Who would have thought that there were motivations other than being a fan behind cosplaying?
Over the years of going to conventions, cosplaying, and doing cosplay photography, there are many types of cosplayers I have encountered that range from passive to aggressively competitive.
You have cosplayers that cosplay what they love because they love it. They are a fan and express it quite clearly by becoming the character they idolize. What other reason could there be?
Well, there are actually quite a few other reasons.
Some cosplayers choose their character or series based on how popular the franchise is. Perfect examples would be the amount of Naruto cosplayers that inhabit anime conventions across North America. Yes, it could be because of how popular it is that many fans just want to be a character from it. But more often than not, people will cosplay this series because it's recognizable. Fans of anime in general know of this series and can recognize the group immediately. These types of cosplayers may cosplay it just for that reason.
Other cosplayers cosplay what will win them awards. Complexity is a cosplayers best friend in the Masquerade and Costume Contest world. Usually the more complex the outfit and the better it's execution, the more likely they are to win an award. This I do not mind as much because this is a cosplayer setting challenges for themselves and their skills. I have to admire these types of cosplayers and their abilities because they set new heights and expectations for what is considered "good" cosplay. Granted, not all the elaborate cosplays are the best, but they usually are the most intriguing to look at.
Which brings us to the next type of cosplayer, the "attention whores". I use this term loosely, but essentially what I mean is that these are cosplayers, mainly female, who will cosplay outside their body type because they want the attention a popular character will get them, usually because they are half-dressed. I especially have this problem with Yoko cosplayers. Yoko, from Gurren Lagann, is a positive female archetype and is one of the more well written female characters in anime, so I can see why she would have a solid fanbase. However, rarely have I seen this character cosplayed by a woman who fits her body type and/or puts as much effort into the weaponry/accessories as they do into her bikini top.
There is also what I call the "lazy" cosplayer. This is a cosplayer that, though they do cosplay a fandom they like, will probably put as little effort as possible into making the outfit or to make themselves look high quality. Cosplay photographers love to shoot with people who put lots of hard work into their outfits, to show off their amazing work or to portray them as accurately as possible. But the job gets very difficult when the cosplayer is not 100% into their role and when the cosplay suffers. I usually mean cosplayers that buy their outfit online or who closet cosplay (which I was when I started cosplaying and is a great starting point to understand the cosplay world), but this can also mean cosplayers who do not use wigs, make-up, or appropriate accessories to accentuate the cosplay, like shoes, gloves or hair pieces. Total everything, you usually have a loose or too tight fitting cosplay, messy hair, and a less than appreciable look. It would be like if you saw a cosplay of Edward Elric with a loose red coat, brown hair in a braid, white running shoes, and no metal arm. You recognize the character... but just barely.
The final type I have noticed is the jealous type. This cosplayer is the most feared as they are a type that will get defensive over a character they are cosplaying. I have seen this happen a hand full of times at conventions. A cosplayer who sees the character they are dressed up as cosplayed by someone else, possibly done even better. As a result, this type will make rude or snide comments to the fellow cosplayer about how the wig was done wrong, or that the shoes aren't quite right, even though they, themselves, may have gotten other things "wrong" as well.
I generally don't like this type as they feel threatened that someone else has done the character better when there is no reason to be threatened. It's all for the sake of fandom and being excited about the same series. But rather than making it into a positive experience, they choose make it into a negative one.
In terms of "getting something wrong" in cosplay, I feel like critiquing cosplay should be treated the same as critiquing art. Creativity and interpretation should be taken into account, but there are the basics that should be followed. In art, you have the basics of anatomy so that when you a draw a person, they are drawn in proportion and to scale. In cosplay, seams and hems are sewn straight and the costume is fitted appropriately so it does not look or hang wrong on a person's body. Otherwise, it would be inappropriate to state a cosplayer's choice in fabric or wig type was wrong. That is the part that is open to interpretation.
Since this is an editorial, I'll try and make this comparison.
Cosplay is kind of like watching movies. Some people watch movies to forget about life and be entertained for a while. Others watch because it's an experience and has a message. And then there's some who watch movies because... they just like watching movies.
Cosplay does many of the same things for people. Some do it because it challenges their skills and allows them to be creative. Others do it because they love what they are trying to portray in a fandom. And some just do it because they love to cosplay.
I've listed a few types here, but there are infinite types of cosplayers out there. Each cosplayer is different and has their own personal motivations to cosplay and not all are bound to a stereotype.