Cosplay, Why So Serious?

anime cosplay pictureCosplay, Why So Serious? Expos and conventions are a way of life for many people. You pour large amounts of money into getting in and moving around the area, spend days or months at a time preparing your look and even create specialised products for sale. As with many of these types of events, you get people who go simply for the sheer fun of it, people who will throw on a painted cardboard box and become a box of Pocky.

These conventioneers are looking for the simple pleasure of having fun with friends in a way that gives everybody something to laugh at. The second and more vocal type of conventioneer is the type of person who aims for perfection.

The majority of times these people appear seems to be when a curvy woman is dressed as a skinny character, or someone playing a Japanese part looks ‘too western’. Many of my friends have spoken to me about this group and the main consensus is that they are not a lot higher in the convention food chain than trolls because of the subject matter of their criticisms and the manner in which they’re delivered.

So what’s the problem? It’s all about the fun right? According to my fellow cosplayers, no, it is not.

The main problem seems to be that no one wants to see someone that’s just trying to wear the same clothes as their favourite characters from anime/games/etc. They want to see someone who is recreating a representation of the characters as close as possible, with attention paid to clothing, small accessories and even behaviour.

This is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, aiming for the best possible results; even with limited resources is always a good challenge for an individual. It lets you see how your skills are improving and helps you think outside the box where necessary.

turtles with Michael SinterniklassHowever the problem comes when this belief is taken far too far. Larger women have been told that they are disgusting and should never dare attempt to cosplay someone who is depicted as skinny. Westerners are told they should be removed from conventions for daring to dress as Asian characters, and short people are not allowed to dress as tall folk.

For example, in an article written by Victoria Holden on Crunchy Roll, she describes how a cosplayer she had previously respected posted a picture on Facebook of makeup guru Michelle Phan cosplaying as Serah from Final Fantasy XIII-2. It led to people attacking her, as the person posting it considered her “fair game.” This further shows the levels some people go to put others down.

Some of these comments descend into all out bullying behaviour in an attempt to remove the person from the cosplay community altogether if they won’t conform to the commenter’s wishes. To me, this is out and out wrong for a number of reasons. First and foremost being, you are dressing up as people that are not real. Therefore it is almost impossible to accurately recreate someone who doesn’t exist in the first place beyond viewers’ imaginations. Their looks aren’t even remotely related to genetics or upbringing beyond that thought up by their creator.

Plus, it’s not ike cosplayers have the time or money for facial reconstruction.

Secondly, cosplay is something that invites creativity, much like art, singing or acting. Therefore, it’s all about the interpretation. If Professor Layton suddenly has a beard, it isn’t the end of the world. It could be that he’s been working on one hell of a puzzle for the last fortnight. If a Transformer is built out of cardboard, then perhaps someone really did think outside the box! If a female character suddenly gained curves… enjoy it!

The point is, these are characters that are subject to change on scrutiny, and the changes that occur depend entirely on those doing the viewing. Lastly and perhaps most importantly. It’s cosPLAY, not cosLAW. There will probably never be any definitive rules laid down for cosplaying beyond using your own common sense.

If what you’re wearing is cutting into your flesh so badly that it’s leaving red marks that won’t go away a week later, then this is not the costume for you. If you’re going to wear something skimpy, people WILL see your flesh. If you’re not dressed as the character normally is, there will be questions; a witty answer is helpful. However, no matter how big you are, or small, or flat, or curvy, your clothes/armour/fur can be fitted to look good.

Work with what you have rather than trying to be something you’re not, just because someone else can’t accept real life.

M. Alice LeGrow in CosplayAnd if you don’t think like the masses, you’re no different than the hundreds who actually make a decent living out of doing the one thing everyone told them was stupid. Van Gogh barely made a penny while he was alive and now he’s studied in school; further proof that while the general public can have opinions, you don’t necessarily have to listen to them all the time.

At the end of the day if you barely make an effort with your costume and just throw on anything, don’t expect to be praised, but if you make a real effort, if you and people around you are roaring with real laughter at a funny situation, then you’re doing it right.

You don’t have to be exact and you don’t have to have a million pound suit. You just need to have a good time and understand that that’s what everyone is there for.

That and Pocky.



Photos used with permission from Luna Maxwell [] (in the Leonardo turtle costume) and sadwonderland [] (as Darla Dimple).

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