Cosplay, Is it Taboo?
In a society that shuns differences there lives a culture, a group of people, not afraid to express themselves in a way others may find taboo. Masking who they are and becoming someone different; their society allows people of all race, shape, size, and backgrounds to join together and just plain have fun!
Cosplay is a culture that has actually been around for much longer than people realize. Originally practiced and performed in an underground manner, this form of expression has come to light in the past couple decades to be what it is today, a performing art.
Cosplay has actually been very popular among followers in the United States for decades. During american Sci-Fi conventions people would dress up as different characters for different reasons. In fact, this is actually how the term cosplay came about; when a Japanese reporter, Nov Takahashi , attending a 1984 sci-fi convention in LA he was inspired by all the people in costumes and thought of the term “Cosplay”. However, altho the term cosplay came around in the 80’s, the act that it is today can actually be traced back much further. A gentlemen by the name Forrest J. Ackerman encouraged fan-costuming when he wore a futuristic costume to the 1st World Science Fiction Convention in New York in 1939. Since all this tho, cosplay has exploded around the world and can be found in practice in many different countries.
Today I had the opportunity to sit in and listen to a professional Cosplayer well known around the world as she gave a talk on: Better Understanding the Sociology Behind Cosplay. Yaya Han stood in front of a room of 100+ people in her wonder women outfit and enlightened her audience on several reasons for why people cosplay including many of her own.
*Why do we cosplay? Well… for everyone it is something different but it would seem that there is a general list of reasons why people enjoy cosplay so much. Escaping from ones daily life, love of a character, artistic expression, and more were among the top reasons shared to help answer this question. Yaya even shared with the audience that before she got into cosplay she was a very shy girl. Now she is standing up in front of crowds and conversing with complete strangers about something she loves and is passionate about.
*Publics perceptions of cosplay subculture: A fetish, deviant lifestyle, waste of resources… these perceptions are how those outside this culture tend to look in on it. The funny thing I see about this tho is that this seems to be the norm for everyone that doesn’t understand something different than what they are use to. These perceptions are far from the truth on what cosplay is suppose to mean and be about.
*Different types of cosplayers: From casual to social, super fans to competitions, there are several different types of cosplay one can venture into. Casual and social cosplayers are those you see at conventions, they enjoy dawning thee outfit they crafted and walk around sharing their work and the culture that is. The super fans take things to a new level with sticking to one character and better their costume every time getting it closer and closer to what they see as perfection. Competition cosplayers go even higher and and pour their hear and soul into an outfit so to compete in competitions showing off their imagination and craftsmanship. Regardless tho of the level one is involved in with cosplay they all have a place in the social realm.
*Benefits of cosplay: There are several benefits of participating in cosplay, making new friends, learning new trade skills, expressing ones creativity, improving social skills, and even a chance to travel to new places. Because cosplay is an entire culture there are other people that share the same passion that you can meet and get to know. People who are interested in the same character or even heroes and villains can be-friend one another and share ideas. With the digital age upon us most kids and even young adults are found playing video games or watching movies. Cosplay actually teaches some people a trade skill that otherwise wouldn’t have been learned. Sewing, armor smithing, and plastic working is just a few of the things people learn when making their own costumes. Learning about different fabrics and materials and what they can do or how you can manipulate them to work for you can help expand someone imagination. This expansion of someones imagination helps them express themselves through the art with their costumes.
So, what I hope you get from this is that although to you it might seem strange that someone is dressed up as a fictional character there is truly a lot more there then just what you see. Cosplayers are artists just like painters, musicians, sculptors, etc… they just happen to use fabric and their bodies instead of a brush and paper. Art is an expression of ones self and I would say after learning what I leaned, cosplay has a place here and will be around for many years. So, the next time you see someone dressed up comment them on their outfit and let them know that the hard work they put in paid off. Cosplay is no Taboo but is a culture of individuals expressing themselves in an artistic way.
*The following topics were from slides written by Yaya Han for her discussion on Understanding the Sociology Behind Cosplay. If you have specific questions or would like more information on cosplay Yaya Han is happy to answer anything you may want to know. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, and deviant art or email her at yay firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to personally thank Yaya Han for allowing me the rights to post up the topics covered in her talk so that I can share what I have learned in hopes of bringing light and understanding to a culture of people that are not different than anyone else.