Aug 14, 2008

Suspension of Disbelief

A group of friends and I recently went made our way down to the famed San Diego Comic-Con, the world’s foremost comic book and pop culture event. Though I had some idea of what to expect thanks to the massive coverage the event has garnered in recent years, I was not prepared for what actually went down – Celebrities! Artists! Comics! Collectibles! Videogames! A true Disney for the over-25 set.

However, it wasn’t the fact that I was in the same room with Keifer Sutherland that blew my mind. Nor was it that I was less than 20 feet away from the entire cast of Heroes. Me hanging with Brandon Fraiser and Jet Li? What a bore! Namedropping aside, what really knocked my socks off was the daily parade of cosplayers strolling the halls of the San Diego Convention Center. Adult men and women, and in most cases their kids, dressed up to the nines as their favorite movie, TV, videogame characters.

Cosplayer, a hybrid of the words costume and player, is a Japanese term that describes these people. And when I say dress-up, I mean a full-out replica of the real thing, sometimes even better than the real McCoy, oftentimes a hilarious attempt.

These “kids” don’t just go to the local Wal-Mart and pick out a Superman suit. These people invest a lot of time, money, and energy in designing and producing custom get-ups. In most cases, the attention to detail and precision in replicating their character of choice is just phenomenal. You have to ask yourself and wonder how they did it. For example, there were a few dudes dressed as old-school Battlestar Galactica cylons, complete with the wooshing red flash for eyes and the drone metallic “voice”. There was a dude who simply WAS Bumblebee from Transformers. The dude would walk and you could see and hear the mechanical zips and whirs. His eyes were actual blue lights. The only thing that separated him from the movie version of the robot was his human height.

Everyday I saw someone new: Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, Countless Supermen and Batmen, Klingons, Predators (even of the overweight, middle-aged variety), Draculas, Mario & Luigi, Zelda, Indiana Jones… there was even a dude who looked and dressed like George Lucas, though it was hard to tell if he was trying to impersonate him or if that was just his natural look.

I noticed that all of these people shared one thing in common. Besides the obvious dedication to their “craft” and love of pop culture, all of these individuals quite literally transformed themselves into the role they were assuming. This wasn’t role-playing; this was role-living. Putting on a costume meant becoming that other person, assuming a new attitude and boasting a new confidence. Not particularly attractive women dressed in the Princess Lea brass bikini from Return of the Jedi actually believed they were hot, sexy, and in distress. Dudes dressed like Dr. Jones walked with a newfound swagger and bravado, as if their penises had just grown a few inches simply by putting on the fedora. The Predator strolled the halls of the center as if he really were a lost alien looking for the thrill of the hunt, even threatening people with his laser sight. Oh, and every son-of-a-bitch that wielded a light saber also wore a cloak of arrogance as thick as Jabba the Hut’s gut.

Dressing up is fun, which is why I love Holloween so much. But these people go beyond having fun. This is a new life, a new identity they assume. With a “simple” costume, the weak and shy become strong and overly confident. The regular Joe becomes painfully handsome. The quiet bookworm girl becomes a sexpot.

Comic Con was quite an experience. But nothing can compare with the cathartic effects of the cosplayers’ experience. You had to applaud them, even the crappy, how-did-he-dare-to-leave-the-house variety. No matter how accurate or shitty their costume, that shit takes guts. I simply don’t have the balls to eat at a restaurant dressed up as a Storm Trooper, even is surrounded by 125,000 geeks.

Go cosplayers!


Me said...

Aw, come on. With a few beers knocked out, we would have looked great dressed as The A Team at the In and Out...

Best Review Ever of SDCC...

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