The True Heroes of Cosplay

“He knows a hero when he sees one. Too few characters out there, flying around like that, saving old girls like me. And Lord knows, kids like Henry need a hero. Courageous, self-sacrificing people. Setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a hero. People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them how to hold on a second longer. I believe there’s a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.”

Oh, Aunt May. You make me believe in heros all over again every-time I read that. You make me feel like one, too. You know what doesn’t make me feel like a hero, though? Cosplay. By itself. I’m not a hero for making a costume. We aren’t heros when we sit at a sewing machine. We aren’t heros when we’re elbow deep in fiberglass. We’re heros because of what we’re going to do with those costumes. The heroism is in the intention. It’s in the dream. It’s in the way we wear them, it’s in the struggle we undergo when we make them. So, really, if cosplay doesn’t make you a hero, then how can we have Heros of Cosplay?

The show has gotten some controversy. Ok. It’s gotten alot of controversy. More than even that, it’s gotten a great deal of mixed reviews. Several people like one aspect of the show and hate the rest. Some hate the whole show. Some like the costumes but not the people who wear them. And some like the people but not the costumes they wear. Yeah, it’s a reality show. We know there’s no reality in it, that it’s an oxymoron to even call them that. Still we watch, still we disagree, still some of us wish we were a part of the show.

Ironic? Not really. Let’s face it, we love attention. If we wanted to avoid crowds and people we wouldn’t be wearing the costumes we make. We’d be giving them to other people, or we would just go to conventions and dissapear in the crowd with our geek-related shirt. We’d take pictures of costumers and never be in them. But cosplayers? Yeah. We like attention. And, yeah, we can be competitive. We can be picky. Hell, sometimes we can be straight up rude. Do we like to see that on television? Well, sure, but when it’s on Hell’s Kitchen, not when it’s deeply involved in something we are intimately a part of.

“Maybe that’s what being a superhero is all about. Taking that pain and turning it into something meaninful.”

Well, Hit-Girl, you’re right about that. Let’s take all our nerd-rage and turn it into something we can be proud of: Facebook posts, Tweets, angsty boy-cots and a costume so epic you’re uncomfortable five minutes after putting it on–but, hey, you can say your’s is better than theirs, right? Let’s turn all our pain on each other, where we can wage war and judgment on a group and a community that we should be calling family, instead.

Oh, wait, you mean she wasn’t talking about that?

Yeah, nobody likes all the members of their family. Duh. We don’t have to like everyone involved, either–but that doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate what they went through to put their costume together. It doesn’t mean you don’t respect that one person’s artform is not every person’s art form; just like no one *body* is every*body*.

“You don’t have to be a badass to be a superhero. You just have to be brave.”

Bravery is not just knowing when to get yourself involved in a fight and when not too. It’s also more than saying what other people won’t. When it comes to defining bravery there seems to rarely be a “wrong” answer, but in the terms of this particular blog I’m going to narrow it down to more of a context relevant to cosplay–and it’s heros’.

Cosplayers are brave because they stand up to the biggest, baddest, most challenging bully to ever taunt, tease and mock them: themselves. The cosplayer overcomes the challenge of the self. They learn to stand out of their own way so they can leap obstacles that tower and halt the rush of stigmas and problems that threaten to bear down with the efficiency and speed of any train. The cosplayer is a hero because they not only said I can, they said I will. They said I have, not I may. They put aside their fears and insecurities to embrace a dream, to embrace the creative, to embrace the small voice inside them that whispered it’s dream to become. They’ve set goals they’ve met and installed new goals to challenge them further, and they look to them with their shadow as a partner and a foundation of confidence at their feet. The cosplayer is brave because they not only have learned to love the self, but challenge others to look to them for a mirror we can so often provide.

Once the light that is the self has been ignited, there’s no stopping the heart of the cosplayer. With the alter identity embraced, the future is a beacon of possibilities that include the magic of the imagination and the pride of hard work. Some cosplayers go on to teach others about their craft, and how to discover a latent talent and nurture it to something greater. Some go on to give back to the community, donating their time, money, talents and efforts into charity work through costumed charity foundations like the 501st, the Rebel Legion and the East Coast Avengers. No matter what our hero of cosplay does–from cons, to charity, to work–they inspire. They inspire us to be greater, to do greater. They inspire us to look inside ourselves and slow down. To play. To dream. To create. To learn. To give.
So here’s to you, my fellow readers, and to my true heros of cosplay. May your feet never touch the earth, may your strength never wane, and may your dreams always be colored with adventure.