What is a workable definition of cosplay?
Cosplay is defined by Mountford (2019), as “a performance medium in which embodied textual citation and photographic practices come together and sometimes collide.” So as to say, it is when fans of a certain piece of media, be it a television programme, film franchise, or comic series, dress up as characters from said piece of media. There are various forms of cosplay, ranging from in conventions to online, but it can most easily be compared to dressing up for Halloween, just not around Halloween time. The two major platforms for cosplaying are conventions and social media, where the cosplayers are most easily accessible. Whereas cosplay originated at conventions, it has largely taken off on social media.
Cosplay was started in the conventions such as Comic Con and the Australasian equivalent Armageddon. A celebration of all things “geeky”, people will put varying levels of effort into their costumes, ranging from casual to full blown appearance changes. I went to Armageddon in 2014 dressed as a Dean Winchester from Supernatural, (something I am not proud of), however due to what I was capable of, this just means jeans, an unbuttoned flannel and a copy of his necklace from the show. Others, however, spend hours upon hours sewing costumes and perfecting make up, putting together looks that mimic characters that often aren’t even human, such as aliens from Star Wars or demons from anime programmes such as Nezuko Kamado from Demon Slayer. These people will spend the whole year getting ready for the Armageddon weekends, often having different costumes for each day of the convention and gaining the attention of other visitors.
Over the years, however, cosplay has largely migrated to social media. In the age of Instagram, people like Belle Delphine can make a living from cosplay. Belle Delphine is a twenty year old from South Africa who dresses up as different anime characters and uses the sexualisation of them to make money. She sells a private snapchat subscription, personalised nude photos and at one point even bottled her own bathwater and sold them for $30USD each. All this was made possible by the large following she garnered through her cosplay Instagram and consequent cult following she gained. Although she mostly cosplays as anime characters, she has also done video game characters, such as D.Va from Overwatch. Other than cosplays, she also dresses up as “cute” gamer girls and generic Lolita-inspired outfits. Although her Instagram has been taken down due to violating the community guidelines, it was easy to see how she was able to reach the follower count of over four million.
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