Tuesday, November 13, 2012

TX Panhandle, TX Secession and the Freakout in Comic Culture over CosPlay Girls

For some reason, I am in the Texas Panhandle.

It's work related.  In theory, I should be home in 48 hours.

It is safe to say I am about done with the schedule I've been on for the past 6 weeks or so and the Thanksgiving Holiday cannot really come fast enough.  I could really use some time just laying very still while someone else makes cornbread stuffing and lets me silently appreciate the Rockettes during their number at the Macy's Parade.

if loving the Rockettes is wrong, I don't want to be right

TX Secession

I know it made headlines, but the petition sent to the White House and chatter about Texas seceding is all that it is.  Chatter.  The petition doesn't have enough signatures to fill half of DKR Memorial Stadium, and a whole lot of those aren't from Texas.  I expect that in the years to come "secession" will be the pouty rallying cry of Texans wishing they could take their ball and go home when things don't go the way of insignificant politians from scrubby, backwater towns in The Lone Star State (seriously, press, stop giving these people a megaphone).

Well, here's the deal - I have a long list of prioritized loyalties, and being a Citizen of the Republic of Texas is  somewhere just above "Occasional SpongeBob Watcher" and just below "Bigfoot Enthusiast".  I love my home state, and I always will, but its like loving an ornery old dog sometimes.  You're used to his peculiarities and if he sometimes bites you, well, that's just his nature.

I am aware of how Texas looks on the national stage, and it isn't pretty.  I mean, I know we generally don't care a whole lot, because that's another fine trait of Texans, but if push comes to shove, I probably won't be mustering to protect Goliad for the RoT Militia.

Austinites, always the snarky punk college kid at the Thanksgiving table of Texas Family, have set up their own petition asking to be freed from Texas and to annex Dublin (the good Dr. Pepper), Lockhart (BBQ), and Shiner (beer), because: priorities.

CosPlay, Young Women, Old Men and the Comics Scene Today

I guess while I was travelling and working today, an internet kerfuffle brewed up because a comics-maker made some derogatory comments about the comics scene becoming about CosPlay - the thing where people dress up as characters in elaborate costumes - and less about the actual comics.  There was some misogynistic language thrown around as the trend seems to be young women jumping into the scene in what are often intentionally sexy costumes - but the common belief is that these same women don't actually buy or read the comics of the characters they're portraying.

As with all things on the internet, it was immediately "Us Vs. Them" as the pros and fans lined up to become furious with Harris, and mostly fans (pros knew to steer clear) backed up Harris.  I guess.  I really only saw the smoking crater that was left around 7:30 Central Time on Twitter.

I have mixed feelings.  I basically don't care for my local Con and its not like people dress up to come to my local shop on Wednesdays and get up in my grill, so I don't see how it could possibly matter to me in any concrete ways.  I don't see what these people are doing the same as I see what I do, or the way I've enjoyed comics and superheroes for 27 years, so I don't really equate them as "part of my hobby".  It's like calling out the marching band for taking over the field at half time of a football game and telling them they aren't really into football.

I do wish comic sales would reflect the cost and energy put into making some of the costumes I see, but all-in-all, I don't care.  And I'm not young enough to have a real opinion on whether some young women and men are trying on the "nerd" label as an identity at that point in one's life where one tries on different identities - which seems to be the older, grumpier fans' complaint.  And I don't care, I guess.  It'd be an interesting study for some budding sociology or anthropology student out there, though.

how would I not support this?

Comics and sci-fi fandom has long been dominated by outsider males, and us who are older know that terms like "geek", "dork" and "nerd" were co-opted in the early 00's as a badge of honor, but we grew up with those as terms intended to hurt.  "Comic Nerd" was not necessarily something I wanted to be known as by high school, but by college I think I'd quit giving a damn in the wake of books like Invisibles that I didn't need someone else to tell me was cool or hip.  And at some point I realized my favorite idea - the one that resonated with me most of all - literally got me made fun of by the very people selling me the Superman comics I wanted to buy.

see, Carrie Kelley?  I can support this.

Yeah, Superman was that uncool circa 1998.  Being crowned loser among losers gives you no small bit of freedom to realize its all pretty ridiculous.

It is weird to see 18 year olds proudly stating their geekness.  Something was won silently and stealthily by a generation who is now passing into irrelevance through age and attrition, and I can understand feeling a little territorial.  You always wish the kids appreciated or understood a bit more about what paved the way for how we got here today.

this is probably the coolest I've ever found Hawkeye in my life

I can understand, but I'm not sure I empathize.  And I also know my consumption of comics and minimal participation in - heck, aversion to - a face-to-face comics community is not what-you-are-supposed-to-do as a comics reader.  I see G4.  I know what they think a comics fan looks like, and its not me.

I'd be remiss to not point out that there's a sexual undertone to a lot of the CosPlay, especially for the women who choose to dress in some of the more revealing outfits from comics.  I'm sure that figures in somehow to the argument that happened today, and accusations will be made on both sides regarding the practice.   I don't know if I have an opinion on this as well other than that it often reminds me how oddly designed modern costumes for female characters often are, and I guess I'm to tip my hat to someone who manages to make the physics of an Emma Frost costume work.  And, of course, it complicates the arguments in some quarters regarding female character costume design when PowerGirl's Old 52 costume is a staple of cons.

But it's also not comics, at least not directly.  But clearly the Cons aren't really about comics, anyway.  They're about the knick-knacks of hobbiests who want a piece of the fantasy, the same way I own DC Direct Kryptonite, Kandor and a cape and belt set.

But at the end of the day do I hope someone is really reading that comic?  Yeah, probably.  It'd seem silly to dress up as a character you're own marginally familiar with, but, again, I can't see how it possibly matters.

What does impress me is when I stumble across a photo of someone in something hilariously offbeat like a homemade Orion costume made out of a bucket for a helmet or an obscure character.  That impresses me.  Them's is my people.

well, this may be a strong argument in the anti-CosPlay argument's favor.  


Matt A. said...

I don't understand why anyone would be surprised by people wanting Texas to secede. There was a big movement for it back in '96 (I had a prof who kept going on about how there wasn't any actual Texas law that said we were part of the Union), and it keeps popping up like a prairie dog.

And, that guy cosplay like Link on the horse? He's holding his reigns too tight.

Paul Toohey said...

A) I thought you were a pretty big Bigfoot fan...

J.S. said...

CosPlay is weird. The fact that people are taking it seriously is even weirder. Texas was legally annexed as a state through joint resolution. This method of annexation was deemed legal by the U.S. Supreme Court in subsequent Supreme Court opinion. Both the Texas legislature and the Texas people voted to approve statehood. People who think Texas sin't a state don't understand the law. Sometimes I see them come to court and argue with the judge about legal authority. Usually this ends poorly for them.

The League said...

I don't really understand why CosPlay exploded in the past 10 years, but it has, and it's a huge part of Con culture. As I said, I don't really do Cons, so I'm not even really that aware of what it's all about.

I think there's a side of the fanbase that wants the big tent that CosPlay supports - especially as it seems to be attractive to young women, and comics has always had a hard time with cultivating a female following.

I do understand the confusion on the part of fans of comics as to the stealing of focus - but I think of the comics companies were doing much worth while, it wouldn't feel like such an attention deflector.