Mako Mori, Wonder Woman and Black Panther: Rules and Representation

young wonder woman

I’ve spent the last year reveling in the success of the Wonder Woman movie and eagerly anticipating the Black Panther premiere.

Both are huge signs and signals to Hollywood of what we know from cosplay already: that identity, representation and fan inclusion matter. 

As of November, the Wonder Woman movie became the highest grossing superhero origin story ever.  As of today, the film has made 891 million dollars. Almost a billion dollars!

But Black Panther, with it’s massive pre-sales numbers and kick-ass reviews may pass that mark. FANTASTIC.

Black panther kid

Kids. Men. Women. Black.White. Asian. Hispanic. All WANT to see detailed, well-rounded, heroic representations of themselves- as we all know from cosplay. That’s what cosplay has been doing for a long time: offering the chance for people to perform stronger, braver, more beautiful or more dangerous versions of themselves as a way of exploring identity.

That cosplay involves crossplay, gender-bending, mash-ups and other great creativity, however, is a sign that media producers don’t always provide to fans the images that they seek.

Cosplayers, as I’ve said before are both very creative and very savvy about finding ways to both express and represent themselves and also to recognize the figures, characters and ideas that they resonate with.

The kids above, rocking Wonder Woman and Black Panther cosplay, are just two examples.

As a fan and a cosplayer, I’m always impressed by the intelligence and creativity of sf/fantasy/comic fans and their costumes.

But as a scholar, I’m also impressed by the awareness and savvy that gives us the Mako Mori test. 

You may have heard of the Bechdel test, which asks us to consider representation of women in film. The rules are:

  1. is there more than one female character who has a name?
  2. Do the (at least) two women talk to each other…..
  3. …..about something other than a man?

If you stop and think about it, it’s a truly astounding amount of films that don’t pass this test. (And MOST sf/fantasy films don’t.)

In real life, women have identities and names, and they talk, all the time about things that are NOT men. Work, politics, film, whatever.

So this has been a rallying cry for years in an effort to get more women represented in film as both 1. important and not just decorative (that’s also the sexy lamp test. I’ll talk about that later) and also 2. interested in more than just romantic entanglements with men.

But of course the Bechdel test is designed as a guide, not a hard-and-fast up or down rule or vote. There are films that women find to be good representations of them and their aspirational selves, but that don’t pass the test.

Enter the Mako Mori test.

mako mori

Mako Mori is the protagonist of the sf film Pacific Rim.   She is, in fact, the hero of the film, and the film is arguably about her.

But….it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. There are only two women in the film, and they don’t talk to each other.  Doesn’t mean you can’t like it, but for a lot of folks, that was disappointing.

The thing is though that, especially for female fans of Asian descent, it’s really hard to fault a film that is really a coming-of-age/hero’s journey/chosen one tale about a woman.

Fans of color point out how vanishingly few representations there are of Asian women like this.

And so, the Mako Mori test was proposed in a conversation in Reddit by the user Chalia.

The Mako Mori test is:

  1. If the movie has at least one main female character
  2. …who gets her own narrative arc
  3. …and whose arc does not exist solely to support the male lead’s story

This allows a different perspective and appreciation for the film and the truly original and even transgressive stance of placing the woman’s arc in the center of the plot.


And this is at least as true for white men as anyone else. Look at the backlash against the strong women in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Men who had grown up visualizing themselves as pure Luke or Han-who-follows-no-orders were existentially troubled by a not-perfect Luke, and a rogue fighter pilot who gets scolded by female generals (and who is really ultimately responsible for all the rebels dying.)

I think it’s important to remember that kids (and adults) can see and visualize themselves as not just victims or assistants, not just girlfriends or servants (please see Spike Lee’s important “Super-duper magical negro” theory.)


African superheroes, Amazons who run and kick ass in their own nation, Asian robot drivers and Hispanic princess are all IMPORTANT in the dreams they help build, and foster and communicate.

And so are, still, Harry Potter, The Karate Kid and every superhero that the Chris collective plays (Starlord/Kirk/Thor, etc.)

Maybe next we can have representation of men being caring, emotional and collaborative.  Let’s devise a test for that!


Meeting the Cosplay Family(s) at La Mole

(Version en Espanol de este articulo por hacer clic aqui)

I’ve returned from my adventure in Mexico at La Mole Comic Con . What a great event.

On Saturday, I met talked with many more cosplayers,  and I was struck by how many family groups there were.

My experience of groups attending together in the U.S. is that these tend to be affinity groups (groups of friends.)  I have met a few family cosplay groups- and after all, I blog as one, but I noticed how many more of these folks I met in Mexico City.

And I am very sure that this is the time I’ve met cosplay grandparents. : )


Ignacio and Estela as Snow White and The Punisher

Estela was quick to tell me that she isn’t normally the “Princess” type (she’s a fan of the Spiderman franchise)- but had dressed as Snow White for her grand-daughter, who was at the convention as Princess Peach.  Here she is with her little sister (who is the most adorable, tiniest Michonne you’ve ever seen).


Cosplay grandparents and granddaughters!

Fantastic. More on this family to come.

In addition to the grandparents, I also met groups of siblings and cousins.  Here- Diana, Aden, Joseline, Mariana and Edgar as various characters from Mario Kart (including the “final lap” cloud.)


They were a lot of fun- had collectively decided to cosplay, had worked on costumes together and were there as a group.

I also met two brother-sister pairs:

Javier and Andrea, taking advantage of the IT hype to give people a fun scare:

Pennywise and Georgie

these two were having a great time and getting along famously.

There were also Rebeca and Ramon (with their father- who like my esposo, was just tech support).


Rebeca as Camus and Ramon as a Digimon

Rebeca and Ramon’s Dad, beaming proudly (and taking photos of me interviewing these two), is an example of some really nice family support dynamics that I observed, however briefly, at La Mole.

As I’ve written before, I often encounter U.S. based cosplayers who wish they had more family support. Sometimes I’ve met U.S. cosplayers who talk about open hostility to their hobby from their parents and family.

As a Cosplay Mom myself, I’ve always loved that Kiogenic (cosplay daughter) was into cosplay- it’s creative, it’s positive and it has really allowed her to make new friends while learning new skills. So many worse things a young person can spend their time on.

I mentioned this to several of the cosplayers I met in Mexico, but they all reported at best, enthusiastic family support (as in the case of Rebeca and Ramon’s Dad who spent a month of weekends making their costumes), and at worst sort of a shrugged indifference by family members- “huh, that’s a funny thing the kids are into.”

As the cousins told me, the saying is that (paraphrasing) “if your kids spend money on cosplay, they won’t have any for drugs or alcohol.”


So many more people to talk to and much more to learn, but I was charmed and delighted by the wonderful cosplay families I met at La Mole!

A big shout out and thanks to all those supportive families.


Familias del Cosplay en La Mole

(For an English version of this post click here)

Acabo de regresar de mi aventura en México en La Mole Comic Con.  Fue un evento fantástico.

El sábado, hablé más con muchos que practicaban el cosplay, y me impresionó la cantidad de familias que había en el expo.

Mi experiencia de grupos en los EEUU es que suelen ser grupos de amigos, unidos por su interés colectivo en un programa o juego.  A veces veo familias que participan juntos, pero me pareció que había más en el D.F.

Para empezar- conocí a abuelos que participaban en caracterizar personajes favoritos.


Ignacio and Estela as Snow White and The Punisher

Estela me dijo al principio que normalmente no se disfrazaría como una princesa (es aficionada del universo Spiderman)- pero esta vez vino al expo como Snow White por su nieta, que asistió como la Princesa Peach de Mario Kart. Aquí se puede ver a la Princesa Peach con su hermana menor- la más pequeña y más adorable versión de Michonne que puede existir.


Cosplay grandparents and granddaughters!

Me parecian fabulosos (y escribiré más de esta familia en el futuro).

Después de los abuelos del cosplay conocí a grupos de primos y hermanos. Aquí- Diana, Adén, Joseline, Mariana y Edgar como varios personajes del Mario Kart. Ellos lo pasaban re bien, habían trabajado en los disfraces como equipo y llegado al expo de muy buen humor.

También conocí a dos pares de hermanos.

Javier y Andrea, que se aprovechaban de la fama de la película IT para “sacar de onda” a la gente y “llegar al extremo.”

Pennywise and Georgie

Los dos se estaban divirtiendo.

Finalmente conocí a Rebeca y Ramón (con su padre, que me recordaba a mi esposo en que sirvió como apoyo técnico)


Rebeca as Camus and Ramon as a Digimon


El padre de ellos, con sonrisa orgullosa (sacando fotos de ellos y de mi en la entrevista) da un ejemplo de las dinámicas de apoyo dentro de familia que yo percibí en ese expo.

Como he dicho antes en este blog, en los EEUU, a menudo me encuentro con gente joven que me hablan sobre su deseo de tener más apoyo de la familia y de sus padres.

A veces conozco a cosplayadores que reciben hostilidad e insultos de su familia.

Como una madre de una hija que participa en cosplay, yo pienso que es un pasatiempo muy saludable. Ella conoce a nuevos amigos y aprende destrezas técnicas nuevas en construir disfraces.

Hay cosas mucho peores.

Como los primos me dijeron en la Mole, en su familia dicen que los jóvenes “que gasten su dinero en cosplay no tienen dinero para alcohol o drogas.”

Es la verdad.

Sé que tengo mucho que aprender sobre el cosplay en México y quiero conocer a muchos más participantes.

Pero hoy quiero dar aplausos a todos los que conocí, y las familias que los apoyan.

#Estoyenlamole- Bilingual Entry in Inglés y Español

(Sigue alternando el español)

I had a great day at La Mole yesterday, and met some wonderful cosplayers and artists.  I learned some things that I’d like to explore more about how similar- and different the cosplay community is in Mexico from the United States. But of course one key thing is language.

I learned that for my somewhat introverted self- it’s that much harder to get up the courage to approach strangers to talk to me about cosplay. And I learned that while I’m pretty fluent in Spanish, my vocabulary lets me down sometimes if I want to talk about, say, forming foam armor with heat guns.  (Many thanks to the patient cosplayers who hung with me while I fumbled around for terminology).

In speaking to cosplayers, I specifically asked if I should blog in Spanish and English to better communicate with the Mexican cosplay community. The resounding answer was YES. So this blog will be bilingual.  I toyed with the idea of doing two separate posts- one in English and one in Spanish. That may be less cumbersome. At some point, I may design a separate Spanish-language site.

For now though,  this post will be bilingual (alternating paragraphs) and I’d be every so grateful for feedback on if that works or not!

Lo pasé re bien en La Mole ayer, y conocí a muchos artistas y cosplayadores talentosos.  Aprendí de varias cosas que quiero explorar más en cuanto a las similaridades- y diferencias de las comunidades del cosplay en Mexico y Los Estados Unidos.  Claro- una de las lecciones claves tiene que ver con el idioma.

Aprendí que para mí- como soy media introvertida, es aún más difícil acercarme a los cosplayadores que no conozco para hacer preguntas.  También aprendí que, mientras tengo destreza en la lengua, muchas veces no tengo el vocabulario de hablar de tales cosas técnicas como formar el “foam” con una pistola de calor.  (Mil gracias a los cosplayadores que me tenían paciencia cuando yo buscaba palabras).

En hablar con los cosplayadores, hice preguntas específicas acerca de si yo debo escribir ambos en español e inglés. Me dijeron que sí.    Por eso, decidí escribir este blog- y los otros que escribo acerca del cosplay latinoamericano, de manera bilingüe. Pensaba también en simplemente tener todo un artículo separado en español- y también en abrir un sitio/blog que esté puramente en español. No sé todavía.

Empecemos con este blog que alterna entre las dos lenguas.  Estaria muy agradecida por comentarios y sugerencias acerca de la cosa.

Where to start? Maybe with my first impressions on similarities and differences- 

¿Cómo empezar? Quizá con lo que es similar, y lo que es diferente.

Similarities/Lo Similar:

The cosplay and art here in Mexico is as amazing and creative and enthusiastic as any con that I’ve attended in the United States.  I will profile some of these cosplayers in more detail in coming posts, but here’s a taste, just from day 1!

El cosplay y el arte que he visto aquí es tan creative, entusiasta y fantástico como el que he visto en los Estados Unidos. En artículos futuros, haré retratos más detallados de algunos de estos cosplayadores. Por ahora,¡ un vistazo del primer día!


Eduardo y Fernando como Punk Batman y Mecha Joker

Leo como Harley Quinn in Crossplay


Jagr, author of Momentum with Momentum.



Artista Siames Escalante of Umiiland

What’s Different? / Lo Diferente

Again, I have many observations, but here I’ll add just a few words and expand more later.

The cosplay here is almost overwhelmingly done by males (or who identify as male).  There were lots of women at the convention yesterday, but hardly any in cosplay.  I did see this AMAZING gender-bent Nightwing


I didn’t get to talk to this cosplayer- she (assuming, here) radiated “back off” and had a male bodyguard/chaperone. (I always do my best to respect cosplayers’ desire to talk or be left alone.)

Tengo muchas observaciones, pero ofreceré simplemente algunas en este momento para expandir más en el futuro.

El cosplay que vi fue hecho casi en total por hombres (o los que se identificaban como hombres). Había muchas mujeres en el evento, pero casi ninguna en cosplay. Vi (arriba) un Nightwing- versión femenina, pero no pude hablar con ella (aquí asumo que se identifica como mujer)- dio toda una impresión de “no me hables” y también  vino acompañada por un guardaespaldas/chaperón. (Y siempre hago lo que puedo de respetar a los que participan en cosplay- si están dispuestas a hablar, o si quieren mantener su espacio privado).

I think there will be  a lot to say about gender and gendered cosplay as I work and meet cosplayers and reflect. Today though, I am back to the convention, and look forward to posting more later!

Creo que voy a tener mucho que decir en cuando al genero y como funciona el genero en el cosplay aqui. Sin embargo, necesito tiempo para pensar y reflejar. Y hoy- de regreso al evento!  Escribire mas en el futuro!

Day of the Dead, Frida Kahlo and La Mole!

How lucky am I? I am in Mexico City for my first Latin American Con- La Mole ComicCon

And I arrived on Todos Santos– November 2,  All Saints Day, which turns out to be part of a several days-long celebration of Day of the Dead/Halloween.


Love love love local markets! I thought the chocolate pumpkins with the googly eyes (on the left) were extra creepy.

Kids everywhere in costume- including kigus. Pumpkins, skeletons and ofrendas (offering remembrances for those who have passed away) in corners, in front of stores, on porches and even in my Holiday Inn Express.


So how cool is it that in Mexico they’ve just added Halloween on to the traditional festivals of November 1 and 2 (All Souls and All Saints) to make HALLOWEEN LAST THREE DAYS? Awesome.

and….wait….I got to go to Frida Kahlo’s house.  I fangirled pretty hard.


“I have been travelling since 4am and stood in line for two hours but I AM IN FRIDA’S GARDEN!” (and yes I paid extra for the photo pass. Duh).

ESPECIALLY because the special temporary exhibition was of her clothing.  Frida was an amazing, surreal, adventurous artist, but she was also an amazing costumer with an impeccable, artistic sense of personal style.

better frida vogue

French Vogue 1939.  Frida Kahlo: A Woman of Power


Children, apparently would follow her on the streets asking- “Where’s the circus?”

Frida 2

Life Goals.

So as far as I’m concerned, my visit to the house where Frida lived, worked and died was just a part of this cosplay adventure.

No, Frida didn’t cosplay, but she had a lot in common with historic and contemporary cosplayers.

She was true to herself. She didn’t much care about gender norms…….like the time she showed up for the family photo in 1924 in a man’s suit.

Frida family photos 1924

That’s Frida on the far left.

She never called herself a surrealist. She insisted that what she was painting was HER reality.

And her reality was colorful, and juicy, and painful, and bright, and sad.

Dos Fridas

Las Dos Fridas (The Two Fridas) 1939

But she didn’t give up. She celebrated life colorfully, and used her art to express herself.


I like to think she would have approved of cosplay. And all the amazing cosplayers I’m going to (hopefullly) meet tomorrow and Saturday!!!!!

Faces of Cosplay: Daniratoe

“don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t cosplay a character because of your looks. You go rock whatever dang costume you want.”

raven 2

It was 2015 and I was dropping Kiogenic at the local Christmas parade- where she was set to march with the fabulous Springfield Cosplay Group.

sgf cosplay Xmas

such a great group. Kiogenic in “casual Hiro” wiith Baymax. Daniratoe on the right as Daenerys.

As per usual, she ditched me pretty quickly, and I ended up chatting with the stunning Daenerys cosplayer (who was mildly peeved that she kept getting identified as Elsa). I didn’t blame her. Daenerys is WAY cooler. She has DRAGONS!

This was Daniela, and we became Facebook friends after. That meant that I got to see ALL her amazing make-up tutorials and the odysseys of the Raven and Muffet cosplays.

(She was also super nice to Kiogenic and I when we went to the fabric store where she worked!)

Daniela has amazing style and class everyday, and she’s an exceptional cosplayer. Originally from Ecuador, she’s also our first International cosplayer, so a special welcome to Daniratoe here!

Name: Daniela Perdue (Daniratoe)
Day job?: Currently moving out of state, but I was Fabric Store Sales Associate in Springfield, Mo
Age-ish?:23 years old
Home base? Moving to Ft. Sill, OK (Lawton)

Why do you cosplay?

I’ve always thought of myself as a very creative person and cosplay gives me a way to create and play with my artistic abilities. I love sewing and other different types of crafting, and cosplay involves a lot of craftsmanship and handwork. It is a very fulfilling hobby and it makes it even better when the things I am creating are based in the fictional characters that I resonate the most with in many different levels. It is a lot of fun to go through the process of constructing these costumes and props and its even better when I see the reaction of people when I am finished with my projects. It is worth every moment, from start to finish, and it has helped with my self esteem a lot throughout the years.

How long have you been cosplaying?

I started cosplaying in 2012 back in my country, Ecuador. Back then, the resources were very limited: high quality wigs, for example, were not easily available and needed to be imported from overseas, as well as other small accessories. We have a wide variety of fabrics (A whole area of the city I lived in was nothing but fabric stores that covered 2 or 3 blocks of downtown) and other utensils and materials, like craft foam, fiberglass, EVA foam, etc. At the same time, the hobby was a growing giant, so events were scarce at first, and not very many people were aware or participating in the craft.

I came into the hobby when it was starting to gain more attention from local media and more events were being held and were open to the public. I am not fully familiar of how the Geek movement really started, but the people who did cosplay were few when I started. Back then, as well, many cosplayers relied on seamstresses  (and from what I am aware of to this date, still do) to make most of the costumes, and other craftspeople who knew how to fabricate proper props, but today, the community has become larger and things have become easier to obtain, so the quality and quantity of costumes has improved a lot.

How do you choose your character(s)?

I personally don’t have a strict set of rules. A lot of the costumes I’ve done have been chosen either because I felt compelled and related to the character, or because I was included in cosplay groups, or simply, because their character design was absolutely perfect in my eyes. I do admit that a big influence for me to choose my next projects has a lot to do with the character’s popularity overtime and mainly stay away from Anime characters, not because I dislike the genre, but because I prefer western animation, designs and entertainment (for the most part).

betty boop


I’ve cosplayed many famous characters from different shows and video games for these reasons, such as April O’Neil (TMNT), Betty Boop (1930), Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones), Raven (Teen Titans), Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice Tv Show from 1989) and more.

I feel like I’ve evolved as a cosplayer since I started. Back in the first couple of years, my approach to designing the cosplays was to stick to the original designs. I am still fond of keeping the costume accurate, but I like to make them look more realistic and less cartoon-ey.

Early Raven

Raven cosplay, 1.0. Her style evolves.

Do you have a signature, or favorite cosplay?

Raven has definitely become my signature cosplay, and she’s always been my favorite, just because I love Teen Titans and I love Raven herself. I’ve remade her costume recently and I am super happy with the result. The difference is stark, too.

raven 1

Raven cosplay 2.0

Another staple and big favorite is my Muffet cosplay from Undertale, mainly because it was my very first time making big props (2 sets of extra arms)

muffet 1

Muffet from Undertale


and the first time a makeup test was the definer for me to make Muffet my project, haha.

muffet 2

LOOK at this amazing make-up work!

Do you make, or buy your cosplays?

Most of my Cosplays were made by a seamstress back when I lived in Ecuador. When I moved to the States, costume making became much more expensive for me, and I didn’t know how to sew, so I no longer come up with 2 or 3 new costumes a year like I used to. The benefit of it though is it pushed me to actually learn how to make the costumes myself and to problem-solve a lot of the crafting process.
What advice do you have to other cosplayers?

To the new victims of this fun addiction: Don’t get intimidated by cosplay and the crafting process or by those who have been doing this longer than you. That doesn’t matter. You’re here to have fun and to use your imagination to create great things. If you commit yourself into making it happen, no matter what the result is, own it. We all learn new things and hey, lucky you, a lot of more experienced craftsmen and women have many good pointers and tutorials all over the internet. Also, don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t cosplay a character because of your looks. You go rock whatever dang costume you want.

To us more seasoned Cosplayers: be nice to those who are learning to do this new craft. You were there not too long ago, and you struggled. You also have awful projects that maybe didn’t come out as planned, and you also put hours, days, and weeks on them, and wore them proudly. This is not a contest of “who did it better.” Share your knowledge and help others improve. Cosplay is way more fun when you can stand beside someone else who has done the same character without finding their flaws.

What’s the best thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?

People comment a lot for my choice of fabrics, and for my makeup. I appreciate it a lot when people notice these details, because they are usually the ones I’ve worked my hardest on.

betty boop 2
What’s the worst thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?

That I am either not the right skin tone for the character I am representing, or that I have the wrong body type for it. Just go away and be the miserable person you are somewhere else. I’m having fun over here.
Do you attend conventions? Which is your favorite?

I’ve attended to a couple in the US. I really wished I could attend more, but traveling costs can make or break you!

My first con in the US was Naka-Kon in Overland Park, KS thanks to the clubs I was part of during college. I attended for 3 years in a row until I graduated from school.

My favorite one though has to be A-kon in Fort Worth, TX. Much bigger and many many more talented people attend, and I had a blast getting to know so many of them.

I spoke to Daniela via Facebook Messenger. 

By cosplaymom

Breasts and Penises, Armor and Beauty: Superhero Genitalia- Part II

By far, the most well-read blog post that I have written here discussed the issue of superhero- and more specifically, MALE superhero private parts. 

If you haven’t read that entry, and would like to, go ahead. Follow the link above. I’ll wait.


Ok. That post was a meditation, and consideration of the way in which comics, movies, and then, inevitably cosplayers, promote the idea that muscles and violence are for men and sexualized body parts are for women.

While female superheroes, and therefore female superhero costumers and cosplayers have to work to enhance their cleavage and make their boobs look bigger, it is a clear and both written and unwritten rule that male superheroes in film and in cosplay have to work hard to make their genitalia not just smaller, but invisible.

hide vpl

This is from a handy tutorial on youtube: “Male Spandex Cosplay Rules” Our host is displaying penis-hiding underpants.

That original post speculated about the origins of this differentiation in costuming.

I’ve continued to think about both sides of this equation, especially in light of both the new, and massively successful Wonder Woman (and James Cameron’s) comments on it, but also in light of some great panels I went to at a conference on gender and media called “Console-ing Passions.”

The Wonder Woman discussion merits its own post about women, beauty and power, so I’ll focus here on the men, with similar musings on appearance, beauty and power.

At that conference I heard a lot of great research and work being done on gender and representation, especially of superheroes. (I went to panels on everything from Orphan Black to Batman). I love my research.

One panel was devoted to the way in which media entities interact with fans in the production and advertising of films. The paper focused on both Batman vs Superman and the latest (2017) Spiderman reboot.

As the presenter was demonstrating the way in which much promotion surrounded the development and the technical specifications of Batman’s armor, I couldn’t help noticing the difference in the current armor from earlier iterations of the suit. Specifically, in the codpiece.


This is a fan-taken close-up of the Batman armor from San Diego Comic-con.  Apologies for the reflective glare. 

As you can see here, the armor from Dawn of Justice has the kind of enhancement of the genital area that you see in medieval armor-


This is the kind of gear that is clearly designed to draw attention to and enhance the image of a man’s penis (and suggest great size).   That, to be honest, is what I was expecting when I first started thinking about superheroes, men and power.  As I observed in the last post, if male genitalia is the most masculine of body parts, and superheroes are designed to be uber-masculine and super-male, why would you hide it?

A discussion at the aforementioned Console-ing Passions offered some insight and led me down a different path of theorizing.  In a body suit, such as that of earlier Batman, or Spiderman, the suit is understood as soft.  

 In a costume such as the 2002 Toby McGuire Spidey-suit, there is a notable effort to diminish the VPL (visible penis line) and de-emphasize that area of his body. It is also clear that the suit is not armored, but rather a form-fitting body suit (that in many origin stories we see the hero sewing himself, clearly with no armor):


And this may be the key: protection. While the penis and scrotum is of course the most masculine of body parts, it is also, obviously, the most vulnerable. Making these body parts visible in a costume that is clearly not designed to protect them does not communicate power, it communicates vulnerability.

And when it comes to appearance, as the brilliant Erynn Masi de Casanova observes in her study of men’s clothing and masculinity , men’s aspirational appearance is about power: looking invincible, capable and ready for anything.  Spidey can only carry that off if the (presumably male) viewer doesn’t have to worry about the vulnerability of his crotch.

The armor of the Batman suit above, however, can safely boast both about the size of Batman’s penis, but also the invincibility and invulnerability of it.

Which brings me back to the idea, discussed in the previous post, about how a VPL is “inappropriate.”  One sees this in many cosplay forums, much discussion about how “no one wants to see that” or “PLEASE tuck and tape for decency’s sake”.  I originally thought this was some sort of sexual prudery: the idea that it was inappropriate for either women to see, and therefore think about men’s penises, or for men (who were possibly, GASP, homosexuals) to do the same. Clearly, the desire to hide genitalia comes from social squeamishness.

However, I now wonder if the “inappropriate” nature of the VPL isn’t about sexual prudery (or at least not completely) but more about how it’s inappropriate for a superhero to show that kind of physical vulnerability.  

While we may be ok with Batman (or certainly Deadpool) showing some psychological damage, they must continue to be relentlessly invincible in their physical selves. And so I leave you with this last image, which I think sums up this particular theory of superhero genitalia:  It’s an add for the Chris Pratt Deadpool movie that is a very focused crotch-shot, and that even makes a not-so-subtle sexual reference to sexual potency.

Note, however, that while again, there is not an emphasis in the suit on Deadpool’s penis itself (obviously tucked and taped), he’s holding not just armor, but an actual weapon over that area as a phallic symbol of violence, power and strength.  The gun stands in, armored, weaponized and ready, as an invincible VPL.



By cosplaymom

Faces of Cosplay: Dr. Crossplay

One of my favorite cons is Cosplacon- a friendly, well-run affair that focuses specifically on cosplay and cosplayers.

This year, I went with Kiogenic (cosplay daughter) and friends to the annual event.  Once they were ready to hit the floor, we went down to the atrium for photos:


this is Kiogenic’s “Lego Batman” Robin.

When we were done and they had run off to meet up with friends and other people much cooler than I am, I sat in the sunny, 1970’s lobby and watched the show.

I love Cosplacon because just about everyone is in cosplay (it’s a cosplay convention, after all).

There were assassins and pokemon, monsters and anime princesses. A sea of happy, excited and excellent cosplay.

But as I sat there, my attention was most drawn to an stunning, statuesque cosplayer in fishnets, top hat and a tailcoat.

Dr Crossplay Zatana 2

Dr. Crossplay as Zatanna Zatara

When he worked his way around the floor, I asked to take his photo and we struck up a conversation. This is how I met the eloquent, elegant Edward Johnson, aka Dr. Crossplay.

Name: Edward Johnson

Age-ish: 48 Years Old Be 49 this August

How long have you been cosplaying? I have been cosplaying four years now.

Why do you cosplay? I cosplay for fun along with the recognition and respect from other cosplayers and fans. I’m able to bring my favorite comic book characters to life and I love the positive attention I get from fans,other cosplayers, friends and strangers.

How do you decide what to cosplay? I get a lot of my choices from Google, Bing, Facebook, and Deviant Art.

Do you have a favorite, or signature cosplay? My favorite cosplays are and have been Zatanna, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy.

Dr Crossplay Harley

Harley Quinn.

Do you make or buy your cosplays?  I tend to make my own costumes.just not exactly from the fabric or from the first sequin and stitch up. I throw together my costumes from other clothes and some other costumes I buy locally on the cheap or from thrift and do some hemming here, and adding more style there, to make my costume the way I want it to be the best I can make it to be.

What advice do you have to other cosplayers? Start out small. Go to the nearest con or comic event nearest to where you live. Don’t be afraid to buy a costume and do some modding or fixer-uppers to get the costume to fit how you want it to. Many cosplayers start out for the first time will go with something simple and build up for there as they progress. If you go to a convention, you’ll see a lot of different types of costumes, from store bought to homemade, from simple to complex. Some people aim to look as much like the character they’re portraying as possible. Others don’t. It’s all a matter of personal choice. The key to not being intimidated by other cosplays is to remember, it’s just for fun and those cosplayers are having fun just as much.

What is the best thing someone has said to you about your cosplay? Most people will say “That’s a great cosplay. Did you make it yourself?”

What’s the worst thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay? The worst I’ve had to endure a few cat calls and some homophobic slurs. Most of the slurs were online. I will sometimes confront them online and put them in their place and or just block them all together.

Do you attend conventions? I most certainly do attend conventions,Yes. So far it has been Cosplacon in Jefferson City, Dodecacon in Columbia, Visioncon in Branson, Missouri.


Please Don’t Be an Ass- Nothing but Love for Fans and Cosplayers

I’ve been thinking a lot about how easy it is to encourage and give hope, but also how easy it is to injure and beat down.

I’m like a lot of us- I carry around compliments and nice things people have said to me like little pieces of precious metal- to pull out and look at when I’m low.

And I also carry around insults and jabs- some from when I was a child. And really, they feel heavier.

This is true for most of us. In work or in relationships, researchers estimate that it takes between 5-10 compliments to offset every insult.

For every negative thing you say to someone, especially a child, you need to say ten positive things.

I knew this intuitively, but as always for me, it helps to see it in scholarly or research form.  I knew this not just because of my own experience, but in what I see in cosplay and at conventions. I love this drawing, because it is so true:


Cosplay changed my daughter’s life. The people she met at our very first convention were so kind, so encouraging and so very positive that she left that event saying “I wish I could live at the convention.”

These are the first people that we met. I am sad at how bad this photo is, and very much wish I could tag them, but I want to at least give them credit and love and appreciation here

2013-08-24 13.20.18

I went to a panel led by the gentleman in the top hat the next day, and he even spent some time emphasizing just how important it can be to a young person to be accepted. Steampunk might have generally accepted rules and conventions, but you should never smack somebody down for their effort.

He said, “you might see a young cosplayer, and their whole costume might be just a pair of goggles.”  “And that is GREAT.”

I’m so grateful to him, the ladies in this photo, the artist Eric Burton, who we met at the same convention, and the so many other cosplayers and artists and creators who have been kind to us. Thank you.

I think most people don’t know how much of an effect they can have, even with one small compliment.

But they do, and they can help someone overcome a devastating insult or attack.

We’ve had overwhelmingly positive experiences in cosplay, but just this month, at RTX in Austin, Texas, one of my daughter’s heroes was, well, an ass.

She chose RTX, the convention for the production company Rooster Teeth for her senior trip.  I would have taken her to England or Japan, but she wanted to go to Austin and meet the men and women who make her favorite programs.

It’s her dream job to work for them.

We spent extra money on a VIP pass and she worked for weeks on cosplay and on making art to give as gifts to the celebrity folks to make the shows.

and the vast majority of them were LOVELY and fantastic and complimentary and everything we’ve come to expect and hope for at a convention.


Cosplay Daughter’s Felix  (RvB) Cosplay. These guys were GREAT


But one of the people she was hoping to meet was mean. And that’s really sad.

She stood in line for hours to meet the star of a show she likes (she wouldn’t want me to say which one), and when she got to meet him, she expressed what a big fan she was.

He then proceeded to quiz her on, “well did you see X episode”?

and when she faltered and wasn’t sure, he mocked her, because it was a “trick question”. “We didn’t do an episode about that.”

WTF dude.

Is this because she was female? Young? is he just mean? Who knows.

but out of all the stories she told me after her experiences, including fantastic ones, it was the experience she told me about the most. It hurt. It made her feel small and stupid. It crushed her.  Words like that are even stronger from someone you respect or admire.

Cosplay daughter used to want to code, until I sent her to a computer camp where she was outnumbered by insulting and abusive boys. This reminds me of that.

I’m just glad the positive outweighed the negative at RTX.

I don’t know why someone would behave like that. Arrogance. Misogyny. Damage. I don’t know. But it’s a very strong and valuable reminder to me about how much power both positive and negative feedback and interactions have.

I talked to cosplayers at the convention, mostly working my way down lines of people waiting to get into events. I met lots of wonderful, creative, supremely talented cosplayers like these


All fantastic gender-bent RWBY cosplayers!

Most of the cosplayers were open and happy and proud and ready to share. We would chat, and I’d take photos, and we’d talk materials and characters and backstories with the surrounding crowd.

But as I worked my way up one line, I saw two young Camp Camp cosplayers ahead trying to make themselves smaller and smaller. They couldn’t have had clearer body language that they didn’t want to talk to me. They drew down into themselves and tried to disappear.

So of course I left them alone.

But at the time, I wanted badly to just walk by and say something nice. And now I’m just so much hoping that they didn’t stand in line to meet the nasty celebrity. I hope they had a good and positive convention.

and I hope, very much, that I always remember this lesson. And say nice things. And be positive.

I want very much to be one of the 5 to 10 compliments that helps counter any insult a cosplayer receives.


Faces of Cosplay: Sarah Harris

Sarah and I are cosplay moms.

When I first started on the odyssey of helping my cosplay daughter (Kiogenic) craft and construct (without going broke), I started a thread on called “cosplay parenting.”


This isn’t us, obviously. But great cosplay parenting!

While it seemed to me that there were a good deal of parents who supported their children in costuming (and who cosplayed themselves), I hadn’t found anywhere we could share ideas.

Sarah was an early contributor to that thread. She was helping teenage sons in England as I was helping a daughter in the U.S, and we shared ideas and celebrations. I watched the elaborate process of the construction of her cosplays from across the pond.

We became Facebook friends, and talked politics and life events, family and comics.

We started as fellow cosplay moms, but now she’s more than that: my super-cool English friend- cosplayer, artist, and best-ever tour guide……

Because when Kiogenic and I were in London this summer, I finally got to MEET Sarah in person!


She was lovely and warm and friendly, and had organized the most fascinating street art and counter-culture tour of Camden- ever. We wound around the market and through alleys, looking high and low at the work of many of Sarah’s friends.


This was my favorite.

She showed us the places the cool kids hang out and showered cosplay daughter with comic book gifts.

As she and Kiogenic browsed comics and graphic novels at a small, locally-owned shop, I chatted with the guy behind the desk, who was interested to learn how I knew Sarah.


“It would have been awkward if you hadn’t gotten on” he observed.

He was right. I suppose it would have been. But I hadn’t really worried about it. Sarah was already a friend before I “met” her in person. Fascinating, brilliant, talented and delightful.

So today I’d like to offer a profile of my cosplaymom, artist,  costumer and maths-whiz buddy Sarah:

Name: Sarah Harris
Day job: statistician for a marketing agency
Age-ish: 50 (ouch!) (Still not quite come to terms with that!)

Why do you cosplay?

At the moment I’m not (although never say never!), but when I did it was for 2 reasons…for something fun to do with my sons, and because I just love making things. The construction side of cosplay tended to be more fun to me than the actual dressing up part.

How long have you been cosplaying?

The first cosplay I made was 3 years ago. The first I wore was 2 years ago.

How do you choose your character(s)?

The only costume I ever made for myself was Rocket Raccoon. I thought he looked like a fun construction challenge and I wanted to make it for one of my boys but neither were keen…. so I made it for myself instead! The boys’ costumes were always characters they chose themselves from computer games.
Sarah 2

Rocket Raccoon. The tail. And the GUN!

Do you have a signature, or favorite cosplay?

Favourite is probably the Lich King armour from World of Warcraft that I made for my son Connor. It took over a year!
Lich King

Sarah has SKILLZ.

Do you make, or buy your cosplays?

Everything made from scratch. Making is the fun bit for me.

What advice do you have to other cosplayers?

Blimey…..people don’t usually ask me for advice! just have fun with it I guess! And if you aren’t having fun either change the way you do it until it IS fun, or find something else you enjoy more.

What’s the best thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?

Best reactions are always from the little ones. “Rocket I love you” is probably the best 🙂

What’s the worst thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?

This is going to sound horribly smug but I don’t think I’ve heard any negative comments! Closest I guess is “oh it’s a CHICK in there!” when someone heard Rocket talk in an unexpected lady voice 🙂

Do you attend conventions?

Yes, around one per month. Comic books are my first love so I tend to go to the ones which are comic content heavy.
Which is your favorite?
ooh, hard to choose. the best I’ve been to this year so far was a bit of a one off, a convention to celebrate the 40th birthday of the British comic 2000AD. I’ve been reading it since I was 9 🙂 So that was a real blast.

Check out Sarah and the rest of the Implausible Cosplay Gnus of her family at: