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Modern Day Subcultures: Hip-Hop, Cosplay and Otaku

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1348 words Published: 23rd Jul 2018

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Subculture refers to a small group of people who with different behavior and beliefs in a larger mainstream culture. Subculture does not only contain the values and concepts that similar as the main culture, but also their own unique values and concepts, and these values are scattered into all kinds of main cultures.

Subculture is a branch of the whole culture. Because of class, ethnic, religious, occupation differences, living environment, it can form groups or regional culture with its own characteristics under a unified national culture.

Sub-culture originated in the 1950s and was influenced by the “Baby boom” of the post-war. Since then, the “Teenage” of the Western was becoming the main part of society and prompted the “Youth culture” age. Nowadays, most of the mainstream cultures are evolved from the subculture slowly.


Hip-hop is a cultural movement including rap, break dance, graffiti writing, DJing, etc. As a musical understanding, it originated in the African American communities of New York City in the late 1970s. Hip-hop is a completely improvised freestyle of music, this kind of music doesn’t contain any binding elements.

Hip-Hop originally refers to the early stages of hip-hop dance, and it gradually developed into a greater concept. The Hip-Hop culture characteristic, usually including those large clothes, heavy gold jewelry, and speak with the words “YoYo what’s up?”. As early 80’s, Hip-Hop trend had already spread from the United States to the whole Western world. In 1986, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Run DMC of Def Jam Records Company hold the “Def Jam Tour”, it triggered a global Hip-Hop craze.

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And by 90’s, the time led to Dr. Dre’s Gangsta Rap, Puff Daddy’s Hip-Hop style, the queen of rap Missy Elliott and so countless Hip-Hoper appeared. They gradually make these musical forms which from folk music into the mainstream market, and their works easily created on the 10 million sales. Hip-Hop music has become big revenue of entertainment industry in the United States. The appearance of Eminem in the late 90’s, as a white man, he needed one year to become the hottest Hip-Hop stars, completely broke the race question of Hip-Hop culture. Just as using Elvis Presley to prove that rock and roll is not only belong to the black. Eminem’s appearance symbolize that Hip-Hop culture has accepted the white man and toward to the world.

Actually, hip-hop was a sub-cultural forms that with counter-cultural tendencies, the nature of it runs in the opposite direction of pop culture in our traditional sense. However, in the current situation, it not only becomes the mainstream culture, an important component, but also the rapid rise of the hip-hop’s development.


Cosplay, is the short form of costume play, it is established by the Japanese animator Takahashi Nobuyuki during the Los Angeles world’s annual science fiction exhibition in 1984. Cosplay refers to a kind of self-interpretation of role, the behavior of Performing Arts.

In the present day, cosplay is usually seen as sub-culture activities. The role often comes from animation, comics, games, novels, movies, TV series, tokusatsu, idol groups, occupation, historical stories, social stories and so on. Usually, they wear similar clothes, carry necessary props and put on make-up to mimic the role.

During the 17th century, the Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher invented “Magic lantern” successfully and then animation became popular in Europe. Until the late 1930s, Mickey Mouse of Walt Disney appeared in U.S., the animation style had a clear and affirmative definition. And also, the first cosplayer of animated character in history was born in this period. Soon, Mickey Mouse has been popular in the United States, also around the world. Walt Disney grasped this opportunity and created the first Disney theme park of the world in 1955. In order to publicize the products and better attract tourists, Walt Disney hired employees to wear special Mickey Mouse costumes for pleasing tourists and taking pictures. The original unknown persons who dressed in Mickey Mouse are the first cosplayers of Cosplay culture in the contemporary world.

In 1947, the so-called God of Manga, Osamu Tezuka revised a red cover Manga “New Treasure Island” in according to Sakai’s original works. He thus made a showy display of his abilities and set off a wave of contemporary comic cartoons in Japan. He created overall prosperity for Japan’s ACG (animation, comic and game) market and laid a foundation of the real status of ACG in Japan. At the same time, Disney’s Cosplay activity for publicity was introduced into Japan, and ACG community imitated that and it becomes a normal activity in Japan’s ACG community.

By the 1990s, Japanese ACG industry successfully held many animation and game exhibitions. In those exhibitions, they employed some people to dress as the roles of ACG works in order to attract the visitors. Therefore, Cosplay culture in the ACG community has been promoted and carried forward in Japan.

Through a variety of Cosplay events, media presentations, a large number of Internet propaganda of Cosplay information, the participants in Cosplay increased rapidly. Slowly, Cosplay began to get real, independent development. It can be said that the global concept of Cosplay has inherited a substantial part of Japanese Cosplay.


Otaku originally referred to the people who have proficient skills and is wild about animation, comics and computer games (ACG), but now generally refers to the people who keen on subculture and have in-depth understanding of subculture.

“Otaku” is the intention of ” another’s house or family “. Also, it’s an honorific second-person pronoun in Japanese. In 1982, the animation “Macross” was released, in that animation, the characters are using “otaku,” to call each other, it is inferred that this group of people is affected by this animation and started to call each other using this term. Later on, the term “otaku” starts to represent this kind of people.

In the 80’s, the Japanese animation golden age, otaku can be said that it’s the promoter of this splendid times.

One of the most famous people of Japanese animation is the Japanese “OTAKU King” (OTAKING) Okada Toshio and his animation company GAINAX. GAINAX released two episodes of the semi-autobiographical OVA “otaku’s video”, and it has the direct description about the reality of Japanese otaku culture at that time.

In 2004, The internet true story “train man” shapes the image of Japanese otaku: “do not care about the appearance, women don’t like, do not dare to talk to women, good at computer, well known about subculture, will collect a wide range of models”. As the story made into a film version, TV series and comic that output all over the world, “Train Man” image become popular and represent typical Otaku image.

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The three subcultures that mentioned above are the well known subcultures in the world. Evidently, the present mainstream came from subcultures through a long time of human’s awareness, understanding, and acceptance. Historically, the famous jazz and R&B was once a subculture, but with the professionals and the continued involvement of culture scholar, which later became the formal part of the pop culture. Yesterday’s subculture may be today’s mainstream culture; today’s subculture may be tomorrow’s mainstream culture. This also shows that the formal cultures always absorb the sub-culture and developed, subculture plays a huge role in the formation of the formal culture.


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