Thursday, July 19, 2012

Public A-Dress

Simon Pegg was at the San Diego Comic Con and posted a tweet with a picture that got him into a bit of trouble with a few female members of the cosplaying community. Here's the tweet:

The concern was that female cosplayers are dressing up to be a part of the geek community, not to be ogled by lascivious fanboys. This becomes increasingly difficult because - let's face it - female sci-fi and comic icons tend to wear rather provocative costumes. Wonder Woman - in most incarnations - is in a strapless one-piece swimsuit with boots. Catwoman is in a, well, cat suit. Uhura wore a minidress.  Whether overt or subconscious in the design, women in science fiction seem to be drawn and costumed with ogling in mind - even by female designers.
Often it becomes ridiculous: in the short-lived Star Trek prequel series Enterprise, the Vulcan T'Pol is not an official member of the Starfleet crew, so she doesn't dress like this:

She's a Vulcan, and Vulcans wear this:
Okay, Trekkie question of the day: why do Vulcans wear make-up?

So, naturally, T'Pol dresses like this:
"I couldn't fit any emotions into this costume anyway."

The costume is designed to turn heads, and any cosplaying woman who chooses to pay homage to this character is likewise going to turn heads.
Mr. Pegg meant to offend no one, and he has said as much. Unfortunately, nerd culture is a culture in which female icons wear skin-tight or low-cut or short-skirted outfits or often some combination of all three. It doesn't make their characters any more powerful, tough, intelligent, or competent heroes, but it has - to a segment of the population - made them more appealing.
However, the proliferation and popularity of characters like Torchwood's Gwen Cooper, Firefly's Kaylee Frye, and Battlestar Galactica's Cally Henderson-Tyrol should be evidence that we sci-fi fans of the y-chromosome can admire - greatly admire - without requiring skin or curve showing costuming to ogle. (Of course, we ogle these characters, anyway. We still have a ways to go.)
Now, one final thought on Mr. Pegg's "gaffe": if the women in that photo were wishing to show tribute to one of the most iconic women in sci-fi history - Princess Leia Organa née Skywalker - they had a number of costumes over three films from which to choose.

The costume they chose was the skin-baring outfit she involuntarily wore while enslaved by a lecherous space slug.
Yes, I did make this picture larger than the others.

It's possible - possible - that these particular cosplayers weren't all that bothered about being ogled by Mr. Pegg or anyone else. Possibly.

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