What Cosplay Means To Me

Team Member Ash Mu gives insight into why cosplay is important

My first memory of Star Wars is from the early 90s, when I was 5 or 6 years old. We were in a store with a bunch of TVs on display, and the biggest one in the center was playing Empire Strikes Back- specifically, one of the scenes of Luke with Yoda on Dagobah. I was instantly hooked. Something about this little green troll was fascinating to me. I don’t even know exactly why, except he was like nothing I’d ever seen before and he talked backwards.

My love for Star Wars grew along with me, fueled by the release of the prequel trilogy and the EU books, which I read as quickly as I could get my hands on them. But, I grew up in a conservative Christian household, and I attended a private school that was run by my church. Star Wars was a taboo subject there, as our pastor labeled it witchcraft. I’m sure I’m not the only one who grew up in such a situation; honestly part of me is surprised that I was still allowed it at home, but I probably have my dad to thank for that, since he had seen the original releases and it was one of his favorite movie sets. It was one of the things we could bond over, and something we both enjoyed.

When I entered my teen years, I started having issues with anxiety and typical teenage angst. Given that I was denied a common ground with most of my peers because my hobby was considered “witchcraft,” I wrestled with feeling as though I didn’t fit in. 

That changed one day when I accidentally stumbled across a set of forums called Jedi.net. Mind you, this was right in the middle of the prequel trilogy releases, so message boards were still alive and well. There, I found people like me, who loved Star Wars in all its forms. I felt like I had come home, and I made friends that I still talk to today, even after I stopped frequenting the site itself. Finally, I wasn’t alone. The friends I made through Jedi.net have helped me through some of the roughest times in my life.

Ash & Baby Yoda

My first cosplay experience didn’t come until I was an adult. Growing up, my family we didn’t celebrate Halloween (see previous mention of conservative Christian household), so I didn’t even consider the possibility of dressing up as my favorite Star Wars characters. Teenage me always sort of wanted a set of stormtrooper armor, but the only real option for that at the time was buying a set of vacuum formed armor, and that was pretty far out of my budget.

I discovered the Mandalorian Mercs when I was in my 20s, and once again, I felt like I had come home. 

Boba Fett was always one of my favorite characters from the original trilogy, and in the Mercs  I found an entire group of people with similar taste in characters. It’s been almost ten years since my first attempt at getting a costume approved, since life has gotten in the way more than once. 

My first attempt came to an end when my ex-husband had some health problems that landed him in the hospital; the second one had to stop when he lost his job and we were living on the income from my retail job. I’m on attempt number three now (third time’s the charm, right?) and my goal is to be approved by the end of the year. Not only will it satisfy my latent perfectionism (I hate doing anything halfway or leaving it undone), but I love the challenge of making so much of a costume by hand, and I can’t wait until it’s complete and I can see it all put together.

I guess that was a pretty long-winded introduction to get to this point, but we’re here now. The thing that I love most about the Mercs is that it doesn’t matter who you are under the helmet. Age, race, disabilities, gender – none of it matters. Much like the actual Mandalorians, the only necessary trait is to be as accepting of everyone else as they are of you. That was one of the things that drew me to the Mercs specifically: your past doesn’t matter. I’ve learned that so many people were in situations similar to or worse than mine when they were growing up. I was lucky to have a few outlets of similarly minded people, while others didn’t. I don’t want any Star Wars fan to feel alone, and I’d like to be able to pass that sense of community along, both in cosplay and the fandom in general. I firmly believe that Star Wars is something in which everyone can find a place to call home, if they’re looking for it.