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Cosplaying While Fat Roundtable: Experiences With Community and Cosplay

Have your feelings about cosplay changed over time? How so?

TK: I want my feelings to change about it, but I’m not there yet. And I haven’t found the cosplay that makes me want to challenge my feelings about it. It’s weird. I know that my bias affects who and what I choose to cosplay, but I believe that if a character spoke to me enough, I’d find a way around my apprehension.

JG: [Limitation is] still a lingering feeling, but I feel I’m back to being more concerned about bare skin than size necessarily. I’m trying to break out of that feeling as well.

CloudKBD: When I continued cosplaying and got a little more serious with my craft, I definitely began to narrow the scope of my “cosplayable characters.” I became overly aware of my wide hips and my bigger thighs and stomach. I tend to go towards the trope of “thick man” because I felt like I can pull off masculine characters over feminine ones. Basically, if a character has a beard, I’ll probably cosplay them.

Is there a cosplay you want to do, but feel like you can’t because of your body type or size?

TK: I briefly considered being a Dora Milaje from the Black Panther movie, but the chest piece isn’t really made for large breasts. I could make it work, but I don’t feel strongly enough about it to do it.

JG: Not in my current plans, but that also might be a thing where I’ve subconsciously decided on cosplays I could “hide” my size in better.

CloudKBD: Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve sort of limited my cosplay trope in a way that makes me immediately go towards the bigger, thicker characters, so I haven’t had a desire to cosplay someone outside of that in a long time because it just really hasn’t felt like an option for me.

Are you going to do it anyway?

TK: Honestly, it doesn’t feel necessary. Those costumes are really complicated and I’m kinda Team Killmonger.

CloudKBD: I have cosplayed some typically skinny characters recently, but they’re definitely not costumes that I’m super confident in. It’s hard to fight my brain sometimes. Like, I tell myself, screw it, I’m going to cosplay what I want!! But when I get pictures back from photoshoots and post them online, the reception usually makes me feel a little down.

When I say they brought the rain, they brought the RAIN! Yo. When @ladybugsnlola / @daniqueevents asked me for this pose, I had low hopes. Not in her skill but in my ability to look badass turned sideways like this. I’m not the most flexible so this pose kinda makes my eyes cross. Thank goodness for sunglasses. Lol. Anyway, the pic was fire so I hired @acdramon to do his Photoshop magic on it and damn! My fade is tight (thanks @tiontuckerallen), my fangs are poppin, and I look as fierce as I can with my eyes unintentionally crossing! Thanks for making a cosplayer look good! #cosplay #blade #daywalker #marvel #vampire #suckheads #bigbeautifulcosplay #curvywomen #blackgeeks #BlackWomen #BlackGirlMagic #CurvyCosplay #sword #CosplayAnyWay

A post shared by TaLynn Kel (@talynnkel) on

Do you believe the cosplay community is inclusive of people who are not slim, white, and/or able-bodied?

TK: I think the cosplay community is a microcosm of larger society—which is not inclusive of people who are not slim, white, and/or able-bodied. In fact, I know it’s not. People pay lip service to this but then when you look at who and what they approve of, it still favors those categories. When you see disabled cosplayers, they are often slim and white. When you see Black cosplayers, they are often slim and able-bodied. When you see fat cosplayers, they are usually white and able-bodied. Rarely will you see a disabled, plus-size, POC cosplayer in a magazine or on a poster or billboard. They are rarely noticed, much less featured.

JG: Yes and no. I feel pockets of it are very inclusive, without a doubt, and pockets of it are, let’s be real, shitty to POC cosplayers, fat cosplayers, non-able-bodied cosplayers, and more. Hell, there are pockets of it that are even shitty to cosplayers who are white or East Asian with slim bodies and large chests, so it can feel like nothing [about] your body is the “correct” and “perfect” cosplay type.

CloudKBD: I think on the surface they really are. A lot of people in the cosplay community really want inclusivity, but there’s an undercurrent of *accuracy* that’s really hard to fight against. People see an impossibly proportioned character, or a character of a specific race, or a character of a certain gender, and anything that breaks that conception—no matter how accurate the cosplay—just becomes white noise I think. It’s definitely an uphill battle.

Do you think it can be more inclusive? How so?

TK: Of course it can. It takes intentional effort to include people who don’t fit that narrative. It’s not hard. Seek out photographers of color who take pictures of cosplayers of color. Find disabled cosplayers and photographers and hire them. Make an effort to see who’s NOT included in the images you find and then look for them.

We talk about body positivity, but we don’t talk about what bodies are considered positive and that there is a huge amount of disordered eating and yo-yo dieting that’s a part of cosplay culture. People say that they are body positive but then you notice that everyone they associate with is thin. You notice that if there are larger bodies, they fit a certain aesthetic: hourglass shaped, little to no rolls of fat, wasp waist, etc. It’s obvious when you look for it. These are the types of acceptable fat bodies. The euphemism is “curvy” or “thick.” Last I checked, round is a curve, yet these are not the bodies they mean. It’s a little frustrating for so many people to be invisible because they don’t fit the image of acceptable fat. I’m over the hypocrisy of it all.

JG: It could, but ultimately it boils down to those in the forefront of the community (cosplayers, photographers, cons and websites that promote them, etc.) to be loudly supportive of cosplayers of all types and of each other … and for those more on the outskirts (fans, casual passersby) to just… keep their awful thoughts to themselves.

CloudKBD: I think the focuses on hashtags to help promote underrepresented groups within the community are awesome when they’re well organized. I’ve seen some amazing cosplayers get highlighted recently because of the widespread visibility movements that I never would have seen otherwise because they just don’t get the same attention initially.

Next page: Are there any experiences, positive or negative, that stand out to you as a cosplayer?>


(featured image: TaLynn Kel)

Samantha Puc is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager whose work has appeared all over the web; she collects it at her portfolio site, The Verbal Thing. Samantha lives in Rhode Island with her spouse and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also likes vegan food. For more, follow her on Twitter.

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Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and streamer whose work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture. Their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.