Halloween – it’s an excuse for everyone to dress up and have fun. But Halloween only lasts for one day out of the year. So what are people to do with the other 364 days when they feel the need to get into costume and wear a different face? Most people just accept the fact that they have to wait for next Halloween or for friends to throw a costume party. Some decide that waiting is not enough.
Cosplay (known to the out-crowd as “costume play”) is a popular, world-spanning phenomena that allows people of every age, race, religion, gender, sexual preference, and nationality to come together in the guise of their favorite fictional characters and interact together. Sources of character inspiration range from movies to anime to comic books and cross all genres. The haven of these hobby-actors is traditionally at gatherings of like-minded individuals, such as sci-fi/fantasy conventions, comic book conventions, anime conventions, gaming expos and the like. In these places, the atmosphere becomes as alive as any stage.
Cosplay carries some social prejudices in the way outsiders perceive it. The ignorant public often views cosplay as a geek hobby, filled with socially inept people who dress up in ridiculous costumes and attend pointless pop-culture events. What the uninitiated fail to realize, however, is that most cosplay is no different from the theatricality that one might see on the stage or the big screen. The art of choosing the right character and finding (and often making) the perfect costume is an act that most cosplayers do not simply jump into blindly. The character that one chooses has to be a representation of what he or she wants to portray, often for several days at a time. And while every gathering of cosplayers has its fair share of slave-outfit clad Princess Leias, for a veteran cosplayer the choice is made very carefully.
The types of costumes that people choose to adopt as their temporary identity are infinite. Some choose famous super-heroes while others choose characters that they identify with on a personal level. Still others make their decision based on the quality of the art-design that went into the way a character looks. And there are always those that choose based purely on the sexuality of the character. Just like Halloween, the personality is in the costume – an opportunity to show the world (or at least a small portion of it) what one is on the inside.
For those devoted to the lifestyle, cosplay represents more than just costumes and acting. It is the true creative experience and the chance to live out one’s dreams of being a person that reality has no place for. Characters from movies and books have inspired the imagination of young and old alike for thousands of years, driving them to understand things about themselves that they might have otherwise never known. Cosplay is a walk in the shoes of the author’s mind; a merging of the physical form and the unreal; a way to touch a unique, spiritual part of one’s self.
All this may sound a bit like a cult, but if one sits by and listens to football fans talking about their passion, one might begin to suspect them to be a cult as well. Everyone has something that is important to them, be it their job, their family or dressing up and being someone else. The cosplayer is the next evolution of actor, in character and ready to go, with no need for anyone to yell “Action!”
About the Author: Carleen Coulter