Oh, is that all?
Now my friend was quick to mention that this is not a double standard. After all, he’d expect a man to wear a costume appropriate for his shape, too. But that’s the reason I’m titling this soapbox “Cosplay and Privilege,” because, this is one area where a man may just not recognize that he is, in fact, privileged, compared to a woman who wants to cosplay.
I have nothing against game characters wearing sexy outfits. I want to put that on the table right now, because there’s so many articles beating the drum about this everywhere, and I don’t want to add to the din. I like characters that look pretty and cool, even if their outfits are improbable.
But where it comes to someone trying to make and wear those outfits, especially around Halloween: I say, live and let live. I think there’s a line you can draw where a person may just have bad hygiene, or be in something offensively skimpy, and depending on the outfit that line might be drawn at any person’s size. But I also think that it’s a fun, harmless fantasy to dress up, and people are entitled to try on the outfit that they like.
The game industry has traditionally been okay with depicting a variety of different male body types. In lots of different video game fandoms, there is at least one fat guy. Sure, it may not be the big hero; it may be a comedy character, like Rufus from Street Fighter, or like Donut Drake. But these characters exist. And to be slightly larger in certain male roles is, if you’ll pardon the pun, not too much of a stretch.
I’m just not sure that male geeks get this: that all the cool female characters out there generally look the same. They all have a very small variety of body types, while it’s acceptable for male characters to have a wider variety of body types. And that when you say, people should only cosplay something that’s “an appropriate shape,” you’re shutting out a lot of women from a lot of options.
It’s a different situation if someone is a company spokesmodel: a professional cosplayer that is designed to advertise a product. You might call them “booth babes.” It’s understood that they’re there to wear very accurate outfits, look pretty, and draw attention to the booth. There are a variety of opinions about the appropriateness of this practice, but all I’m getting at is, if you’re hiring someone to portray someone for your advertising, then yes, she (or he) should look the part. This is simply not a category that contains every woman. Some women just want to dress up: for fun.
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Very well put Amanda and don’t forget, there’s always the spitter or female boomer out of L4D2! I’d like to see the clothiers try and sex them up.
Great article, Amanda!
Throwing my two euro cents in, I’d say part of the issue is down to people’s perceptions. They see a character in a game (or some form of media) and automatically base what a costume (and costume wearer) should look like based on that. It’s absurd, I know.
Of course, if folk are dressing up for a bit of fun, then no one should give a rat’s ass what they look like. So long as they actually try to look like the character and have a fun time doing it, then what’s the harm? I’ve seen plenty of fat batmen and batwomen in my time and I most certainly don’t feel compelled to shout negative thoughts about it.
Lastly, I couldn’t agree more on the idea of cosplay galleries. There’s just no justification for having them on gaming news sites.
And yes, I realise I’ve just reiterated some of the many excellent points in this article but I wanted to comment, damnit!
That was a great article, Amanda. Well-argued, and damned if I can’t disagree with a word of it.
I’m not into cosplay. I don’t oppose it or anything, it just isn’t a hobby I’ve ever understood. Some of the effort that goes into those costumes, though, and the passion that must be necessary to work and work to create them, I’m offended by the idea that someone, man or woman, shouldn’t be “allowed” to dress up as someone because they don’t suit the body type.
Liberal guys like me face a crisis. On one hand I hate that women are so regularly and casually excluded from our geeky hobbies. On the other I really do like sexy chicks in costumes, but I don’t want to objectify. Sexy is in the eye of the beholder though, not some arbitrary social dictate.
I don’t know that we can (or maybe even should) ever get past a certain degree of objectification on either side of the gender pool. But when it becomes malice (Dead Island’s “feminist whore”); or segregationist (“women should only cosplay characters who match their body shape”); that I don’t like.
Very thoughtful, Amanda. And BTW, you’ll do just fine in the Batwoman costume. I’m sad you won’t be able to attend the Detroit IGDA Halloween party!
I think the problem comes from affection. People get to love those characters, and they get disappointed when they see them in reality. Probably even if they are of the right body type, and if not…
I agree with you though, you should be able to distinguish fiction from reality and get over it.
Thoughts from a guy who doesn’t understand and like cosplay in general.
Excellent read Ms. Lange! I for one like girls on the meatier side, so I don’t understand what all those boys are complaining about.
Also, Sam Kieth FTW! Best damned comic book artist, and a damned good storyteller to boot!
Yeah, another me too post.
I’ve never found cosplay interesting and I lived in the cosplay heartland of Japan for five years. All the same reasons: not about the games and the female side of the equation is more boothbabe-y than anyone wants to admit – all about the looks, all the time.
Also, I didn’t use to feel this way so maybe I’m just getting cynically old, but characters feel more like managed corporate brands these days. Which means the character you’re really coming as is “sexy viral marketing campaign”.
Thanks for enjoying the article! It was just really on my mind as Halloween comes up. And I’m not really all that unsure about my own outfit or I wouldn’t be doing it. I almost didn’t post that because I didn’ t want to make it just about me. But geek guys have a way of making women insecure, and it’s really not fair, so I think we should just be proud.
Cosplay galleries are just a thing I’m really tired of seeing on game sites, even without this slant. To me it’s like looking at someone’s vacation slides: not so interesting unless you were there.
I’m also sorry I’ll miss the igda party. Hope you have a great time! We’re having one out here in Friday.
I am also sorry that WordPress likes to eat my line breaks because I had to edit this like three times. 🙂
I’ll forgo specifically voicing my agreement and rather note that this is an oddly timely post, given the recent debacle involving cosplay and Men’s Fitness magazine.
Which seemed like a huge thing earlier in the week, but maybe that has something to do with the number of geeks I follow on Twitter. Hurm.
Good one Amanda – if someone wants to dress up for fun, and it ain’t hurtin’ anyone else – more power to them! They’re expressing their love of a character or game or movie or whatever, and in many cases they’ve gone to a lot of effort to do so. If people were worried about whether their body-type was appropriate for a certain costume, then that’s pandering to the expectations of others a little too much for my tastes. Everyone is entitled to a little fun.
@Brandon: “I would like to begin today’s missive by formally inviting Men’s Fitness Magazine and writer Jordan Burchette to feast on a giant bag of dicks” has to be one of the best opening lines to an article I’ve read in a while. It was even better knowing the context of it. Thanks for the link!
I’ve got to say that I do enjoy seeing the cosplay pics, sure, I don’t go hunting them down but the effort some people do (or don’t!) put in and the spirit they have participating in these things I always find entertaining. My favourite pics are the ones of people who clearly don’t give a crap about being ‘size-appropriate’ or hell, even gender-appropriate and I think that’s entirely because they run counter to the “sexy viral marketing campaign” image vacuum that HM refers to. A lot of game characters look ridiculous and cosplayers — even the best ones — with their characters firmly out of the virtual domain illustrate that all too well! I remember dressing up as Luigi and I just looked ridiculous but it was a good laugh. I particularly like seeing the rag-tag bands of Final Fantasy characters made up of all genders, ethnicities and physiques.
As far as I’m concerned cosplay pics have every right to be allowed on non-news centric game sites (at least in moderation!) because they’re part of gaming culture and I think they’re great fun if nothing else. What’s not fun however, is the usual cheap insults and inconsiderate heckling that comes with them.
Cosplay for geeky (and often disaffected) women of any size or shape, same as renfaires and SF conventions them before them, have always been their place to shine. It’s a pity the online echo-space slams some of, but hardly surprising.
Now I’ll start a fire: and feel sexually desired and get laid.
And add gasoline: I’ve always had a theory that women, wildly generalizing, love shoes so much because any woman of any shape can feel attractive with her feet if in no other way.
Get down Amanda, with your Batwoman self. 😉
As a freak with rather broad horizons I’ve always been perplexed by the dissidence between what I’ve seen at a convention like Comic Con and what I’ve seen published in the media. It is not the fact that the media focuses on “the beautiful people”; but rather, that the people publishing and broadcasting the media rarely look like the folks they seem driven to portray. It seems odd that media for geeks, by geeks, about geeks would not embrace all geeks whether they look like ripped jocks or rotund slackers.
As to the issue of “sexy”, I guess it takes a level of maturity to admit that most of the glamour and allure of “sexy” people has more to do with self confidence, grace and body-awareness than any specific physical trait. It is a rather shallow person whose sole interests in others is based merely on the fashion of their shells. I’m sure we’ve all met some incredibly beautiful shells who have exceptionally ugly ways.
Unfortunately, the internet is a sponge for schadenfreude and mean criticism because of the anonymity it affords people. Until the world becomes populated with people who refuse to delight in such petty cruelty I doubt there will ever be a time when cosplayers won’t be the target of internet ire. Publishers and broadcasters know this and they count on it to drive up their page views.
I just hope that all the “I’m-probably-too-X-to-be-Y” costumes become “I-love-being-Y” costumes because when you love how you look it puts that special beauty all over you that clothes can’t cover up. Mix that with a fun attitude and you’re probably well on your way to having a good time, right?
Get down. 🙂
Wise words Brown Fang. 😉
Nice piece, I’ve been lapping up reading up so much media on geekdom and video games from Female writers recently.
On the case of Cosplayers, I admire them in many ways but the idea (incidentally for those who don’t know: I am male) of dressing in anything other than my standard clothes I find terrifying.
Thanks Gregg. I’m just trying to keep up.
With such a great topic and thoughtful comments, I figured I should put some of my college brain to use. Like Steerpike, my liberal sensibilities often cloud my libido’s vision (in a healthy way) and vice versa.
Fat acceptance = genocide
The obesity epidemic is killing America and the world. If you believe in having a welfare state, if you believe in universal access to health care, if you believe in having a health care system at all, you have to take a firm line on obesity… Or all those things are going to disappear.
It’s funny how a disease that affects a tiny sliver of the rich and articulate class, anorexia, gets a disproportionate amount of media attention compared to obesity, which affects “the 99% of us” including blacks, latinos, poor whites, etc.
I don’t even know where to begin.
Great article, Amanda. I like to dress up for Halloween at least, but the costume selection leaves much to be desired, especially the sexy ones.
Way to kill a discussion, Paul A. Houle. The day you have to pay one red cent for my fatness is the day you earn the right to criticize my lifestyle choices.
(I am one of the original Four Fat Chicks. I carry my own weight, thankyouverymuch.)