Generally speaking I remain unaware of fads and fashions; I am either unwittingly ahead of them or else far behind, marching to an entirely individual drummer, but other people’s fascinations fascinate me. I have always been curious as to why something ignites a passion in the heart of another and it’s led me to explore and learn about a wonderful array of subjects over the years, but the latest one really has me scratching my head. Not in disgust or disapproval, simply…puzzled.
I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of how I stumbled across the area of cosplay; suffice it to say it is a by-product of a current interest I’ve cultivated. When I mentioned the phenomena to my daughter she laughed (a lot) and informed me it was far from a new thing and that she had had several friends in university who took part in conventions and meetings. I suppose I’d always been aware of the whole Star Trek-dressing-up-as-a-klingon thing but I didn’t realise it had a name. When I was a kid I dressed up like my heroes too; I wanted to BE the characters who peopled my fantasies and games, possibly I suppose because at such a tender age one doesn’t recognise or understand the deeper implications of why one is so enamoured of ones heroes. But, as I grew older, like everyone else, I lost the sense of fun and escapism which allowed me to play without inhibition.
Come to think of it, I suppose art took its place. I drew and painted whichever musician, actor or mythical character was captivating me at the time. Then, when my enthusiasm outstripped my skill, I took up writing. I still fantasise but I make my fantasies into stories. Hmm, interesting theory. But I digress.
This particular branch of cosplay involves game/anime characters from a film and having spent far too many hours on youtube(in the interests of research, you understand) I am astonished by the degree of commitment and attention to detail some of the participants show. As with all things, representations range from the sublime to the ridiculous but what cannot be denied is the fun and pleasure the people concerned seem to find in their hobby; past-time;interest? I’m not sure of the terms and don’t wish to insult anyone.
My reactions range from honest bewilderment to furtive admiration. What could someone possibly gain by dressing up as a non-existent character and standing on a stage to be judged? Then again, how fantastic it must be to belong to an extended family of others who share your passion. Because I come from a repressed generation anyway (believe me there’s no way anyone could not remember growing up in a small town in the 70’s) I would never have the courage to do what these people do but if I were young enough, thin enough, brave enough, would I find the bravado to stand on a stage and display what I would think of as a very private obsession? Probably not. Because of my advanced years I probably wouldn’t even be brave enough to attend a convention simply to speak to the cosplayers; besides they are for the most part, understandably perhaps, a little defensive of outsiders. From what I can tell they get a lot of flack about what they do. Except in Japan of course.
Something else I found quite extraordinary was the fact that a nation known for reserve and self control should embrace wholeheartedly the conception of cosplay, in fact one young man whose name, I think, is Daniel Choo (Kaname?) took my breath away when I watched some of his videos on youtube. He literally BECAME the character he was representing and was loved and adored because of it.
Could it be that we are all artists on the inside? Could it be that however repressive society may become we will strive to express our individuality somehow? One of my friends bakes, knits and has taught herself to crochet. She needs to creat. A few others write fanfiction (that’s a whole other post to delve into at a later date!) and whilst, in their own words, the fanficers are so far into the closet about it they can see Narnia, they still enjoy it and sometimes produce better work than some so-called paid professionals. My daughter breeds birds, takes photographs and has just purchased a batik kit to resume where she left off in university; she’s also waiting impatiently for the day my grandson can wield his first crayon. We NEED to create, it seems, we NEED to display ourselves (even secretly) to say this is ME; this is what goes on inside my head! It nurtures a small spark of hope that one day the arts will shrug off the corporate machinations which are attempting to suffocate talent on the great alter of manufactured cookie-cutter uniformity.
How did I get here? Oh yes, cosplay: People who dress up and emulate heroes, heroines, creatures who somehow reflect an inner need. Maybe we are all silently holding out for our hero? And since they are so thin on the ground these days is it really so surprising we should create our own while we wait? Like I said a couple of hundred words ago, I’m not sure how I feel about the cosplay community. Asking others why they thought people might do such a thing produced answers as diverse as: seeking attention: because they’re sad: because they have nothing better to do. It seemed I was in a minority in thinking they did it because they wished to show the world how they felt, and because there was a sense of belonging attached to it. Because they wanted to share their passionate love of a fictional character with others.
Like I said, I’m not too hot on fads and fashions but I do know this: An old, old creed states:- so long as you harm no-one else, do as you will. It’s something I’ve always tried (not always successfully) to do and if dressing up in costume and meeting with like-minded folk floats your boat then more power to you. I’ll stand in the shadows and watch enjoying a vicarious thrill because, unlike my favourite character from that world, I am not a hero and my honour has shrivelled beneath the onslaught of possible ridicule; I’m not prepared to sacrifice myself for it. But whilst you’re re-enacting those battles and waving around your oversized swords spare a glance over one shoulder now and then. I’ll be the one waving to you through the wardrobe doors before I scuttle back to Narnia.