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Cosplaying Regardless of Labels

So, I have a confession to make: As of this writing, I have yet to cosplay a character of my skin color. *Cue dramatic music (Preferably from Monty Python and the Holy Grail).*

This isn’t for any particular reason, though I do feel that a lot of black characters in media tend to be very stereotypical (not all). Then again, some of my favorite characters in media have been black (Martha Jones from Doctor Who, Sheppard Book from Firefly, Sazh from Final Fantasy XIII, etc.) so it’s not like I dislike black characters. I just feel like most of the ones I identify with aren’t black, which is why I tend not to cosplay them. Also, sadly, most of the time in media/games, blacks are stereotyped to the point where I don’t enjoy the character. That being said, I do plan on cosplaying some who are black in the future, Sazh being one of them.

Why do I bring this up? Because numerous times as a cosplayer, I’ve gotten various comments about my costumes: “Oh you’re cosplaying a black version of *insert character here*.”

It might seem like a minor comment, but after a while it does get annoying. I’d like to think that we live in a world where we can see past things like race, gender, body type, etc but of course we still don’t. I’ve seen a lot of cosplayers that do amazing jobs of their costumes and the only thing that they seem to be remembered by is the fact that they weren’t the right gender/skin color/body type, etc.

Throughout my (short) time as a cosplayer, I’ve seen numerous cosplayers of all genders/races/body types and so on. Most of the time, I’ll see some amazing cosplayers and I try not to look at their skin color. This past weekend, I saw someone who was Captain Jack Sparrow. The cosplayer was female and was Asian, and IMO she was a great Jack Sparrow. She was in character the entire time, and that to me is going the extra mile. So, you don’t have to look exactly like said character to have a good cosplay…it also comes from how you act while in costume, and even smaller things like the props and weapons you have.

The point I’m getting to is this: there is no rule in cosplaying that says that you HAVE to cosplay your race, gender, body type or any other thing. You have the right to cosplay whoever you want to. If you want to cosplay a female character and your male, do it! If we just stuck to characters of our own body type or race or gender, we are severely limiting ourselves to who we can be.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t cosplay who you want to cosplay just because you aren’t 100% like the character.

So people, do us a favor:

  • Unless the person is particularly cosplaying a different version of the character (gender swap, different race, etc) don’t go up to them and say that. For example, “Hey, you’re the black Doctor.”
  • Don’t be an elitist who says that people ONLY cosplay of their body type, skin color, or anything like that.

Once again, there is no universal rule that says that everyone must cosplay their own body type. You can be who you want to be. Cosplay isn’t just about looking 100% like the character. I mean there’s always going to be something off and it’s not going to be 100% perfect for details that you can’t control. As long as you try your best to get the costume right and try to act as the character, you’re good to go. Cosplay is meant to be a fun hobby where we celebrate the art, and not to categorize people into labels.

Next week…let’s just say I’m going to touch on something that’s been happening with the community a lot lately. Hope to see you then.

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