Beneath the Layers is back, and if you haven’t had the chance to catch up on past interviews, check them out here. This month’s cosplayer, Rebecca, originally hails from New Zealand. The 30-year-old artist and “confirmed internet junkie” now lives in Texas, where she spends her free time reading and making plushies. Despite having faced on-line bullies, she has never let that discouraged her from dressing up as her favorite characters.
NOTE: As this interview series aims to help banish harassment and bullying of cosplayers, any inappropriate comments made toward the interviewee or cosplayers in general will be deleted.
1. How long have you been cosplaying, and what is your favorite cosplay?
Other than being a cast member in a Renaissance faire in 2004, I have been cosplaying since spring 2010. I love to cosplay as Amy Pond (I have a soft spot for my “Vincent and the Doctor” cosplay), and though my Vampire of Venice costume is comfortable, I would say my current favorite is Anastasia. It makes me feel beautiful and elegant.
2. How does the experience of being a Ren faire cast member differ from cosplaying?
When I did Ren faire, I had a position in the court. At the official events during the day I had to sit near the queen as a lady-in-waiting; the rest of the time, I was more atmosphere character and wandered around with another lady-in-waiting, semi-in character. With cosplay, you are not as obligated to maintain a character or station like a cast member so it has a lot more freedom for interpretation and activities.
3. What are the best and worst parts of being a cosplayer?
The best parts are that moment when someone gets excited to see that character and you get a big smile and when people recognize the work that you put into the costume.
The worst parts are when you feel overlooked either by people looking for more popular characters or because —especially with Doctor Who cosplay—the characters often wear street clothes that are not easily recognized by non-hardcore fans.
4. Please describe one or two incidents where you have been harassed, bullied, or discriminated against while in cosplay.
A facebook page decided they could display images found on a Google search without permission (they claimed it was public domain, which I would like to stress to readers that it is not public domain and not okay). They posted on the page saying it was weird, which brought some nasty comments. After my friends stood up for me, they did take it down and apologized. I would like to ask people reading this to remember there are people on the end of that internet ISP and words can really hurt.
Another incident was very recently when I posted a picture on Tumblr of a cosplay I was very proud of. Someone decided to message me and reblog saying my weight disgusted them and they found it insulting. This I will admit had me in tears also.
5. How do you feel about the idea that people should dress up as characters of their race, size, and age?
Being an older cosplayer, I do feel a bit self-conscious about playing young characters, and as mentioned above, I have been discriminated for my size. However, I think if the person is confident and appropriately covered, size should not matter. As for race, I do not think it should matter in the least.
6. In my last interview, Cam talked about the negative reactions to non-anime cosplayers at anime cons. Do you experience that?
I think for me it has not been so much negative as just disinterest or ignorance towards what I am dressed as. Even so, that can be disheartening. I figure as long as we are having fun, the non-anime characters should be as welcomed as any cosplayer, especially with the lack of large sci-fi cons in the area. I will admit the disinterest/lack of recognition has been a factor in me branching out from sci-fi cosplays.
7. How can the relationship between photographers and cosplayers be improved?
Due to an incident that recently happened, I would say that if you don’t want to take a picture of two people cosplaying the same character, or in my case a different outfit of the character, it is not necessary to explain their outfit looks “too normal”. As I have said earlier, we do have feelings. It is important to remember that even though we are dressed as the character and may be acting like them, underneath we are real people.
8. What are your personal boundaries that will make you stop acting like a character for a photo?
I am a bit conservative, so probably no actual kissing or overtly sexual gestures.
9. What makes a cosplay stand out in your eyes?
Someone who has put effort into their cosplay. I am not saying people who can’t afford/make the fancy ones are bad, just to me one that has a lot of attention to detail about the character’s clothes (even if the outfit is simple elegance) stands out. Also a prop that pertains to the episode/character adds to the wow factor.
10. When does a costume become inappropriate or in poor taste?
When it involves a very sensitive subject matter, caution and maybe just not doing the cosplay is in order. At one convention, I saw people with swastikas on their uniforms and was rather repulsed at the insensitivity. Also I believe people need to be appropriately covered. I know some characters’ outfits are skimpy, but I would rather not see peoples butts hanging out from under their outfits in a public place.
11. Coming from a conservative background myself, I was so shocked at some of the things I saw at my first con that I almost didn’t return. How do you deal with seeing things you find morally objectionable?
I have found that the best way is usually to ignore it or hang out in a different area. Usually there are places you can go to avoid the more risque activities.
12. What can cosplayers do to protect themselves from harassment and bullying and to stop perpetuating such behaviors?
I would say just be aware of your surroundings. If you are going to drink or do something that will impair your ability to watch out for yourself, make sure you are hanging out with people you trust.
As for not perpetuating the behavior, we need to be aware and watch out for each other at conventions. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. Just because we may think something looks stupid/wrong/inaccurate does not mean it is okay for us to voice it.
13. How has your life changed for the better as a result of cosplay?
I believe it has helped my confidence increase. It has given me an outlet for something I enjoy: creating and wearing costumes.
14. Any last words to fellow and aspiring cosplayers?
The whole point of this is to have fun, just because someone says you are too tall, short, big, small, does not mean you can’t enjoy dressing as and celebrating your fandoms.
Many thanks to Rebecca for sharing her thoughts and supplying all the cosplay photos.