The negative effects of cosplay culture
Updated: May 13
Now ordinarily I want to keep blog posts and my own opinion a bit light and rainbow-y. But, this is going to break that rule for a bit.
As with any creative hobby, you will always get your fair share of various asswits. That's nothing new, in the end everyone has very different tastes and standards on what's good or bad. So that's neither here nor there.
But over the years with new generations coming in to join in cosplay, there's been a definite shift in the social aspect of it. Or maybe at least, it took me 8 years to notice it.
Obviously this is all based on my own personal experiences, and not meant to reflect the opinions of the community on a whole.
For a lot of people, cosplay is an incredibly fun way to chill out, and pretend to just be someone else for a weekend; it's creative escapism at it's finest. You can be an office worker by day and Batman by night! It can be an incredible confidence booster, and I will admit has actually helped me a lot in terms of learning how to comfortably talk to strangers without panicking.
However for some it can have the polar opposite effect. Some people can find themselves comparing themselves too much to the original source material (or other cosplayers), and find it upsetting on how they're not the same size as the character, or their face shape is different, or they don't have big enough lips etc. This has been the unfortunate truth for me, as now I'm comparing myself to someone who is half my size, and getting sad when things don't look the same on me as they do on them. I'm finding things I don't like about myself more and more because I'm busy worrying that I'm not perfect for the character, because although Cosplay isn't meant to be a look-a-like competition, time and time again people will be shoved aside to favour someone who is more similar looking. In fact, going further into that, cosplay is not meant to be a beauty competition either. But sometimes people just won't want to cosplay their favourite character because they just don't think they're pretty enough. And that's ridiculously sad. The amount of times I've either changed, or cancelled doing a cosplay because I don't feel like I'm thin enough is dwindling on double digits now, because online, anyone who isn't the perfect thin white woman gets bashed.
There is so much pressure to look absolutely perfect that it can really drive someone's self esteem into overdrive.
A lot of people want to cosplay characters from outside their own genders or race, which is fine, if done respectfully. Paint yourself green, blue, purple, whatever you like. But you have to understand that those are made up races. Painting yourself brown to match that of a person-of-colour's skin tone is not okay.
And the continuous defence of it even after multiple people have spoken out about the implications of this, leaves me dumbfounded. At Birmingham MCM I saw two blackfacing Princess Jasmines. It's still around even after everyone has tried their absolute best to educate.
Their skin is not a costume for you to wear, and additionally, after following a fair number of POC cosplayers on social medias, the amount of abuse they get for cosplaying outside their race is absolutely beyond not okay. They are still under represented and characters are sparse. Commenting racial slurs when cosplaying something non-POC is something that still commonly happens for a lot of people and I really don't have any words to describe it, and there are still very few ""famous"" cosplayers who aren't white. This is a problem.
I will be writing an additional interview-blog post in detail about the effects of blackfacing later.
Gossip and toxicity
Now we all love a good gossip. And that's okay, in fact it can be quite healthy to get the small things off of your chest and discuss things that have bothered you. But amongst the cosplay community is very easy to get sucked up into becoming an asshole, and you know what, been there, done that, I'm no saint, but I learned that it was toxic and I moved on. Again, love a good gossip, but gossip isn't the word for the way I've heard people talk about, or to, each other. I've watched internet attention eat someone up and change them time and time again, there have been call out posts, anonymous chats, private groups and anything else you can think of. I've never started to be friends with someone, and had to stop shortly after as much as I have done whilst cosplaying. Because unfortunately entitlement can absolutely eat the best parts out of someone. I've seen friends break trust to share private information, I've seen people complain about fake fans, or watching people rip others for wearing the same cosplay as them, thinking they own the character. Even photography seems to be treated like a competition, and I do not want to be around people so negative, the cosplay community is absolutely littered with them, and it's like watching the self labelled popular kids at school gang up on the kid who enjoys emo music. It's very bizarrely childish behaviour for 20+ year olds.
This is an unfortunately heavy topic. But this happens. A lot. There were reports a while ago of an obsessed stalker setting fire to a cosplayers car in a US con, there have been men over here that women have had to try and file police charges against, because for some reason, people seem to get to the point where their narcissism and ""cosplay fame"" makes them think they can just get away with everything. You may see cosplay is not consent written about a lot, but it's for a good reason. Just because women (or men, there's no denying it happens to everyone, but from my personal experience in the UK, it's mainly men harassing women) decide to wear something skimpy to a con, it doesn't give you the right to either yell explicit things at them, or grab them in inappropriate places. I don't really understand why this is such a hard concept to grasp. And a lot of them just get away with it, and because of this will continue to do it. And there's nothing we can do about it. Ironically cancelled culture within the community, seems to only apply to people with a difference of a opinion, not someone who assaults.
My relationship with cosplay
I've had multiple good things happen to me whilst being in the community. I can't deny that. I enjoy most cons. But this year I've found myself getting more and more distant from it. In photography terms, I'm bored, and I want to move on, and my self esteem has been absolutely wrecked due to cosplay. To the point now, where I don't see myself doing very much of it at all, and if I do, it may just be for photos at home. I'll continue to just do whatever I feel like, but I'm edging away from the cosplay community and trying to delve into taking photos that I am proud of, and not just taking photos at a con for the sake of it. I want to be proud of my art.
For any of you feeling like it's all getting a bit much, taking a break is always a good thing.
Conventions, although great for me socially, are not ticking off my creativity box any more, and I feel like I need to surround myself with people of a more creative and less negative output, so I'm going to try something else. I'll be at various fashion events over the year in London, stay tuned!