Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cosplaying and the Law

Cosplaying your favorite character has always been the basis for dressing up in conventions, but there are times where some people may have stepped over the line without knowing it. Fun as it may seem, there are certain cosplays that may get you into trouble, and here are some tips to get you as far away from, the very least, an embarrassment, and the worst being jail term.

1) DISTURBING THE PEACE. Cosplay has always been done inside a controlled environment, which is a convention. Cosplaying outside one and horsing around a public area, lets say, a mall food court is inviting trouble. The excuse "It's within my right to do this" or "I'm a paying customer" is relative: other people being bothered by your presence also have the right to have a peaceful time to spend their weekend without you squealing your lungs off and running around in irritating primary colors just because you're cosplaying Naruto.

2) PHOTOSHOOT AMBUSH. Photoshoots in your elaborate costumes is cool, unless you and your friends simply walked in an establishment and start taking photographs using the said establishment's interior or exterior designs which you happen to decide it fits your cosplay. If you did so without the owner's permission, its called trespassing. Being in costume does not give you the right to go anywhere and have a photoshoot. Ask permission from the property owner first (there are of course some public and private establishments that don't mind at all, you just need to find them).

Asian themed restaurants are often the most common victims. The restaurant owner, even though has every right to evict people who disturb the peace, are often very polite not to do so, but suffers immensely by your ambush: other customers might simply walk out of the restaurant, or potential customers simply pass over, because you and your friends are there taking photos, laughing out loud and even dressing up in front of everyone, all for purchasing a few drinks and one dish or two, while your one dozen or so cohorts do the deed with their lenses, and often times hang out for hours! Other restaurant owners with more balls may evict you or call the cops, and no amount of whining or swearing will take out the embarrassing fact that you ended up photographed with a couple of policemen as escorts. And the internet can be a very cruel mistress.

3) REALISTIC REPLICA/TOY WEAPONS WILL STILL LOOK LIKE REALISTIC WEAPONS. Again, there is a reason why cosplay is done in conventions or in a controlled environment, to make sure that everything you bring is guaranteed not to hurt or scare anyone. But some very hard headed (ok fine, stupid) cosplayers keep brandishing their realistic air-soft or pellet shooters outside the convention, and in malls or food courts and get pissed off because the mall guards keep "harassing" them. You may get away with fictional scifi weapons like Doom's BFG9000 or attached weaponry on a famous characters like Robocop or War Machine, for the fact that its ridiculously designed to begin with, or that law enforcement is already familiar with the characters (they might even pose with a Robocop cosplayer with his signature weapon, given the chance).

Same with those swinging plastic or wooden realistic swords, spears, knives and whatnot's around those very places as well. Common sense has rotted away to be replaced by their sense of empowerment and their need to shock and awe those non-cosplayers around them. Being a cosplayer does not give you license to brandish replica weapons anywhere but inside a convention (if allowed by organizers). You may get away with prop swords and knives, especially if they are sheathed while you're walking around, but replica guns will make a cop or security suspicious and even very unfriendly to you and your friends. Keep them all in a bag and tag them as PROPS to be inspected thoroughly by security. And wear them in the right place: in a convention or authorized/private photoshoot.

4) AVOID INDECENT EXPOSURE OUTSIDE A CONVENTION. I'm sure some of you may have encountered one or two of these cosplayers who wear clothes that are next to nothing in a cosplay convention. Normally organizers discourage these kinds of cosplay because children (minors) are but one of the attendees of cons but will not be able to do anything about it outside one. When I mean by "outside", it includes hanging out outside the function hall where the convention is being held. Just because your other cosplay friends hang out there, it doesn't necessarily mean its safe haven to come just wearing diapers or underwear. Children hang out there too as well as irate parents who can call security on you AND your friends. If you go inside a convention and the organizers allow you to wear such things, then you're safe to prance around wearing skimpy clothing. But outside, which includes the immediate vicinity of the convention ticketing area or lobby, a little social responsibility should be in order. I cannot dare imagine the poor schmuck in underwear (why they call it cosplay i cannot begin to fathom) being escorted outside in public for all to see. And that person has no one to blame but himself.

5) AVOID COSPLAYING PEOPLE WHO ARE CURRENTLY CONTROVERSIAL. This is not very common nor practiced yet, thank goodness. But if it ever crossed your mind to cosplay Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza or any of the Ampatuans, think again before you actually open wounds that are still fresh in the minds of Filipinos anywhere. Same thing with cosplaying Most Wanted Criminals (the irony is when you actually have a very good cosplay, you might be mistaken for one). Presidents or celebrities are ok, but by cosplaying them, by definition means it sends a message that you like them a lot. If you did it for purpose of political satire, i would suggest to leave the hobby out of it.

6) COSPLAYING MILITARY AND LAW ENFORCEMENT UNIFORMS. There were several instances of cosplayers emulating their favorite military or law enforcement themed characters, especially in the gaming community, where games like classic Counterstrike to realistic Medal of Honor come in mind. But some cosplayers may not have realized that cosplaying them using patches, pins, medals, accessories that are currently in use by our local military and police is breaking the law. Fictional patches and uniforms are ok, but buying and using patches being used by our local military and police and putting on their official looking uniforms whether proper or improper may get you into trouble if worn outside a controlled environment. Even conventions must ask permission (from building administration/security and/or the local law enforcement office) if they can allow cosplayers to wear them inside their halls. Otherwise they will have to ask the said cosplayer to take off their cosplay and wear regular clothes to be allowed inside.

I'm sure some of you may have been inspired by some humor sites satirizing our police, but cosplay is not about satire. Cosplay is about giving homage to characters that you love and respect.

These are just the some things cosplayers should think about and hopefully give a lot of serious thought. Lets make this hobby a fun and clean one, and not tarnish the whole community with your one selfish or misinformed act or dare. Cosplay is not just for fun, it also demands social responsibility.

And to add another note, will take everything into account, especially #6 in their future cosplay events. Again, take time to review this particular law [Executive Order No. 297]. Clicking the link will take you to the official Supreme Court E-Library. Lets all enjoy cosplay and be law abiding citizens. Its for your own protection.

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