When it comes to costume work, I generally have two schools of thought. One I take from The Dark Knight, the other I take from Vandross and Jackson.
“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
True. Commission work is nice. I also have not turned down paid costumed appearances at movie theaters and special events. Nor have I shirked any free admission to conventions when I know the majority of my time will be spent with the crowds taking photographs and promoting the show prior to it’s launch. But is this why I got into cosplay? Is this what I want for myself in the world of costuming?
No. Because, let’s face it and let’s be totally and utterly cliche: “The best things in life are free.”
Now, I know Mr. Vandross was talking about the moon and sunshine and kittens and love; but I’m talking about something else. No, not the free convention passes. No, not the perks of going behind the scenes of televised baseball games or free admission to some of the most popular museums, parks and events just for swinging a lightsaber. No–something deeper. Something past the perks. Past the free swag.
I’m talking about the costume that’s not a costume, but a uniform. I’m talking about the reason for the long commute, the money invested, the weekends spent, the comfort sacrificed. The perks are nice, but costumed volunteers bust their butts and their wallets. They give and, sometimes, they give while wearing a helmet or a mask–just another faceless character you know only for that they represent.
Is it thankless? Is it worth it?
If you’ve ever been one of those people whose smiled to see their favorite character at an event, you can tell me. If you’ve even been one of those children whose faces drop to see a real life Jedi or Iron Man himself, you can tell me. If you’ve ever been glad to see someone expressing their geekdom without shame, or if you’ve ever admired another costumer for the work that they’ve done, you can tell me. It’s a question that doesn’t need an answer or, rather, it’s a question that doesn’t have an answer. Not really.
It’s not just a yes. It’s not even a resounding yes. It’s an answer that lives only in the heart of the costumer, an answer that lives only in the imagination and admiration of children and adults. It’s something me and you share at events; something that’s between us and between us alone. Something we carry with us later, something we remember. Maybe it provides you with a better mood that day–maybe you pay it forward with a good deed. Maybe you grow up always believing in heros. Or, maybe, I only got you to smile just once. Just that once.
It’s enough. Enough to make an impact. Enough to touch a part of your day, your life; and as the person who wears the costume; it becomes like a virus caught not just at one charity event, but a whole handful. It roots deep into the heart and takes hold, and it spreads from the heart to the mind, and from the mind to the limbs. We believe in ourselves to do good things. We put ourselves out into the world to do good things, and consider people a part of our community who have bad days like us, love like us, and need good in the world–like us.
So we do it. And we do it often.
Specifically, I am part of the Star Wars costuming group known as the Rebel Legion. I bet you thought i was going to say 501st, right? Nah. I’m a Jedi. But I do “troop” with them too. Empire scum or not, they’re a great group of people; but I hang my hat with the Rebel Legion’s Echo Base, which covers New York, New Jersey, and most of the tri-state area. I average about one to two events a month (or, “troops”) and we do everything from raise money for charities at conventions to meet and greets at libraries to major events like Star Wars Day at Citifield Stadium (home of the Mets) to raise money for Stand Up to Cancer. They’re covered in the local news, the newspaper, blogs, forums, facebook–you name it, the Rebel Legion and the 501st are spreading the contagious charity love for both Star-Wars and how to pay it forward in this life. In fact, we have so many members and bases we cover not jut the United States, but the entire globe. I mean, what better way to take over the world?
I’m also a part of the East Coast Avengers, a similar charity organization geared towards Marvel cosplayers. I’ve covered many events that help raise money for Hospice, local lodges and town-functions geared towards the community. We’re local heros making big changes in every community we are honored to be a part of.
While I’m at it, let me quote another song:
“The love you take is equal to the love you make.”
I’d say I’m here to make love, but that’s a subject for someone elses’ blog. (har har har). Let’s face it, our days are full of problems and full of shit and full of worry. I think it’s the duty of a person not just to wake up, go to work, sweat at the gym or sweat over bills and eventually get so sick of it all we’re left with just dusty memories and a list we should have crumpled and thrown into a bucket instead of putting it alongside one. We need to experience it all. But, more importantly, we need to make sure other people experience it, too. It’s not just about charity work, it’s about being the hero. It’s about being the good you want to see in the world. About seeing the hero in not just yourself, but in everyone else.
So get out there. Dress up. Cosplay. Go to a convention. Read a comic. Get lost in yourself. Get lost in a world you believed in as a kid, a world you can still believe in now. But whatever you do, give back .Feed your alter ego, stop denying that you’ve got an inner child that’s been locked away from the world too long. And, hell, if you’re doing it with me already?
Then thank-you, my friend, for making me smile.