Is cosplay a cool pastime to hone creative self-expression or a nerdy and expensive way to escape pressures of the world? And do you care either way?
I just can’t help but notice this group of teens and adults in amazing anime costume roaming around SM Megamall. I first thought they are the next level Emo, or the evolution of them or perhaps it is a cool new social trend or “pauso” like the Jejemons. However, I later learned in an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that they are called cosplayers.
CosPlay 101 for the uninformed and misinformed
What the heck is CosPlay? Sounds like a new online video game or a new Facebook apps like Farmville to you? Well, no. CosPlay is a combination of two words: “Costume” and “Roleplay.” Therefore, a Cosplayer is a geeky, not necessarily good-looking somebody who assumes the role of a character from an anime show, a video game, comics, manga, comic series, movies or TV series. These cosplayers step into the shoes of the characters that have inspired them or they think is really cool and copy their costumes, prosthetics, make-up, hair and uber-cool accessories. Here’s what really surprised me, cosplayers not only have to look like characters, they have to act like, sound like and essentially be the characters they portray down to the last giggle.
|Cosplayers at the mall|
Cosplay and The Modern Escapist
"I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which 'Escape' is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?"-- J.R.R. Tolkien--
I'm no card-carrying psychologist or sociologist, but I can tell you roughly on the observations I made that cosplay is now part of the modern escapism. Mr. Webster defines escapism as the habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine.
I’m sure you will agree that the world in which we live is full of stress, threats, constant noise, irritating soap operas, unhealthy fast-food junks, dizzying billboards, and overnight facebooking. Hence, we all need to escape – to refocus our attention on things pleasant or enjoyable, as opposed to the hard realities of the everyday world. When we are stressed we want nothing more than escapism, and cosplay certainly offers that for others.
This is where I got myself into the most trouble-of-judgement. I failed both to understand how important the notion of escape is to many cosplayers and to clarify the exact type of escape I was addressing. I admit that many Filipinos nowadays participate in cosplay not mainly to avoid their own personal wars such as their jobs, relationships, school pressure and other life hassles, but rather to have fun, compete, and even make a living.
The Magical World of the Escapist
"Harry goes off into this magical world, and is it any better than the world he's left? Only because he meets nicer people. Magic does not make his world better significantly. The relationships make his world better. Magic in many ways complicates his life."
Is there a difference between healthy and unhealthy escapism? In today’s reality, we cannot do our ancestor’s way of escapism – which is telling stories around the fire or do writing on the caves. We now escape the woes of the world by reading books, watching soap operas and movies, browsing the internet, blogging and so on and so forth.
As I said earlier, cosplay is a new and modern form of escapism. Unlike other forms of escapism, cosplay is much more involved. Other “characters” are directly playing in their magical world, interacting using their assumed personality. Events, such as regular conventions and gatherings, also take place in this new form of escapism that is directly dependent on the authors of the anime characters.
Fantasy Self and the Anime World
|Anime cosplayers' photo-op during a convention|
When the anime world becomes part of the their real world, any stress from the anime world will be brought with them when they enter the real world. Now, no longer does the cosplayer have to be concerned with only real world, but also must be concerned with the happenings in the anime world. Such cosplayer are those who come home so stressed and depressed after attending a cosplay convention – when it is supposed to be just a fun day walking around in costume and be someone extraordinary for a day.
The Collapse of the Fantasy Self and Real Self
The trouble with this sort of collapse is apparent. As their real lives are no longer the focus of their attention, their grades in school will falter, their health will falter, their performance at work will falter as will their social lives – often sacrificing time with friends and family for time with cosplaying.
The Cut-off Point
After all, I'm not the final arbiter of what counts as healthy or unhealthy, and more importantly, I can't claim to know everything about cosplay- I am not a cosplayer myself. I just want to give my comments and learn surprising things about what is happening around me. For people who are more extreme than I am, I respect their choice to be that, just as I hope they respect my theories and opinions I make regarding my observations or what I prefer to keep as leisurely pastimes.
I can safely conclude that Cosplay, can be a healthy form of escapism and a great opportunity in developing creativity and self-confidence. Of course, extremes have bad effects.
Any thoughts from your Fantasy Self?
References: [compiled by the author: Yodz de Veas Insigne]
» Manifold, Marjorie C. "Culture Convergence or Divergence? Spontaneous Art-making and Participatory Expression in the Private and Collective Lives of Youth." [Retrieved 14 July 2010]
» Grossman, Lev "J.K. Rowling Hogwarts And All" Time Magazine [Retrieved 14 July 2010]
» Ellis-Christensen, Tricia. "What is Escapism?" [Retrieved 14 July 2010]
» Servando, Kristine. "Pinoy Cosplay craze getting bigger, better" ABS-CBN News. [Retrieved 14 July 2010]
» Jee, Yein. "Origin of the word cosplay" [Retrieved 14 July 2010]
» Winge, Theresa. "Emerging Worlds of Anime and Manga - Costuming the Imagination: Origins of Anime and Manga Cosplay" MECHADEMIA Vol. 1 Copyright 2006 University of Minnesota Press: 68
» Bruno, Michael. "Cosplay: The Illegitimate Child of SF Masquerades" [Retrieved 14 July 2010]