Comics

Comic-Con, Cosplay, and Self-Expression

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"Comic-Con, Cosplay, and Self-Expression," produced by Tracy Oppenheimer. 2:30 minutes.

Original release date was July 29, 2014. Original writeup is below.

"It's an idea of empowerment," says the woman dressed as Captain America. "You get to be a different person for a day."

Reason TV ventured to Comic-Con International in San Diego to check out the booming culture of cosplay, in which people dress up as their favorite superheroes, literary figures, or fantasy icons. Why do cosplayers dedicate so much time, money, and energy to their alter egos? It's fun, they say, and it's a powerful form of self-expression.

Check back for more Comic-Con coverage and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube Channel for notifications when new material goes live.

About 2:30 minutes.

Produced by Tracy Oppenheimer. Camera by Zach Weissmueller, Alexis Garcia, and Oppenheimer.

Music by Blarsa, "Garden Party"; Giftedbuttwisted, "Ice Cream Man 2"; Solmire, "Batman Going Underground"; "Game of Thrones T1"

NEXT: Why an 1852 Novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne is More Relevant Than Ever & Should Be Your Next Beach Read.

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  1. I tried to cosplay as Mint Berry Crunch once. Didn’t work. Kept bumping into things because I could only see out of one eye.

  2. Holy crap. That guy at the end. In the Batman costume. I think that was Bruce Wayne.

  3. I’m going to eat bacon and drink beer today.

    http://bigbiteevents.com/

    1. Hipster!

      I’m jealous. I kept meaning to look into it, but work was a shitstorm and I failed. I suppose I’ll just have to eat an excess of bacon at home this morning.

    2. I’m amazed they allow something that cool to happen in California.

    3. I’m making empanadas

      1. What filling, JB?

        My grandmother used to do mincemeat and apricot filled empanadas. I think I’ve got her recipe around somewhere. Hadn’t thought about them in years, but now I haz a craving.

        1. Potatos, turkey sausage, onion, pepper, garlic, parsly, ancho chili powder, cayenne, s&p. Basically a brunch filling. It was good. Used PAN for the dough Venezualian style. Did your grandmother do the corn flour dough or the white flour?

          1. Also tomato and green onion.

  4. “You get to be a different person for a day.”

    You know who else?….

    1. Zelig?

    2. John Cusack in “Being John Malkovich”?

  5. Question of the day =

    “How is putting on a costume, ‘Self-Expression’?”

    The very nature of a costume is to borrow an already-extant character, something ‘created’ by someone else, which is shared in the public consciousness, allowing the individual to subsume themselves in the role. The entire point is to obscure and diminish ‘the self’ and allow the imaginary character to take precedence.

    In short sentences, explain where the ‘self-expression’ part comes in.

    1. Is the act of dressing up as a character not the ultimate means of stating, “I love this character?” Is that not self expression?

      1. “Is the act of dressing up as a character not the ultimate means of stating, “I love this character?”

        Having strong positive feelings about something is not an expression of ‘one
        s self’, any more than a poster of a big-titted pinup model on a teenager’s wall is ‘self-expression’.

        Is my wearing a NY Knicks jersey – a team that i “love” saying something about my individual self that is unique? – or am i simply attepting to blend into a larger mass of people who all feel the same as me, and thus abrogate and dissolve my ‘self’?

        All i see in this video is people mashing up positive words that have no real logical connection. You like wearing costumes! it makes you feel good! great. I’m all for that. Its not an expression of ‘you’ – its the opposite. Its hiding ‘you’ in favor of something else.

        1. Is my wearing a NY Knicks jersey – a team that i “love” saying something about my individual self that is unique?

          Yes. It says that you are a masochist.

          1. ITS ONLY LOVE WHEN IT HURTS

        2. self expression =/= has to be unique

          1. saying “what is not necessary” for self expression does not advance an argument about “what is”

            Is my hypothetical big-titted poster on my wall, ‘self-expression’?

            1. Yes. You are expressing your love of big tits.

              This is not that complicated, GILMORE. “I am a conformist” is also self-expression, you know. “I belong to this subculture” can be quite empowering, as well.

              1. I think the issue arises more with the typical teenage “I want to be different” so I’ll dress like these other dudes or put on this counterculture t-shirt that 3,000,000 other disaffected teenagers wear (I’m looking at you Che).

                It’s not an expression of liking that particular style so much as a rejection of “normality” without any real consideration of what they do stand for.

                People who get dressed up just because they like it are honest and refreshing. Except for furries, they’re weird.

            2. Depends on it’s purpose. If it is displayed to demonstrate to visitors your love of big-titted women then I’d say yes. That would be an expression of self, though one that would not be unique to you. It could also be there to stroke your personal fancies. It could be there to express solidarity with other lovers of big-titted women. It could be there for all three purposes at the same time. One does not preclude the others.

              1. If everything you just described qualifies as “self-expression” (dilute a term to include as much as possible), then there’s notcase to be made for why ComiCon is any different or more special better than people getting together to play a team sport.

                By eliding distinctions, you erase the value of this particular thing. Which was the point of the piece.

                you dont get cake either way

                1. Why would anyone consider this different from team sports? This is much the same as attending a sporting event. People feel better around groups of like minded individuals. It seems you are defining self expression into meaininglessness.

                  1. “This is much the same as attending a sporting event…. It seems you are defining self expression into meaininglessness.”

                    thats hilarious

                    1. You have yet to explain why you think the statement “I like ‘x’ is not a valid form of self expression. Nor why you think self expression must be unique.

                2. then there’s notcase to be made for why ComiCon is any different or more special better than people getting together to play a team sport.

                  Not true.

                  People who get together to play team sports are doing so in a cultural milieu that showers people who play team sports with adulation from the time they are very young.

                  That makes it incredibly unrisky to express the self by playing team sports.

                  OTOH, until very recently, it was socially disreputable to participate in things like Comic Con or to dress in costumes.

                  That had the effect of cowing many of the people who like such things into social submission.

                  Comic Con and its associated culture is very accepted now, but during the time frame when it was not, braving the risk of alienation due to exposure of this element of the self was riskier, and therefore a more valuable species of self-expression, than the playing of team sports.

                  1. So you’re saying the only distinction that makes this ‘self expression’ (as opposed to engaging in a social activity that purposely subsumes ‘self’)… is its relative “popularity”?

                    Thats new.

                    also

                    “‘ a more valuable species of self-expression,””

                    more valuable?

                    sigh. So some self-expression is better or worse depending on its… something score? what’s the value-index benchmark here? Warm-fuzzy feelings-generated?

        3. Expressing one’s positive feelings is a form of expression. Since they are one’s own feelings, and not the feelings of another, it is self expression.

          1. So going to church is “self-expression” too now?

            right. Positive feelings. All expression is ‘self’ expression by virtue of the fact that the only things individuals can feel are ‘individual feelings’.

            This is called “dilution to meaningless”, since now there is no such expression of any kind of (positive!) feeling that isn’t somehow innately ‘individual’.

            So, Klan Rally? You’re an exercise in *self expression too* now. White Power is *positive*!

            1. We are talking about dressing up in a particular manner, not mere attendance. Any time you are expressing your values through your appearance, you are expressing yourself. Unless you are quoting another person, without placing any personal value on that quote, you are expressing yourself. I would say self expression is a necessarily broad category.

                1. Unless you are forced to wear the haircut, it is a form of self expression. Klansmen, when wearing their outfits, are expressing their agreement with the principles of the klan. Just because they are shared principles, does not make them any less the principles of the individual. Or are you claiming that I can deny holding any beliefs which I share with others? Could I say that just because I was a member of the klan, and distributed klan literature, that somehow I then did not, individually, hold those same beliefs?

                  1. we got it = everything is ‘individual’, therefore nothing is. We understood it the first time. its not getting much more interesting.

                    1. So, then explain why you think ideas held by individuals do not belong to those individuals, but to the group. They can only be individual if no one shares them? By the way, why use = to separate clauses? Don’t we already have punctuation for that purpose?

                    2. explain why you think ideas held by individuals do not belong to those individuals, but to the group.

                      I’d love to, when you quote where i said that

                      What specifically are you responding to?

                    3. You have repeatedly mentioned that self expression must involve distinguishing oneself from others a la burning man. This is a ridiculous standard for self expression.

    2. You are telling the rest of the world that you have some affinity for the character you are representing, which says something about your personality…

      Self expression.

      1. I can imagine it gets confusing when you have a hundred or so people dressed up as the same thing and they’re all somehow celebrating their ‘unique selves’

        1. I am still trying to figure the “empowerment” part – you put on the costume and you get powers?!?!?!

          *frantically searches for superhero outfit*

          1. if “Dork Boner” is a ‘power’, then there was much empowerment going on

        2. I can imagine it gets confusing when you have a hundred or so people dressed up as the same thing and they’re all somehow celebrating their ‘unique selves’

          I recommend you stay out of Japan then.

        3. You are being erroneously pedantic. There is nothing in the concept of self expression which implies uniqueness. Individuals are unique all on their own, regardless of shared qualities.

          1. “. There is nothing in the concept of self expression which implies uniqueness”

            Right.

            btw, ‘Erroneously Pendantic’ is a wonderfully ironic way of saying, “wrong”

            1. I liked it too. You are wrong, but acting as if you are making some fine point about the definition of self expression.

              1. No – you dissolve the term ‘self expression’ to simply be ‘expression’

                at which point the term is pointless because it makes no distiction between

                “expressions made for the purpose of socialization” – participating in group-identification ex

                versus

                “expressions made for the purpose of individualization” – where there is a concerted attempt to distinguish divergence from social convention

                You just lump it all together and call it good, at which point you might as well use fewer words since your define them all as so much vaguely-similar mush

                To the point = dressing up as well-known superheroes and going to hang out with other easily identified similar fictional characters is *less* like “self-expression” and more like “team sports”

                The distinction fluffy made was that it was simply ‘less popular’, therefore ‘better’. Which is odd and indefensible, but at least its an attempt

                1. So, I am only expressing myself if no one else is around who agrees with me? Got it.

                  1. It *is* much easier to argue with statements you make yourself rather than what I actually said.

    3. How is putting on a costume, ‘Self-Expression

      You choose the costume.

      Many of those costumes look to me like they are more or less customized.

      Wearing damn near anything is expressing yourself, consciously or not. These (or a team jersey, etc.) is at least conscious self-expression.

      Even the most faithful recreation possible of a costume/character is self-expression, as in “I identify with/admire/have fun with this character.”

      You wouldn’t say that musicians aren’t expressing themselves unless their performance is 100% improvisation with no reference to anything that was ever played before, would you?

      1. Example of how all clothing is self-expression:

        When I need to play the bloody-knuckled enforcer, I wear dark gray suits, white shirts, and a tie. That’s basically a costume for a character I am playing. It could hardly be less “original”, but it helps send a message.

        When my work day will consist mostly of being helpful and constructive with my colleagues, I generally don’t wear dark colors or a white shirt (this varies), and I tend more toward a tweed jacket. More approachable and professorial. Intentionally. To send a message. Expressing myself, you see? Without wearing a shockingly original outfit never before seen in a hospital.

        Don’t confuse, in short, “originality” with “self-expression”. Or even “empowerment”. If I walk in wearing my enforcer uniform, it is highly unoriginal, but you are about to get a high-speed dose of my empowerment.

    4. I think it is self expression and empowerment in the sense that they can wear stuff they normally aren’t “allowed” to, such as at work, grocery store, church, etc. And they get to pick their character or theme and go out as big or as subtle as they want.

    5. I’ll bite. I think the ‘self-expression’ part would be when they actually make their costumes. Most people who wear sports jerseys don’t sit down and actually craft their jerseys, though there are some intricate NFL costumes.

      But yes, it is kind of weird reconciling “self-expression” with dressing up as someone else. Maybe it’s the whole “this is who I am” but “this is who I want to be” thing. In which case, you’d think they’d choose something achievable and dress up as slightly cooler versions of themselves.

      If you really want to get all literary about it, the term “person” comes from “persona” which means mask. Chew on that a while…

      1. “JEP|8.2.14 @ 2:08PM|#

        I’ll bite. I think the ‘self-expression’ part would be when they actually make their costumes. Most people who wear sports jerseys don’t sit down and actually craft their jerseys, though there are some intricate NFL costumes.”

        You Were Saying?

        FWIW you’re the only person who seems to have grokked the actual issue i tried to point out. For that, i salute you!

        1. I like looking at pictures of Kate Upton. Especially when you can see her boobs.

          I would like to see her naked in person.

          Now…back to argueing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

  6. to quote someone else,

    “‘LynchPin1477|7.29.14 @ 7:08PM|#

    Nothing says self-expression like copying someone else’s creation as faithfully as possible!””

  7. This is awesome 😀 I wish there were meets like this in my town 🙁

  8. I’m beginning to think that NYPD stands for “Now You’re Pushed Down”

    http://thinkprogress.org/justi…..ked-woman/

    1. Next, You’ll Probably Die!

    2. It actually stands for kNock Your Punk ass Down

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icErgB_ZmFM

  9. My ‘lowbrow performance artist’ idea of an actual ‘self expression’ moment @ ComiCon? =

    A man walks around entirely naked.

    When asked what he is doing, he insists he’s The Invisible Man.

    To really make it work, he’d have to stick with that story all the way through the arraignment

    Now *that’s* some Art!

  10. To anyone else who might consider wading through multiple GILMORE comments and 2.5 minutes of nervous interviews, there are no shots of attractive women clad in chainmail bikinis. Repeat: Reason sent a correspondent to Comic-Con and the closest they got to covering the metal bikini was a Xena cosplayer.

    Oppenheimer does not appear to understand the fundamentals of libertarian political philosophy at all.

  11. Cosplay is nothing more than proof that the infantilization of the U.S. is complete. Anyone over 30 who dresses up in a charactder costume and thinks it’s “empowering” is simply delusional.

    Let the crucifixion begin!

    1. LEOs everywhere beg to disagree.

    2. The reason it’s empowering is precisely because you disapprove of it.

      Your disapproval is shared by a large number of people.

      That means that people who like this thing know that if they actually express that preference, people like you will give them a hard time.

      The act of deciding that your opinion has no value and should be defied is indeed empowering. Legitimately so, to these folks.

      1. So it’s empowering to be a parasite who feeds on the derision of others, and plays the dandy in order to attain said derision?

        If that’s the case, one would have no self to express, only an empty mirror displaying what they think others don’t want to see.

        In either case–whether you are a conformist or a dedicated nonconformist–you hold others as the fundamental standard of yourself. Whether it’s what others want you to be, or what they don’t want you to be, if that is your concern in deciding who you are, you are an empty parasite with no self to express.

        1. FWIW, I think this dude is a dick.

        2. So it’s empowering to be a parasite who feeds on the derision of others, and plays the dandy in order to attain said derision?

          Not, it’s empowering to ignore your derision.

          Consider 2 people, Mr. X and Mr. Y.

          Both Mr. X and Mr. Y enjoy, oh, I don’t know, going to the ballet.

          Mr. X perceives in his social peer group that liking ballet is seen as gay and effete. So he pretends he doesn’t like ballet and doesn’t go.

          Mr. Y perceives in his social peer group that liking ballet is seen as gay and effete. But he decides to go away, and ignore the people who don’t like that.

          Which of these two actions can be said to be “empowering”?

          Oh, and to address Gilmore here – if Mr. X also likes football, and his social peer group accepts that, and so Mr. X decides to dress up like a superfan and go to the Patriots game – that would be self-expression, too. But between the two actions – Mr. X expressing his socially-approved love of football, and Mr. Y defying his peer group to express his love of ballet – which is more valuable? I submit that it’s clearly Mr. Y’s action. Because fuck you, that’s why.

          1. So, ballet is better than football because = its less popular.

            any further questioning of this idea gets the FYTW clause.

            Sounds legit.

  12. I dress up every year for the Renaissance Fair: layers of skirts, corset, hat, boots, crazy accessories, etc. I don’t claim that it’s empowering or deep, but it’s a helluvalot of fun. Is it cosplay? I don’t know. It’s just an excuse to show a lot of cleavage and swig mead from a leather mug. Huzzah!

    1. an excuse to show a lot of cleavage and swig mead from a leather mug.

      Go on…

  13. ITT: GILMORE is obtuse for no reason, and no one is surprised.

    1. obtuse?

      I think everyone’s had a chance to explain how people are supposed to ‘express their individuality’ by playing dress-up as pop-culture figures.

      So far, all that was achieved was turning the term “self expression” into “whatever feels good”.

      1. ‘express their individuality’

        So in order to support your point, you have to deliberately change the concept to the point where you use a different word for it? A different word, with a different definition?

        1. I have no idea what you even said there.

          I was making the case that the way the term is being used here is not accurate.

          If anyone was watering down/changing the definition of a term, its people taking issue with my criticism.

          The distinction was made here =

          GILMORE|8.2.14 @ 3:09PM|#

          we dont need to belabor it further. I thought it was a worthwhile point. There’s maybe a distinction between replicating cultural artifacts and calling it ‘self expression’, and people actually doing ‘novel things’.

          Call it the “ComiCon vs. Burning Man” distinction.

          Instead, we got caught up with people explaining to me that my titty-posters qualified as “Self Expression” too, and the point got lost.

          1. Only novel self expression counts, we understand.

            1. The only problem with your comment here is using the word “counts”

              You’re applying some kind of value judgement a la Fluffy’s ‘Unpopular is better’!

              No one said anything is better or worse = just not the same thing. I sure as hell like dressing up like a pirate and getting drunk @ costume parties. Its a wonderful thing. You’ll never find me calling Mardi Gras anything but one of the best ideas humankind ever had.

              You just won’t find me patting myself on the back for my ‘self-expression’ in participating.

              1. Counts means, counts as self expression. Self expression is a neutral term, not a complimentary one. Any time one expresses their opinion, whether through words or behaviors, they are expressing themselves. You seem to be saying this is not true. And again, you come to the idea that engaging in a group activity negates whatever expression of self one engages in.
                You go to Mardi Gras. You dress in just a mask, I dress in some elaborate costume. We are expressing ourselves. By what stadnard are we not? You are basically just on here to say “nuh uh.”
                Dressing up at comic con says something about you as an individual. If I went I would not be dressed up. That says something about me. To the point that this is a deliberate statement, we have all engaged in self expression. You have yet to describe what is wrong about this definition, only that you disagree with it or that only novel statements can say something about individuals.

      2. Expressing what feels good to you isn’t self-expression?

    2. re: “‘LynchPin1477|7.29.14 @ 7:08PM|#

      Nothing says self-expression like copying someone else’s creation as faithfully as possible!”

      …was the point.

    3. He’sjust bitching to be bitching. We’ve all been there, amirite?

  14. Someone’s on his period and bled all over the comments.

    I think it’s because the costumes thwart his attempts at detailed wardrobe evaluations.

    1. I asked a question above=

      “GILMORE|8.2.14 @ 11:31AM|#

      Question of the day…”

      ….People decided to bite.

      I didn’t suddenly pull a Bo and start badgering people out of the blue, homes.

      1. You asked a stupid question about stupid people saying stupid things.

        Annoying, made me have to scroll a bunch, not much different result from the poster/situation you mention.

        I still appreciate your Independents Attire Review? and always look forward to it.

        1. We agree about 2 of 3 things. 🙂

  15. Next topic=

    IS KARAOKE, “ART”?

    1. What about a Karaoke rendition of “Never Gonna Give You Up?”

      1. Are we talking Rick Astley, or Barry White?

        1. Astley, if we’re following the spirit of your joke.

          1. I think that may qualify as a Crime Against Humanity short of ‘Art’.

  16. GILMORE’s excellent point produced a whole ton of butthurt, incidentally proving his point. Wish I could argue that well!

  17. NERDS!!!!

    (Me too.)

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