You might have noticed a considerable lack of Steampunk pictures in my batch of photographs from this year’s Dragon*Con. This is for several reasons:
1) Nearly all of the Alternate History (aka Steampunk) events were held in the Westin hotel and…
2) I never went to the Westin (despite the fact that the Whedon track was held there, I love Joss Whedon and all he has done but didn’t attend any of the panels this year) and…
3) I never went to the Westin because I am over Steampunk.
I have to admit, I was a little relieved about Steampunk being given its own corner, far away from me. Yes, I had an initial honeymoon phase with Steampunk and costumed Steampunk my first Dragon*Con and briefly last year. Jon and I even attended last year’s world record attempt for most Steampunk costumers in one photograph. But seriously, y’all, I am so over Steampunk.
Why am I over Steampunk? A few reasons.
Steampunks are the snobs of the costuming world*. I am extremely into my costuming and am willing to sink time and money into it, but I do not take it too seriously. When I am in costume I am just a person in a funky outfit, I don’t get into character (except for photographs, because I’ve found that people seem to want you looking “serious” in photographs. Believe me, it is hard not to smile) and I am not afraid to make fun of the fact that I am wandering around in a wig and a waist cincher. For many Steampunks, though, this is a lifestyle, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I just get the feeling that they are a bit disdainful of those who do not adopt their retro-futuristic existence. And woe on those who decide to costume Steampunk for conventions but don’t embrace the steamy way of life after returning to their normal routine.
When Jon and I attended the Steampunk world record photo attempt at Dragon*Con last year, we didn’t precisely feel welcomed. The entire event felt extremely cliquey. A core group of Steampunkers, individuals who embrace this aesthetic in every aspect of their daily lives, were holding court, and the rest of us were just sort of there taking up space. This wasn’t a fun gathering. We weren’t representing a fandom, expressing our shared love of David Tennant on Dr. Who or old Stargate episodes. We were just a bunch of people standing around in impractical outfits festooned in gears and feathers. I wasn’t getting the same sense of joy that pervaded the rest of Dragon*Con.
The Guild, the web series about a bunch of World of Warcraft players that I have written about in the past, is currently poking fun at Steampunk. This season sees the characters at a sci-fi/fantasy convention, and Clara, the flightiest member of the guild, becomes enamored of Steampunk’s shininess. However, the Steampunks she meets are affected and arrogant, and kick Clara out of their sandbox. I know that this is supposed to be gentle fun, but I can’t help but feel that The Guild‘s treatment of Steampunk is essentially rooted in truth.
Here’s the link to the video of poor Clara being kicked out of the sandbox, embedding not allowed, sorry guys!
Now I get that this snobbery is part of the backlash at the fact that Steampunk is seriously mainstream now. This is another reason I am over Steampunk: everyone is doing it. Dragon*Con brings them out of the woodwork: people in generic Steampunk costumes, people in Victorian costumes that are sort of Steampunk, people in Steampunk versions of non-Steampunk characters (Star Wars, Scooby Doo. etc.), people who aren’t really Steampunk at all but have a set of goggles perched on their heads and therefore call themselves Steampunk. I sort of feel that Steampunk is the new goth, that is, people who can’t actually figure out what to wear to conventions just slap a bunch of gears on themselves, throw on a corset, and say “Oh, I’m Steampunk.”
And to make matters worse Steampunk, which is primarily about individuality and hands-on workmanship and everything being unique, is now being mass-produced. Check out this Steampunk Kit I saw in the Halloween store the other day:
Included in this kit is a felt bowler hat, a plastic monocle, and a felt mustache. All cheaply made, all mass-produced. Hey ladies, there’s one for us too:
Also, according to io9, someone is making a documentary about Steampunk? Isn’t this a few years late?
Here’s the thing: I got into Steampunk because it looks cool, but I don’t really need to embrace it in the rest of my life. I happen to like my sleek Macbook that is gear-free. I like modern, clean design. I think that clothes look just fine without tons of buttons and feather accessories tend to tickle, poke, and make me look like a twelve year old girl. Corsets are uncomfortable. I get that y’all like it, but it isn’t my thing. And please don’t expect me to gush over your awesome steam-powered rocket pack, because I am over it.
I hope, Steampunks, that you are finding some ways to change your aesthetic, because this mass-marketing of Steampunk is sort of gross. I do like the colorful Nerfpunk group that has shown up at Dragon*Con these past few years, but it is still too steamy for my tastes. What about this great Medieval superhero group? Chainmail-Punk? I like that.
I’m totally over Steampunk. And really, Steampunks, aren’t you a little over it too? When someone is selling your aesthetic as a cheap, throwaway Halloween costume, it might be time to throw in the bustle. Or, more precisely, all you casual Steampunks out there who are more or less the cause of this mainstreaming, it might be time to hang up your goggles and leave Steampunk to the small, hardcore group of fanatics who started this trend in the first place.
I know that’s my plan.
*I feel a little bad saying this, but it is true, and I think many Steampunks would agree. I know some lovely Steampunks, and actually met Nancy, the seamstress who made my gorgeous Blind Mag costume and did some great work for my Melisandre costume, at the local Steampunk store. So, hello level-headed Steampunks, I like you a lot, but many of you just rub me the wrong way!