Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cosplay Double Standard

     In one of my close-knit friend groups, Rachel and Kathryn are white, and I am Asian.  Last night, Rachel, Kathryn, and I were spending a night in with comic books, tumblr, and cosplay preparations for tonight's midnight premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy. Our conversation drifted between nerdom and the realm of race.
      We were talking about character cosplaying, and Kathryn said something about not being "ethnic" enough to portray certain characters of the fictional world. I thought that was silly. Kat should be able to portray any character she wants. Sure, it would not be the most movie/comic-accurate cosplay on terms of character skin tone, but if there's a character she'd love to dress up as, why should the color of her skin hold her back?
       She responded, "It's because we (implying she and Rachel) have more options."
       "Why do you have more options?"
       "Because so many comic book leads are white, straight males," Rachel interjected.
       "Uh, so since there are more white characters in comic books, you can't cosplay as non-white characters?" I asked.
       "Yeah, but there was a black girl who cosplayed as Galadriel, and it was awesome," Kat added.
       "Wait," I questioned. "So, if I cosplayed as Galadriel, that would be okay, but..."
       "Yeah!" Kat encouraged. "That would be great! But if I cosplayed Storm...since storm was Hallie Barrie and I'm white, that would be bad."
       "Wait, what?"
       "There's a double standard," Kat replied matter-of-factly.
       "Why did this double standard happen?"
       "Because.... of our country's history?" Kat rhetorically asked.
       She brought up slavery, and I was thinking....Okay, so the culturally-aware legion of comic book readers agree that barring whites from cosplaying as non-white characters is supposed to be some sort of compensation to ethnic minorities for the colonial slave trade?
        I failed to follow her logic, so I questioned, "So, we should just allow there to be a double standard? Why can't people just be free to cosplay whichever character they'd like to be?"
       "Not everyone thinks that way," Rachel said.
       "It would be great if they did, but..." Kat trailed off.

       And we basically left it at that. 
      I realized what I was not angry about the obvious lack of diversity in the comic book world (an issue, which, is slowly but thankfully resolving! Check out Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson). What I was really stuck on was the way by which supposedly diversity-conscious and diversity-advocating comic book readers believed they were compensating for the lack of comic character diversity. Since the minorities are being oppressed, the sympathetic majority should tiptoe around the issue. Instead of speaking out about the issue at hand and striving to thwart it, let's give the minority something they never asked for, total cosplay monopolization over non-white characters in addition to the ability to portray white characters without judgement. Meanwhile, let's bash any white person who tries to cosplay as a non-white because double-standards can exist if they are against the "privileged" group.
       As a minority, I don't need the sympathy or double-standard-induced compensation from the majority. That does not make me feel better. I am a minority who is against any kind of double-standard, even those supposedly erected to "benefit" me. Bashing people based on the color of their skin is wrong, regardless of whether the majority or minority does such bashing or if the "privileged" group is bashed.

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