I was in my mid-thirties by the time I attended my first con: Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) 2012. It was fabulous and I’ve attended C2E2 with my family every year since. I’ve always enjoyed taking in everything the convention has to offer including panels, artists alley, and great geek shopping available on the show floor. It’s also great fun to watch the crowd and see the great outfits and cosplay people wear.
In prior years, I’ve worn some fun outfits to cons – things I’ve put together with a certain flair and character to them. This past weekend at C2E2 2016, however, was my first actual cosplay based on a character: Ursula from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. It made for a surprisingly different convention experience for me.
Let’s say I didn’t have a realistic idea of the reception my cosplay would receive. I didn’t necessarily think it was anything special – just something fun for me to do. However, starting from the moment I got out of the car in front of the convention center to the time I left, I was constantly getting noticed. When I wasn’t sitting still (e.g. at a panel or eating lunch), I was stopped for photos every few minutes. I posed for literally hundreds of pictures!
Throughout the day I saw, heard, and experienced a full range of behaviors toward me. I frequently overheard complimentary comments around me as I walked by. That was a big ego boost. Occassionally, someone would start singing something from the movie, to which my kid remarked, “People spontaneously burst into song around you. You really are a Disney character.”
There were unfortunately the disgusting, seedy remarks from creepy men. (I follow the cosplay scene online enough to know that problems with harassment exist, but experiencing it, even just in verbal form, was quite eye-opening.) These were very few, but enough that this element of the culture can’t be dismissed.
Regarding pictures, usually people were very nice and courteously asked permission to take pictures. When I posed for these, typically several nearby people would just take advantage of implied permission and snap pictures too. Some people took pictures as I was walking by (and not posing) without asking at all – those bothered me. One woman really impressed me – she not only asked permission to take my picture, but also asked for permission to post to social media. She then gave me a card with information about her social media IDs where it would be posted.
My absolute favorites were the little kids who asked to take pictures with me. They were really cute! Some of them were very shy and needed parents’ encouragement, some were just awed, some were incredibly excited in the way only kids can be. They all brightened my day.
Since I was stopping for photos so frequently, I didn’t really have much opportunity to experience the con itself that day. Walking around the show floor or perusing the artist alley was nearly impossible. I didn’t get to see as much as I had hoped. At the same time, I didn’t hang around the main lobby or traffic areas specifically looking to get photographed – which is only disappointing after the fact because when I search for photos of me on the internet, I only find some other Ursula cosplay at C2E2. (Mine is better!) I’m glad there was another day for me do attend (incognito) and explore more.
Overall, my cosplay debut was a great success and a fascinating experience. I have a much better idea what to expect next time!