On Becoming a Scholar-Fan

As my final for one of my M.A. classes, I opted to do a research project about cosplay. During my research project, I found Tanya Cochran’s dissertation “Toward a Rhetoric of Scholar-Fandom” and it spoke to me.

In her prologue, she shares her personal history and development as a fan and a scholar, which I found particularly helpful to better understand myself:

Can an academic feel “at home”? I mean, feel so at home that there is no distinction in her mind between public and private, no difference between what she does and who she is, even if what she does is write and teach in academia and who she is is a Christian, a woman, a scholar, a feminist, and a fan? (11)

I share all of Dr. Cochran’s labeled identities, though I would add medievalist and cosplayer to the mix. What does it mean to be all of these things and is there a way to synthesize these facets of myself in order to better understand myself as a whole, singular identity, rather than the sum of parts?

As I move forward as a cosplayer and an academic, I’m going to look for ways to meld the two since I am but one person with many varied interests. I want to feel at home as any of my identities in all of my interests. I hope to share my work as a scholar-fan, applying my academic skills to my fandom life.

I’m still working my way through her dissertation because, as a burgeoning scholar-fan, I want to read the whole thing. I’m still thinking about the ways that I can speak authoritatively as a negotiator between was Jacqueline Jones Royster calls “contact zones.” And, perhaps most excitingly, I’m looking forward to the ways I will participate in fandom as an academic and in academia as a fan.

Works Cited
Cochran, Tanya R., “Toward a Rhetoric of Scholar-Fandom.” Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2009.
Royster, Jacqueline Jones. “When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own.” The Norton Book of Composition Studies. Ed. Susan Miller. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009. 1117-1127. Print.

An Open Challenge to Cosplay Audiences

I’ve seen a few people talking about their discontent with cosplayers who do choose to put their bodies on display. While I’m sympathetic to the frustration of talented seamstresses being overlooked in order to favor “sexy cosplay,” I’m not comfortable placing any blame on the cosplayers themselves. Sex sells – unfortunately. Instead of pointing fingers at cosplayers who are comfortable with showing off their bodies and/or may not care about more elaborate costumes, we should consider our audiences and the consumers who lavish attention on the “sexy stuff.” The impetus is not on the cosplayer to change or censor themselves. While I have personal reasons for choosing to not do “sexy cosplay” and I like to see elaborate craftsmanship rather than lingerie shoots, I will no longer fault cosplayers who choose to do “sexy cosplay.”

If you are frustrated with the proliferation of “sexy cosplay” and would like to see more craftsmanship, I encourage you to feature cosplayers you admire. Kylee of Colfox Cosplay & Photography suggested this to me last week and I think it’s a magnificent idea. For the record, this is something that @PrincessBilbo on Instagram has been doing regularly and I perk up every time I see her feature posts! Sam Skyler will be starting a new cosplay positivity art series this week and I can’t wait to see what she does. You can also read through Ginny Di’s post about new cosplay blood and check out the new feature page, Up & Coming Cosplay.

Now, for my own part in promoting amazing cosplay craftsmanship, here are three cosplayers whose skills I greatly admire (in alphabetical order). Share a cosplayer whose work you admire in the comments so I can check them out!

I’ve been following Ginny Di since she did the Doctor Who Regeneration Carol with Matt Eleven. Her Arya Stark costume is impeccable and her One-a-Day-Cosplay week was so fun to watch! Find her on Twitter and Instagram @itsginnydi and see her perform with Geekiarchy.

ginny
Ginny’s 2015 cosplays, shared on Facebook.

I recently found Major Sam on Instagram, but she’s also on Facebook (which I just found out). I love her progress documentation and she makes hats! She makes hats!! Her detail work inspires the hell out of me and I really really want to see her costumes in person one day.

sam
Three of Sam’s works, shared on Facebook.

Jennifer of Tangled Threads Designs primarily does commissions but she has a closet full of phenomenal Disney princess dresses! I’ve known Jen for over 10 years and it has been an honor to watch her skills develop since then. Find her on Instagram @aurorahermione.

jen
Commissions Jen made in 2015, shared on Facebook and Instagram.