Sometimes People Cosplay for the Kids But...
There are many people who cosplay for charity and I think that’s awesome. Not that they need my approval, but dressing up and going to see sick children in the hospital? That is a wonderful thing. Children with terminal illnesses are heartbreaking and spending time with them is an amazing gift. I’m all for it.
And I love cosplay. I love the creativity needed to pull a costume together, the sense of purpose of getting it done, the bravery of wearing it in public…I enjoy every aspect of it. I enjoy the photo shoots and getting the pictures. And all of that is for me. My joy. My pleasure. My sense of purpose.
There are people, like Heroes Alliance, who pulled these two interests together. They have groups in various cities throughout the U.S. who visit sick children, participate in charity parades, and basically use their love of cosplay to give something back to the community. Personally, I don’t do the kid thing as I’m not really into them. It doesn’t make sense for me to push myself in front of them and create a mutually awkward situation, especially as I don’t really pretend to be the character for much more than the photo. For me, cosplay is a release and tying it to an obligation would diminish some of the joy for me. I’m glad this is not the case for other people.
But there is this in-between place where people lie to themselves about why they do it. Where they present this idea that it’s more about other people than it is about themselves. They present cosplay like the entirety of it is motivated by doing something for children, and that activates my bullshit sensor and throws it into the orange.
I’m not saying that it’s untrue. Cosplayers do make kids happy, especially young children. Younger children tend to readily show their joy. They don’t check to make sure your costume is exact. Instead, they adore that you are dressed as someone they love. Some even think you ARE the character and are excited to talk to you. Their joy is palpable and it feels good. It’s a form of instant, unconditional acceptance of an activity that is often mocked and ridiculed by our peers. Children bring a love for your craft that you usually may only find with other cosplayers.
Because as much as we like to say we do it for ourselves, there is a part of us that does it for approval and admiration. It’s hard to get that from other adults. Doesn’t mean we don’t want it; it just means that it’s not as instant and overt as it is with young children. And that’s fine. But can we just drop the lie that it’s not a mutually beneficial relationship? That cosplayers get as much as they receive from the children instead of making it seem completely altruistic?
But saying that we do it for the children is a way to make the attention-seeking aspect of cosplay sound less narcissistic, but guess what? We are narcissists. We are attention seekers. We do this because some part of us wants to be in the spotlight and wants the approval of others. and more altruistic. It’s a way of lying about our motivations. It’s a way to make it sound like a socially acceptable hobby.
It’s okay to like dressing up because it makes you feel good. It’s okay to dress as characters because it makes you happy. It’s okay that it makes you feel good when people like your costumes. You don’t need any other reason to do it and you don’t need to make it seem like more than what it is. It is okay to enjoy this hobby for self-serving reasons. It doesn’t make you a bad person to enjoy attention.
Sometimes I think people struggle to allow themselves to be self-centered. I’ll admit, I’m only thinking about this topic because I was on a cosplay panel with five other people where four of the participants said they do it for the children. They all had stories about how happy the kids were to see them, yet the events they dressed for were not charity events. They were events they would have dressed for anyway, regardless of whether children were in attendance. The children were a bonus, not the primary motivation. And that’s okay. It is totally fine to do something you enjoy if it doesn’t hurt, oppress, or infringe on the rights of others. It is okay to center your need and wants in your life. You don’t need to make it sound like more than it is.
I’m tired of the “polite” lies we tell others to appear like a “good” person. I am tired of the way we constantly downplay our motivations and needs to make ourselves palatable to a wider audience. Why are we erasing ourselves from our own stories for acceptance? Why are we taking a backseat to the expectations and potential approval of others?
Or, maybe, they spend months creating these complicated and uncomfortable costumes just for the joy of making a kid smile. These same kids I’ve seen entertain themselves for hours throwing a plastic cup on the floor.
I don’t know but like I said, it sets off my bullshit meter.
Frankly, I have no problem centering myself in my cosplay. Do I hope other people like it? Yes. Will I still like it if they don’t? Probably. Because, while I do enjoy the attention and I do like the approval, I’m also motivated by my need to experiment with my creativity and crafting abilities. I don’t feel the need to push myself further at the behest of others. I don’t feel like I need to make this sound like charity work. Cosplay is one of my escapes from the forced mundanity of American “success.” It’s one of the few things I do that makes the hamster wheel of middle-class life acceptable.
This won’t be the last time I’ll feel defensive about my love of cosplay, but I know at my core why I do it, and that is enough.