I attended a panel at Arisia a couple of years ago about empathy as a form of extrasensory perception (akin to telepathy or other psychic abilities). I remember being surprised when someone dressed in a PsiCorps cosplay from Babylon 5 walked into the room.
I had seen this person around the con earlier, and while I didn’t personally appreciate their choice of cosplay, there was nothing outrageous about seeing it at a Sci Fi & Fantasy convention. Their presence at a panel about related psychic abilities was potentially understandable in the context of someone in search of knowledge.
When this person went to the front of the room and sat down on the panel itself, though, I felt threatened. Not dramatically or physically; I know, it’s a fictional organization and we’re all fans here. But the choice of outfit for this particular panel seemed tone deaf at the very least.
The panelist’s introduction directly referenced their cosplay: “I’m wearing this uniform as a way of reclaiming these symbols that have been used against us,” they said.
What. In the world. PsiCorps is a (fictional) organization that brainwashes and conscripts telepaths into indentured servitude. And this person was wearing, not just the company logo, but the entire uniform to participate in a panel on psychic abilities. In that environment it felt less like “reclamation” and more like someone trying to start a fight.
The fictional symbols we create have power. To ignore this is to diminish the story, the message, the relatability of the experience, and most importantly, the audience.