Cosplay PSA: Blackface
Today's PSA is on Blackface. "But Blackstar," I'm sure you might ask, "this topic has been written about endlessly!" You're right, and obviously people aren't getting the message if Instagram is anything to go off of. You'll notice I added a picture from the movie White Chicks. That's b/c I'm not about to put up a picture of one of these people. You know exactly what it looks like. That being said, I've compiled a few FAQ below.
"Why is blackface bad?" The short answer is that it started as a theatrical make-up style in the 19th century to be a caricature of black people in performances called minstrel shows, and contributed to the spread of racial stereotypes. It was used to oppress and demean people, and lasted until the 1960s... and apparently until today. Seriously, next time you watch White Christmas, there's a song lamenting that minstrel shows are going out of style.
"But I want to dress up like Black Panther..." That's fine! Go nuts! "...And to make it more realistic, maybe I should darken my skin." NOPE.
“Darkening my skin helps the costume look more like the character!” Still no. I saw a Bayek (from AC: Origins) a few weeks ago that was amazingly spot on with the fabrics, badges, and even the tattoos drawn on his arm… He was just a white dude. And it was an incredible cosplay that looked just like the character, without falling into this trap.
"That's not fair if PoC cosplayers can use makeup to have 'whiteface'!" We're not here to talk about that, but I think I've seen one example ever at a con vs all the time when white people make terrible choices. Seems like weekly.
"What about for Asian characters?" Still counts. Don't do it. Just fill in all minority groups on this one.
"No one complains when I paint myself blue!" Once we meet and start oppressing the Kree, Asari, or Chiss, perhaps this will become more gauche. Until then, I hope you realize this sounds ridiculous.
“Why are you telling us this, as you’re a cis straight white male?” Because it’s obvious you’re not getting the message when PoC cosplayers say it’s offensive.
So, please don’t do blackface. It’s racist, offensive to everyone, and it’s why we can’t have nice things. You’re free to dress up as pretty much any character you want, regardless of race, with all the details that make it an awesome costume, just skip this one thing.