If the location of your office compels you to visit Times Square regularly, you are confronted at least twice a day (going to work and on your way home) by a crush of people, gaping tourists, perpetual construction and, of course, by opportunists dressed as cartoon characters, Marvel and DC superheroes, Star Wars figures and, here and there, barely dressed at all. The common reaction to all of this is to keep one’s head down and push through, muttering about the madness, wondering where all the people have come from and why they won’t get out of the way, and even entertaining a small incursion on the first amendment that might rid the pedestrian plazas of the tip-seeking fictional personages.
As someone who works in Times Square, I have taken an alternative perspective. I have elected to find it all very funny.
As a result, instead of looking away from the costumed hustlers, I look right at them, because at times this third-rate cosplay can offer some truly absurd tableaux. With my iPhone in hand, I record these bits of urban incongruity, posting them to my Facebook page as “Times Square Weirdness, my continuing series.” Instead of rushing across Times Square with my head down, I walk to my assorted destinations with a surveying gaze, my camera at the ready, hoping to catch Dora The Explorer dancing with Mickey Mouse, while three Spider-Men look on.
Were I a parent on holiday with children in tow, I’d likely take a less indulgent view of the situation. I have even gone so far as to offer a practical plan that might at least reduce the costumed populations (with no constitutional breach whatsoever). But in the meantime, I choose to find the whole thing deeply ridiculous and while I will not ever offer even $1 as a gratuity, and while in turn many of the “characters” quickly lift their cut-rate visages to foil my photos, I’ll chronicle Times Square Weirdness for as long as it lasts.
I should note that for all of the Elmos, Olafs, Minnie Mice and Spider-Man who appear daily (and even form packs), some characters (or costumes of said characters) appear only once or twice, never to be seen again. I guess some people decide it’s not really for them. I often wonder what happens to the costumes. But I try to save their appearances for posterity.
Here’s a scrapbook of some of my favorites.
All photos © 2016, Howard Sherman