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Mercer hosts its second annual Gothic Festival featuring spooky cosplay and stunning visuals

First place cosplay winner Nym Sellars dressed as Lazarus poses for a photo.
First place cosplay winner Nym Sellars dressed as Lazarus poses for a photo.

Mercer's second annual "Gothic Festival" was held in Connell Student Center Oct. 26-29. Those curious about all things Gothic were able to participate in activities, discussions and displays of chilling visual arts and cosplay a mere few days before Halloween.

Gothic subculture is an expansive community founded on how a person expresses themselves through stylistic and music choices, including but not restricted to darker clothing and makeup, genderless features and fierce hairstyles. Gothic subculture can also include cosplay, a way for groups to come together and share their costumes and details about their favorite characters from various video games, movies or shows.

The discussion panel of professors had a big turnout, with many coming to learn more about the Gothic subculture. Subjects such as contemporary black films, queerness in the community and Gothic fiction authors were explored. Notable takeaways from the night were the idea that queerness is a rebellion against norms, the queen of Argentina's Gothic literature Marina Enriquez, castles, monasteries and heterotopia.

Games such as "Werewolf" were played during the game night; players chose a multitude of characters and came together as a group to find out who the true werewolves in the game were.

The festival displayed short films, photography and 3D art. After careful deliberation, art and cosplay awards were handed out. While there were many contenders for the cosplay competition, Nym Sellars '23 earned first place for their cosplay as "Lazarus."

Lazarus is a hellhound that guards the gates of Hell, except for the 50-year break that happens every 1000 years. This year was the hellhound's break and they decided to wreak havoc upon Mercer University. Because of the intricate design of the costume, Sellars explained it took them over four years to perfect the suit.

"Believe it or not when I started, I actually didn't even know how to sew at first. YouTube tutorials... patterns saved my life," Sellars explained.

Sellars' costume consisted of a full-body suit with eyes covering the hellhound's body, a working mouth that opened and closed due to the hinges, and huge claws that were at the ends of all four paws.

"For the body suit, you take what's called duct tape dummies, and wrap your entire body with duct tape to get the measurements correctly. Then you sculpt out of foam how you want the legs to look. When you take a pattern of that, you make it into a pillow and stuff it with Polyfil," Sellars describes.

Sellars says they would consider themselves a part of the Gothic community and explains how fascination is the reason people are drawn to the idea of the subculture.

"Some people feel really at home in the dark and scary. I think it's the same reason people are drawn to true crime shows: a fascination with the unknown."

There are many stereotypes about the Gothic subculture. With that thought in mind, Sellars added insight into the idea that people are afraid to appear cringy.

"I think, personally, being afraid to appear 'cringy' has damaged a lot of our self-expression and identity; we should push past this fear of trying new things. I'm literally dressed as a hellhound from head to toe; just have fun because life is too short to worry about cringe culture."

Mercer's second annual Gothic Festival came to an end as Halloween neared. If you happened to have missed this year's festival, don’t be discouraged! Mercer's Gothic Festival will be back next year bringing new cosplay, art and enlightening discussions about Gothic subculture.

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