Bullies love to target anyone who looks or acts different from the norm. As such, cosplayers are not immune to harassment and humiliation from outsiders and even fellow cosplayers with rigid standards on proper cosplay. Cosplayer and costume/prop maker JezzabellGem decided that she needed to do something about the negativity within the cosplay community. She founded the Facebook group Heroes United Against Cosplay Bullying to provide support and encouragement to cosplayers and erase hate from the cosplay world. Check out my interview with the gracious JezzabellGem below:
[Carpe Nocturne] What prompted the formation of Heroes United Against Cosplay Bullying?
[JezzabellGem] Just over a year or so ago, I was looking into various social media sites trying to figure out which ones suited my business needs in the best ways. I created an account on Tumblr and I was searching for cosplay communities when I ran across a Tumblr page called “Shitty Cosplay”. At first I didn’t think much of it, because I’d never run across anything negative like that before, but what I found was awful. This site was collecting photos of what they considered bad cosplays, posting them and ripping everyone apart. The one that got to me the most was that of a girl who was clearly under 16 dressed as an anime character. Not everyone has access to loads of money to spend on expensive materials…her costume was home made and she did what she could with what she had out of love for that character. She looked adorable and happy. They called her fat, untalented, ugly, a horrible cosplayer and said she had no business ever wearing a costume or going to a convention. What was worse? I knew her. She was the niece of a friend of mine – a sweet and impressionable girl. My own daughter, also a cosplayer, was 14 at the time and as a mom I felt incredibly protective. I found several groups and communities that day that were/are dedicated to humiliating and publically shaming cosplayers who don’t fit one standard or another. I helped get that site taken down, and the girl never knew her photo was up there. That’s the day I formed Heroes United Against Cosplay Bullying.
[Carpe Nocturne] Describe the Heroes team.
[Jezzabell] We are a team of five who run this initiative, and we all play very important roles:
I founded Heroes, and I’m the main admin. I’m probably the most central person most of the time, but Scarlett Rose Cosplay has been my admin partner since just a few months after Heroes was started, and we run the page together. Doozer La Fae is my table and panel partner, she helps me with content, set up, running the tables/booths and giving our panels. Commander Crazy is also present at panels here and there in representation of our LGBTQ+ fans, and she helps us make our videos and presentation slide shows. Loony Bin is my amazing offspring. She also helps with tables/booths, and she represents her age group as well as the LGBTQ+ community in our panels. Loony Bin came up with the idea for our new LGBTQ+ panel. I’m so honored to be teamed up with these amazing and supportive cosplayers. I couldn’t do this without them.
[Carpe Nocturne] Why did your group choose Facebook as the safe space for your community?
[Jezzabell] Facebook is the largest forum for the cosplay community next to Instagram and Twitter, so it made sense to start there. We do have an Instagram, and a YouTube channel that I plan to develop more with, but with the Facebook page being the most active, I have a hard time keeping up with more than that in addition to my own cosplay social media.
[Carpe Nocturne] What topics are discussed at the convention panels your group hosts?
[Jezzabell] The main panel that we give is “Finding Empowerment Through Positive Cosplay”. We share advice on how to deal with trolling, negativity and bullying both online and at conventions. We try and provide online resources for help and encouragement that are in addition to our own site, and we maintain that our page and its fans are a safe place to share and ask for help. Once we’ve established those things, we open the panel up to the audience, because we’re there for them. People are usually very active with asking questions, sharing stories, and giving advice. We’ve also developed a new panel called “The Coast Is Queer: LGBTQ+ Support In Cosplay”. We’re hoping to start giving that one very soon.
[Carpe Nocturne] What is it like meeting some of the cosplayers you’ve helped in person?
[Jezzabell] It’s no less than amazing. I’ve met some very established and well known anti-bully cosplayers who’ve afforded me the opportunity to interview them on behalf of the page to help spread the “no tolerance” message through their own experiences. I’ve also met several fans of the page that have messaged us and shared their own struggles with us. We’re always met with happy hugs and thank yous. I’m humbled and moved every single time I get to talk to someone who has felt supported by us.
[Carpe Nocturne] Why do you think bullies target cosplayers so frequently?
[Jezzabell] Bullies target everyone for every ridiculous reason. I think cosplayers (young cosplayers in particular) are easily targeted for the simple fact of who we are and what we do. To the unfamiliar, we’re those nerdy weirdoes who play dress up. What really gets me is the negativity and drama on social media that seems to occur within our own community toward each other out of jealousy and the quest for cosfame. That seems to be the hardest and most tricky form of bullying to deal with.
[Carpe Nocturne] What should a cosplayer do if they are being bullied?
[Jezzabell] It really depends on the type of bullying you’re dealing with. A good starting point is to think about the results you want, and be realistic about it. It’s reasonable to expect that you can get the harasser to stop contacting you. It is reasonable to expect that you can increase your safety online. If it’s an apology you’re looking for or revenge, then you’re most likely not approaching it in the most effective way. In most cases the smartest (and the hardest) thing to do is to completely disengage. They want your attention. They want you to feel hurt and helpless – that’s how they feed themselves. Don’t give it to them. Know that the real power lies within you. Reach out to groups like ours. Help is out there.
[Carpe Nocturne] The stories fellow cosplayers share on your Facebook page are very inspirational. How does everyone maintain positivity in spite of the trolls and haters?
[Jezzabell] I think the sense of community that all of us have created with each other is what helps positivity the most. Knowing that you’re not the only one going through it, and that you have people, fellow cosplayers, to look to for support.
[Carpe Nocturne] Cosplay is often misunderstood by the general public. What stereotypes would this group like to eliminate?
[Jezzabell] The thing I notice the most is that people seem to think most of us have no social life and that we do this solely for attention. In most cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have magnificent and rich lives full of friends and “cosplay families”. Most of us are very social and conventions serve as our chance to see all of our friends in one fan filled location.
[Carpe Nocturne] What are some of the most creative cosplays this group has seen/created?
[Jezzabell] The most inspiration and creativity we see are when people cosplay in groups, as a family or team up in any way. When we show our love for characters that we admire together – that’s when it’s the most impressive.
[Carpe Nocturne] What are the group’s goals for the future? Where can people come and see your panel discussions?
[Jezzabell] Our goal is to show support to our community by giving as many panels at as many conventions as we can, and to reach as many people as possible. We’re really excited to have panels at Metro Con and Tampa Bay Comic Con this summer and we may even be giving a panel at Dragon Con!
Featured Image Credit: Model- Jezzabell By: Stacston Carter Photography
Heroes United Against Cosplay Bullying
JezzabellGem Cosplay, Props & Costuming