Cultural trends – especially those that tend to avoid the mainstream and prefer to occupy their own particular specialised niche in society – can be unpredictable and even some of the most unlikely things can rise to the surface, seemingly from nowhere. This is especially true of cross-cultural trends – the sort of tribal and localised practices and lifestyles that are endemic to their own particular isolated cultures – but even these have the propensity to cross international, racial and traditional boundaries and cross into the mainstream of very different cultures. Examples of successful integration of this sort could include such diverse practices as body piercing and modification, karaoke, sushi and manga. You’ll notice that the last three of those i’ve mentioned are very much Japanese exports – it seems to me that the Land of the Rising Sun has been particularly successful in making inroads into other, very different societies; particularly those in the Western hemisphere.
Whilst we’re on the subject of niche pursuits and cultural trends, you don’t have to look much further than sl to find a veritable hotbed of interesting and quirky examples; coming to think of it, you’re quite likely to find a considerable number of these subcultures in sl that you’d be hard-pressed to find being pursued in the real world, at all, (bearing in mind that some wouldn’t even be possible in rl). A good many of these more unusual approaches to living intrigue me – not so much in the sense that i feel any particular leaning towards indulging in them myself, but in the sense that i’m fascinated by the various alternative ways that people choose to experience and relate to the world around them, even if it is only a virtual world. In general, i do find it fascinating to explore the way in which people behave and interact, but even more so when these behaviours follow a distinctive and identifiable pattern that seeks to subvert, challenge, modify or otherwise runs at a tangent to what might be considered as normal or conventional social norms.
In sl, as in rl, the Japanese, once again exert a strong presence; that’s not to say that there aren’t many and diverse other subcultures within sl worthy of exploration that may well spring from other locales, or may even transcend geographical boundaries but, speaking personally, it is the Japanese subcultures that i find myself drawn to and wanting to explore as an observer. Here again, i find that sl mirrors rl and that there are occasions that sl subculture can make the transition to sl mainstream; and we may not even notice it’s happening!
Let me offer you a personal example: i’m no neko; i have absolutely no interest whatsoever in wearing pointy ears, a long tail, slinking about with a feline AO and talking in that sickeningly twee fashion that so matter cat wannabes seem to adopt. It’s just not my thing and, try as i might, i’ve never been able to fathom the mysteries of nekotism… But, i do like some of the kit, (or should that be ‘kitty’?).
i’ll admit to having an extensive collection of neko jewellery, utility belts and various other bits and bobs of nekophernalia – i just like the style; so, i wear it. Does this make me a closet neko? Not at all, but it does blur the line between my own particular slant on life and that of the nekotistic world, particularly to the casual observer.
It’s all rather interesting, don’t you think? More so at the moment, considering my ongoing rather peculiar identity crisis: There’s every danger that i could slip headlong into some weird and wonderful subculture, almost without noticing! However… There’s more! Just recently someone asked me what particular (bizarre) look i had adopted that day – and since it was one i’d invented by cobbling together a variety of outfits and styles, i really didn’t know how to answer, until somebody leaped to my rescue and suggested ‘cosplay‘ – that certainly wasn’t my intention but i could see their point.
Cosplay is one of those things that leaves me completely bemused. It’s another subculture that has its roots in the Japanese psyche – it can be, (to me, anyway), rather bizarre and not a little disturbing, especially when taken deadly seriously, which it invariably is. It’s certainly common in sl and also in rl, in Japan… At least, that’s what i thought, until i watched The Big Bang Theory – that’s when i realised it’s made its way across the Big Pond and made itself nice and comfy in the US of A too; but surely it could never find a foothold in good old conservative and strait-laced Blighty?
Erm… that was until i found this! Before reading on, invite you to spend a little while poking around at that site, it’s educational, strange and rather disconcerting, particularly the photos.
Now, i have nothing personally against dressing up – who of us hasn’t done it at some time… There’s nothing quite like donning a Wonder Woman or Superman costume and saving the world, until you get past around 7 years of age and then it’s, well y’know…
Is it just me thinking this, but shouldn’t 16 year old Brit girls be out getting drunk/stoned/laid/pregnant or any of the more traditional teenage pursuits, rather than staying in every night, hunched up over the sewing machine and then cavorting around the local park at the weekend, (badly) dressed as characters from video games? Am i missing something obvious here?
Perhaps i’m being overly judgemental – after all, i do spend a fair amount of time as a pixellated character, in a non-existent computer-generated world, and then write about it afterwards – i’m really the last person to get all precious about ‘normal’ behaviour. In fact, if there’s one place where cosplay is going to be just another cultural strand, then what better place than sl to explore it? It’s just that in a real world setting – for me, at least – it just seems very ‘wrong’ and i get terribly squirmy and uncomfortable with it.
No offence intended… It’s just not my thing.
I’m dressing up to dance all week
I’m dressing up to sleep
The Cure – Dressing Up