After several years of not being able to go, I finally made it back to DragonCon this past Labor Day. The only difference is this year I had two small children in tow in addition to my husband. Or rather – he had us in tow. He was the only person who had any clue of where anything was, so we followed him closely. I actually used an old trick I did in high school wear I grabbed on to his backpack and held on while we walked, ensuring we didn’t get separated. I knew there were going to be a lot of people, but nothing prepared me for the squeeze and general mayhem of this convention. It was huge the last time I made it out, but it was insane now.
Of course, the best part of DragonCon, or any Con, is the people-watching, and boy did it not disappoint. One of the first costumes I saw was a lady with a sizable Toothless the Dragon draped across her shoulder, her arm carefully hidden in the neck and operating the head. She was very nice and patient, too, as I held my 3 year old close. Toothless tried to nuzzle my girl, but she was having none of that; she was quite content admiring from afar. She’s her mother’s child after all. And this Toothless-wielding lady wasn’t the only person who took special time with my kid.
It’s easy to relegate cosplayers into a group of people vying for attention, usually in Anime getups, and on one level you’d be right. They do dress to get attention. But on another level you’d be completely wrong. They dress for attention not so much for themselves as for their craft, the costume. And in that craft, they act more like a model for their pride and joy – those costumes they spent weeks, and sometimes months, making and crafting, paying attention to minute details only a select few will truly appreciate. (I have a lot of friends who are in to cosplay, and sometimes I forget I’m not actually part of that subculture. I’m just privy to it.)
Back to my daughter. She didn’t appreciate the Tinkerbell cosplayer’s sewing, makeup, or hair. Her appreciation was of a much more sincere type, and the Tinkerbell cosplayer was worth every ounce of admiration. You see, my daughter didn’t see someone dressed as Tinkerbell. She saw the One, the Actual, The Tinkerbell. And that Tinkerbell was amazing. She squatted down to my daughter’s level, something dangerous considering how many people were rushing past, and spoke with her as Tinkerbell would. My daughter informed her of her own pink wings, and Tinkerbell, without missing a beat, says, “Of, course! Because you’re a flower fairy. I’m a tinker fairy….” My daughter was totally in the know of the world of Pixie Hollow, so she was just enthralled. And me? I was so happy that this lady understood how important this moment was for my daughter. She could have just paused for a quick picture and gone on with her day, and my daughter would have been happy at that. But no, she took the time to talk and make the moment real for a child she didn’t know. I don’t know how many times I mouthed “thank you” to her as she chatted, but I still think it wasn’t quite enough.
And most of the cosplayers my daughter was brave enough to approach were just like this. Even a younger girl, around 8 years old I guess, dressed as Princess Unikitty, was patient and returned the hug my daughter gave her. A group recreating the Pixie Hollow fairies actually came back to their spot when they saw my daughter standing timidly at the edge of the crowd, too shy to walk up. They waited and waved to her, and she finally drafted another friend of mine to take her to them. (What? Mom’s too lame to go with you to Pixie Hollow?) They all took their roles seriously in that they knew how much it would mean to the little ones there, wading through thousands of people, to see them.
So in a way, I suppose this is a thank you letter to the wonderful cosplayers at DragonCon 2014. Thank you for your craft, thank you for your patience, and thank you for making my daughter’s favorite characters come to life for her.
These are just a sampling of the other blogs out there concerning DragonCon and cosplay.
If you’re interested in anything cosplay, I recommend The Geek Forge.