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Cosplay and Women of Color

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Anna Meehan

on 3 December 2013

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Transcript of Cosplay and Women of Color

Cosplay and Women of Color
Goals: Explore what it means to cosplay as a woman of color
What is cosplay and how is it fashion?
How does racism exist in the "nerd world," particularly in the cosplay community?
With this in mind, what does it mean to be a black female cosplayer?
How do black female cosplayers challenge ideas about characters and representation in a setting where they are often "othered?"
What spaces are created by black female cosplayers?

What is Cosplay?
How does cosplay fight back against racism that exists in the cosplay community?
Or be insanely detailed...
It can have simple, clever details for each individual...
It can be done by people of all ages...
Short for "costume play," cosplay can most loosely be defined as the act of dressing up as a fictional character. It can often be found at different conventions and is practiced both on a casual and professional level.
While it's easy to define and dismiss cosplay as a hobby, in reality it is a form of fashion that is a serious craft that takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication.
But is it fashion?
After looking at runway styles, it might seem a little strange to equate cosplay with fashion. But in reality, it is the fashion of an entire community of people. On a small level, it can be seen in little pieces; a Ravenclaw scarf, a Mockingjay pin. But on a greater level, a person's cosplay status is defined by the quality of their wig and the realistic look of their foam armor.
Some people will even cosplay competitively and can make money off of it, which is good considering how much it can cost, but most people do it for the love of the fandom itself. This is because this form of fashion is more than a costume, it is a symbol of some sort of work, whether it be an anime, book, movie, game, or something else entirely. Whatever that piece of work represents, the cosplayer is therefore representing through their outfit.
And it can make for amazing photoshoots...
Why does it matter?
Influence of Cosplay
While it can be said that the cosplay community is small and contained and unimportant, in reality it has the potential to challenge the ways in which people view race, fandom, and the way in which they interact.
If there isn't representation of people of color in the characters seen on televison, it can be made through cosplay and influence outside sources to either create more representation or at least be willing to consider what that symbol means on a larger level.
Scrapbook and Tumblr: What we learned...
Fox recently strongly advised other shows to follow your lead, as far as diverse casting, if they want to succeed.
"It goes without saying that you want as many people watching your television show as possible. And there's a wide, wide wonderful spectrum of people in this country and obviously on this globe, and you want them to see themselves on TV as much as anyone else. I think that's important." -Writer Phillip Iscove
Sleepy Hollow
"But ______ isn't black!"
Even though all sorts of interpretations of characters are created in cosplay, there is still backlash against people of color, particularly black people, who cosplay.
What role does media representation play in this?
Giving the fans power:
When people of color are not given proper representation in media, cosplay provides a way to create that actual representation and establish the universal nature of the messages sent by these popular shows/books/games/movies.
"Are you flipping off Captain America?"
Why Captain America?
"It's the most patriotic of superheros! Started in 1941 fighting the Axis Powers, now Captain America comes back and fights hate crimes." -Vishavjit Singh
Full transcript