The cosplay world can be brutal, especially for someone who isn’t the size that society sees as “standard.” I don’t have to tell you that the cosplay industry is competitive and growing. It’s fairly obvious by looking through the “#cosplay” tag on Instagram that most of the women models are thin and tall, which doesn’t leave much room for any cosplayer. Sure, you will see some chubbier or shorter models, but they won’t get as many likes or comments. Obviously, this is a result of societal views towards women; The ideal female is slim and of average or tall height. These views tend to be extremely negative and toxic to your average cosplayer.
As someone who hardly falls into one of the “ideal” categories, I know firsthand the expectations and stigma that surrounds feminine cosplayers. These views only serve to cause extreme harm and drop in self-esteem. I’ve only recently joined the cosplay community and my experience has mainly been a positive one. Upon joining I was welcomed with much happiness and positivity from fellow cosplayers, though negativity came soon thereafter.
With the recent release of the movie Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn cosplayers have become the norm. The internet has taken this idea and placed it in an area of judgement and ridicule. There seems to be a general consensus online that there are too many of these cosplays and if the cosplayer doesn’t match the body type of the actress, Margot Robbie, their cosplay is deemed invalid.
While looking at cosplay promotion pages on social media, most only show the ‘best cosplay’ that they receive. Meanwhile, these cosplayers almost always fit the recent stereotype that has come to pass. Tall, thin, clear skin, young and pretty. This is not just to blame on the negative communities on social media, but also the portrayal of superheroes in movies, TV shows and comic books. These portrayals are causing more harm than good. They are the reasoning why it’s thought to be acceptable to shame curvy cosplayers who do not fit the “standard” that has been set.
I’ll be the first to say that I’m below average height and on the chubbier side. I’ve cosplayed Harley Quinn for both last year and this year’s New York Comic Con and while my experiences were mainly positive, I was still faced with sneers and judgmental looks. Such looks that other Harley Quinn cosplayers who fit the desired body type were not faced with.
I’m also not ashamed to say that I weigh far more than Margot Robbie; the number on the scale does not define me as a person or cosplayer. However, for some who are just starting to get involved in the cosplay community, this realization doesn’t come as easily. By judging so harshly what is deemed “good” cosplay and what isn’t, we are creating a toxic space that discourages and stifles creativity. This is not the connotation that the cosplay community should have.
The appreciation of cosplayers of all body types is not where it needs to be. I recognize that this is deeply ingrained in society and will not change overnight. However, every change starts somewhere. We need to support each other instead of making harsh comparisons that lead nowhere.
For the sake of respect, it’s important that we, as a community, recognize and appreciate the effort that is put into bringing a character to life.