“My embarrassing picture…”

I’ve had a few comments since I’ve been writing this blog about why I don’t post a lot more photos of myself in the costumes I’ve made.

Of course I’m proud of my costumes, proud of the research that has gone into them, the work that it takes to make them, and the results (most of the time… LOL) but I’m not always happy with the photos. Usually the photos are event photos – where I’m disheveled and half-exhausted from enjoying myself so much. I don’t have a reliable in-house (har har) photographer to always catch me as I’m heading out to an event, and when I do, usually I’m too worried about making sure I have everything before running out the door – too busy to plan the lighting and backdrop and all the rest to make a great photo.

Then I read this article

“My embarrassing picture went viral” on Salon.com.

It summed up so many of the fears I think we all have when we post photos of ourselves online. So many photos are so heavily retouched, so painstakingly planned, that a fun, candid photo without perfect make-up, without perfect hair, without lifting the chin, sucking in the breath, holding the props so they’re turned the right way… just start to look ~bad~ in comparison.  I know that I’ve sat at my computer with a photo of myself in Photoshop, being super-critical of the blemish,  the way my belly looks, how flat my hair is, or how heavy my arms are in that top… and totally forgetting the amazing time I had at the event, or how many people ran up to me to compliment me on the costume. I forget about the little child who peered around his mother’s legs at my Jabberwock costume before slowly coming out to gingerly touch my claws, and how I still get compliments to this day about a ballgown I made years ago. I hyper-focus on the parts that pull me out of the reality I experienced, and focus on the 2-dimensional image in front of me. The image that other people might criticize.

The author (Caitlin Seida) writes:

“That picture was taken late in the evening — I was red-faced from the heat, my makeup was sweating off and I was lacking proper boob support (a problem the pixelated Croft has never confronted). But I was having fun, and seeing the image again on that website, I still thought it showed.”

But despite the fun she was having, and the love of the character she was dressed up as – people still thought it was ok to anonymously tease and make fun of her because the image isn’t heavily staged, Photoshoped, and manipulated. After her experience, she goes on to say “I’ve also learned to keep a tighter rein on my privacy settings online. I don’t always succeed at keeping my content private, but I’m certainly more guarded now” and that she won’t be putting more images like these online.

Which is a shame.

The teasing has taken something away from the rest of us.

I don’t know if she’s a regular cosplayer, or often creates costumes to dress up – but let’s suppose she is.  Now she’s not sharing those things with the world. Unless you know her in person you can’t enjoy them, you can’t learn from them, and more importantly (or at least to the point I want to make) we can’t identify with them.

I also have the same medical conditions she writes about – and like anyone who doesn’t start off with the body type of the character they’re trying to cosplay (which, frankly… is pretty much everyone…) we make adjustments. We make compromises.  As children, we aren’t 5 foot 10, 98 pounds soaking wet, with a waist we can encircle with our hands, long flowing blond hair two-stories long, and a voice that summons songbirds… but we still want to dress up as Rapunzel for Halloween. (Or a cat, or a Transformer, or Darth Vader… ) As adults we don’t have DDD busts immune to gravity, flawless skin, and an arsenal of high-tech weapons to compliment our Scottish boarding school and Swiss finishing school backgrounds. We haven’t been raised an aristocrat, or worked as a mercenary – and yet  some of us still want to dress up as Lara Croft.

As children we just do whatever we want. We aren’t tied to the idea that “if you’re a brunette you can’t be Cinderella” – we just find silvery shoes, put on a plastic tiara and are in Disney-Princess heaven.  As teens and adults on the other hand, we’re inundated with the ways that we just don’t measure up… often to a fictional, computer-generated, or airbrushed ‘ideal’.  There aren’t a lot of examples of fat-but-fit heroines to cosplay. There aren’t many superheros in the Marvel universe who are anything other than Caucasian. There aren’t any Twilight vampires who need braces.

So… that’s why.

It’s a brave act to say “Here I am, proud of what I’ve done, having a great time – even though I don’t look like a fictional, computer-generated, or airbrushed character”.  But it’s a brave act I’m not willing to do very often.

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2 comments on ““My embarrassing picture…”

  1. Tracey says:

    Dawn. You are beautiful and incredibly talented. I know exactly how you feel. My weight has gone up and down over the years and I’m fifty years old now, with gray hair. But I don’t want to be historically accurate as old ladies. I want to play pretty pretty princess too. Just keep doing what you are doing and please post pictures of yourself. You are an inspiration to maybe some other little girl who wants to do what you do, but is afraid if she isn’t ‘perfect’ that people won’t like it. Screw the haters, those of us who know the work and joy you put into what you do will be cheering you on.

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