Why Do We Cosplay? Is it a Symptom of Crazy? I’ll Get To That, But First…
I shouldn’t have, but I did. I read a few forum comments in a thread entitled: “I. Hate. Cosplay.” The statements that followed were ragey, misspelled and ill-informed. I REALLY should have known better—the site was called “Rantrum”. Duh, Jen. DUH. But I was curious! Until that moment, I honestly did not know that there were people in this dimension who absolutely despise cosplay and cosplayers. The idea was completely foreign to me. I mean, there are a lot of things to hate in the world: child molesters, murder, poverty, war… but to put so much energy into raging over costumes is just difficult for me to understand.
Here are some of their diatribes (note: I did my best to leave their comments intact, but in order to make them easier to read, I removed foul language, reduced the length of the rage bombs and correct grammar mistakes).
“…What’s the point of dressing up as a #@!*%$! anime character you WILL NEVER RESEMBLE NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY? No, not even with that plastic hair you bought. NO ONE who does it even looks close to the thing they are trying to be. IT’S ANNOYING. I cannot browse Deviantart without seeing cosplays on each page. I want to go yell in their faces. It’s seriously STUPID. It’s not ART. It’s idiocy. Yes, they may like doing it, but NO ONE CARES!!!!!!!!”
“…I don’t like those annoying/creepy people at cons.“
“I am a fan of Doctor Who and find it sad that people have to dress up as one of the characters. I can understand for Halloween and fancy dress parties but not 24/7.”
“The worst thing about cosplayers is they are very stuck up and completely OBSESSED with it…”
It doesn’t bother me. I just hate it when you’re EXPECTED to wear a costume. I don’t like the idea of wasting time and money putting together an outfit I’m only going to wear once….”
This went on and on with a few jumping into the thread in an attempt to defend cosplayers. I only selected a few rants to highlight here—gripes that I could respond to before going on to explain why we cosplay.
What have we taken away from this rant-tastically fun discussion? :)
This is sooooo not the case. In my previous article, “What is Cosplay” , I indicated that cosplay is not for everyone. You’re not required to do anything other than enjoy yourself at a convention. Go listen to a panel. Get a photo and/or an autograph from your favorite celebrities. Shop for collectables. Meet fellow fans. You can do all that in your civvies (AKA street clothes) and no one is going to look at you sideways. I promise.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week…dressed as one character from Dr Who. Who is this cosplayer? I have to get them on the show! ;) Even if it were permissible for me to wear my Starfleet uniform to work, I wouldn’t. There’s a time and place for everything. That, and it’s not comfortable. I only wear costumes to conventions and I can only afford to attend one or two a year. Myth dispelled.
An obsession is something an individual is preoccupied by. I will admit that I’m occasionally distracted by thoughts of my next costume. But I’m not obsessed—it doesn’t consume me. I have Pinterest a board dedicated to cosplay ideas. I also have boards devoted to gardening, fashion trends, art, and design. These things interest me. And yes, I do like to think about them from time to time. But I’m not obsessed. Moving right along… :)
It’s creepy, weird and they’re all stuck up.
To quote one of the forum ranters: “It’s not ART. It’s idiocy.” Okay, I freely admit it’s not for everyone. But it is art. Below is Webster’s definition of the word.
Art: Something that is created with imagination and skill that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.
Art is subjective. Sometimes you like it, sometimes you don’t. There are some works on display in famous galleries that offend me. I don’t have to like them. But I still consider these works “art”, because the people who created them were expressing an idea or thought in a creative way. To each his own.
With regards to the “stuck up” comment… I am a studio artist and a graphic designer. I have worked in an art gallery. I have totally met artists who were self-important, ignorant a-holes. Guess what? Even if they’re pompous asses, they’re still artists—insanely creative jerk face artists. :) But I can’t paint all of them with that brush. And by the same token, the majority of cosplayers I have met have been extremely friendly and inclusive.
I asked the cosplayers on our staff to explain why they do this thing they do. They each had a slightly different response, but I think each one adds dimension to the conversation here.
Here’s My Reason: It Makes Me Happy
I often dress as a Jedi at conventions and I love the gigantic smile that forms on a child’s face when I kneel down to talk to them. “Would you like to be a Jedi?” I ask as I hand them my lightsaber. They stand there in stunned silence, their wide eyes transfixed by the blue-green glow of the LED blade. Their parents’ voices are the only things that break the trance. And most of the time, mom and dad are just as excited as the kiddos. “Smile for the picture!” they shout over the drone of the crowd.
To those children, I am a Jedi. And for a brief moment, I feel like one. Making people happy, creating a memory for those younglings— these are a just a few of the reasons why I cosplay and why I find it so enjoyable. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
Sith Jen: Because I’m Peter Pan at Heart
I cosplay because I was told that “someday you will have to grow up and stop playing dress-up” and I said, “You’re not the boss of me!” In all seriousness, I cosplay because I can. Because, right now, in our time, it is something we fans can do. Because this is how I play.
Sue: To Pay Homage to a Favorite Character
Until a couple years ago, all of my costumes were either original or generic characters. When I do cosplay a specific character from a property, it’s one that I really feel a connection to, and a costume that I know I will be comfortable in for 16/18/20 hours a day. And it’s always fun when people recognize you and want to talk to you about the character or show or book. I’m working on my first book-character cosplay for this year’s Dragon Con and I’m excited to see who recognizes me.
Noah: To Bond with Fellow Nerds of Shared Interests
I just love meeting new people. For me, cosplay means that you are so avid about a particular fandom that you created a version of a character to wear as your identity. That opens a lot of doors and breaks down a lot of barriers to meeting new people. If you are dressed as a Jedi, anyone can walk up to you and know that there is shared ground for discussion. There is an immediate connection. Or if you are dressed as your favorite obscure character, it’s a test to see who else is a fan. I love dressing up, whether in garb at renfest or a costume at a con…though my Sith costume did not stay on long, lol…it was still fun while I had it on.
Angela: Because Costume Design is my Passion
I cosplay for the same reason that other people play fantasy football, or shop, or run marathons, or yacht, or write poetry, or cook, or I don’t know what people do. Anyway, it is a passion for me that ties to my lifelong passion for fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as my passion and advanced degree in theatre and costume design. Cosplay was almost made specifically for someone with my interests and skill set.
Anne: Because it’s Immersive
I cosplay because I love to immerse myself in my fandoms and there is nothing more immersive than inserting myself into the character. My theater degree, like Angela, also gave me a lot of great skills in construction but also in design and I love redesigning characters or thinking of mashups I could do. I love leveling up my crafting skills as I go and getting to see the photos and the looks on people’s faces when I make their day at a con! It’s just… It’s like flying! Uncomfortable at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
I hope this article on why we cosplay stirred you up. Join our conversation by commenting below.