So, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been casually avoiding the topic of racism in the cosplay community and how far one should go when cosplaying a character of different ethnicity than them. Personally, I go out of my way to find characters of color (Static, Yoruichi, Esmeralda) to cosplay and think there should be more shows that portray “colored” characters. But I also cosplay fun characters (Natsu, Mizore, Raven) because my skin color doesn’t deter me from cosplaying a non-black character. But when it comes to cosplayers of non-ethnic backgrounds (yes, White people) the line between cosplaying accurately/blackface/cultural appropriation/white-washing becomes blurred and it makes my head spin how difficult this topic becomes.
DailyDot posted an article in 2012 about diversity in the cosplay community and discussed the issue of “brown-facing” among white cosplayers who wanted to darken their skin for characters such as Korra or Katara. Tumblr celebrity Yamino responded with an open letter to the community, “I’ve seen some popular cosplayers I admire put on ‘brownface’ to cosplay characters like Korra, Katara, and other people of color. That is not ok. What seems like innocent dress-up to you is a tradition rooted in racism which dehumanises real people of color. Skintone is not a costume.”
So far any attempt at darkening or lightening one’s skin for their cosplay has been met with a negative response. But are people jumping the gun here and just assuming any form of skin-color change for the sake of their cosplay is automatically spurred by offensive purposes? I don’t think so…but it’s still wrong to change your skin-color for a costume. Cosplayers should love their skin color and not alter it for their character. Yes, it might “look better for aesthetic reasons” and costume contest judges love it when a cosplayer looks EXACTLY like the character they’re portraying, but cosplayers shouldn’t alter their skin color.
I enjoying seeing cosplayers take a character and change it and make it new again and that is what cosplaying is. If we cosplay only exactly what we see then we won’t have amazing crossovers like Black Wonder Woman and Jessica Rabbit and others. What are your thoughts on color diversity in the cosplay community? Leave a comment below.