Parents guide to cosplay

What is cosplay?

Simply put, cosplay is when you dress up in a costume of a character from a TV show, film, book or game and act like the character. I personally think of it as an extension of acting or performing arts. Dressing up and roleplay has been a hobby for many different people for many years. However, access to the internet and mobile phones has made it much more accessible and therefore more popular over the last two decades. The Japanese anime and manga craze has also made cosplay much more popular in recent years, especially for young people.

Girl in cosplay as Deku wearing a green and black short wig and a my hero academia gym kit
Deku cosplay (Izuku Midoriya)

When a person has decided on a character that they would like to cosplay, the next step is to find the right costume, hair and make-up. Cosplayers take a lot of time and pride in perfecting their look. They can often make items or customise their items to make sure that they are completely happy with their finished character. Another variation on this is when a person takes a character and changes something. For example, a character known as male can be cosplayed in a female version. A character who is normally sweet or a hero can be cosplayed as a villain.

Girl in cosplay as Villain Deku wearing black boots, ripped jeans, black waistcoat, white shirt and tie holding a hammer.
Villain Deku

Cosplayers also have their own language which you may hear your child saying when they are talking about cosplaying. For example, canon means to act as the character would in the official storyline of the anime show. So, you could hear someone say ‘that is brilliant, it is so canon’. There is also ‘fanon’ which means something that is not official in the storyline but it is widely accepted by fans to further develop the storyline of the characters. 

What is anime?

Anime is Japanese animation and it has become extremely popular in recent years. Netflix has a large selection and there are also many sites on the internet which children can use to view different anime shows. A word of warning though. As a parent who is not familiar with anime, you could easily see your child watching ‘cartoons’ and think that it is aimed at kids. However, most anime is actually aimed at older teenagers and adults. On Netflix, there are age ratings on each show. I just popped on to see what the age ranges were and there were only a couple rated parental guidance. The rest are all ’12’ and many are ’15’ and there are even a couple rated ’18’. If your children are young then you may need to help them find suitable shows to enjoy. 

My hero academia characters
[Photo credit: www.polygon.com] Character from my hero academia anime show

I recently started watching an anime called Danganronpa as my daughter had become a fan and kept talking about it. She had brought a bear at a con that we had been to and I thought the bear looked quite cute. So you would think that it would be aimed at younger children, right? Imagine my surprise when we sat down to watch it and it turned out that the bear is actually an evil character. He has locked a group of teenagers in a school and told them that the only way that they will be able to leave is if they can successfully murder another student and get away with it, laying the blame onto someone else! 

Black and white teddy bear and girl with bunches from the anime danganronpa
[Photo credit: danganronpa.fandom.com] Characters from the anime show Danganronpa

It probably sounds worse than it actually is, as being anime it is all bright colours and loud sound effects. The blood is pink and the psycho bear still looks cute to me so I don’t mind Faith watching it. However, you can see how easy it could be to let your child watch something that you are not happy about. Lucky for Faith I am much more relaxed about things like this than other parents! Plus Faith is much more mature than her age which also needs to be considered when allowing your children to watch certain things. 

Anime also has a lot of fanfiction. Fanfiction is basically stories written by fans of an anime show using the characters from the show. My daughter loves reading fanfiction and she has also written some of her own which is great. She is reading and writing stories, so developing her educational skills without even realising it. 

What is Tik Tok?

Tik Tok is an app that is popular amongst young cosplayers as they can lip-sync to almost any song and do skits and connect with other like-minded people. I am sure that there are many other apps like this too. I am focussing on Tik Tok as I know a lot of cosplayers who use it. It is not just for cosplayers, many people use it for all types of things. There are also a lot of people who do not post content themselves but enjoy watching other peoples. 

As with any type of social medial and young people, there can be risks involved. There are privacy settings which can be turned on to private and blocking functions to stop people sending messages. Tik Tok has the age restriction for accounts at 13 years but I know many younger children who have accounts. My daughter uses Tik Tok and she is younger. I have given her permission and monitor what she posts and who she communicates with. 

 

Like I said before, I am a very relaxed parent as I believe that it is better to support interests and get involved than just say no. Very often just because a parent has said no, it does not mean that your child will not still manage to access things. However, they will not have any adult supervision or support as they will be doing it in secret for fear of getting in trouble. In my opinion, it is far better to be involved so that you can educate your children on how to use social media responsibly. That way they know that they can come to you should they need any help or support. 

What is a con?

A con is short for convention. You may have heard of ComicCon before, which was mainly for people who were interested in comics originally, but over the years these have grown to include all sorts of things, anime included. There are also more specific cons as well, like the Norwich Anime and Gaming Con which we went to in the Summer. These are a great way for cosplayers to make new friends who share their interests. Faith has made friends at all of the cons that we have been to so far.

They have speakers, costume contests, games, lots of merchandise and can be a lot of fun. Some of them run for two days or even three and Faith absolutely loves going to them. They can be expensive though as if your children are anything like mine, they will want to buy everything!  

Girl wearing a short black and green wig and a white t-shirt with black Japanese writing across it.
At the Norwich Anime and Gaming Con

Our story

For us, it was well over a year ago that Faith first got into cosplay. I remember when she asked me to order her a wig from eBay and I was so confused as I had no idea that she was interested in cosplay at that time and I had never been asked to buy a wig for one of my kids before! I knew that she had been struggling to make friends and at this time she was still attending regular school and was very quiet and a bit withdrawn. So, I brought her the wig and to be honest, thought it was just a one-off thing and didn’t really think much more about it at the time.

However, Faith really enjoyed cosplay and it wasn’t long before I realised that she has a real passion for it. It was nice to see her get excited about something, so I started asking her questions about it. Through discussions with Faith and a bit of my own online research, I discovered that there is a whole community of cosplayers.

Cosplay an animatronic character
An animatronic character

In February 2019 I made the decision to home school Faith as she was so unhappy at school and I felt that it would be much better for her and our family.  In June 2019 I read about a ComicCon in our town and asked Faith if she would like me to take her. By this time she was a lot more confident than she had been when attending school so she said that she would like to go. She got dressed up as a character from her favourite anime and when we were waiting to go in, I was just praying that there would be others dressed up and into anime.

It was fantastic to see so many different characters in one place and even better when other people were coming over and asking to have photographs with Faith. I was so glad that I took her as she made friends with some other children in our town who also love to cosplay and we have not looked back since! 

Girl in cosplay as Katsuki Bakugo. Wearing a short blond wig, black and orange hoodie and white shirt.
Cosplaying Katsuki Bakugo

Getting involved

As a parent, I feel that it is our responsibility to make the effort and find out what our kids are interested in. I decided that the best way to understand cosplay would be to actually do it myself so I spent a day dressing up and making Tik Tok videos with Faith. I was definitely out of my comfort zone and I can’t help but cringe when I look at the videos we made (I was definitely not blessed with the ability to cosplay well!) but it brought us so much closer and we laughed so much. 

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Cosplay and anime is not something that I am personally interested in myself but it has sparked a passion in Faith and anything that my kids are interested in becomes my interests as I want to support them in what makes them happy. Below is a short video that we made where I ask Faith a few questions about cosplay. 

 

Why is my child different?

Some parents are not happy with their child doing something unconventional like cosplay. I think that a lot of this is because they do not understand it. Or they are embarrassed as it is not the ‘normal’ teenage hobby. However, if it interests your child and makes them happy then surely that should be a good thing?! Are we not supposed to teach our kids to make their own decisions rather than be a sheep and follow the crowd? 

I would much rather have a child who spends all their free time styling wigs, making costumes and cosplaying. Rather than being out on the streets getting up to who knows what!

Faith styling her wig at the kitchen table
Wig styling!

Some people do not like kids going out in cosplay in public places but I see no harm in this. If you are a football fan, you would think nothing of your kids going out in the football shirt or kit of your team. Therefore, why should people that love to cosplay not be able to do the same? Also, a lot of people feel much more comfortable in cosplay rather than in their day to day wear. 

I have talked at length with Faith about how people will stare. They will wonder why she is dressed that way and there is the possibility of people being rude as they do not understand. Anything ‘different’ is often a target for bullying. However, I really admire that she doesn’t care what people think. She loves to cosplay and refuses to let anyone’s ignorance spoil what she loves to do. 

Ochaco Uraraka cosplay

Links to the LGBT community

One thing that we have noticed is that the cosplay community has strong links with the LGBT community. I think that this is down to a couple of things. The first is that when you cosplay you can experiment and cosplay different genders. Secondly, because many people feel lost and they are struggling with their identity so playing a character gives them an escape. These are just my opinions, I am not an expert in these matters. 

However, as it would seem that a large proportion of cosplayers are LGBT or have experienced trauma such as bullying. I would think that it is even more of a reason that us parents should support and encourage this activity which helps them to express themselves and makes them happy. 

What are the positives of having a child who cosplays?

  • It takes up a great deal of their time leaving less chance for boredom and unruly behavior! 
  • Performance art is a skill that they will advance through cosplay.
  • Confidence increases.
  • Bonds can be made within the cosplay community.
  • It allows kids to experiment and express themselves.
  • It creates a great opportunity for you to bond as they teach you all about their new found passion.
Girl in cosplay wearing a black wig with dark make up
One of Faith’s scarier cosplays!

What are the negatives of having a child who cosplays?

  • It can get expensive with all of the wigs, costumes, cons and merch!
  • People can be cruel when they see people dressed up.
  • As with any type of social media use, there are risks involved.
  • Many of the songs used on Tik Tok have bad language.
  • Anime may not be suitable for younger children.
Girl in light gray leggins, a pink top, long pink wig and black cat ears
Loving all of the pink!

Tips on being a parent of a cosplayer!

  • Ask questions and get involved in what they like. You may only get grunts and eye rolls at first but if you keep showing interest without judgement eventually they will start to talk more with you. Then they won’t stop talking and they will enjoy teaching you all about it.
  • Watch their videos that they make in cosplay.
  • Watch anime with them or whatever it is that they cosplay.
  • Have a go at cosplaying with your child as I did!
  • Take them to cons (even if you can not afford all of them. You discuss this with your child and work out which ones they can attend).
  • Support friendships that they have made with fellow cosplayers by inviting them over for dinner or sleepovers. 
  • Support them, accept them and make them know that they are fully loved, accepted and supported by you. 
Girl in cosplay at the dinner table sitting next to a dog.
Dinner with Deku, like you do!

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