Thursday, July 26, 2012

Looking Inward While Dressing Funny

I decided to write an open piece today about my other hobby turned geeky habit that has been slowly taking over this blog: cosplay.


Hey. It’s still a geek blog about geek things. Cosplaying video game, anime, movie characters counts.

In the process of cosplaying, I’ve found myself settling into particular niches and styles that I feel are reflective of my personality. Which makes sense until you start factoring in the villains.

As I’ve progressed in this hobby, I’m looking more and more into the sociological aspect of how and why people choose to dress up. The answers will vary from person to person; everything from I want to be my favorite character to expressing love for a fandom. I feel that there is more to cosplay then simply dressing up, in that it speaks to our personalities and reflects who we are (sometimes without us realizing it).

I have always been interested in hearing people discuss costume construction as well as why they chose a character. Having judged a few contests, whenever someone asks the question you’ll typically get “I really like the character” and that’s fine. It’s not like you’re docked points for your answer to that question. But the ones that really stick to me are where they feel a connection to the character, or it’s a movie that affected their lives.

I remember one young lady who told the story about her father never liking that she cosplayed. She wanted to get a costume done for this particular convention but her father ended up having a pretty bad stroke and was in the hospital. She visited him every chance she could and put off finishing her costume. One of the last things he said to her was that even though he didn’t understand it, he wanted her to keep cosplaying because it made her happy. She finished up that costume for the convention.

How awesome of a story is that?

That became a connection to cosplay that some people may not have considered. It speaks a lot about the person that we are, or that we wish to become.

Looking at myself, cosplay has been my way of expressing my fandom. I don’t draw (read that as: I can make stick figures and that’s about as good as it will get). I write but I never got into fan fictions. I’ve been on a few forums, but never long enough to really get past the “well this game is better” stage where we can discuss things at length in a logical, possibly philosophical manner.

I’ve been a crafter at heart for as long as I can remember. How many people do you know can weave on a loom? Or cross-stitch, or macramé, or can sew on a button? Ok the last one is silly but not many people know how to do it, and are willing to drop $10 at a Laundromat to get it taken care of. Rip off I say!

The longer that I have been cosplaying, the more I have seen patterns emerge. For example, I tend to stick with obscure or under-cosplayed characters. You’ll probably never catch me doing Sora (Kingdom Hearts), Cloud (FF7), or Yuna (FFX), or the Naruto’s, and FMA characters. That’s not my style. I like those characters (not Naruto), but not enough to spend months making a costume for them. I’d much rather make a costume for Cloud of Darkness from FF3, Queen Beryl from Sailor Moon, Dahlia Hawthorne from Ace Attorney. Obvious aspect of these characters? They are very rarely, if ever cosplayed. I’m the first Saki Omokane from Marvel vs. Capcom. I’m the first Lady Lilith from FFXI. I don’t intentionally go after those characters just to say “Firsties!” but because something about those characters intrigues me that I want to make costumes.

The other thread is that I like villains. I’m not entirely sure where that stemmed from but I have a theory because I think I’m a pretty nice lady. It takes a whole lot to piss me off and I’m pretty passive.

So my theory is this: Halloween. When it came to that wonderful time of year, as a kid I always picked the bad guys. Now I’m sure some psychologist and/or therapist somewhere would say that being a bad guy on Halloween was my way to release aggression because I have all this pent up rage from being a quiet, shy, girl. Want to know the real reason? The bad guys had all of the best costumes and cool gear.

When I was a kid, costumes had more bulk to them and a lot were useable for several years, not the cruddy plastic stuff that is made today. Bride of Frankenstein had some of the best fabric and wig available and it was so much fun! We (my brother and I) were able to get cool weapons, capes, cloaks, canes, make-up, wigs, all these awesome things in comparison to the “princesses” and super-heroes who typically had the lame plastic crap that was only good for one wearing.

Maybe those psychologists would be right. I was a pretty quiet timid child. But I wanted to be the cool bad guy with the awesome cane that converted into a sword, not the crappy plastic batman mask that only covered 1/6th of your face. Who wanted that?

So I think in my subconscious I’m still fulfilling that childhood desire of wanting to have a cool costume, and bad guys always look cool in comparison to the good guys. Not to mention, I stood out. When everyone spends so much time focusing on the heroes, the villains are very rarely cosplayed. It’s a great opportunity to make use of a spot that needs to be filled.

Ok yes. All cosplayers want some attention. You’re lying to yourself if you say you don’t. Let’s be honest with ourselves here. We’re dressing up as characters with 10 foot swords, bright orange spiky hair, with talking monsters, 6 inch platform shoes, tails, and short shorts. We’re going to get noticed and we want to be. If you are saying “I’m doing it for the art” then you’re totally lying to yourself. It’s ok to want a little bit of attention. We’re human and animals. We all have a desire to have someone to notice us, even for a brief moment. There’s nothing wrong with it! Just admit to it.

And being a bad guy will get you noticed.

So will being an undercosplayed character.

I’ll admit that my costumes are either really big hits or really obscure misses. Saki: 2/20,000 got it. NiGHTS: I made a girl cry with joy. It has its ups and downs. My only goal is to get one person to recognize the character and then I’m a happy camper. So far I’ve succeeded, even in my ridiculously obscure Sith cosplay where she appears in an art book.

When I get to the core of it, it is about me expressing my fandom through my own creative way. I may not be the best, and I don’t pick popular characters, and I like to be the bad guy for a day, and it makes me happy. In so many ways, I think it speaks to a lot about who I really am; someone who doesn’t like to follow the crowd, open-minded, thinking outside of the box (as a villain would), willing to learn and reach for impossible goals.

The video games I play probably say the same thing.

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