Link: Defcon Unlimited / Maja Felicitas Bergmann: „Hater“
And the translation:
When I think of cosplay, of course I first think of those people we see here on stage at the costume contest. Gifted tinkerers who put a lot of compession and a lot of money into their costumes, who sit down for weeks crafting, sewing, burning themselves with hot glue, making unmindful mistakes just moments before finishing, fixing those mistakes with safety pins, just to end up standing backstage, shaking and looking terrified as if they were waiting for their own execution. These boys and girls who excitedly look forward to their performance and who put make-up on their face and body for two hours (just to shower it off for hours afterwards) to show everybody what their true passion is. Those people who bring up the courage to step in front of their front door and present themselves in a costume.
Courage? Some of you might laugh and think: Well, that’s a little bit exaggerated now, isn’t it? After all, cosplayers aren’t super heroes! As if you had to be brave to be a cosplayer!
Let me tell you: You have to!
Because when I think of cosplay, I don’t only think of the cosplayers, of characters they resemble, of conventions, of community – no, I also think of those who have not understood what cosplay is about. I think of commentators on Facebook, of big gossip rags, of youtubers, of reporters and columnists. I think of people who see cosplayers and call them freaks.
I think of people who insult people for their passion in evil ways and try to bash those who have found themselves something in which they can be great.
I think of haters.
I think of a good friend who has given up on cosplay because she couldn’t stand the harshness of the internet and the foulness of some people anymore.
I guess all of you have already been confronted with haters at some point, right? When a few weeks ago, I decided to give this speech, I didn’t have the slightest idea what to expect. What I discovered on my search for typical hater comments… It made me sick!
There are people who shout out their hatred against something they never personally were in touch with. I found comments from „I hate cosplay“ up to „You look like you smell like cat piss“.
So I found the worst comments on the internet and kept asking myself: What’s going on in the minds of these people? To me, their reactions are absolutely absurd! Just imagine me sittting in front of my computer, surfing the internet, let’s say I’m on Facebook. Then I see something or somebody that I don’t like. I think „Oh, I don’t like that so much!“ – and then something happens that until recently, I had taken for natural: I move my cursor to the right upper corner of the screen and click on that little X to close the window. What comes to my mind now… Don’t haters have an X? If I belong to the haters society, does Facebook automatically deactivate the X-function? Is there only this one way of writing negative comments in order to leave the page? I don’t have any other explanation!
Even more interesting are the people who don’t actually see the object of their hatred themselves but only hear about it, be it on the radio, in comments on other pages or even from friends. So these people hear about something they might not like. What do you do when somebody tells you that there is something somewhere that you might not like? You think, „Well, I don’t like that so much“, right? If it’s something really bad, you might even tell your best friend about it, but then you return to more important matters like watching „The Return of the King“ for the 13th time or the DVD with the tree ballett for the 89th time (Ring*Con insider).
These people are different! These people remember the name of the cosplayer or the costume although they usually never remember anything. They go online to look it up on Google or Facebook, and if they find the person, they actually tell her with all harshness there is how much they dislike her and her costume.
I think they should ask themselves: Where does my motivation come from? What do I want to achieve by doing what I do? Am I really such a bad person that I enjoy to make other people suffer? Or am I really that stupid that I don’t think about the consequences for that person? Because I don’t imagine how I would feel if I had to read comments like these on myself?
Maybe…. maybe I feel better when I make others feel worse? I think that is the reason! Somebody who puts other people off their fun, who insults and discriminates them for ther passion doesn’t have anything to look forward to himself. They have nothing to concentrate on with enough passion that would prevent them from putting so much energy into their hating.
I have often read about cosplayers who were condemned for their body shape, their size or their nose. „Better chose a different character, this one is out of your league!“ That means I can’t do a cosplay because I don’t have the perfect body mass index? As a converse argument that would mean that someone who will never become a profi soccer player because he has asthma can never kick a ball with his friends just for fun! Isn’t that absurd?
Don’t I have the same right to do what I like being a cosplayer? Do others have to tell me which cosplay to do or not to do? Of course there is beneficial and not so beneficial clothing. But the purpose of cosplay isn’t the perfect 1:1 portrayal of the character, is it? I know there are some cosplayers do exactly that for a living, portraying a character as perfect as possible. However, just because there ARE those cosplayers, we don’t have to let ourselves being pressurized by people who don’t understand that we don’t do cosplay to gain fame and fortune but simply for FUN!
Look at my brother (whom I love dearly), for example. He was visiting GamesCom in Cologne with me this year, and in the middle of a conversation he pointed behind me and said: „Look, there are some of those funny freaks again!“ When I turned around, a group of more or less well-portrayed DC characters walked towards us. I looked at my brother and said: „Uhm, Moritz, you do know that I… well… quite often… do the same?“ That’s when he laughed and said: „Yeah, well, that’s something different. It’s your job!“ Summarizing, that means that an activity, now matter how bizarre and how freaky, can be accepted as totally normal as soon as you do it for a living and vice versa?
If we follow that thought and apply that theory onto a „normal“ hobby. Let’s stick with socker because I mentioned that earlier. As you all know, there are quite a lot of people who earn quite a lot of money kicking a ball around. However, I have never experienced andybody to walk by a soccer field, where people are obviously playing soccer on a non-profitable basis, pointing at them and saying „Look at those funny freaks!“
And that’s about the quintessence of it. Just because one hobby is not as well-accepted in our society as another one, you still don’t have to get insulted for it. Because soccer and cosplay have a lot in common. We do it because it is fun. Because we live out a passion that helps us to take our stressfull everyday life with more ease. If we are sitting at our desk in the office and are looking forward to kick a ball or to sew a sleeve to a robe, who cares?
The important thing is that it comforts our soul, that we enjoy getting up in the mornings and laying down at night with a feeling of calmess and satisfaction, that we laugh and smile, and that we are happy.
The question to all haters is: My gosh, with all the misery that’s happening in the world, is there nothing, NOTHING better you could use your energy for? Go ask the people of „Sea Sheperd“ right outside this room, I bet they would come up with some clever ideas!
Cosplay – and I know that it’s kind of absurd to say that in the middle of a costume contest with a huge prize money, but it is really important to me to say that – cosplay is not only about competition. Of course this is a big contest here, of course cosplayers can compete here and win great prizes. However, the main reason to participate has to be the fun in cosplay. The developement that has begun to spread in the past few years is even more frightening than the common complaints of people who are always ready to complain about anything. Because cosplayers have now started to be haters themselves! They condemn other cosplayers for the choice of their costume, they tattle about them, they talk them down in front of others, and they even publicly insult them. And all that just because cosplay is getting more and more attention nowadays. If you are a good cosplayer, you can be treated as a little celebrity at a convention. And of course we all know the phrases about the grudgers who don’t grant anybody anything, every mother has told their children about. When the kids came home from school where they had been bullied or laughed at, the mother always used to say: „They are just jealous, never mnd!“
Of course it is a better feeling to think of somebody as jealous than to think of somebody as just really nasty. Cosplayers tend to also use this mother-phrase. The problem is: After I have been told „You are too fat for that costume“ once, I don’t care if the person is just jealous or generally mean. It hurts! In that moment, he is no grudger to me, no hater, he simply is an asshole! And that’s what he should be for everybody else. Wouldn’t you agree with me that „hating“ has almost been socially acknoledged by now? If you insult somebody on the internet, it has become easy to come up with a good reason for it: „I couldn’t help it, he was SO ticking me off!“ „Somebody HAD to say something!“ „Oh, come on, my comment wasn’t so bad after all!“ – I believe that has to stop! I believe all of us should start to stop. Stop condemning people for the choice of their costume and instead be happy for the people who have found something that gives them joy. Stop accepting that there are mean and unfair people around us who treat people in an ugly way because we sit together in this room tonight, about 3000 people who excelently understand what it means to be different. To tavel through half the country just to meet the one family that dances the Timewarp at 3 AM (Ring*Con insider), that requires a good deal of otherness. Freakdom. Hater material.
Up to the morning before the convention, we sit in the midst of fabric, seams, glue and worbla, and we don’t give up!
We glue together the final pieces of our costume just minutes before the convention, and although the glue needs 10 minutes of surface drying, we press together the pieces after one minute because it has to work, and we don’t give up!
We nourish from energy drinks and dry bread for days and hardly manage to thread the string through the tiny eye of the needle because we are so full of caffeine but we don’t give up!
We often get sick a day before the convention and have to deal with the hotel’s air conditioning while we despairingly shiver but we don’t give up!
We touch the hot glue for the hundredst time and carry scars about which family and friends often ask us concerned questions. But we don’t give up.
We watch tutorials for hours to start a motivated attempt afterwards just to realise that what we just watched on Youtube is actually incredibly difficult to master but we don’t give up!
We endure pain in the head, spine and stomach from wearing our costume, but we would never pull it off because we don’t give up!
We take our courage in both hands to shine on the bug convention stages year after year, we chew on our fingernails due to stage fright but we don’t give up!
We get groped, we get laughed at, we get dissed, but wo go out there again and again and don’t give up!
Because here, we experience the greatest moments of the year, we build the most wonderful friendships, we are there for each other, support each other. Because we are cosplayers, we are ringconnies, we are one family.
And because we are all here together, I’m going to make a suggestion to all of you now: Tonight, let us decide that haters are more than „just grudger“. Let us ensure that from now on, haters will be known as what they are: Assholes!
Because to return to my original thought: Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too male, too female, too ungifted, too professional – cosplayers ARE heroes, and for heaven’s sake, they have the right to be the way they are and to be respected and loved for that!“