Editor’s note: This story is still developing as we reach out to people in the community for their reactions and perspective on this issue. We will update as needed.
The promoter for Santa Fe Comic Con, Jim Burleson made comments on the con’s Facebook page this weekend in regards to requests he has received for cosplayers, as he explains, professional models pretending to be cosplayers, and it wasn’t well received by the community around cosplay and conventions. The original post, which has been deleted, is below.
What seems to have caused a stir initially is the general reference to ‘cosplayer’ in the post, but further posts and communication in the chain only exacerbated the reaction on all sides. I reached out to the convention’s contact email for a statement or response to the community’s reaction to the post. Jim responded quickly:
The post was in reference to a recent inundation with commercial groups of promo models asking to be paid as guests. They aren’t fans or industry professionals in any way. The “boob models” was in response to a rude and aggressive comment made and though could have been more clearly defined in that statement and had to be defined in subsequent posts to re-inform those protesting that I was referring to literally girls who are paid to model in bikini tops to promote commercial products and not cosplay at all.
The attacks came from all sides twisting my statements and reposting them out of context. Apparently the cosplay community isn’t concerned with being hijacked by people who have no understanding of the art of cosplay. For me I have no dog in the fight but I certainly won’t be asking them to be celebrity guests at my show when I have so many local talented cosplayers that I can focus our support to.
I initially saw posts about this from a cosplayer I follow on Twitter, who I am still hoping to hear more from on this topic, but it was clear that this continues to perpetuate a rift that has existed for a long time between professional cosplayers, amateur or fan cosplayers, and the question of whether cosplayers are considered ‘real’ if they buy part or all of their costume. When asked about this perception, and how cosplayers were reacting to Jim’s comments, and the blocking of individuals from the con’s page (including professional cosplayer Ani Mia) he continued:
The only distinction I have laid out is professional promotional models being hired by an agency or encouraged by a management company to start to present themselves as cosplay artists when they have no understanding of the art. It baffles me that I was very clear that was the only issues I had with anyone and yet like the horde, you are assuming something entirely different as if that’s the mo of the social justice movement. Forget what is actually said and go with what makes the most vitriol response. I love cosplay and the community. I hate that it is being hijacked by commercial firms claiming to be cosplay model reps, and I don’t like that they message me with the same entitled requests. The message posted was that started it all was a rhetorical response made up of several of the conversations I’ve had. It was left anonymous and was light hearted. Even funny to those who attend my show. A friend of a local cosplayer was offended and began attacking us without any actual relationship to the con. She made it her mission to find like minded people to join the crusade and so shared my post but with her own commentary as to direct anyone reading it to her findings.
We blocked everyone who has been perpetuating the conversation in a dishonest way. Accusing us if being anti boob or whatever. When all we are is anti commercialized exploitation of our craft. It will bring down the wrath of the studios and publishers who own these characters and could destroy cosplay. It was never a problem when it was a few fans violating copyright laws, but when it becomes a major business taking millions in fees away from them, they will shut it down.
After explaining that I was not assuming anything, but presenting what I’m seeing from the community on social media, and asked if there was anything more he’d like to add Jim finalized his perspective with:
I think you got everything. We would have blocked any negative comments prior to this event immediately as any event would. We only left it up last night so it would not appear we were hiding anything. 60,000 views and 40 people making negative comments wasn’t really an accurate portrayal of the fan base. The hundreds of messages privately telling us they agree and knew what we were saying from the start is great for us. People buying tickets from all over the county now in a showing of solidarity over the bullying by those misguided cosplayers making comments about safety and such. Our focus has always been the integrity of the industry and the art of cosplay. This crusade to destroy us may have been the best thing that’s ever happened to us. I’m only sorry it has divided the community along so rigid a line.
The reaction from cosplayers continues to be mixed, even after an apology that was posted by the con, and later taken down (image below). The impression that professional models are somehow not also real cosplayers has struck a nerve with a lot of professional cosplayers that do both, or those for whom the line between cosplay and modelling blurs.
I hope to bring you more in-depth perspective from the cosplay community soon, but will leave you with the apology posted by the con, which some have called a non-apology. The highlighting on the image is not mine.