The fan life is the good life. This past weekend brought with it Ottawa ComicCon for the sixth year in a row and I once again turned up in true fangirl style – that is to say, in cosplay. Over the years I have catalogued my cosplays in blog posts to give myself a chance to explain my character choices and delve into the nitty gritty parts of Ottawa ComicCon; this year will be no exception. Now, last year I remember writing that I might try out a gender-bend cosplay in 2017 and I had my eye on a very particular character from the Marvel universe for that experiment. Unfortunately, the last semester of my undergrad was extremely busy and I did not build in enough time to construct a whole cosplay from scratch or order one online, which left me with several options: a) build from what I already own, b) go shopping, or c) go as a fangirl. I discarded option c) because I feel like that’s part of my everyday aesthetic. I wore Deathly Hallows earrings to my preference party for my sorority in first year for goodness sake! Being a fangirl is part of who I am and I wanted to do something different for the con so option c) was out.
Instead of focusing on what I would wear I started brainstorming about who I would like to be this year. I’ve set a precedent for cosplaying women – strong, soft, kind, happy, dark, and complicated characters – who inspire me. Contenders that crossed my mind included Queen Goldstein from Fantastic Beasts since I own her pink coat already, but eventually I came to the conclusion that the coat and the dress might be a bit too warm for May. Oh, how wrong was I, but I nixed the idea of portraying Queenie before I moved so I wouldn’t have had her coat anyways. Eventually, I revisited the memory of my first cosplay of Inara Serra from Firefly. Everything about that experience was great and that got me thinking about other characters from the ‘verse. It’s no secret in my house that my favourite characters are generally evil (or at least extremely complicated and dark) or else they die. There are only a few exceptions to this rule, including: Hermione Granger, Kaylee, and CJ Cregg.
River Tam falls into the former category since her manipulation by the Alliance caused some scary episodes for her and those around her, but she is still an extremely special character to me. Her iconic line, “Also, I can kill you with my brain,” always makes me smile and I think every academic should say that line at one point in their career. I am making it my mission to say that to at least one person in my lifetime (and no, quoting Firefly won’t count). Once I decided upon River for my cosplay the question became, which incarnation of River would I play?
I contemplated going as River from Serenity both because that film is an achievement of epic fan proportions and her motivations as a character are explored more in than movie than in the series. Due to its early cancellation the series simply had less time to develop and work with River, which is a creative tragedy. However, when it came time to search out dresses for that look I simply was not happy with any of them. They didn’t fit well, they felt cheap, and I was uncomfortable with the prospect of wearing only a short dress to ComicCon, which, while a generally safe and accepting place is not free from misogyny and harassment. I dealt with enough ridiculousness when I was clothed from neck to toe as Black Widow two years ago. Also, I knew the weather would be finicky over the weekend and knowing that I would be taking the bus to and from the event made me reconsider Serenity River. Additionally, while I was excited about the prospect of creating her weapons it turned out that I wouldn’t have had the time to create them. So, I would have shown up in a green dress, which isn’t a costume, unless you’re cosplaying as a blade of grass or a bowtruckle I suppose.
Eventually, I settled on River when she’s dancing in the fifth episode of the series “Safe.” This is one of the few carefree River moments we get and I love how even despite what she has been through River is still able to enjoy simple things like music and dancing.
While I’m not too sure where River would have gotten these clothes (Did Simon bring them with him? Did she get them from Kaylee? or Inara?) they looked simple enough to get a hold of with only a couple of weeks to Ottawa ComicCon. Now, generally I try to build from my own wardrobe when I cosplay because buying everything is expensive but I did end up purchasing a sweater and skirt for this costume. However, the only reason I purchased both items was because they were extremely reasonable and the sweater was on sale.
The one thing I already had in my possession though were boots that I have been told are “rubber boots with attitude.” The cosplay was rather simple and while I worried no one would recognize me I was excited about brining one of my favourite characters to life.
On the first day of ComicCon (Friday, May 12, 2017) I went to work and then changed after my shift was over. My dad was kind enough to meet me and drive me to the con that day; he also took photos of me in my cosplay, which is a tradition we started last year with my Fleur cosplay. Instead of heading to downtown Ottawa though we drove to the top floor of a parking garage on my university’s campus and proceeded to have a mini photoshoot. I have to admit I was really happy with his choice of venue; it’s lots of fun to take photos in character. It’s also really difficult to take photos in character but that’s part of the fun. River was a challenge to cosplay as because of who she is as a character, but more of that in Part 2. Stay tuned!