all have a good laugh at our collective silliness in the year to come: it reeks of artifice and shame.

Let’s be done with this selfloathing! I love dressing up as my favorite game character, I love playing with Lego (and will do so until the day I drop dead) and my entire life revolves around the construction of fantastical stories. Why should I betray these feelings when I’m talking to the outside world? If they are keen to label it as childish or silly, they’re more than allowed to, but I’m not going to join in, and neither should you. Why should our kind, our generation not be the natural successor to the ‘forces of old and evil’? If other people are hampered by taboo, shackled by shame and incapable of truly following their passions, why the heck should we endorse that and pretend that their view is the right one? In that case, our generation is surely the weakest, to let older generations set the borders in which we frame our lives. Cosplaying is a splendid activity, it takes guts and creativity and should be applauded all around.

So defend your passions and under no circumstance bend over backwards to apologize for dressing up as Super Goddamn Mario!