People about Cosplay...
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.
There are so many things, and most people have different reasons. Some people go to an anime convention and see the costumes, some just love a character so much they want to be them, some like performance, while others are more into the crafting.
The main reasons I started, and still, cosplay, are the crafting elements and being able to bring my favourite characters to life. There’s a huge challenge in planning how to bring some of these anime and video game characters into the real world.
One other thing that can be fun is the reactions of others. I get a lot of comments, mostly positive, on my costumes and people can tell how much work I put into my costumes. I’m not the best at the performance, but I got a lot of positive feedback this past weekend in the costume contest at a local con. It’s my creative outlet and I love that there are people who accept cosplay. I have got some negative comments, mostly from people who don’t approve of costumes, but the positive feedback and friends I have made through cosplay keep me going.
What is the appeal of acting, and even role playing for that matter? Cosplay is firstly an opportunity to completely put yourself into the character’s shoes, act out a role. Additionally it is a way to showcase your craftsmanship. Just because you view something as juvenile doesn’t make it unappealing. You should be criticizing community theatre if you have that view.
Personally I feel that cosplay gives an opportunity to also put aside your own shortcomings and be someone else for the day. I feel exceedingly confident and friendly in a costume and when I see someone else in a costume, I can “know” who they are and be recognized myself. There’s a level of comradery and confidence in it. Hope that helps.