At the end of 2017, we posted a topic regarding the rules of #costuming & #cosplay. Beyond those rules (that are based on actual laws, venue rules, etc.), some #cosplays are inappropriate and unacceptable because of cultural standards. While some jurisdictions and venues prohibit these types of cosplays & practices listed below, not all do; but that doesn’t mean that they are any less inappropriate & unacceptable.
The reasons why certain types of cosplays & practices are inappropriate & unacceptable will become clear as you read the examples below.
For anyone unfamiliar with this term, blackface refers to the practice of non-black individuals (usually performers) putting on dark makeup in order to appear black. Dating back to the 18th century, blackface was used by white performers to create demeaning, stereotypical caricatures of blacks for minstrel shows. The practice continued until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s in the United States, but continued elsewhere for several years or decades longer, such as the U.K., where it continued until 1978. Some occurrences continue to this day in some counties.
Blackface is widely regarded as being completely inappropriate & unacceptable due to its demeaning & racist portrayal of African Americans. Movies and cartoons that were filmed with blackface scenes are no longer broadcasted in the United States, even by cable-only TV channels.
Any cosplayer that decides to apply dark makeup in order to appear to have darker skin than they actually do may be accused of being racist even if there was no racism intended by the cosplayer. We therefore highly recommend that no cosplayer use any form of blackface.
Cultural appropriation can be defined as the appropriation of elements of an oppressed culture by a people who have historically oppressed those they are taking the elements from and who lack the cultural context to properly understand, respect, or utilize those elements. Thus, it is not a a mutual cultural exchange that has occurred in an equal manner, nor was any permission granted by the oppressed culture.
Within the context of costumes, the wearing of anything that represents a cultural or racial stereotype should be avoided. Anyone wearing a costume that is deemed blatantly racist & stereotypical may be called out as being worn in poor taste or the wearer may be accused of being racist. Examples would include the following:
- Traditional Native American dress.
- Mexican sombreros and ponchos.
- Jamaican dreadlocks.
- Japanese geisha or samurai.
- Dressing as a homeless person.
An example that was posted to Twitter in 2015:
Nazi Symbols & Uniforms
Nazism began as a 20th century political party in Germany before the outbreak of World War II. It’s leader, Adolf Hitler, adopted a symbol (called the swastica) originally used for peace in Buddhism and reversed its direction to represent the Nazi Party and its extreme racism and antisemitism. Under Hitler and the Nazi Party, Germany started World War II in 1939 by invading neighboring Poland, which then escalated to consume nearly all of Europe and parts of North Africa in war. But, even before the war started, German Jews and others that the Nazis didn’t like (including homosexuals, communists, people with disabilities, etc.) were systematically rounded up and sent to concentration camps where Nazis began to murder them in large gas chambers that were disguised as showers. By the time Nazis were defeated in World War II, they had murdered at least 12,000,000 people in the concentration camps. Of those 12,000,000, half were Jews.
Long after the end of World War II and the Nazi Party in Germany in 1945, white nationalists in the United States and elsewhere have adopted Nazi symbols and continue to spread similar racist, homophobic and antisemitic hatred. Thus, anything associated with the Nazis, including its symbols and uniforms, is highly inappropriate and unacceptable. In fact, some conventions have banned the wearing of any Nazi symbols on cosplays.
Unfortunately, there are some who do actually wear Nazi symbols and uniforms to comic, anime & even furry conventions. In fact, one such incident just occurred this weekend in Houston at Anime Matsuri, an anime convention.
- What Are the Rules of Costuming & Cosplay?
- Twitter blackface example.
- Cultural Appropriation
- Cultural appropriation posted on Twitter
- Is it OK for a white kid to dress up as Moana for Halloween? And other cultural appropriation questions
- Whatever you do, avoid these 9 Halloween costumes