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The Secret Lives of Public Servants—Episode 3: The Cosplayer

By Apartment613 on November 14, 2017

By Amen Jafri

The Secret Lives of Public Servants is a three-episode documentary web series that explores the creative hobbies and careers of public employees outside the 9 to 5. The ultimate goal is to humanize public servants in a fun way and showcase a narrative other than the stock one we hear, that they are boring, lazy or corrupt. We are an official selection for the Mirror Mountain Film Festival and were nominated for two awards at Brooklyn Web Fest.

I instinctively knew I wanted to cast Richard in The Secret Lives of Public Servants when I came across his Facebook profile, which featured him in a a blond wig and semi-clad in fur underwear as He-Man. I thought, this is some serious dedication to cosplay.

There’s more to it, though. As a kid, Richard always wanted to be He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. What kid growing up watching the 80s cartoon didn’t want that? As they get older, a lot of kids give up on fulfilling their dreams and fantasies. Not Richard. He re-discovered his through cosplay, “the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book or video game” (Oxford Dictionary).

There’s a pivotal moment in his episode where Richard says transforming into Captain America is like being an actor and an instant role model for people, especially kids. You are able to have more influence and draw power from the iconic status of a fictional character than you are on your own. I find this is so interesting. On the surface, a lot of people would dismiss cosplay as role play for adults. And part of it is pure fun and an opportunity to bring out a more playful self. However, cosplayers are actually a more honest bunch than the rest of us. They at least make it clear they are playing an aspirational role. The rest of us are simply cosplayers by default.

Here’s why. As I discussed in last week’s post on Episode 2, there are cultural codes to adhere to in the public service, as well as in most offices. Not everyone is comfortable being themselves in the workplace, because there are standards to adhere to: wardrobe, social cues, and hierarchy. Like any other social group, it is important to fit in in order to keep the peace. As a result, some of us may adopt a workplace persona, such as one that is more gregarious, Type A and with a conservative wardrobe.

Personally I have always found it hard to play the part in order to conform to unspoken norms. I will go along with it, but there is an inner battle waging within and I never truly feel at peace until I return home. Part of working is not just completing the tasks at hand, but also playing a role and it can be exhausting.

Take a moment to consider that before you roll into work tomorrow. What type of person are you cosplaying that day and why do you adopt that persona? How does it affect your mental health to play that part every day? And what would happen if you let more of your true self out?

For more information on the series, as well as my background as a filmmaker, former public servant and now coach to aspiring creative entrepreneurs, be sure to visit and follow the series’ updates on on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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