The Cosplay Creep, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

So, was that creep really a creep? I tracked down one of the very cosplayers who appeared in my video to find out. Rian, AKA the femme!Loki, was kind enough to answer some of my questions and shed light on the issue. Also included: more information on why this is important and tips on how to stay safe at conventions!

Part 1The Cosplay Creep
Part 2— The Cosplay Creep: Electric Boogaloo
Part 3Return of the Creep

A few days ago, I re-posted clips from my “Cosplay, Creeps and You” video on Tumblr (original video can be found on YouTube here). The response was huge: 80,000 notes and counting! I’ve been floored by the amount of attention my video received; I never ever expected so many reblogs, comments and sheer support. I’m glad that folks are coming together to help their fellow costumers and feel more encouraged to speak up or take action if they feel threatened at a convention!

Not all the attention was positive, however. Some comments defended Greg the “creep” and stated that his actions were excusable because of his reputation as a comedian. “He knows many of them [the cosplayers] personally. He gets permission to interview them beforehand. They’re aware of the comments he’ll make, that they’re usually off-color, and totally insincere,” wrote one Tumblr user. Curious, I tracked down one of the very cosplayers in Greg’s original video. Rian, AKA the femme!Loki to whom Greg joked about having an erection in his pocket, was kind enough to answer some of my questions.

CosplayCreeps-2
Rian during her interview.

M: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me! So, I want to hear you about your experience with that infamous interview. Tons of questions have been asked about Greg and his practices at conventions, but the most frequently asked is this: when he approached you, did he ask for your age before beginning? Did he ask your explicit permission to publish you on his channel or did you sign some sort of release?

R: No, to both questions. Didn’t sign a release and he didn’t ask my age/consent. He simply asked if I would like to interview for YouTube. That’s why when I saw it [the video he ultimately posted] I was extremely surprised to discover he was so renowned on YouTube. I had no idea I was going to be represented in the light that I was on his channel. I was disappointed about what he chose to use in the video.

M: Did he give you any indication that the interview would be a “joke” and might include sexual references?

R: No. He just asked if he could interview me for a video on YouTube. He also didn’t tell me what channel or anything until I asked him where I could find it. The whole interview was very uncomfortable actually. He cut a lot out because I think my reaction was negative. He just stressed that he wanted to give me air time. I didn’t want to be rude so I answered any questions he asked and brushed off the inappropriate ones and thought that making a joke of it would lighten the situation. I guess that is how I react to things that make me uncomfortable.

M: That’s actually a pretty normal reaction. Do you remember anything that he cut or what negative reactions you had? I know it was a while ago so I understand if you don’t recall.

R: Some things. Not a lot considering I did a couple interviews and so many people wanted to talk. Mostly compliments and such, introducing me to his microphone chef, saying how great my costume is, asking how I made it, etc. Though I feel like he used it to take away from what he was going to actually use in the video. 60% of the questions were appropriate, but %100 of what he used was not… So naturally when I saw it I was really surprised and a bit disappointed. But as far as specifics of what he said I can’t say for positive. He did take full body shots and things of my costume. None of my reactions were drastically negative, mostly brushing it off. Uncomfortable “ums” and giggles and shifty eyes. Deflating an uncomfortable situation is what I was trying to do. I also have modeled before so I was somewhat used to the negative attention and have handled things like this before.

M: It almost sounds like he tricked you: started the interview one way, then asked and eventually published the inappropriate questions. Is that more or less accurate?

0fccfcc8eff811e2873222000a1f9e77_7
Rian’s fantastic costume.

R: Tricked wouldn’t be the word I would use, maybe manipulated the interview to seem one way but then used it in a different way. I guess some people would use trick. But I guess that’s just me making light of the situation again. Just by the questions he was asking I thought the interview would be more about cosplay, less about my sex life is what I’m trying to get at. The erection and bondage talk was definitely the highlight of uncomfortable points.

M: Okay! Thanks for clarifying. Out of curiosity, would you interview with this channel again or advise others to do so?

R: Honestly after seeing all of his videos about “hot cosplay girls” and what he chose to use from our interview I probably wouldn’t. I would definitely warn people before interviewing with him. If I ever did agree to interview with him again I would let him know that anything that can be viewed as inappropriate or distasteful I would simply refuse to answer. I just felt like I was put on the spot in a negative way… And I was definitely not prepared for it. I wasn’t wearing a particularly revealing costume either, no cleavage was showing, no midriff, the only thing that was showing skin were my shorts. Of all the girls at the con wearing revealing clothes/costumes I thought mine was definitely on the less revealing side. Definitely didn’t think I would’ve been asked those types of questions. I haven’t been asked such questions in any other interview before or since.

M: I thought your costume was awesome (I love Loki!) and it made me really sad to see that all he could focus on, at least in what he published, was a perverted sense of humor. Thank you so much for answering all my questions. Is there anything else you want to share?

R: Thank you! I worked hard on it. It was unfortunate that all he and all his viewers saw was some uncomfortable Q&A. It’s really not a problem. I really appreciate you getting my take on it, because when I saw it I just brushed it off again but it never really sat well with me. I think you bring up valid points and are extremely brave for speaking your mind so freely. Just wish that his video didn’t reflect so negatively on me, considering I work a professional job and teach at a high school. I would be extremely embarrassed if the students I teach have watched this or will watch it. I just see a lot of regret with this video.

M: Thank you for the support, I appreciate that. Is there somewhere people can see your cosplays or a particular site I should link to credit you?

R: This next con, Comikaze in November, I will be Russel (from the Pixar movie Up) and the con after that I will be a League of Legends character. I will also be at SDCC 2014. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

KassemG
Kassem G., another classic example of the cosplay creep.

Greg, the mind behind Mediocre Films, is definitely a character. Many who commented on my cosplay creeps video failed to realize that I know he’s a comedian (in fact a fairly well-established one in the YouTube community) and not only married, but married to Kim Evey— co-producer of Geek & Sundry. Greg also directs The Guild and is apparently friends with a few of the costumers he interviews, like Jessica Nigri. Many of his videos are, in fact, harmless and light-hearted. He’s even known for being a friendly individual. I did plenty of research before recording my video.

Unfortunately for him, his status does not excuse his behavior. While he can be genuinely funny, I do not find his series of videos with cosplayers at conventions humorous. When his material crosses into territory that would be considered sexual harassment under any other circumstances, it is no longer comedy or satire. I understand that tastes are different and everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but I challenge Greg to walk up to Marina Abramović or Daniel Radcliffe— artists who have not just appeared in “skimpy” clothing but completely nude for public performances— and attempt similar “humor.” The excuse of comedic value does not work.

Also, at no point does he suggest that he’s making fun of actual creepers; in fact, his behavior groups him with them. It’s true that he pushes the envelope for laughs, but he’s achieving those laughs by intentionally making others as uncomfortable as possible. This is an act that he does with everyone, but in this case pushes it much too far. He’s known for asking strangers for interviews and then bopping them in the face with a microphone or doing something unexpected because it’s “funny,” and it’s obvious from Rian’s account that the cosplayers he interviews aren’t briefed about the sexual nature of his questions beforehand. The joke is in the surprise. While it’s true that no one is obligated to complete an interview with someone like Greg (though it is admittedly very difficult to turn away when you feel pressure on camera), the bottom line is that no one should have to face such a tasteless situation in the first place.

Please note: I am not picking on Greg. All I’ve done is share his own work across different platforms to highlight a bigger problem. There are, of course, far more offensive creeps than he– for example, the AX attendee who secretly videotaped women’s cleavage and who currently faces legal reprecussions. In order to avoid singling out one man further, I’ll direct you to this YouTube search for “comic con girls.” There you’ll find a whole slew of cosplay creeps from a variety of different channels. Be extra careful when agreeing to interviews!57994_239024156243455_188735007_nA few other notes:

  • Creeps come in all forms. I’ve gotten plenty of messages from men stating they’d faced similar scenarios or worse from handsy con-goers. Women can also harass women, and men can act inappropriately toward men. There are guys who dress up as half-naked, oiled-up Spartans from 300 and there are girls who dress completely covered up in elaborate Victorian garb… and unfortunately, both parties are susceptible. People can be cruel.
  • Our voices do make a difference. The “cosplay is not consent” movement was prompted after more and more costumers decided to speak up and recount their horror stories. As a result, some conventions have taken to revising their harassment policies to more specifically outline what is not tolerated, who you can call, which safe spaces you can report to as an attendee and the consequences in store for offenders. Even if the convention you are attending does not have specific regulations in place, there are steps you can take that supersede even con security, as explained by the head of security for one of the largest anime cons in the midwest. The more we stand up to this kind of behavior, the more help we get!

If you want even more information on this subject, check out the step-by-step guide on how to report harassment at a convention or browse through The Mary Sue’s numerous pieces on the matter. Above all, I want my fellow fans to have fun… but I want them to be safe, too!

24 Comments

  1. Gavers October 8, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    The issue I have with this is that you are setting a double standard.

    He does inappropriate things to men as well. Maybe not at ComiCon, but he still does.

    If you were to say that the fact that he does that AT ALL is an issue, I’d totally understand (while not agree with) you. Stating “I do not find his series of videos with female cosplayers at conventions humorous. When his material crosses into territory that would be considered sexual harassment under any other circumstances, it is no longer comedy or satire” makes it only applicable for women and is disingenuous. If it’s OK for women, it’s OK for men. And if it’s not OK for women, then it’s NOT OK for men.

    You can choose one, but not both.

    Reply
    1. ilikecomicstoo October 8, 2013 at 10:31 AM

      Hi! Thanks for your comment.
      I actually agree that this issue should not be approached with a double standard. It’s why I included the following in my post, which perhaps you didn’t see?

      “Creeps come in all forms. I’ve gotten plenty of messages from men stating they’d faced similar scenarios or worse from handsy con-goers. Women can also harass women, and men can act inappropriately toward men. There are guys who dress up as half-naked, oiled-up Spartans from 300 and there are girls who dress completely covered up in elaborate Victorian garb… and unfortunately, both parties are susceptible. People can be cruel.”

      I may not have cited any specific examples of harassment toward men, but it certainly doesn’t mean I’ve overlooked it!

      Reply
  2. Napua October 11, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    Even IF his interviews were meant to be jokes, the fact remains that he is exploiting others for his own personal benefit. And that’s no different than what a pervy creep does- exploit others for his/her own personal benefit at the total disregard for any one else’s feelings except their own. Joke or not, it’s definitely not acceptable behavior. Social tolerance of this kind of thing has to change.

    Reply
    1. ilikecomicstoo October 14, 2013 at 6:45 PM

      I agree completely. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

      Reply
  3. franky October 15, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    I amsickened by this Ignorance

    Reply
  4. Arianna October 24, 2013 at 2:37 AM

    This scares me. It sounds like they don’t just pick on the cosplayers who have stereotypical comely bodies, but also people who are not so stereotypically beautiful. Really, it’s a shame, ’cause I’d love to go to a convention like Comic Con, but I’m afraid of who I’ll bump into, or who will bump into me.

    Reply
    1. ilikecomicstoo October 24, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      It’s true that people like this prey on women of all types and in all types of clothing (you’ll notice that many of the cosplayers in Greg’s videos, for example, are rather covered up). But! I really hope that this behavior won’t discourage you from attending a convention.

      Cons are a great deal of fun and experiences with creeps are not the norm. I invite you to attend with a group of friends for safety, which might lessen your anxiety. Be assured, also, that many conventions are becoming more firm in their policies and actions against offenders. Be aware but not afraid!

      Reply
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  7. Mzuark November 19, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    I’m on your side, however unpopular that may be. I don’t understand how it’s Okay to be a sexual creep towards people that cosplay. Yeah, they may be showing off more cleavage and skin, but that does not mean you can suddenly treat them like prostitutes.

    What the fuck is wrong with the world when it’s okay to just be such an asshole?

    Reply
    1. Mzuark November 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM

      And just because someone’s a comedian doesn’t mean that they can just do whatever they want.

      Reply
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  9. Room March 13, 2014 at 4:51 PM

    I completely agree this is not needed. One can make jokes, even sexual jokes, without making the cosplayer uncomfortable. What makes it awkward for cosplayers is that he shows them as an object, not a human-being. He is not the devil, but he’s contributing to a society that thinks it’s okay to harass women as soon as they wear something that is more revealing than long trousers and a sweater.

    Reply
  10. Sara March 20, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    Thank you so for covering this topic! I have been lucky to have simply suffered a few uncomfortable comments, but I have had friends groped, poked and more. This applies to men too (as you said). I had a friend in a cosplay with his midriff revealed, and girls would just walk up and stroke or touch his abdomen. If you wanna compliment a cosplayer on their good looks, there are better ways of doing it.

    Reply
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  12. Adam Cinelioglu May 5, 2014 at 12:17 AM

    Hi! Just read your article (found it through a post on YouTube) and watched your video too!

    I have to say I can’t agree FULLY with what has been said. I am a HUGE fan of Greg Benson and MediocreFilms, and I feel like although some of what you said is true (in my opinion of course) such as being inappropriate by way of groping and the like (let’s be honest it’s just common sense to know that groping and secret boob cameras aren’t okay), I don’t feel Greg has been correctly represented here at all. I get that this is your point of view (along with many others) and an opinion is an opinion at the end of the day no matter who agrees or disagrees with you, but it seems to me like you’re trying to dictate what is and isn’t okay at a comic con. If a person has been told that they’re going to be featured on YouTube and publicised on such a well known, popular site then they should have the smarts to say “Oh btw, that bit about the erection? I’d appreciate that you don’t use that, as I’m a teacher and I wouldn’t like my students to see it.” Greg is a responsible person and would have kindly obliged to this request. Now I’m not “victim blaming” because although he may step out of line from time to time which quite frankly I find hilarious and I love it (along with 2 and a half million men/women/girls/boys) it is also the responsibility of the person (who has consented to being interviewed for YouTube prior to the interview itself) to mention afterwards that they would prefer certain content not be displayed. I for one did a YouTube video similar to Greg (newcoolnarutard1 is my username if you’d care to dub whether I fall into this category of con creeps) and there is some content that was never featured in the final cut because I was asked afterwards not to use it, to which I agreed not to as well as apologised if my material caused any grief. Nonetheless my video was in fact shared around tumblr (of all places believe it or not) and I was painted in a completely in correct light that a lot of people didn’t agree was the case (both male and female viewers. I wasn’t upset by this as such, as the internet is the internet and I focus on the positive feedback as that tends to be more genuine (whilst also taking the negative feedback into account but with a grain of salt.)

    There are boundaries, I get that. But an experience with an interviewer at comic cons is subjective. Just look at Greg’s video where he has awkward interviews with Cosplayers, one of the girls actually mentions that boobs are quote: “wonderful, wonderful things”. Like I said, in my opinion it is subjective, some people have branded Greg as the worst thing to happen to comic con ever whereas others have found his videos to be funny and nothing more. Where you and I differ is I think (dangerous word nowadays haha) having a bit of a back and forth with a cosplayer that can get a bit risqué for the sake of shock humour is acceptable, but it differs from person to person with regards to what constitutes humour and what constitutes “sexual harassment (a word which I find being slung about WAY to casually these days) and it is not for a certain group of people to decide what is and isn’t acceptable in these sorts of situations seeing as (sorry to keep reiterating, I’m blabbing now) there are plenty of people who DO find it acceptable. I also believe (once again before someone breaks out the words “victim blaming”) that if someone is knowingly about to participate in being featured online and they feel uncomfortable with a certain question that they should speak out before it’s too late.

    The problem here is that it’s one thing to say “look out for creeps” and another to say “this, this and this is unacceptable, and anyone doing this, this and this should be demonised because I don’t agree with it”.

    But that’s my two cents. You probably don’t agree!

    Reply
    1. ilikecomicstoo June 11, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      Hello, Adam! Thank you for your comment. I understand your difference in opinion, but I would like to clarify a few things:
      If you’ll read the interview above with one of the women featured in Greg’s video, you’ll see that he does not actually inform them that they will be posted publicly to YouTube either beforehand or afterward; there is, therefore, no opportunity for them to say what you suggest. Still, I absolutely agree that if someone is uncomfortable with the kind of crude humor Greg offers, that they should say something and stop it mid-interview. However, you must also understand that the interviews do not begin this way (they are in fact quite benign, leading to a false sense of security), and many times the pressure of a camera and an interviewer can push a person to continue on despite discomfort (I should know!).

      I appreciate that you spoke to your interviewees and cut material when they requested it. That sounds like responsible action by a comedian. The problem, however, lies in the fact that Greg does not (according to the three or so women I’ve spoken to that have been subjects in his interviews) take such responsible action.
      To address your later points, I would like to direct you to the third part in this series, which you can find linked at the top of this piece. Many of the women Greg interviews have known him for years and enjoy his humor– and that is perfectly fine! More power to them. But to repeat what I’ve stated previously, my issue is with the women he does not know, who he surprises with a nearly bait-and-switch interview, who he is incredibly crude to, and who he leaves uninformed and the butt of an unfortunate joke they likely wanted no part in.

      I am not trying to speak for everyone. I am only trying to speak for the percentage of men and women who find his tactics unacceptable, and for the percentage of women who have experienced his tactics and do not find them tasteful or humorous in the least. If he were to actually make it so that all his interviewees know beforehand what they are about to participate in, as you do, then this would be an entirely different story. Consent is a magical thing in the world of media.

      To close, I’d like to point out that I am in no way demonizing Greg. I’ve stated repeatedly, here and elsewhere, that I do not consider Greg to be a “bad” individual. In fact, he seems very friendly! But his actions have rightfully bothered the cosplay community, and that community has a right to know about his practices, since he does not seem keen on informing interviewees of them when approaching. I’ve also done pieces on others with similar behavior, not just Greg, and have been careful to point out that women are just as capable of this same kind of damaging behavior.

      So, you’re right: I don’t agree. But, I’m glad that you could drop by my page to comment and share your thoughts. You brought up some great points with a great deal of tact, and you’ve made me re-think how to approach this topic in the future. I’m extremely grateful for that!

      Reply
    2. Sunhawk June 11, 2014 at 9:09 PM

      Adam, we absolutely do have to say what is OK/appropriate to do at cons, because there are some lines that people should not cross, and frankly we shouldn’t even HAVE to say that these things are inappropriate but it seems like we DO in fact have to say them because they keep happening. Touching people without their permission and filming or photographing people without their permission are two big no no’s, for example. Making sexually graphic comments to strangers is another no no. These are not things you can just ignore or disagree with, if you read the program of any convention worth it’s salt, they are smart enough to spell out rules like that explicitly in their program books, and you are expected to adhere to the con rules or security will escort you from the property and possibly have you arrested, depending on what you did, say sexual harrassment or assault, etc.

      You may say that a few awkward sex-based questions are not comparable to sexual harassment, but really putting women on the spot like that does fit nicely into an existing male-oriented culture of entitlement where women are not treated as equals in geek spaces, but rather treated as existing only for benefit of the men around them – why else would men like Greg think it’s appropriate to play sexual innuendo “gotcha!” with complete strangers? Why is making these women uncomfortable “funny”? These ladies are just trying to have a good time, just like you are, because they are interested in their fandoms and want to show off their hard work on their cosplay or otherwise demonstration their fan status just like the guys walking around in THEIR cosplay.

      If Greg is such a responsible person, why was his reaction to these criticisms to make fun of them, rather than taking them seriously? Is it because when we ladies won’t play along with his fun times, we are harshing his squee and that’s all he really cares about? Because I have a hard time imagining anyone who DOES care about not hurting other people or interfering with THEIR fun at the con being so indifferent to someone like the author hear trying to talk seriously about how his videos are part of a misogynistic culture that is very hostile towards women.

      It is not “demonizing” to point out when someone is doing something that makes people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable at conventions. Hell, sometimes we feel downright threatened and afraid! He has no intrinsic “right” to make those videos, and any responsible film maker or photographer understands the very basics of responsible film/photo making such as informed consent from models, model release forms, etc.

      I know it’s not fun to realize that conventions are not the happy-go-lucky fun spaces that they might be for people like you Adam, but the truth is that for a lot of women (myself included) conventions ARE one of our favourite places to be but we also have to deal with a lot of inappropriate behaviour from men who DO know better but are quick to hide behind a faux-innocent “I just didn’t know!” excuse because all know us nerdy types are just so socially inept amirite?

      Reply
  13. Adam Cinelioglu May 5, 2014 at 12:32 AM

    Also in reference to your video specifically, being a big fan of Greg, I am aware that some of the interviews you showcased WERE taken out of context by you. Not only does this create kind of a double standard but it’s unfair to the person who you are making an example of.

    Reply
    1. ilikecomicstoo June 11, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      I’m afraid I have to disagree with you again, here. I posted the snippets just as they appeared in his channel and, after interviewing the cosplayer above, have made clear that the context was actually worse than initially suspected.

      Reply
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  16. Eliot August 22, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    I think intent is certainly part of this, too. There are a lot of folks who intend to be creepy for their own jollies (cleavage shooters, etc.). I don’t think Greg is one of those, I think his intent is comedy, whether he achieves it or not in any individual’s view.

    I would say, then, that it’s totally appropriate to ask him to stop an interview. He’s a nice man, and if a cosplayer, after the first question they didn’t like, simply said “Can we stop for a second?” as a response to a question, and then explained that they didn’t feel comfortable, I’d be very surprised if Greg specifically wouldn’t either leave those questions out, explain what he was doing, or simply say “Ok, I understand” and move on.

    As for the general issue with cosplayers: this may not be a popular idea, but I recommend not going alone. This goes for any cosplayer, but the more revealing (man or woman) the costume, the more it seems like a good idea. Also, the larger the con the more it seems like a good idea.

    This wingplayer could take photos of everyone you stop for, and act as a second set of eyes (and legs) for if something does happen. Especially important for elaborate costumes, where if you did want to track someone down, you’d ruin your costume chasing them. Those photos would allow you to find them, too.

    Anyway, just a thought.

    Reply
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