21st Century Brontë #4 by Brontë Bettencourt
One of the topics that John King suggested I write about is cosplay. Like one of those suggestions that you receive multiple times that is meant to be subtle, but the repetition suggests otherwise?
But I’m not complaining. My lifestyle consists of unhealthy doses of Anime, comic book, and video game culture. I forget about the conclusions that an outsider looking in would draw.
The word “cosplay” derives from the words “costume” and “role-play,” meaning that there is more to the term than throwing on some makeup and a loose-fitting packaged outfit from Party City. You have to act the part, and as long as you are dressed as that specific character you have to portray the character as canon to the source material. A character can be pulled from an anime, videogame, TV, really anything that can be recognized when the outfit is donned and the cosplayer traverses the con grounds in accompanying swagger.
Over the years I’ve seen a huge ensemble of women dress as the varying cast members from Orange is the New Black, hair and makeup done, wearing the distinct ruddy orange uniforms. I’ve also seen an entire group of dudes cosplay a gender swapped version of the Sailor Scouts from Sailor Moon, adorning colored skinny pants and matching bowties.
Trust me when I say that for conventions, people go all out. Last Anime Festival Orlando, I saw a potted baby Groot from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, covered head to foot in bark-esque make up. Baby Groot, arms swishing, scurried around in a ceramic-looking pot with wheels attached underneath, up and down the Artist Alley for a few hours. I was so enthralled that I asked for several pictures, to which Baby Groot nodded prior, and bowed after. This cosplayer never once used words, remaining true to the character.
There is a lot of time, careful planning, and trial and error that goes into debuting a cosplay. Some do buy premade school uniforms and battle outfits, some take the time to measure and sew every detail, and some remain in the middle, salvaging items from Goodwill to alter while constructing the parts one can’t buy or find.
My friend Grant forges masks out of leather, while Sammie alters parts from Ebay. I sometimes commission others to create the outfits for me since I can’t thread a needle without sticking my finger.
All of money, effort, time, and a freak out the night before a debut for… what exactly?
There are cosplay contests with prizes consisting of free photoshoots, money, and other tangible prizes.
But there are a percentage of con goers that don’t sign up for these contests. Sammie, Grant, and I don’t even watch the contests. We spend our time walking around the con, checking the wares and panels, and having pictures taken of us by others who recognize the creativity and execution of our portrayal.
We are portraying characters from a show that we feel a personal connection to that others not only recognize, but can connect with us as well. In a mundane setting, unless someone is wearing an Avengers Logo or sporting some sort of keychain, I have no idea what that someone’s interests are.
I don’t want to just be like “Hey, you’re cool-looking, let’s have a conversation,” because we’re not in elementary school anymore. There is anxiety, the fear of rejection that hasn’t touched us until we get older. Being judged, being bullied, prejudices and social stigmas, all of this hasn’t psychologically chipped away at the mind yet, but definitely leaves a mark with age.
Evident from above, I am terrible at small talk.
But the moment I coat myself in grey paint, wear my hair long, pop in some fangs and wield a crimson axe bass at a con, people squeal, “You’re Marceline the Vampire Queen! I love Adventure Time!” And from there we can talk of the characters, their relationships, and all that has transpired from the now seven seasons of the show.
And the immersion of oneself into a fictional universe, creating a character and interpreting that character through clothes and mannerisms for others to understand, isn’t that one of the fundamental parts of writing? Not only are we telling a story through our interpretation of the character, but on a more personal level, portraying our feelings on the show through our care of the craft and attention to detail.
Being someone else, immersing ourselves in another personality, but through the medium of cosplay instead of written word: it’s yet another form of expression used to convey a story.
And well, it’s also really cool to have my picture taken by people who admire my finished product.
Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.