Freedom Is Not Absolute: Even in Cosplay

Disclaimer: This article is not a sarcastic allusion. These are just principles that I deem universally true in the world of cosplay. So if you think you are hurt by whatever thing you have read in here, do not blame your guilty conscience on my article. I was just plainly being honest.

Despite the initial negative reception toward cosplay in IloiloCity, enthusiastic cosplayers have still managed to uplift the cosplay spirit and make the unaware Iloilo society know about its existence. Every now and then, I could basically see photos  and promotions of a new cosplay event in Iloilo, be it in Facebook or posted elsewhere within the city. New aspiring cosplayers and those pioneers have gathered to make all these happen. Since the initial and successful launch of cosplay in Iloilo, it has been the talk of the town—it was featured in a local television documentary show Isyu Subong, and schools and organizations have started adapting cosplay as one of their party themes. It is truly fascinating to see people starting to think like an otaku, thus, not isolating cosplay enthusiasts as stigmatized weirdoes. In fact, cosplay has almost become one of the daily things of IloiloCity. Cosplayers can be seen anywhere, anytime. Convention or no convention. This is flattering. But sad to say that some enthusiastic cosplayers have neglected some important elements of cosplaying whenever they do cosplay. It is true that cosplay does not have hard and fast rules. But there are things that are much stronger than rules; they are called elements and principles.

Although we are all free to choose the characters we will portray and there are no hard and fast rules about it, there are still things that we have to consider. Picture this, the very adorable and sweet little girl Wendy Marvell from Fairy Tail being portrayed by a chubby and squat girl, the very beautiful boy Kazuki Fuchoin from Get Backers being portrayed by an old man, and the stud Scott Summers (aka Cyclops) from X-men being portrayed by an anorexic or bulimic kid? How would you feel? Shouldn’t cosplay be about the art of portraying the character that will make people appreciate the character itself? I have nothing against crossplaying and cosplaying. But there are things that we shouldn’t do just because we like it.

So goes the cliché that too much of something is bad enough. Too much enthusiasm toward the character and cosplay often blind the cosplayers. They often believe that their fanaticism toward the character makes them the suitable cosplayers. Then, let me disillusion you.

The cosplayers’ physical attributes greatly influence the suitability of the character to him or her. We are free to choose our character, but we also have to choose the ones that suit us well. How will you expect people to identify and appreciate the character you are portraying when you are not even close to its physical attributes or, worse, you are the exact opposite. Physical attributes that are of great influence are the cosplayers’ stature, over-all physique, and skin complexion. Eye and hair color could be adjusted by photoshops, wigs, and contact lenses. If you are planning to cosplay a lovely little kid but you have eight folded fats on our side (my apologies for the choice of words) or if you are planning to cosplay a stud character but you have that blooming beer belly or people often think you are a walking stick, then, forget it. Let go of that dream until you are ready. Crossplaying on the other hand has no harm, as long as you can “give justice” to the character. There are a lot of famous crossplayers, and they all do make a great portrayal of their characters.

Another key element is the interpretation of character. Cosplay does not just end with dressing up as your favorite character. Effective cosplayers know the ins and outs of their characters. They know how their character speaks, walks, thinks—all the slightest details: from mannerisms to actions and reactions. You do not simple imitate nor impersonate the character, you interpret him. By that, it means that in a given situation, you know what the character will act or do. Even on the spot. You live as the character. You do not copy because you yourself is the character. This is where the knowledge about the character comes in.

If ever you have plans of cosplaying in the future or if you already did in the past, try considering these principles and elements before you go cosplaying again. This is to save both cosplay and you in utter embarrassment, criticism, and even insults. You have to be self-aware what character fits you or if the character you plan to portray fits you. I am not here to discourage people from cosplaying; I just want you to be aware that freedom is not absolute. To summarize my article, let me give you another cliché: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

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