Let’s say you’re scrolling through Twitter and come across a Black female cosplayer dressed as Nezuko Kamado from Demon Slayer. You love her cosplay and as you’re looking at it, you go through the comments and see what others are saying about it. You assume everyone else will love it because you do! But to your surprise, some of the comments, if not all, are negative. Most are stating that she shouldn’t cosplay as a character that is not Black within their respective pop culture medium. But why is that?
Toxicity In Cosplay
There are more people getting involved in cosplay now, which leads to more diversity in the community meaning more women, more people of color and more ideas of how a character can be portrayed. While some people support this growth in the community, others are getting more critical about how ‘accurate’ a character is portrayed. This overcritical side of the community causes certain people to feel left out. Spanning from racist undertones to sexist comments, it can be scary to join in on the cosplay experience. Since cosplay is more mainstream then it was back then, it creates more chances of negative comments to make its way to certain cosplayers; Black women.
Competition and notoriety are some of the reasons why people tend to be more critical when it comes to cosplay. If you don’t look like the character, then it’s not a good cosplay. They can be very critical that it causes others to shy away from even trying. It’s so toxic that even though they criticize cosplayers who aren’t the same skin color, they may go as far as to criticize the ones who edit a simple color of the character’s costume.
Racism In The Community
Racism in the cosplay community stems from media being mainly eurocentric or white-washed. While diversity is growing in pop culture and media, such as films like Black Panther, there is still a lack of representation when it comes to women and minorities. This leads to Black cosplayers not having many options to ‘fit their skin tone.’ Despite this issue, race should not affect the ability to cosplay as a certain character. Cosplay should be the freedom to dress as any character you love. But many are forgetting this important factor in the community.
“A couple years ago, a Black woman cosplayer made headlines when she faced racist Internet rage over her Sailor Venus costume; “the depths that the insults sink to are enough to scare many interested cosplayers away from even trying,” she wrote of her experience.”
Tao Goodman: “We Need To Talk About Racism And Sexism In The Cosplay Community.”
This issue has even spread to first time Black female cosplayers as well, causing other Black cosplayers to create a platform to help speak about the unfair treatment towards Black people in the cosplay community. They are creating a safe environment for Black cosplayers to express themselves freely among the cosplay community with just a simple hashtag.
To try to bring more attention to this situation, many Black cosplayers are forming their own groups and tagging their content on Twitter with the hashtag: #Blackcosplayerhere. The hashtag was created by Black female Cosplayer, Belema Boyle, back in 2018 and is allowing other Black cosplayers to feel recognized and part of the cosplay community.
“The constant excuse was that black cosplayers are a rarity and difficult to find. I just wanted to say that’s not true; we’ve always been here, but biases have kept us underrepresented.”
Belema Boyle: “Here’s The Powerful Reason Why Black Cosplayers Are Using The #BlackCosplayerHere Hashtag“
Sexism In The Community
Not only is racism a common issue in the cosplay community, but there has also always been sexism laced into the community. This is not just among Black women but all women who love to cosplay. Many male cosplayers state that females tend to make characters seem more ‘sexual’ than how the character is in media. However, this all goes back to interpretation and freedom of how a cosplayer gets to portray the character. It’s about having fun and sharing your interests with others in a community.
Objectification Against Black Female Cosplayers
Sexism among Black female cosplayers is a major problem, however, this stems from outside the cosplay community and into society. Over the years, Black women have constantly been objectified in both the media and society. The idea has trickled down into cosplay and the community that surrounds it. Therefore, this leads to sexist comments toward Black female cosplayers who dress as their favorite characters. Aren’t they doing the same thing as non-PoC cosplayers? What is the difference other than their skin color?
“I think the anime community is harsher, especially when it comes to race and cosplay with POCs. …They particularly don’t like to see Black girls as Sailor Scouts . . . I don’t understand why some people are okay seeing a Black Princess Leia in a slave bikini but it’s NOT okay to see her in a schoolgirl uniform.“
Tai Gooden: “We Need To Talk About Racism And Sexism In The Cosplay Community“
Not only do sexist comments hurt Black female cosplayers, but going to conventions can be much worse. In conventions or cosplay events, there are many women who report forms of body policing or sexual harassment. Black female cosplayers state that when wearing more revealing outfits it doesn’t create much backlash, but an increase in sexual comments that make them feel uncomfortable. However, when Black female cosplayers wear less revealing outfits there are more people who claim that it is inaccurate due to their race.
How Do We End The Divide?
The only way to fix the divide in the cosplay community is to accept growth and diversity. Cosplaying isn’t as niche as it used to be due to social media and because of this more people across the world want to get involved in cosplay. But looking from the outside of the community it can be scary from the number of issues that take place in it. This is why the community must come together to understand that everyone has their own interpretations of their favorite character. These different interpretations shouldn’t lead to disputes online or in person. Skin color or gender shouldn’t create a divide in the community, it should be embraced and celebrated.
There are people out there who want to join the cosplay community but worry about being judged. The cosplay community needs to come together to show that anyone should and can be able to cosplay and will be accepted. It’s about showing others what you love and having a creative outlet to share with others. People who have been in the cosplay community for a long time tend to forget that and focus on competition or the number of likes they get. Competition and notoriety shouldn’t be the main focus when it comes to cosplay.
Black Female Cosplayers To Follow
If you want to follow cool, inspiring Black female cosplayers, then I suggest looking at some of these Black female cosplayers. They not only challenge the norm of cosplay but create an environment that allows Black female cosplayers to grow and feel accepted by the cosplay community. There are only a few Black female cosplayers, and there are many more to look out for as well. Growth is important in the cosplay community and growth leads to diversity.
Diversity helps others see that there are other ways to interpret iconic characters and this should be something that the cosplay community loves to see. If the cosplay community doesn’t allow for growth and diversity then it won’t be able to come together as one to enjoy what they love. It’s important to accept people from different backgrounds and to allow themselves to express their love for their favorite characters in their own unique ways. Don’t be scared to try something you love.