Conventions. The place where fans of all descriptions gather together to enjoy their shared interest. Panels, stalls, guests. Fun times. But whilst some simply enjoy taking in the atmosphere, some wish to take a more active role in creating said atmosphere. I speak of course of cosplayers. Those select fans who take the opportunity to live their favourite series and embody a character. As time has passed, this practice has only seen an increase in popularity, spreading far beyond the walls of the traditional convention. But with this spread has come a certain uncertainty in the limits and definition of the practice of cosplay. Thus, at SMASH! 2014, a panel was held to explain cosplay in today’s media, aptly entitled Cosplay in Today’s Media.
Taking an honest approach to the way the internet, and thus the world, operates, the panel delved into the dark underbelly of every popular site: the comment section. The swirling vortex of anonymous opinions and brutal “honesty” that never fails to deliver a decisive blow to a person’s confidence. Of course there are positive comments posted with regularity, they are often swallowed up or lost in the vitriol of others. The most common example of negative commenting that the panel focused on arose from a concern that many carry everyday: objectification. That is to say comments that denote a cosplayer as “too skinny” or “too fat” to pull off a costume. Even “too scrawny” or “too buff” make the rounds, for both women and men. Objectification is not aimed towards a single gender after all.
However, as ironic as it may be, such objectification and pigeon-holing may be utilised in a positive manner, a la the internet mentality. Special note was given to Jessica Nigri and the recent star Zee ‘JiNxXx’ Kotwal, known for his particularly…manly interpretation of Pokemon mainstay Misty. In both cases, the cosplayer in question is fully aware of their physical attributes and decided to utilise them for maximum effect. Hence the creation, and rapid surge, of attention and the memes that follow suit. However, regardless of popular they become, there are those who question how relevant these figures are to the practice of cosplay. In essence, it comes down to whether or not it’s about the costume itself, or the one wearing it. As it stands, there is a distinct separation between the two types of cosplay and at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference as to which is given more attention.
Stepping out of the online world, the panel also noted the spread of cosplay in society. Now as cool as this might sound to cosplayers and fans alike, not all of society is quite up to speed with said practice. One example of note was a man that has been dubbed the “Blacktown Deadpool” (on account of him dressing up as Deadpool…in Blacktown). After boarding a train dressed as the Merc with a Mouth, Reuben Rose was removed by police after people reported that a “heavily armed man” was at Blacktown station. Though admittedly not the best idea to walk around in public in a skintight jumpsuit laced with weaponry, it was ultimately the public’s unfamiliarity with the character, and prevalence of cosplay, that led to this particular misunderstanding. Connections were drawn to the well known costume clad masses that parade around New York City, an example that shows how cosplay can exist within a larger bracket of society. Though of course this group is not without their own troubles, such as their continually growing numbers. Essentially, this section of the panel conveyed that it’s all a matter of “right place, right time”.
And so it was. A panel that sought to explain the ins and outs of cosplay in an ever expanding world of pop culture. Sure, it might not have been as promoted as the panels held by SMASH! guests, it was without doubt an interesting discussion. So be wary of the world around you cosplayers and never forget what it’s all about: fun.