I have recently discovered the gem of a blog that is BlackGirlNerds.com, and through them I have discovered the #29daysofblackcosplay tag. In case this seems like gibberish to you, this is a tag that celebrates black people in cosplay (which is the act of dressing up as a character from a movie/tv show/anime/comic book/ etc). Needless to say I have been refreshing my twitter feed non-stop under the tag to see what new images pop up!
In following the tag, here are some of the thoughts that came up;
The reason the discovery of this hashtag excited me so much, was because of how quickly it inspired me. I am a nerdy girl at heart, and have always thought it would be pretty darn cool to go to a convention dressed up as a beloved character.
The thing is, besides having no one to go with, and having zero skill with a sewing machine, my biggest concern was “Who could I go as?”. The key word in this question is could, and what I really meant while asking it was; “In my favourite book/tv show/movie/etc., were there any black characters that I could portray?”
This question actually became a real point of discussion when I wanted to dress up for a Harry Potter movie release, (Deathly Hallows, Part 2, to be exact). After a couple weeks of brainstorming, my friends and I decided that I could be Angelina Johnson, and of course, the only basis for this decision was that Angelina Johnson was black.
While I have nothing personal against Ms. Johnson, she was a background character, and not one I had felt a particular affinity towards while reading the books. Needless to say, she was not someone I had been particularly eager to dress up as.
But then, during this brainstorming period, of “Who could I be?” another, less enticing option was presented.
There was the option for me to be a “Black Version” of a character. After all I couldn’t just be Hermione, I had to name myself instead as a “Black Hermione”.*
*This, of course, was before Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
The Beauty of #29DaysofBlackCosplay.
One thing I really want to salute BlackGirlNerds.com on, is how they call out people who refer to a cosplayer as the black version of a character. As an example, this quick comment showed up on on my Twitter news feed:
There was definitely positive intent with the #blackbatman comment, but I believe the problem with continuing to label like this makes POC feel like they are never fully achieving their character. It makes us feel like a lesser version of who we are trying to be for the day.
I mean, when a white person dresses up as Sailor Moon for example, they can parade around all day announcing themselves as said character, and everyone goes with it. Then, if a black person does the same, somehow your race becomes the focus, and you are called “Black Sailor Moon”, as if your interpretation of the character has a different history, a disconnected story line from what is canon.
This seems like a small battle to fight for in the grand scheme of race-related concerns, but if a proud geeky kid (or adult), can’t confidently dress up as their favorite character, because of how people perceive it in relation to their race, we have a problem.
Cosplaying is meant to be a fun and creative way for nerds and geeks all over the world to show their love and pride for their favorite fandoms. Why would we take away any part of that from someone because their skin color doesn’t match a character’s descriptors? For something beyond their control?
There was of course, some negativity sprinkled into the live twitter feed, but that is always to be expected the bigger something gets on the internet. All I had to do was keep scrolling, and focus on the beaming faces of people in costume, and it faded into the background.
I also saw people of all races asking why such a tag was even needed, and I like to hope that this post gives them a bit of insight.
While I’m not sure if I will be heading to a convention anytime soon, I definitely feel inspired to pull off a kick-ass Halloween costume this year. (And I will be doing so with no restrictions, and with full confidence.)
~Comfy Girl With Curls