Panelist: Cosplay Is Not Consent
Panelist: Doctor Who Costuming
Masquerade: Performance Judge
Shiva's Special Activities:
Panelist: Cosplay Is Not Consent
Masquerade: Performance Judge
Doug Wilder, Shiva (x4), Sketch (x3)
PortCon Maine is New England's oldest anime and gaming convention, held annually in South Portland, Maine. PortCon Maine 2013 was the eleventh year for the convention, and its theme was "Delightful Decadence." In addition to voice actors Chris Cason and Cherami Leigh, guests included Eric Anderson, owner of the special effects company The Shoggoth Assembly, vaudeville performers The Boston Sprockettes, comedy troupe Dorks in Dungeons, and anime anthropologist Charles Dunbar, as well several bands and costuming groups such as the Maine Ghostbusters. Excellent panel programming ran the gamut from Lolita culture to sci-fi movies, gaming, anime, U.S. comics and cartoons and costuming. For adults, nostalgia panels discussing 70s and 80s pop culture were popular, as were the risque panels Cards Against Humanity and Rule 34. Other events included a cosplay parade, boffing tournament, Anime Unscripted, Extreme Geek, and a garage sale for con attendees trying to make some extra cash. On Sunday, the local news channel stopped by to cover the convention, and interviewed many of the staffers on why they return. They all related to PortCon's feel of community and family, which is a culture it continues to cultivate year after year.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
As PortCon approached, we were looking forward to taking a much-needed break from our non-stop wedding preparations to enjoy ourselves for a weekend with friends. We drove up to Maine after work Thursday night, our car stuffed to the brim with both costumes and items to put into the convention's garage sale; we were hoping to make at least $1,000 with the sale of items to offset some wedding costs. After stopping for dinner on the way, we made it to the con around 9PM and checked into the Doubletree. After grabbing our badges and getting settled, Ellystar came over to the room with the Zelda Golden Goddess costumes she had made for Shiva and Gale. Gale, Jeni, and several other friends stopped by to hang out for the night before heading to bed.
Friday morning we checked all of our wares into the garage sale before getting into costume; Shiva wore Umi from Magic Knights Rayearth and we both met up with the AnimeCons.TV crew to film a segment about cosplay wranglers which spoofed the Bud Light "Here's To You" commercials. Shiva, Gale, Sketch, and Ellystar then co-hosted the “Cosplay is Not Consent" panel, which was packed to the back with standing room only. We were glad so many people were interested in discussing this important topic; Gale had created an outline for the presentation but we tried to leave most of it open-ended to allow some very honest conversations with the audience, as a lot of situations can be murky as opposed to black and white. Some audience members expressed concern that asking for a photo or complimenting a costume could be taken the wrong way, so we discussed proper vs. improper etiquette for doing so and explained how everyone has different boundaries, and that asking permission up front is the best way to avoid a misunderstanding. We stressed that if someone expresses discomfort or declines an interaction not take personal offense; instead, graciously accept the cosplayer's right to decline and immediately halt the interaction, offering an honest apology if the cosplayer is uncomfortable. We also stressed that it is not enough to just engage in correct behavior; it is everyone's responsibility to point out incorrect behavior in their peers and intervene when they see something inappropriate. We explained how important peer pressure is in changing the overall culture even if there will always be those individuals who do the wrong thing.
While most of the audience was engaged and seemed to be genuinely interested in doing the right thing and how they could personally avoid making their fellow convention attendees uncomfortable, one mother and her daughter were very hostile to the conversation because they felt that by giving advice on how to appropriately handle interactions, we were “teaching creepy people how to fly under the radar” and therefore make it harder for cosplayers to identify threats. They also felt that our practical stance of there will always be bad apples was us excusing and even condoning bad behavior. While we could appreciate the sentiments, we stressed that we believe intent is important and that the vast majority of attendees want to do the right thing but have not received the proper guidance and are inadvertently adding to the problem. We also strongly believe that educating the community on how to act appropriately and how to publicly admonish those who act inappropriately will help change overall attitudes on what constitutes acceptable behavior towards cosplayers. We feel it is unrealistic to believe there will NEVER be those with ill intent, however by changing the culture of ignorance that shields those folks, it helps root them out and raises awareness of when a situation may be dangerous so strangers feel empowered to intervene on a potential victim's behalf. Unfortunately, this individual and her daughter felt anything short of criminal prosecution for even minor misunderstandings regardless of intent was unacceptable, and hijacked the forum while others in the audience argued with them. While it slightly derailed the rest of the panel, we did feel like people got a lot out of it.
That afternoon we drove out to Fort Williams Park with Gale, Doug, and Ellystar for a photoshoot of our Magic Knights Rayearth costumes. The light was perfect and Doug and Sketch both took turns shooting photos near the Goddard Mansion ruins. The girls then changed into the Golden Goddesses from The Legend of Zelda and we took photos on the rocks by the beach, where the water and the breeze made everything look magical in the golden light. Shiva was a bit overenthusastic about climbing over the rocks in the water and got more than a little soaked by the tide rolling in. Back at the hotel that evening, Shiva wore Scully from The X-Files and Sketch got into his Jiraiya costume from Naruto. We caught the second half of Anime Unscripted and then Shiva hit up Jeni’s Rule 34 panel which ended early when the air conditioning broke. Sketch was co-hosting the Doctor Who costuming panel with Ellystar and PatrickD, and afterwards everyone met up at the hotel bar. The bartender was awesome and asked what "Agent Scully" would like to drink. Shiva was unsure, but after asking her some questions on drink preferences, the bartender whipped up a Black Apple, which was delicious! We then went back to our room to play card games, and shortly after leaving, PatrickD texted Shiva that a couple at the bar had told him after we left that “Agent Scully is the best costume we’ve seen all day!”
Saturday Shiva got into Rainbow Brite and Sketch put on Flynn from Tangled and we checked out artist’s alley and the game room before dropping into Gale’s costume safety panel. She told the story of Shiva's JunJun wig mishap in 2009 after we got there, which had everyone cracking up with Shiva commenting from the audience. Afterwards we reported to main events to judge the masquerade along with Ellystar and Theresa; it was a much easier job this year than last as there were more skits and some great costumes, including a Steampunk Avengers group which had gorgeous designs. A Panty and Stocking group had fantastic costumes, but the audio track for their skit was garbled and, although accurate to the anime, Panty actually removed her underwear on stage, which we hoped was an extra pair (we confirmed later it was) but we weren't about to CHECK. As we often say in masquerade skit help panels, a good rule to avoid is never scare the judges! The most clever skit was a solo entry that featured a girl as a Dalek, dancing with a beautiful flower which she clearly loved. Suddenly, a TARDIS materialized and squished it. Heartbroken, the girl responded "EXTERMINATE!" when the audio track said “Hi, I’m the Doctor.” It was such a simple and brilliantly unique concept, and the girl really sold it to the audience and to us.
That evening we wore our Blue Barracudas outfits from Legends of the Hidden Temple. Lots of people were really excited to see the outfits; the Ghostbusters crew were exceptionally enthusiastic and we had a great chat with them. Sunday morning we wore regular clothes and drove out of the convention to do some local lighthouse sightseeing; the weather was beautiful and it was fun to see some local scenery. We returned that afternoon to collect our earnings from the garage sale, and we had earned enough to completely cover costs for an open bar at our wedding. Though its back to reality and a lot of wedding planning crunch time, we had a really fun weekend with friends and can't wait to return!