On Saturday, authorities evacuated a section of Millennium Park thanks to an 18-year-old cosplayer and his "doohickey." I've wrestled with a response for days. I'm a cosplayer, myself. I recreate and wear costumes from sci-fi, anime, video games, and comic books. I've done so for over a decade. It makes sense for me to have an opinion on this. However, I, um...
Frankly, I don't want to sound like an angry mom. The issue won't get out of my head, though, so let me blog my piece as gently as possible.
Cosplay normally takes place in niche environments. Most commonly, cosplayers attend conventions within the safe walls of a hotel or convention center. Cons are wonderful. In 2000, they gave a teenaged, angst-ridden me a place to be honest about my geekdom. I got to hang out with people I related to, and spoke freely about my interests without bullies or embarrassment. I needed those venues then. I attend to this day for other reasons, but those kids still exist. What I'm trying say is that I support these people and events, even post-Bean incident.
Here's where it gets complicated. Sometimes, this socially-ostracized group, experiencing this freedom... forgets. They yell, wield signs, and otherwise experience catharsis in big ways. That's fine- healthy even. Suddenly, it's last Saturday. With all of this forgetting, it becomes easier for groups this size to flat-out forget where they are. Unacceptable. Millennium Park is a part of the "real" world. Real people are going about their business. They will react to things- including "doohickeys" with "wires and stuff"- as real people do. I don't blame the city for how they reacted. I commend their commitment to safety.
To the cosplayers I say the following: Keep cosplaying. Keep expressing yourselves. Our art is beautiful. Have these events, enjoy them, and be happy with each other. That said, you must prepare, be respectful, and above all, do not forget. The jogger with his dog, the mom with her baby in a stroller, the tourist family- they don't watch Doctor Who, Gundam, or Pokemon. They see something foreign, unknown. You can choose to be an inspirational ambassador of geek culture, or just an immature kid acting out. Choose the former. Now that this has happened, the local eye is on cosplay in a very negative way. Imagine how people's eyes could have been opened to the things we love if we'd just remembered.
Keep shining, geeks. ...and for heaven's sake, if you find yourself mid-evacuation, surrounded by police... don't call it a "doohickey." Blogs like to quote things like that.