Reflecting Upon Japanese Influence in Cosplay
There was a time when, if you attended a convention you would see one or two people on fancy dress. A Starfleet officer here, a Time Lord there. That was before the Japanese phenomenon of cosplay made it to the west. Now conventions are are filled with people in wonderfully complex costumes that are mostly home made. It took the idea of going to a con in fancy dress to the next level and is now considered a commonplace feature of the convention scene. There are hundreds of websites devoted to people making and modelling their cosplay creations and others that give hints, tips and instructions on how to dress as anything from an X-Man to a N'avi.
Amber Love is a cosplay regular on the US convention circuit, who has appeared as Wonder Woman, Rogue, Sue Storm and Catwoman. She share with us some of her thoughts on cosplay:
“In these recent days of tragedy around the globe, we are forced inherently by our own human nature to reflect upon the influences of other cultures. The quakes and tsunamis of Japan as well as the hurricanes and natural disasters we in America have faced, make the world feel much smaller. It’s an incredible journey to go from being mortal bigoted enemies to appreciating each other’s arts and traditions. I’ve been asked to share my view on one tiny element of this called “cosplay”, meaning the art of dressing up in costume to take on a new identity.
“Basically, it’s what we in the US have always called masquerading but the term cosplay came about in the 1980s and credit for the phrase is given to Nobuyuki Takahashi, who was amazed by the costumed attendees of a science fiction convention. This bit of trivia is unconfirmed and open to debate, but that’s what wikipedia states and facts are to be taken lightly if there are no footnotes. Sometimes words are accepted when they are invented and sometimes not (I remember the first SUVs were called “utes” in Car & Driver but it never caught on). In the case of becoming a superfan of Japanese subcultures, the term in America is otaku however that seems to be a pretty awful insult over there so I caution its use.
“Cosplay and fashion intertwine in an area called “Lolita” which is rather controversial in itself. Lolita fashions give grown women the opportunity to sexualize the image of a young girl, portraying youth with extreme sexual appeal and prowess. Even before Lolita fashion was born (credited to be in the 1970s popular miniskirt era), this was done in American fashions like baby doll lingerie, go-go dresses and cheerleading uniforms. Yet, somehow the Japanese designers took the form to such a level that the term has been banned by some web hosting sites who have it in their Terms of Service providing cause for immediate cancellation if a webmaster uses it as a search engine keyword. Lolita can be seen influencing many American fashions from punk rock plaid miniskirts to steampunk bustled skirts. Unfortunately that stigma of pedophilia is something hard to shake in our internet usage.
“What is also rather sickening is that there are Americans out there saying, “What’s Japan ever done for us?” Hatemongering is like any other mob mentality. It’s unclear where it originates but by the end, there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people caught in the fervor of bias and bigotry.
“Our “nerd season” is well upon us now so be sure to show your appreciation for the contributions to our comic book culture and subcultures like cosplay even if the work is not your preference. You can still look upon someone’s craftsmanship and see the level of skill, the countless hours, and the pride being showcased.”
If you would like to read more of Amber Love's writing, visit her website Amber Unmasked