There seemed to be general agreement that this behavior reflects poorly on our community. To that end, I have compiled suggestions and general guidelines, from community members, for cosplayers, event organizers, and con attendants.
About cosplay etiquette: Costumes and Behavior
Cosplay is a lot of fun. It's a great way to show your love for your series. I've done it on several occasions mostly to show love for more obscure anime series.
However as cosplayer, you represent the fandom, especially to non-fans.
Moreover, Hetalia cosplay is a bit trickier than most other cosplays. The characters represent real countries and historical periods. They can include elements of military uniforms and in some cases will be mistaken for these uniforms by people unfamiliar with Hetalia.
And depending on the context, the actions you take can have repercussions outside getting thrown out of a con. Ill-considered behavior can hurt your chances of future employment, or it can get back to your parents or school.
Here is a list of guidelines to consider when representing our fandom to others, which has been collected from other members of the community.
Let's be clear: these aren't rules. We can't enforce these. Many cons, however, do have rules and can kick people out if they're not followed. Please at least keep them in mind.
Keep the following guidelines in mind when designing your costume and attending conventions. These aren't hard and fast rules—use your best judgment and you'll be fine. Most cons have rules in a similar vein. These guidelines apply to Hetalia cosplay, but they can apply to other fandoms that reference historical events.
Follow con rules. Many cons prohibit historically sensitive symbols such as swastikas. After the AB fiasco, more may follow. If yours is one of them, please listen to them and don't give them any trouble about it. They work very hard to organize these events, and their regulations ensure more fun for everyone.
Some cons also restrict realistic-looking weapon replicas, so double-check beforehand if you plan to bring one.
Follow the laws of your country. This post is primarily for cosplay guidelines in places like America, but other countries have laws about historical and national imagery. For example:
--The swastika is banned in Germany and Austria. See this Wikipedia article.
--France has similar laws prohibiting the display of Nazi imagery.
--The Communist hammer and sickle and the Red Star are banned in many former Soviet-occupied countries, such as Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland
Even if these symbols are not banned in your country, please be aware of the effect they have on people and the reasons why they can be banned.
Also keep in mind laws concerning civilian use of military uniforms. (though Hetalia uniforms usually diverge from real life military uniforms). This particularly applies outside the convention center. See this post for more details.
Think. Mind your behavior. It is easy to get carried away in the moment, thinking harder about being “in character” than how you, the cosplayer, are coming across to everyone else. But when you act people will see YOU before your character. In general:
--No unsolicited physical contact. What can be playful IC behavior for a character can be unpleasant harassment for others.
--Seig Heils are not appropriate behavior in public spaces. Seriously.
Respect the countries. We all love Hetalia and its nation-tans. All fans hope they'll be respected. Here are a few tips from community members:
--Researching your costume is a great way to show respect for the character and the country they represent
--Language: if you want to use bits of your cosplay's language, if you research not only the words but the inflections, you'll look like a smarter, more dedicated fan.
--To that end, if your costume includes a flag in it, please respect it. For more details and why this is important, see this post. The US in particular has a flag code that many people take seriously, including veterans and military personnel. What constitutes as "respect" varies from country to country, though better safe than sorry.
Be extra careful in non-convention spaces. Photoshoots are sometimes held outside the convention center, where people may not be aware that country-associated images and military uniforms are only cosplay. It's even more important to be on your best behavior. Due to the presence of the general public, it's more likely that your behavior will have real-world consequences.
Guidelines for organizers of photoshoots or other Hetalia events:
Especially if you're a new organizer, we recommend setting down rules for behavior and dress (drawn from here or elsewhere). I know a lot of you do something like this already, so if you do, way to go! Just remain vigilant and firm. Common topics include:
-Fascist imagery such as swastika armbands, the Nazi salute, and the Nazi flag (if not covered by general convention rules).
-Disrespectful treatment of flags; varies by location
-Inappropriate/unwanted physical contact.
From con staffer kamuriakane: For people intending to run their own shoots, please remind people of their behaviour before you start taking pictures. You can't watch everyone, but you can have a better chance if you tell the crowd.
Finally, something that applies to us all, whether we cosplay or not:
-Don't be afraid to speak up if you see ignorant or disrespectful behavior, or tell a con organizer about it. I know it can be hard to correct your fellow fans. It can feel like tattling on them. But it is the best thing for them, for the fandom, and perhaps most of all, for you.
If you like these guidelines, please bookmark this page and share it with event organizers and fellow cosplayers. Or you can link to it on your journal, especially if you know a lot of people outside the main community.
On another note, I love this community and Hetalia fandom: the silly and the serious. I hope we can work together to show everything that is good about our fandom.
Feedback on these guidelines, any informative details that I missed, or suggestions for how to best to publicize them, are welcome.
If you're a event organizer and you'd like me to rewrite a copy of this for you to give to your cosplayers, please post a request here (including any additional specifications, like a tone adjustment or more/fewer rules). Or feel free to copy it and add whatever you need.
This post is thanks to thanks to all the community members, especially:
-seraphoftales for passing around the first version of this and soliciting community responses. You've been awesome!
-jjblue1 for an awesome list that became a significant part of the early version
-onacrystal for mentioning the existing guidelines in the Chinese hetalia community and giving us a translation for them.
-punpunichu for another detailed and well-researched addition to the early version.
-Editing advice and encouragement from pyrrhiccomedy
-The Hetalia mods for their correspondence, and community profile consideration
-For contributing to the discussion on flag/country/military respect: akillarian, atiko, aznlunchboxxx, choco_bani, herm_nafer, iroh_fancier, kagekitsunea, kawaiisyaoran, manga_devotee, mayahyena, narcomanic, seatapp, silverpaws, simplisticstar, thecurtain
-For contributing to discussion on con behavior and historical representations: austrian_melody, box_of_doom, carmisa, miss_margherita, pockygirl, prussianegoist, qualapec, rofflecakes, starfishyfish
-And a BIG thank you to everyone who weighed in on the original incident, especially rose_n_carousel for bringing it to our attention. Your heartfelt feelings, thoughtful comments and support for Hetalia were what convinced seraphoftales and me that something like this was possible. We have done our best to absorb it all, and this is the result.
(please let me know if I've missed anyone, you have been miscredited, or would like me to take your name down)
Version 1 (4/9/10): Original version
Version 2 (4/12/10): Added the following elements: details of France's anti-Nazi policies (suggested by little_bakemono), changed a few details on the treatment of flags (suggested by mephisto5), added an informative quote from kamuriakane, mentioned other fandoms connected to historical events (suggested by miezen, added a link to a post about the use of military uniforms (given by reikofanel)
Version 2.5 (7/5/11): Added a line about weapons and changed some language.