My fifteen-year-old son cosplayed at Supanova in Melbourne this weekend. Looking at all the photos and vicariously feeling the excitement, I got a bit envious. When I was a teen in small-town New Zealand in the 1980’s, cosplay wasn’t even a thing (“back in my day”, we had something called “fancy dress”), but I would have been all over it if it was.
I got to thinking – if I decided to take up cosplay at the ripe old age of 46, what are my options? I know that the correct answer to that is, “Anything you damn well like.” But I’ve seen those vicious memes ridiculing plus-size cosplaying women, and I’ve no desire to become the age-discriminatory equivalent (plus I’m no size zero, so I run the risk of a double whammy – old AND fat.) Even Google thinks it’s a dodgy idea; I get as far as “Women over 40 cos” and the auto complete goes, “Nope, I’ve got nothing.” (Type in “too old to cosplay”, and it’s a different story. To the 23-year-olds who are questioning whether they’re too old to cosplay – stop it. You’re making me cry.)
So – let’s think about the middle-aged women in speculative fiction and popular culture. “Generic steampunk woman” seems to be a popular choice for cosplaying grandmas, probably because it demands a certain modesty (no thigh-high hem lengths or bare midriffs there) and allows for lots of intricate and aesthetically pleasing detail. “Generic zombie” is another easy option (easy, that is, if you have the skills for convincing special effects makeup). For a series primarily aimed at the young ‘uns, the world of Harry Potter abounds with distinctive older women – Professors McGonagall and Trelawny, Mrs Weasley, Belatrix Lestrange, Olympe Maxime (if you’re old and tall) – both heroes and villains. Star Trek gives us Captain Janeway. Doctor Who has River Song. George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones includes Cersei Baratheon, Catelyn Stark and Olenna Tyrell, although making a decent representation of these costumes would be challenging due to their famously detailed design.
Throwing the question open to the Facebook Hive Mind, I got several suggestions from the hitherto-unconsidered realm of horror movies – Ellen Ripley from Aliens, Dahlia Gillespie from Silent Hill, and Lila Crane from Psycho 2. Other ideas were Cruella de Ville, Oracle from The Matrix, and a significant rumble of approval from the menfolk for James Bond’s M.
Crossplay – cross gender cosplay – is becoming increasingly popular, so if I look to the world of male characters, my horizons expand considerably. Or I could always choose a costume that requires a mask (Planet of the Apes, anyone?) and voluminous robes, thus making my age and gender irrelevant.
When I first started thinking about it, my options seemed woefully limited. But now, it seems, I have little excuse for not cosplaying. Front-running ideas so far are River Song (I already have the hair), Professor Trelawny (put a brush through my curls, and I’ll have the hair), and Belatrix Lestrange (the hair is only a wig away, and the look appeals to my closet goth. Plus I’m a big fan of Helena Bonham Carter).
I’ll leave the penultimate word to Carol Holaday, a 56-year-old cosplayer from California. She writes on her blog Senior Cosplay:
“Okay, so maybe this year I was the oldest and saggiest Harley Quinn at the Con, but that was only on the outside. Underneath the lukewarm grandma exterior was a smokin’ hot 19-year-old playing a fabulous comic book character. As unrealistic as that may seem, it is how many of us internally think of ourselves as we get older.”
Well, if unrealistic thoughts are the key to senior cosplay, then this should be a cinch, because they’re my stock in trade.