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Cosplay: An Exploration of the Subculture, Identity, and Psychological Impact


A worldwide culture that includes historical convictions, social conventions, holidays, customs, the arts, cuisine, garb, and other lifestyle patterns has been weaved by humanity. It is important to remember that many main cultures have subcultures, or groups of people who share a set of values and lead similar lifestyles but who construct their experiences differently from the majority of the population (Marciniak, 201-215). Subcultures may also take many other forms; for example, there are subcultures related to entertainment, sexuality, religion, and even the internet. One thing all subcultures have in common is that they constantly strengthen members’ feelings of belonging and give their lives more significance.

For instance, when a person belongs to a certain religious subculture, their actions and characteristics are regulated by the special doctrine and social customs of that subculture; they dress in a certain manner, consume certain foods, and have certain moral standards for the members of that subculture. The cosplay subculture is the subject of this study. (Crawford, n.p.) describes cosplay as a temporary “costume” and “play,” which is an artistic performance in which people dress up as various characters to conceal their identities in an effort to have fun or to represent certain characteristics. A subculture of people who share similar interests and lives is known as cosplay. It will be fascinating to discover and consider the way of life of costume actors as a spectator. The three particular research questions that this study examines are as follows:

First research question: What kind of attitude do cosplayers have, and what values underpin their community?

Cosplayers dress up as popular movie, comic book, or video game characters. Cosplayers exhibit diverse worldviews because they participate in cosplay, much as members of other subcultures, like hip-hop music, do. When participating in cosplay, one adopts distinct attitudes and behaviors from their everyday selves. Cosplayers may attend events with other cosplayers, display their costumes, and role-play the characters while imitating their traits, actions, and speech, according to (Yorath, 76-79) (76). Cosplay also affects how others perceive their personalities, skills, gender, and sexuality. The getaway from everyday tensions that come with cosplaying was said to assist cosplayers, who also seemed more confident in their costumes and had a better awareness of their personalities and human behavior (77).

According to the study, when cosplayers connect themselves with the characters, they feel more powerful and more capable of overcoming challenges. The impacts of cosplay were even felt after one took off their costumes owing to the “Proteus effect” (78), which claims that people exhibit characteristics of the characters they played in video games in real life straight after the game has ended. Members’ thoughts are influenced by cosplay through altering their self-perception while associating with the made-up identity. Cosplay is a subculture that dramatically influences people’s personalities and mindsets because it fosters a society where various people wear costumes to role-play and emulate the actions of various characters. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest that these psychological changes persist in cosplayers over time or after they stop participating in cosplay.

The habit of imitating characters and capturing photos of oneself in costumes to share with other subcultures seems to fit well with cosplay, which seems to be a creative setting. Nevertheless, there are certain misconceptions about the cosplay lifestyle despite the fact that cosplay has been shown to enhance a feeling of connectivity among the participants. Most disadvantaged communities encounter prejudice and struggle to reintegrate into wider society all throughout the world. For instance, those who support heterosexual weddings often discriminate against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) subculture. Since cosplayers are often mocked and ostracized by members of the dominant society, racism, sexism, and nerd culture are all said to have an impact on cosplay, according to Jenkins (157–158).

According to the research, as most cosplayers on screens are white owing to inadequate representation, black cosplayers often face racist taunts since the characters they may be imitating are not black (157). Female cosplayers are tragically vulnerable to sexism as well. The majority of comic book characters are men, therefore when female cosplayers portray male characters at conventions, the opinions are usually mixed. Female cosplayers are also subjected to body shaming when their bodies fall short of the unrealistic standards set by the characters they are portraying (158). The stereotypes that cosplayers encounter when they are labeled as geeks because of their passion for science fiction and anime may be damaging to their mental health.

According to the post, male convention goers give female cosplayers unwanted attention that sometimes even involves touching them. That explains why “Cosplay is not Consent” is written on the well-known cosplay subculture sign (158). The basic guideline of the cosplay community, according to Vardell et al., is to treat one another with respect. Cosplay operates on a theory that fosters peace and encourages their joyful adventure in a polite way by combining the sign “cosplay is not consent” with their golden rule of treating people with respect. Respecting community standards thus fosters good social interaction and fosters the freedom of individuals to express themselves.

Second research question: What are the cosplay-related symbols?

The majority of cosplayers create or purchase costumes and makeup to resemble characters from movies, cartoons, or comic books. One may, for instance, dress up as Spiderman and take a photo emulating Peter Packer, who played the title role in the well-known science fiction film “Spiderman,” in which Peter employs his alter ego or spiderlike skills to behave like a superhero (Yates, 143). Cosplay is also when a person behaves like the character they are portraying via their outfit. Since cosplay refers to costume play, participants disguise their true appearances while having fun by donning costumes and other accessories. Cosplay gives people the option to express their individuality and break free from their conditioned personas in the fandom community.

Marvel comic book and movie outfits are among the costumes used in cosplay. (Han, n.p.) claims that Yaya describes how she was depicted as the “scarlet witch” on the cover of a Marvel comic book. Yaya posed on the cover while wearing a red and black artier, a crown, and a pair of black gloves. Additionally, Yaya acknowledges that relationships with people in the crafts sector occupy the most of her time. She has a line of clothing for cosplayers called the Yaya Han fabric collection. Costumes may be tailored or personalized to fit a person’s tastes depending on the costume they choose. From the well-known Captain America outfit in the Marvel movie “Avengers,” outfits may take on many shapes and camouflages to achieve the desired look.

Third Research Question: How does one enter the cosplay community, and what effects does this way of life have on a person?

Even if some studies claim that cosplay is a sort of escapism, joining a group that focuses only on having fun via creativity is an excellent method to bring enjoyment to one’s lives. Yaya exhorts people to think about cosplay and take pleasure in the experience of navigating through many characters and the costume-designing process. Additionally, Yaya suggests that one choose a costume for a character that they can relate to. Selecting a persona that really resonates with oneself is crucial since it encourages wearers to explore their costumes and makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Han says she shuts her eyes and imagines herself in the costume to build the mental image aiming to have fun; Yaya agrees that there should be no physical restrictions on whoever one chooses to cosplay. However, one should not attempt to appear precisely like the character they cosplay.

Additionally, the realism and clarity shown in movies and comic books are not necessary for cosplay. Yaya explains that although cosplay won’t archive such accuracy in reality, video games are often lighted with moving visuals. Yaya advises newbies to put more effort into achieving the character’s sentiments than exact outfit duplication. Yaya tells us that making costumes is optional since there are so many pre-made options available when it comes to choosing whether to create or purchase them. Making one’s own costume, however, will liven up the experience since one may add originality and ingenuity to the outfit.

After completing the necessary preparations and donning their preferred costume, one may go enjoy being the “hero” or the “villain.” Unfortunately, choosing a costume or making a costume from scratch might be difficult during the planning period. Aspiring members should speak with current members for more specific guidance on preparations and what attire would suit them the best. However, people should be aware of the prejudices and misconceptions that this way of life is subject to; as a result, doing internet research and consultation will prepare prospective members for what to anticipate when joining the cosplay squad. In addition, cosplay should be enjoyable for participants and non-toxic; in fact, cosplay is a recognized lifestyle that helps players’ psychological development for the better.

Cosplay as a way of life is strongly linked to psychological health. In Taiwan in June–July 2020, research was conducted on the isolation of Covid-19 patients, according to (Hsiao et al., 888–897). According to the research, being alone in a hospital made patients vulnerable to severe psychological burdens including stress, anxiety, a fear of reintegrating into society, and other medical and social difficulties. Fortunately, cosplay was a life-changing event since it enabled patients to redirect their fears and rediscover the beauty of life as they battled to keep their equilibrium and envision positive thoughts in an effort to adapt and recover from the sickness.

According to the research, there are no restrictions on cosplay, and those who participate may get therapeutic advantages. Other research done to understand the relationship of cosplay on digital platforms with autistic children in a social situation, according to (Leyman, n.p.), shows that autistic children who find it difficult to express themselves in social situations find it easier to communicate in a familiar environment. explains how regulated cosplay imitations on internet platforms may aid users in honing their social abilities. Additionally, cosplay fosters an acceptance-seeking attitude that is desired by practically everyone, not just those with autism. Cosplay is thus a sort of treatment for mental illnesses and may lessen the misery that a person may experience as a result of their mental disease.

Therefore, cosplay successfully eliminates avoidance behavior in people with behavioral illnesses like autism, in addition to providing a way for them to escape from reality and other stresses in their lives. Additionally, cosplay is a byproduct of other aspects of life since people become extroverted, make more friends, and belong to social organizations where they don’t feel alienated when they lead enjoyable, active lives. Cosplayers have, however, in the past experienced prejudice because of misconceptions about the hobby. People that identify with their subculture always experience harsh remarks about their certain way of life. Tansey and Parks define co-cultural theory as frameworks that infer from non-dominant cultures or subcultures how members of a dominant culture interact with others. According to the co-cultural theory’s guiding concept, people communicate from a position of power when a member of the dominant culture wants to impose their control over the minority culture.

Tansey and Parks recommend, however, that people from non-dominant cultures be accepted and incorporated so that their actions are neither stigmatized or condemned. Additionally, attributional complexity influence how we perceive other people’s actions, which in turn influences how they interact with communications and social situations. Additionally, one requires emotional intelligence to be able to connect to the hurtful or uncomfortable words projected at them in order to cope with biases and stereotypes on an individual basis. According to Birkedal, cosplayers have an advantage in developing emotional intelligence because they take on the identities of characters and access feelings and actions that they may not normally access in regular life.

Cosplay enables people to comprehend, express, and deepen their emotional experiences. The violent emotional attachments that cosplayers might embody are acted out in their embodiment, creating a place for resistance to connect with negative feelings. However, young players should be under the supervision of parents while participating in cosplay since they are unable to understand the dynamics of social-cultural ideas and their implications. As members of dominant cultures, we should accept subcultures and allow everyone to express themselves and identify with whatever subgroup they feel secure and comfortable with. Cosplay may have both good and bad experiences.


Cosplayers have shared interests and traits, such as dressing up in costumes, making cosplay a subculture. Cosplay is a fantastic experience for both cosplayers and spectators since it allows participants to take on the roles of characters and enjoy the benefits of being someone else. Additionally, cosplay projects the appealing characteristics from fictional characters or animation characters onto actual people, which might result in a favorable psychological makeover. Stigmatizations and stereotypes, on the other hand, obstruct fandom’s exciting journey and cause psychological annoyances like shame, prejudice, and a feeling of isolation. However, if one wants to experience a new lifestyle and set of behaviors from the majority, cosplay is a healthy lifestyle with the promise of adventure.

Work Cited

Marciniak, Przemyslaw. “Others within: Byzantine mimes as a marginalised profession?.” Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association 18 (2022): 201-215.

Crawford, Garry, and David Hancock. Cosplay and the art of play: Exploring sub-culture through art. Springer, 2019.

Hsiao, Chun‐Ting, Jia‐Jing Sun, Yi‐Hsuan Chiang, Hsiu‐Lien Chen, and Tsui‐Yao Liu. “Experience of patients with COVID‐19 in hospital isolation in Taiwan.” Nursing & health sciences 23, no. 4 (2021): 888–897.

Yorath, Bethan Ann. “Cosplay and Mental Health: A thematic analysis.” (2022). (Pg. 76–79)

Jenkins, Bryan. “Marginalization within Nerd Culture: Racism and Sexism within Cosplay.” The Popular Culture Studies Journal 7.2 (2020): 157–158.

Tansey, Janeta F., and Elizabeth S. Parks. “Privileged professionalisms: Using co-cultural communication to strengthen inclusivity in professionalism education and community formation.” Ethics & Behavior 32.5 (2022): 431–448.

Vardell, Emily, Ting Wang, and Paul A. Thomas. “I found what I needed, which was a supportive community”: An ethnographic study of shared information practices in an online cosplay community.” Journal of Documentation 78.3 (2022): 564–579.

Yates, Samuel. “Spiderman’s Designer Genes.” The Matter of Disability: Materiality, Biopolitics, Crip Affect (2019): 143.

Han, Yaya. Yaya Han’s World of Cosplay: A Guide to Fandom Costume Culture. Union Square & Co., 2021.

Leyman, Alice. “Use of digital platforms by autistic children and young people for creative dress-up play (cosplay) to facilitate and support social interaction.” Digital Geography and Society 3 (2022): 100039.

Birkedal, Katarina HS. “Closing traps: Emotional attachment, intervention and juxtaposition in cosplay and International Relations.” Journal of International Political Theory 15.2 (2019): 188-209.


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