Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why I lost my enthusiasm in sharing my hobby to non-cosplay communities

This was one of the things I've been trying so hard to forget for the past four years now and I've been making great progress. However, something showed up while i was browsing through my timehop recently. Thinking about it doesn't bother me much anymore but it still feels quite unpleasant sometimes just remembering so might as well let it all out before completely letting go.

This is going to be a pretty long tale so I made a tl;dr at the end but this is the long story:

A little bit of a background, back in college I was a part of an organization that promotes anime, manga and gaming culture. It was a well recognized org with a constant flow of events and a great number of active members. However it's a little bit different in it's early days where we would just hang out and talk about anime and games.

Just as the org was starting to be active in the cosplay field, a certain academic org in our university decided to invite us to cosplay in their event. We were ecstatic since it's a great opportunity to showcase our org so we agreed. I had tons of homework that time but there aren't many cosplayers in our org back then and, being a dedicated member, I decided to forgo sleep just so I can finish everything in time for the event.

There were about four of us and one helping with the preparations. We still had to travel about two grueling hours to reach the venue but we didn't mind so much since we were so excited for the night's activities. We had Ipin and Chrome from KHR, Chopper from One Piece and me as Setsuka Heel from the Skip Beat manga. We were running late but when we reached the venue, turns out the program before the "cosplay event" part wasn't even over yet. No problem, the hotel where the venue at is pretty nice so we had time fooling around and taking pictures (cosplay photoshoots doesn't even exist in our vocabulary yet). Two more members joined us shortly afterwards. They weren't really in character cosplay but were still dressed in costumes.

We should have noticed beforehand how bad they've accommodated us. They didn't have any place provided for us to standby while we were waiting for our part in the program and totally ignored us the entire time. My memory could be wrong here but I also don't remember them offering us dinner or any sort of food while we wait. Their president would occasionally talk to us at first but he eventually became so busy and left us on our own.

After writing down our names and the character we were cosplaying on a piece of paper, we had nothing better to do and were left to roam around the hotel halls. Sure it seemed fun that time but we looked so stupid and out of place with our brightly-colored hair and costumes. Cosplay wasn't that rampant in our city back then so we would get strange stares from other hotel guests and staffs. Sometimes I also feel like even the students from the org that invited us would stare with looks like, "what are they even doing here?" and made me think like what if the invitation was just a big joke and an excuse to make fun of "freaks" like us.

Finally, our part was starting but the location was changed to another hall. I guess that place was just for the dining program. They really took their time cleaning up to move even though they were already behind schedule and letting us wait for more than an hour. The new place we've migrated to was surprisingly smaller and with an even smaller stage...if you call it that when you can hardly fit all six of us in a line without bumping elbows.

It all just spiraled downwards from there.

First of all, the invitation to participate was sudden so we didn't really have much time to prepare but we didn't mind because we're total nerds who forget everything when excited. Second, we weren't given much details on the event itself except be in cosplay so we just went there without any idea what it was all about but, again, we didn't mind because we were dorks.

Turns out they planned a mini cosplay contest and it was a total chaos. The hosts/emcees clearly didn't even do a little research and doesn't have any idea how to handle the situation. Everything was so awkward but we still managed to push through. There's an introduction of characters, a little roleplay performance which I screwed big time because I have fear of performing in front of crowds and a catwalk which was about a 5 - 10 steps long walk across the stage.

Looking back, it would have been quite a laugh making a complete fool of ourselves in front of the stage but it had been nothing like that and the only thing that's been in my mind the entire evening was to go home. You see, the academic org also have a contestant from their side which would have been completely fine but they didn't even put any effort with the costume AT ALL...or at least do some research. They just picked the prettiest, model-esque member they had, dressed her in a cropped plaid skirt, white blouse with a ribbon(or was it a neck tie?), knee-high socks, high heels and a little bit of make-up.

Yeah. Sure. Ta-dah. Cosplay,

I did feel sorry for her when I overheard her a little saying something along the lines of us being in total get-ups while she looked so plain(even though she already stood out so much more than us) and unprepared so we tried our best to not make her look out of place even though I already feel like a sack of potatoes just standing beside her.

However, as soon as the entire event started, we were the ones who looked completely out of place.

The entire audience was completely biased. All throughout the evening, they would just clap politely on our parts but when it comes to their "representative", they were giving tumultuous applause. It would have been fine occasionally but they remained like that for the rest of the night. Eventually it feels like they were just clapping out of obligation and mostly wasn't even paying attention (plus the emcees are doing a really crappy job keeping the hype up) but would cheer loudly when it's their representative's turn. I don't know about the rest of the guys with me but I felt like we were completely being ignored. They didn't even at least pretend to be interested when it came our turn. Heck, I don't even know why they invited us in the first place when it doesn't even look like any of them had interest in cosplay. It's rude, awkward, humiliating and we felt like a dying circus freak show.

I already had social anxiety so it had been very traumatic for me.

To add more insult to injury, the winner of that mini cosplay contest was also their representative. Apparently the only judging criteria was audience impact.

But we didn't care anymore, after the event, we just bolted out without even changing into normal clothing. I let my friends have some final talk with the org's president because I feel like I might smash his head in if I did. I didn't even try to find out what they talked about I just wanted to go back to the dorms and sleep. It was already very late but we stopped by Jollibee for a very late dinner takeout still in our costumes. It was by far the only fun we had since the event disaster.

Two hours later and we arrived safely back in the dorms. I wanted to sleep but two hours of traveling didn't do anything to my anger so I ranted away on facebook. I don't track my fb friends but I didn't care anymore if anyone from that organization reads or hears about it. I didn't name anyone but I made it perfectly clear that I was completely upset by what happened. My roommate and friend who assisted us there also ranted away. She had a view of the bigger picture and from the way she tells me about it, it even looked worse from her perspective,

I avoided any students from that organization as much as I can since then.

Several days later, the org's president contacted me through fb and apologized for what happened. We weren't fb friends then but he might have heard of my rants from somewhere. They were after all pretty obvious if you've been a part of that event. I wanted to berate him so much but it's been days and my anger has ebbed away a little. I did say it's alright but the damage has been done and to hopefully never let the same thing happen again. He did promised to give us some sort of compensation gift but four years passed and I still haven't received anything. It doesn't matter anymore...I've completely stopped holding it against them for a long time now.

I do forgive but I certainly don't forget and our org's been cautious since then. I'm not sure now since I've graduated and doesn't have much of a say anymore but so far I haven't heard of similar occurrences since then.

tl;dr: Our org's been invited to cosplay to another org's event. They have zero cosplay knowledge and we were treated like crap.

Negativity set aside, I'm completely happy with how far cosplay has come today and how socially accepted they've become. Despite the bad past, I want to try and give it another chance if it means spreading good cosplay vibes and awareness.

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