I had been mulling over a concept I felt very strongly about that came to the surface back when the reality show "heroes of cosplay" began on the Sci-fi channel. I never saw the show because, well, the death star doesn't have cable, but I experienced the backlash it received through social media for purportedly portraying costumers or "Cosplayers" as vain, selfish drama queens. Many pointed to the efforts of various costuming groups with charitable inclinations such as the various super hero themed organizations and the 501st as 'the real heroes of cosplay', which put me in an awkward position- was I a cosplayer?
Cosplay means many things to many different people (for what the wikipedia gods have to say about it, click here). To me, probably like many others, it was something that people who were really into anime did. It was a dedication not only to extreme fandom but also for retro, period, and futuristic fashion. It was a role play thing, where you could be someone else for a while and play in a fantasy realm. And in retrospect, maybe a lot of those ideas could be related to what I do. I love Star Wars, I love putting on a show for the kids (of all ages) and playing the part. To me those are fun side affects.
So I got to thinking about what about the word "Cosplay" bothered me. The term is, obvioulsy, short for "costumed play". It didn't take long for me to realize that that insinuation greatly offended me. Now for a silly explanation for that sentiment, which might give you an entertaining insight into just how much i have lost my mind. It'll be fun, I promise.
What follows is simply my opinion, and does not necessarily represent the views of the 501st legion, it's members or affiliates.
I don't dress up like a Stormtrooper. I am a Stormtrooper. the beauty of a 501st costume is, simply. I am not pretending to be anyone. When I have my helmet on I am still Adam DeLancett, disgruntled retail manager and patron of all things weird. When I am at work in my camo shorts and metal t-shirt, I am still TK-66613 of the 501st Legion, Florida Garrison, Makaze Squad, First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment. The two things are one in the same. Yeah I am a fan of Star Wars, but moreso, I am a fan of Scott Loxley, the man who walked around the Australian continent in Sandtrooper Armor to raise $150,000 for a children's hospital. I am a fan of the doctors, nurses and volunteers at Nemour's Children's hospital who not only help cure sick kids but make sure it's fun while they do it. I am a fan of Mayor Clayton, the giant Rabbit at give kids the world village who welcomes make-a-wish families to their temporary homes. I am a fan of each an every member of our organization that takes the time to make a smile, who puts in extra money to make a donation, who takes the initiative to make a difference. Every once in a while a kid at an event will say something along the lines of "you're not a real Stormtrooper!", and I will look them straight in the face and say, "Kid, these people here are the real Stormtroopers. Those guys in the movies are just actors playing Stormtroopers. Here we are, doing something, completing missions and making a difference. This is as real as it gets".
I have since accepted that what I do, what WE do as a legion will often be relegated to the world of cosplay. And you know what? That's ok. Cosplay has elevated into a real art form, where extremely talented artists, mechanics, and costumers master their craft and constantly raise the bar of excellence- and magically, simultaneously a growing community that preaches, practices, and praises acceptance, appreciation, and kindness is blossoming. Yes, there are divas, and bullies, and hecklers- there is in every crowd, but it's hard not to notice how much more positive the environment has become, and I think I am justified in feeling that organizations like the 501st have helped steer it in that direction.
But I still trip over that word- "Cosplayer". Yeah, I've got a costume. But more importantly, I've got a cause. And what I do may be fun but it's also a lot of work, and it's a bit demeaning to refer to it as play. Some call it volunteerism. Some call it charity. But it my mind it has always been one thing.
It's a war.
When you are a football fan and your team loses, your friends make jokes.
When you are a fisherman and you lose, you still sat in a boat all day with your friends.
When you are a one of us and you lose, a kid's last wish never happens. A program that desperately needs funding doesn't get it. A child dies. It's a tough hobby. The payoffs are huge, the experience is life changing, and the losses are absolutely devastating. Some may shy away from the aspects of what we do that may get uncomfortable or upsetting, but most rise to face the ugliest, saddest tragedies again and again- not with a gun, but with a joke, a smile, a wave, and a hug.
All of the sentiments I have described above were the inspiration for the new Troop for the Cure t-shirt design I put together just last night. "I am not a cosplayer- I am a cause warrior". And the universe answered me, in the moment when I had pulled it all together, and presented me with a new mission.
The message, forwarded to me by a friend of Evan's Parents:
"My son Evan has Neurofibromatosis Type 1. It's a neurological disorder that causes tumors to grow in the body. He has several large plexiform neurofibroma (tumors) in his pelvic region that are considered life threatening.
Before, Doctors would tell us he would live until he was 18, now we don't know if we have a year left with him. Evan doesn't know how very sick he is and we will not tell him. He deserves to be happy with thoughts of the future and his hopes to become a Doctor.
His health is failing more quickly than we expected. Recently, he was admitted into Hospice in order to get his pain under control and is still under their supervision at home.
We want Evan to experience all the things he wants to do in his life. This page is an effort to raise the money needed to send Evan to Rome to see the Colosseum, see the Grand Canyon, witness the Aurora Borealis and maybe see one more Maroon 5 concert.
Because of Evan's illness, his father must stay home with him and we survive off my modest income. His father and I are both in school full time working hard to provide Evan and his brother with the life they deserve. Unfortunately, we won't have the time to do that for Evan.
We hope that you can help us give Evan the best year of his life. I want him to leave us having experienced all the things he wanted to do."
And the war goes on.
Join me in helping Evan's parents reach their goal. As always 100% of all proceeds go to benefit Evan's family in their most noble of pursuits- to give their child a full life.
In the war against suffering, we are the soldiers. The Weapon is Hope.
Never tell me the odds.
Order your "Cause Warrior" shirts here- http://www.freewebstore.org/Troop-For-The-Cure/22Cause_Warrior22_shirt_to_benefit_Evan/p1645292_12439132.aspx
Shirts are men's cut, 100% cotton and available sizes small to 3XL.
AT THIS TIME WE ARE TAKING PRE-ORDERS ONLY. Once enough orders have been placed we will go ahead with printing the run. Please be patient with us and feel free to pass our mission along, the lower production costs are and the more money we can donate to Evan's wish.
Standard shipping rate is for USA orders only.
Please do not select the "pickup" option unless you are in regular contact with TK-66613.
If you are interested in international shipping please contact me at , if you are part of an international 501st Garrison and would like to make a group order we may be able to offer a reduced shipping rate.