Howie discusses controversial cosplays.

A colleague and I were discussing general news items the other day and the topic of the Labour party wanting to cut ties with Max Moseley came up. Max Moseley… that name sounded rather familiar. Upon searching on Google, I realised that this was the same Max Moseley that had previously been linked to Nazi-themed sex parties.

I decided to do a quick search for “Adolf Hitler Costume” to see what would come up in terms of controversial costuming and cosplays. The first picture that came up was a picture of a boy in what looks like a khaki overall with a fake moustache. Not forgetting the swastika armband. Then some pictures of Hitler, and then more pictures of people dressed as Hitler.

The first link which popped up as a search result though took me a little by surprise: it was an article form the BBC News website titled Australian boy wins ‘best dressed’ prize for Hitler costume, reminding me  of the South Park Halloween episode in season 1 where Cartman came to school dressed as Adolf Hitler.

Another article about Nazis and schools involved a school in Taiwan where the students mocked up a Nazi rally for a Christmas parade. The students made all the paraphernalia to go with a Nazi rally: banners, flags, eagles, armbands, and even a tank!

Reading these stories made me think about cosplay and about some of the more controversial cosplays. Say if there was an ‘Allo ‘Allo! themed cosplay event, would it be right for someone to be decked out in an historically accurate German WW2 era uniform? How about reenactments? Should they temper their kit rather than go for a full historical accurate look?

If people feel cosplayers shouldn’t go for accurate Nazi cosplays for example, then should we further demand that films refrain from having accurate Nazi uniforms in them?

There are many factors to be considered in this debate. For example, should someone’s intentions be taken into account? Is it okay to dress as a Nazi if you have no intention to offend at all? Let’s take a look at the whole Nazi Chic thing in East Asia: do they really understand what the Nazis stood for? Probably not because it’s probably not very well taught in that part of the world, whereas they would have been taught more about the atrocities carried out by the Imperial Japanese Army during the war instead.

One would hope film makers’s intentions are not to purposely offend, although we seem to tolerate controversial costuming for the sake of art (ie in a film). So why can we not tolerate it for cosplay?

This debate has been had many times, and every time I read something about this online, it sometimes reads like people do not fully grasp the complexities of the whole debate, but yet are willing to take pot shots at each other. It is more complex than that, and probably should best belong in a jurisprudence lecture and / or debate, as what is really at the heart of this discussion are people’s rights to express themselves, against someone’s right not to feel offended.

I do not profess to have an answer to these competing rights, nor do I advocate for a particularly point of view here. It’s not beyond the pale of possibility that whatever you decide to do, someone will have something to say about it one way or another. But I think that people generally need to refrain from making any hasty judgments about other people. We live in a day and age where people just want to “call someone out” for whatever they’ve done, but that does not help cosplayers as a community at all. Sure discuss  controversial topics, but don’t turn it into a personal thing.