Have you ever been ashamed to admit that you’re a cosplayer?
(My contribution to The Secret World of Cosplay)
I think most cosplayers would be familiar with that subtle look of criticism from some people when they reveal that they cosplay, or when they try to explain the hobby to someone who isn’t into it. It tends to remind people a little too much of kids playing dress-up, which isn’t an activity most will find dignified or respectable. Admittedly, there is a lot about the hobby that is easy to misinterpret. I think there are things about it that people only really understand when they actually give it a chance and try it out. (However I also acknowledge that it might not be for everyone.)
Other hobbyists that have a special enthusiasm for fictional characters would express it by drawing fan art, writing fanfiction, or collecting merchandise. You can do these things discreetly, and even anonymously. In contrast, cosplay is an activity that would put a person in a position that’s very susceptible to scrutiny.
Consider that most costumes would require showing your face and parts of your body.
Add that to the fact that cosplay is something that is usually done publicly. It takes a certain level of courage to step outside and go through with it. Some people will find that commendable, but others are quick to use it as an opportunity to ridicule.
Common misconceptions are that cosplayers are misfits of society who reject reality and think of themselves as cartoon characters because they don’t accept who they really are. Or that cosplayers are all just attention-seekers who are trying to win a popularity contest against each other. There might be people who exemplify these stereotypes, but we have to remember that any large group of people is bound to include a few questionable individuals. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is like that.
The simple truth is, cosplay is like any other thing people do in their free time — something they do because they enjoy it. Some people watch TV, go to clubs and drink, play video games, read books, play a musical instrument, make artwork: and the list goes on. Perhaps it’s not something a large percentage of the word would deem “normal”, but cosplayers are just people who have a special appreciation for costumes and enjoy making and wearing them.
I’ve always been interested in costuming in movies, especially when the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out. I felt like the garments and accessories were so beautiful and I wanted to be able to touch them and collect them and even wear them. It was amazing to see these characters and items from the book come to life in a tangible way, rather than just seeing them in my imagination. I felt like just because a little bit of that beloved fantasy world had come to exist in reality, it made me want to believe even more in adventure, magic, love, and fellowship. I wanted, even in some small way, to be able to do something like that. One day, I stumbled upon some photos of cosplayers with beautiful photography, which got me researching what cosplay was about. It sounded like what I wanted to do, so I gave it a shot, and I haven’t stopped since.
For me, cosplay is most importantly an activity I can bond with my friends over.
We’re all into a lot of different stuff, but cosplay is one of the things that brings all of us together. Our relevant hobbies and skills fall under it (such as craft-making, sewing, painting, photography) so it even allows us to learn things and be productive while having fun. We find it an endless source of amusement to make group cosplay plans, construct pieces together, go out and be goofs while using the products of our efforts, and create beautiful images through photography.
After a grueling week working hard for our classes or jobs and being productive members of society, it’s just a nice break to be able to do silly things with friends.
For some people maybe that means getting drunk and doing drugs, but my friends and I happen to prefer putting together costumes and wearing, hahah! We wear them to private photo shoots or to conventions where they are appropriate, so it’s not like we even disturb other people with our fun.
I feel I’m very lucky to have a large group of friends who shares this with me. Not everyone has that advantage.
That’s the reason some people attend conventions. There is a certain sense of camaraderie in cons because even though you may not personally know everyone, just by being there it means you are somehow a fan of the geeky interest the con revolves around. And some of those strangers may just become some of the best friends you’ve ever known.
At times, being a fan makes you feel the most ridiculous emotions in the world — and I mean that in the best way possible.
Not everyone understands that, so it’s an awesome feeling to be around others who actually do.
Cosplay is a great way of celebrating the way we can let these fictional stories and characters grab hold of our hearts and somehow change the way we feel about ourselves. It’s crazy and silly and totally beautiful.
As long as your feet are planted firmly on reality and you’ve got your priorities straight, being able to find that much meaning, joy, and inspiration in fiction —stories that teach us about bravery and friendship and hope and laughter— is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about.