I recently came across a great blog from Caitlin Going Postal, An Open Challenge to Cosplay Audiences, that presented a simple but effective solution to the common complaint that “sexy cosplay” gets more attention than other types:
“Instead of pointing fingers at cosplayers who are comfortable with showing off their bodies [...] we should consider our audiences and the consumers who lavish attention on the “sexy stuff.” The impetus is not on the cosplayer to change or censor themselves.” [Caitlin Going Postal]
Rather than complaining about the popularity of cosplay you don’t like, Caitlin suggests a sort of “put your money where your mouth is” response of actively supporting the types of cosplay you do want to see.
I think this is a simple and easy way to throw your weight behind any issue, not just the “sexy cosplay” debate. For example — tired of seeing Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy? Rather than saying nasty things to or about those Harleys and Ivys, try saying some nice things about some Dominos or Black Canarys. Tired of people gluing gears on things and calling it steampunk? Show the world what great steampunk cosplay really looks like — without putting down the gear-gluers.
Basically, look at the thing you’re annoyed with, and find the opposite. Let’s say you love Disney, but you’re tired of seeing identical Disney princess cosplays. The opposite might be unique Disney cosplays — Side characters! Alternate princess dresses! A new take on a classic dress! Not sure how to find those cosplayers? Google is your friend for tracking down specific cosplays, and open submission cosplay feature pages can show you a good variety (try The Art of Cosplay, Super Cosplay Gallery, or the newly established Up & Coming Cosplay for growing cosplayers.)
What you can do
Supporting cosplayers comes in many easy forms. Here are some options:
- Engage — Your likes and comments do mean something. Facebook gauges a post’s value based on its engagement, and how it gets distributed to other users is dependent partially on that. So in other words: By interacting with a Facebook post, you can get it shown to more people.
- Share — The next step up is to distribute that cosplayer’s work to others. You can do that using the Facebook share button to share it to a group or to your own profile or page, but you can also do this by sharing their work on other platforms — tweeting about it, sharing on Tumblr (make sure to check if the cosplayer has their own blog you can reblog from before you repost; and obviously if you repost, link to the source!), or even featuring it on your website if you have one.
- Buy — Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone, and some cosplayers also don’t provide an opportunity for you to put your literal money where your mouth is with your support, but for those cosplayers who do: Buy prints, pledge to Patreons, buy from Etsy shops, commission works. Money is power, and many of the cosplayers who dominate our internet feeds are only able to do so because they have money to invest in the hobby.
Will it change anything?
Although there's no actual data on this specific situation yet, supply and demand is a proven economic model — by consuming the cosplay you like, you’re creating demand for it. And there are only a million [insert cosplay trend you hate] cosplays because people are consuming it, and enjoying it. The power to consume a product and create demand lies with you. Use it!
And I can tell you that, from the perspective of a cosplayer, the passionate support of individuals absolutely makes a difference. I know so many of my most dedicated followers by name because they’re always commenting, always sharing, always supportive — and while one share or like might not seem like it means much, my 9,000+ Facebook fans are each individual people, and I have every single one of them to thank for the success I’ve had so far.
So I want you to take Caitlin’s challenge: I want you to stop pointing fingers and start showing support. If you’ve ever turned up your nose at a cosplay trend, talked shit about whole groups of cosplayers, or left a nasty or negative comment to that effect, I challenge you to do penance for your sins: Pick a cosplayer who represents what you value in cosplay, and perform a supportive act. Just one, to start. But I hope you’ll make a habit of it.