Dark Side of Cosplay
Cosplay as we all know is the practice of dressing up as characters from films, TV shows, video games, books and comics. It is often vastly different from the dressing up most of us do at Halloween; this includes both time and resources that are spent crafting a costume as well as the devotion and passion to becoming a character whilst wearing it. Cosplay has become a huge attraction at events like London MCM ComicCon, where in May and October masses of fans from all different fandoms show up to pose as different characters. There has been an increasing rise in cosplay popularity in the UK and it even it inspired Tom Felton to create the well-known documentary, “Tom Felton Meets the Superfans”, whereby he meets the world’s most committed fans in a bid to understand what drives them into what they do. It’s said that the cosplay community is supposed to be one of the best to be in, however, is there a dark side?
Dressing up is both a way to escape from reality and authentic self-expression. The costumes cosplayers create are often highly individualized. For some cosplayers, commitment to source material is of the upmost importance. For others, adding a twist is there thing, for example a steampunk Disney princess, a genderbent Ironman. This conjures a new, personalized version of their favourite characters. I recently interviewed Kyahri (aka Sarah Rose Gunn) on cosplaying. Born in Scotland, her interest in cosplay began in the year 2010! She stated that she has always loved dressing up for Halloween and parties, so when she discovered that people in Glasgow could dress up as their favorite characters at a local convention, she felt the need to join in. After that, it took its toll from there. Kyahri started to create her own costumes in 2013, she felt like this is when she got more serious about cosplaying as a whole. She is known for her outstanding League of Legends cosplays, one of my favorites being Jinx.
In the cosplay community its known to get compliments, however there are still a few people with a negative attitude towards the idea of cosplaying. The name shall remain anonymous but a young girl attacked and spat on at London MCM was a victim of this. She also got insulted for the fact she was cosplaying. Now, this makes me think is the cosplay community usually like this? Does this happen often? And if insults get thrown around, to those who cosplay. During my interview with Kyahri I asked the question, “If someone told you that they didn’t like your cosplay, how would you react?” in which she replied: “I would thank them for their opinion but tell them that I like it (my costume) anyway. I would also ask them for any ideas on how they think I could improve it. However people really shouldn’t say stuff like this to a cosplayer though, I would say only ever give constructive criticism. People shouldn’t get made to feel bad about themselves or their cosplay”. This makes me believe that cosplaying is a performance that requires an audience, which cosplayers are more willing than ever to provide. Asking a cosplayer if you can take a photo, they will immediately strike a pose for their character. I’m glad to know that Kyahri hasn’t experienced a bad audience before, and it seems as though she enjoys being in the cosplay community.
Kyahri was unsure if there was a dark side to the cosplay community, however she did state that there is defiantly a lot of unnecessary drama and ‘bitchiness’ which in her opinion is stupid because at the end of the day, we are just a bunch of nerdy adults dressing up in costume. Now, she does make a valid and brilliant point meeting expectation to adopt a characters essence can be a difficult and grueling task. Things can go wrong with the sewing machine, wigs may become tangled, props fall apart, or even just financial issues come into play; so the product cannot be finished. Though, what about people cosplaying the opposing color to the character, gender-bent cosplay and weight ‘issues’ these all seem to get quite a bit of hate and dislike in the community. Kyahri explains: “I really just think anyone should cosplay whoever they want. I have seen so many amazing cosplayers who cosplay characters of different size/color etc. It shouldn’t matter. I for one have cosplayed short characters, male characters, gender bend characters and most characters I cosplay don’t have the same color of skin as me. I’m a complete milk bottle! I think as long as you are having fun, that’s all that matters!”
Ultimately I believe that the cosplay community does have a dark side. However, so does any community. Though, Kyahri hasn’t explained her own experiences with the ‘dark side’, I do genuinely believe that she enjoys being part of the community as a whole. This is uplifting news to hear as cosplay reflects so many of needs that underpin our current culture: the desire to shape and control our image while remaining genuine; the passion to create friends who share the same interest and desires. Keep the dark out of cosplay and put the fun in.