People about Cosplay...
First of all, cosplay isn’t just about playing dress-up. Cosplay is a whole lot more than that. Good cosplayers will act like the character while in costume or move like the character. Serious cosplayers won’t break character when they’re in costume. It’s a little bit of acting too. But it’s a culture that’s meant to be fun.
You see, cosplay is a couple things. First, it’s a service to the fandom because other people get to essentially see their favorite characters in the flesh for a couple hours. And this is especially true if you really fit the character. But it’s a lot more than that. It’s a chance to be someone else for a little while. When you put on cosplay, you get to leave your life behind for a little while. And for the people who make their own costumes, it’s a chance to not only show off their knowledge of the character, but it allows them to show off their costume skills and say “I made that.”
So, there are a lot of different appeals to doing cosplay. Besides, with all the photos that people take of you in a day, it kind of makes you feel like a celebrity. :)
I think cosplay is a bit of an art form. A lot of time goes into some cosplay, especially the more meticulous, detail oriented costumes. Because of that, it’s more than just “dressing up” to me. I see it no differently than movie costumes or FX makeup in terms of seriousness. Some people even make careers into it. I assume some others are able to break into other careers like acting or the aforementioned FX makeup.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea… and I respect that. However, there’s a lot more that goes into cosplay than what people see at face value.
Ancient peoples dressed up as animals and gods. They dressed up as powerful characters of myth and reenacted stories that were important to them.
Modern people do the same. On Halloween, people dress as archetypes of many kinds, At Christmas, you see people dressed as Santa Claus in the US, reminding us to be kind to others, even if we don’t put change in this particular pot.
Once, I was in an Indian restaurant and as I waited to be seated, I looked at pictures of a party at the restaurant. They had two people cosplaying Krishna and Radha.
I attend anime/manga gatherings and I know from talking to many, many people about this, that the drive to dress up as characters you love comes from wanting to participate more deeply in the narrative.
At Renaissance Faires, I was quite often told by people “this is my real self,” as opposed to the normal worker bee they were during the week.
And then there is cosplay as a sales technique. Booth babes are hired at tech and industry shows because getting a dorky guy over to the table takes work. Geeky folks are cynical folks, but a pretty girl will draw many men without working at it. Once they are there, they must of course be engaged and thrilled by the tech, but the hook is the girl. Or in a maid cafe in Tokyo, having someone be kind to you, call you “Master” and do your bidding feels good, even if you’re paying by the hour.
So, why cosplay? To engage with our mythical/narrative roots; to take on skills and powers that we don’t normally have, in the context of ritual – or fun; as a visual hook to drive commerce; to enjoy, for a moment, the thrill of being something else than we are or who we feel that we really are.
We may not all cosplay, but we all play dress up from time to time. Next time you slip into tux or a really nice dress, think about the cosplay you’re engaging in – what are you projecting? What makes this you different than the everyday you? What powers, skills, qualities are you pretending to have?