For most of my life I had never cosplayed. I have been to enough cons that you’d think at some point I would have gotten into costume at least once in my soon to be 40 years. Most of the cons I go to tend to be smaller, leaning more towards selling various geeky wares and less on things like cosplay. When I covered Wizard World a few years back is when I got to really experience this phenomenon for the first time. To say I was impressed by the talent these people showed is an understatement.
People can spend months poring over their designs to make sure it is as perfect as possible. And how people flocked to them! Whenever someone spotted the Doctor or a Stormtrooper people stopped what they were doing to get pictures with them. For a few days these uber-fans are superstars – an honor they greatly deserved. I admit I got a free hug from a guy dressed like Rorschach. He was holding a sign that said free hugs so how could I refuse? Don’t judge me.
So why haven’t I joined the bandwagon? Time and other factors like how I have no crafting ability whatsoever. Every year I go to Skott’s Halloween party promising I will come in costume only to show up just as I am. As with most things time just slips away and I am nowhere near talented enough to create a costume on the fly. So I wind up hanging out with people who had more than enough foresight to plan ahead. I like the idea of doing something in costume. Actually putting it into practice is another matter.
Until one night when I got a message from Skott asking me if I wanted to dress up as Hagrid for the Philadelphia Flower Show. He already had the costume in place so I figured why not. The reason we were going was because the theme for this year was British related so they thought it would be a hoot to have actors dressed as Harry Potter characters milling about. On the last day the actors bailed leading them to contact Skott since he runs a Harry Potter fan group. They had a Dumbledore already in place and Skott would play Professor Lupin, leaving a space open for a third character. For some reason he thought I would be the perfect Hagrid. Granted I am only 5’8” tall with a ginger beard and had only seen a few movies but I figured why not. I went to his house to get changed. He asked if we should take the bus or should I drive. I may not have a lot of dignity, but I do have a few scraps deep down somewhere so I drove.
I had no expectations of this event except that maybe a few kids would get a kick out of it. This wasn’t the same type of crowd as you see at a con. I figured people would either ignore us or give us strange looks. I didn’t care since I got into the show for free. The actor who played Dumbledore did a really good job. Though not a spot on characterization he made it work. At first things went uneventfully as Skott and I stood back while The Big D himself and a few quidditch players spoke to the kids. Then we were asked to walk around the main floor for photographs.
(From L to R: Our EIC as Lupin, me as Hagrid, a little girl as Hermione and some dude as Dumbledore)
From the moment we stepped into the room people started to flock to us. Not just little kids either. Grown ups got excited to see characters they love in real life. For the better part of four hours we were rarely left alone. With the exception of one woman who made me feel so uncomfortable everyone was amazing. People were eating it up. The more people shouted out for Hagrid the more hardcore I got into character.
When people get excited by cosplayers at a con that makes sense to me. These are our fellow geeks and nerds who love these things. The people at the flower show aren’t the same type of people. They geek out over flowers or whatever. That didn’t stop them from speaking to us as if we were the characters out of the books and movies. At the end of the day I don’t much care why this was the case. The whole experience was amazing. If asked to do it again I’d do it without a second thought. I never questioned a cosplayer’s motives before. For whatever reason it made sense. People want to willing suspend disbelief. They want to interact with their favorite characters. For a brief moment I got to give people what they wanted as a shrunken down version of a giant. What a beautiful thing to be a part of. Too bad moments like that are rare.