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The art worlds of gender performance: cosplay, embodiment, and the collective accomplishment of gender


Cosplay, a type of art performed by people dressing up as manga characters or comics has received an increase in interest in recent years. Although cosplay is frequently cited as a method of understanding gender-specific interactions and gender performance scholars seldom consider how cosplay influences gender. In combining the interactionist and cultural views of gender, I demonstrate that cosplayers display gendered identities using standardized body actions. Contrary to the popular belief that cosplayers are the sole ones accountable for gender representation when it comes to cosplay, I demonstrate that makeup artists, photographers, as well as photo editors, help to make its popular. Contrary to simplistic accounts of donning hyper-masculinity/hyper-femininity, I argue that cosplay participants’ pursuit of authenticity makes singular orientation to the sex category insufficient and demands a version of masculinity/femininity that also attends to the character’s personality. My research is situated within the world of art for cosplay assessment and production. I encourage researchers to look at my research as an instrument that can help us concentrate our attention on the work of all gender representation. The multi-authorship aspect is often ignored.


Cosplay is a mix of “costume” (Winge 2006, Kelts 2007, respectively). It’s an integral component of ACG (anime comics/manga gaming) fandom. It first came to prominence in China through ACG conventions in the late 1990s. Since that time, it has expanded quickly, with a strong online presence (Liu2006 Wang2006; Liu2006). Cosplay is a type of fan art that blends the production and consumption of culture through a highly interactive method to promote circulation. Cosplay lets fans become co-authors of fictional characters by using costumes, wigs, and makeup. In most cases, they have the assistance of editors and photographers, and a team of makeup photographers and artists (Fung and Pun 2016 and Ruan 2018). They also share and read, discuss on, and share photos of cosplay made by each other on the web. The “authenticity” of their photos of cosplay can be determined by their dedication to the characters they are based on (Matsuura and others. 2015; Rahman, et al. 2012).

Cosplay doesn’t just involve playing games, but also gender-based play. The characters that cosplayers try to impersonate could be of distinct gender. Gender-crossing is a common feature in the cosplay world (Norris and Bainbridge 2009). Unlike other gender-bending communities, gender-crossing cosplayers–sometimes called “crossplayers”–bend their gender for their love of characters, rather than for an explicit political agenda or for externalizing an internal gender identity that does not match their sex assigned at birth (Lamerichs 2011; Leng 2013; Tompkins 2019). While there are some different motivations and motivations, some researchers consider that cosplay is comparable to drag and is a good example of gender-based performance. Other scholars have a more radical view. Some adopt a more radical position.

As a subcultural activity, How can cosplay assist us to focus our sociological focus on the largely ignored aspects of the creation of gender? This theoretically abstract question can only be answered through an investigation into the creation of gender-specific embodiment through cosplay. This is the only way to ensure that the findings from our research apply to daily life to determine whether similar processes are taking place without being confined by our conceptual lenses. The literature that has been written on cosplay does not provide any concrete examples of how people engage in cosplay. This is not the only absence of any information on how to cosplay players play gender roles, despite being acknowledged as such (Kirkpatrick 2015 for critiques). This gap shouldn’t be overlooked by scholars of culture or specialists in the area who are interested in the globalization of Japanese ACG culture, but it should be of interest to feminist sociologists as well as social scientists searching for innovative ways to conceptualize gender.

This article is based on interviews with cosplay actors in China as well as makeup artists, photographers, and editors, to situate cosplay in its “art realms” of creation and assessment (Becker 2008). I examine the way that fictional characters’ gendered images are reproduced with the human body. I also look at the techniques of impression management employed by cosplayers to depict various genders. Contrary to the emphasis on cosplayers, I demonstrate how the supporting crew is essential in the success of gender-play when it comes to cosplay. Cosplayers need to convey gender-specific sensibilities through their postures and facial expressions. The support crew must be able to impart these messages to the bodies of cosplayers. Based on the emotions cosplayers evoke in the audience, these two kinds of bodywork–body modification as well as body movements–can make a gendered image in the eyes of the viewers. But a single direction to sex isn’t enough to “authentically” portray the character. Instead of donning hyper-masculinity/hyper-femininity, participants display an additional orientation to the personality category and strive to stage a version of masculinity/femininity consistent with the character’s placement into these categories.

My research findings focus on the creation of gender representations within Chinese cosplay scenes. Although they might not be relevant to other settings they are a good basis for thinking about how cosplay could enhance social theories. As I will elaborate at the end of this article, insofar as theory can be understood as hermeneutics and ways of looking at the world (Abend 2008), looking at gender as a cosplay (after decades of looking at gender as a drag) invites us to theorize gender as an artwork–collectively manufactured in its art worlds–whose multi-authorship is often obscured by neoliberal individualism. Cosplay is a great tool to use as a heuristic, integrating the theoretical perspectives of sociology (Goffman 1976, West and Zimmerman 1987) and sociology (Peterson and Anand 2004,). This will allow us to identify the theoretical possibilities of the single-authored gender representation of the “authentic self” even though they might not have the same roles or perform the same kinds of bodywork as cosplay team cosplay members.

Join the cosplay scene

Cosplay is becoming more and more popular globally however, there is a lack of academic writing on cosplay (Kirkpatrick 2015, Leng 2013 and Rahman and. and. 2012). Some scholars are wondering if cosplay and animation provide new methods to conceptualize, analyze and analyze human activities (Silvio 2010; Manning and Gershon 2013; Silvio 2010). Manning and Gershon 2013; Silvio 2010) However, most of the research currently on cosplay focuses on the reasons people engage with each other (Bainbridge, Norris 2013, Lamerichs 2011; Lamerichs Peirson Smith 2013; Rahman, et al. 2012; Tompkins 2019, Wang 2010; Winge 2006.) instead of the way people engage in. This lack of attention to cosplay comes at an intellectual cost. It is by studying the latter that it is possible to look at the similarities and differences between cosplaying fictional characters like Uchiha Sasuke from Naruto as well as the act of playing the abstract concept of “hegemonic masculinity” and other everyday interactions. Becker (1953), famously shows that the focus on “why” could lead to stigmatizing the process being studied and the people involved. But, shifting our focus to “how” can allow us to discover social patterns that can help us understand the role of other people in different activities.

The subject of gender-based performance is indeed a major theme within this small collection of work. It’s not surprising that cosplay that crosses genders is popular and well-respected when executed properly (Leng 2013). A large portion of the debate in academia concerns whether cosplay subverts gender norms (Bainbridge and Norris 2013; Gn 2011, Lamerichs 2011, Bainbridge and Norris 2009, Gn 2011, Lamerichs 2011, Loke 2016, Norris and Bainbridge 2009, Tompkins 2019,). A lot of these studies emphasize the role of cosplay in Butler’s (1990), theory of gender performance. They also highlight the embodied elements of it (e.g. Bainbridge and Norris 2013; Gn 2011, Bainbridge and Norris 2014). Gn 2011; Lamerichs 2014). However, they remain hesitant regarding the genders embodied or performed in cosplay. Sometimes, they simply characterize the performance as an individual, hyper-feminine/masculine display. Leng (2013) on the page. 90, says that in her research on male-to-female cross-play, “men don’t just don feminine attire, but also hyper-femininity when they play as women. This exposes the social constructs that are created and strengthen the gendered nature of these performances.” My research examines how cosplayers represent gender and the divisions of labor that allow the practice.

Knowing these processes requires a thorough understanding of the motives behind cosplay. Winge (2006) states that the majority of people participate in cosplay due to their love of characters as well as to meet other ACG fans. This shared passion is an important factor in cosplay. Cosplay is about expressing the cosplayer’s affection for the character they are playing. That means that cosplayers should “inhabit the character of the character physically as well as mentally” (Norris and Bainbridge 2009) Not just dress up in exotic costumes (Kirkpatrick (2015); Leng (2013)). Cosplay is a way to build relationships between fans. The participants learn from each other and evaluate their cosplay (Bainbridge and Norris 2013; Bainbridge & Norris Lamerichs 2011, Matsuura and Okabe 2015, Rahman et all). 2012). Cosplay, therefore, is not only included in the dyad of a character and participant but is also part of an ensemble of spectators and performers (Lamerichs 2014).

The authenticity of the character is an important issue for this group of performers-spectators. The quality of cosplay can be assessed by authenticity, which is a measure of the cosplayers’ love for their character. For a long time, sociologists of culture have maintained that authenticity is not intrinsic but is constructed by society that is recognized and achieved (Peterson 1999, 2005; Hughes 2000). It has to be performed in a staged, staged, and constructed. Cosplay is a type of cosplay in which authenticity is determined by the commitment of the participant and commitment to the character they are playing. The participants must be aware of both the physical characteristics (e.g. costumes, makeup) as well as the mimetic aspects (e.g. body/face expressions) when they perform (Rahman and al. 2012, 326; Norris & Bainbridge 2009). It is also possible to view them as having not made enough effort to resemble the character’s original appearance (Lamerichs 2014). If a cosplayer doesn’t appear to be the selected gender, it could be seen as an attempt to mimic the character (Leng 2013,). Since authenticity is crucial that it is essential to research the gender dynamics in cosplay through an interactivity lens. This lets you observe not just how a person does their work, however, but also how they behave collectively and reflexively in anticipation of how their performance is evaluated.

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