Stranger than fiction: Fan Identity In Cosplay



Stranger than fiction: Fan identity in cosplay

Nicolle Lamerichs

Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

[0.1] Abstract—Academic accounts of fan cultures usually focus on creative practices such as fan fiction, fan videos, and fan art. Through these practices, fans, as an active audience, closely interpret existing texts and rework them with texts of their own. A practice scarcely examined is cosplay (“costume play”), in which fans produce their own costumes inspired by fictional characters. Cosplay is a form of appropriation that transforms and actualizes an existing story in close connection to the fan community and the fan’s own identity. I provide analytical insights into this fan practice, focusing on how it influences the subject. Cosplay is understood as a performative activity and analyzed through Judith Butler’s concept of performativity. I specifically focus on boundaries between the body and dress, and on those between reality and fiction. I aim to show that cosplay emphasizes the personal enactment of a narrative, thereby offering new perspectives on fan identity.

[0.2] Keywords—Crossplay; Fan costumes; Judith Butler; Performativity

Lamerichs, Nicolle. 2011. “Stranger than Fiction: Fan Identity in Cosplay.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 7.doi:10.3983/twc.2011.0246.

1. Introduction

[1.1] When I was 18 years old, I attended my first fan convention, Animecon 2005, in the Netherlands. I was aware that fans often “cosplayed” at such conventions, meaning they dressed as fictional characters they loved. A friend of mine had made me an Aerith costume; Aerith is a character from Final Fantasy VII. She hoped we could enter the costume competition. She had become an avid cosplayer since her first convention and really wanted to participate with aFinal Fantasy act. Aerith was the most practical choice for me. I could relate to her, and I had long brown hair just like hers. My friend portrayed Ceres (Final Fantasy VI), my sister opted for Quistis (Final Fantasy VIII), and we had also recruited a Tifa (Final Fantasy VII) and a Shadow (Final Fantasy VI). Most of us knew each other already, but our Tifa was a fan whom we had met online on a Dutch anime fan community. In the costume competition, all of us participated in a five-minute on-stage beauty contest that we had written months before and had practiced in advance. For Tifa and me, this was our first convention, and we were amazed by the many costumes we saw. When we were out of costume at the end of the convention, we were at a bit of a loss. Those costumes were tied to our con experience, and even more to our selves.

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