It has definitely happened in the past, and you damn well know it’s going to happen again. You go to a con. You see a cosplayer, and you can see people crowding the white or asian chick, but the black or brown or tan people outright get IGNORED unless their costume is 3000x better.
June 9th, 2020
Cosplay and Racism
Let’s not pretend that black cosplayers don’t receive hate for cosplaying. Cosplaying has such a bad rep and history surrounding it, and I think it’s one of those things that only people who are into the community know about. Today I’m going to shed some light on it for y’all lurkers.
I’ve seen discrimination happen in the form of micro-agressions and outright insults. There have been multiple articles written about it in the past, and honestly, we still need to continue talking about it today.
The Medium wrote about it in 2016.
The Columbia Chronicle wrote about it in 2015.
There’s even threads about it on Cosplay Amino.
There was once a movement where people held up signs where they quoted all the terrible things people have said to them. It said things like “you ruined my waifu” and shit like that. Non-white, non-asian cosplayers even get death threats. It’s a serious thing.
Discrimination through skin colour
Let’s fast forward to when things started going sour with the first case of black-facing that really hit the internet by the storm (at least in my newsfeed): the creation of popular OverWatch character Sombra.
So like any crazy fad, the first cosplayer, the sexiest cosplayer, and the most accurate cosplayer received fame and recognition for cosplaying Sombra. For the rest of us, it didn’t really matter.
However one particular Korean cosplayer (if I remember correctly) cosplayed this character so accurately, she brown-faced.
And the internet went wild.
To understand why, you have to understand that most cosplayers are geeks and lovers of geek culture at heart. We want to do our favourite characters justice. But putting on brown face like it’s part of the costume is wrong. Somebody’s skin tone is not part of the costume. It’s part of their ethnicity and it has a history. It’s not there for you to culturally appropriate.
So you might say to me, “Shana, but don’t we paint our skin like red or purple for monster girls? How’s that any different from painting it brown?” A very valid question, albeit somewhat ignorant.
You see, people with bright purple skin don’t exist in real life. They are fabricated characters, and they aren’t even human sometimes. Generally, their skin colour shows their race, not their ethnicity. When you cosplay a character with bright purple skin, you are putting on a costume.
When you brown-face or black-face, you belittle someone’s history, culture, and ethnicity. They experience systematic societal oppression because of it, and their lives are harder because of the colour of their skin. For a white or asian cosplayer to be able to apply that colour and then wash it off is like a slap in the face. You don’t face the hardships others do, and then you get praised for the same thing they get discriminated for. It’s unfair, and it’s morally incorrect.
Actions speak louder than words, and this is very obvious when a cosplay photographer legit has a portfolio full of white and asian chicks. Now I know fair-skinned people are easier to edit and colour-adjust for. But maybe… if you practiced… it wouldn’t be so hard to take good photos of dark-skinned folk?
Now I’m not saying all photographers do this where they only take photos of white and asian chicks. But I get the vibe that they just think it’s not cool to take pics of brown and black people because it doesn’t match the character. And we notice. We all notice when a photographer puts in less effort into a photo because of their model.
Well you know what? Hermione from Harry Potter was played by a black woman in the Broadway production and I heard she was stellar. I haven’t seen the production because I’m poor af but I heard everyone loved her so there.
Cosplay has seriously come a long way. But it still has a long way to go.
My favourite Non-White Non-Asian Cosplayers
Yes, I might be a little bit biased because my circle is small, but here are some cosplayers I really admire, in no particular order.
Okay so am I just a simp for my friends and Kay Bear? Helllllllll yeah I am.
I know I said I was going to update twice a week, but in the spirit of Blackout Tuesday, I decided to remain quiet for awhile. All of the black people I interact with in my circle seem to have the same response: “I’m kind of used to it, but trying to stay off social media because it’s noisy”.
They’re aware of what’s happening, but they want to get back to their lives for the sake of mental wellness. And their response kind of hurts me, to see these people I admire so defeated from systematic oppression that they feel like they need a break. But that’s okay. I support mental wellness.
See you on Friday, Nyanners.