What does it mean to cosplay? Reflctions on a weekend at StarFest

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The first costume I ever wore in my life was a handcrafted Thorin Oakenshield from the Hobbit when I was one or two years old. Then, when I was in fifth grade, I tricked my mom into sewing me a Mortal Kombat costume -- Scorpion -- for Halloween. Since then, I've never really thought about wandering around in costume or projecting myself into other worlds through slight-of-hand clothes changes, but plenty of people, old and young, do it at nearly every convention. This weekend at StarFest, people were decked out in all types of outfits, but no matter what you might think, their reasons weren't always the same, nor were the results.

To the general observer, there are two different types of cosplayers: those who dress as a character and those who dress as a part of the universe. This doesn't seem like much of a difference, and to most people looking in from the outside, it seems like adults dressing like kids on Halloween. But that difference is crucial, both in the way the cosplayers present themselves and how they view their costumes.

Brent Neustifter
Sarah Kerrigan from Starcraft and Lara Croft from Tomb Raider
Take the above two girls, both dressed as videogame characters, both passionate about what they're doing, but not obsessed. Why are they dressed up? Both pretty much gave the same response -- "because I like the character design." Nothing more, nothing less. No deep-seated emotional problems and weirdness, just two people who enjoy the one to two weeks of preparation for a day out at a convention showing off their work. The same goes for Zapp Brannigan below, a nice young man who simply enjoys the crap out of Futurama and happens to like having his picture taken. He chose Zapp not because he wanted to live out a sexy-space captain dream, but because comic characters are underrepresented and he knew he'd be the only one.

Brent Neustifter

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Aimee L. Matheny
Aimee L. Matheny


neustifter's just lucky we didn't capture him and sell him to a neighboring tribe for gasoline and smokes.

seriously, though, thoughtful commentary. thanks.

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