Cosplay and Community

Miss America Chavez Cosplay

New York Comic Con 2019

Photo by Henry Keyser

This past weekend, I attended New York Comic Con 2019. Comic Con is a pop culture convention consisting of panels for comic books, tv shows, movies, and all sorts of fandoms. In addition to panels and celebrities, there are vendors representing all sorts of fandoms, interactive opportunities, and an artist alley showcasing the art of very talented artists. But one of the highlights for me every year is seeing all of the cosplay.

I attended my first convention about six years ago in Chicago. I am a huge Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan and have turned to my favorite characters for ideas for Halloween costumes. I’ve always loved dressing up (I am in theatre after all), but I must admit that when I attended my first con I felt intimidated. I didn’t grow up reading comic books, I had never seen Star Trek, and I had just watched all of the original Star Wars movies for the first time. I didn’t quite know what to expect. What I discovered is how events like this provide a chance to celebrate and connect with others.

There are hugely popular cosplay competitions held at most conventions. And those are intense! Cosplay is a shortened term for costume play. It’s when someone dresses as a character from a video game, movie, tv-show, comic book, or their imagination. But it is more than just dressing up as your favorite character, it is taking the time to fully embody that character (like an actor does). People work really hard and spend a long time perfecting their cosplay outfits. Sewing, manufacturing, and tech elements go into creating some of the coolest outfits. People line up to fill huge venues where these cosplayers will show off their creations on stage and be judged by a panel to win some amazing prizes. You can learn more here: http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-cosplay-20759.

However, it is seeing the cosplays on the floor that make me excited. Seeing someone dressed up as your favorite character, a Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec or Spider Gwen, is such a thrill. Seeing a young boy dressed up as Miles Morales’ Spiderman or a girl dressed as She-Ra makes me excited about the influx of diverse heroes entering mainstream media. Having people ask to take pictures with each other, gasp when they see someone dressed as their favorite character, unites strangers. It’s totally ok to ask someone to take a picture with them, to get into a conversation about why you also love that movie or that character, and to share your own appreciation for characters.

I have started embracing the opportunity to cosplay as a way to connect my passion with others. Having someone compliment your cosplay makes you feel seen. They TOO know this character! They TOO love them as much as I do! Without needing to do any theatre games or warm-ups, I am connected to a larger network of people who share my passion.

I have seen dance parties break out on the floor with Spiderman, Ironman, Elsa from Frozen, etc all busting out their best moves. I have seen little kids look up to adults dressed as their favorite characters and vice versa. There is so much joy in the air during comic con. It is almost indescribable. People enter these conventions with passion, with excitement, and an eagerness to connect with others. If you’re interested in spaces that create community, there is no better place than comic con. I wish you the luck and opportunity to attend the next convention in your town.

Sindy Castro