People about cosplay...
Absolutely! Just not in the way your potentially-leading question could be interpreted to imply.
Wikipedia says that “cosplay” broadly applies to any costumed role-playing in venues apart from the stage. Therefore, it’s only the growing and disturbing layman’s trend of equating “cosplay” with “manga/Japanese” which makes it appear there’s a problem. My generation was cosplaying before the term was coined (c.1984), and thus we “costumed” at conventions as characters from Star Trek, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Doctor Who, Marvel and DC comics, etc., none of which are anime or in any other way Japanese in culture. Even if some were, most other characters equally originated from different countries and cultures, so on the surface the answer would appear to be “no”.
Now, is cosplay appropriation of any kind? It’s actually nothing but! By definition, cosplay is of a previously-established character from a previously-established distributed media venue (TV, film, books, etc.). You’re always cosplaying a character which someone else invented, or at least basing in on one (crossplayers, etc.). You’re not asking the creator of said character to do so, so yes, you’re appropriating it. But it’s an appropriation of trademark or license issues, not of culture… all cultures are potentially fair game for it.
Finally, cosplay itself has matured and spread enough that Wikipedia already classifies it as a “subculture”, which I suspect is a conservative definition if you’ve ever been to a comic-con.
So: cosplay is, in the end, a “culture” based on “appropriation”. If we concede that this encompasses any culture and appropriation, then your answer is a resounding and unabashed “yes”.
I would recommend starting out with something simple.
At my very first anime convention, I only had about a month to prepare and didn’t watch a lot of anime. I did Android 18 from Dragon Ball Z as I had most of her outfit already and had the right hairstyle for it. I only had to do a bit of alteration and get some extra items from eBay.
Each time I have cosplayed since then, I have expanded my range. I discovered I have a knack for props and makeup but am not very good at sewing. Therefore most of my best cosplays have involved some sort of prop or latex bloodwork. I am still practicing my sewing so I can incorporate that as well.
Play to your strengths and you’ll soon discover which areas you prefer to work in.
I have already emphasized elsewhere that I count cosplayers into the pretty small circle of subcultures that I consider “my tribe”. And that I will never hesitate to defend them from detractors and ridicule, be it online or offline, wherever the need arises.
That said, my personal stance regarding the enjoyment of cosplaying is a bit more complicated than that. Because… well… personally, cosplaying doesn’t really “work” for me. At least not in a certain sense.
See, right from the beginning of my anime career, I have always had this habit that I keep anime and real life strictly separate in my mind. In all sorts of ways, and for all sorts of good reasons.
As a result of this, I can admire the people and their awesome costumes, but I have a really, really hard time seeing the actual character “in it”.
Mind you, it’s not the fault of the people. Originally my authenticity demands when it came to character reproductions were insanely high, anyway. Never mind cosplaying. For the longest time, I couldn’t even accept 99% of the released anime figurines because deep down, I felt that “they didn’t look right”.
These days? Well, as far as authenticity is concerned: you only need to look at my shelf with several figures on it to realize that this demand has dropped at least somewhat… but yea, I still keep the worlds apart so strictly that it prevents me from emotionally accepting the “cosplay illusion”.
Needless to say, I never discuss this with cosplayers. Because I fear they could misunderstand it as me disregarding their efforts. Or worse, as criticism of their designs or even their hobby. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary.
Because I find it awesome what they do. I always have and always will deeply respect cosplaying for the amount of underlying fandom that it expresses, as well as for the effort people put into it.
Whenever I see someone with an elaborate/authentic/cleverly made costume, I cannot help but doff my hat at the driving passion behind it. Perhaps I’m even a bit envious about it. Either way, if I see that someone is willing to invest that many hours into designing and creating something like that… then that gives him/her my respect and a boatload fan cred. In short, it basically earns you the status of “card-carrying elite fan” in my book.
So no, when I look at cosplayers, I don’t see the character. But it still makes me happy – because I see a fan whose passion and efforts I wholeheartedly support and admire.