To my creative friends:
Conventions have always been the ultimate “safe space” for nerds, geeks and superfans. Even in recent years as fandom has become more mainstream, the con scene has remained a haven for those looking to celebrate their passions. In some cases, the family/community environment has led to security more reliant on an honor system than true vigilance, with voluntary peace bonding and self-checking. It was no big deal. We trusted each other, and that trust was usually well-placed.
After the events at Phoenix Comicon, security concerns were shoved to the forefront of the convention scene, specifically as it related to cosplayers and their prop weapons. Cosplayers attending PhxCC (and nerds in general) appeared divided about the prop weapons ban: some swallowed their disappointment and adapted to the change, and some grew angry at the perceived punishment for the deed of one bad apple.
Both sides of the argument are legitimate. We need to be secure. We long to be free to express our creativity. Jason David Frank, the target of the Phoenix Comicon incident, recently held a Facebook Live stream and outlined several suggestions to increase security, some of which would affect costumers (https://www.facebook.com/jasondfrank/). A mixture of thumbs-up and angry emojis accompanied his suggestions, clearly illustrating the polarization attached to this issue. Can there be balance in a fandom so highly charged with emotional, even passionate attachment to costuming?
I attended Phoenix Comicon the entire weekend, hosting panels and cosplaying. Thursday, gossip rippled through the convention hall of a gunman taken down by the Phoenix PD. Thursday evening a blanket ban on all props was announced. Friday morning the ban was relaxed to prop weapons only, though it included obvious fantasy weapons like light sabers and cardboard swords. The line for security checks snaked around the building and back again, leaving people for hours in the heat. Saturday the line was quicker, more streamlined. The Sunday security line was a smooth glide. On the operations side of things, the problem was solved.
But the cosplay community is now left to adjust to the fallout from this incident, as conventions across the country review their security and weapons policies. The hours and weeks spent on creating a weapons-based character is of no importance to a venue that wishes to avoid danger, potential injury, and lawsuits. So as cosplayers, the onus is on us to adjust to our new constraints.
How can we approach our art and honor it, knowing there are limits to what is permitted? I am eager to discuss this. We are an innovative bunch, and I believe we can use our talents and skills to evolve in a way that preserves the unity within cosplay culture. Let’s open a constructive dialogue with one another. The complaints we may have are indeed valid, but in the spirit of positivity, let us focus on ways we can adapt and thrive.
I close this with the greatest respect for my fellow cosplayers, and also for the law enforcement and security officers that help protect us as we celebrate. Let us move forward with an eye to protect our friends and make the convention environment as safe as possible. We cosplayers can work together on this.