Cosplay + Gender/Racial-bending = Cross-play
This equation is basically the theme of our ethnographic documentary. There are three members in my group: Elaine, Kelly, and I. The footage was taken during the 2013 WonderCon at Anaheim, California (March 29 ~31, three-day event). But our topic is not so much about WonderCon but rather, it is about “cosplay.”
As I mentioned earlier in my rough proposal for our ethno/doc project, things like “cosplay” or “comic con” should not at all be new to me. However, after I attended the WonderCon and after interviewing several American cosplayers, I realized that the Western and Asian cosplayers do share different attitudes towards “cosplaying.” However, in our project we focus mainly on the cosplayers in the US.
Why do people cosplay? The answer we got from most of the cosplayers is that “it is fun.” The element of pleasure seem to precede other individual politics. A few mentions about aestheticism (this is a piece of art etc.) of cosplay. Some do it because they have friends or family members who introduce them to the field.
Concerning the recent controversies of gender/racial blending in cosplay (and the controversy of , the perspectives vary slightly from person to person, or, from color to color, so to speak. Their answers are pretty much all in our documentary, so I do not want to let out what is there, but the lack of models/admirable characters seem to be the main issue for both black or female cosplayers.
We end with the question “Does it matter?” in response to our central question about gender or racial crossing cosplay. It is not tautology. We’d like to invite our viewers to think about the question: “What matters most in cosplay?” Is it accuracy? Is it the efforts one puts in? Is it the admiration/attention from others? Or what matters may be whether the cosplayer is having fun.
In Asian countries, such as Japan and Taiwan etc., cosplay is a personal statement. It is always political. We don’t have Halloween, so there was not such a particular day that you could find people all over the nation wearing costumes. The cultural values are also different: we don’t value individuality or creativity as much; rather, we try our best not to stand out but to fit in–“just like everyone else.” That is why cosplay is such a big issue in Asian countries. That is why we don’t call it “wearing costumes” but “cos-play.” It is a “play,” not in the sense of just having fun, but to “display,” to “show,” to put oneself under spotlight (which one shouldn’t) and scrutiny. But here in the US, people share different values of the “self” and it is a surprise for me to find out that cosplay is mostly a “fun” thing to do. The word “play” highlights the element of pleasure in the act.
A side note: We encounter so many different technical problems during the process of editing whereas filming itself went actually smoothly. We converted our raw footage to so many different formats (avi, wmv, mpeg4) to finally be able to edit it on our laptops. The weird thing was, some of the formats DID work last time when we were doing our individual project of video essay, so we are still completely clueless why this time the same format failed to be picked up by our own laptop. It was really frustrating when we had so much great footage but we couldn’t (at that time) do anything about it. (Also, we have plenty of good interview responses and we had a hard time letting go some of them…) But my group-mates are awesome to work with–everyone was patient and cooperative, and we all tried to work things out together. The experience of working in group is really different from working solo. The process itself–working in group, collecting interviews, conceptualizing the project–exposes me to multi-perspectives and voices. Most importantly, IT WAS FUN! This is the best group project that I’ve ever done!