It’s been nearly five years since I last laid eyes on it, and yesterday, I had the unique opportunity to wear my BSG costume. Not a replica, not a spare, THE costume I wore on the show. It still carried the correct insignia and was covered in fake dirt, but it had the slight scent of something that had been sitting in a box for months. When I was approached with the idea of dressing up at New York Comic-con, I was thrilled and thought it would be a great gag. What I wasn’t prepared for was the landslide of thoughts and emotions that accompanied the simple act of putting on an outfit. At first it was surreal, seeing my name—Cally’s name—written on the tags of my tank tops, just like my neatly labeled gym clothes in elementary school. When I emerged from the ladies room in full garb, like a little girl playing dress up in her mother’s clothes, I couldn’t help but feel a little exposed and out of place. Ironically, a sci-fi convention is the last place to not fit in playing a character from a show, but I knew I didn’t have the same intent as the cosplayers around me. So what was my intent? Initially, it was simple: have fun, interact with people at the convention, and play with whether people would recognize me or not. Within a few minutes of walking around, that objective was met with ease. I even got asked to do an interview about cosplay, which I gracefully declined.
For the show I’m hosting now (more on that later), we filmed a few shots of me getting into character. I saluted and stood stiffly at attention. The memories bubbled up like a hot spring, and along with those memories came a certain pride and recognition of what it meant to be wearing that uniform. It suddenly felt like so much more than just playing dress up. I was representing my character, who she is and was, and I was representing a whole show, a whole piece of history that has impacted people’s lives far and wide. Suddenly there was a certain sacredness and responsibility to wearing my “greens,” dog tags and all. Not one person (that I know of) recognized me as Cally. I was first addressed as Starbuck, which I quickly corrected. I was later complimented on my cosplay and high-fived by fellow BSG’ers.
I mean, I am the first one to admit my highlights and pixie cut provide quite a contrast to the worn fatigues, but I can’t say I wasn’t a little surprised. I haven’t changed THAT much! But the reactions of people when I told them I was actually Cally were priceless. I wish I could communicate the expression on people’s faces. In those moments, the walls that normally separate people seemed to crumble, and all that was left was an appreciation for a story that helped us all connect more deeply to what it means to be human. I might be biased, but I experience a solidarity amongst Battlestar fans, that perhaps extends to sci-fi in general, and is palpable in their desire to express their fandom. Whether it’s in words, in dress, in art, or collections, the Battlestar family is tried and true. Just ask Edward James Olmos, Richard Hatch, or anyone else from the show.
As human beings (even dressed as cylons or storm troopers), all we have are our experiences, and the meaning we ascribe to what matters to us. Wearing a dirty costume may not seem like much, but it presented me an opportunity to reflect on the importance of holding things sacred in my life. My experiences on Battlestar, and all the ones that have come as a result, are truly precious to me. They represent many things: a time of growth, challenge, success, failure, family, expression and introspection. And while I may not always realize it in the moment, my honoring of those things through material and immaterial representations, can be as important as the experiences themselves. I feel like I'm beginning to have an understanding of the appeal of cosplay, of dressing up like a character and learning to appreciate their world, even if it’s only in spirit. Because in the end, our spirit is what carries us through.