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Cosplay and Body Image

This morning, I stumbled upon this comic, called Is This What Respect Feels Like (click the link for the comic). At first glance, it has some good points. It discusses body image, both the downsides of being overweight or being overly 'sexy' in the context of cosplay and comics. Body image is an important thing to consider, but then I read it between the lines, based on my own and others' experience. I also thought about it in the context it presented itself: comics and cosplay culture.

To begin, I do feel bad for the people who this has happened to. However, I don't think it would happen in the direct context of somewhere like a Comics Convention. You are more likely to be sexualized than be judged for your weight. This is why the concept of 'Cosplay =/= Consent' arose, stating that yes, girls and young women may dress in attractive forms of cosplay, but it does not mean that it is consent for sexual harassment. However, being made fun of for not having an ideal body image...

First of all, I have seen confident, happy, cosplayers of all shapes and sizes. They pose for photos, after spending months on the costume that fits their body shape and their individual personality. Now, when I say this, I do not mean women strictly. Cosplayers come in all genders, and all cosplayers have the same issue of body image. Especially when they choose to portray a comics character.

Traditionally, and even today, comic superheroes are drawn in what we call 'heroic proportions'. This means roughly this:

Really, heroic proportions are a lot easier to draw. They are exaggerated, and just that- they look heroic. Now, look at every person you've ever met. How many look like this? Speaking from my own experience, both in people I've met and learning about anatomical proportions... Most of these heroic proportions aren't really that realistic to achieve. When body image is brought into cosplay, as they say in the comic being discussed, no one is really good enough. However, because no one is good enough, that circles back and everyone is good enough.

Again, I feel terrible for people who have been picked on, but for body image, it goes beyond women. Comics and superhero films depict men and women as heroic, almost godly, figures. Women constantly discuss issues with body image, but the reality is that men have just as many emotional and psychological issues due to the body images presented to them through these different forms of mediums. We live in a world where everyone has a messed-up body image, and a world where it's harder to be thin because of what is in food. In a separate world like Comic Con, everyone is in the same boat. The comic implies that everyone else at a comic expo is so sure of themselves and their own image that they will all collectively laugh at you, and make you feel terrible about yourself. Which... is doubtful. You are more likely to get picked on out there, in schools and the real world, than in comic con, where everyone is a geek who plays video games, collect comics, spends hours every week watching bad movies, and above all, marvels at the work spent on a good costume. 

I do have issues when people write comics that suggest that no one is good enough to cosplay, without offering anything else. The comic states that no one respects you as a woman, and you're either fat or you're a slut. In truth, it's hurtful to everyone who does passionately cosplay. It's hurtful to someone like me, where it's implied, through the two options offered, that I am a slut for dressing up. The comic implies that all cosplayers have low self esteem, and that there is only one way to cosplay. It also implies that because no one is good enough, no one should cosplay. Which... is a tragic idea. There are so many beautiful people who cosplay. Amazing people who spend months planning and making their costumes, and even go over on time, so they have to be sewn into their outfit. Men, women, and children, who look stunning in their outfits, and they shine through with confidence. Their craft is perfect, they fit the character, and people revel at the work done and time spent. It is like so many forms of art. People admire how much work is done, and it doesn't matter if you're fat, skinny, tall, short, cosplaying as an anime character, a comic book superhero, or Doctor Who. Cosplayers are confident, overwhelmingly amazing people, and the world needs to know it, instead of thinking that all of us have low self-esteem or thinking that maybe we shouldn't or don't cosplay because of how others might see us. Also, if you are a cosplayer who doesn't want to cosplay because of your body image... Cosplay any ways. You can dress however you want, you can change the character's clothes to fit you. Just remember that in a place like a comic convention or expo, people will stand up for you, if someone was to make fun of you. More often than not, they will simply look at your costume in awe, and have respect for you. 

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