As I said in an earlier post, I just got done with Star Wars Celebration in costume. It was my first Star Wars Celebration and my first time at a convention in costume.
So, what’s the takeway on both fronts?
I admit that I’m already thinking about what my next cosplay should be. It was a lot of work (as I chronicled in a series of posts on the subject) but it was also a great way to experience the event with real fans.
For one thing, your participation in an event is different depending on your level of immersion, which is often revealed by what you choose to wear. Putting on a ‘Han Shot First’ t-shirt immerses you a little more than wearing street clothes and costuming gets you more of an experience than either.
I learned the difference in experience years ago when I attended a Renaissance Faire in costume for the first time. You’re ‘in the club’ as far as other costumers, costumed staff and proprietors are concerned. That included acknowledgements from other costumed attendees, period talk from proprietors and staff and being admired by kids and non-costumed attendees. It’s a more immersive experience. A Faire crew member even pointed out that staff love to see costumed audience members because they can joke and interact more with a costumed attendee; the costume is a signal that you’ve ‘bought in’ to the experience and are welcoming the interaction. With someone in street clothes, they don’t know how that person will react to interaction or jokes.
Being ‘in the club’ at Star Wars Celebration meant that I got acknowledgements from fellow cosplayers (particularly other Jedi) and booth staff. There were a few picture requests and even shout-outs from cars passing on the road going to and from my hotel. I also was invited to hang out for a while inside the Cantina replica that StarWars.com had set up for live-streaming video. So, that was all a nice bonus.
The only real downside to my costume (it wasn’t even particularly uncomfortable!) was the ubiquitous nature of a Jedi costume. Jedi were a dime a dozen at this thing, along with stormtroopers, Boba Fetts and Princesses Leia. That made it hard to stand out, although I’d clearly put more work into my costume than many half-baked Jedi attempts. The next time, I might try something a little more unique even if it’s a little harder to do.
Aside from my cosplay attempt, we had a flippin’ fantastic time all around. Getting to see the cast and the new trailer in person with five thousand other fans was the best possible reward for getting up ridiculously early to queue for 5 hours on Thursday morning. And we got into nearly every panel event we tried to see because the rooms were generally of sufficient size (unlike some other conventions I can name…).
I like behind-the-scenes stuff, so we attended several panels featuring producers, designers, directors and archivists of the films both new and original. Between them, we learned interesting tidbits about the legacy movies (like the fact that David Lynch didn’t want to have John Williams score his version of Jedi) and heard the new creative teams talking about their vision of the new movies (the words ‘real’ and ‘undistracted’ came up a lot!). I really felt like things are in good hands.
The fans were all super-nice, which helps pass the time when sitting in line. Pretty much all you needed to do was turn to your neighbor and start with, “so, did you get into the arena on Thursday morning?” or, “so, which movie was your first Star Wars in the theater?”. From there, we could just chat for the rest of our queue time because we were all there for the love of the same thing. I heard from prequel apologists and people who’ve banned the prequels from their library. I chatted with Rebels fans and gamers and people still miffed at the decanonization of the EU. There were people who saw A New Hope in the theaters and kids who weren’t even old enough to have seen the prequels in theaters. Serious collectors and casual fans who bought one-day tickets just to people-watch. And we were all friends by the time our lines finally started moving.
So, if you have the chance to attend a Celebration in the future, be sure to do so. Being among a diverse group of people who all love the same thing in different ways is hugely refreshing and a great way to spend the weekend. And if you can do it in costume, that’s a great bonus. Even if it’s just to have a kid pass you and announce to his parents, “hey, look, it’s a Jedi!” Trust me, that’ll make your day.