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Cosplay and Body Image

Cosplay and Body Image


I am an advocate for cosplay equality. Cosplay equality emcompases everything, ability, age, gender, race and size but with the Irish con season in full-swing, I’ve noticed the same problem popping up and it’s not just isolated to Ireland – cosplay and size.


The human body is viewed/portrayed as an object – there is no dressing that fact up or down, ‘first impressions’ are never based on your personality but rather on your aesthetics – we ‘dress for success’, wear ‘looks that could kill’ and we have become preoccupied with appearance. On the one hand, your appearance can be used as a statement about who you are – wearing business wear denotes professionalism, skinny jeans, piercings and dyed hair could signify alternative culture but I’m not talking about the clothes you wear but rather the skin and frame you find yourself in. Fat and flabby people are lazy! Skinny and toned people are pro-active! It sounds as ridiculous as it reads but that’s what we A told regularly, whether you’re looping your belt to get the last notch or you are willing the top button to close – your body whether you intended it to or not tells people who you are apparently. Which is not always the case.
So what happens when people who don’t have the model of the perfect body – that tall, slender and toned physique? What happens when the people outside that bracket attempt to cosplay the characters from video games, comics and movies that look like  super models with super powers?
So what? People can cosplay whoever they want – that’s nice but that’s not the mainstream attitude – cosplaying seems to attract a harsher backlash both from within and outside the community, people targeted for their weight, for a number on a weighing scales!


I am mainly speaking from a girls point of view although it has baffled me when I see how ripped some male characters are. Sure most fictional characters mainly from comics and books are taller than average and have figures that are not average by any means. These figures are mainly achieved by months even years of hard work by the average joe and up keep that never ends.
Picking a cosplay seems to be getting more and more difficult for some people for a plethora of reasons because in a society where emphasis is being put on health, fitness and appearance the gap between us and our idols is becoming bigger. The average female character is described as slim, fit or having an athletic body. In comics you see the definition of their idea of an athletic body, nicely sculpted but rounded thighs, flat stomach, thin elegant arms, bountiful breasts, globular glutes and a pinched waist. I don’t know about you but most women I see every day are not of that shape. I see people of all shapes and sizes but the majority of us don’t look like that or fit that mold.
Now you might be saying then that the “unfit” ones should work out, eat right and diet. I am not saying they shouldn’t or should all I am saying is that it may not be possible for everyone to achieve that ideal shape. I know no matter how much weight I lose to look like a character my body will never truly be right and why is that? Because I’m simply not built that way. I am more pear shaped than hour glass figured, although my waist to hip ratio is almost comical my chest isn’t nearly as wide. You might not be able to look like Tony Stark because you may have narrow shoulders and a small chest. Male heroes all seem to have that barrel chest with wide shoulders going on but who do you know is actually built like that apart from models, trainers and athletes? In the end it really doesn’t matter though because people are people shaped.
Elsa Cosplay
Women and men of every shape and size are openly discriminated against if they are not of that slim, athletic yet curvy build. You would think that there would have been more average bodied characters out there because of all these different sized people, not just women, characters that have real body shapes, characters who look like the people you walk by on a daily basis. Other people seem to forget this when they judge people in cosplay.
Cosplay is not consent for anything, it is not consent to touch anyone when they are in cosplay and it definitely isn’t consent to insult anyone in cosplay either. Regardless of whether or not they have a small muffin top or that their bikini top is barely containing their bountiful bosoms. If someone wants to cosplay and has the drive to do so it doesn’t give anyone one the right to judge them for it.
Sure they may be a size 14 cosplaying someone who is a size 8 but if they make it work then who are you to stand there and say they are too fat to cosplay that character. They want to show their appreciation for someone they like and have done so to the best of their abilities. If you are one of those people who would not  focus on the positives like attitude, costume and the likes but would focus on the superficial stuff like their face is too round etc then in my opinion you need to either keep it to yourself or make your comments out of earshot. Your insensitivity could cost someone an enjoyable experience. Don’t be that person.
But alas there are plenty of those people. People who discriminate against those of a fuller body shape, those with a little more weight on them. Those people are other con-goers, staff members and other people that maybe carrying extra weight as well.
I read a woman’s experience with sizeism at a convention. She was not someone who usually cosplays but this time she chose to do so and was greeted with backlash. This backlash was mainly from the staff members at that particular convention. She was approached numerous times by staff about her outfit choice even though there were women wearing mostly bodypaint. What was their reason for targeting her? It was a family event and it was making people uncomfortable. I am sorry but WHAT?! But alas this is not the only story like this that is out there. Tumblr and Google, need I say more.
With all of that being said there are comics out there that have normal views on people. They acknowledge that people come in all shapes and sizes. For example Rat Queens, I have major love for  this gem. Betty, Dee, Hannah and Violet are some of the most bad ass women in my favourite comics and every single one of them has a different body shape.
This is the type of thing I would love to see more of. Characters who are shaped like average people. Is that really too much to ask for?

Rat Queens. Dee, Violet, Betty and Hannah

For those who are unsure about a cosplay choice. Don’t think because you don’t look like a person you can’t cosplay them, if you really want to then go for it. You don’t have to have tough skin, people won’t always be nice about your choice but just remember what made you want to do the cosplay in the first place. Your passion!
Princess Tiana Cosplay
Don’t blame yourself for negative comments or judge yourself too harshly. We can be our own worst enemies at times but there are people out there who make an effort to show that there are plus sized cosplayers, Briana Lawrence (aka Brichibi Cosplays) is one of my favourite cosplayers. She is such a positive cosplayer regardless of the hate she gets she is still a powerhouse when it comes to Cosplay Equality.
There are plenty of cosplayers like Briana Lawrence, cosplayers on the local Irish scene who are advocates for Cosplay Equality because at one stage or another someone has made a comment about a cosplay we have chosen.
Do not let anyone dictate what you can or can’t wear. Your body is a body, it’s as good as anybody elses.  A positive body image comes from within. Don’t let society you tell you “You are unique but you must live to our standards of body image”. Bodies are different. I know it may sound cliché but your body isn’t just a temple, it is your temple. Build it, remodel it but don’t destroy it. I’m not saying I’m always body positive but I try, even when I can’t be positive for myself I am positive for others.
Don’t let your race, gender, sexuality, ability or weight inhibit you from doing something you want to do, something that knows no boundaries when it comes to imagination, passion and enjoyment. Cosplay is something you make it and you can make it whatever you want it to be.