The Body as Puppet: What Cosplay does for Taiwanese Women
In the twenty-first century, the Japanese manga and anime industry has opened markets around the world. As manga and anime have spread, so too has the fan practice of cosplay, dressing up as animated characters. The vast majority of cosplayers around the world are women. In this paper, I examine the practice of cosplay in Taiwan, and in particular, cosplayers who dress as characters from a unique Taiwanese genre of animation, “digital video swordplay puppetry.” There is a continuum of how cosplayers think and talk about cosplay. Some cosplayers, especially in North America, see cosplaying as a kind of acting and say they want to “become the character.” Others, especially in Asia, see cosplay more in terms of bringing puppet characters to life, (re)animating them. I argue that cosplay appeals primarily to women because it is a pleasurable play form of the kinds of work that they are expected to do at work and in their social lives. Cosplay allows women to experiment with different ways of blending embodied and disembodied, performative and animating, forms of affective labor.
Book giveaway! We will hold a raffle for free copies of Dr. Silvio’s new book for anyone who arrives in costume (please no weapons). Cosplayers welcome!