Praxis

The remediation of the fan convention: Understanding the emerging genre of cosplay music videos

Nicolle Lamerichs

[0.1] Abstract—Through cosplay (costume play), fans perform existing fictional characters in self-created costumes, thereby enriching and extending popular narratives. Cosplay is an understudied form of appropriation that transforms and actualizes an existing story or game in close connection to the fan community and the fan's own identity. Although the costume can be experienced firsthand at convention sites, it is also remediated in photography, thereby extending its potential audience and performative possibilities. In the rich emerging genre of cosplay music videos, commonly shot and produced at convention sites, fans juxtapose different cosplayers and texts. Informed by work on other fan videos, such as machinima, I propose a reading of a selected corpus of videos to analyze the dynamics of costume culture as it transcends the convention grounds.

[0.2] Keywords—Dress-up; Performance; Play; Transmediality

Lamerichs, Nicolle. 2015. "The Remediation of the Fan Convention: Understanding the Emerging Genre of Cosplay Music Videos." In "Performance and Performativity in Fandom," edited by Lucy Bennett and Paul J. Booth, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 18. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2015.0606.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Dressing up as fictional characters, or cosplay—a portmanteau of "costume" and "play"—has amply flourished in game culture during the past couple of decades. Through cosplay, fans perform existing fictional characters in costumes that are generally self-created. The costumes are debuted at fan conventions such as DragonCon, London Expo, or Comic-Con International. These conventions are large meetings of fans that vary from several hundreds to half a million visitors who attend to socialize, shop, enjoy panels, meet celebrities, play games, or watch videos together. At these venues, fans can also participate in cosplay competitions or enjoy creative workshops. Cosplay celebrates popular culture but also extends and deepens its narrative content. While fictional dress up started in science fiction fandom in the 1970s, today it is commonly associated with the popular culture of Japan that heavily influenced the cosplay scene. Cosplay is a visible activity in media fandom that is predominantly performed at the fan convention ground. It is popular across cultures and even within emerging economies such as Brazil and Taiwan. Though this practice is often associated with the fandom of Japanese popular culture, it should be noted that many players draw extensively from Western comics, science fiction, and fantasy series.

[1.2] The performance of cosplay is a unique one that fans and media professionals have mediated in documentaries, news articles, blogs, artistic videos, and photography. In the summer of 2013, the reality show Heroes of Cosplay (2013–) premiered on the SyFy channel. The show followed a cast of various cosplayers—fans who dressed up as their favorite fictional characters—as they prepared for large festivals and events. While the show can be praised for representing an often overlooked subculture, it was also heavily criticized for its style and intent. The cast frequently shamed and ridiculed the costumers that were not part of their team or who did not share an interest in competitive play. Luckily, the show also validated the hobby by portraying its cast members at home, painstakingly shopping for the right fabrics, and crafting their outfits. At these moments, the creativity and competences of the individual fans emerged quite clearly. For example, while cosplayer Jesse is exceptionally skilled in forging armor; Becky's interested in acting out a character just right.

[1.3] Whereas Heroes of Cosplay emphasized the sportsmanship of cosplay, another discourse on cosplay can be found in fandom itself: a discourse that emphasizes fiction, camaraderie, and the art of costume design. In this article, I turn to cosplay music videos (CMVs): an emerging genre through which fans document and extend the cosplay performance. Today, the ludic culture of cosplay is increasingly moving away from the convention space to new online environments and creative practices, such as music videos, tutorials on prominent websites (e.g., Cosplay.com), and video blogs about craftsmanship, such as Kamui Cosplay (http://www.kamuicosplay.com). Whereas fictional dress up is intimately associated with modeling and photography, we now see a development of different uses and mediations of the costume.

[1.4] Cosplay is a scarcely studied form of appropriation that transforms and actualizes an existing story or game in close connection to the fan community and the fan's own identity (Lamerichs 2011; Okabe 2012). In this article, I argue that cosplay cannot solely be understood in relation to the convention space; rather, it needs to be charted across media as a transmedial process, related to well-known stories and franchises (Jenkins 2006). While the costume can be experienced first-hand at convention sites, it is also remediated—in photography, as an example—thereby extending its potential audience and performative possibilities. CMVs have increasingly become a means to extend and share the cosplay performance. These rich videos are commonly produced at convention sites, are created by and for fans, and juxtapose different cosplayers and texts. These videos grant insights into this object-oriented fan activity and the remediation of fan performances.

[1.5] Informed by work on other fan videos, including fan-made music videos (Russo and Coppa 2012; Turk and Johnson 2012) and "machinima" (Lowood and Nitsche 2011), I propose a reading of a selected corpus of videos. Thus, this study analyzes the dynamics of costume culture as it transcends the convention grounds. I analyze three CMVs cinematographically, with attention to their shots and editing techniques. Moreover, I take into account their song choice and lyrics, and how these create the cinematic structure of the fan video in relation to the shots. I argue that CMVs cannot readily be understood through a framework similar to that used in analyzing other fan videos. While CMVs rely on iconic characters and texts, their purpose is to document the culture of cosplay and visualize fandom itself.

2. Cosplay music videos

[2.1] As fan-created videos, CMVs provide not only rich insights into the culture of cosplay, but also demonstrate the wider cultural importance of remix. Coppa and Russo point out that the "remix culture" of fan videos is not merely a subcultural phenomenon anymore; it is an overall tendency of users, as a result of technological changes: "The threshold of storage, processing capacity, and bandwidth we crossed in the 2000s, exemplified by the YouTube era of virtually infinite video, has catapulted remix into mainstream consciousness." On YouTube, where many of these videos are uploaded, there is a particularly rich participatory culture around vidding and user-generated content (Burgess and Green 2009). Users interact through comments, favorites, and playlists.

[2.2] CMVs provide insights in the remediation (Bolter and Grusin 1999) of the cosplay performance. While cosplay already relies on existing fictional texts and characters, a fan video translates these processes of reenactment in a medium-specific way. The performance may be set at the fan convention, but a film maker and editor restructure these practices, montage them to specific music, and make particular choices on what is shown and how. This often creates new stories, not only pertaining the fictional source text, but also to fandom and fan identity itself. The format of CMVs is quite specific. Most prominently, they often include the spectator as cosplayers daringly look into the camera. This aspect also categorizes them as high-concept videos that are self-reflexive. The cosplayers imitate their characters—they pose and act as them—but through intense editing and clever shots, a unique video emerges. While some videos are very much narratives, such as the work of FaxenCosplay, others are edited to the lyrics by association, or befit the styles of popular music videos or Internet genres, such as lip dubs.

[2.3] While the stylistics of CMVs may differ per video, they have several commonalities. First, they often emphasize different aspects of the costume through long tracking shots while the cosplayers pose in front of the camera. Second, the videos are usually shot at the fan convention and are also a means of preserving the performances and making them accessible to a wider audience. Commonly, a CMV foregrounds the costume and character over the narrative. In this sense, they also differ from other types of fan videos that rely more on interpretations and repertoires of fandom, and the reexperience of particular texts from popular culture (Turk and Johnson 2012). Nonetheless, some CMVs are also fan works in their own right that focus less on the fan practice and more on a detailed character study. Such videos may go deeper into the text and can be more aligned with other types of fan videos. An example of this is "Teeth" (2012; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h516dDOnQDo), produced by the cosplay duo FaxenCosplay, a romantic homage to two characters from Black Butler (2006–). In this video, many scenes serve to illustrate the complicated, one-sided romance between Ciel and Sebastian, and ultimately narrate a fan desire to see this slash potential fulfilled.

[2.4] Self-reflexive inclusion of the fan audience and dialogue with other popular content also differentiates CMVs from art videos on cosplay, such as "Cosplayers" by Cao Fei (2004). In this video artwork, cosplayers attend to their daily business as they prepare their outfits and finally play in them together in the urban domain of China. They do not look at the camera, which increases their isolation. Through the cinematography, the idea is evoked that that they are escapists without a sense of presence in the real world, having succumbed to the dream world they built together. Fei's cosplayers, ultimately, are depicted as loners and estrange the viewer from their practices. CMVs, however, emphasize the presence of the cosplayers that dare the spectator at all times. The videos are heavily structured by the gaze of the (female) subjects, which is often directed at the viewer. This creates a very specific ideology in which the subject is embedded in a particular power structure and there to be looked at (Mulvey 1975). In CMVs, the gaze does not function as a colonizing device per se, but supports their parody. Being part of a self-reflexive video, the filmed subjects guide the viewer and return the gaze playfully. They particularly invite him or her to admire the convention space and its outfits. These videos show a glimpse of a culture that is self-expressive, daring, and liberating.

3. Methodology

[3.1] I have tackled the topic of the cosplayer through various angles, often supported by traditional fieldwork and qualitative methods. This paper builds on my work on cosplay as a performative phenomenon that shapes the player's identity (Lamerichs 2011). In this paper, I chart how the practice of fan costuming can be mediated to spectators that are not directly included in the space of play (e.g., the convention space). I thus emphasize the visual culture of the costume and its mediation at different online and off-line sites through small-scale ethnography and close-reading.

[3.2] The transmediality of cosplay is foregrounded in the methodology that, rather than adopting a player-centered approach, construes a cultural reading that involves both participants and spectators (e.g., photographers, fans, media professionals, or outsiders such as parents). By focusing on online retail sites and CMVs, I hope to direct attention to the costumed performance and the transmediality of play. My approach in analyzing these videos on YouTube was observatory rather than participatory. Moreover, I took the medium-specificity of the platform into account—the comment sections, favorites, and the specific cultural context of this social medium. YouTube, after all, is a community of interest that has grown to have its own cultural conventions, norms, and genres (Pauwels and Hellriegel 2009). This medium cannot be analyzed without its unique participatory culture and emerging video expressions (Burgess and Green 2009).

[3.3] In this article, I do not explore the comments on the videos in depth, but rather analyze the form and content of the CMV genre. The videos were found on YouTube through the key words "CMV," "cosplay," and "cosplay music video." I received roughly 210,000 results on YouTube, which also included some videos that did not quite fit the label. I watched a corpus of 30 popular videos, based on the number of views. I selected three videos from this set through a maximum variation sampling—a purposeful selection aimed at heterogeneity. I was careful to sample video artists with unique styles and different national backgrounds. However, the most popular videos were generally Anglo-American, which my cases reflect. This should be no surprise, as some of the biggest fan conventions are held in the United States and the United Kingdom, whereas other locations, such as continental Europe, host local conventions in different language cultures. Videos based on prominent fan events draw the largest spectatorships because they are watched by audiences interested in the conventions themselves.

[3.4] The selected videos are "Cosplay Fever Lip Dub: Raise Your Glass" (Cosplay Fever, 2011), "London Comic-Con—MCM Expo–Cosplay Music Video" (Sneaky Zebra, 2012), and "Katsucon 2012 2–3" (Acksonnl, 2012). All videos were shot predominantly during fan events. These videos are each approximately three minutes long. The first video, by Cosplay Fever, was produced by a team that has been known for publishing cosplay photograph books since 2010. They shot the video at London Comic-Con (2011), and its popularity is extensive, as evidenced by 1,308,979 views as of June 25, 2014. The second video had 641,523 views as of June 25, 2014, and was uploaded by Sneaky Zebra. This is a team of two film makers from the UK who specialize, as their profile on YouTube states, in "awesome, geeky and fun videos," which include CMVs and fan parodies. The third video is by Acksonnl, a fan vidder who made his video in collaboration with the cosplayer Yaya Han. This video had 586,511 views as of June 25, 2014.

[3.5] I asked the users who had uploaded the videos for permission to analyze their work, as these art works straddle the border between the private and public. This is also in line with the code of conduct of the Organization of Transformative Works, as well as the editorial guidelines of Transformative Works and Cultures, which both recommend asking fans for permission to cite and analyze their material to protect the informants and their creative works.

4. "Raise Your Glass"

[4.1] The colorful music video "Cosplay Fever Lip Dub: Raise Your Glass" by Cosplay Fever (2011) is a montage to the famous song "Raise Your Glass" by Pink (2010). Its qualification as a lip dub refers to a popular genre of music video. Jenkins, Ford, and Green (2012) define it as "a form of high-concept music video featuring intricate lip-syncing and choreography" (47). Lip dubs are commonly filmed in a single unedited shot that travels through different situations within a building or space. Vimeo employee Jake Lodwick coined the term to describe his music video from 2006, but examples of earlier lip dubs can be found. However, the genre only went viral in 2009 when the lip dubs of a Canadian university and The Today Show to the song I Gotta Feeling spread widely, then appraised and imitated. By now, videos in this genre have also been shot at fan conventions to detail the different situations and performances in cosplay. Four media layers particularly characterize the video's representation of cosplay: narrativity, cinematography, female subjectivity, and lyrics.

Video 1. "Cosplay Fever Lip Dub: Raise Your Glass," by Cosplay Fever (2011), set to "Raise Your Glass" by Pink.

[4.2] While fan videos commonly introduce the convention setting early, this fan video offers a framed narrative in which the song is embedded. It starts with a black-and-white, silent Alice in Wonderland–inspired opening in which Alice is taking a walk and finds a glass labeled "drink me" (figure 1). So she does, then closes her eyes to enjoy the beverage. The scene becomes colored while Alice's face is replaced by that of Dr. Mrs. The Monarch from Venture Bros. (2003–). She opens her eyes and lowers the glass, realizing that she has been spiraled straight into a unique Wonderland—the fan convention. The narrative is then abandoned in favor of a filmic collage of different cosplayers. We sometimes see Alice in a shot with them (figure 2). The glass also reoccurs as a motif throughout the video. Jack Sparrow and Deadpool, among others, cheerfully raise it towards the camera to invite the spectator. The Alice motif also leads to closure at the end of the video when we see her again on the street. The real world is now colored and bright, which highlights the positive influence of the convention space.

Black-and-white image of an out-of-focus blonde woman, eyes closed, raising an opaque glass/cup reading 'drink me' to her lips. The glass/cup is in focus.

Figure 1. Screen capture from the vid "Cosplay Fever Lip Dub: Raise Your Glass" by Cosplay Fever (2011) showing Alice raising a glass that has "drink me" written on it. [View larger image.]

[4.3] While lip dubs are commonly filmed in one shot, this video has been montaged from several scenes. It thereby emphasizes space less but still produces a lively atmosphere. The video is filled with small jokes that respond to the lyrics. Its literal interpretations include a cosplayer of the Joker playbacking to "why so serious?" and a Panty cosplayer from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt (2010) being dragged out of the camera to the words "panty snatcher." The emphasis is on a diverse cast of characters that emerge at the convention floor. In terms of cinematography, the upbeat tempo and editing of the CMV stand out as well as its incorporation of close shots. The video pays attention to the cosplayers' faces and expressions rather than lengthy poses as they sing to the camera. Thereby it creates a vibrant, jubilant atmosphere.

[4.4] In terms of gender representation, the video primarily depicts women. This is not striking, as Anglo-American cosplay cultures tend to draw more female participants. Interestingly, these women do not shy away from highlighting their sexual confidence and allure. Similar gendered videos include "Call Me Maybe—Otakuthon 2012" by Cyorii (2012; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bagk9nAL7-4) and "A Girl Worth Fighting For" by RealTDragon (2012; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4DqvrOWEYo), inspired by a song from Disney's Mulan (1998). These women cannot readily be understood as subject to patriarchal structures; rather, they comment upon them. They explore and add to their sexuality playfully within the space of fandom. The sexual and hyperfeminine partly construct cosplay, but function on the level of the ironic and the parody rather than the serious or kink.

[4.5] Finally, this video cannot be understood without the specific song that was chosen: "Raise Your Glass." This song was used in 2.16 "Original Song" of Glee (2009–) as an anthem for those that are different or queer. The lyrics "So raise your glass if you are wrong / In all the right ways / All my underdogs" draw attention to the deviant aspects of fandom, its potential marginalization, and an element of fan pride. "Raise Your Glass" celebrates fandom through its campy aspects and wonderment, and asks its viewers to join the party.

[4.6] The CMV by Cosplay Fever demonstrates that film making can be a powerful tool for fans. Vidding is not merely a narrative tool here to rework a fan text; it also serves the purpose of sharing a particular fan culture itself. In the video, this culture is revealed to be a particular gendered domain, where parody functions as a tool to perform identities. The video serves to validate fan culture and opens it to outsiders.

Color image of a sexy blonde woman (Alice) with a big black bow in her hair, standing in the foreground wearing a blue-and-white short dress and black thigh-high semisheer stockings. Behind her is a row of women dressed in various cosplay costumes.

Figure 2. Screen capture from the vid "Cosplay Fever Lip Dub: Raise Your Glass" by Cosplay Fever (2011) showing Alice in the foreground with cosplayers behind her. [View larger image.]

5. "London Comic-Con–MCM Expo–Cosplay Music Video"

[5.1] The "London Comic-Con–MCM Expo–Cosplay Music Video" by Sneaky Zebra (2012) is edited to Tim McMorris's "On Top of the World." The video stands out in its cinematography on two levels: first, the camera and editing techniques, and second, the integration of space. First, the camera tilts around the subjects who are steadily posing at one place. Its style includes long tracking shots that follow the cosplayers' swift poses. The emphasis is on the subject in an enclosed space at all times, where movement is limited and suggested by the camera work and timing rather than by what the individual cosplayers do. The stylistic montage is achieved through the editing technique known as time remapping, which mixes fast forwards with slow motions. This technique increases the suggestion of movement, thus complementing the cosplayers' gestures.

Video 2. "London Comic-Con—MCM Expo–Cosplay Music Video" by Sneaky Zebra (2012), set to Tim McMorris's "On Top of the World."

[5.2] The filmic space of "On Top of the World" is a combination of convention ground imagery and urban spaces. The video is shot not only on the convention ground, but also partly in London (figure 3), as a scene of the Tower Bridge shows. Still, during initial viewings of the video this may not stand out. The emphasis is always on the cosplayers, who look straight at the camera and dare the spectator (figure 4). They are central in the framing and never out of the picture. Even when the shots take place at touristic hallmarks, the video highlights the movement of the cosplayers while the background functions as entourage. For instance, there are no environmental shots of London to position the players.

Color image with two women in the foreground, standing in London in front of the Palace of Westminster, one staring straight into the camera, black-gloved arm extended.

Figure 3. Screen capture from vid "London Comic-Con—MCM Expo–Cosplay Music Video" by Sneaky Zebra (2012) showing cosplayers in front of the London landmark of the Palace of Westminster. [View larger image.]

Color image of four people in costume, a bare-headed woman and three hooded men, three of them staring straight at the camera.

Figure 4. Screen capture from vid "London Comic-Con—MCM Expo–Cosplay Music Video" by Sneaky Zebra (2012) showing cosplayers staring straight at the camera, as if daring the spectator. [View larger image.]

[5.3] Though many CMVs have elements of lip dub, this compilation does not. It is, however, edited to befit the rhythm of the song at all times and particularly follows the guitar line at several shots, thereby cleverly integrating the choreography and music. As in the previous video, the poses and actions of cosplayers strongly correspond to the lyrics. To name but one example, at the lyrics "kicked them all out the door" Lara Croft seemingly kicks a fallen cosplayer and aims her gun at him. The video strongly incorporates viral videos of that year and includes several references to, for instance, "Gangnam Style" by Psy (2012). The recognizable dance of Psy is performed by a crowd of players and the famous elevator scene from the video clip is mimicked by another Lara Croft cosplayer with a girl lying below her. While the original shot of "Gangnam Style" is played out seriously and with stern facial expressions, these girls smile and act charmingly in their parody, inviting us to join their palimpsest and laugh along.

[5.4] "London Comic-Con" particularly emphasizes the empowerment of fans and explores their ambitions. The lyrics add to this and partly explain the competitive and ludic elements of cosplay. One passage, for instance, says,

[5.5] We gotta be the best, the best we can be
And though sometimes we don't wanna
Still we gotta chase our dreams
Reach up, and reach high, because we're gonna pull on through
And give it all we got, even though it can seem so hard to.

[5.6] The video affectively voices how cosplayers live up to the convention moment to deliver the best performance they can. Another significant passage is: "While the world is spinning / It's a brand new beginning / I'm here finally winning." Read in the context of cosplay, the last sentence articulates the subcultural elements of cosplay and focalizes the player as someone who finally makes a difference: a winner rather than an underdog. Other CMVs, such as "Born This Way" by Marieke Versonnen (2012), highlight similar themes of self-empowerment and stardom that are achieved through personal struggle.

[5.7] Like the previous video, this fan work celebrates cosplay but on a different level. While the first example narrates the social, outgoing motives of cosplayers, this video stresses their accomplishments and thereby their craftsmanship and affective performance. The cosplayers are chasing their dream of character reenactment. These notions influence their identity; their self that has to be "the best it can be." By drawing attention to the competitive aspects of cosplay, the video also reveals the effort that fans put in their outfits. Cosplay is revealed not only as a playful domain in this video but as "serious leisure" (Stebbins 2007)—a voluntary hobbyist practice that requires investments and competences that equate it with labor. The stakes in serious leisure are different from labor, however, in that they involve self-growth and competition. The video suggests that these elements are crucial in cosplay and also relates them to the validation of the fan or outsider.

6. "Katsucon 2012 2–3"

[6.1] The video "Katsucon 2012 2–3" (http://archive.cospix.net/KATSU%202012%20FANVIDEO%202-3web.mov) by acksonl (2012), is part of a series of separate videos and offers an almost imaginary, lucid interpretation of the convention floor. In contrast to the previous videos, this CMV strongly engages in storytelling as it follows the events of a villain and contrasts these with the player's own identity (figure 5). Edited to the song "Lights," by Ellie Goulding (2010), the video artist explores light and darkness in conjunction with the heroes and villains that star in the clip. Moreover, the "lights" motif is explored in regard to the convention space that is fueled with imagination and suggests a spark that can be contrasted with everyday reality.

Color image of a cosplaying Asian woman leaning over a box, pulling apart two gold plastic pieces to reveal a red wig.

Figure 5. Screen capture from vid "Katsucon 2012 2–3" by acksonl (2012) showing a cosplayer unpacking her wig. [View larger image.]

[6.2] The video focuses on cosplayer Yaya Han—a well-known cosplayer who, some months after this video premiered, starred in the reality show Heroes of Cosplay. She performs the female villain Countess Carmilla from the anime Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000). The anime portrays a lesbian vampire who is the patron of the villain Meier Link. She has died but became a ghost due to her unnatural bloodlust and now wants to be revived. The blood of the woman that Meier Link is courting, Charlotte, will serve this purpose well. The countess is a reinterpretation of the title character in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's gothic novella Carmilla (1872). The story's main character is Laura, a woman desired by Carmilla. Carmilla can thus be understood as the proto/archetype of the lesbian vampire whose reinterpretations are deeply ingrained in both Western and Asian popular culture. These motives, perhaps unconsciously, structure the fan narrative.

[6.3] The opening scene stages the cosplayer in backlight, filming her as a dark silhouette as she opens the curtains of her hotel room to let the sun in. We see a tracking shot of her outfit lying on the bed; then she carefully unpacks her wig (figure 5), and a woman with glasses helps her into her garment. The first lyrics are edited to the cosplayer putting on her outfit and transforming her identity: "I had a way then losing it all on my own / I had a heart then but the queen has been overthrown." These lyrics also bring to mind the Queen of Hearts of Alice in Wonderland (1951), whose design can also be projected on Carmilla through similarities in color scheme and dress (figure 6). In her dark, royal costume, the player faces good and kind characters such as Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony and Supergirl, who comes to Pinkie Pie's rescue. Though Carmilla visibly shows hostility toward the innocent female characters, this could also be interpreted as queer desire, with the intertextual history of the character in mind. As in the anime, and its origin novella Carmilla, the female vampire preys on young women.

Color image of an Asian woman in full cosplay dress, wearing a daring formal red-and-gold dress.

Figure 6. Screen capture from vid "Katsucon 2012 2–3" by acksonl (2012) showing the cosplayer in full dress, evoking the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (1951). [View larger image.]

[6.4] Still, the video tries to go beyond the vampire stereotype to study the character more deeply. The light and dark motifs are accentuated by Goulding's lyrics, which echo the loneliness, misunderstanding, and ambiguous intents of the main character of the video. Its opening lyrics, "I had a way then losing it all on my own / I had a heart then but the queen has been overthrown," underline a loss of self and emotions, as the heart motif suggests. As she leaves the hotel room, the lyrics "I am not sleeping now / The dark is too hard to beat" are heard, reflecting her vampiric awakening and bloodlust. During the refrain, an addressee is hailed to help this main character: "You show the lights that stop me turn to stone / You shine it when I'm alone." While these lines suggest rescue beacons in the night, they also bring to mind the Medusa myth, where the reflection of the mirror turns the monster to stone. In the video, the female character can be understood as a Medusa prototype as she shies away from the lights, and addresses those who "shine" the light. Her loneliness and misunderstanding are amplified through this text.

[6.5] The cinematography of the video relies heavily on slow motion and a figurative play with lights. The shots are elaborate and often emphasize the dress of Carmilla, including her long train. At the middle of the movie, the narrative is lost as the focus shifts to diverse cosplayers posing while long tracking shots emphasize their costumes. The video is partly revealed as a fan work that also aims to preserve and document Katsucon as it showcases outstanding costumes based on Sailor Moon (1992–97) and Princess Tutu (2003). Unlike the previous two videos, "Lights" hails its audience less, though some of the characters respond to the viewer's gaze by staring at, or flirting with, the camera. However, the main images study Carmilla while she stalks the convention ground.

[6.6] The end of the refrain, "and so I tell myself that I'll be strong," can be understood as the motivation of the fictional villain to find herself and redeem herself—not by relying on others to save her and shine the light, but by finding her own strength. In the video, these words are double-coded as they also speak to the sentiments of cosplayers themselves and their value in self-expression. The last words, "dreaming when they're gone," reveal that the lights are fleeting and only a figment of the imagination. While these lyrics are dark, and possibly suggest that the main character is beyond redemption, they may imply something different when read in the context of fandom. In the video, they also seem to befit the fictional and affective structure of the convention space where the protagonists emerge, but only for a moment when they actualize fiction and then disperse again. The lyrics remind us of the very fictionality of the playful moment and its disappearance.

[6.7] More than the other two videos, "Lights" tells a narrative and reflects on the portrayed source texts and characters. Like other forms of fan fiction and fan vidding, it is structured through elements of queer desire or slash, which in turn also depict the fan convention as a queer space (Lothian, Busse, and Reid 2007). By creating intimate relationships between female characters of different media texts, this fan video is best understood as a sensual performance of heroes and villains. The viewer is served a slash palimpsest (Stasi 2006)—a queer reading that emerges through a bricolage of stories. Of the three videos, this example most clearly depicts cosplay as a theatrical practice by introducing the body of the fan as she dresses up. Best interpreted as a theater performance (Coppa 2006), this fan video explores cosplay not only as a reenactment of stories, but also of fan identity. The video shows that the cosplayer always moves betwixt and between a textual and narrative space, and the actual spaces of the convention floors, urban spaces, and hotel rooms.

7. Conclusion

[7.1] Cosplay is a shared, lived, and embodied space of play. While cosplay is grounded in physical bodies and the unique space of the fan convention, these fan performances are remediated through photography and video. I have analyzed several CMVs to shed light on this emerging genre of fan vidding that particularly flourishes on YouTube. These videos give range to new expressions and costume performances that generate key insights into the experience of cosplay and the subculture of fandom. While CMVs serve to document cosplay at the convention space, they potentially draw new audiences at the different online media channels where they are uploaded. The videos emphasize the performative aspects of cosplay and the subculture itself, and do not simply rewrite existing outfits and characters. What is crucial regarding the CMVs is that they are double-coded. First, the videos provide vital insights into fandom itself as a lived culture, and also aim to capture this culture. Second, they are creative works in their own right, with lyrical dimensions and visual strategies that construct their meaning.

[7.2] The three videos include positive views of media fandom and represent its community on several levels. The first video celebrates the convention space, specifically its sociality and intimacy; the second stresses cosplay in terms of "winning" and details its challenging and self-expressive nature; the third studies the imaginary and how it is actualized at the convention, speaking of "lights" and the loss of the self. These positive motives are partly a result of the development of the cosplay community, and aim to validate the practice. I have shown that these videos can be used as theoretical objects that help us understand the dynamics of cosplay as they highlight the make-believe and performativity through dress. "Lights," in particular, draws attention to how the costume is worn and preserved. Overall, CMVs generate rich insights into cosplay culture. They not only display media costumes visually, but also textually, through lyrics. The videos reflect on the craftsmanship of cosplay and its unique culture of competition.

[7.3] While CMVs can be categorized as a type of fan video, they are not merely a homage to a fictional text or a rewriting. CMVs are unique objects that explore cosplay culture and fan identity. These videos explore characters and narratives, but are also deeply biographical. They focus on showcasing the costume and mediating the convention experience. Visually, CMVs fit into emerging genres in YouTube culture, such as the established genre or trope of lip dubbing. A particular difference between CMVs and other user-generated content is that CMVs are often heavily structured by the gaze. The cosplayers are put on display and are there to be looked at, but they are also aware of this and play with this. In some videos, the gaze is returned by female subjects. CMVs also differ from other types of fan videos in their intent. Often, their primary goal is not to study characters or texts more deeply but to document the fan convention and its related performances. As they form an emerging genre, CMVs can be understood as unique short works that partly serve to validate fan expressions to outsiders. These videos cannot readily be understood as a derivative fan genre, but serve to create exposure of fandom itself.

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