Deadpools with cleavage, Stormtroopers donning bikinis and Freddy Kruegers showcasing too-tight shorts walked around confidently, drawing a male gaze.
It is not the pretty ensembles or well-built armor that catch people’s attention, it’s the provocative costumes.
During the Long Beach Comic Expo it was common to see people run up to cosplayers to ask for a photo as if they were celebrities, with the majority being female cosplayers. Male photographers flocked towards cosplayers with cleavage hoping to snag a one-on-one photo shoot with a sexy Spider-Man.
Women who try to copy their favorite characters are the next eye candy for male fans.
Female cosplayers try to promote body positivity, but not everyone sees it that way. Characters are already limited and are often over-sexualized in comics. This affects the female cosplaying community.
LeeAnna Vamp is a professional cosplayer model and according to her, some of her most popular cosplays have been a gender-swapped Freddy Krueger, Boba Fett and a Stormtrooper.
At times Vamp has felt uncomfortable and has experienced first-hand sexual harassment situations from male fans who have approached her for photos and autographs.
“I use humor to make it less uncomfortable,” Vamp said.
A part of the comic community see female cosplayers as just wanting attention, who know nothing about expos or comics. But these women, like Vamp, dress the part and really get into their character.
Vamp likes to cosplay a character she truly loves and feels a connection with which helps her feel confident. At first people would say a lot of negative things towards her cosplays but by embracing her body and her love for comics, she does not let what anyone say make her feel uncomfortable or degraded.
This issue of the sexualization of cosplayers stems back to how comics are being illustrated and how women are being depicted.
Movies and comics are often not directed towards the female community but still send a huge message to young fans. There is not much of a variety of characters being advertised to women even though cosplaying can start at a young age.
The Long Beach Comic Expo is working to change the stereotype of women in comics and aim to help the female community by adding panels like “Celebrating Women in Comics” and inviting the Girl Scouts of the Greater Los Angeles Area to participate.
Cosplaying may come with some raised eyebrows but overall the Comic Expo can be a safe haven for cosplays of any kind and females of all ages to feel included.