Q&A: Cosplay and Christianity

Cosplay and Christianity

Question

I had a co-worker come up to me and ask whether or not cosplaying was a sin. Cosplaying is dressing up as a fictional character from a video game, comic etc. So my question is "is cosplaying a sin?" Even if they aren't dressing as demonic or ungodly characters? Thanks!

Answer

Thanks for your question. Let's start by defining what cosplay is.

Cosplay is the act of dressing up as a character or concept. People who do it regularly are called ‘cosplayers’. Cosplayers may also go above and beyond copying their character’s outfits—they might even ‘role-play’ as characters, copying their mannerisms and gestures. [1]
Cosplay is short for “costume play.” Cosplay in and of itself may at first glance appear completely harmless, but, as in almost anything, there may be hidden dangers. For instance, in some cases there is gender switching where a male wears a female costume of some sort, or vice versa. This can enter the area of cross-dressing (transvestism), which is forbidden in the Bible (Deut. 22:5). It’s unnatural (Rom. 1:24-27) and an abomination. In some cases it is a segue into homosexual behavior.

Some cosplayers dress up as fictional gods and celebrate their character. A subset of cosplay culture is focused on sex, specifically choosing characters that are known for their rather revealing or explicit costumes. Contrast this with 1 Timothy. 2:9-10. Also compare to what 1 Peter 3:3 (NIV) states: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.”

I don’t consider any of the above (transvestism, dressing in a way that may entice any type of behavior, dressing as a fictional god or as “demonic or ungodly characters,” as you stated) as being biblical. On the other hand, not all costume wearing is inherently evil. I would think dressing up as Christian characters and imitating them would be okay, as long as there was no cross-dressing. There are probably other good examples as well.

But I can’t help but think of the expense of many such costumes. At Comic-Con 2018, a Reinhardt cosplay, which stood 9-1/2 feet tall and weighed approximately 100 pounds, cost $30,000 to make. [2] I would have to ask if this money would be better spent on feeding the hungry or other mission work. But I digress. Perhaps cosplay may be mission-oriented as well.

A general rule of thumb to keep in mind when considering cosplaying is to examine whether the costume and imitation of the character involved would glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). Remember, we are to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22, KJV). This would need to be done on a case by case basis, examining both the costume and character to be portrayed, but also the intent of the heart of the person desiring to cosplay: Why do you desire to cosplay? What’s your motive(s) in cosplaying? Is this related to an identity issue? etc.

I hope this helps.

Footnotes

[1] Rhys McKay. Cosplay 101: Everything You Need To Know About It (https://www.who.com.au/what-is-cosplay). Last Accessed 26 November 2020.

[2] Geek Mamas. The Most Expensive Cosplays Ever Created (https://geekmamas.com/2018/05/02/the-most-expensive-cosplays-ever-created/). Last Accessed 26 November 2020.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).