Vainglory is the inordinate effort to manifest one’s own excellence, real or fictitious. It is called vain, because it is concerned either with things of small moment, such as personal beauty, or with praise that is not due or is unduly sought. While venial in and of itself, it may become mortal if the praise of men is exalted above God’s love, or if grievously sinful means are used to win praise, or if a man glories in grievous sin. It is manifested by boasting, inordinate speech to win praise, or ostentation (if displayed by deeds such as ostentation of wealth or hypocrisy if the virtue is feigned).Fr. Henry Davis SJ, Moral And Pastoral Theology (pg. 238)
May is just around the corner, and it’s my favourite month of the year. After four drudging months of cold weather, blizzards, packing up in multiple layers to not freeze to death, and another over-hyped “variant” spreading across Ontario, warm weather is finally around the corner. Ordinarily (were it not for this year’s edition being shifted to July), you know that that also brings: Anime North time. I’ve been going there for a while now and this time of the year has typically been the most exciting as the countdown to that event comes near. It’s always exciting to anticipate seeing thousands of colourful outfits, impromptu dance shows, karaoke competitions, cosplay masquerades, and show-themed photo-shoots galore across the Toronto Congress Centre grounds. However, not everything is perfect about it. For one thing, mask mandates will be still in place despite the rest of the province dropping them, but besides that, there were some things which I’ve found were wickety about some of its attendees in prior years. One of these examples comes not during the convention, but rather, after the hubbub is gone.
THE SEARCH FOR POST-CON CLOUT
If you would dance or play rightly, it must be done as a recreation, not as a pursuit, for a briefSt. Francis De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, chapter 34
space of time, not so as make you unfit for other things, and even then but seldom. If it is a constant habit, recreation turns into occupation.
We live in a very digital age, one characterized by heavy social media activity. Through it, we can meet new people, find a community that caters to our interests, and most significantly use it to push a message that can get lots of online interactions from thousands, even millions of people (and bots). The cosplay community is no exception to such and it’s become standard for users to request services from professional photographers to get their pictures taken of them portraying a certain character, complete with a picturesque background and some high quality images to boot; followed by them posting on their social profiles. Nothing wrong with that – it’s fine to showcase your work and be happy with the results, but one thing that’s been a pet peeve of mine is when the below kind of thing happens.
See, I used to have a Facebook account, until, tired of being bombarded with Covfefe-related nonsense and losing any motivation to connect with people I hadn’t seen in years, I permanently deleted it on the 14th of November in 2020. (Side note: I don’t recommend anyone use it, it isn’t as exciting as it used to be 12 years ago. Stick with Twitter instead) Prior to then, I was part of a Facebook group for Anime North attendees, where we would share anime recommendations, cosplay tips, seasonal news, and most especially, our photo albums. For the most part, I enjoyed being part of those interactions there. However, at the end of every convention there would always be posts which went along the lines of: “Hey everyone! I went as <insert character> on <insert day>, and I was wondering if anyone got pictures of me? Thanks!”, followed by a photo of them in case anyone wanted a reference.
It wasn’t just a single person that did this, mind you. It was multiple con-goers literally asking random people, many of whom they never met, for cosplay pictures. Even though I shared photos of them were it somebody I recognized and had a picture of just to be nice, at its core I had a conviction that this kind of behaviour was… odd. The more I saw these type of posts spring up, the more I thought to myself: “What kind of response are they expecting from this?” Especially the “send pics plz” part, it seemed a tad self-absorbed, if not self-validation with way more underlying vibes to it. It was basically an extreme version of the time when I personally ran into two cosplayers – one portraying the Nostalgia Critic at Anime North and Rikka Takanashi at Fan Expo in 2019 respectively – who told me that they were sad nobody complimented their cosplay. Vain as it sounds, that’s the truth.
Months passed and I was reminded of this again after seeing some figures in the cosplay community who, to some degree, embraced this clout-tastic lifestyle. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Enako, a Japanese cosplayer. Since she started cosplaying in 2007, she has gained a massive following, making appearances at conventions such as Comiket, the largest anime convention in Tokyo and quite possibly, the world (not surprisingly). Pictured above is her cosplaying the character Sinon from Sword Art Online II at Comiket in 2019, where she is literally surrounded by a ring of 2000 camera-wielding fans aiming to get a good view or shot of her. She is so significant, the media has dubbed this phenomenon the “Enako ring”. And that’s not all – a single-day appearance alone can net her over $90,000 USD. That’s more than what some professional sports players make in a day! Recently, she has opened up a YouTube channel standing at a little above 350,000 subscribers. Is it really necessary for her to revel in this kind of environment?
- Momokun, an American cosplayer. If you’re going to look her up, do so with caution and at risk to your own soul. Born as Mariah Mallad, she is well-known for posting photos of herself in very revealing cosplays, such as Bowsette, a female rendition of Bowser from the Super Mario franchise. She has openly admitted that she enjoys the attention she gets from her brand of cosplays, and brags about the numerous sponsorships that she gets out of it. Beyond that, the fame has gone way over her head, and this has caused her much controversy regarding her online and IRL behaviour, numerous confirmed sexual harassment allegations, and the lack of morality that embues her, such as making a lewd rendition of Kanna from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid who, mind you, has the appearance of a child. No more can be said about the type of person we’re dealing with.
PRIDE, VAINGLORY AND COSPLAYING
Pride is an untrue opinion of ourselves, an untrue idea of what we are not. The proud man is always disparaging himself, that people may praise him the more. The more the proud man lowers himself, the more he seeks to raise his miserable nothingness. He relates what he has done, and what he has not done; he feeds his imagination with what has been said in praise of him, and seeks by all possible means for more; he is never satisfied with praise. See, my children, if you only show some little displeasure against a man given up to self-love, he gets angry, and accuses you of ignorance or injustice towards him. My children, we are in reality only what we are in the eyes of God, and nothing more!St. John Vianney’s sermon on pride
Let me preface: I do cosplay myself, so I’m not speaking out against it or degrading it. I love making them, and have been doing it for seven years. As Anime North attempts to return this year, I hope to resume this timely activity. Let’s be honest though, it’s one thing to enjoy it as a hobby, experimenting with various procedures and materials, to mingle with the convention crowd in some way, or posting your work on your personal page – but once you’re out begging others for pictures of your cosplay for whatever contrived reason, that’s when you’re straddling the fence between the former and a narcissistic obsession. That’s the theme that surrounded these situations: vainglory, or a desire to be esteemed by others. Yet, Sacred Scripture reminds us: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (St. Matthew 23:12)
In itself, vainglory is a vice, as described by St. John Vianney above, influenced by the deadly sin of pride. I’m not talking about it as in being happy over getting an A+ on a test, the number of friends and connections one has, or even knowledge over a subject others aren’t so well-acquainted with; but the kind which puts too much emphasis on ourselves and our achievements, to the exclusion of others, even God. It has been rightfully called the queen of all vices, because many particular sins – the above included, but also envy, greed, gluttony, etc. and its various sub-genres, contain a certain degree of it present. In greed, there’s the desire to become financially powerful to get whatever we need; envy is the sense of entitlement to something we don’t have that will satisfy us, and gluttony is satisfaction in more, more, more material things, to show ourselves off.
All kinds of pride, big and small, are the first step to precipitating our own downfall; hence, the Scriptural proverb rings efficient: “Pride goeth before destruction: and the spirit is lifted up before a fall. It is better to be humbled with the meek, than to divide spoils with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19). Who better than the Devil himself, a fallen angel, whose pride-laced rebellion against God led to his expulsion from Heaven, to demonstrate this? Momokun herself is bad enough too, with her uncouth ways making her bratty, obnoxious, and falsely providing her a “do no wrong” think that was rightfully unmasked by those who exposed her. Even seemingly innocent excursions, like those of Enako or those particular Facebook group’s posts, can be detrimental if done without a well-regulated mindset. There’s a reason why numerous studies exist to demonstrate the negative effects social media can have on our mental health: because when it becomes a medium for us to seek approval from others, measure how popular or influential we are, and coagulate likes just for the heck of it, we become prone to depression, anxiety, and even irritability when things don’t seem to go the way we expected them – proof that the truths of Christian faith can once again be compatible with the findings of science.
Put it this way: the more one chases after short-term glory, the more susceptible they are to problems. Regardless of how many people drop your photos or smash the like button, nothing’s really going to change. Eventually, it’ll probably be buried under a slew of other posts in a few days. Think about it – would you ask someone to send your pictures from a hangout or a wedding reception? If not, why the sudden 180-degree-turn with cosplay photos? It’s something I will never find myself comfortable with doing – and this is coming from someone who has been approached multiple times for a picture by con-goers. Because at the end of the day, what use or benefit will it give other than a few minutes of fame, recognition and extra disk contents? Taking these into account, I stand by my concerns regarding these attitudes.
MEEK REMEDIES FOR THE SOUL
Humility is the only virtue no devil can imitate. If pride can make demons out of angels, there is no doubt that humility makes angels out of demons.St. John Climacus
One of the things my dad has always taught me is “Keep a low profile, gain a high profit.” Herein lies the antidote to excessive pride, humility. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (St. Matthew 5:3). By keeping to ourselves and not using our works and achievements to boost our egos and shove them in others’ faces, we save ourselves the risk of turning away potential friendships, scandalizing others, and squandering better opportunities than the ones we currently have. As St. Vincent De Paul says, “A good work talked about is a good work spoiled.” Of what use is it to ourselves if we try to prop up our righteousness just for the sake of the praise of others? Going back to the topic at hand, always remember the following suggestions when starting a new cosplay, or even bringing it into a public event like a convention:
- Do not worry too much about what others think about your cosplay, simple or complex it may be. Focus more on making sure it’s not only accurate to the character design, but also in good condition and most importantly, modest. Explore the convention, keep to yourself at all times, and stay out of festering any drama.
- NEVER don or create a cosplay with the intent of “What will get me noticed?” Remember that it’s just a hobby and not a competition for “who can get the most likes”. Better to go as something basic like Mario, Pikachu, or Spiderman, or, if you have the resources, a character whose traits or values are most similar to yours – that way you can actually enjoy the creation and final outcome because of how authentic the link is to you and what the character stands for.
- In the chance that someone compliments your cosplay, respectfully thank them back, and return the favour if you like theirs as well. But remember that this praise is only fleeting compared to the troubles ahead. Now it becomes expedient to practice humility and render a quick act of thanks to God, recognizing Him as the one who sourced your talents and inspired your final work, by prayer or even a simple pious invocation, such as “All honor and glory to Thee, O Lord”.
- When running into a person who is sad because their cosplay didn’t get the attention they thought it would get, leave a small spark in their life! For example, mention “Well, you got me. I think it’s awesome regardless of how many people noticed you”; afterwards, pray that they lift their desire to be esteemed. Who knows, your words might change their attitude towards cosplay in the future.
- If you are concerned with getting photos of yourself at a convention, why not “do it yourself”? Bring a friend, ask a random stranger, or even a convention official to take your picture with your phone or camera, and perhaps treat them to a little gift afterwards. It’s the most effective way of making sure that you’ll have plenty of photographic items in your album, without having to rely on others to do it for you.
In this way can you regulate your own behaviour to prepare yourself not just for these kinds of situations, but also to benefit your self-esteem, regulate your conduct and grow further in the spiritual life. After all, humility is recognizing our dependence on God and turning to Him in all our necessities; no wonder many saints call it the first step to achieving Christian perfection, the goal of which is to ultimately conform ourselves to His will.
I hope that I’m not being too harsh or, ironically, prideful in my assessment. While I cannot read other peoples’ minds, just by how their posts and temperaments were expressed, it seemed at least to me they reeked of a veneer of too much pride. That is why we must be careful not to let ourselves go too wayward in our self-confidence such that we reject God’s providence in our life, nor too slothful that we become incapable of fulfilling our duties to our states in life and religion. We must bear in mind the words of St. Paul, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). See examples such as the Desert Fathers of monastic life, Blessed Charles of Austria, whose imperial duties were overshadowed by his meek attitude, unsung devotion to Christ and faithful service to his countrymen, or St. John Bosco, pictured here, whose penchant for stage tricks, strong memory, love for life and inexhaustible charity made him God’s instrument in bringing the Gospel to the youth he ministered to; thereby putting Heaven, and the approval of its inhabitants at the forefront rather than using them for the pursuit of vanity.
Enjoy yourself as much as you like, as long as you refrain from sin.St. John Bosco
4 thoughts on “St. Pius V Corner: Clout Cosplaying”
Very interesting points here about cosplay and the culture surrounding it. I don’t know much about it specifically, even though I’ve been to anime cons before and have seen plenty of cosplay on display.
My feeling about it is generally similar to yours as you express it here — as with anything, keep some moderation and perspective and don’t let praise get to your head. Though there are a lot of great cosplayers with healthy attitudes out there (including some who lean towards the spicy, which I admit I have no problem with at all in the right place and context — certainly Kanna from Dragon Maid isn’t the right context as you brought up) the hobby also naturally attracts some attention-seekers. I think it’s fine to get attention, even a ton of it, as long as you maintain that sense of perspective. Though I imagine that can be hard for some people to do given the seduction of fame, even this more niche sort of fame, and having “simps” around you and all that stuff.
My feelings about God and religion as I was brought up in it and understand it are complicated, but I also think it can help to have a point of reference that exists beyond the human and wider material world. That’s one of the several reasons I can’t bring myself to reject belief no matter what my feelings are otherwise — my own beliefs absolutely don’t fit with those of my family, but while human works can be impressive, I can’t get on board with those materialist or even nihilist concepts at all. Maybe this is getting too deep into philosophy that I have absolutely no right to talk about given my relative lack of knowledge in that area, but I agree that pride in its negative form is a real problem in general and that humility can be more difficult for some to maintain without that point of reference (if that makes any sense in the jumbled way I’ve put it.)
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I think I see where you’re getting at. Out of curiosity, in regards to the philosophy of God and all, have you looked at tidbits like St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Five Ways (of proving God)”, the Kalam cosmological argument or the teleological arguments? I’ve found those convincing personally as framing that point of reference, as you say.
Back to the subject at hand: I agree, moderation is the key here – glad we’re on the same page there, whether it’s for cosplay, academic excellence or professional sports. The advice of St. Maximus the Confessor rings well and trye, as I try to live by it:
“Food is not evil, but gluttony is. Childbearing is not evil, but fornication is. Money is not evil, but avarice is. Glory is not evil, but vainglory is. Indeed, there is no evil in existing things, but only in their misuse.”
As long as if you don’t get carried away by it and not live only by that, IMO you’ll have a happy, safe and a healthy-minded adventure in cosplay!
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Those arguments are vaguely familiar. I’m sure I read about them back in college, where I took a couple of philosophy courses, and one about the problem of evil. I’ll check them out again to see if they stir my memory at all.
And yeah, I agree in the main with those points about moderation. Excess is very often a problem and can definitely lead to evil. The key is absolutely to keep your head on firmly and keep perspective however you can.
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Indeed with the second part! 👍 Definitely check out St. Augustine’s discourse on the problem of evil, his insights are quite good there too.
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