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Author Topic: The "perceived need for a persona to be Steampunk"  (Read 3851 times)
Sludge Van Diesel
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« on: September 05, 2013, 11:36:56 pm »

Following on from my other thread on personas, does the perceived notion that you need a persona if you dress in Steampunk outfits put off people from getting into Steampunk?
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« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2013, 11:56:27 pm »

It definitely effects some.  I have heard it at shows from people.  They will say something like, "Oh do I have have to wear a costume?"  or "Steampunk, isn't that the thing where you get dressed up in wild outfits?"

I try to explain that while some people do, many don't.   I further add that for some it is a lifestyle, while for others just a style.  One of the great things about steampunk is that it is so broad and allows many forms of expression.  I might also add that while I sometimes get "dressed up", my main focus is making things.

Its like Rock Music.  You don't have to dress and live like the Rolling Stones to enjoy listening to some good music.
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Sludge Van Diesel
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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2013, 12:00:08 am »

Well put.

I have seen anecdotal evidence that folks do seem to think it's a requirement. I was wondering if others had seen proof or thought the same.
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« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2013, 01:00:28 am »

I don't know if having a persona puts people off, but to follow on from the point raised by Maets I think having an outfit, or the perceived need to have an outfit, might put people off.

When we went to our first event, my missus didn't have an outfit. No-one said anything, in fact she was treated no differently from anyone else, but I get the impression she felt slightly uncomfortable and even a bit 'left out' because she wasn't in costume. I suppose the fact that the majority were wearing unusual clothes made those in 'normal' clothes the unusual ones - it's a herd mentality thing; you want to be part of the crowd, everyone does at some subconscious level.

This is not unique to Steampunks, or indeed to any subculture. It is perfectly normal. An example from normal life would be me at work. I work for a video games company. There are about 800 people in the building where I work and about 8000 around the world and they all dress the same. Not exactly the same, but the staff all wear variations of t-shirt, jeans and trainers. The managers all wear "business casual" - a shirt, jeans and shoes. I on the other hand wear a suit, shirt and tie, 'formal business wear'. I am the only person I know in the whole company, worldwide from the CEO to the teaboy, who dresses that way. I wear a suit for many reasons but one of them is irony - the suit, the thing that makes everyone in 'business' look the same, the symbol of conformity, is in my environment the thing that makes me stand out.

The point that I'm trying to make is that everybody wants to be part of the crowd, wants to 'fit in' with their chosen social group. Even those who claim to be different, to be non-conformist, will inevitably gravitate to others of the same ilk. The hipster, the modern so-called non-conformist, is perhaps the best example of this. Those who claim to be unique and individual, but when you see a group of hipsters they look like clones - all wearing skinny jeans/trousers, the same hairstyles, the same hats even.

Humans are animals with a strong herd instinct, like horses or sheep or cows. If you're not part of the 'herd', you will, maybe only on a subconscious level, feel threatened, uncomfortable, 'left out'. So I don't think having a persona would necessarily put people off, but I think not having an outfit at an event might make people feel uncomfortable, enough so to make them think that perhaps Steampunk isn't for them, perhaps without fully understanding why they feel that way.

I'm rambling now. Time for bed  Grin
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2013, 01:07:09 am »

Based on posts by numerous newcomers over the past mumble years, I would say that this is an issue. The misconception is no doubt rooted in individuals' pre-BG exposure to Steampunks, but that might be exacerbated by their encounters with some of BG's more prominent "personalities," who tend to present as slightly larger than life.

I think this forum could stand to have a "Before You Register" section with this sort of information; this is a proposal I have been pretending to develop for some time.
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Sludge Van Diesel
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« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2013, 01:28:46 am »

I can see how not dressing SP at an event could make somebody stand out & / or feel uncomfortable about it.

My other half won't wear "SP gear" for reasons that I may go into in another thread, but by the same token, wouldn't go to a SP event in jeans & t shirt either. when we went to Steampunk in Cambridge, she wore a dress bought in Camden Market. This meant that although she wasn't dressed SP, she didn't standout like a sore thumb either.  Nobody batted an eyelid.

The purpose of these threads for me is to try & understand peoples perceptions of Steampunks. I think had I not drifted into it of my own accord, things like the notion that you need a persona or need goggles, gears & rocket packs in your outfits would put me off.
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« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2013, 02:20:08 am »

I have been a member of BG for about 90% of time it has existed, and I can see two things about this:

1) MOST of the new members who ask about personas etc are from the USA. I also notice that many mention various cons (comic con, ren fairs, et al) and google images / searches as being their first taste of steampunk. Naturally given those starting points, people are bound to assume a persona is part and parcel of steampunk...

In the UK most events of this type are typically steampunk affairs such as Asylum, or similar events such as the Whitby Goth weekends. It's fairly similar elsewere in Europe. As a result there is less confusion about what "being steampunk" entails.


2) This is a fairly recent thing - seems to have taken hold around early 2011, and really picked up speed during 2012 / 13. I would attribute this to the fact that increasing numbers of personas are being created, found by others and taken as gospel that steampunk requires this...  It's a sort of self fulfilling prophecy.  Undecided

Unfortunately the ones with a persona are the ones that rise to the top during online searches, and tend to be the more memorable individuals. They also tend to promote themselves, well the persona, more actively.


The notion that a persona is a 'must have' may be off-putting to those who dislike LARPs or are looking for something more concrete / realistic to get involved with - something that suits their lifestyle. I'm not sure how this can be addressed easily...

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Sludge Van Diesel
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« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2013, 09:01:12 am »

So would you say it causes a problem in getting new recruits (so to speak)?  After all there must be more people in the world not into LARP, re-enactment etc than are into those scenes.

I would imagine that most people who liked the look / idea of Steampunk would be put off if their only experience of it was somebody (for want of a better phrase) "playing dress up" who remained in character during their encounter.  I know I would.
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« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2013, 09:05:50 am »

Definitively, No!
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« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2013, 09:16:17 am »

Definitively, No!
Definitively no what?  You don't think there is this perception, or you don't think it would put people off becoming involved?
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« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2013, 02:03:26 pm »

People who first encounter Steampunks at a faire or convention are the types of people who go to faires and conventions. People who first encounter Steampunk on-line by searching up pictures from faires and conventions are looking for faire or convention appropriate material.

I believe (and I may be years out of date, but that comes with the territory) that most of the core Steampunks found the culture through literature or Making. The dress-uppers tend to be mayflies and go haring off after the next shiney thing that catches the eye.
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« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2013, 08:44:29 pm »

I'm not sure I quite believe the oft-mentioned adage that UK steampunks have 'clothes' and are themselves, whilst Americans have 'costumes' and play to invented personas.

I think, as has been said above, that it depends more on how you get into it. I'm from the UK, but I got into it through cosplaying and roleplay, and I, like practically every other steampunk I have met in this way, have one (or several) 'personas' or 'characters' that the costumes are themed around.

I don't think the idea of a persona puts people off; in fact, my girlfriend loves creating new characters and backstories. If anything, I find it easier and much more fun to make an immediate connection with people through our respective characters, and get to know them better as normal people over time.

Perhaps when I go to Asylum I'll meet a few more non-cosplay steampunks and see what the other perspective is like, but personally, if I'm going to be running around dressed as a mock-hussar and waving around a fake rifle, then I'm going to want a tongue-in-cheek backstory and a ludicrous accent to go with it.
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« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2013, 09:46:59 pm »

Oh!! Dr Fidelius

You said: "I believe (and I may be years out of date, but that comes with the territory) that most of the core Steampunks found the culture through literature or Making. The dress-uppers tend to be mayflies and go haring off after the next shiney thing that catches the eye."

There must be some very old mayflies gadding about then.

The thing about the clothes is that it is easy to identify other steampunks: it makes them easy to approach.  No introduction is necessary. In Victorian times a lady would need to be introduced to a person before she could speak to them.  In steampunk the clothes are the introduction.
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« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2013, 10:00:52 pm »

I agree with Lady Frances.  We dress as we do because we are expressing ourselves and feel happy that way.  That is why anybody who is not a member of a uniformed organization or obliged to wear (shudder) a royal blue shirt or an orange hat with a chicken on it for work will chose what they feel most comfortable in when free to do so.  I always ask myself; if I were to be struck by a meteorite today, and, as a ghost, be stuck forever wearing this, would I regret it?  Perhaps it is because as someone said, and I would be obliged if someone could help me identify the quote, 'We are fun-having, game-playing creatures -- we are the otters of the universe!'

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« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2013, 02:15:46 am »

Somehow I missed the memo that I was supposed to have a persona so I was never able to be turned off by them.

But I also don't go for the silly nonfunctional steampunk so I guess I don't feel the need to pretend to be someone else, and when I am silly, I don't have a problem being silly as myself.

All the times in my life when I wanted to be someone else I actually became that person for better and worse.

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« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2013, 02:34:45 am »

I'm not sure I quite believe the oft-mentioned adage that UK steampunks have 'clothes' and are themselves, whilst Americans have 'costumes' and play to invented personas.

I think, as has been said above, that it depends more on how you get into it. I'm from the UK, but I got into it through cosplaying and roleplay, and I, like practically every other steampunk I have met in this way, have one (or several) 'personas' or 'characters' that the costumes are themed around.

I don't think the idea of a persona puts people off; in fact, my girlfriend loves creating new characters and backstories. If anything, I find it easier and much more fun to make an immediate connection with people through our respective characters, and get to know them better as normal people over time.

Perhaps when I go to Asylum I'll meet a few more non-cosplay steampunks and see what the other perspective is like, but personally, if I'm going to be running around dressed as a mock-hussar and waving around a fake rifle, then I'm going to want a tongue-in-cheek backstory and a ludicrous accent to go with it.

I will agree with this statement.  I find the notion that "most Americans SPs have a persona" somewhat perplexing.  As a matter of fact, the opposite is my experience in my local circles:  Virtually no one I met locally in my first year of SP activity had a "persona" or acted "in character" during meetings. Plenty of them did however wear some sort of anachronistic clothing.  Does that make Austin different to the rest of the USA?  Of course not.  There are many factors involved, and different people hang out in different venues.  Case in point we have a local band of artists and entertainers who go by the name of Airship Isabella, and most of these these folk are in character most of the time, but it's part of their job.  It depends on your circles.  Do you mostly attend conventions?  Or are you a maker?  Or do you just like the social meetings at pubs and clubs and the like?  I found there are many more Steampunks lurking about in Austin, than you would guess by just by looking at the Texas Steampunk/ Texas Steampunk / Austin Steampunk Society groups.  Those operating outside the groups may have found other venues such as entertainment, conventions and theatre, and for the three latter types, a persona would be far more important.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 02:38:20 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2013, 02:52:39 am »


Quote
I find the notion that "most Americans SPs have a persona" somewhat perplexing.  As a matter of fact, the opposite is my experience in my local circles

I agree, it seems the opposite to me. As far as I can tell SP in the UK is all about the persona.
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Sludge Van Diesel
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« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2013, 03:12:34 am »

I'm not sure I quite believe the oft-mentioned adage that UK steampunks have 'clothes' and are themselves, whilst Americans have 'costumes' and play to invented personas.

I think, as has been said above, that it depends more on how you get into it. I'm from the UK, but I got into it through cosplaying and roleplay, and I, like practically every other steampunk I have met in this way, have one (or several) 'personas' or 'characters' that the costumes are themed around.

I don't think the idea of a persona puts people off; in fact, my girlfriend loves creating new characters and backstories. If anything, I find it easier and much more fun to make an immediate connection with people through our respective characters, and get to know them better as normal people over time.

Perhaps when I go to Asylum I'll meet a few more non-cosplay steampunks and see what the other perspective is like, but personally, if I'm going to be running around dressed as a mock-hussar and waving around a fake rifle, then I'm going to want a tongue-in-cheek backstory and a ludicrous accent to go with it.

I will agree with this statement.  I find the notion that "most Americans SPs have a persona" somewhat perplexing.  As a matter of fact, the opposite is my experience in my local circles:
Must just be the ones that get on Youtube then. Wink
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Sludge Van Diesel
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« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2013, 03:20:51 am »


Quote
I find the notion that "most Americans SPs have a persona" somewhat perplexing.  As a matter of fact, the opposite is my experience in my local circles

I agree, it seems the opposite to me. As far as I can tell SP in the UK is all about the persona.
Really?  Most of the ones I know don't even have a themed outfit (other than a general SP look) & I have yet to meet one that uses a persona.  Part of the reason I asked the original question was bcause I've not encountered a Steampunk who was in character & yet I've heard / read countless stories of people being put off because they think they have to have one "like the folks on Youtube" do.
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« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2013, 04:23:42 am »

Well, thats what you get for watching Youtube.
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« Reply #20 on: September 08, 2013, 06:46:40 am »

It can lend to strangeness for those of us who don't dress up.  I was a guest at a Steampunk con earlier this year, and for one panel (on worldbuilding) it was myself and four other people. Besides being the odd man out for being the creator of a comic and not a novelist like the other panelists, I was the only one on the panel not in full steampunk gear.

It made me feel odd, let me tell you.

Especially since most of the audience was in costume too Tongue

That said, I've never felt unwelcome by those who dress up themselves.  They're always super nice -- it's my own perceptions that make me feel out of place.
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« Reply #21 on: September 08, 2013, 08:02:41 am »

Definitively, No!
Definitively no what?  You don't think there is this perception, or you don't think it would put people off becoming involved?

I have adopted no persona, nor have I felt the need to do so. I am merely myself and happy that way.
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« Reply #22 on: September 08, 2013, 08:39:42 am »

Well, thats what you get for watching Youtube.


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Spend much time in the UK do you Mr Tower? I do and personally haven't met a single Steampunk with a persona yet. I'm not denying they're out there of course (particularly as we have one in this thread), or that we have a cosplay/convention type scene here. Indeed we do, in fact it seems to be growing exponentially. Each to their own of course but I still can't say it's interesting me much. And I would also venture that this particular perception about mandatory persona in Steampunk is overwhelmingly being perpetuated by folks in the US.

Not a criticism as such, it's actually very useful to have established outlets for these kind of enthusiasms. We do indeed have period re enactment and LARP events and what have you as well.  And of course we do love our music festivals in this country. I think certain elements are still in the process of joining together here. We have Bestival for example, which although I've never attended I understand encourages it's revelers to dress up in the style of pre selected themes which change annually. I suspect Steampunk may well be on the menu one year if it hasn't already.

But no of course we're not all playing dress up here, hence the perception that we are is slightly irritating (although we're not all building giant Steambots in our basements with which to take over the world either). It has it's place but it's not the whole picture, just a very big part of the picture one will find on the internet.
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« Reply #23 on: September 08, 2013, 08:53:27 am »

Esteemed  Mr. Fairbrass:

I hardly think that the lady and gentleman on screen represent the end-all and be-all of Steampunk. We all know who they are, but they are not the totality of American SP, nor are they representative of the average SP.  Hardly.  I could also pick individual examples of appalling attitude, behaviour and apparel and tie them to a particular country.  That would not be fair.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, may I humbly suggest that the Steampunk persona is intimately tied to an individual's need for a certain level of showmanship? Is it possible that SP personas arose about the circles of conventions?

What is the difference between American conventions and similar types of gatherings in the UK? Percentage-wise? Can we agree that perhaps the presence of LARP and cosplay during the formative years of Steampunk as a subculture may have something to do with a greater prevalence of SP persona in the United States?

The thing about the US is that this is a big country and a target for all sorts of commercial influences from around the world. And yes.  Literature and comics are both businesses as much as Anime or computer games. The American Geek is fair game and his or her hard earned dollar will be sought by salesmen who arrive at our shores from all around the world.

There is a massive number of different subcultures which can be exploited and an absolute mountain of money to be made by those cunning showmen, who like PT Barnum will dare the public to take the bait.  You need the proper attire and attitude to bring the money in.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 09:14:11 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
Mr Peter Harrow, Esq
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« Reply #24 on: September 08, 2013, 09:09:21 am »

Some adopted persona are for professional reasons Jack Union, Herr Doktor, Emilly Ladybird, effectively a nom de plume, the individuals involved do no live in those persona's. Since JK. Rowling, the Bronte Sisters and Stephen King have all gone down this route, then this is part of a proud literary and artistic tradition. Since I am a gentleman amateur in relation to the things I make, I have never needed to adopt a professional persona, but fully understand why my friends might. To me they are just my friends.

This is different to someone who merely seeks to re-invent themselves, this may be due to a deeper unhappiness with their identity or current situation. In the alternative it may indeed just be the shallowness of someone skimming You Tube and trying to 'fit in'. It is difficult sometimes to know which this may be, so in all case be patient and let the individual resolve this themselves. Either they figure out who they really are, and can be happy in that, or they realise the difference between person and persona and decide not to take their persona too seriously.

Steampunk really is to allow people to be themselves, but to not take themselves too seriously.
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