It’s hard not to know about the penchant for cosplay (short for “costume play”) that’s all over the internet — where people dress up like characters and attend conferences or engage in various forms of role playing. Some consider it a hobby, others call it performance art.
Maybe it’s how you spend your weekends….
What’s curious is how we’ve come up with a specific term for this when, or so many scholars would argue, we’ve all been performing identity all along.
While I think of Judith Butler’s early work here, of course, I also think of the influence Hollywood has long had on fashion and hairstyles, both of which are widely copied by people. Are fans cosplaying when they cut their hair a certain way after seeing the latest films? When they buy the latest styles that designers offer on the runway? Not to mention how many of us model our behavior on, well…, other people in our lives whom we call role models…
For it would appear that we’re all always playing a role, suggesting that if everything is cosplaying then the term hasn’t got much to add to the discussion.
So what’s the point of it?
What’s interesting, here, is the distinction between fiction and fact that is smuggled into the discussion by means of the classification “cosplay,” a distinction that helps to constitute just some performances as real, legitimate, enduring, etc., and yet others as temporary, derivative, artificial, etc.
For whose to say that you’re any more real when the costume comes off — or, better put, are we ever without a costume? And if not, then how do we make some feel like they fit so nicely? Well, for starters, maybe we come up with a term to draw attention to how some others are, well, just mere hobbies….