I am perhaps not the right person to wholeheartedly enjoy a Renaissance Faire in Oregon. One of the things that one tends to notice at a Renn faire is that there are a lot of different interpretations of what it means to be in costume at such an event. Far be it from me to disparage the enjoyment of wearing period costumes–though I did not today–but at the same time there were some aspects of the costumes that I saw that were more than a bit troubling to me. In particular, a fairly large amount of people came wearing horns that suggested they identified as part-tiefling, and not being a friend to demonic hellspawn, although admittedly many such people can be found in this area, I did not find this to be a comforting or pleasing way to celebrate the past.
One of the other aspects I found somewhat off-putting about the faire was that it seemed that every act was trying in its own way to introduce as much innuendo as possible into whatever act they were doing. This included one act (aptly named the bawdy juggler) having a couple of kids holding up a sign that said that the show was intended for adults and had adult humor, which was at least accurate advertising. But the suggestiveness of the show went far beyond the bawdy jokes of a juggler, and included the music that was sung by a group of women performing madrigals right after that, as well as all of the magic shows the came one after another. It is not as if this sort of thing should have been surprising, but as someone who doesn’t watch a lot of tv or movies, it is quite jarring to see the level of coarseness in society.
It must be admitted, though, that the Renaissance was a somewhat course time in the sense that it was an age of cultured decadence. It is worth reflecting that the Renaissance is not the end of the story. It was the excesses of the Renaissance that led to the austere severity of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation in Europe, where the cynicism and moral laxity that had provoked societal crisis were curbed by authoritarian civil and religious leaders. In light of the fact that the Renaissance is well-regarded for its cultural excellence, it is well worth remembering that the end of that age in war and conflict and repression is something that the present generation would do well to keep in mind.
It is also interesting to note, as an observer to such things, that there are a great many people who seek to make money from a Renaissance Faire, and it can be illuminating to see who those may be. Just about all of the performers, for example, who were on the stages passed the hat (sometimes literally) to collect money. Among the people making money that were easier to appreciate were the food court (overpriced, to be sure, but at least providing tasty food), the sellers of fine clothes, weapons, armor, musical instruments, and the like. There were, however, vendors whose offerings made my eyebrow rise at least somewhat quizzically, though, including metaphysical items, amulets and spells and the like, as well as those aforementioned horns. It appears, at the very least, that some people associate a Renaissance Faire with a chance to show off neo-pagan or high fantasy interpretation while others revel in the chance to wear historical clothes or engage in other types of cosplay. What results depends, I suppose, on what aspects of those various motivations is most at play with the people in one’s own area.