I love cosplay, but only as an observer, not as a participant. In seven years of covering New York Comic-Con, I’ve taken thousands of pictures of elaborate costumes and opined on what I think makes a great costume, but I’ve never attended in costume myself. Maybe I’m trying to keep some journalistic distance from the subject I’m covering. Or maybe I’m still too embarrassed from landing on this list of “15 Terminator Costumes That Absolutely Blow.”
Either way, I’ve always been fascinated by this phenomenon, so this year, we tried to suss out some of the reasons why these super fans go to great lengths to construct some seriously impressive aesthetic and technical achievements. In particular, we addressed the seemingly paradoxical idea that cosplayers can be truer, more authentic versions of themselves when dressed up as fictional characters. Spoiler alert: it’s not paradoxical at all. Watch the video to find out why, and leave a comment with your thoughts on why people cosplay, particularly if you’re a cosplayer!
During your analysis at the end, I couldn’t help but imagine a world where Jedis cosplay as office workers, to get away from their humdrum lightsaber slog.
Cosplaying overthinker here!
On top of the more abstract “I get to be who I want to be,” “It’s fun to escape from everyday life” motivations, I think it’s because I’m a naturally arts+crafts inclined person, but I’m also a person who isn’t very motivated. I like to sew and craft but I never make my own clothes for wearing in my daily life, because why would I? With cosplay, I have a serious, motivating deadline that means I actually finish something! Plus, I typically do cosplay in groups, so it ends up being a fun group activity that I can work on with my friends.
Also on top of that, you get quite a lot of validation from cosplay – if I was just making my own dresses, nobody would know that I had worked on that dress for hours and hours. I’m just a person in a dress. But wearing a cosplay to a con, you get people coming up to you, starting conversations about the thing you’re cosplaying from. It’s a signifier of what you’re into and a way to start having fun with people you’ve never met before.
I tend to cosplay relatively obscure stuff too, so my favourite cosplay moments are when I’ve gone totally unrecognised for an entire con, but then there has been one other fan of that thing who spots me and gets excited and lets me know how much they love thing x as well and we can gush over it together. Conversely I love finding the one Obscure Thing X cosplayer at a con and letting them know that I’m really happy to see that thing cosplayed.
Also, wow, that terminator costume article is incredibly mean spirited.