08 September 2011

scraps: a little something on cosplay

The following is a scrap: something I started writing and decided to overhaul. But I liked how this scrap turned out. I have tons of these scattered around my computer. Little ruminations and reflections on what goes on inside my head.

Earlier this year, I was asked to write the forward for a book of cosplay photography. So I took a little time and knocked this short piece out. In the end, I decided to go with an entirely different angle than the one presented here, but since this piece is not entirely without merit, I figured I'd post it here, if only as another glimpse inside how my mind works.

Cosplay. As a word, it’s full of connotations.

At its core, cosplay is the art of costuming. Creating, crafting and eventually donning a costume. But for some, cosplay is far more than just that simple act. For some, the idea of cosplay is a powerful, almost enlightening thing that not only enhances the convention experience, but is the be all and end all of that same experience.

Cosplay might just be the most visible part of any convention. Standing amidst a sea of PVC and colored cloth, it is easy to see and understand the appeal it has. Cosplay is equal parts pageantry and craftsmanship, and at the same time is so much more than those simple acts alone. For while those acts might be the most visible part of the most visible aspect of congoing, what lies beneath the surface, beneath the colors and weapons and wigs and acting, is from where cosplay derives its power and appeal.

Why is cosplay such a powerful force? Because it offers a degree of escapism that is unmatched in the convention experience. The idea and act of becoming someone else, wholly different from the person the attendee is in the “real world,” is a powerful emotion. Donning the mask, assuming the identity and channeling the avatar of cosplay, of a character that the person might respect and even love, has its roots as far back in our own culture as anything else. Whether it be religious icon or media character, the idea of assuming the mantle of a recognized and powerful figure speaks to the core of our experience as spiritual people, and gives us a sense of becoming something more than a “simple” attendee. It gives us a chance to participate, and give something back to the medium that we love, at least superficially, but often more than that.

Cosplay also is a powerful tie to community. This community thrives on creativity and participation. And what better way to express devotion to such community than through the assumption of a figure that the community finds appealing? We are social creatures, we thrive on meeting others. Cosplay is a powerful way to further this innate desire to meet, greet and form bonds that last beyond the event in particular. Whether a person is shy or outgoing, when they become a character, they find a place within the community, and find acceptance from people they might never have known before. They even find respect and admiration from others, all through the shared devotion to a simple creation and outward expression thereof.

Cosplay is also the ultimate anonymous act. It allows for the shyest and meekest of convention attendees to spread their wings and travel outside of their “shells” while still feeling the safety of being unknown. It allows for them to become someone else for a few days, someone they might respect and want to be. It allows them to find comfort and solace in a land of chaotic energy and hyperactive connections. And it allows them to grow beyond the scope of who they were, and into someone they truly wish to be.

Is it really a wonder, then, that cosplay is so powerful, so engrossing, that is has the potential to become the worlds of so many? Is it a wonder, then, that cosplay holds such powerful appeal, even to those who do not participate? Cosplay is more than just wearing a costume: cosplay is creating an identity, creating an image, and becoming a part of something greater. Cosplay is devotion, creation, participation and transformation. Cosplay is community. Cosplay is power.

Cosplay: a word full of connotations .

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