People about Cosplay...
I was always fascinated with cosplay and always wondered the reasoning behind it. Then last year I decided to try it out myself and see what I would think about it. I was completely surprised by the amount of anticipation I had for one making my own costume and two showing it off.
I think I’m officially hooked on cosplaying because it’s just so much fun to do! The whole process of picking who you are going to be, planning out the costume and then wearing it is exciting! It kind of takes you out of your life and you transform into this other person for that day.
Another fun thing is that many other people enjoy your cosplay. This is usually their opportunity to see their characters in real life, I can’t say how many drive by hugs I have gotten and many refer to your characters name (which always catches me off guard). For that day you receive a lot of love from others and I think that’s usually what makes people want to do it again (at least for me), life has too many unhappy things so being able to create this happiness not only for yourself, but for others as well is a good feeling.
To me, it’s equally a tribute to the property that I’m making the cosplay from, and the art form.
One could say the same thing of not getting the appeal of creating any media – learning any instrument, painting a picture, writing a book. It’s creation and display – this may not be the same to everyone, but it’s definitely a big part to me. It’s also a way to meet new friends from all walks of life. I’m certain if you looked closer, a lot don’t meet the stereotypes of an overgrown kid. I cosplay with people in the military, aerospace, tech, and all walks of life. Conversely there’s people that do this for a living, myself included.
As someone that enjoys hobbies and media that was formerly shunned for being “too nerdy”, perhaps immediately throwing anyone that takes part in cosplay into the “you’re a man/woman child” box is a bit reductionist, and a little offensive.
When judging whether something is cultural appropriation, ask first: is there a cultural double standard that praises the borrower while punishing those whose behaviors/styles are being borrowed from? If not, then the second test is to see if the thing being borrowed has religious/spiritual/historical significance the borrowers are disregarding or disrespecting for the sake of ‘cool’. Finally, does the act of borrowing reinforce stereotypes?
To answer your question, No. Cosplaying in the past hasn’t been used to marginalize, dehumanize, or stereotype the Japanese people. Cosplay has no major religious, political, or spiritual significance, even in Japan it is considered a commercial hobby. Cultural Appropriation is problematic because the hegemonic group (in the US case, white people) get praise for behaviors the group that they borrowed the practice from get penalized for (in this case, Japanese otaku). However, Japanese otaku have the same or superior status as American Cosplayers at US Conventions and English language internet. Japanese Otaku are not facing a double standard when compared to white otaku that favors White otaku.
There are some racists who may say white cosplayers look more like the anime/video game characters then Japanese cosplayer, but those types tend to be seen as racists and pariahs in most well-balanced cosplay communities. Most people tend to think the Japanese have very high quality cosplay.