In many ways, the expansion of the cosplay scene has left me simultaneously impressed and concerned. In its nascence, it was essentially a bunch of pop culture buds combined with an arts and crafts show. Occasionally you’d see a full-scale Big Daddy, or a Spartan complete with lightrifle, from people whose skills bordered on being so legit that the “s” was replaced with a “z”, but at its purest, it was a gang of folks who were inspired by a character and joined with their friends in embodying it for a day.
Your choice of character spoke volumes about the attributes you most admired. Wolverine’s ferociousness and invulnerable physique juxtaposed with his very vulnerable heart, Harley Quinn’s rebelliousness and zaniness, Batman’s stern finger and ability to make a suit that doubled as a sweat lodge. I picked Deadpool, which says it all, really.
Things have changed. Cosplay is big business. Everyone has to have their own Cosplay page with a fictitious name and likes drive everything. Which means you need to have professional photographs. It seems to help enormously if you have cleavage, and take a lot of images there as well. Next you need to get onto Cosplay groups and post photos so that you get likes. It helps if you post emojis with love hearts in the eyes, or something self-deprecating like “I know it’s not much, but here’s 300 hours of my work.”
In some ways, I fear the direction we are heading is insular- that we’ve become so desperate for validation and likes of our costumes that we have forgotten the reason why the characters we want to inhabit appealed to us in the first place. Much of the time, what we liked about the characters was their sense of duty, of purpose and calling, which overrode their self-interest and self-doubt. A certain swagger, like Captain Mal, or steely determination, like Superman, or confidence in the face of battle, like Wonder Woman.
But occasionally, causes come along which are made for the ideals to which we once and, hopefully, still aspire to. There’s certainly no shortage of charities- on any given day you could throw hard dollars in a circle at a city rail station and see the scramble as a man dressed as a koala dives to scoop up a coin before the Oxfam kids step on his fingers.
However, Superhero Week is something special.
Each year, I try to write compellingly about it, because I have been to Bear Cottage and seen what they do. For those that don’t know, Bear Cottage is a hospice for families of kids who are going to die. It’s not a Starlight Foundation or a Last Wish kind of thing; rather, it is a place where all the medical needs of the child can be met so that families who have been caught in the terrible oppression of symptom management- seeing their child destroyed from the inside by an insidious battle which cannot be won- are entirely met so that instead, they can actually be a family together. Activities are organised, massage and reflexology is arranged for parents who have been carrying loads they didn’t know they could bear, siblings are taken to new and exciting activities, music therapies and assistance dogs wander freely. All families each meals together, bond, develop support networks, rest, breathe.
When the battle is lost and the disease has won- often within the grounds of Bear Cottage itself- staff grieve with the family, arrange special retreats, and present books of photos and crafts and memories of the joy and light which entered the darkest of times within the grounds of this wonderful place. Bear Cottage doesn’t seek a cure- Bear Cottage is a place where people throw themselves into the path of an oncoming train called Tragedy in the hopes that when it hits, it will be slower, weaker, not as devastating as it could be. Tragedy is a monster that feeds on hopelessness, and it is the noblest of ideals to walk cheerfully up to such a monster and kick it repeatedly- even joyfully- in the metaphorical testicles. This is what the Bear Cottage people do, but also what its supporters enable.
It is there that I feel our scene should be at the forefront. It is there that our strongest ideals and identification can be found- from the noble challenge of bravely facing an insurmountable opponent, to the reckless rebelliousness of those who are told they can’t do it and reply “no, I am not going to stop”. It is amazing that we can find the time and money for professional photos and the photoshopping work to capture a moment, but miss the opportunities to actually truly embody that which we want to stand for.
So friends, this year, I would like to issue the challenge to you. Superhero Week commences today. Share it, donate, or run an event at your workplace. Heck, organise a convention of you have the contacts. Give small. Give big. But, my friends, if there is a noble thought amongst you which yearns to see heroism once again rise not just on the silver screen but instead in our every day lives, this is time to see it unleashed, as I can tell you- from personal experience- that the reward of an incredible memory in the midst of unfathomable sadness is worth more than all the gold in all the world, and it is something that tragedy itself cannot steal. You can make that happen. We can make that happen. And I’d love for you to join me.
This year, I am going to dance on a public train as Harambe the Gorilla from the Cincinnati Zoo. If someone calls the police, I’m almost certainly going to be shot.
But feel free to give here: Harambe’s hilarious haranguing for healthy hospital happenings
Contributor: Reuben Rose