Cosplay goes beyond just dress-up. For those who use it for social interaction or as an art, cosplay can be an opportunity to express themselves and have elaborate fun. This is the conclusion of Theresa Winge who discovers deep lessons in the cosplay world.
Winge explores cosplay from its origins in anime and manga to its present-day appearances online and at conventions.
She writes that though cosplay’s origins are unclear, it is comprised of four basic components–the cosplayer, the social setting, the character/role-playing, and the dress–that facilitate social interactions between people, environments, and the imagination. Winge defines a kind of cosplay spectrum that is determined by the degree of commitment, from casually to extremely committed.
She claims that even casual cosplayers are often serious. “Regardless of his or her position on the spectrum of cosplay,” writes Winge, “each cosplayer has a remarkable level of dedication and commitment to portraying the character they choose to portray.”
Winge draws distinctions between American and Japanese cosplay conventions. Conventions typically have an element of masquerade. Cosplayers display their characters in front of an audience.
In North America, this masquerade is performed, says Winge however in Japan it’s much more static. Additionally, she writes, Japanese cosplayers tend to restrict costume wear to conventions in contrast to American cosplayers taking their costumes to the public.
Cosplay is more than just role-playing or clothing, writes Winge–it’s “a very social activity” that allows cosplayers to assume protective identities that create and reinforce social structures that are about and even more than just playing.
Cosplay lets people have different identities by allowing people to dress up in public and private settings.
Cosplayers take on “malleable identities,” says Winge “created within these spaces in which people aren’t themselves’ but rather fictional manga and anime characters.” Then these identities are retransmitted back to the “real,” non-cosplay world…suggesting that maybe the world is only a costume to be assumed or dropped at will.