WEEK 8 COSPLAY
- In what ways can cosplay be understood in terms of notions such as affect, transportation, transubstantiation and mediated fantasy?
The word “cosplay” was coined in the eighties to describe the activity of “costume role-play” (Mountfort et al, 2018). On its most basic level, this involves dressing up as a character then pretending to be them.
Although cosplaying began in America at sci-fi conventions, it was in Japan where it really took off and developed into a major subculture. It is no surprise many costumes worn by cosplayers are from Japanese characters, most notably from anime, manga and video games (Mountfort et al, 2018).
Once a cosplayer dons their costume, they adopt the personalities of the characters they are portraying. In this way they are actors, they are performers, and when a camera is pointed at them, they are models. Those who make their own costumes could be regarded as fashion designers, tailors, painters or even sculptors.
Cosplayers commonly reference their chosen source texts, regarded as a form of citation which can be either ‘direct imitation’ and ‘textual transformations.’ The former a faithful representation of the parent text and the latter is a contrast, fidelity (Mountfort et al, 2018).
Beyond the social dimension of meeting new people and making friends, cosplayers who don a costume can forget about their regular lives and become someone else, if only for a day. They can transform into someone powerful and exciting, sexy and alluring or just cute and quirky. No matter what the attributes of the character they are playing, the process of adopting an alter-ego is described as mediated fantasy.
The translation of such archetypal figures onto actual bodies becomes a kind of
transubstantiation, in that Domsch suggests that ‘the “thing” that can be transported from one medium to another’ is the ‘mental construct that we call a narrative storyworld and its existents (Mountfort et al, 2018).
This transportation of a particular sense of attaching intensities of feeling to fictional characters, leading to a desire to transcend mere reading and watching, can be described as an affect, the term referring here not just to the feelings provoked by cosplay but an intense corporeal response (Mountfort et al, 2018).
Those who are shy can tap into the strength of their character and completely come out of their shell. The simple act of wearing a costume can infuse the cosplayer with a level of energy and confidence which is greatly empowering.
Plenty of cosplayers are not shy, extraverted and cosplay gives them the perfect excuse to let their true selves come to the surface. Although they may be confident and charismatic before they don their costume, cosplaying allows them the freedom to take their passions to a greater level of self-expression.
Cosplaying can also make a person feel special. Dressing up in a stunning costume and having crowds of admirers showering them with compliments has obvious appeal. The encircling photographers and eager fans can make cosplayers feel like celebrities.
Mountfort, P., Peirson-Smith, A., & Geczy, A. (2018). Planet cosplay: Costume play, identity and global fandom. Intellect Bristol,UK/Chicago, USA