Cosplay: Subculture, Hobby or Way of Life? 
I’ve seen a variety of debates covering this subject. The only answer that doesn’t make me grimace or want to argue is the general answer “It depends on the person doing it.” I think that is the best answer, but the process of scanning these debates made me wonder about the narrow views that some people have of cosplay.


(Attendees from the Library's 10th annual Animecon try there hand at cosplay)

It’s not surprising for someone who isn’t familiar with cosplay to raise an eyebrow when they see someone “dressed up.” It begs the question, “Why are they dressed up?” What does surprise me is the number of people within the practice of cosplay that limit themselves and others on the broad array of cosplay to be experienced and shared.

Some cosplay arises from comic, anime and manga fandom. In that instance, it is often viewed as a subculture. The passion for particular characters arises out of a particular series or style; so, the cosplay is secondary or sub to the initial interest.

But how do you define it when the cosplay is a result of a passion for a particular movie or video game that doesn’t have a “culture”? What if the person makes one costume to bring to life one character that they love? That’s just plain old fandom, right?

Then there are people who bring to life multiple characters from multiple formats: movies, video games, novels, manga/anime, online comics. They don’t stick to any one series or format. The just bring to life the characters that grab their imagination and interest. I guess that becomes a hobby.

And hobby can also be applied to people that just love creating costumes. These people can be very singular in a style or origin for their costuming, or they can be interested in challenging themselves by seeing how many different types of costumes they can create.

Does that become a way of life? When does a hobby stop being just a hobby and become a way of life?

Is it when you become a “professional” cosplayer like, Jessica Nigri or Anna "Ormeli" Moleva? When you create your own company like Holly Conrad or Bill Doran? Or is it more gradual?

So, let’s revisit my original comment about some people viewing cosplay too narrowly. Within subcultures and fandoms there is a bad tendency to “turn up” the nose at people who are not in your particular clique. It seems counterproductive. The thing that makes a community thrive is its members. And you get more members by making the subculture, hobby or way of life inviting.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to at least allow for the appreciation of other types of cosplay? From what I’ve seen of the various types of cosplay, the most successful cosplayers and costume creators are those that at least study a broad array of what’s out there. If cosplayers of all types acknowledge and appreciate one another, it increases the chance that the world of cosplay will continue to grow and thrive.

I feel I must acknowledge and give credit to the cosplayers that already embrace this way of approaching cosplay. Not only are they helping to make it more mainstream, but they honestly seem to have more fun. That’s ultimately what it’s about, right? Having fun?

What do you think?

-Angel, Teen Services, Bon Air Regional Branch

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