The 2020–21 RoCCET Lab speaker series continues on Wednesday, February 24 with a presentation by Suzanne Scott, associate professor at University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Scott is the author of Fake Geek Girls: Fandom, Gender, and the Convergence Culture Industry (NYU Press, 2019) and co-editor with Melissa A. Click of The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom. Her presentation is entitled “The Privilege of Play: Fan Fash-ion, MAGAbounding, and Coup Cosplayers”:
On January 6, 2021, supporters of Donald Trump occupied the U.S. Capitol Building and as images of this exercise in domestic terrorism began to spread on social media, so too did the discursive dismissal of insurrectionists as “cosplayers” and “LARPers” (live action role-players). While there were certainly both costuming and performative elements characteristic of these fan practices evident in the mob, this talk will explore how the (mis)application of these terms in this context simultaneously evokes fan studies’ past and points to emergent lines of inquiry about embodied fan identities and practices. Beginning with an overview of LARPing and cosplay, along with its variants (everyday cosplay, Disneybounding, and so on), as distinct forms of fan performance, this talk will ultimately contend these moments reflect much broader issues surrounding race and fan identity. While this impulse to infantilize the insurrectionists through these characterizations, or imply their inability to separate fantasy from reality, is firmly rooted in the oldest of fan pathologies, characterizing the participants as cosplayers also speaks to their immense privilege. For over four hours, these Trump fans did indeed get to “play” in the hallowed halls of government, with minimal threat to bodily harm or interruption, because they were white. This talk will strive to draw a conceptual link between the ways in which cosplay was evoked in this instance, and longstanding debates about racism and the centering of white bodies in cosplay, as well as broader considerations about verisimilitude and expected/accepted fannish bodies.
The Research on Comics, Con Events, and Transmedia Laboratory is a research group based in the School of Journalism and Communication. Drawing on audience- and media industries–studies approaches, we explore the place of comic books and related media in contemporary culture.