Cosplayers as active performers and creators of pop culture–by dePepi
Cosplay is a fannish activity that can be found within participatory culture. Said in other words, Cosplaying is one of the many activities that fans engage when celebrating their chosen fandoms. Fandoms aren’t static communities but active pop culture consumers and producers. Cosplayers will make live and online performances through photography and other means portraying their favorite characters. Cosplay is not impersonating, cosplaying is an active fannish activity that not only creates community around it, but it also promotes and enhances fannish objects. Cosplayers perform, create and modify their favorite fannish objects; they even have their own audiences, fans, and trolls. Thus, Cosplaying, as a fannish activity, is far more complex than dressing up as your favorite character.
We must erase from our minds the stereotype of fans as impersonators. Cosplayers are not impersonating the characters they portray: they’re making performances. They might even have a dual identity, but reality is that Cosplay is more an immersion within fandom than just a loss of identity. While fandom and Cosplay could look like impersonation in some areas, the fannish activity of Cosplaying means that fans will engage in playful performances allowing Cosplayers to explore their identities, engage in playful relationships with other fans, and be members of a creative performative community while fueling the imaginations of other fellow fans.
Cosplayers can be creators, performers, modifiers and keepers of the fandoms they choose. The characters they perform, allow them to explore their identities without boundaries and become, for a while, more than an ordinary human. And around them, many other fans engage in different activities as well. While many Cosplayers will create their own costumes, many others will choose to buy them personalized. So, other fans might engage in creating those outfits for Cosplayers. In doing so, a particular type of economy and status within the Cosplay community is also built. Some do everything: create, perform, modify and keep. Others will only create, others will only perform, others might only modify, and some others might only keep. So, in this case, we can also see that Cosplay is both a consumer and producer community. They consume and produce popular culture for other fans.
Cosplayers might keep fandom canon, or they might engage in modifying it. Hence, we might find more often than not, fans engaging in Crossplay. Crossplay happens when a fan dresses up as a character of the other gender. Think about Female Captain America, for example. Thus, Cosplay isn’t a static fannish activity with rules set in stone. Instead, it’s a fannish activity that allows different and various practices.
We must also forget stereotypes of Cosplayers as being childish. While there might be Cosplayers engaging in this fannish activity as a way of remembering their childhoods or as a way to cope socially, reality is that Cosplayers are engaging in a complicated and yet very rewarding fannish activity that allows them to grow their personalities, explore their identities, enhance their skills and gain confidence.
Next time you see Cosplayers, think about what they’re doing as members of an active and highly creative community. While they might be indeed having lots of entertainment, they’re also representing far beyond the characters they’re performing. They’re explorers of their identities, creators of pop culture, gate keepers of fandoms, entertainers for other fans, and even role models for many other fans.
And, believe it or not, that’s not the end! After the con ends, we’ll have a C2E2 round-up vlog by blogger and YouTuber, Spokette! And remember to have fun, stay safe, and see you at C2E2!
Life was meant to be lived nerdily, so what are you waiting for?