Fighting for the Right to Play
A recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declared that it was not illegal for people to wear military awards if they did not earn them. (This strikes down a 2013 congressional ruling that replaced a 2005 law that was later defeated in the courts.) While many military members (past and present) and their supporters see this as a tragedy, there is one faction that finds itself relieved—military cosplayers.
Without having ever been to a con of any sort (though I swear to Goddess that if anyone worth seeing ever comes to Youmacon or Shuto Con, I am so going), I cannot say whether military cosplayers are prevalent. In terms of scifi fandoms, any uniforms worn will either be battle dress (BDUs, known to civilians as “fatigues”) or service dress with fandom-specific military awards on them. However, I’m fairly certain that anyone cosplaying G.I. Joes in service dress (if that ever happens) is going to use accurate awards. Another would be anyone who cosplays the military side of Jericho—and that’s where I come in.
Sidebar: I drafted this during a power outage, so I didn't know until I put my links in that "BDU" is an Army-only term–as Wiki says they're called "utility uniforms" in the Air Force–and an outdated one at that. "BDU" is what they called the old green-and-brown camo, and the current uniforms are ACU (Army Combat Uniform). Yikes! I am so underinformed!
I'm going to change every reference from this point on to UU in an attempt to repair my sanity. O.o
WHAT?! It's repairable!
I think. xD
If you’re familiar with the commission I had done in 2009 (pictured below, in case you’re not), you know that I am/Elizabeth is depicted wearing a UU—although it’s an Allied States Air Force uniform, not United States. Still, I would presume to use American awards on Elizabeth’s uniform, because she was part of the U.S. Air Force before the August Attacks, and after the war was over, according to my…can I call it a headcanon, even with an original character? But using authentic awards is where the concern comes in. It’s true that you don’t put awards on a UU; nevertheless, I’m afraid if I ever chose to portray Elizabeth in service dress, I’d be accused of stolen valor. I’d definitely confuse the hell out of any “valor vigilantes” by wearing an American UU with “A.S. Air Force” stitched on my left tape! (The embroidery indicating the name of the service and the name of the wearer are called “tapes”.)
Before this ruling, if I attempted to cosplay my original character, the vigilantes would have a hissy fit, pointing out the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 (and later, the Stolen Valor Act of 2013) made my cosplay illegal—never mind the fact that I wasn’t trying to portray myself as a member of the United States Air Force or that I had ever earned the awards I was wearing. I get the idea that a lot of these vigilantes are middle aged, so I’m not sure they’d know from cosplay, nor would they believe me if I explained it. On some level, I am quite sorry that there are assholes out there who pretend that they were in the military once upon a time and really did earn their awards—they’re the ones who were never able to contain their “rank fever”. (It took me five years of failed enlistment attempts to convince myself that the military wasn’t what the Goddess intended for me.) But on a primary level, I’m pleased that if I ever had the money and the means to cosplay Elizabeth and attend cons, no one could tell me what I was doing was illegal.
Unless there’s some organization out there like the 501st Legion, except for the Allied States. But I could probably remedy that with a simple registration. 😉
Seriously…if there’s anyone out there cosplaying Goetz, can I hit them? PLEASE? (cackle)