Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why We Cosplay, Why We Take Pictures, and Why You're Wrong to Hate Us - by Megan Marie Fox and Oscar Chang

Editor's Note: There's a particularly vile article going around the interwebs this week, with some guy trying to put himself into a position of judging people for what and how they cosplay. It's stupid, and we aren't going to link to it. However, it did inspire Megan to write an article about why she cosplays, and what misconceptions she has to face every time she does it. It also inspired Oscar Chang, one of the photographers featured in that article, to send us a response - in that particular article, he was portrayed as a creepy, up-skirt shooting convention troll, and he wanted to clear the air. Both responses are below.


I wake up at five o’clock on a Summer Saturday morning. I’ve laid out my clothing for the day the night before. I apply a dozen different kinds of makeup, spray some long lasting setting spray, and then I apply my wig. The transformation half complete, I step into my costume and become someone new. Someone from a different world, with different problems. I’m in someone else’s skin, and it feels awesome.

This art is called Cosplay, and you’ve likely heard of it by now, through any dozens of media outlets – Kotaku, Entertainment Weekly, etc. It’s people dressing up like their favorite character from movies, television, comic-books, manga or anime and strutting around a convention near you. Common reactions to cosplay include horn honks, shouting, picture taking and personal interection. But thanks to the internet there is a whole other group of reactions out there – hateful and gleefully ignorant folks have taken to the perpetuation of many unfriendly stereotypes to cosplayers worldwide. Common misconceptions include…

1) Cosplayers are all teenaged girls.

This is a ludicris statement and unabashidly false. I am in my twenties and got into the cosplay scene at age 22. True, most cosplayers in the media are younger girls in their early twenties, but that is due to an obvious appeal to youth. I have seen a Katniss Everdeen played by a fourty year old woman and Dick Tracy at retirement age, are we really going to go there and say only teenaged girls like dressing up in costumes?

2) Cosplay is just an excuse to look like a slut.

Ok, hold on there! Before I get my broadsword on this one let’s look at one predominent fact: historically men have dictated how female characters look in videogames and comic books. This goes double for video games. Female armour has always been skimpier than men’s, and usually the torso is left mysteriously unprotected (I’m looking at you World of Warcraft). It was popularly believed that men would not want to play a character that was all covered up.

One of the most notorious examples is Tomb Raider’s Toby Gard accidently enlarging Lara Croft’s boosom a whopping 150% and then allegedly being told to leave it that way. Then why, you may ask, would a woman want to dress like a character who appears to perpetuate negative physical sexual stereotypes? The answer is simple: boobs and all, Lara Croft is a strong woman who goes it alone in a man’s world, stealing what is hers and fighting any who would harm her. If we lived in a perfect world, perhaps even franchises like Star Wars wouldn’t feed off of men’s sexual desires when designing female costumes, but I don’t see that day coming any time soon. However, aknowledging that we live in this sexist world, why the hell can’t women who play these games, read these comic books, and watch these shows and movies dress like the characters they love? I have seen far too many men dressed as future Wolverine and Khal Drogo for anyone to argue only women like to show a little skin. And I’ve never heard a single Spartan called a “slut” on the way to Hall H.

Please don't call them names, they are BOTH HOLDING KNIVES (-Ed)

3) Cosplayers are unoriginal.

Cosplay could be called a game of imitation, but you would be only half right. Have you ever tried to make a souffle from a cook book? Even if you follow all of the instructions, sometimes it just doesn’t come out the same as the picture. This is exactly how sewing works, but many times you don’t even have an instruction manual (or a pattern) to go off of. All you have is your reference picture of Batwoman – and just how does her cloak hang that way? There is a certain art to piecing through an artistic rendering of a character and making it a piece of wearable art – this is why costume creation is so time-comsuming, labor intensive and costly. What you see at a convention, no matter how simple it may look, probably took hundreds of hours from conception to creation. I have seen store-bought costumes at conventions, but they are few and far between. So please, lend a bit of respect to even what you may think is shoddily built costume at your next convention. As a good friend once told me, “If it was easy, everyone would do it”.

Now on a personal note, I have been fully dressed as Barbara Gordon (the Batgirl years) from head to toe on more than a few occasions. I’ve gotten everything from yells and whistles to a request for a picture with a traditionally dressed muslim woman. This was while wearing the same costume - on the same day!

Every convention I go to I hear mutterings of “I guess she likes the attention” directed at myself or any number of cosplayers. The short answer, is none of us would spend the time we do on a costume if we didn’t think we’d have fun with the final product, and sometimes that includes a little bit of attention. I love bumping into Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy with a bag of money and posing like I’m about to bust them. I love running into people who are just as crazy about the thing I’m dressed up as and geeking out with them in line for twenty minutes. And I love dressing up and meeting the people who create the stuff I’m dressed up as. It is a form of mutual admiration. As Pendelton Ward, creator of “Adventure Time” said in a panel in 2010, “Wow, you know you’ve made it when people are dressing like your characters at Comic-Con!”

There are a few proud men and women who actually get paid to attend conventions in costume, and there is nothing wrong with that! It can be rewarding to get paid for what you love to do, and it that’s creating revolutionary costumes, then fantastic. There are many different kinds of cosplayers out there and they we are not just one  culture sub group blob. Please respect your men and women in Spandex – we will do the same for you.

Megan Marie Fox currently lives in the beautiful city of San Francisco. Comic-Con is her favorite holiday.


So, it's funny that this photo would come up all these years later. I had to look up when this was, but after digging in my livejournal (OMG LJ! Talk about dating myself...) this was all the way back in 2009 at Anime Expo in LA. My friend Jeff took these of me while I was doing a shoot, unbeknownst to me. But we all had a good laugh about it and admittedly I look like your stereotypical creepy photographer.

For a little bit of context: AnimeExpo was held at the Anaheim Convention center that year. Being a pretty busy day at the convention, there were a lot of people around the main hall. So what's a photographer to do, just take pictures with people in the background? I decided to angle up so that would avoid having a busy backdrop, and really focus on the cosplayer. In this case, my friend Lisa who was in her original Steampunk costume.

The other benefit was I was able to use the fantastic metal structure of the ceiling of the convention center as my background for the photo.

Here's another shot of me, I think I was directing her on where to put her hands and to lean in slightly towards me. If nothing else, it shows that she knows I'm there and I'm not taking any sneaky photos of her. Plus the fact that she's actually wearing shorts and a wrap. So really there is no danger of a skeevy shot or creepiness. But again, I completely admit it that first photo looks terrible.

And of course, the proof is in the pudding. The actual resulting photo is above. With her costuming as a steampunk captain, the steel beams and trusses of the ceiling made a great background. Also I think that with that very extreme angle, she looks very commanding, befitting a officer of her rank! ;-)

Now, admittedly, I would over use that technique through the course of the convention. I mean, I found a great background why not keep using it?

Anyway, that's the story behind my "creepy" photo. I'm sure many people will still think that I was a creepier doing it, but for me, my friends were very comfortable with me shooting at such extreme angles and they were very happy with the resulting photos. So I hope that people aim their "creeper" guns somewhere else and let us have fun playing dress up and taking photos.

Oscar Chang is a professional photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area, and can be found for bookings at

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  1. Great summary! I only wish I had the time to make a sold costume, myself!

  2. Cosplay is one really enjoyable event, I have got a lot of fun from cosplay, as choosing characters, making cosplay costumes, making-up, taking photos. People will never know enjoyment of cosplay until they join it.