All the Cons with their sold-out convention centers full of unwashed masses engaging in elaborate cosplay – I have to say, I don’t get it.
Okay, that’s not completely true. I do understand why some young men might enjoy going to these things…
But the rest of it…I can’t even try to pretend that I sort of understand…
From what I see (as an outsider, granted), the Cons are essentially thousands of people milling around big city convention centers, half of them wearing costumes and posing, the other half taking pictures of them. Oh, and I’ve read that there are also sessions where the celebrities of this subculture speak into microphones and answer questions and autograph $300 dolls.
I’ve lived my entire life in various subcultures, so I really do understand why people want to dress up and why they might be into anime or manga or the other thousand things that make up the guts of these Cons. What throws me for a loop is the weird relationship between the costumees and the hundreds of people who show up just to photograph them.
The people in the costumes seem to crave the attention of the anonymous camera. Even if that camera is wielded by a smelly, grinning mouth breather. If you look at the backgrounds of the pictures of people posing at these Cons you’ll see the mouth-breathers and the countless other people around them posing. Everyone who isn’t holding a camera is posing.
Maybe that is the entire point of these things, I don’t know. And really, if it’s what someone wants to do, they ought to do it. I suppose if someone likes to dress up like a character from whatever, then the ultimate end goal of that dressing up is to have someone notice them.
But what about the other 364 days of the year? Do they get themselves all made up and look in the mirror? Maybe they just hang around the house in those costumes because it makes them feel good.
Somehow I doubt that.
So the goal of the costume must be to be seen, adored, photographed. Which, again, is certainly fine. But how much fun can it be to be one of 38 Spidermen or 42 Catwomen walking around a convention center? I suppose if you’re the best Catwoman there’s some bragging rights there. But what does it mean? That more chubby basement-dwellers will take your picture?
I’d get all of this if they were off somewhere among themselves, appreciating each other and doing whatever they do in those costumes in the hotel after the convention center closes. It’s the spectacle of the thing that is odd, and that’s what takes it from being subculture to culture, and from a bunch of people enjoying their own personal freakiness to something wholly less wonderful.
Ultimately every subculture is co-opted and absorbed and made mainstream. And like Heisenberg’s microscope, the observation, dissection or mainstreaming of any subculture always winds up affecting (or destroying) whatever was appealing about it to the original adopters. It only took 20 years for a tattoo on your neck to go from being a startling and permanent sign of outsider status to nothing more than a fashion statement. There’s nothing anyone can do about that, except move on to the next secret, taboo, underground thing.
I suspect that’s what’s happening with all of this Con costumery. The people who started it are long gone and all that’s left are those with a tragic need to be seen and documented. So much so that they are willing to parade themselves in front of people who don’t understand them. Who just want to exploit them or masturbate while thinking about them or sell their picture to some website – or all of those things.
Which takes something they probably consider to be a great deal of fun and turns it into something that’s just plain sad. You know, if grown men and women running around in costumes and posing at each other in a grand celebration of nothing wasn’t already sad.