Digital Beard Stroking: You got some Cosplay-ning to do

Continuing in the vein of parasocial interactions and our investment in fictitious characters, we can see the gradation of involvement in those avatars and how much we identify with them.  Previously, I talked about how we tailor our heroes to our own identities and project ourselves onto them.  Now, there’s a flipside to that and it can be seen when people start to get very invested in the existing characters and avatars.  Rather than projecting a sense of self into them, they identify characteristics and ideals that they either adore or wish to have for themselves.  When that obsession reaches a threshold, the motivation for dressing up and portraying that character in the real world becomes clear.  That, or they really just like sewing/fabrication and are casting about for excuses for more projects.

Man Faye

Or just taking the piss, which is what this guy is doing. I think. I hope.

The world of Cosplay is another one of those sprawling, ambiguous communities of wildly different personalities and motivators with one shared characteristic: Obsession.  That and Tenacity to finish things.  These are present to a fault in many of the cosplayers out there.  It takes a serious amount of focus and concentration to complete a costume.  Especially considering that many of the source materials don’t have to follow the laws of physics.  This means that a deep knowledge of how certain fabrics, materials, etc. move and interact with each other is paramount.  Props are even more difficult as there are often rules at conventions (or those pesky laws) pertaining to size/dimensions/material.  Kinda hard to safely carry around a 8 foot sword made of high carbon steel in a room full of nerds.  Also hard to explain that to the police that it’s just for a photo shoot and that’s why you were menacingly posing in that park in the evening.


No, No, officer, I’m not dangerous, I swear.

Their method of consuming media is subtly different from non-cosplayers (aka “normies”), too.  As shows, games, comics progress, their attention slips from the actual story and interactions to “what kind of fabric is that?” and “I wonder how I could build that gun?”.  Likewise whenever at any hardware or craft store.  While normies may actually manage to go to the aisle containing the object of their search, purchase it and leave, these craft minded people are constantly wandering around and finding little gems of pieces to be used for a future project (or a current one, or a revision of a past one).  Arriving at the cashier with armloads of completely miscellaneous items, one is forced to sheepishly dodge any questions about the purpose of these fifteen different sets of seemingly unrelated plumbing fixtures, combined with odd electrical components.

Within that community, though, are some of the most creative and crafty people one will ever find.  The inventiveness and creativity displayed, in addition to the wealth of skills is easy to overlook until you start conversing with these costumed eccentrics.  Where movies and TV shows have armies of costume departments, filled with trained and experienced professionals who are probably focusing on one subset of skills to build these elaborate costumes, the cosplayer does it all themselves.  Not to mention that, but they also do it with almost no budget and with often sub-par materials and equipment.  That’s not even bringing the impossible costumes/pros into it.  Converting Escher-esque geometry and computer-assisted fabrics into real, convincing physical garments is a truly remarkable sight to behold.

box of scraps

A kid made that costume in a cave! With a box of scraps!

Ironically, given the general complaint of the Millennial generation being lazy and unskilled at basic labor/life-skills (unable to “adult”, to use the gerund-laden parlance of our times), we are seeing one of the biggest surges of “makers” and recreational crafting.  People here are not only making their own clothes (once a staple of self sufficiency), they’re making them to exactly standards based on blurry, poorly rendered video game screenshots.  The level of precision, care and practice required for these skills is the sort of thing that provides some hope for this generation.  Perhaps we’re not doomed after all?

Perhaps the meek finally WILL inherit the earth?

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