August -21. I found myself at the COMIC-CON 2010 in the Megatrade Hall of SM-Megamall in Ortigas. The crowd got me disoriented of the fancy costumes the participants were wearing as I got to the 5th floor. The gates of the tradehall were a bit closed, so as to keep onlookers from having a view of what’s going in there. Maybe, it is a marketing strategy to get people inside, or a security procedure to limit passage of unscrupouous individuals.
Huh, there was a entrance fee, and the ticket booth just blocked the doorways. I got closer to the ticket booth, pulled 20 bucks. Then I heard the lady from the booth, “Sir, its 100 pesos.” Oh, where did my fantasy come from, that the entrance ticket was 10 bucks, and I was even expecting some change? I looked at the texts printed on the whitepaper posted on ticket window. The prints put tricked my eyes. I’ll get in later, I thought. I texted my PhD classmate already in there, and told her of my surprise that there was entrance fee. In my mind was a fantasy, that she has free tickets for us. I was not informed in any way that there was a fee. The reality, I didn’t tell them of this stupid experience I had.
I went away from the ticket booth, and stood by the rails. I saw one student of mine. He asked what was I doing there. I told him that I was doing a study on cosplay. He voluntered himself and a friend with him as subjects for interview, even if I didn’t ask for it. I got no questions ready, but then “Kitara” just started telling her stories of being in cosplays. She was off her costume already. “Miko” came, she overwhelmed me with a lot of things she knows about cosplay. After Miko left, I talked with “Kitara” and Cedrick again. Cedrick was just so philosophical about his views of Cosplay.
There were some important words I got from my casual conversation with these three kids: judgment, discrimination, identity, reality, escapism, expression, competetion, community,wishes, fantasy, love, character, understanding, artists, inspiration, and interpretation are among the few. These are the very words they used to share their stories and experiences about cosplay. They provide the frames for understanding my thesis in this blog “that reality masks our fantasy”. Those themes were shared by the three subjects, and I will attempt to make sense of them as to how they connect together and how they relate to my opinion of cosplays.
Reality masks our fantasies, consequently overwhelming fantasies detach us from reality. In such condition one finds that those worlds blur as they converge, leading to the difficulty of understanding the reconstructed complex worlds those people live in. To understand the lived experiences in this communication environment, a critical scholar has to deconstruct the aggregates or elements that make the whole and enter into a discourse that interrogates the texts in that environment which all makes sense to it.
I was there for some reasons: to observe and try to make sense of what I observe in such environment. It did not come to my mind that those kids will volunteer to be subjects for my study. I have a preconditioned thought that I should approach them, after I have a good feel of the situation, or when a question popped in my mind. The reality I have in mind, was just a fantasy in the reality of negotiations and interactions in the cosplay world. My curiousity was fully satisfied by those stories and thoughts that they shared to me.
Kitara. She is a character in Avatar, the last Airbender. She used to be judgmental about cosplays. But when she gave it a try, she enjoyed it, met friends there, felt a sense of belongingness as she was able to express herself. Choosing the character for that cosplay took some decision making process. She has to consider how her real looks match that of the character in the fantasy world of animation. When I met her, she was already in her jeans and shirt, but she was still holding her sword. She doesn’t go there to compete, it was for her an experience to express herself, her fancy for the character and her enjoyment being in a community.
Miko. She is an online game character known for her dance antics. She put her two fingers on top of her ears beside her head, curled them back and forth, as she did the meme dance right there in front of us. For her, cosplay is fun because she gets to meet people, that she just finds in the internet. Cosplay for her is to be herself. She describes her “self”, the “me” that other’s find “weird” . That is her, which others just don’t understand. She relates herself to Miko as she finds some characteristics similar to that character. She is not there to compete, just play Miko’s character.
Cedrick was not in his costume. He was there to watch and meet people. His thoughts fascinated me “reality does not seem to be reality” , and people go to cosplays as form of escapism to live their fantasies. Reality for him is living out of fantasy, while fantasy seems to be a world that has its realities – the reality of not being discriminated, the reality of being understood in a community as “you” are. He explained that there are two reasons why people go to cosplays, to compete and to cultivate a sense of community. But most people are not there for the prize money, because sometimes more is spent for the costume than the prize at stake.
Around the convention area are photographers, comic artists, multimedia artists, exhibitors, booths selling toys comics, figures and people clad in their costumes. Very few sat to hear what artists and experts say, during the convention, most people are just so busy checking out things for grabs in the area. I myself was divided, as I looked at the stuffs there available, while my ears listen to some good points the speakers are sharing in the forum. So much where just available to please the eyes and hearts of those who never wish to grow old.
Reality, cosplays are real experiences that lived out our fantasies. I felt like a child again looking at those toys I knew from childhood, but which I never had. Cosplays are real events that showcase the real potentials of our artists to put into art forms the creative product of their fantasies. Reality, we are overwhelmed with the crafts of these comic artists that the fans would live out their characters. The sad reality, those artists that gave the light, color, life and breath to those characters, remain in the shadow of the fantasy they created. While the characters they created come into life in full color, artists are kept in the nostalgic confinement of the black ink that dots their position in the environment.
The comic world, the animation world, online gaming world are cultural artificats of the arts. They are more than the pigments of imagination, they are not fantasies. These artifacts are real in their form. Our abstract culture, in reality has a fantasy only for the purity of fine arts. What is the difference between the classical works of Amorsolo and Luna to the works of our comic artists like Alcala and Jodloman, in the not so long time ago? Where are the comic artists now? Where do we find the Philippine Comics industry thereafter these cosplays and the COMICON?
In the COMICON, I saw people buying in bulk, old DC and Marvel Comics. There were also Japanese comics, Manga and Hentai are up for the grabs. Some of our artists have contributed to these. What about our local KOMIKS industry? These people in the convention are a mixed of old and young, and those young people are living out a fantasy world derived from an alien culture. The characters of Miko and Kitara are foreign to our culture, and our artists who have to leave the country and work for the international comics industry have to realize a foreign fantasy.
I see fantasy as an essential reality of humanity’s evolving knowledge work. I remember Derrida who argues that the best of what we value in our culture comes from nothingness – unconfined to pre-existing conventions. On composition, which is an artistic knowledge work, something that is beautiful arises from nothing. Arts is a composition. It is incomparable to the pre-existing and existing, and to bring them out to the world an artist will have to find himself in a world that is never existent in the reality. Fantasy is that world where creativity unfolds to flourish in the constructed reality. But our socio-cultural realities mask the fantasies that are fruitful for humanity to truly flourish.
The COMICON is one environment that seeks to put things together… convergence of subcultures for coculturalism that brings the construction and reconstruction of culture in a continuum. The cosplay is an act to bring animation fans together in the effort of rescusitating the local comics industry – a reinforcement that is much needed and fitting to the Philippine pop culture.