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Cosplay 101 For The Critical Christian

Is cosplay only sexualized, villainous, or pointless? Can cosplay glorify our Creator?
| Sep 8, 2017 | 2 comments | Series:

Now that we have defined some basic terms about cosplay–in part 1, Cosplay 101 for the Confused Christian–we can talk about common misapprehensions and myths about cosplay.

‘But isn’t cosplay mostly about flouncing around and showing off boobies?’


When some years back a popular homicide drama set an episode at a costume convention, they spiced up the script by emphasizing kinky meetups and fetishes. But the cosplay community spent the next year rolling our eyes and repeating endlessly, No, that’s not really the point.

Cosplay is about sharing enthusiasm for media and creative interpretations of it. You may hear the phrase, “No costume is no costume,” meaning nudity isn’t costuming.

Are there people who sell photos in skimpy cosplay-inspired lingerie? Of course, just as there are people who sell similar photos outside of cosplay. But they are no more representative of the hobby and community as a whole than Playboy’s swimsuit issue is to beaches and swimmers.

Cosplay is about becoming someone else. It’s performance art. Here my sister, Alena, plays Nathan Drake from the “Uncharted” game series.

‘What does it mean when a cosplayer picks a villain to play?’

C’mon—did you ever want to be Darth Vader or Boba Fett when playing with friends? Did you ever enact your bad-guy toys smashing a building block and LEGO bricks town? Yeah.

Without my going into a dissertation on the history of social masquerade and role-play through the millennia, suffice it to say that there is a long tradition of exploring social mores through costumes, masks, and playacting.

For every rare sociopath who chooses to play a Nazi because he has disturbed socio-political views of his own, there are hundreds who play Red Skull because they want to interact with Captain America cosplayers or want the technical challenge of the prosthetics and makeup.

Would you question the social behavior of an actor who played a villain on film or onstage? If not, then why question someone who plays a similar role at another event?

Just as every villainous character comes from within the writer and yet the writer is not necessarily villainous in real life, cosplay is not a single-dimension snapshot of a person’s character and beliefs. The 501st Legion is perhaps the best-known cosplay charity, and it’s composed entirely of Star Wars villains!

Alena again, this time playing Marguerite St. Just.

‘But shouldn’t you grow out of it? What is it good for?’

Ah, that ancient question of justifying the existence of art, whatever its form.

Fortunately, cosplay develops quite a lot of marketable skills.

We can start with the obvious avenues into professional work. I have a number of friends who have, through cosplay, found positions in theater, on film sets, on television and web series, on cruise ships, at promotional events, and more.

However, leaving those aside, cosplay also helps build social and professional skills. Many shy or introverted fans find it far easier to start a conversation from one character to another and then can transition into making new friends behind the mask or makeup.

One friend of mine had never done any public speaking until cosplay took her onstage to perform in competitions. When she was asked to do a presentation at work, she felt a rush of panic. And then, she told me, she just thought about a cosplay skit and imagined herself onstage. And she nailed the presentation and got a commendation from her boss with a request to do more.

Likewise, another friend, who had done little public speaking, started by coming offstage with hands shaking and heart racing. Now he can improv in front of hundreds of people.

Cosplay does more for teens and college students than any speech class I’ve seen.

And then there are the life skills of learning to budget time and money, learning to recycle and upcycle, learning to think outside the box and to train in new techniques. In our cosplay workshops we always introduce the Law of Resources: There are Fast, Cheap, and Good, and you can choose any two of the three. This rule applies not just to cosplay but to all of life!

And finally, cosplay is yet another expression of the creativity we bear as part of the image of God our Creator. Just as with the stories we enjoy, cosplay allows us to create and share stories. And that is not something we outgrow and leave behind with childhood—it is a part of what makes us human and children of God.

Does this sound fun? Go ahead and think of a few characters you might like to play. I’d love to see your work!

Laura VanArendonk Baugh is a masters-level cosplayer with dozens of awards, a cosplay workshop instructor, and a cosplay judge. She is also the award-winning author of speculative fiction novels and short stories, non-fiction, and the murder mystery Con Job, set at a fandom convention. You can find her cosplay group at “…And Sewing Is Half the Battle!” and her writing at LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com.

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Jo Michelle

Excuse me while I have a brief fan freakout moment over the fact that Marguerite St. Just was referenced in this. I mean, the Scarlet Pimpernel fandom is so small, it’s a great moment when I find someone else who’s a member of the League.

E. Stephen Burnett

My wife felt much the same. In fact, she pointed out that the cosplay (as she recalls) is specifically from an all-female troupe in Japan who performed a musical version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.