People about Cosplay...
Putting aside for the moment that the tone of the question doesn’t imply the most open of minds, cosplay is – simply – acting. Do you consider Mel Gibson, Ken Branagh, David Tennant, Cumberbatch, et. al. immature for wanting to dress up and act as Hamlet? Cosplay is a similar – if not identical – mindset: people, inspired by characters, possessing the right combination of talent, bravery and self-awareness, performing as said character for an audience. Whether it’s a convention stage or a Broadway stage makes no difference. The person who portrays Deadpool or Master Chief is very much spiritual kin to the person who plays King Lear or Hamlet. It’s wrong to praise one and denigrate the other based on the source of their inspiration, for to declare which works are “great” and which are not is subjective or worse. Still, even if most consider it blasphemy to compare Marvel to Shakespeare, the motivation to portray characters from either realm is identical and the healthy mindset WON’T criticize this, realizing that whatever it doesn’t “get” is not automatically inferior or invalid.
PS: Ironically you will find, if you but ask, that most cosplayers as children were very successful Trick or Treaters, as Halloween is quite often the “bug” that bites them for their subsequent motivation.
Interesting question. If the word “cosplay” is referring to what is usually meant, then no, because the costumes in question are those of fictitious characters. There is no “culture” being appropriated. Not even if you wear a Japanese school uniform – because Ayanami Rei, or whoever, is not a Japanese girl, she’s a fictitious character and you are dressing like her.
There’s some interesting weirdnesses to explore though, even in this space. Some thoughtless racist fans were in the habit of making black cosplayers feel uncomfortable. The absurdity of this is almost galactic in proportion because if a black woman can’t dress like Sailor Moon because she’s not Japanese, then why would a white women be able to? She isn’t Japanese, either. And Sailor Moon is not Japanese, she’s fictitious. Obviously, critical thinking is not high on the list of people who are unpleasant to other people.
But the rising tide right now is that cosplay is for everyone and while I don’t myself cosplay, I support this. Dressing up as your favorite character is not cultural appropriation – it is a culture in and of itself. There are folks who cosplay Jane Austen characters and pirates and princesses. Cosplay has its own subculture aesthetic. Merely dressing up is for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
The world has adopted the word cosplay. It’s Wasei-eigo, which means the word was originally created by the Japanese using English as the roots. “Costume play” becomes “cosplay.” There is a world cosplay summit. So I don’t think you can argue that merely using the word is appropriation. Words for things spread. That’s how language works.
Calling offensive stereotype costumes “cosplay” is stretching the word uncomfortably outside what cosplay means, IMHO. Those costumes are meant to represent offensive stereotypes. It’s outside the culture of cosplay itself and is merely wearing a costume in bad taste.
So, I would say no, cosplay is not cultural appropriation, it is its own culture that is open to anyone, anywhere.
I actually role play as well. Role play and cosplay are almost the same thing. The only really different thing is that we not only act like the characters but we dress like them as well. The definition I give people when they ask what cosplay is, is this; cosplay means costume role play. We find a character that like/love and use cosplay as a way to bring them into the real world as best we can.
The appeal of cosplay for me is being able to create these amazing things using my skills that I have cultivated over the years. I guess it’s the same for people that like to cook. Cooking is fun and fine but I don’t think I’d really want to try my hand at making something worthy of a 5 star restaurant. That would just be way out of my skill level and I wouldn’t enjoy myself at all.
So yes, cosplay is kind of almost like that 5 star thing that people put a lot of time and effort into because they are passionate about it. Cosplay has also made it so that I have something to connect to people with. A lot of my family viewed it the same way as you do. Just adults and older teens that are dressing up on days other than Halloween. But after they saw just how much time and effort I put into these cosplays that I make they have gained a bit of a more ‘healthy’ respect for it.
If you get to know a cosplayer you will probably find that they are pretty passionate about their so called ‘hobby’. You could meet a cosplayer that may not have all of the resources that more ‘experienced’ cosplayers have. They may just sew everything by hand because they don’t have a sewing machine and work on cosplays in the corner of their shared bedroom because there’s just not enough space. Or you could meet a cosplayer that has years of experience and has won awards for their cosplays. They know exactly what kind of fabric to use for which kind of cosplay pieces. They have an entire workshop just for cosplay crafting.
But in the end we are all just a bunch of passionate nerds trying to bring our waifus and bishi boys into the real world. You don’t have to get the appeal of cosplay, just maybe respect those that do. I hope that helped you. :)