Embodying Yuri on Ice: Cosplay Video as Youth Media Authorship

Curator's Note

In her In Focus piece, Allison McCracken describes Tumblr as “central to…creative production among youth, especially girls, people of color, and LGBTQ-identified fans” (151). Young people on Tumblr use the cultures of online fan creativity to recreate popular media according to the evolving value systems that they have fostered within their online communities. They also spread and celebrate niche media that reflects those values. In fall 2016, midst fraught processing of the US election online and off, the anime series Yuri on Ice caught on in Tumblr fan communities. Fans celebrated this show’s combination of arguably escapist romance and progressive politics. The series is a sports anime featuring a love story between two male figure skaters, one Russian and one Japanese. Co-creator and series writer Mitsurou Kubo wrote that: “Regardless of what people in the real world think of this work, the people in [Yuuri’s] world will not face discrimination no matter what kind of love they have.” While some fans critique Yuri on Ice’s choice to not deal with discrimination, for many the series offer relief from current events of the “real” world. Perhaps in part because of its relatively short length (12 episodes), Yuri on Ice fans have taken to creating more source text--not only the more familiar forms of vidding and fanfiction, but also in a form that had previously been perceived as more niche: cosplay. Fans share videos of cosplay con panels, web series, tutorials, and music videos (also known as CMVs.). CMVs like “Party Like a Russian (YOI CMV)” (Rintamasuunta) are akin to Anime Music Videos (or fan vids), but they use footage shot by the cosplayers themselves, sometimes replicating particular scenes or creating entirely new scenarios. Images from these videos circulate in social media spaces including Tumblr as stills, moving gifs, and gifsets. In their various cosplay videos, fans recreate favorited narrative and visual moments by embodying them. At the same time, they create new narratives, often picking up where the series left off. They are additionally transformative in that they often shift both form and genre, transforming animated TV series to live action comedy web series or music video. In many cases, these videos continue the positive, joyous tone set by the series itself, while also embodying the characters in a range of ages, nationalities, and body types—a multiplicity of fan-inhabited renditions of these beloved characters and their narratives.


Wonderful piece! I'm struck my the multiple ways in which this video queers and requeers the original text to meet the needs of various fan subcultures. There is the gay male queerness of the origin text, and then there is the long-standing"yaoi" (beautiful boy) tradition in manga/anime/video games where heterosexual girls play with queer male sexuality. But this is fascinating because it uses the yaoi genre of fandom to playfully express lesbian sexuality. It also allows the young women to display their considerable skating talent in a sport that still underplays womens' athleticism in favor of traditional norms of femininity.

I can see how these CMVs are empowering-- not to mention creatively energizing-- for young people. Here the makers are able to combine geopolitical critique with a stylish gender commentary, and the fans' appreciative responses speak to how deeply affecting these messages (and celebrations, and jokes) can be. I am heartened by how much creative reach young people have today through the internet, so that their diverse populations are heard more widely than ever before. Accordingly, youth are able to make significant connections with other youth that continue to grow in their impact.

Wow! Great piece, and this is such an amazing video--I can't believe the production values here and it is so wonderful to see two girls skating together. As a longtime male figure skating fan, I was so pleased at the attention Yuri brought to the ways in which male skating itself invites queer reception because of its gender transgression/fluidity/beauty. Indeed, it is these aspects of the sport that women and queer fans (which I would argue are the majority) value the most about it. The resemblance of these female skaters--particularly the younger--to current male figure skaters puts into relief the gender fluidity of the sports' stars (it's not surprising that Johnny Weir and other major skaters have weighed in appreciatively on Yuri) . I appreciate Andrew's discussion above regarding yaoi, and what I particularly love about this vid is that it makes lesbian "yaoi" fandom visible, where it often is not. It made me think of the performances of drag kings--queer girls performing live as boy bands--and Barbara Jane Brickman's wonderful essay, "This Charming Butch: The Male Pop Idol, Girl Fans and Lesbian (In)Visibility," which points out how lesbian fans of boy bands are ignored because heterosexual desire is still the dominant framework for understanding how pop fandom works. Yet this kind of intense love and, as Louisa writes, joy, is so complex, and is certainly as much about identification as desire. In today's culture, such texts have also become formative regarding non-binary identities as well as queer/lesbian identities for many youth.

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