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Cosplaying Around The World: Australia

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GUEST POST BY: @JORDAN

Jordan is an ‘all things nerdy’ enthusiast who loves dragons, kicking ass in Super Smash Bros., SCIENCE! and contributing to KeepItNerdy.com.

 

At different times of the year around Melbourne, you’ll find a group of superheroes chatting casually at Flinders or you might stroll past Harry Potter. You’ll see them hurrying from stations and tram stops, heading usually towards the Convention Center or the Flemington Race Course. A lady dressed in purple striped steam punk attire might walk past with a man who impressively looks like he is straight out of the video game Assassins Creed. This scene is repeated in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth when convention season is in full swing and cosplayers from all over Australia come together to showcase their designs and enjoy the company of fellow costume enthusiasts.

Cosplay, the combination of the words costume and play, is the art of designing and wearing replicated outfits of characters from different fictional worlds or stories. Though the costumes look as though professionals have created them, most cosplayers learn how to design as they go and put countless hours into their creations.

Saerianne, a cosplayer and graphic design student from New South Wales, says ‘depending on the complexity of the character it can take from a few weeks to a few months’. She started cosplaying when she was thirteen, and wanting to create the character Asuka Soryu Langley from the Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, she taught herself the basics of sewing and how to use a sewing machine.

“I grew up playing games and watching anime in the morning before school. Shows like Pokemon, Digimon, Transformers, Sailor Moon…  I discovered cosplay in Australia… and immediately knew that I wanted to attend a convention. Since then, I’ve been having a blast bringing my favourite characters to life. It’s such a thrill spending a day as a character close to your heart,” She says.

One of the aspects of cosplay that Saerianne has found makes it so enjoyable, are the friendships and memories that have been created over the years. In 2013, she and her friends made the sixteen-hour road trip to the Gold Coast Supernova, where she got to meet the staff and professional players of the popular online game League of Legends, particularly memorable as her favourite cosplay is of the character Victorious Janna from the game.

“The community itself is very welcoming and inviting,” she says, “I’d say that the cosplay scene in Australia is definitely growing and spreading,”

A sentiment echoed by Melbourne based cosplayer Teagan Malkoutzis, “After the Melbourne Supernova, we got to three thousand active members on our Cosplay Facebook group, we have a really great Facebook community.”
Having attended conventions for seven years, her first being Manifest a convention for Japanese culture back in 2008, Teagan has seen the culture of cosplay grow considerably. She has also witnessed the  different challenges that cosplayers face.

“There were some cosplayers helping out EB Games during their Starlight Campaign where they raise money for the Starlight foundation, and one of the guys had someone walk up to him and tell him to ‘grow up’ because he was twenty and in a costume,” Teagan says.

The stigma surrounding cosplay, and the idea that dressing up is immature, is something all cosplayers must deal with, but not something that they let deter them from doing what they enjoy. While there are challenges they face from outside the community, one of the most prevalent ones comes from within. Many female characters in video games and comics are provocatively dressed and when female cosplayers don their costumes harassment is usually not far away.

“I have had a run in where I’ve had people taking unwanted photos of me, they were taking photos of my bum really without asking me…and they were harassing other girls,” Teagan explains, “Just because I dress provocatively and represent a character properly doesn’t mean you get to treat me like I’m any less of a human being or any less than you. It’s about respect. “

It is not just the women who are subjected to unwanted attention or vulgar comments, male video game characters are usually portrayed as handsome and well built, and male cosplayers also deal with the pressures of body image and the verbal abuse that comes with not attaining a certain standard. The community, however, is actively working to combat the negativity by implementing the ‘Cosplay is not Consent’ campaign encouraging everyone to respect the hard work that has gone into making the costumes instead of dragging people down for what their bodies look like.

Another great initiative to come out of the cosplay community is the group called Medic. Established by prominent cosplayer Eve Beauregaurd the group unites cosplayers from around the world and uses social media to promote different charities. This month, they’re participating in Kiss Goodbye to MS.

“So we wear red lipstick, and every time we post a photo of red lipstick we’ll link the page and tell people to donate and just bring awareness to MS. We’ve already surpassed our goal of 2000 dollars in just over a week,” She smiles, “It’s amazing!”

The cosplayers of Melbourne and Australia have created a community that celebrates the characters they admire and the talent required to create the costumes they wear. Despite the long hours, effort, and challenges that can come with cosplaying, the camaraderie, charitable culture, and creativity makes it worth it.