Pretty, Pretty, Please

by Anika

I was never bullied in high school. I wasn’t popular but I wasn’t unpopular either. I was in all the advanced classes but I wasn’t one of the smartest kids. I went to the Junior Prom with a girl, and in a hand me down dress, and no one cared. I quoted episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in my English papers and no one cared. I had a letter published in an X-Men comic about how inspiring I found Rogue and Gambit’s abstinence. I saw Les Miserables twelve times and I owned the Broadway, London, Concept (in French!), and Complete Symphonic albums. I went to conventions. I was in Wil Wheaton’s official fan club. I made up a ballet based on John Williams’s Star Wars scores, wrote down my entire concept, and carried it around with me in a shoebox. I wore my hair like Sailor Moon.

I was a nerd. And because I was high school age, I was an idiot. I was an idiot nerd girl.

And no one cared.

a photo of Anika cosplaying as Maddy beside a panel of Maddy from Avengers Academy

This is me cosplaying the character Maddy Berry aka Veil of Avengers Academy. Her first appearance, Issue 1. Maddy is a socially awkward teen girl with superpowers and a tragic destiny. She’s a lot like Sailor Saturn who I mention loving-and-cosplaying here. Here is her superheroing outfit:

a panel of Maddy in her Veil outfit, black ribbons surrounding her body

I love it. This is very much something I would make up. It’s a control thing: those ribbons are, literally, holding her together. I use clothes the same way.

But that first appearance was special.

a panel of Maddy from Avengers Academy


So that’s what I cosplayed. But here’s why I bring it up. I am thirty-six years old. This is a picture of me pretending to be a character twenty years younger than I am. A high school student. Conventional wisdom asks “How dare I?”

a photograph of Anika cosplaying Maddy

Last year at a convention panel about cosplay, one of the panelists said that Slave Girl Leia was problematic because it was exclusionary; she had never seen a Leia-of-Color and therefore, they don’t exist.

a photograph of a young woman of color cosplaying Princess Leia

I found her at the next convention I went to. I wasn’t looking for her, she was just there, walking around, enjoying the con exactly as I was. “How dare she?”

Esmeralda Disney:

a screepcap from the Disney film Hunchback of Notre Dame

Esmeralda Cosplay:

a photograph of a plus size young woman cosplaying Esmeralda

“How dare she!”

Incredibly accurate and adorable Rikku costume:

a photograph of a young woman cosplaying Rikku, in an accurately skimpy costume

“How. Dare. She.”

It’s actually pretty simple. We don’t consider it daring. I mean, I don’t speak for every woman or every cosplayer, but the ones I have spoken with (I know, what a crazy idea to actually TALK to cosplayers instead of basing my opinion on what they wear), we consider it expression. We consider it engaging with fandom. We consider it fun.

And hey, the cosplayers who do consider it daring are ALSO RIGHT. That’s the amazing thing about fandom or fashion or cosplay or compassion: it’s not a right or wrong, yes or no, black or white, boy or girl, this or that equation. It’s fifty billion shades of gray.

I am going to see Breaking Dawn: Part 2 this weekend, dressed as Bella Swan. My iPad wallpaper is the Stark Industries logo. I love Pink. I’m an idiot nerd girl.

an image of pink stars with the text: So what, I'm still a rockstar.

“Fake Geek” is a myth and a fantasy and an example of bullying. Stop it.

  • Bless this post. That is all. :-)

  • Monica

    I agree completely! I hate the myth of the ‘fake geek’. A lot of people aren’t the classical concept of a geek, but that doesn’t invalidate their passion for whatever geeky passtime they have. My older sister is like this; she was a cheerleader in high school, she’s not particularly into sci-fi or fantasy or comics or anything classically geeky – except for Lord of the Rings. She’s read all the books in English and German, she loves the movies and their hours of special features, and she’s sewn a Galadriel costume which she’s worn complete with prosthetic elf ears. Anyone who thinks her geekery is fake or ‘just for attention’ (whatever that means) – just because she isn’t a typical geek – is wrong.

  • You ARE a rockstar. Excellent points, awesome pictures!

  • This post is great. So great!

  • I’m starting to regret I’ve never cosplayed before. The only character I wanted to cosplay was Heather form Silent Hill 3. So many years ago *sigh*
    Anyway I just don’t get the myth of the ‘fake geek’. I’m totally devoted to some comics, books etc, but I don’t care for many “classic” titles. Does it mean I’m not geeky?

  • Rachel Edidin

    Have I told you today how amazing you are?
    Because, yeah.

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