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“No” Is Not An Option Because I Asked You Politely

I’m still unsure if I was in the wrong here, perhaps the Ehellions can enlighten me.

I’m a cosplayer. Cosplay is an activity in which one dresses up as a fictional character from a video game, movie, animated series or tv series. There are events in which cosplay is expected and even encouraged (such as comic conventions or other media events), I attend those often and my hometown happens to host many events every year.

As far as I know, there isn’t a particular set of etiquette rules on cosplay and cosplayers other than things that would be common sense: don’t touch people without their permission, ask before taking a picture, etc. Cosplayers in particular are expected (and expect) to have their picture taken, after all it is a very visual activity.

In the last event I attended I’m afraid I may have committed a faux pas.

It was the end of a long day and I was sitting along with some friends in the rest area. I had taken off my high heels and given my props (a pair of toy pistols) to some other friends to play with. As we conversed, a young man came over and asked for my picture. The following conversation ensued:

Me: I’m sorry but I’d rather not, I’m tired…
Him: But you’re cosplaying.
Me: Yes…so?
Him: Cosplayers always say yes to pictures.

I can’t properly express his tone in writing, but it was as if I should be honored to have my picture taken by him so I should immediately step into my heels and chase down my props.

Annoyed, I stood my ground that I did not want my picture taken at the moment. He left grumbling that I was so ungrateful and my cosplay was ugly anyway. My friends and I could only laugh at his ridiculous flounce and continued our conversation with anecdotes of people trying to take pictures at inappropriate times.

The next day as I’m tagging pictures of the same event, I find one of myself in particular with a note from I assume the guy I had jilted.

“This gurls a bitch!!1 tried to take hr pic and she and hr friends told me of!!!!!!”

I chuckled and moved on, but the seed has been planted in my mind. Are we cosplayers in the wrong for refusing to take pictures? Part of the point of cosplaying in public is to be seen so refusing to be photographed kind of defeats the purpose, but at the same time we are people, not objects. 0529-12

Interesting question.   Since you preface your story with the affirmation that asking to take a photo of a cosplayer is expected etiquette, then the young man’s question is not out of line.   However, just because someone asks for a favor does not mean the person being asked has a mandatory obligation to honor that request.   Upon being told, “I’d rather not,”  your admirer reveals his true stripes in that there was no other option in his mind other than you complying with his request so he throws a tantrum.

This kind of behavior is not limited to the scenario of cosplay but shows up in many situations.   I’ve lately seen more attitudes such as this in real life.  There seems to be this mindset that says, “As long as I ask politely, anything I ask should be given to me”.  When that request cannot be accommodated, the inquiring individual doesn’t receive that negative response well.    For them, graciousness only applies to the person expected to give them what has been asked for.    It’s using a warped version of etiquette to bully people with the threat they will behave IF you cater to their demands and wants stated oh so politely.   What this does is place an expectation on the person being asked that there is no possible answer to that question other than “yes”  because “no” will set off the drama fireworks.

Back to the OP, everything in your story was fine up until the part Young Man has a meltdown because you would not give him what he requested.   Your story hints at you and your friends possibly mocking him as he wandered away and if that is the case, I think you could have been more gracious by waiting until he was completely out of sight and earshot before you and your friends talked about him.

{ 64 comments… add one }
  • Nutmeg_25 May 31, 2012, 10:32 am

    Whoot! Gencon! Seriously though, I’ve been turned down, and my general response was a thank you and in one case where they looked dead tired, I shared my candy stash. My name here is the same on the GC forums, and I can’t wait to see all the awesome costumes there! Don’t let one person ruin dressing up for you!

  • Ashley May 31, 2012, 11:13 am

    Can I just say that I have loved this website since the first day I stumbled across it several years ago, and now that I know how many people on here do cosplay, I love it even more. I actually was thinking about cosplay etiquette several days before this story posted, so I was THRILLED when I saw this story up here and all the comments about it from fellow cosplayers.

    I’m actually a bit nervous about the convention I am attending this summer as it’s the first year I am going to be wearing a costume that is from something immensely popular at the moment (Black Widow from The Avengers). It’s my reward to myself for having lost a bunch of weight and getting in shape. I know that might seem shallow, but cosplay is my motivation to stay in shape so I can hoof it around convention halls all day without feeling completely dead by the end of it. I fully expect there will be more people chasing me down this year and asking me to do weird poses. Maybe I’ll have a story to submit after all is said and done.

    I’d also like to state again that the rewards and benefits of cosplay GREATLY outweigh the negatives. My day to day life is immensely boring in the grand scheme of things. The handful of days a year that I get to put on a costume and wander around a crowded gaming hall are the few days a year I get to feel like I actually matter somehow.

  • Pat E. Cake May 31, 2012, 12:01 pm

    Admin, I agree with most of your comments, as I usually do. However, there’s one thing that bothered me about your advice to the OP. Taking the opportunity to taunt anyone (even someone who is rude to you – in this instance, the guy snapping the photos) and talk badly about said person with your friends is bad form, in my opinion. Having the graciousness to wait until the guy is gone before you start laughing at him is missing the point of being gracious. If OP wants to share with her friends and try to bring relief to the awkwardness of the moment, she could say, “Wow – I’m relieved he’s gone,” or even “Can you believe the nerve of some people?” and then drop it altogether. However, if OP actually went so far as to say, “What a loser,” and then began to mimic the guy’s mannerisms or say something else like “I hope I never see that stupid jerk again,” then I think that’s crossing the line between being honestly perturbed by someone’s thoughtless action (and needing to vent about it) and throwing the first “enemy ball.” (I guess if there are friendship balls, there can certainly be enemy balls, no?) I’m just sayin’.

  • LovleAnjel May 31, 2012, 12:19 pm

    @Bearfoot – what exactly are you disagreeing with? Cosplayers have a right to refuse any and all requests at any time. They just can’t be jerks about it. Keeping a pleasantly neutral facial expression and voice and refusing to accommodate is not being “…made to be uncomfortable and just take it.”

  • Green123 May 31, 2012, 3:47 pm

    There’s only one day in your life when people are allowed to take as many pictures of you as they like without asking first, and that’s on your wedding day! Aside from that, no means no. Don’t worry, OP, he’ll grow up!

  • Megan Amy May 31, 2012, 4:20 pm

    I had a similar situation happen last week. My family already had several plans for the Memorial Weekend here in the US. Some of the plans had been on the calendar for months. A parent of one of my DD’s classmates has always seemed nice and I’d socialized with his wife before and really liked her.

    Before class one day, with four days’ notice, the husband invited us to a party at their house. I thanked him for his offer and said we normally would have loved to, but we already had two events we were invited to attend that day so we’d have to pass. Out of nowhere, his demeanor changed and he got livid and started yelling at me. In front of our small children, in front of the school. He kept yelling at me and telling me that we just had to come to the party! He wouldn’t take “no thanks” for an answer.

    I finally got him to stop trying to bully me by telling him “we’ll see what we can do” and then I emailed his wife later and told her that we thanked them for the offer but we were sorry we had to send our regrets. It was scary, and it made me feel bad for the wife and children to have to live with someone who would lose his temper over something so small.

  • Nicole June 1, 2012, 1:10 am

    Nope, OP was totally in line. I regularly attend events that are filled with cosplayers, and the rule is” ALWAYS ask for permission for a photo. But that does not mean that the individual in costume is obligated to agree. Especially since, as stated, the OP was taking a break and didn’t even have her full costume on her, and it’s customary for cosplayers to pose in character and with full costume.

  • Ashley June 1, 2012, 10:49 am

    I have had people not ask or care if I’m in my costume, but they’re the type of photographers who like candids, and he actually asked me if it was okay that he posted it on his blog after he took it. He just didn’t ask if he could take it first because he wanted a natural shot of me, not posed. It was kind of weird but I understood where he was coming from. Candids are neat, and I appreciate that he asked if he could post it before he wandered off. He even showed me the picture and had his finger hovering over the delete button if I said no.

  • Library Diva June 1, 2012, 10:03 pm

    Generally, I’d agree with the folks who say that OP and her friends should have waited until he was out of earshot if they were going to laugh at him. But after he turned ugly on her, insulting her and her costume to her face, I feel he deserved it. There’s a difference between what OP does and what a person working the Mickey suit at Disneyworld does. OP is not a bowl of fruit in a still-life class. She’s not a model. She’s there to have a good time.

    @Shalamar, my understanding has always been that it’s legal to photograph anything that’s in public, and legal to take photos of anyone as long as they aren’t someplace where they have any expectation of privacy. “On the street in front of the Chinese Theater” certainly qualifies as a place where you don’t have any expectation of privacy. So that guy was not only unbelieveably rude, he wasn’t even in the right.

  • Tikal June 2, 2012, 9:28 pm

    @ Ashley. Not a regular commenter, but I’d thought I’d say /fistbump to a fellow Avenger because I cosplay Thor (lady version thereof). =D I’ve also cosplayed Black Widow and I give you serious kudos, because wandering around a hot convention in tight leather pants requires a will of steel and liberal application of cold packs!

  • grumpy_otter June 3, 2012, 5:28 am

    This made me laugh so hard because it brought back an old memory of when I dressed as Lwaxana Troi for a con. Lots of people wanted pictures and because of her character style, they usually wanted something pretty sexy, which was fine.

    But one guy got a bit gropey, so I hit him with my sacred chalice. It was made of foam so didn’t hurt, but he got the point and was a good sport about it, then apologized.

    Alice was in the right here and couldn’t have done anything else–but often when people are denied something they think they deserve they try to make you feel guilty for refusing them.

  • The Elf June 4, 2012, 9:16 am

    Funny – I’ll be doing cosplay for the very first time…. at Gencon. What a coincidence! I’m getting some great advice here. Thanks.

  • K June 4, 2012, 7:19 pm

    I read a really great article on cosplaying etiquette a couple years ago, but unfortunately I can’t find it anymore. One of the top etiquette tips was: If someone is clearly taking a break, e.g. has removed articles of their costume, is lying down or otherwise obviously resting, has moved off to a quiet corner, etc., then it would be inconsiderate to ask to take their picture at that time; it would be better to approach them when they are up and about (and chances are that there would be plenty of other opportunities within the day to find that same person to take a picture of later). I wish more people would heed this advice!

  • justme June 15, 2012, 8:29 pm

    This is unrelated to cosplay, but I have a pregnant friend who doesn’t really like to be touched by strangers. She’s had a few experiences where someone (usually an older woman) will ask to feel her belly, and she’s very politely, but firmly, said no. The response on at least one occasion was an indignant “but I asked first!” I agree that no matter how nicely you ask, if a person would rather not be touched, photographed, etc., then you shouldn’t push the issue. They have the right to say ‘no’; accept it and move on.

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