Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The third of 5 parts continuing my interview with Booster Gold cosplayer Nicole (Demyrie).
BOOSTERRIFIC: How does cosplaying in a Booster Gold costume differ from other forms of fan-participation, such as writing fan fiction or drawing fan art?
NICOLE: I indulge in all forms of fan-creation, honestly, but cosplaying is what sticks most with Booster because of the public nature of the character.
Cosplay is a tricky business, in my opinion, because of the balance of factors at play. You can be an incredible seamstress but fight shyness your whole life, or you can put the emphasis on the performance/attention and either half-ass your costumes or buy them online. I've actually heard of cosplay used as a kind of behavioral therapy for those shy people, where they can adopt another personality and explore low-risk social situations, but I'm a drama-kid: fear left me a long, long time ago! For me, the art is in both the creation and the performance and I love each aspect equally.
Call it romantic, but I try to make each of my cosplays an homage to a character I adore unconditionally. It's a holistic, yet totally biased view of his or her past, of their mentality, and their journey. I pick the aspects I want to reflect (which version of the costume? Which era? Realistic or cartoony take?) and render them in fabric and a little improv and hope that what I love about them resonates in me. For example, I love bringing out the (doofy) debonair in Booster because it allows a vent for my gender-fluidity, giving a frame to my semi-masculine traits that often confuse both men and women when I'm schmoozing on them in a skirt and heels.
The middle-space of gender-bending, a very popular thing in cosplay recently and an unintentional experiment in gender performativity, is so interesting and weird that it almost deserves an in-depth study in and of itself. What do women gain by effectively putting on a male character while remaining women, and how are they received by a male-dominated and male-produced industry? For example, being She-Booster allows me to playfully proposition both men and (presumably very heterosexual) women, and without exception they react positively – you explain that! I suppose the men see the woman, and the women see the suit: a gender-icon Rorschach test.
BOOSTERRIFIC: How is cosplay different than stage acting?
NICOLE: Cosplay is much different from stage-acting in that it's like wearing an art piece and sometimes, as is your wont and shyness level, animating it. It's also completely interaction-based and the opportunity to improv with fans is like having a hilarious, coded conversation about your favorite comic-book moments, yet taken out of canonical context and into fandom. You really need to be prepared for anything if you're going to avoid awkward situations! (While gender-bending Robin, one of the moments that struck me speechless was when I was posing with an impressive Batman and someone in the crowd shouted (and I'm summarizing here) "KISS!". I opted for a kiss on the cheek, but the original order was far more graphic, and in public!)
So, yes, subject is very important for me. The few times I've made cosplays either for ease of execution or "I dunno, 'cuz?", I've been sorely disappointed. I don't connect with the people that I want to and I don't have fun, all because I don't care about the character. You do have to be careful, though, that you don't go overboard in your representation of your favorite character: you have to know when to drop the smug ass shtick and actually answer a question, or when to stop whining about that record deal that went bad in issue 72. You don't want to seem DETACHED from reality, just that you're questioning it humorously while in a spandex suit.