Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A CosPlay Discussion

A CosPlay discussion.

     With Comic Con season quickly approaching, the interwebs are about to be flooded (using the term loosely) with videos and pictures of CosPlayers. With CosPlay comes the discussion of the validity of the intent of said CosPlayers.

     There is an old argument, that says that all sexy CosPlay girls aren't real nerds, they just dress up for the attention. The other side of that argument is, the characters are designed, drawn, or otherwise portrayed in skimpy clothing, so to be true to the character the CosPlayers must also dress in such a manner. Let's take a step back and analyze this a little more logically than black and white. After all only the Sith deal in absolutes.

     Let's take a look at the skimpy characters argument. This is a valid point, but only to the extent that the CosPlayer is dressing as such a character.

     In example, Sonya Blade from my favorite video game Mortal Kombat. It wasn't until just THIS generation that she, or really ANY of the female characters from MK for the most part, were designed with what a logical being could call "appropriate attire." In all previous games there was SOMETHING that was provocative, or risque, about the costuming elements given to women. Now you could make the argument that most of the female characters are from another realm and therefore their sense of modesty is different than ours. For the most part that argument stands, but in the case of Sonya it falls flat. She is from Earth, even worse she is a high ranking MILITARY officer. In MK9 her costume is little more than daisy dukes and a too tight, too small WHITE t-shirt. After a match her damage animation effected her costuming in such a way that you would be able to see one of her breasts in entirety if not for her badge placed precariously over the nipple.

     What should a girl do who wanted to CosPlay as a powerful female character like Sonya? Should she take the less provocative costume from MK1 that was just a spandex suit? The argument would still be made that she wasn't a real nerd, because spandex is skin tight as to leave little to the imagination. Even in spite of the retro cred. Should she do her own spin on the character to protect her dignity? Then the "gatekeepers" of the nerd community would cry foul because of the inaccuracy in her costume choice. A lose lose kind of situation it seems. Thankfully the guys at NetherRealm put our Ms. Blade in a work appropriate costume for MKX.

     Let's take another example. Female fighters from any of the Capcom games. Specifically I am thinking of Cammy and Morgan. The same issue arises. To accurately portray either of these characters a female CosPlayer is going to be, by definition, dressed in a pretty risque manner. I have never seen a costume for either of these characters (CosPlay, Video Game, or otherwise) that would not be considered skimpy or revealing. Matter of fact, the argument could be made that Cammy's costume seems to get MORE revealing with each passing update to her outfit.

     Does the fact that these characters are drawn and designed in such a revealing, or even scandalous, manner mean that anyone who appreciates them is not a true nerd? Or even, to play another side of this, perverted? Do girls who have these as their video game preferences not count as true nerds? I think not. I do believe that these girls are just as nerdy as the boys who like these characters. I see no difference beyond their gender.

     The other side of this is the attention point. Let's be honest. ANYONE who dresses in CosPlay is doing it for some form of attention. GENERALLY speaking though the attention they seek is for their appreciation of a certain fandom. I sincerely believe that MOST CosPlayers, of any gender identity, are not seeking sexual attention. They are not seeking to be grabbed at nor are they gaining some sort of perverse pleasure out of dressing scantily in front of many drooling nerdy types. They simply seek the validation of, "Awesome costume," or, "I like that fandom too," simply as a sense of belonging. Or, as is the case with some of the professional CosPlayers who at certain points will make a costume for a certain fandom they might not be that into they just want the challenge, these CosPlayers are also seeking either the validation of simply doing the challenging bit of making a difficult costume, or to help others either by being inspirational, or by directly giving pointers on how to make better costumes.

     Now don't mistake what I am saying. There ARE some who DO want the "negative" attention. It is hard to make the argument that you don't want males to stare at you if you are a female dressed as "sexy Mario and/or Luigi." There are also likely those who have a legitimate appreciation for a fandom, who CosPlay as a part of that fandom, who are also doing it for the gaze of those from the gender of their choice. It is a difficult call. Though, having interviewed people who do it casually as well as professionally, I do foster the belief that, much like any other aspect of life, there are plenty of people of all gender identities who dress the way they do SOLELY to have people look at them and want their bodies.

     Does that drive though negate their nerdyness? That dear reader is left to the eye of the beholder.

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