Cosplayers: The Modern Don Quixotes

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Don Quixote by Gustave Doré, 1863

Sometimes a book can take on a new meaning, over time. While tales of knight-errantry and chivalry appear to be a thing of a different age, they never really left—transforming into comics, cartoons, shows and films about honorable superheroes. If Cervantes’ timeless story of a man who finds a suit of armor and ventures off to live the life of his fantasy heroes was written today, it would be equally a social commentary as a dark comedy.

I understand that most cosplayers do this for the events and don’t continue the role after the curtain drops, but there are many who are actively trying to live that impossible life, and we have a culture that has blurred the lines of fandom and fanaticism. Some try to live within normal bounds, focusing on the socially awkward, superficial elements of their character, while others take to the streets as vigilantes—which I first learned about in the HBO documentary Superheroes.

The desire for escapism is nothing new. It’s not even a bad thing. As a writer and artist, if I can take someone away from their crappy day, it’s an honor and a privilege. But it seems like many people are trying to run away from far more, and to make matters worse, they’re going in the wrong direction.

The idea that you’re not a special snowflake is not uncommon to hear on the Internet. We even see it on TV shows centering on singing competitions, where we publicly mock the talentless and ungifted. The world delights in shattering delusions and clearing the path for the deserving. Even I’ve been both on the receiving and giving end of this.

So, it doesn’t surprise me that so many people are pushed into thinking they need to become someone else to be happy. And there is some reality to that. Growing up, learning, and becoming new people is what we naturally do. But as Freud famously said, “We are what we are because we have been what we have been.” What some people call failures, I call experience.

In truth, a good suit of armor is made solely for its knight, and it must be forged in fire. Like Don Quixote, you can go out and find some, but it will never fit you right because it was never meant to.

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