People

Superheroes in town

Star Wars cosplayers bring joy to countless kids

 

"May the Force be with you." If you can tell that this classic line is from the spiritual peacekeeping Jedi in Star Wars, and have been fond of helping the needy, you might want to join the Rebel Legion.

The organisation is based in the United States and has spread all over the world. Star Wars costume lovers can team up and form a base in their community as long as they have passed the requirements set by the headquarter. RL members utilise their costume talents and give back to the community by dressing up as Star Wars superheroes for charity and volunteering activities. The quality of their work will be overseen by the headquarters.

"The Rebel Legion Hong Kong Base" (RL) is a force formed by about 20 local members. Among them are Mr Edmund Tong, Ms Carmen Chiang and Mr Chris Chan.

The members did not make a superhero entrance to our interview. They just came in casual wear. All the goodies were stored in the gigantic suitcases they brought with them. They showcased the delicate costumes while telling the story.

"Cosplayers of Star Wars gather as friends to do good things together. This is what the RL aims at," said Mr Tong. The "good things" they did included visits to hospitals children wards. From the RL's point of view, cosplaying for hospital visits made it easier for children to accept them, he explained.

Yet, it is not that easy for the adults. "

Those well-known charitable organisations are used to doing things in a certain way. They have a lot of concerns when someone approaches them wanting to add in new elements to the volunteer programmes as they care very much about their image," said Ms Enid Lau, who has been volunteering with different organisations for eight years. She added that those organisations are extra cautious when the programmes involve children, and parents' complaint is the last thing they want to hear.

In other words, the organisations have to take parents' acceptability into consideration in addition to the children's feelings.

A few years ago when the society was "less open-minded", cosplaying was regarded as dressing weird. Ms Chiang recalled the days when the RL was often rejected or requested to drop their superhero outfits for the visits.

"We were only allowed to bring in toys of Star Wars for children to play in casual clothing while other foreign subdivisions would dress up," she said, accenting the differences between the Western world and the "conservative" local society.

The RL had to cope with disappointment constantly. A charity event in Kwong Wah Hospital about a year ago was a turning point. - the team was finally allowed to enter the children's ward in their Star Wars costumes, and the feedback was very positive.

This experience was golden, and each of the many volunteering events that followed was equally special and delightful to the team.

"We are always overjoyed when we see kids immersing themselves in the atmosphere," said Ms Chiang, with a big smile on her face. She is thankful that her effort on her hobby makes had brought the kids happiness and comfort.

While the RL gives, it has to take as well.

Mr Chan has learned great crafting skills through cosplaying. He said the swords on the market could not satisfy him and he decided to learn to make his own. "The process of making it requires skills and a lot of patience, but I am glad that my fellow sword-mates are always there," the proud craftsman added as he showcased his masterpiece.

RL's experience also shows that cosplaying has the virtue of bonding like- minded people.

"Star Wars is an international language and it pulls people with different backgrounds together," said Mr Tong. He recalled that he used to spend most of his time reaching out to the international fan community when the local Star Wars fan group was small and the cosplay culture here was not popular. He made some friends with the same hobby around the globe.

"The mutual interest shortens the distance between nationalities. My foreign mates and I often exchange ideas and thoughts, from making costumes to daily life matters," he said. "It has indeed broadened my horizons."

This hobby has also pulled Mr Tong and his father closer. His father has even asked to have a photo taken in his Stormtrooper outfit.

The RL team members here are Hongkongers born in the 70s and 80s with ordinary jobs. But when they gear up, they are the superheroes who save the hearts of the needy (and themselves). Who would have thought a screenplay could have such great impact on people's lives?

 

By Jo Lee

Edited by Carain Yeung

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