San Diego Comic Con maybe be over for this year, but there’s still New York Comic Con on the horizon, and it’s still got plenty of tickets, too. But, whether you’re going to a big con or a small one, you will probably run into cosplayers. Now that you know there’s some trouble with cosplayer harassment, here’s a list of tips to help you enjoy the con and avoid making trouble.
1. Cosplayers exist to explore their identities and to have fun, not to be a quick date.
Cosplayers are people too. They’re dressed their best, so you should be on your best behavior around them. What he or she is wearing, regardless of coverage level, does not equal consent to anything: it merely shows what fandom they like. (And, perhaps, their sense of humor.)
2. Ask to take pictures — and if you can be in it.
Nobody likes the paparazzi. It’s common courtesy to ask if you can borrow something from someone else, and that includes their image. Plus, no one knows what you’re going to do with that picture you take, so you might as well get a good one if you’re going to try. However, most costumers assume the question “May I take your picture?” means a picture of just the costumer. If you want to be in the picture too, be sure to specify that.
Tip: A good place to get pictures of costumers is at photo shoots set up for just that fandom. Most photo shoots travel by word-of-mouth, so if you see Gambit, ask him when the photo shoot is, and if he’ll be there.
3. Assume you’re going to be keeping your hands to yourself
Asking to be in a picture with someone isn’t a subtle way to gain access to molesting them. If someone agrees to be in a picture with you, you don’t know them, and they don’t know you, so there should be no expectation of touching involved. Side-by-side posing is the way to go.
4. Keep hallways clear while taking pictures
One of the biggest logistical issues of conventions is keeping the hallways and other thoroughfares clear, and nothing gums up space like people posing for pictures. If you want to take a picture of someone, after they accept, ask if it’d be okay to move out of the way. Most costumers will thank you for grabbing a better shot of them, and the people trying to get around will be much happier, too. The convention staff won’t feel a need to scold you, either.
5. If your request is declined, accept it.
Someone might be camera shy, or feel their costume isn’t the best. If they don’t want to have a picture taken or spend time conversing with you, that’s okay. Just let it go with no hard feelings. No swearing necessary.
6. In-character or not?
If a cosplayer is acting in-character, they’d probably like nothing more than to have you play along. If they are, though, and they refuse to break character, don’t get mad. Not all cosplayers are in character; in fact, most aren’t. Claiming to be in character is no excuse for behaving disrespectfully, but in the same turn, if a someone is acting in character, allow for a little leeway from the norm. It’s always okay to ask if they are in character, and if they could come back to the real world for a second.
7. Don’t be afraid of groups
Whether it’s a bunch of girls or a bunch of guys, a group of cosplayers can seem pretty intimidating. Secret of the trade: almost every group is willing to get bigger. Just be yourself and see what sticks!
8. Talk fandom with your cosplayers
If you want to make conversation with a cosplayer, the best way is to talk about the show they’re cosplaying from. Bring up favorite characters or story plots. Don’t be clingy though; if sparks don’t fly, just move on. You’ll find the people for you soon enough.
9. Everyone likes to talk about themselves to a willing audience
Whether you are a fellow cosplayer or a civilian, you can encourage a cosplayer by asking after the details on their costume. What was it made out of? How long did it take? How did they come to certain choices for its design and construction? What technique was used to make this or that element? What do they like best about it? Cosplayers want to dress their best, but more often than not they want to be complimented on their smart construction choices (and how well they pulled it off) over simple attractiveness.
10. Crossplay happens. Be supportive!
Women dress in men’s clothing, and men dress in women’s clothing. Some people might even be expressing transgender identities for the first time, so either say something nice or say nothing at all. But at the end of the day, just treat them like normal people. The great thing about cosplay is that everybody gets to be treated like your best friend.
11. Don’t be a cosplay snob
There are a lot of cosplayers. And each of them is at a different level. There’s no need to compare the snowflakes, when each has their own traits to compliment.
12. “Respect and support” is the name of the game.
Cosplay is a community, and no community is worth a shucked clam if it isn’t based upon support, respect, and fun.