Home Lifestyle The Sunday Times feature on Comic Con Africa’s cosplay scene is harmful and ignorant reporting at its worst

The Sunday Times feature on Comic Con Africa’s cosplay scene is harmful and ignorant reporting at its worst

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Comic Con Africa wasn’t just a celebration of all things pop culture under the sun. It was a gathering, a social showcase for comic book, anime and movie fans all over the country to rock up and flaunt their love for their respective fandoms by wearing their hearts on their sleeves. In some cases, depending on the character, quite literally. From My Hero Academia to Doctor Who, Comic Con Africa was the place to be in September if you wanted to share that love with people who were dipping their toes into that geekier pool for the first time ever.

Which was kind of rad, as evidenced here, here and here.

If there’s one thing that you need to know about South Africa’s cosplay community, it’s that we’re a welcoming lot. We’re as South African as can be, affably polite and delirious with joy when our ranks swell with new faces that add to our collective pool of growing excellence. Sure, there may be some drama from time to time, but compared to all the stories I’ve heard from conventions across the globe that have seen many a community derailed by infighting and competitions bringing out the ugly side of people? We’re a cut above in the positive attitude department.

That’s what I love about cosplay. The camaraderie, the shared excitement and the neverending encouragement to pursue projects no matter how ambitious they are. Leaving Comic Con Africa, I was revitalised this year. My fire to create is burning hotter than ever, I hung out with great people and I made plenty of new friends along the way. It’s as if nothing could dampen that love I have for my art.

And then this hits you square in the face, like a jackhammer of poorly-written ignorance:

If you’ve been on the local cosplay groups on social media this week, you’d understand that the above piece from Oliver Roberts at The Sunday Times has not exactly left the best impression on our community. I’ve read it several times now, to see if I can crack the tone of this piece, and I think get it: Roberts was going for a humourous angle with a moral at the end of the story, albeit in a manner that was more poorly written than a North Korean rulebook on democracy.

Among such gems in the full-page feature from Roberts are opening lines wherein the writer perves on ladies, describing attendees as having “skinny carpal-tunnelled wrists” and mocking anyone having a heavier physique in their costume.

It gets better. There are digs at people being too polite, fans daring to show off their smile bones when they found their niche catered to and an air of superiority throughout the article wherein Roberts finds himself puzzled at the thought of people finding that one small speck of joy in their life that gives them a ray of hope in a world that is quickly going down the crapper.

It’s an article that smacks of hubris, ignorance and a better-than-thou attitude, capped off by a trifecta of slut, body and fandom shaming. “But hey, Roberts mentioned in the last paragraph how he happens to be in awe of the good nature of cosplayers!” you might say. Bullshit. You don’t spend 95% of your feature ridiculing a community and throw in a final positive paragraph just so that you can save face.

If I wrote a page on my first visit to a rugby game and described the people in attendance as rabid mouth-breathers fuelled by alcoholism who worshipped the overpaid muscular gods of inflated ball-carriers on the green church pitch below, I’d be crucified before lunchtime even if I ended the post on a note of how I admire sports fans for their dedication.

But I don’t do that, because I’ve got enough tact to realise just how much sport means to the people who enjoy it. Do I understand it? Not a chance. Do I understand the passion for it? You bet your Springbok jersey I do. Unfortunately, something like cosplay is probably considered easy pickings by writers such as Roberts. A joke that’s cheaper than the fact-checking in the Lifestyle section of The Sunday Times, whose silence has been damning, to say the least.

Who’s to blame here for this travesty of a post? Roberts, for penning the piece with the subtlety of a brick to the face, the editor in charge for approving the post, or The Sunday Times for running with it? Pretty much everyone involved, I reckon. So what’s the valid response then? Some people would suggest using the post as toilet paper, but the whole point of bog roll is to wipe shit away from your chocolate starfish, not add to it. Some cosplayers are sad, others are furious and some people in the community have even gone so far as to suggest that The Sunday Times needs to be taught a lesson.

I think we can be better than that.

I’d rather take this opportunity to educate people on cosplay, to encourage them to try it and see the hard work that goes into it. You don’t just rock up at an event with a costume that’s ready to go (well, unless you’re a rich bastard who can afford to buy one and import it here). Every cosplay is a story of blood, sweat and tears.

A tale of people researching for endless hours on how to nail the smallest detail in their suit that only they’d notice, of learning new skills and sinking a stupendous amount of time and effort into their project. Cosplay is a more than just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle defined by sleepless nights where the midnight oil is burned and the monster of self-doubt constantly looms over your shoulder.

All for that one single day, when you can don your hard work and thrill people with the fruits of your labour. I’m not angry with The Sunday Times, I’m just massively disappointed that a newspaper with a reputation as a watchdog for society can allow such nonsense to be published. But you know what? Here’s the challenge: Sunday Times, I will gladly write you a feature on cosplay. I’ll inform, I’ll entertain and I’ll thrill your readers.

It’s never too late for redemption, and having the guts to get a newspaper such as yours to admit that it done goofed up, will speak volumes. The fact is, is that by publishing that story you’ve gone and hurt people. You’ve caused harm, you’ve humiliated others and you’ve set our local cosplay scene back several steps after the people involved within it have spent so many years to build a reputation for South Africa being a beacon of joy, talent and positivity within that scene.

The ball is in your court. Newspapers are supposed to inform their readers, not belittle them for their happiness. So here’s your chance Sunday Times and Oliver Roberts: Let’s make this right. Show our cosplay community that you’re capable of learning from your mistakes and willing to rectify them. South Africa’s cosplay scene is one of love and acceptance, ideals which are in scarce supply these days.

Maybe it’s The Sunday Times that could learn a thing or two for once.

Last Updated: September 25, 2018

89 Comments

  1. Kromas

    September 25, 2018 at 09:56

    Wait newspapers still exist?

    Reply

    • Admiral Chief

      September 25, 2018 at 10:13

      My girlfriend uses it…for bedding for her hedgehog

      Reply

      • Pariah

        September 25, 2018 at 12:00

        I collect mine from the post box, and on the way inside dump it in the bin. Doesn’t even get inside my house. XD

        Reply

        • Admiral Chief

          September 25, 2018 at 12:16

          I used to do that, but the damn hedgehog poops like there is no tomorrow

          Reply

  2. Admiral Chief

    September 25, 2018 at 10:09

    Oliver, you done f$%#ed up

    Reply

  3. Original Heretic

    September 25, 2018 at 10:09

    I’m astounded that an article with a tone like this was even allowed to be printed.
    In this day and age when everything has to be PC and not be offensive, some moron goes and writes about something that he clearly knows nothing about…and then proceeds to bash it.
    What was he trying to achieve with it? Too make himself seem cool because he looks down at the people who don’t enjoy the same stuff he does?
    Terrible, just plain terrible.
    Sunday Times better sort this out or they’re going to get some severe backlash.

    Reply

    • Guz

      September 25, 2018 at 10:16

      It was just really sloppy journalism from his part, didnt actually bother to do any decent research or anything, probably on a deadline and needed a filler piece for the editor , also maybe he’s just a jerk

      Reply

      • Original Heretic

        September 25, 2018 at 10:20

        It’d be like me writing an article on Bronies. I know nothing about it, I don’t understand it.
        Hence, I have no place writing an article on it and shitting all over the people who are passionate about it.
        They’re not harming anyone, they’re just having clean fun.
        God forbid in this day and age people have clean fun. We’re mos all supposed to be getting drunk and screaming at TV’s so that sports teams perform can perform better.

        Reply

        • The D

          September 25, 2018 at 10:21

          I like to think that even if you don’t know something about a lifestyle, you can learn so much from the people involved just by tackling the subject with an eye to learn about it. That alone, should speak volumes.

          Reply

          • Original Heretic

            September 25, 2018 at 10:26

            Exactly, go into it with a desire to learn about something that you don’t know about. Speak to people, get their points of view. Read all you can find out about it, i.e. DO THE BLOODY RESEARCH.
            I’m so sick of ignorant people trying to push their agendas onto others.

          • Dresden

            September 25, 2018 at 10:41

            Many people simply lack the empathy and tact to do just this.

  4. Richard Scott

    September 25, 2018 at 10:11

    Well said!

    Reply

  5. Admiral Chief

    September 25, 2018 at 10:13

    Darryn again proves that he’s the hero we need. Nice write-up

    Also, 10 points for chocolate starfish

    Reply

    • Dresden

      September 25, 2018 at 10:18

      -10 points for no hot dog-flavoured water!

      Reply

      • The D

        September 25, 2018 at 10:19

        Dis guy gets it 😀

        Reply

        • Guz

          September 25, 2018 at 10:21

          Limp Bizkit XD. man I loved that album

          Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        September 25, 2018 at 10:28

        That is a bit harsh, but I’ll agree to -5

        Reply

    • Magoo

      September 25, 2018 at 11:01

      Piggy-backing the most upvoted comment to provide link to the Sunday Times article which some people have trouble finding:

      https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/sunday-times/20180923/283016875626100

      Reply

      • For the Emperor!

        September 25, 2018 at 11:17

        Wow, this part grinds my gears and proves the writer is just a plonker and was probably the jock bullying people in school for the lols:

        “Another thing that I believe defines a geek is their cringing politeness

        geeks are so intolerably polite and sycophantic that you feel like being intentionally rude to them just to see what would happen”

        Reply

        • BakedBagel

          September 25, 2018 at 11:38

          Game journo’s told us that geeks are sexist, and angry, now this normal journo told us that geeks are too polite to the point of being cringy.

          My hatred for him doesnt stop at him, its morphing into most Journo’s, most write about what they know will get clicks, almost 0 backbone imo

          Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        September 25, 2018 at 13:02

        All aboard

        Reply

  6. Magoo

    September 25, 2018 at 10:26

    Sunday Times, I will gladly write you a feature on cosplay. I’ll inform, I’ll entertain and I’ll thrill your readers.

    Yes. Fucking. Please.

    Reply

  7. Gr8_Balls_o_Fire

    September 25, 2018 at 10:27

    Newspaper proving that newspapers are useless. Lovely!

    Reply

  8. Sageville

    September 25, 2018 at 10:27

  9. Captain JJ

    September 25, 2018 at 10:28

    Sadly this article of theirs just spoke to SA’s intolerance of different cultures more than anything else.

    Reply

    • Original Heretic

      September 25, 2018 at 10:36

      My bro showed me a funny clip last weekend. An SA dude, old Afrikaans oke, being filmed at the very end of the SA vs NZ game.
      The guy was nearly dancing with nervousness in front of his TV. Screaming at the Boks to defend.

      Any bok supported is going to understand what the guy was going through, relate to it, and find it funny.
      An outsider could easily ridicule behaviour like that.

      Reply

      • Captain JJ

        September 25, 2018 at 10:39

        As someone who doesn’t watch rugby, nor have any interest in it and can’t relate to it. It’s his thing, let him have it. He’s not hurting anyone.

        This Sunday Times thing is small-minded and obtuse, and if you can judge any one culture for what it is without an ounce of sonder, you can judge all of them and it makes you no different than any racist or sexist.

        Reply

      • Captain JJ

        September 25, 2018 at 10:39

        As someone who doesn’t watch rugby, nor have any interest in it and can’t relate to it. It’s his thing, let him have it. He’s not hurting anyone.

        This Sunday Times thing is small-minded and obtuse, and if you can judge any one culture for what it is without an ounce of sonder, you can judge all of them and it makes you no different than any racist or sexist.

        Reply

        • For the Emperor!

          September 25, 2018 at 10:54

          “It’s his thing, let him have it. He’s not hurting anyone. ” – Exactly!

          Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        September 25, 2018 at 12:37

        Indeed, I know of which clip you speak of. And I can totally relate with that dude (even though my SA Rugby love has severely waned the last couple of years)

        Reply

        • For the Emperor!

          September 25, 2018 at 12:54

          Had I watched the game, I may have reacted the same as that dude. Heck, I remember being close to tears of joy once or twice with the Sprinkbokke and Proteas results, especially that 438 game!

          Reply

        • For the Emperor!

          September 25, 2018 at 12:54

          Had I watched the game, I may have reacted the same as that dude. Heck, I remember being close to tears of joy once or twice with the Sprinkbokke and Proteas results, especially that 438 game!

          Reply

  10. David Weatherhead

    September 25, 2018 at 10:39

    I found this https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/lifestyle/2018-09-22-life-lessons-learned-from-geeking-out-at-comic-con-africa/
    and was surprised at the sub-heading
    “After attending this much-hyped comic expo, Oliver Roberts decided that the world would be a better place if we all embraced our inner geeks”

    Reply

    • The D

      September 25, 2018 at 10:42

      Yeah, that’s pretty much trying to divert attention from being a massive jackass, at its finest.

      Reply

      • David Weatherhead

        September 25, 2018 at 10:46

        Man. I was sad on the weekend I didn’t cosplay at CCA, now I’m even sadder I didn’t cosplay at CCA!!

        Reply

        • The D

          September 25, 2018 at 10:51

          Hey, plenty of other conventions to cosplay at! Rage is around the corner, and 2019 will have plenty of opportunities!

          Reply

          • David Weatherhead

            September 25, 2018 at 12:19

            I will work on the cosplay, I may be going to Comic Con in the Netherlands this year.

            I will try and make you proud, but don’t know if my cosplay game is as good as yours Darren!

          • For the Emperor!

            September 25, 2018 at 11:02

            I need some more time in the gym. But come this time next year, you will see quite a beefy Kratos running around half nekkid at the cons!

          • Admiral Chief

            September 25, 2018 at 11:06

            I’ll bring the lube….wait, what?

          • For the Emperor!

            September 25, 2018 at 11:24

            We’ll get proper bodybuilding oil for you to oil me up 😛

          • Admiral Chief

            September 25, 2018 at 11:26

            WHY ISN’T IT 2019 YET???

          • David Weatherhead

            September 25, 2018 at 12:19

            I will work on the cosplay, I may be going to Comic Con in the Netherlands this year.

            I will try and make you proud, but don’t know if my cosplay game is as good as yours Darren!

          • The D

            September 25, 2018 at 12:58

            As long as you have fun buddy, that’s all that matters.

  11. For the Emperor!

    September 25, 2018 at 10:46

    Yeah, that article sounds more in line with CNN than with a South African publication!

    Reply

  12. The Big Bad Wolf

    September 25, 2018 at 10:48

    Apart from the obvious sexism and every other problem that it to be had with article,
    If you want to use a bait-and-switch technique to tell your story, no problem. but you need to make sure your proportions and your level of sincerity match the amount of mockery you want to get away with. Your jackassery is not redeemed by two sentences that supposedly makes up for all of it.
    Also, Roberts clearly has no idea what he’s reporting on, so why not go and ask questions, talk to people and learn about the community, rather than just describing what you perceive to be ‘societal rejects’? On top of being full of bile, the article is a terrible example of feature and creative journalism (something that Roberts reportedly has awards for pushing).

    Reply

    • The D

      September 25, 2018 at 10:51

      ESPECIALLY when the people you can interview are generally the friendliest and most welcoming folk around.

      Reply

    • Anon A Mouse

      September 25, 2018 at 12:44

      I mentioned it on another website, this is the Sunday Times. I know for a fact that they’ve done interviews and fact checking on other articles, and when it showed that their story is factually incorrect and not within their status quo, they’ve just ignored the interviews and fact checking and printed their version of the facts anyway.

      They full well knew this piece was going to be read and commented on, what more do you want from a newspaper’s point of view seeing as they are in a fast declining business. Besides, how many cosplayers actually subscribe to their newspaper, thus their bottom line will not take a very big hit from this.

      Reply

      • HvR

        September 25, 2018 at 12:47

        Just beat me to it.

        Sunday Times have a history of pushing their agenda with the full knowledge that they are printing lies.

        Reply

  13. Magoo

    September 25, 2018 at 11:51

    Calling it now, Glenn piece: “Outrage culture detracts from real issues in Sunday Times article”

    Actually, yes.

    Reply

  14. Craig "CrAiGiSh" Dodd

    September 25, 2018 at 15:36

    What a sack of shit.

    Reply

  15. Matthew Figueira

    September 25, 2018 at 17:27

    Nice one, D <3

    Reply

  16. Zoe Hawkins

    September 25, 2018 at 20:22

    Seen a lot of the crap going on around this article, and I just have to wonder – was this all just a ploy for publicity? Was the writer and paper hoping to be seen as relevant in a niche where they have no pull or readership? They knew writing this kind of post would get a lot of attention, and maybe that’s exactly what they were going for.

    Of course it’s abysmal. Of course it’s hateful and cruel and idiotic. Even the writing is poor. But maybe they did all of that on purpose, to rile people up and make them think the Sunday Times is actually something worth talking about.

    Reply

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