|My Captain Jack Sparrow costume. |
I updated to OST! Finally!
I'm so far behind >.<
This is a super long journal but I just thought I should put this out there since there seems to be a ton of confusion surrounding this issue. Hopefully this will clear things up a bit.
Disclaimer: As these explanations are laid out, they are for convention situations, NOT for impersonators and hired gigs. There's a whole other set of considerations that have to be accounted for in that territory, and I trust that most impersonators know the rules. This is meant just for clarification purposes as lately I've noticed more and more cosplayers at conventions trying to be in character and they usually either take it too far or they tend to have a very weird/misguided understanding for what being in character means.
Anywayssssss..... Lately on coscom there has been a lot of talk about being in-character (IC) while cosplaying. Questions such as how to handle it, and whether to do it or not have come up. So I thought I'd just post a note clarifying the general rules/guidelines as I see them and so that I'll have this note ready and available whenever I need to copy and paste this onto a post.
In general, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding of what really being in-character entails and a whole lot of misuse surrounding the subject and action.
First of all, I guess I should define what truly being in-character is (as I see it). If you're going to try and attempt to be in character, you really should to be completely in character, otherwise the effect ends up being a bit strange. Now this doesn't necessarily mean you have to be in character 100% of the time, in fact, it may be best to not be in character all the time (more on this later), but for the time you are in character, you should do your best to really completely represent the character. This includes mastering your character's voice, mannerisms, speech patterns, thought patterns etc so that you can provide a truly convincing performance as that character. Not only do you have to master representing your character, but you should probably be familiar enough with your character so that you can handle improv situations when needed. This generally means that you know enough about the character to say things that are beyond just what is said in the series. So basically, running around shouting references at people dressed as a particular character DOES NOT count as being in character (i.e being Sebastian from Black Butler and shouting at everyone who passes by "I am one hell of a butler!" is not being in character, that's just being annoying and repetitive). Additionally, being able to recite lines from a series perfectly in a character's voice, while impressive, still wouldn't really count as being in character. That's more along the lines of just doing a brief imitation. You can use lines and phrases from the series, but that shouldn't be the only thing you do or say. Sometimes you can find clever ways to use an exact line during an interaction, and that would still count as being IC, but generally just standing around quoting random lines wouldn't count as being effectively IC.
i.e: Someone shouting "Hey look! Jack Sparrow!", Jack Sparrow responds with "There should be a 'Captain' in there somewhere" would be IC even though that is pretty much a direct quote. However if the Jack Sparrow could only recite random lines completely out of context, then that would not be IC.
As for how to handle yourself while in-character, you should act how your character would act, but do this within reason. I think one of the key aspects of being in character and acting appropriate is being able to pick up on audience reactions and cues. So, if someone calls out to you and uses your character's name, that is probably a good indication that they are expecting an in-character response. So you can respond to them however you think the character would respond, and if you're really good you may even be able to carry on a brief conversation/interaction with that person. However, I would say generally if someone decides to ask about your costume or calls out to you by your real name or starts a conversation like "Hey man, it's good to see you!", then it's probably best to drop character and just talk to them as yourself. Some people find it annoying if a cosplayer refuses to break character. You're at a convention, so, unless you're hired there to appear as your character, there's no need to be in character 100% of the time (of course if you're a hired character performer at the convention, hopefully you wouldn't have the need to read this o___o ).
Also I personally would not suggest ordering food or performing "normal people" tasks while in character as most likely the person you are interacting with at the restaurant/store/whatever won't want to interact with someone who seems to be trying to put on a performance. They'll just think you're trying to mess around and probably get annoyed fairly quickly.
Additionally, on how to handle yourself, you should NEVER use being in character as an excuse to be rude, loud, or destructive. This is how fandoms usually get in trouble because the majority of the people in large fandoms likes to use the excuse of being (poorly) in character as a way of explaining their loud and disruptive behavior. So basically, don't even try it. It makes the rest of the people who can properly handle being IC look bad and it pretty much just makes you look like a fool.
So, should you be in character at a convention?
I would say that in general, you should only attempt to be in character if you know for a fact that you can handle it properly. This means being able to take into consideration all of the above and, most importantly, being aware of how the people around you are reacting and are affected by you being in character.
Of course for events (such as Dating Game) you will have to be in character, so for those it's more of a matter of putting on an entertaining/engaging performance rather than worrying about annoying the people around you. But generally there should probably be a fair balance between interacting with people as yourself and interacting as your character. In a convention setting, I think it is acceptable, and probably even preferred, that you are able to shift between being IC and yourself. So you can perform for people when prompted, but also just talk to people as yourself so you can make friends and engage in normal conversation.
Being in character can be really awesome and super fun for everyone involved, if it is done properly. It definitely can serve as a defining difference between you and hundreds of other people cosplaying from the same series or doing the same character as you, and it's just really neat seeing all the reactions from people when they realize that you are kind of a real-life representation of that character. Just be careful with how you are acting and try to avoid just throwing references at people and constituting it as being IC