Society & Culture
#48 - Cosplay Fans
This week, the season finale of our whirlwind tour around the globe searching fandoms far and wide. This week, we’ve left the globe to ascend to the stars to talk about fans… of cosplay!
Special thanks to smzeldarules and Lumpy Space Cosplay for their help and contributions to the episode this week!
If you enjoyed our chat with these two fantastic cosplayers, you can learn more about them below!
Lumpy Space Cosplay
Cosplay, a portmanteau of the words “costumed play”, is a hobby where people, known as cosplayers, wear costumes to represent a specific character. Cosplay is quite diverse: cosplayers may create costumes, be part of photoshoots, attend masquerades, get ‘into character’, ‘genderbend’ characters, mash up known characters with other genres or intellectual property, or much, much more.
The origins of cosplay are fascinating because of how it has changed, evolved, and traveled. The act of fan costuming predates the term cosplay: In 1939, Myrtle Rebecca (Morojo) and Forry Ackerman work some of the first fan costumes, “futuricostumes” at Worldcon 1939 (The world science fiction convention):
Morojo was the person who single-handedly brought fantasy into real physical space when she created and wore her own costume. Given modern cosplay’s intense focus on individual creativity and craft, it’s bizarre that Ackerman is the one most often credited as being the O.G. cosplayer in fan literature. Morojo, who made the futuristicostumes, deserves the bulk of the credit. To crush the next few decades of history into a single sentence: the idea of dressing up like your favorite fictional characters caught on and gained traction. After 1939, costume contests became an annual tradition at Worldcon, drawing more and more participants with each passing year.
— Fanlore - Cosplay
It wasn’t until much later that the term was coined, and the coinage varies in terms of who it is attributed to. Some sources claim that “cosplay started after a Japanese fan, Nov Takahashi, attended the 1984 Worldcon in Los Angeles and reported on the costuming activity there in Japanese SF magazines” (Fanlore - Cosplay), however Nov Takahashi was using the term cosplay as early as June 1983, and there are other instances of fans in cosplay outside of North America.
In any case, regardless of the origin of the term, because of the growing popularity in Japan and things like anime and manga becoming popular in North America during the 1990s, cosplay was re-imported to North America, assumed to be Japanese in origin.
Google trends data gives the impression that cosplay has been increasing in interest since 2004, but has some waviness to it: Overall, interest has increased, but it we seem to be in a local lull in interest.
More than many of the other fandoms we’ve covered, the data is, unsurprisingly, periodic: There is a spike every year around July-ish that persists until October (which roughly corresponds to convention season).
(Google trends data was attempted using ‘costume’ as the search, but the data was too noisy, a much different magnitude than that of ‘Cosplay’, and spiked every year in October.)
In an unexpected twist, Cosplay Calamity, someone we have encountered at ConBravo!, has conducted a cosplay survey for 2017. The data is admittedly from a small sample size (just under 300 respondents), but gives us some approximation:
A separate survey run by clinical psychologists Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Dr. Robin Rosenberg of over 900 participants paints a similar picture.
Around the world:
Cosplay is popular around the world, but is most popular in… Japan. Other popular countries (by search trend data): Phillippines, South Korea, Singapore, Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Chile, Indonesia, and Mexico (United States is 14th place). It’s unclear whether the lack of North American and European representation is a bias on our part, or reflecting of those who search (versus those who are fans). In this case, we defer to the data.
Where does fandom live:
The fandom lives necessarily in real life; in particular, at conventions. However, communities of cosplayer can be found all over the net in places like cosplay.com or CosplayAmino (an app).
Cosplay is the most popular now than its ever been.
There are rules to the internet (e.g. Rule 34). Should there be a new rule about cosplay that states: “If there is an IP, there is cosplay of it”. Alternatively, Is there anything for which there hasn’t been a cosplay.
Is there a competition for the worst cosplay (like the Razzies)?
T is in. So in. AN Idol / Masq.
Z is out… insofar as not seeing cosplay in his future.
G is in… no interest in making a costume though.
Cosplay for a Cure
A group that we’ve actually had the chance to chat with before (at Toronto Sailor Moon Celebration)! Started in 2012 by Casey Brown and Gina Greco, Cosplay for a Cure is a non-profit, photo-booth style event that runs at a variety of different convention in the Greater Toronto Area (and surrounding areas) whose goal is to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
More information about guest
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How did you read this far without asking this question?!
Fanthropological is an anthropological (ish) podcast where we bring the fan’s-eye view to you! Each week, we take a look at a different fandom, dig up interesting background, trivia, and history, and try to get to why it is that people are a fan. We also try to highlight good causes related to that fandom, and find interesting things that fans have created to share those to the world. Each episode is about an hour. Ish.
We are the Nickscast! Three products of late-80s / early-90s pop culture who love exploring fandom and everything geek … who also happen to have been best buddies since high school, and all happen to be named Nick. Yes, we are super creative. Dare we say, the most creative.
We are Nick Green, Nick Terwoord, and Nick Zacharewicz: We started the Nickscast as a labour of love, and as a place to entertain and to discuss our love of fans and fandom, and all that is shiny and interesting in that realm. It’s what lead us to start our first podcast, our satellite podcasts, Fanthropological, and so much more.
We want to help others learn more about different fandoms, and to create empathy with other fans: We dream of a world where other fans aren’t “those Weird-o’s”, but just folks with different tastes. A world where fandom is full of discourse and analysis, and there are plenty of tools and resources to help. Fans building communities to do good in the world. Because everyone’s a fan.
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