Is It Really for Everyone?: Fat Mucket Character Model Talks Cosplay and Body Image
We’re happy to introduce you to writer/editor Aiesha D. Little, who serves as the character model for Fat Mucket in the upcoming season of MeSseD! In this post, she discusses being a plus-sized Black costumer in the straight-sized-obsessed cosplay community. My journey into the weird, wild world of cosplay came by way of steampunk (aka Victorian science fiction). Eight years ago, I attended a steampunk event while researching a story and decided that I liked the visual aesthetic of it enough to buy a corset and join in the fun. I was in my mid 30s at the time, and steampunk felt more accessible from a community standpoint because it skews toward an older crowd. Also, the idea of creating my own character backstory and costumes resonated with me. It wasn’t until I started doing group cosplays with friends I met through steampunk that I realize exactly how toxic the cosplay community can be. “Cosplay is for everyone” is a sentiment you hear a lot in the cosplay community but it’s not entirely true. The community is a microcosm of the world at large and the world at large is racist, sexist, homophobic and fatphobic, among other things. You would think that something that’s supposed to be as fun and carefree as cosplay would have less of these elements but you can’t divorce geek spaces from the overarching systems and structures of oppression that bind us. It’s why there’s so much online harassment of cosplayers that don’t fit the ideal standards of beauty. “Cosplay is for everyone” tends to gloss over that without interrogation. In this world we live in, if someone doesn’t like your cosplay, they can’t just pass it by without comment – they have to get their little jabs in here and there because…the internet. When they’re behind a computer screen, you aren’t a real person, which makes them capable of saying any old ridiculous thing they can think of. Because I’m older than the average cosplayer and I mostly don’t do “traditional” cosplay, I think I catch less flack from the mainstream cosplay community. I’m part of a group that does mostly cosplay mashups (steampunk Steven Universe, cyberpunk Rainbow Brite, evening wear Marvel, steampunk Pokemon, to name a few). That means I’m practically invisible to people who are into cosplays that look exactly how characters appear on screen, which allows me to have fun with this hobby that I spend an exorbitant amount of time on with very little judgment. And you know what? I’m fine with that. When I get hit with the question “hey, do you know who you should cosplay?” in a casual conversation with strangers or acquaintances, I always cringed internally because I know something awful is coming. The question is unnerving because you never know when it’s going to happen; you can never really mentally protect yourself. Whether the person’s intentions are pure or malicious, saying this to a plus-sized Black woman rarely ends well. What’s really being said when someone gives me their suggestions on who they think I should cosplay is “let me check out your physical characteristics and determine your value as a cosplayer.” No bueno. You don’t get to do that. Do you know why? Because how I see myself is far more important than how anyone else sees me. I love cosplaying strong heroes, sexy, powerful villains, complicated characters and everything in between. And just giving that up to fit into someone else’s box of what’s proper for someone my age/size/skin tone just isn’t going to happen. To do so wouldn’t be me. And when it comes to cosplay, I’ll always be true to myself and the image that I want to present.
Aiesha Little is a lover of jazz music, steampunk, cosplay, and all things geeky. You can find her work at www.aieshadlittle.com.