There’s serious activism at the heart of the cosplay community, and The Cosplay Dossier is on a mission to celebrate this progress…
Setting up a magazine isn’t anywhere near as glamourous as it sounds. It involves horrendously long hours, usually waiting for sources to get back to you and hoping nobody else writes the story first. It’s gruelling work which the whole team is well aware of, so imagine our surprise when head of design, Siarlot Lloyd told us she was starting another magazine from scratch.
The concept was bold – a UK print magazine focused on making cosplay accessible. There are plenty of cosplay resources out there but most are online only, have a US focus and tend to forget their diverse and often financially constrained audience. The Cosplay Dossier was set up to change all of that, and it was something we had to support.
“Cosplay has been one of my
obsessions passions for a few years now,” Siarlot says, “and while there are cosplay magazines out there, a lot of them tend to focus on skinny white girls in revealing costumes. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it isn’t really representative of the cosplayers I know in the community. When the opportunity came up to make a magazine to represent a wider range of cosplayers, and create a magazine that was intersectional, I leapt to take it.”
“While there are cosplay magazines out there, a lot of them tend to focus on skinny white girls in revealing costumes”
The Cosplay Dossier has certainly sought to smash the barriers shutting people out of the geek community. The first issue looks at affordable and closet cosplays, racism in the cosplay community and celebrates plus-size cosplayers. Its content is radical in a community that still has its divisions.
Research by Manuel Andrew Ramirez found white cosplayers defending white washing of characters through cosplay, and that participants just saw it as fun, with little understanding of the powerful implications of white people co-opting black representation. Furthermore, the research also found that comic-cons were dominated by crowds of white heteromasculine creators – yet, fans tended to be far more diverse.
The cosplay community then seems to be on a prop-knife’s edge. The tension is clear between the white straight cis boys trying to cling to their kingdom, and the diverse queer people of colour trying to break down the gates and make geek spaces safe and accessible for all. The conflict within the geek community culminated in the horrific episode of “Gamergate”. The shameful event saw game developer Zoe Quinn harassed for months by online gamers, who were largely fired up by a former boyfriend. In his pissed off entitled state, he wrote a long blog post attacking Quinn and her work. Trolls on 4Chan quickly jumped upon the post and set about a campaign of what can only be described as misogynistic violence against Quinn, which included death threats and rape threats – which then turned its attention to other marginalised geeks and gamers (a substantial amount of their victims were trans women). The episode was a startling representation of what so many marginalised geeks face from what is supposed to be their own community.
“Gamergate was horrific in how quickly it spiralled out of control,” says Siarlot. “And there are definitely a lot of (usually white) geek guys who come across as creepy at cons. Cosplay Is Not Consent didn’t spring from nowhere after all. That said, there is a lot of overlap between marginalised people and geek culture, so I think while there are some places that really don’t cater to marginalised people, there are just as many that welcome them with open arms.”
“There is a lot of overlap between marginalised people and geek culture”
Cosplay Is Not Consent is aimed to tackle sexual harassment within the cosplay community. There are those that are working within the cosplay world to try to make a difference so that anyone can get involved, such as The Cosplay Dossier.
“The Cosplay Dossier was founded on the idea that cosplay is for anyone, regardless of age, colour, or body type. At the end of the day the only limit to truly awesome cosplay is your creativity. While there are always people that refuse to accept the idea of a black D.Va or a hijabi Wonder Woman, most people in the community themselves are really welcoming. That’s not to say it can’t be more accessible – just as representation has a long way to go, so can the cosplay community be more accessible to those who aren’t white, straight, (or male).”
The concept of cosplay truly being accessible seems pretty hard to believe. Some of the costumes are just ridiculously good and others are downright extortionate. The armour online can cost several hundred pounds. Is cosplay really accessible to anyone other than Tories?
“It’s just a matter of creativity,” Siarlot insists. “You don’t need to spend a lot to look good – and you don’t need to know how to sew either. I’m still yet to spend over £80 on a cosplay, and that includes expenses like wigs and shoes that you wouldn’t think you can get on a shoestring budget.
“You don’t have to make your cosplays to stay below budget either if that’s an issue – charity shops are a great place to look to start with. Unless you’re competing, where you have to make a certain percentage of your costume, there’s absolutely no shame in buying a costume, or altering something premade.
“When I first started cosplaying, I was horrifically broke and hadn’t touched a sewing machine since year 9 Design & Textiles (about five years). But I managed to get a costume together (Black Widow), went to my first con and got totally hooked – and four and a bit years later I’m writing a cosplay magazine!”
Siarlot emphasises the support available online. Blogs, particularly through Tumblr, are abundant on cosplay and often have a real sense of solidarity to them.
“The best bit about the cosplay community is that it is one – and there’s almost always someone you can turn to for help.”
The cosplay community has its struggles but more and more it feels like a place where marginalised people are starting to come through and demand a safe and accessible space. The community needs a magazine that celebrates those fighting for all cosplayers, and The Cosplay Dossier does just that.
That being said, it’s almost a shame for Stand Up. It would be nice not to have to share our head of design, but for this cause we can live with it.
You can read issue 1 of The Cosplay Dossier here.
You can also support The Cosplay Dossier on Patreon.