(Image from http://officialcallmekira.deviantart.com/)
She looks awesome. Why can’t I dress like like that? Really. Yes, I said that. However, this isn’t me announcing aspirations to bend my gender at all (sorry, everyone), but more one of realisation of why I haven’t been drawn at all into cosplay. In short, I don’t think it’s weird or daft. I just find it really boring, and today I think I figured out why. It comes across to me as a matter of gender. Not because of the stigma around sexualisation at all (of which there is obviously a lot), but simply the way we dress seems to ‘work’. Male characters seem to translate well to female costumes, but for some reason, this doesn’t work in reverse. It’s a big part of the cosplay procedure, and it’s missing for the guys, and… that kind of whomps.
So, how on earth did this subject come about? Yesterday, for some reason I looked up one of my favourite shows as a child – Recess. I hadn’t seen it in years, and unlike as I do with my parents on many occasions (“Are you sure you heard the Pokemon theme from my room? That was Slipknot!”), I won’t even bother trying to come up with an excuse here. Having not watched it in nigh on fifteen years, I found one of my old favourite episodes on YouTube, and watched it. ‘The Story of Whomps’ was the 1990s equivalent of the infamous ‘Sailor Mouth’ episode of Spongebob Squarepants, for which the writers created a fictional swear word, that causes a world of trouble when people start using it.
The scripts are cleverly written, and the word used in so many different ways that no single English profanity could fall into all of the spaces. It sounds brilliant when used as a verb, as Ashley Spinelli does manage to accidentally whomp her finger in her desk. It reminds me of how a festival friend mentioned a massive downpour at Download Festival 2013, as the time that “it cunted it down with rain”. Remember that one for your next soggy camping experience.
But what has this got to do with anything? It’s Spinelli, and dare I say, the cunt bit, or lack of (sorry, I couldn’t resist. I should be ashamed of myself…). The subject of cosplay came up with a female friend. It is her first love, but it is something that has never interested me much. It’s just not really for me. Perhaps if there were a group of people that friends wanted to go as but there was someone not yet covered, and I could help, I’d be happy to fill in, but more for the fun with friends than it would be over the costume. On the rare occasions that I have dressed up ridiculously, it has been consciously daft. That photo of the grinning bespectacled guy? That’s me. It was Star Wars Night at a local nightclub, and my lack of a costume led me to arrive in pyjamas and a Jedi dressing gown.
During this conversation, I said half-jokingly that if I were a woman, that I would look like Spinelli. Not just in fancy dress. She is just… me, and I reckon that’s how I would look. Coincidentally, I probably have the right hair for it at the moment. Then it dawned on me. I had considered the massive spectrums of make-up, clothes and shoes, and thought it was ridiculous (is there a competition to plaster yourself with as many different colours as possible?), but in this instance, I genuinely felt kind of jealous, and I began to realise why cosplay hadn’t won me over. I’m a man, and unless one were to be encrusted with subculture-specific paraphernalia (which often seems really contrived to me. I know, I’m boring), the way that I dress has next to no variables beyond whatever is on my latest novelty t-shirt. I would be expected to dress for the sake of daft, or with spectacular accuracy. I have never really been absorbed enough into any TV shows or films to be drawn to do this. The ‘good’ in “looking good” if I were in costume would only be for how impressive the intricacy of the costume was. Even the most swooned over male models could not find a way to be dressed as a female character, without humour or glaring irony.
It removes, for me, any appeal or enjoyable substance to the pastime at all. What’s left behind is sadly… kind of boring. I’m sure a lot of people would gladly give me a kick up the backside for saying this, because I understand that many women feel victimised due to extra work imposed on them to look good. If that were to happen to me, within days, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were sick of it. I am blessed with simplicity. However, I think it’s a canvas that men don’t really seem to have. The subject of cosplay made this all the more appropriate because I realised that it was a whole lot simpler for a male character’s appearance to be adapted for a woman in a more intricate outfit, than it is the other way around. I couldn’t shoehorn the dress, jacket, stripy socks of Spinelli, into a t-shirt. I think that women are far more enabled to dress “in the style of [insert male character]”, to the point that so long as one can work out what the colours of clothes are meant to represent, the appearance is probably fine. She might look ‘tomboyish’, but that isn’t a negative. With less to work with though, and subsequently no subtlety, there is nothing that the ‘Princess Leia’ below could have done to make the costume into something more masculine and be ‘Prince Liam’, in the way that we have ‘Hannah Solo’. He’s doomed to just have to wear a dress.
I think that had I been a woman, that I would be far more into cosplay than I am as a man. Quietly, I do think it’s kind of disappointing.
Just not quietly enough that I haven’t just written over 1000 words on the matter for the world to see.