Condescension, Snobbery, Rankism & Cosplay Bullying in Costume Clubs

Have you ever encountered #CostumeClub members while you were in #costume? Did they talk to you about your costume or #cosplay? Did they start to critique your costume and you make feel uncomfortable? If your answer to the last question was “yes”, you’re not alone.

The practice by some costume club members critiquing & criticizing other people’s #costumes & #cosplays is a common occurrence. Not all costume club members do this, but enough of them do it that it’s periodically a topic of conversation amongst people who aren’t costume club members or who are members of other costume clubs. While there is high likelihood that the critical costume club members are part of a #StarWars costume club, the real question is why do any costume club members behave like this?

Let’s begin with the fact that costume clubs typically base approval for membership on what its members have deemed to be a “high quality” costume, which generally implies that the costume has been constructed using durable materials that allow the costume to be long-lasting and worn many times while showing little or no damage as a result of repeated wearings. “Star Wars” costume clubs (and some others) also require what their members often refer to as “screen-accuracy”, which means (in essence) that the costume appears so accurate that it makes the wearer look like he or she walked off of a movie screen or comic book.

“High quality” and “screen accuracy” also mean something else: that such a costume isn’t necessarily common and was very likely rather expensive to obtain. The use of “high quality” (durable) materials and a screen accurate appearance isn’t something that you can just run down to a specialty costume/party store or department store to purchase. Instead, the wearer probably had to seek out private prop & costume makers, expensive commercially-licensed professional costume suppliers, or some combination of the two; plus obtaining other items, such as appropriate tools, in order to have and wear that costume. In other words, they spent a lot of time, money and effort to have a “high quality” (and probably “screen accurate”) costume just to get into the costume club’s door.

Now, while there are many other costumers, cosplayers and #fursuiters who have spent considerable time, money and effort to have the costumes that they wear, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to start behaving in a critical manner towards other costumers, cosplayers & fursuiters. Mind you, it can and does happen, but there’s another layer that contributes to the false sense of superiority that some costume club members develop: the “specialness” and “privilege” of being an approved member of that costume club.

Each costume club creates its own internal subculture that’s unique to that club. That subculture includes access to events and information that isn’t available to people outside of the club; the use of special “jargon” that developed internally within that club; access to members-only message boards & groups; the ability to purchase, own and wear members-only swag that is unique to that club; etc. All of these aspects (combined with the fact that the member owns at least one expensive, “high-quality”, “screen accurate” costume to be a member of that club) can sometimes make that member feel overly “special” or “privileged”. This sense of being overly “special” & privileged that can develop may lead to some very negative qualities: arrogance, conceit, vanity, condescension, snobbery, etc.:

“Look at me: I’m special. I have an awesome costume and I’m part of such-and-such costume club and can access things that you can’t. This makes me better than you because you’re not a member and can’t see these member-only things.”

Now, while not everyone who joins a costume club subsequently becomes condescending and snobbish after joining, when someone outside of the club encounters any costume club members that are, chances are high that that person may conclude that most (if not all) of that club’s members are the same way. This is especially true if the snobbish & condescending members acted patronizingly towards the person, or were observed by that person being patronizing towards someone else.

Costume club members who publicly act arrogantly, conceitedly, condescendingly, patronizingly or snobbishly towards non-members ultimately damage that costume club’s reputation.

Usually, only fellow costume club members are privy to the full, unbridled extent of how arrogant, conceited, vain, condescending & snobbish some costume club members can become because they can exhibit those qualities without fear of reprisal in the perceived safety and privacy of members-only groups and message boards. The degree of arrogance, conceit, vanity, condescension & snobbery displayed in those members-only groups & message boards would surprise outsiders as it often surprises newly approved members who never realized that this occurred until after they joined. Sadly, some new members can and do get pulled into having the same negative behavior and self-aggrandizing views over time.

Reading this, you might ask, “Don’t costume clubs discourage this kind of behavior?” As an example, at the very beginning of Section 1 of the “Code of Conduct” of the 501st Legion’s “Operation Protocols” (or bylaws), the following is written:

“The 501st Legion recognizes that its costumes represent characters from the STAR WARS™ films and as such, costume-wearers carry the responsibility of portraying these characters professionally and tastefully while in public. For these reasons, all members are prohibited from acting in a manner disrespectful towards the image they are portraying, towards fellow organization members, or towards the public at large while in costume at any event where the 501st Legion or its sub-units and members are official participants.”

While this all sounds very good, one only has to read the fine print at the end: respectful behavior is ONLY required “while in costume at any event where the 501st Legion or its sub-units and members are official participants.” Thus, when 501st Legion members aren’t in costume or aren’t directly representing the 501st Legion at an official event, they can act as disrespectfully as they want. And, sadly, some of them (as well as the members of other clubs with similar rules) do exactly that.

So, how do you think arrogant, conceited, condescending, patronizing & snobbish costume club members react when confronted about their behavior towards others when they’re not in costume and otherwise not representing the club in their eyes? They become defensive and often resort to rationalizations and confirmation biases in an attempt to justify their disrespectful & self-aggrandizing behavior.

Back in the year 1997, a professor named Robert Fuller coined a more generic term to describe all kinds of disrespectful & self-aggrandizing behavior: “rankism”, which he defines as the “abusive, discriminatory, or exploitative behavior towards people because of their rank in a particular hierarchy.”  Rankism is what people who regard themselves as “somebodies” do to people whom they regard to be “nobodies”. Rank-based abuse underlies a broad spectrum of negative phenomena, such as #bullying, #elitism, #racism, #hazing, #ageism, #sexism, #homophobia & more.

Rankism can occur in any social hierarchy (such as governments, corporations, families, non-profit organizations, and universities) and tends to feed on itself within a group context. Two of the many characteristic examples of rankism that apply to costume club member snobbery & condescension include the following:

  • Using rank as a shield to get away with insulting or humiliating others with impunity.
  • Exporting the rank achieved in one sphere of activity to claim superior value as a person.
The victims of rankism experience it as an affront to their personal dignity.

Incidents of rankism (arrogance, conceit, condescension, snobbery, etc) occur within costume clubs more frequently than their leaderships & members would care to admit. Examples of rankism that have been directly observed within more than one “Star Wars” costume club include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • People wearing costumes constructed from materials that the costume club generally regards as being “low quality” (such as EVA foam) are often viewed with derision & disdain.
    • Convention attendees wearing costumes or cosplays made from such materials may be directly criticized for doing so by some costume club members.
    • Costume club members may express their negative views regarding such costumes & materials on costume club message boards that are typically only accessible to other members.
    • The members of other costume clubs that permit the usage of materials regarded as being lesser quality may also be subject to criticism and derogatory names. Derogatory names such as “garbage-can Mandos” and “bathrobe Jedi” are two examples of how some members of one particular “Star Wars” costume club sometimes have referred to the members of two other “Star Wars” costume clubs.
  • Individuals who built customized versions of “canon” costumes may also subject to criticism by members of costume clubs that don’t permit customization and view them as not being “screen-accurate”.
    • Members of costume clubs that don’t permit customization often criticize similar costume clubs that do.
  • Costumed convention attendees who aren’t costume club members may find themselves and their costumes being critiqued by members of a costume club who take it upon themselves to let those attendees know what they did wrong and what they should make their costumes more “screen-accurate” or on par with the level of quality that their costume club requires for membership. More often than not, the costumed attendees probably never asked or even approached the costume club members or asked the members for their views on their costumes. Out of arrogance & vanity, some costume club members believe it’s their duty to impose their unwanted “expertise” upon others because they’re so convinced that everyone ultimately wants to join their club, which isn’t true.

Criticizing others due to the quality or appearance of their costumes or the types of materials that they used may sound like a familiar type of negative behavior that we have spoken against in the past: #CosplayBullying. For example, while the 501st Legion’s “Code of Conduct” (as we referenced above) lists several types of unacceptable harassment by its members (including sexual harassment, racial prejudice and sexual orientation prejudice), criticizing or harassing people due to the perceived quality or accuracy of their costumes is not specifically listed. Thus, the “Code of Conduct” of the world’s single largest costume club fails to address the problem of cosplay bullying. And, cosplay bullying is often at the heart why some people stop cosplaying altogether.

As a whole, costume clubs have failed in their responsibility to encourage members to behave respectfully towards others even when they’re not in costume or not otherwise directly representing the club. While they may not view these “out of costume” times as being enforceable, they could (at the very least) educate their members that their behavior (both in and out of costume) can reflect poorly on the club (and themselves) when they act disrespectfully towards others and are self-aggrandizing. They could stop members from behaving arrogantly, conceitedly, condescendingly & snobbishly towards other in their members-only message boards & groups, but by failing to do so, they enable the behavior instead of discouraging it.

Cosplay bullying is never acceptable, regardless of the form that it takes.

say-no-to-bullying-in-cosplay

References:

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DIY: Making Your Own Fake Leather

#Leather isn’t an uncommon element for #costumes & #cosplays, but it doesn’t have to be the real thing. Real leather can be cost prohibitive (not just the leather, but the tooling also can be pricey), becomes hot to wear or there may be objections to using and/or wearing animal products.

To solve these dilemmas, there’s an easy solution: make your own faux or fake leather. The question is how? The most obvious solution is to use faux leather fabric (or pleather); but if you need something that’s thicker than pleather you can use some foam underneath it, or you could just transform foam into your own homemade fake leather. You could even paint fabric to make it look leathery.

The first video tutorial below by Ginny Di talks about combining pleather with foam to create realistic looking fake leather. To do this you’ll need pleather, paints & foam.

If you want to make your own fake leather from foam only, you can try a technique presented by Buddy Cosplay. To do this, you’d need several tools, including an iron, heat gun, paints, foam, aluminum foil.

The next video is similar to the first, but isn’t as detailed. It’s by ButtercupBrix.

There are other similar tutorial videos online. The key to remember here is that you don’t have to use actual leather and you can let your creativity take you where you want. You could even make a gas mask that looks like leather by combining these techniques with the gas mask tutorial that we just posted.

References

DIY Cosplay Gas Mask

If you’re doing a #cosplay that requires a gas mask, you could use an actual gas mask, but it may be cost prohibitive or it may become uncomfortable to wear for long periods as actual gas masks are made with rubber and are intended to form a tight seal around the face. Solution? Make your own cosplay gas mask! Not only will you be able to customize it however you want, it will be very easy to paint! (It’s really not easy to paint stretchy rubber as it will crack when you stretch it or wear it.)

While we aren’t necessarily advocating that you purchase this pattern,  but #cosplayer Lost Wax provides an excellent one with a tutorial video on how to make your very own cosplay gas mask:

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DIY: Making a Fursuit Head

The most distinguishing feature of any #fursuit #cosplay is its head. The head is probably the single most important element to any fursuit because the head is what helps to define the identity and species of the type of anthropomorphic character that the #fursuiter is portraying more than any other component. It’s also often the part of the fursuit that draws the most attention.

We’ll begin by stating that there are multiple ways in which a fursuit head can be constructed, but the primary components that are almost always used in all fursuit heads are (1) foam and (2) fur.

  • Foam is what gives the fursuit head its overall shape. Other materials (such as EVA foam or parts casted from resin) may also be used as part of the inner structure.
  • Synthetic fur (in typically different colors) is then applied to the outside of the head in patterns according to how the wearer wants it to look.

Other materials that you will need include the following:

  • Hot glue gun & sticks (a lot of stick)
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape / ruler
  • Sewing (a sewing machine is recommended, but some sewing will have to be done by hand)
  • A head form
  • Hair clippers (for cutting the synthetic fur)
  • Vacuum cleaner (for cleaning up debris)

Most fursuit heads have static jaws, but if a fursuiter wants the jaw to move as they move their mouth on the inside, that needs to be taken into account before any work is done in constructing the fursuit head.

Several Documented Methods

For simplicity, we’ll break down some of the techniques for making a fursuit head into the following methods that we arbitrarily named. An important note: these aren’t necessarily the only ways in which a fursuit head can be constructed.

  • Method A (Static jaw, from the inside out over a balaclava base)
    • Start with a knit balaclava as the first inner layer.
    • While wearing the balaclava, wrap a sheet of foam around the head to form a cylinder that’s the same size as the maximum diameter of the wearer’s head.
    • With the balaclava removed, glue and and shape the cylinder around the sides and top of the head.
    • More foam is then added, shaped and sculpted to form the head of the anthropomorphic character before any fur is added.
  • Method B (Static jaw, from the outside in starting with wide foam)
    • Start with two very thick pieces of foam (like a foam mattress) and glue them together.
    • Begin to cut and shape the exterior of the anthropomorphic character by working inwardly. This is like creating an actual sculpture.
    • Gouge out the shape for the wearer’s head to fit inside of the sculpted head.
  • Method C (Static or movable jaw, from the inside out over an elastic strap base)
    • Create a simple structure for the head using 3 pieces of cut elastic strap, one of which goes around the chin.
    • Begin attaching foam pieces to the stretched elastic straps (that are on a head mold) to form a base layer of foam.
    • After attaching the foam to the chin area, cut the foam (and not the elastic beneath) if you want a movable jaw.
    • Ad more foam that is shaped and cut similar to what was done in Method A.
  • Method D (Movable jaw, from the inside out & using a resin-casted muzzle)
    • To do this method, starting with Method A or C for the base layer will be a good starting point.
    • Instead of forming a muzzle out of foam, use a hinged resin-casted muzzle (purchased from a prop maker) as the base of the muzzle. Then add foam over of the resin to create the desired head shape.
    • Of the various methods listed, this is probably the most expensive due to the need to purchase a resin-casted muzzle.

Now for the example videos.

Method A is shown by Skyehigh Studios:

We also recommend watching an 8-part video series posted by Koofsuits. We included the first of the 8-part video series on how she constructs a fursuit head. She doesn’t show the initial creation of the base layer as Skyehigh Studios did in the previous video.

Method B is shown by fursuiter StarryKitsune:

Method C is shown by fursuiter Tiny Badger:

Part of Method D is shown by prop maker CanineHybrid:

Using EVA Foam in the Fursuit Head Build

Fursuit maker AlbinoTopaz recorded how she made a fursuit head for an auction winner that incorporates EVA foam for additional rigidity in the final product. EVA foam was used for both the ears and teeth. This required painting.

References:

 

DIY: Making a Bionic Arm from EVA Foam

While we have previously shared David Guyton’s video tutorial on how to make a bionic arm from metal, he has just released a brand new tutorial on making one out of EVA foam!

While EVA foam is far less durable a material than metal, it has several distinct advantages over metal:

  • Some conventions have banned the wearing of metal armor. If you’re planning to attend such a convention in an armored costume, it will have to be made out of some other material, such as plastic or EVA foam.
  • EVA foam is much lighter than metal making it easier to wear.
  • While metal is a rather rigid material, EVA foam is far more flexible, which also makes EVA foam easier to wear.
  • Since EVA foam is a soft material as compared with metal, it’s much easier to work with than metal.
  • The tools & materials are less costly & easier to obtain for working with EVA foam as opposed to metal.
  • The skills required to work with EVA foam are easier to learn than the skills needed for working with metal.
  • Unlike metal edges that need to be sanded so that they won’t accidentally cut into skin, you needn’t worry about EVA foam edges being a potential safety hazard.
  • Unlike metal that can rust, EVA foam can’t rust.
  • You’re far less likely to disturb neighbors working with EVA foam because you don’t have to hammer it as you would need to do with metal.

The biggest disadvantages with EVA foam as compared with metal are as follows:

  • EVA foam is not as durable as metal (as previously mentioned), meaning it has a much higher chance of being damaged while being worn or stored.
  • Greater care must be used for storing EVA foam armor than with metal to ensure that it keeps its intended shape.
  • EVA foam armor is going to be much thicker than a metal equivalent, so additional allowances have to be made.
  • Replicating a metallic shine with painted EVA foam will probably never be as shiny as actual metal.

If you haven’t worked with EVA foam before, we recommend reading Working with EVA Foam for Beginners.

References:

All Kinds of EVA Foam Explained by Punished Props

Bill Doran of #PunishedProps has posted a fantastic video on #YouTube explaining lots of different kinds of #EVAFoam used by #cosplayers. If you make #costumes with EVA foam or are thinking about it, you should watch this video.

He focuses primarily on types of EVA foam available in the United States, but does touch one some types in Europe and a few other places.

We’ve also shared the links to various sources of EVA foam below the video.

EVA Foam Sources: