I first started "noticing" cosplay around 2010 or so, which is when I went to my first non-horror related convention, or comic-con if you will. I saw so many people dressed up as their favorite characters, and I thought it was really cool. They put a lot of time and effort into the costumes, and I could tell they were very dedicated to it.
I made friends with a lot of them, and through social media, I was able to keep up with their cosplays, and then we'd meet up at conventions and it was always a lot of fun.
Over the years, I also became familiar with most of the "famous" cosplayers, Yaya Han, Jessica Nigri, Ivy Doomkitty, etc. These people also put a lot of time and energy into their costumes, and I was usually pretty impressed. However, for some of them it seemed to be more about being famous than about the actual cosplay. Now, dear reader, please do not misunderstand. This is just a personal observation, and I'm not saying they are bad people, it's just that I noticed that for some it seemed more about the fame than about the actual costumes, when all along, we had been told that was not the case.
OK, so let's set aside the "big names" for now. They are not the focus of this article.......
Many of the cosplayers I followed, regardless of "notoriety level", would offer signed prints, or other memorabilia, as a way to earn money to buy materials for future cosplays. I have no issue with this. I do not begrudge anyone the right to make a dollar, and I am all for free enterprise. Over the years, I purchased many prints. It's a memento for me, and it helps out people that I have come to like and appreciate. Most of the cosplayers in question were very grateful. I receive handwritten notes from many of them, and I also received emails or Facebook messages thanking me for my contribution.
Then, over time, it seemed to change a little bit. For several cosplayers, I noticed that they were constantly asking for money. My newsfeed became, to a certain degree, constant "spam". Then the crowdfunding campaign requests began to roll in. Indiegogo, GoFundMe, you name it. People were constantly asking for money to either support their next cosplay, or help them get to a certain convention. I started to think, "Wait a second. I thought this was a hobby?" I have a lot of friends who have all sorts of hobbies and interests, and none of them have ever asked for money to support those hobbies. I have friends who collect autographs and movie memorabilia, and none of them ever started an GoFundMe campaign to help them go to an autograph convention.
Again, let me make it clear. This is America, and I have no issue with this in principle. If people want to ask for money, and other people want to hand it over, it's a private transaction between too people. I should also state that the cosplayers did provide certain perks, such as signed prints or exclusive photos, or other things like Skype chat sessions. Again, the cosplayer got some money, and the fan got something that they felt had value to them. Full disclosure, I did contribute to a small handful of these campaigns, but these were for people who I had met in person and who I considered friends.
Now, as I write this in March of 2016, the latest request for money seems to be in the form of Patreon. For those who are not familiar with this, cosplayers can set up a Patreon account, and people can become "Patrons", and contribute various amounts, per week or per month. The cosplayer offers different rewards at different "tiers". Again, this could be signed prints, exclusive photos and videos, or other types of perks.
Once again, it's up to each person to decide where to spend their hard earned money. If they want to donate $25 per month and get some exclusive photos out of it, fine, go for it.
I must say, some of these cosplayers seem to have the right idea. Some of them are receiving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per month. I'm starting to think I am in the wrong business!! Now, I know I run the risk of sounding sexist, and I thought of ways to try and be diplomatic when saying this, but the fact is, the vast majority of the cosplayers who are making the most money on Patreon are the ones who engage in "sexy" cosplay. Again, there is NOTHING wrong with this, and I am not judging. I guess it just goes to show that people are willing to pledge a certain amount of money, every month, in order to receive pictures of beautiful women in sexy costumes.
Where am I going with all of this? Well, I guess my question is, when cosplayers say they "do it for fun" and "it's a hobby," are they really being sincere about that? Is it really just a hobby for some of them, or is it more of a career? Even if it has turned into a career, is there inherently anything wrong with that?
I must say, I have mixed feelings. I have many cosplay friends and I follow their efforts very closely, and I love meeting up with them at conventions and events and taking pictures and having fun. However, my news feed seems to have become a flood of requests for money. Not only that, but with a lot of them, I can no longer just purchase a signed print here or there. I have to pledge a monthly amount in order to get these items, and for right now, I am just not willing to do that. Something about it just doesn't seem right. I am all for people making money, especially if they can do it as a by-product of doing something that they love, but there comes a point where it seems like overkill, and the constant requests for money can be a little off-putting. There has to be a balance out there, and I hope we can find it.
Note: I purposely didn't add any pictures to this blog post, as I usually do because I didn't want to give the appearance that I was singling anyone out. I love all my cosplay friends, and I admire their hard work and dedication, but I just felt the need to state my feelings on this subject, and I am sure there are others out there thinking about the same things.
Please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!
-The Horror Nerd