Cosplay: The Growth in Toxicity 4

Cosplay is an amalgamation of two words – costume and play. It is an art in which the cosplayers wear costumes of characters from mangas, animes, or from pop culture. Cosplayers not only wear costumes, they also act like the characters.

Cosplay is now pretty popular around the globe. There are special conventions for the cosplayers to showcase their art. Some of the popular conventions include San Diego Comic-Con from California, Armageddon from New Zealand and Oz Comic-Con from Australia.  

For the people who like cosplay, it is a passion, therapy and a kind of lifestyle. However, while cosplay is an enriching hobby for many people, the community has also become toxic for some. With increasing competition, there is mounting negativity and toxicity in the industry. Let’s look at this aspect of cosplay in detail.

The issues

As the industry and the community is growing, it is breeding racism, castigatory and sexist comments, bullying and body shamming. Skinny and fat-shaming has become a severe issue in the industry. Hard work, workmanship and being supportive was the soul of this industry. However, it seems to have faded with time. Now people are more focused on fitting into specific beauty standards and looking exactly like the characters. This change of priorities is quite concerning.

The issues
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The toxicity is increasing because folks of the industry are now doing cosplay for the wrong reasons. When individuals started to show up at conventions in costumes, the conventions used it as an opportunity and decided to organize costume competitions.

These contests, over the past few years, became bigger and more extravagant. The conventions are now becoming more and more about winning contests rather than having fun while being the character of your choice and living the moment. People are now forgetting to celebrate their beloved characters.

A few individuals, to gain an edge over the others, make their characters a lot sexier than the characters actually are. Since the characters are animated in the shows, they obviously have the perfect body but in real life, it could be different. The “being perfect for the character” syndrome has made many amazing cosplayers avoid the industry. And those who are still bold enough to opt for these characters have to face a lot of disapproval, criticism and negative attention.  

In the beginning, cosplayers used to be like a family – a family of weird people who could have fun together. But now, it has lost its sense of inclusion. Cosplayers now make fun of others for their body types, among other things. The industry is becoming only for those people who religiously work out because the disparaging comments make others feel that they would look doughy.

People who used to be major cosplayers in the past now feel that they are not allowed to dress up. They suffer from anxiety due to body shaming and they feel excluded from the community. As such, the wholesome inclusive feel has gone and cosplays are now more about business.

Moving on, it is great that some people are earning through their hobby. However, some cosplayers are so famous, due to their fan following or because they have won a few contests, that conventions invite them to judge shows. These few cosplayers have more opportunities than the others. They make a living out of their hobby because they know how to sell their talent and happen to know the right people in the industry. Others remain ignored.

This professional jealously has also caused toxicity in the industry.  Suppose that two people have the same skill set and experience but one is known and the other is not. This breeds a lot of negative sentiments. It is a fact that some people make it and some just do not. The blame game should not be played and resentment has to be taken out in order to grow.

Furthermore, sexual harassment is widely reported in the industry by women. Individuals who are dressed in a feminine way are harassed or body shamed as well. Conventions are very crowded events. As such, it becomes difficult to beware of harassers. Some people take pictures of others without their permission. They may also comment inappropriately which leaves the cosplayer very disturbed.

Furthermore, social climbing is also becoming part of the cosplay industry. Under the pretext of networking, some selfish people use others to get upper status in the community of the cosplayers. Once their goals are achieved, they leave those who supported them. The wholesome, family environment gets lost with such actions.

Social-climbing is also done by changing the viewpoint on a certain topic.  If a social climber realizes that their opinion is not a popular one, they change it just to adjust in the community of higher cosplayers. With this fakeness, they mingle with them to gain benefits. This also creates a lot of negativity because people behave artificially with each other with no real connection.

Outside opinions

hard work
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A very small number of people do cosplay on their own. They put so much hard work, sweat and blood into the costumes that a person who does not do it would never understand it. The common people only see the cosplayers as people who waste so much money just to become famous. This common perception also becomes humiliating for the people of the industry.

Few cosplayers, still want to have fun and enjoy what they love to do. The world has become a global village anybody can reach out to anyone. When bored ordinary people normally search for something exciting and when they find a picture of a cosplayer who does not exactly match with the character they saw on the TV, without a second thought, they leave a bad remark.

On the internet, anybody can write their opinions, but some of these opinions are very hurtful for the cosplayers. When they read the comments of the people under their own images available on Reddit, Imgur or 9gag, they are extremely discouraged.

The situation is worsened by the sites that compare people and promote doppelgangers by labeling them as the best ones and demeaning others. These things put the cosplayers into a forced contest of looking the most like the character rather than just having fun while crafting and looking like their favorite character.

Even if 5 out of 50 people are telling the cosplayers that they made a bad choice to opt for a particular costume, it still hurts. It is human nature; you ignore the other 45 comments praising you and take the criticism as personal insult. Someone who has just gotten into the hobby may get discouraged and give up on it, upon hearing the harsh reviews. Instead of experiencing the joys of cosplay and learning by doing, they lose their passion because of people’s toxic opinions.

Thereby, as a cosplayer you have to learn to turn your focus on the positivity even if there is little. Remember you may have inspired many to get out of their comfort zone to take this bold step and enjoy being the character they love. You may have encouraged the people who do not feel confident enough to go out and wear the costume that they would love to wear.

Get the pessimistic thoughts out of your head and live your cosplay dreams to the fullest. See how many people shared the art that you created and commented positively on it. Most importantly, think about how you are going to have fun with your friends. Remember, it is you who made the costume and let the people see their hero in real life. Be proud of what you have accomplished.  

Going back to the soul of cosplay

The soul of the cosplay seems to be lost and buried. That is, people have forgotten why they opted for this hobby in the first place. It is true that toxicity has seeped into this art but if you want to have fun living your favorite character, just go for it. Shun all the negativity and stop worrying about social media popularity. Go live your character fully by putting a deaf ear to damaging people.

There are bad people in everywhere. The cosplay industry is an amazing place to be. You will have a blast while making the costume. You will love crafting if you are into it and later you will love hanging out with others cosplayers too. Just a few bad apples should not create a bad view of the beautiful cosplay industry.

If you have a talent and a passion then focus on yourself and divert your energy to building a positive community around yourself. Do appreciate everything and everybody. Always recall why you loved doing the cosplays in the first place when you face any kind of negativity.