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Mav’s Class Planning Outsourcing: Cosplay and Halloween Edition

pghcc2010-15So, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, a couple of my students requested that we have a lesson on costumes and cosplay on Halloween. Since that’s theoretically a lot of the research I’m doing for my dissertation and because frankly it just sounded fun, I agreed. Now I’m putting together that assignment and lesson plan.

The students will be reading a couple of essays. One is Michael Chabon’s New Yorker piece, “Secret Skin: an essay unitard theory” which talks about the practicality (and impracticality) of super hero costumes and why they are still essential to the trope of the superhero. The second is a selection from Barbara Brownie and Danny Graydon’s book The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction which argues that the costume is a signifier of the heroic identity and that by assuming the persona of the hero they are impersonating, the cosplayer symbolically adopts a portion of the hero’s power.

I’m going to ask my students to expand upon that. Their assignment will be something like:

Read both of the articles. I would like your journal to be in two parts. First, explain how you think superhero costumes work (or don’t work). Address the ideas of Chabon, Brownie and Graydon, but feel free to agree or disagree. Why do you think comic book characters wear costumes? What makes them effective (on ineffective)? Are the necessary for you to consider a character a superhero (or villain)? Does the idea of a superhero work without the costume? Why or why not? Do you make assumptions about the character, the storyline, or the audience based on how the character dresses? Do changes in the costume — between different artists or stories or even when it is moved to a movie or video game — change the way in which you view the character?

For the second part of your journal, I would like you to find two pictures of real life cosplayers, one that you think is effective and one that you think isn’t (for those of you who asked about cosplaying for Halloween, you’re welcome to use yourself for an example. Or you can just find images on the internet). Why do you think people like dressing up in cosplay and what makes the cosplay work or not work? What is the effect of wearing the outfit? How do you view the person in costume? What makes the costume work and not work?  Why? Does the practicality or lack thereof make it more or less successful? Does the sexiness matter? The craftsmanship? The accuracy? Originality? Humor? And what can we assume about the wearer and the reactions of the spectators?

I’m curious as to what other people think about all of this. Should I change anything about the assignment? What else do you feel like I should be mentioning in this lesson? How would you answer the journal questions? Of course feel free to link me to some of your favorite cosplay pics in your answers.

Some of my favorites from various cons I’ve been to for Cosmic Hellcats are in the gallery below.

 

25 comments for “Mav’s Class Planning Outsourcing: Cosplay and Halloween Edition

  1. avatar
    October 27, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    People who I’m pretty sure are pretty into cosplay who might have really interesting opinions on this:

    Fred Holt, Mark Levis, Murder Nurse, Nicole Marie Jean, Amber Love, Stephany Salinas, Gretchen Corona, Brittany Eifler, Tim Bruhn Yang, Kristin Ward, Kaileigh Marie, Rebecca Marie Theerman, Torey Bocast, Jeff Zoet, Claire Werkiser, Payton Graham, Brae Piros, Morgan Bohart, Paul Chasko, Erika Watkins, Jacki Temple, Kat Connell, Hunter Craft, Mark Seeley, Liz Pursh, Tara Polk, Josalynn Lark, Yi Liu

    Probably other people too…that was just a quick perusal of my friends list and the names that immediately jumped to mind. Though I’m curious about people’s opinions who aren’t necessarily into cosplay (or even comics) as well.

  2. avatar
    October 27, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Man, I want to do this assignment! Haha

  3. avatar
    October 27, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    This is really awesome! I love the questions. Can I add some friends to this Chris Maverick, they may be better equipped to look it over and add to it?

  4. avatar
    October 27, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Ålěxåndèr Danger Møør Olia Sudokov Perman Dan Perman Justin Lott thought you guys would enjoy this!

  5. avatar
    October 27, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Ok so I didn’t get to read the articles you’re referring too (sorry).
    As far as the practicality of hero costumes in the books, aside from capes and sometimes really random armcuff armour, they seem overall pretty practical. Spandex is stretchy so it’s easy to move in, thin enough to be inder your clothes at all times, it conceals your identity (the all important part),and it offers some recognition. If civies see that costume they’d know you were there to help, and random john or jane in average clothes wouldn’t exactly inspire confidence.
    As a cosplayer, I feel as though the costumes that work and get the most recognized are sort of reimaginings most times. I can tell what it is, but it’s not perfectly the source material. On the opposite side if it’s incredibly perfectly detailed, it’s also successful. It’s a very thin line between what works and what doesn’t in cosplay.
    I do feel though (general semi unrelated thought) allot of cosers at cons need to adopt a friendlier attitude towards children. I hear far too many stories of kid’s heroes being ruined for them because a coser was an ass. If you adopt a costume, you need to adopt the personality. It’s really just sad that they feel the costume doesn’t come with certain responsibilities.

  6. avatar
    October 27, 2016 at 5:51 pm

    Overall really awesome assignment though. There’s so many ways your students can go with this and they have so much source material. It’ll be really interesting. If any allow, would you be willing to post the resulting essays? I’m really interested in reading what they come up with.

  7. avatar
    October 28, 2016 at 4:27 am

    My only issue is with anyone specifically searching “what’s not effective” means it’s likely to lead to garbage about cosplayers being too fat and not looking like characters absent of the fantasy aspect of why we do it. If someone wants to talk practical, I’ll tell you the “slave” Leia design is fucking stupid and terrible to walk around in. I wasn’t Leia but a satire of her and I completely redid the top for bust support and even with wider skirt panels, my cheeks were way too out there and I was harassed. Same goes for anything strapless. Practical has nothing to do with spandex superhero costumes (maybe provide a little warm, but not protection from anything). That’s my only concern, that it will bring up body image attack instead of addressing why designs are good or bad.

    • avatar
      October 28, 2016 at 4:33 am

      ^^^^^^^ Yes female costumes are so impractical most of the time.
      I have friends who get body shamed doing cos allot. It’s extremely sad, they put so much work into it and they look amazing. People are awful

    • avatar
      October 28, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      honestly, I imagine they’re very unlikely to search for “what’s not effective.” They’ll likely just type in “cosplay” a google and pick a couple pictures first few results links.

      But even if they do, that’s fine. The entire point of the class is for them to formulate their own informed opinions about things. They don’t have to match up with mine. It’s completely legitimate for a student to come in and say “you should match the appearance of the character as closely as possible and since Harley Quinn isn’t fat, Fat Harleys are bad cosplay.” And that will foster class discussion. Of course, in this particular class, I imagine that student’s peers will crucify him/her for fat shaming… just because I know where their ideologies lie from previous discussions. So that’s not going to happen. But that would be a perfectly acceptable outlook. It’s my job to teach them HOW to think critically. Not WHAT to think.

      But honestly, like I said… it’s a literature and gender class full of millennials and heavy on feminist theory. They knew that going in. I’m unlikely to get much in the line of shaming on any topic. They’re very sensitive to that.

  8. avatar
    October 28, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Christopher Short

  9. avatar
    October 28, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Having just come from work and doing make up and props to make my team look like Walking Dead characters, my interest is really piqued. Alas, I’m now sitting in my doctor’s office for a check up, so I’ll have to put off any lengthy thoughts for now.

  10. avatar
    October 28, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Typo correction: “Danny Graydon”, not “Danny Chabon”.

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