By Patrick Yacco
Originally published on Advocate.com April 18 2014 1:57 PM ET
In a recent episode of PBS's Web series Off Book, experts examine the world of cosplay — a portmanteau of "costume" and "play" — and highlight its relationship with queer fandom. A staple at pop culture conventions around the world, cosplay is the act of fans dressing up as their favorite characters from comic books, video games, television shows, and other narrative works.
The video opens with a segment titled "Subverting Culture Through Cosplay," featuring professor and author Frenchy Lunning. Cosplay culture, she says, allows people to empower themselves by exploring different genders, and she draws connections to drag performances during World War II USO shows. The community and equality that has sprung up from cosplay is an example of philosopher Félix Guattari’s theory of the transversal, she notes.
The piece closes with a reflection on the benefits of cosplaying. Clinical psychologist Robin Rosenberg says that cosplay and in particular the character of Wonder Woman "helps [people] bring out a part of themselves that otherwise isn't there. … I think it's really wonderful how, in some cases, the characters … can be really helpful for people."