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What Draws People to Cosplaying?

'We're all mad here, mad about costume creation.'

“OMG, look at those freaks! LOL, they’re all dressed up, wow. They’re so f*cking weird.” Two kids —maybe in their late teens, early 20s—get off the train and take the long escalator up towards Peachtree Center Station. They obviously have no idea what happens in Atlanta during Labor Day weekend. Outside of baseball games, business conferences, and other “official” business, there’s a whole other world that they’ve deemed “weird” in less than two minutes of being in it. They’re not even a part of it—they’re outsiders walking into a world that couldn’t care less what their opinions of us are.

We—the freaks they’ve deemed us—are too busy taking photos of other cosplayers. We’re too busy making sure our body paint doesn’t smear on the walls or railing as we hurriedly walk to the next panel we want to, hopefully, get into. We are too busy enjoying ourselves in our own form of expression over the four-day weekend. We’re too busy to notice anyone who’s not in cosplay this DragonCon weekend to entertain the idea someone might think of us as “weird.” I hear them, those who judge us because we want to dress up as a fictional character for a day. I hear them, those who don’t understand what cosplaying is, but are quick to put us down for it. I hear you and I’m sorry that you can’t understand why we cosplay.

Cosplaying has always been a form of escapism for myself and many others in the community. For a weekend, or however long the con I’m attending is, politics, race, and financial status don’t matter. I can put on an outfit and pretend to be someone else for a bit. I can be a villain and interact with my character’s hero and recite lines from a game or movie. I can be a kid’s favorite princess and make their star come to life for a few hours. I can be whoever I want to be.

I know for myself and many others the attention that comes with a “good” cosplay is always appealing. I’ll post a picture of a character who I think looks like me or vice versa and post a side-by-side pic and wait for the likes and comments to follow. I just recently did that with Uma from Disney’s Descendants. Immediately likes—34 of them—came in support of my character look-a-like pic. I’m more tempted to cosplay Uma now because of the support from my fans and followers.

Support from fans and followers is a big part of the cosplay community, but there is a downside to it. More revealing AKA “Sexy” cosplays usually get more attention than your average “good” cosplay. This is especially true for female cosplayers. Anime is inherently sexual and western mass media is no better. It’s hard for women to find a cosplay that isn’t 80 percent revealing. Mind you, these pics will automatically get more likes, comments, and “thirsty” follows but being a sexy cosplayer is a double-edged sword. These same followers are quick to call a sexy cosplayer a “whore” or a “thot” or “just another attention whore” which isn’t fair. Men don’t go through the same thing as much—they get more shit over not being super buff or being "too fat.”

The other upside to sexy cosplayers is they are more likely to become popular faster than their non-sexy cosplayers. As much as people complain about the “new” wave of sexy cosplayers, the support for them is still there. It isn’t a bad thing either—some of my favorite shows, anime, and video games give their female characters an obnoxiously revealing outfit, but they’re fun to play as/watch. You can’t blame the cosplayer who wants to create a Kill La Kill cosplay and expect them to “cover up.” We’re just copying what we’re given—a 90 percent naked teen whose clothes will take over her body if she’s covered too much by it.

Regardless of people’s opinions about sexy cosplayers and how naked a woman is or how much attention she’ll get for being mostly naked—cosplaying will always attract new people. Regardless of people’s opinion about who should cosplay who and if a “fat” man can cosplay a buff character—they don’t matter. Cosplaying will always attract new people because it is a way to flex our creative muscles and escape from our everyday lives for a day.

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What Draws People to Cosplaying?
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