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Cosplay at FanCon 2019 – The Force is strong in the Mother City

First launched in 2016, FanCon Cape Town Comic Con has grown into a must-do event for pop-culture enthusiasts, comic book fans, and the ‘geek fandom’ at large.

There is any number of signifiers when it comes to how we categorise ourselves and others within groups and subcultures; one of the easiest to point out are the clothes we choose to wear. From the rather basic way in which we associate gender with specific dress codes – a practice that will hopefully continue to become less and less of a thing – through to the way we sometimes demonstrate our association to a group: bikers in leather jackets, suburban dads in golf tees and cargo shorts, hip-hop heads in saggy jeans and bubblegoose jackets, etc. Then, of course, there are the uniforms we wear to signify our place within a professional setting, be it lawyers and judges in their ominous black robes or construction workers in blue overalls. Even the sceptic would have to admit, we place a lot of value on how we dress. Dare to dress in a way the culture doesn’t quite understand, and questions start to pop up about your identity and your place in society.

The Youtube trailer describes FanCon Cape Town Comic Con 2019 as “bigger, better and geekier than ever”, a celebration of “pop culture, comic books, and all sorts of geekdom”. And indeed, many enthusiasts who self-identify as geeks come out in their droves, many of them in head-to-toe costumes that have taken weeks, months and even a couple of years to create, all based on their favourite comic book and TV characters. Here, within these walls, there seems to be no judgement, except perhaps to judge how well they’ve put together their costumes. Here, their creative expression is a thing of beauty, not a target for derision and ostracism. The gender of the character they choose to dress up as need not be the same as the gender they identify as, or in some cases, the gender identity imposed on them. As you’ll see in the video above, a number of the cosplayers are film industry professionals, who spend their days creating the costumes and faces that keep us entertained. For them, FanCon also presents an opportunity to build their network.

The event is not just about dressing up of course; while it is understandably lacking in the celebrity power of its world-famous American counterpart, the San Diego Comic-Con International, there are still quite a few comic artists that fans can meet up with, “geekmerch” to buy, and a number of panel talks throughout the weekend covering a wide variety of topics of interest to fans of pop culture and comic books.

No doubt the cosplay scene has its complications, as much came through in some of the panel talks, and indeed a quick Google search reveals cracks in the somewhat utopian picture that might be painted by the paragraph above. Movements like “Cosplay is not consent”, founded in 2013, are a direct response to incidents of sexual harassment, stalking, intimidation and general unwelcome physical attention. But for a weekend in April, parents, kids, artists, architects, film professionals and the general geek fandom gathered at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in the name of fun, creative expression and community. And it seemed the only identity that mattered was that of their choosing. ML


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