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.
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.
Costume play is very powerful tool. Any role play, with or without costume, allows a person to express things with much less risk and responsibility. Through this self exploration proceeds unimpeded, and new behaviors are tested to see if they will be useful.
Constructively used, this allows becoming more oneself and testing of one’s environment and abilities. I allows a person to test revealing things about themselves and see if it meets with rejection, and extend their comfort zones. It allows testing of fears, e.g., permitting a shy person to try being outgoing to see how well it works for them.
On the other hand, a costume, role or disguise also permits a person to enact their worst and most damaging behaviors anonymously. It is far easier to behave badly if one has a costume or role which hides the identity of the person both literally and figuratively.