On Recent Events, An Open Letter to Cosplayers From a Cosplayer

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.

Katherine Stewart
(Bustle Girl)

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7 comments

  1. Sadly, the security we saw both before and after this event was mostly theater. There are ways to preclude this incident , with minimal inconvenience to attendees. I suspect metal and soft air prop weapons will go away, to reduce line length. Peace bonding needs to move outside, with someone knowledgeable inspecting. This is not the place to outline all changes that should be made, but this past PCC was a series of rushed, poorly thought out decisions. If someone was a true terrorist, the thousands of people milling about on Friday would have been an ideal soft target.

    1. I had noted that the “knee jerk” reaction actually put the attendees in more danger of open attacks and heat illness. I think that checks for purses and bagagges before entering could be the same implementation for cosplay weapons. The only other option is we could do what Japan does for Comiket.

      Cosplay Guidance

      Changing Rooms and Cosplay Areas

      Men’s Changing Room – East block, first floor atrium
      Women’s Changing Room – Meeting Hall, first floor
      Cosplay Area 1 (all 3 days) – North Concourse 1st floor restaurant area courtyard
      Cosplay Area 2 (day 1 and 2) – Lower courtyard (day 3) – Upper courtyard

      Registration

      Dressing rooms are open for entry from 10:00am ~ 3:30pm and will accept new registrations only during this time. Last call for registration on day 3 is earlier ~ 2:30pm.

      Dressing Room and Cosplay Area Hours

      Dressing rooms may be used from 10:00am ~ 4:30 pm (until 3:30pm on day 3).

      The first cosplay area is open from 10:00am ~ 4:00pm (3:00pm on day 3).

      The second cosplay area is open from 10:00am ~ 4:00pm (3:00pm on day 3).

      These are not the same hours as the rest of the event, so take care not to miss the dressing room deadline while browsing in costume.

      Cosplay Rules

      Cosplaying participants are held to the general attendance rules of Comiket as well as the additional regulations outlined below. Please be aware that poor behavior while in costume may result in the further restriction of cosplay or dissappearance of cosplay entirely from future events.

      Arriving to or Leaving the Event in Costume is Prohibited

      It’s against the rules to arrive at Comiket or return home from Comiket while in costume. When arriving by car it is also forbidden to change in your vehicle. Please make use of the changing rooms.

      When Cosplaying, Please Register outside of the Changing Room

      Cosplayers must register on each day of the event at their respective changing rooms. Please do not forget to register on each day.

      Changing Room Rules

      -Do not take breaks or wait for friends in the dressing area.
      -Do not use dyes or color sprays in the dressing area.
      -Do not take photos or annoy others around you.
      -Do your best to change as quickly and efficiently as possible without taking up too much space.
      -Don’t spread your luggage out.
      -Don’t leave luggage in the changing room. You must take it with you.

      About Registration Stickers

      On registering, you will recieve a “ちぇんじ” pamphlet and sticker to prove that you have conformed to the changing policy. Each day’s sticker is a different color. The pamphlet contains the most up-to-date and detailed rules for the event. Please read it in full.

      You must register each day, but the booklet can be reused, so please bring it with you each day you attend.

      You will be asked to show your booklet several times throughout the day (on changing, entering and exiting the cosplay areas, etc.), so carry it with you at all times. If you are found to be in violation of a Comiket costume policy, it will also be noted in this book.

      On Rain

      In case of bad weather, the cosplay areas may be closed. We will open alternate areas indoors for photography, so please ask the staff for guidance.

      Limitations on Cosplay Costumes

      Before preparing your costume, please note that some costumes and props are forbidden or limited. Those in violation will not be allowed to enter the cosplay area until the offending items have been removed. So please be careful.

      Uniforms of Public Servants and Rescue Workers

      Police uniforms appearing in anime and manga, real officer uniforms, original police uniforms, firefighting uniforms, the uniforms of rescue workers, or government officials are strictly forbidden. (Parody is allowed, but only in cases where there is no danger of confusion with real officers).

      The uniforms of security guards, SWAT members, etc. are also forbidden. Please refrain from wearing any official uniforms which are presently used and may cause confusion.

      Wearing any form of uniform outside of Big Site, in the convenience stores on-site or near the street and crossings is expressly forbidden. This includes military uniforms currently in use in countries other than Japan.

      Costumes That May be Dangerous to Others or Cause Injuries

      Costumes or elements that may poke, hit or be tread on by others, flammable costumes, fake blood, strong-smelling substances, hot-running lights, etc. are all prohibited.

      Wire parts and spikes are especially dangerous. Blades or long protrusions of all kinds, metal or paper can cause injury as well. Spike heels and other accessories that might cause injury are against the rules.

      Too-long skirts, capes, etc can get caught in the escalators, so please take extra care with them.

      Single-slat geta or other difficult-to-balance footwear should be avoided.

      Inappropriate Nudity, Transparent Costumes, etc.

      Use your best judgement and avoid clothing that might be inacceptable to society at large. Crossdressing is permitted, but please do it tastefully.

      Kigurumi and Fursuits

      Large costumes like fursuits and kigurumi costumes are limited. Any protruding parts, shoulder pieces, wings or other large pieces might hurt others or get caught in escalators and are therefore forbidden.

      Hats, Masks, etc.

      Large hats and masks may be worn for photos but must be removed when moving through the halls.

      Cosplay Questions?

      There is a “Cosplay Soudan Center” outside of each dressing room where your questions and concerns can be raised without worry.

      If you’re unsure about pieces of your costume, please check there before leaving the changing area.

      Staff members may check your costume at various points throughout the event as well. Please cooperate.

      A Note About the Men’s Changing Room:
      The men’s changing room has moved, so be sure to note the new location.

      Limitations on Cosplay Items

      When cosplaying at Comiket, all of the usual item restrictions apply as well as a few additional ones. When preparing your cosplay, be sure not to include any of the following:

      -Weapons of any size or make including swords, bows, guns, knives, etc. Other sharp items (accessories, props, etc.) are also prohibited.

      -Props over 30cm in length (tennis rackets, bats, etc.)

      -Props that may cause injury to others around you, props and accessories that run, flake or shed (glitter, fake bloode, color spray, etc.)

      -Balls and other projectiles.

      -Glass props and breakable items.

      -Items that make noise (flutes, instruments, radio casettes, etc.)

      -Anything else deemed by staff to be dangerous.

      Staff may stop you to inform you that your props are potentially dangerous. In most cases you will be allowed to put them away, as long as you don’t carry them around with you. But in some cases, items may be confiscated.

      Cosplay Area Prohibitions

      1) Performances

      The cosplay area is very crowded. Dancing, performing or creating any other sort of attraction is prohibited.

      2) Trampling the Plants, Entering the Fountains

      There are grassy areas and plants in the cosplay area. Take care not to enter these areas or trample vegitation. The lake and fountains are also off-limits.

      3) Photography Without Permission

      Photographing cosplayers while they are moving through the event or without speaking to them first is poor manners. It’s forbidden to photograph anyone without first recieving their permission.

      4) Saving Spots

      Camping photography spots or claiming areas of the event for your own exclusive use is forbidden.

      5) Soliciting

      Distributing flyers of pamphlets is forbidden

      *There are no other rules, but there are some more things to keep in mind.

      There’s nothing wrong with taking photos, but please be careful not to step on others’ feet, sit or loiter in the photo area or display other poor manners.

      In this internet age we live in, your actions can be seen all over the world.

      Racist, insensitive or potentially problematic historical costumes should be avoided.

      To Those Photographing Cosplayers

      Because of the extreme crowding at Comiket, photography is also limited. Those who are attending as photographers should read the following rules in full.

      Please also read the leaflet “さいと” available at the entrances to each cosplay area each day for the most up-to-date and complete rules.

      There Are Only a Few Areas Where Photos are Permitted

      Cosplay Areas

      Those wishing to photograph cosplayers should stay in these areas. Don’t photograph anyone in the halls or in shared spaces.

      In the case of over-crowding, there may be various limitations placed on how long you can photograph one group or remain in one place. If the crowding is extreme, new areas may be opened. In the case of rain, there will be even bigger changes.

      Listen to the staff for relevant information about any changes made.

      Prohibited Equipment

      -Lenses over 30cm in length.
      -Metal camera cases.
      -Spot lights, reflectors, etc.
      -Fish eye lenses, infrared lenses and other SFX lenses.
      -Powder-flashes, ring flashes, homemade flashes, etc.

      Other Prohibitions

      -Hiding prohibited equipment.
      -Sneak photography.
      -Videos of cosplayers moving through the cosplay area or who are unaware they’re being filmed.
      -Insisting on certain poses, long shoots or refusing to allow cosplayers to move from one area to the next.
      -Using the grass, vegetation or lake/fountain in photos (placing yourself or a model inside)

      In the Case of Rain

      -Large gatherings of photographers are not permitted.
      -Do not prepare any lights beyond small self clip-ons.

      Check with staff for any other rules of prohibitions.

  2. I was at Phoenix comicon, yes disappointed with the ban, but amused by the invention and creativity of cosplayers to fill the gap. And as a parent with two teenagers finding their way in the Nerdom that is a con, I am for safety above all else

  3. Sounds like the ask, or the question, “How can we approach our art and honor it, knowing there are limits to what is permitted?” is subjective to interpretation…

    I read it three ways:
    1- How can we safely bring props in?
    2- How do we get creative and substitute prop weapons with something else?
    3-How do we change our mindsets to accept limitations in exchange for safety?

    Well, there are a few options to solve these. One, which we are all used to, is how we have modified our behaviours and tolerance going to airports and taking flights, which includes, price hikes, getting there early for screening, metal detectors, pre-vetting (TSA Precheck), or just careful packing and not bringing anything metal or liquid… I’m still perplexed at how we can’t bring water and are subject to buying $4-$6 waters that are sold on the other side of the security checkpoints.

    That may be a little too much though considering there is not heightened security at movie theaters since James Holmes, who shot up the movie theater in Colorado 5 years ago at the Dark Knight screening, killing 12 and wounding 70 people.

    Our community is a creative bunch and with the props ban, thus yielding with some very creative substitutions. Some ‘weapons’ in the form of bananas, baguettes, carrots, fold-out fans, umbrellas, canes, cardboard signs that say pew pew, were great, funny, and honestly all accepted by fellow cosplayers and attendees.

    I anticipate more of what we went through that weekend for security at other similar events. Expect long lines and if you want to get in quicker, limit props or substitute them with something else.

    The unaddressed issue that is the actual root problem, in my opinion, is regarding mental health of the suspected would-be attacker.

  4. Just getting into the cosplay scene over the last year or so, it saddens me that one of the two “safe” places I am able to freely express my love of art, character, costume was brought “down” by one bad apple – as you state. I will not be brought down by one idiot who deemed themselves better than God – better than security – better than us? Hell no! The events in Phoenix should not dictate how we conduct ourselves at other cons or events. We (for the most part) know how to act and what is or is not allowed at a con event. With respect to authority and the ‘necessary changes’; I will choose my costume and limit my props as best as possible but I feel the need to first stay true to myself and my love of, the art of cosplay.

  5. I to attend PCC for all four days. I am an older need from a time before safe places. I have served my country overs seas and have taught we urity and anti tarrorisum. As much as I love Con and I’ve attended atlest four a year cosplay every day. Large gatherings concern me and gun free zones feel like victim zones to me. While I comend the PD and security staff for getting the bad guy I was appalled they put large numbers on Con goers and PD on the street as one big target. Banning our props was an unessasary overreaction. It only made some people feel good Theresa’s no real increase in security. I will continue to go to come and I always have an eye out for my fellow needs. I, a dad a granddad an old combat vet cosplayer and always a Freund to my those around me. Love all

  6. The problem started when many volunteers were let go this year. If we had those same people back they would have stopped the gunman before he even entered the building, just as they had diligently served as security for many years prior. Our volunteers served the Phoenix comicon faithfully until changes were made this year, where hundreds of people were let go, resulting in a fiasco.

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