Costumed Character Etiquette

by admin on January 21, 2013

I’m a member of a costuming club and I volunteer at events for charity. We’re a big movement, thousands of members around the world raising money for charity and bringing smiles to children’s faces.

But children, particularly unsupervised children, are usually the main problem at events and it sometimes ends with cutting a visit short and people missing out.

It is not polite to touch or interfere with our costumes unless we invite you to do so. We don’t mind hugs or high fives, we do mind if you try and pull capes off, push buttons or punch us.

Costumes that have full faced helmets or heads are hard to see out of, and it’s impossible to see small children when they stand in front of you. It’s much better if someone taller like a parent accompanies a child to meet a character that way we can see you. Usually we have more mobile people who can see, but it can get difficult if children swarm around us. Also, having Mum or Dad there can make it less scary.

Try not to let kids spoil it for the others. Kids saying things like, “You’re not real!”, or , “You’re just wearing a costume!”, isn’t fun. If you don’t want a photo, fine, but don’t ruin it for the others.

And finally on photos. A lot of people want them so please remember that and try not to linger to long if there’s a crowd or get in other people’s photos. It is ok if you see us just walking along in costume to ask for a photo, and we will take them with your camera if you want. And please donate if you’re collecting or hiring costumers for an event.

Just remember costumers are people too. Some of us put valuable time and money making our costumes and going to events. It doesn’t matter if they turn up to a birthday party or an amusement park. We do it for fun and to share the fun with others, don’t spoil it!   1104-12

Both my son and daughter have donned the Chick-Fil-A cow costume on many occasions and oh, the tales they do tell.  It’s not just the kids.   My son reports that adult women are not immune from behaving quite inappropriately by goosing his backside or even feeling his groin.  He’s had kids kick him in the shins, punch him in the groin, climb on his back unexpectedly, pull the tail and on and on.   And that was with a handler standing by!

Btw, my daughter performed the very first CFA cow dive into a swimming pool in 2006 seen here:  http://youtu.be/aWma4eTtHv0   At 1:08 she’s signaling to her handlers asking whether she can do this, gets a thumbs up and takes the plunge.   Numerous cows have since done it.   Good times, good times.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Obi-Wandreas January 18, 2013 at 6:24 am

I’m going to guess that this gentleman is a member of the 501st. My wife & I certainly teach our children to treat clone troopers kindly.

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Joni January 18, 2013 at 7:44 am

Maybe kids are saying “You’re not real” or “You’re wearing a costume” as a way of reassuring themselves that there is a real person underneath. I remember, as a small child, being terrified of anything in a full-body costume, no matter how friendly the costume was meant to be. My parents often reassured me by saying those same things.

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Cherry January 18, 2013 at 7:57 am

One of the worst things about people’s reaction to costumes is how they often think it gives them permission to leer and/or put their hands all over the wearer.
There’s a good story that went around about a cosplayer wearing a brilliant costume of the Black Cat from Spiderman who was approached by a journalist and cameraman. Upon agreeing to an interview, the journalist began to ask really invasive questions about the player’s measurements, even encouraging people watching to try to guess her bra size. The cosplayer kept her cool but made it very clear she wasn’t impressed, telling the journalist to think hard about what made him decide he had the right to try and humiliate her like that, before she walked away.

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Brockwest January 18, 2013 at 8:21 am

I was extremely surprised the first time I dressed out for a Charity event in costume. Children can be very assaultive. Shin kicks, attempts at stealing rings and watches become the norm. Parents think it is funny.
Parents are a class to themselves if the Charity costume event involves something free for the kids. I had laboriously learned how to make balloon animals….BIG mistake. I was giving them away for free. My concept was to pick a child at random and make a ballon animal for them. Within milliseconds, I had a long line of kids wanting balloons (reasonable, I would have been in the line if I were a child.) What I did NOT expect was the pushy parents who felt their child was more important than any other in the line, and who would barge to front and absolutely DEMAND a balloon be made for their child ahead of any other. Not wanting to break costume character, I did so, only to be stunned when the parents would demand with hostility that they had 2,3, 7 siblings of the children at home who ALSO needed a balloon animal NOW. Very quickly other parents got involved in the demands.
Unfortunately I soon saw that some children were going around bragging that they had 5 animals, some were crying that they had none, and some parents were threatening to “tell on me.” To whom, I have no idea, as it was strictly for charity, and there was no charge, all costs coming out of my pocket.
I learned to keep a safe distance from the public and do my act at a distance. Balloon animals became a forgotten art for me.
I agree with the above, if you see someone in costume, be respectful, do not assault, grab, insist. If someone in costume is tending to their needs in a bathroom stall, it is not the time to reach over the stall with an autograph book or the like.

On the other hand, I found that some children are absolutely terrified by the idea of a giant costumed character and learned very very quickly to let them approach me, rather than the other way around.

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Leah January 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

Unless I’m mistaken, my fiancé and I belong to both this group and its sister group of good guy character costumers. My fiancé also belongs to a related group that builds the trash can-shaped robot who bleeps and whistles. We frequently encounter one poorly behaved child/family for every twenty or so great ones. That robot has been hugged (definitely OK!), kicked, poked, even licked (Lysol wipes are a part of the maintenance kit now.
I have developed a system that works well for us: when the child/family member starts to act inappropriately I will, dressed as the diplomatic female protagonist, slide alongside the parent and strike up a conversation. “Hi! Big fans of robot/villain in black/henchman in white? Yeah, us too. We love making these costumes. Sure they can get expensive, but it’s worth it to get to volunteer for . The robot there? Oh, my fiancé built that himself. It took him about 5 years and around 10 grand but it’s a labor of love. Oh? You have to go and pull little kick boxer off the expensive toy now? Thank you! Have a great day!”
In the span of twenty seconds I’ve alerted the family that we are volunteers and that the big shiny thing their kid/family member is treating badly is quite expensive and privately owned. It also allows them to save face as frequently the family is a recipient of the charity we are there to support.

I’ll tell the story someday of the Autism Walk where diplomatic female protagonist in white was picked up and bear hugged by a very excited teenager.

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OP January 21, 2013 at 6:14 am

OP here! Yes, I am a member of the 501st legion. And for the record, I am female. As an officer I’m the one that you see the face of beside all those masks. So it’s often my job to smile at the scared kids, wave and sometimes suggest that Mum or Dad get in the photo and I take it.

And I’m also the one that yells at you if you play up with one of the troopers, and get them to move on if there’s a crowd of unsupervised kids.

Yes, it’s always the unsupervised ones that cause trouble. And I have seen kids swarm around Artoo. They seem to want to touch.

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Penguin January 21, 2013 at 7:11 am

Santa Cow is a tradition in our family, we visit every year. It’s not really the holiday season until we have seen Santa Cow!

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Ally January 21, 2013 at 9:04 am

I used to work for a major theme park with costumed characters, and there all costumed characters actually have someone not in costume accompanying them A) to guide the character and help them deal with the fact that they can’t see that well and B) to deal with bad situations and stop people who are harassing the character and C) make sure people who have been waiting get to have their picture taken.

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--Lia January 21, 2013 at 9:23 am

I was going to take issue with the one about not saying “you’re not real” and see that Joni beat me to it. One of the most important stages in child development is learning where reality starts and imagination begins. It might be important to the child while he’s figuring it out to articulate for himself that someone is only PRETENDING to be a character and isn’t really the character. To the adults, it’s all good fun. To some kids, they feel like they’re being tricked. This might also be what’s behind kicking in the shins. From the child’s point of view, first they’re being told that something really is a magical being; the next second they’re being told not to hurt a real human being. Perhaps the kicking is about needing to figure out, in a concrete way, that there’s a person under that costume.

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Serena January 21, 2013 at 9:59 am

In a past (thank goodness) life, I was the general manager of a restaurant that owned a mascot costume that we would pull out during promotional events. I had one employee who was a good kid, but he tended toward the hyperactive side and could be a handful at times. The first time we used the mascot costume when he was working, he got so excited at the prospect of wearing it that I agreed, thinking his enthusiasm would be a great asset. The poor child came back to me with tales of being kicked in the shins, elbowed in the stomach, stomped in the foot, and assaulted with, “Let’s see if it’s a boy or a girl,” doubled-up fist…and you can imagine the rest. The entire experience was so traumatic for him that, whereas before there were days I couldn’t keep him in line no matter what, from there on out, all I had to do was mention the mascot costume and he would straighten right up. Poor little guy.

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Aurora January 21, 2013 at 10:45 am

I participate in living history events, including Renaissance Faires and Civil War reenactments. While I am always happy to answer polite questions regarding my garb, it always amazes me that some people feel it is appropriate to try to lift my skirts to see what my undergarments look like, pull my hat off my head to “get a better look” or undo the clasp on my belt pouch to see what’s inside. Please ask before you touch.

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Ergala January 21, 2013 at 11:27 am

When I was a teenager I was often times “recruited” to dress up as a clown for business events at my parents business. By the way, totally terrified of clowns. You wouldn’t believe how many people, especially adults, would make very insulting remarks to me when I was in costume. It’s like they think under the make up and costume there isn’t a human being. I’d hear things like “Wow…desperate for a job huh”, or “Either you have no life or you lost a bet”. It would come out of nowhere, I’d be handing out balloons to the kids and someone would say that. Or a kid would kick me or throw food at me. One kid found it funny to pop the balloons he got right behind me just to see me scream.

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Wendy B January 21, 2013 at 11:29 am

When I was about 8 years old I was asked (probably coerced) into dressing up as ET for a PTA fundraiser. I don’t know where they got the costume, but it included a cloth mask that wrapped around the face. Most people were great, but I’ll never forget the child, in mom’s arms no less, who grabbed my mask, pulled it as far as the elastic would allow, and let go. And then both laughed as I staggered back and yelped (it didn’t hurt so much as stun me). Almost 30 years later and that memory is so clear…

I can’t imagine doing it regularly as a job or as a volunteer. You guys have my utmost respect.

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XH January 21, 2013 at 11:46 am

I have occasionally costumed as a large furry animal myself. Inside the costume is hot, difficult to breathe, and incredibly difficult to see – especially straight down, since the muzzle gets in the way. In a costume of this type with a static facial expression it’s very bad form to speak, so I always costume with a handler to do the talking for me.

That said, children and adults both can be really nasty to mascot costumed performers. I’ve been kicked, punched, groped, propositioned, and even had one person attempt to dump a bucket of water over my head. So that whole posted list in the original post is entirely correct as to how a person ought behave around costumers. The padding of the costume is never so thick that being hit doesn’t hurt, and a punch on the snout to demonstrate your dominance can damage the most expensive part of the costume and potentially shove electronics into the eyes and mouth of the performer. It’s not uncommon to have a small electric fan in the nose, and some costumes include LED lights and animatronics to simulate blinking eyes and moving ears.

One last note though, if a costume includes a dropped crotch so as to give the character short stubby legs – please don’t let your kid punch or grab the performer in the character’s stomach. That is the crotch of the person in the costume, and it’s extra painful and not okay to assault them there.

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Lesley B January 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I have never understood the parents that think it is hilarious when their child assaults someone with punches, kicks, stomping on character’s feet, etc. I have seen several videos that parents have taken where everyone is laughing. If my kid did that there would be no laughing, no standing back and watching and definitely no videoing!

My 5 year old son is autistic, but verbal enough to understand many expectations of him (spelled out clearly and often, before we get into an event). He lacks empathy and an understanding of emotions in others, at this point in his development, so we have to demonstrate and describe good behaviour (and that making people sad if mad is not all right). We take him to the character (if he is interested), remind him that it is a short hug or high five. If he punched a character we would get him to say sorry and our day out would be over. This is an effective way of telling him that some behaviour is just unacceptable. If he got carried away (overwhelmed, melting down) we would not approach the character at that time.

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Ashley January 21, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Oh gosh, here we go, cosplay stories. I recognize that what OP does is much more intense than cosplay, especially if it’s the group I’m thinking of, I encounter members of that group at the convention I go to each summer. It’s just every time I read stories like this, I think of all the cosplay horror stories I have read or have had happen to me.
Idk what it is about people in costume that leads people not in costume to believe that we are there basically to be touched, poked, heckled, etc. I am not saying everyone does that, I’ve met quite a few people who are very respectful of my costumes/props/me (including some amazingly well behaved children who don’t touch without permission, and recognize the importance of taking turns). In fact, I have met more respectful people than disrespectful people. I’m glad for that too, or I would stop cosplaying. Last year’s convention was both a high and a low for me. I dressed as Black Widow from The Avengers. It was a high because of the amount of time/effort/money that went into that costume, and that it all paid off. I got plenty of well mannered positive attention, and had a lot of fun posing with other people dressed up as other members of The Avengers. It was also a low though because there were several times I wished I had picked a less popular costume. I INSIST on getting out of the way of foot traffic before people take my picture but there were a few times I was prevented from doing so, which got me evil stares from people just trying to get from A to B. I’ve never been groped til I wore that costume (thankfully by that time I had a body guard in the form of a guy dressed as Nick Fury). I also had a crowd of people briefly boo me when I insisted on pausing for a moment, as my arms were tired from holding the same pose for about five minutes solid.
I often wonder what could be done to help people in costumes. Whether it’s for charity, for a job, or for our own amusement, no one deserves the harassment some of us have been known to receive.

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Calli Arcale January 21, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I’ve worn a costume a couple of times at an event featuring older visitors who were all well-behaved. As a result, I was a bit unprepared for the reaction when I went in costume to help out with an elementary school Halloween party. Alone. Big mistake. I eventually had to break character because of the kids not only tackling me but, ah, determining I wasn’t male by punching me in the groin. And yes, the kid said that was actually *why* he punched me. (Never have I been more glad of my gender, as it saved me some pain that day.)

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Lynne January 21, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Wait, didn’t you already post this a week or so ago?

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admin January 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Only for a few minutes. It was accidentally published on the wrong date.

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Enna January 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I think it’s sick when people think they can sexually assault or harrass someone. Or for children to behave like thugs. It’s a real shame.

@ Cherry, I liked the lady remaining compesed and telling the journealist what she thought before walking off – good for her!

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Stepmomster January 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm

At one point I was the dancing noid for dominos… people in cars felt it appropriate to throw drinks at me, scream obscenities or pull on my hands or “ears”; generally be complete jerks. One day, this group of teens comes up and starts joking around, and it was pretty harmless. However, one of the teens got too comfortable and popped me in the noids face, just above my real face. I broke character and took the head off and told him to back away. He was completely shocked and embarrassed he punched a girl his age, and his friends went from laughing to silence. I walked back into the pizza shop, got a drink, and went back out fully costumed. Luckily they had left. I like to think they are more careful with people they literally don’t know.

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TylerBelle January 21, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I dressed up as a bunny once for a Easter promotion in a restaurant as a favor for a friend’s mom who was the manager. Except for a few whom seemed to be terrified, the kids were pretty nice and considerate towards me. Although I only did so for a weekend.

It’s appalling of what I’ve read here, and seen on tv in those home video shows, like a vid of a child deliberately stomping on the foot of an amusement park character (that’s funny?), and reading an article where a guy who had a job as a character, and at an event, had difficulty stopping a child from trying to head-butt him, all the while the child’s dad egged him on. Goodness! It’s all supposed to be fun and games, why has nasty, actually violent behavior become almost the norm?

It seems to me like the ones who are the spoilers mostly do so because they wish to be the center of attention themselves, they took on the costumed character so they are the guy (or girl) of the hour, so to speak. And sadly they do so at the expense of hurting the person inside the costume and ruining things for everyone else.

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The TARDIS January 21, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Sometimes I wonder if the people who mistreat mascot type costumed characters think the costume has enough padding to make it not hurt. That said, I still find it vexing that children and adults alike think it’s all fine and dandy to assault someone in a costume.

I was once a spotter for a friend who dressed up as a Dalek for a convention, and it is unbelievable how rude people are. I had to head off several adults and children alike when they tried to tap on or shove my costumed friend! There ARE fully robotic full sized Daleks controlled by computers, but the Daleks on the actual Doctor Who show and a majority at conventions do have a live human being inside, and some of the Dalek costumes at conventions are completely home made to resemble the actual aliens from the show. I’m talking about hundreds to thousands of dollars in materials and time.

A video from Doctor Who Confidential shows you how a person operates a Dalek costume from the show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhWA-5Bid2Y

This is just a funny video of somebody in a Dalek costume at a con: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRHNE4V3sgY

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Ashley January 21, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I read about that woman at Comic-con who got harassed by the video crew. I’m proud of her for keeping her composure as well as she did. She’s a stunning woman and yes the costume is revealing, but that’s no excuse for the things the men said to her.

Now that I think about it, there are a lot of costumed characters in my town depending on the time of year. There’s the statue of liberty outside a tax place, a mattress outside a mattress store, and “Mr Subbie” outside a local sandwich shop amongst others. I’m happy to report I’ve never seen any of them getting harassed. Honked at by cars, but that’s about it.

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Marijelly January 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I have also worked as a host or entertainer at events, wearing costumes.
Kids up to a certain age (about 5) just don’t have a sense of reality the way adults have, and it can manifest in weird behavior when they encounter “unreal” things or experiences. Some kids have a strong urge to examine by touching etc, and some do it violently, maybe sometimes out of frustration because they don’t know what to think. It’s been worse the more unrealistic I’ve looked, and when they can’t see my facial expressions. And if they can’t communicate with the “creature” verbally, chances are they do it with body contact.

But – in my opinion it’s every parent’s job to teach their kids to be kind and polite to every living creature, and surely you can do that without ruining the magic.

And then there are the older kids that understand but just seem to have a serious lack of empathy, often accompanied by a parent ignoring it or displaying the same behavior. The type of entitled person that thinks it’s hilarious to have fun at the expense of someone else.

I also get the occasional know-it-all remarks from kids. “I know you’re just in a costume!” But I think this is ok because it is often a way of making a statement that they are no longer gullible little kids – as long as they’re not allowed to stay there and continue ruining the fun for others. The kids I like meeting the most are actually the ones that are old enough to know I’m not “real”, but enjoy going along with it just as much anyway. Playful teenagers often fall in this category, and sometimes even adults :)

Some parents just leave their kids with me like it’s a kindergarten, without even asking. I’ve seldom done events that are for kids only, but just because I have a costume it’s like “Oh good, entertainment for the kids while we go exploring/shopping/have a beer” Once I couldn’t have lunch or take a break for several hours because the parents purposely disappeared. And that was at a historic medieval event! And it’s a total nightmare if kids don’t behave and I can’t leave the site.

I’ve also had some comments from adults like “Seriously, how much are you getting paid to do this?”, implying that it’s somehow a humiliating job that noone with a choice would do. I wonder why they are even there if they don’t appreciate it as a part of the event?
(Actually, my salary has sometimes been really good even compared to more “high status jobs”, but of course it is something I do to make people happy. It takes too much energy and preparations to be an everyday job even if there were enough events for that)

The worst experience was years ago when I was hired as a pirate for a private party, entertaining and playing games with the kids of the guests. I did it as a favour to the hosts and because I thought it would be fun, them knowing it wasn’t my usual type of work (and I will never do a private gig again) Almost all of the ten kids, various ages, behaved either unpolitely or even aggressively, triggering each other. The worst part was that none of the adults seemed to care or even notice at all. I even broke character to hint that they needed to supervise the kids. But no, they wanted to socialize with the other guests – to them I was the baby sitter.
The hosts made the mistake of announcing the visit of a pirate much earlier than agreed, before I had my makeup or costume on. It was meant to be a surprise. I spent a sweaty half hour locked in a bathroom hastily getting ready with the kids screaming and banging the door, demanding to see the pirate. The entertaining part – telling the story of a treasure that then would be found in the room, etc – I had to cut very short since they couldn’t listen or calm down even for a minute. I teach theatre for kids and have seldom had problems even with ADHD kids or larger groups. But because of the costume I was perceived as a cartoon character, a toy. And the parents seemed to agree…I was constantly poked, pulled, jumped on from the back and screamed at, parts of my costume were taken and thrown around. As a finale I had prepared a large bucket of giant soap bubble mixture outdoors, but before we even started it was all poured out before I could stop them, parents doing nothing to prevent it. I had to ask some of them directly to help me carry new water. Luckily I had some mixture left. The kids were screaming or crying as soon as they weren’t assisted by me with bubble blowing, again parents just standing at a distance. One mum even passive-aggressively blamed me for not being fast enough to help HER kid before the (instant) crying.

That said, except for the party above I’ve had mostly fun at my costume events, and most people and kids are happy, thankful, polite and take turns. It has worked out better when we are at least two persons in costumes and have other staff members present, and organized so that not too many people can approach me at the same time and not from behind my back. But often you don’t know beforehand. If there’s chance of physical interaction with kids, I choose costumes where I show my face and can move easily…

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Angel January 21, 2013 at 11:20 pm

I think the OP’s post is spot on! I have only dressed up as a character once, it was Brother Bear of the Berenstain bears. I did get grabbed a lot by little kids but thankfully not punched or kicked. I am simply appalled at a few of the posts that seem to excuse the kids who are kicking these characters in the shins–say WHAT? Are you freaking kidding me? Kicking or hitting is never okay–I don’t care how young the kid is, the parents should know better!

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Kris January 22, 2013 at 1:18 am

Lia- Not really. Its brat kids knowing they can get away with it. I used to work at Chuck E. Cheese and all crew had to done the rat suit at least once. Hot, couldn’t see and kids EVERYWHERE. Thankfully our managers were smart enough to realize that having a second crew member playing handler cut down on the number of bratty kids doing what they do. Its very common at the mouse house too.

For those who have mentioned the Black Cat cosplay story – That sadly is the dark side to cosplaying as a woman, an attractive one and picking a character that has *gasp* a tight and/or revealing outfit. One half will think you’re a paid poser(just because you’re a pro doesn’t mean you don’t know the material) and the other half will assume they can treat you like a piece of meat and expect you to like it.

As someone who costumes(furry) and cosplays its amazing how badly people will behave when you no longer look like you. I have friends who are furs, but also mascot for a living(parties, events etc) and the number of horror stories or having to remind people that they aren’t paid to take their abuse is long and varied.

Rule of thumb: There is a person behind the mask. Never forget that. Also speak up if you’re at place with costumed/mascots and they are being abused by others. Your complaints get heard more than ours.

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crella January 22, 2013 at 3:42 am

I’m astounded at the accounts of groping, that’s awful! My sister often dressed as the mascot when she worked at a toy store, so I’ve heard of behavior like kicking etc but groping just blows my mind!

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Ergala January 22, 2013 at 8:26 am

@Angel, we teach our kids it is NEVER okay to hurt someone unless that person is assaulting them. We’ve taught what good and bad touching is and if someone is bad touching by all means the gloves come off. But we don’t hit for entertainment, we don’t hit to show frustration and we treat people/animals/people in costumes with respect. If either of my kids (3 and 7) hit a costumed person they would be over my knee so fast their head would spin.

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The Elf January 22, 2013 at 8:38 am

Honestly, this is the reason why I’ve never considered cosplay at any event where there is a large number of kids (or cosplaying as a kid-oriented character, like a Disney Princess). I don’t blame the kids – they’re just excited or don’t know any better – but the parents should be able to reign them in and all too often they don’t (or they egg them on). I’ve seen it many times at various cons.

Last time I cosplayed, I did a horror character for Gencon. There are kids at Gencon, but not a lot. I got a few leering comments (the skirt was short and the neckline low cut), but you expect a few when you dress “sexy”. I also was slipped a card for a strip joint that was running a costume contest, after the card-giver verified that I was older than 21. He was discrete and professional about it, so I was more flattered than skeezed (and never once considered taking him up on the offer).

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Powers January 22, 2013 at 10:26 am

@Ergala: “Hitting is wrong, so if I see you doing it, I’m going to hit you”??

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Library Diva January 22, 2013 at 10:28 am

There’s a great book called “Behind the Mouse” which is sort of an unauthorized, oral history of Disneyland that has an entire chapter devoted to incidences like this. Apparently, costumed characters have been inducing this kind of behavior in some segments of the public since the mid-1960s. Wish I had the author handy…it’s out of print, but if you see it at the library, read it. It’s hysterically funny (my favorite anecdote is about the innocent-looking girl who had the dirty version of the Storybookland boat ride spiel that she would do at night for the Marines). It even features some instances of the costumed characters taking their own revenge on people who tried to beat them up or worse (I guess the Big Bad Wolf got stabbed once; fortunately for the actor inside, the costume took the beating instead of him).

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Amanda January 22, 2013 at 11:03 am

I worked for a party supply store and I despised the two halloweens I worked. The crowds were one thing, but the costume was a nightmare. There were two costumes, a pirate and a skeleton in a black robe. I opted for the pirate because it had better visibility. We were put out there for an hour at a time, with no one to escort us to the curb and with a headset on so we would know when it was time to go inside. Getting honked at is part of the job, and didn’t bother me much, but people walking by and commenting or throwing things from their cars as they drove by wasn’t fun. I did have a group of guys try to threaten me once, but I quickly took off the mask and told them I would press charges, even though I wanted to tell them a few other choice words. I think I scared them mostly because I was a female in a male pirate costume. I was more than happy to leave that job.

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Library Diva January 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Here’s a funnier tale from the Disneyland book I referenced before. A couple of guys who were visiting the park took a shine to Minnie Mouse…more than a shine. They followed her around, flirted with her, asked her out on a date, and were ecstatic when she agreed to meet them. Imagine their surprise when Minnie ducked into a break area and returned with her costume head tucked under her arm…to reveal a rather burly guy! “Where you going boys, I thought we had a date!” he called, laughing, as the two of them tripped over each other to make their apologies and beat a hasty retreat.

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Amanda H. January 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Thankfully I’ve been on the receiving end of very little unwanted attention when in cosplay, probably because I don’t choose revealing, insanely popular, or super-elaborate costumes. I have been propositioned once in my White Mage costume, and had a Black Mage cosplayer pester me for a bit before I warned him that his attention was unwanted and I WOULD call con security if need be (he listened and didn’t bother me again that weekend).

It still boggles me that the convention needs to post in the rules and all over the forums that people should NOT be tackle-hugging cosplayers or yanking on their costumes and such. I’ve heard the horror stories from other cosplayers who dress in more attention-getting costumes than I of how they’ve had fragile pieces ripped by careless con attendees or have been hugged and groped by people without warning.

And yes, it extends to other events as well. On a forum I frequent there’s a member who gets seasonal work as one of the mascots outside a tax place, and the stories she tells of people deliberately splashing her and her coworkers with their cars, yelling insults, throwing trash, and catcalling just make me wonder what is wrong with some adults. All I can figure is that a lot do it for the power trip (especially with the mascots on the streets, when you can show you’re “the man” and then get away before it becomes a problem), and others do it because there’s that disconnect where, since they don’t see the “real” person behind the costume, they treat that person AS the costume instead of a living, breathing human being.

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chefnutmeg January 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Was this at last year’s Con Elf? I saw several stunning horror costumes there,so I was curious. Looking forward to this year!

That being said, I make it a point to respect people in costume, they put a lot of love into the outfits.

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pktaxwench January 22, 2013 at 10:59 pm

OH YES. The nerve of people. Still looking for a polite way to stay in character and NOT be a douche when people assault me. Often speechless, I turn and flee.

One of my many cosplays is Jack Sparrow, I also have been talked into appearing at a few charity events for photo ops. I’m a chick, but I’m really darn good at the character, having spent way too much time/money on the costume. I have lost count of the times I’ve been SLAPPED by women trying to reenact that scene from the movie – and I’ve never met them! Usually it rips off some facial hair and hurts too. I’ve also been groped by drunk (and a few sober) women. I am ‘packing’ down in front, so they’re just groping a rolled up tube sock, but still… WHO DOES THAT????? I pity Johnny Depp.. no wonder he never goes out in public.

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NostalgicGal January 23, 2013 at 1:33 am

At one time I belonged to a few theme fan clubs, and would dress up with one of them to visit the Shriner Hospital in town. We would do it near the holidays… the kids loved it. I wore a costume based on a tvshow that spawned several movies (I can’t say which one) but I was also pretty ‘normal’ looking in that my bodyform and face could be seen (full face paint though and wig) and never had a problem. A few kids didn’t like it because they got ‘me’ and not ‘certain character of this theme’ but. I also attended many conventions, dressed in a variety of costumes.

It’s amazing how people turn off their brains… and even more amazing that they let their little hellionspawn do as they wish. And laugh and encourage it. Just like everyone should work foodservice once in their life, people should get community time for harrassing the mascot, by having to don the outfit and do the deed. Unless it’s one of those 8′ tall plus inflatables or the dancing tube things, there’s a PERSON IN THERE. Sheesh.

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Jane January 23, 2013 at 10:03 am

Most of the local groups here have official “handlers,” – wives, friends, husbands, etc., who help with crowd control.

Obviously, parents should never let their kids punch, kick or be invasive. I think it stems from most people just never being around cosplayers and seriously having no clue what is and isn’t appropriate behavior (not that it’s an excuse).

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kingsrings January 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Growing up, I remember that the giant rat at Chuck E. Cheese took a lot of abuse from his restaurant customers. The most common abuse would be to pull his tail, so finally, the tail was sewn onto the costume.

Costumed Character Abuse is one the main reason I decided not to seek employment as a Halloween character at one of the many local haunted houses in my area last fall. I heard one too many horror stories from friends who did that about being assaulted. I specifically heard that the female costumed characters often get sexually assaulted, too, even more of a reason for me not taking any of those jobs! And apparently, some people will attack the characters at haunted houses because they get so spooked by being jumped or shrieked at (part of the haunted house experience that you shouldn’t participate in if you can’t handle it). You couldn’t pay me enough to have to deal with all that crap!

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LadyStormwing January 23, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I too have done a LOT of costume character work for a major theme park -years of it- and if you can think of it, I’ve probably either experienced it or seen it. We usually went out in groups of 3: two characters and one guide to act as our eyes, ears, photographer, and sadly, bodyguard. I’ve been picked up, punched, smacked, stepped on, and hit hard enough that I ended up with a concussion (yes, the perp was arrested and charges were pressed by both the park and myself. That was fun. Not.) I don’t understand if there is a disconnect and people cannot draw the line between cartoons and reality (just because Daffy Duck shoots his beak off in the cartoons it’s ok to whack him in in the beak at the park) or if people are just plain mean and cruel.

At the same time, I’ve seen some wonderful things happen. Meeting Bugs Bunny was one little girl’s “Make a Wish” dream once, and I got to be part of making that happen. Another time, a girl who was hearing-impared came to see one of the Looney Tune shows, and it just happened to be a show that featured an actress whose brother was also deaf. Her character was able to sit and sign with the girl after the show -the rest of us (still in costume)- stood at the back of the stage and bawled, watching the look of joy on this girl’s face that this giant character was able to not only understand her, but talk back. I’ve seen little boys go head-to-head trying to stump a stage manager who knows more about comic books than Supreme Court Justices know about law just to earn a chance to stand next to the Batmobile. So for all the crud I put up with as a character, I think the joys like that outweighed it.

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Mabel January 26, 2013 at 4:05 pm

THE TARDIS–if I saw a Dalek, I’d run like hell the other way. I want to live!

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Dibella February 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I cosplay as a hobby, and I can safely say that people at conventions can be even worse than children! I’ve looked up “Convention horror stories” online and read many a tale of people tackling, hugging or intentionally upsetting someone because they love/hate the character.

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