Cosplaying While White

Photo by Paul Cory

Photo by Paul Cory

 I am lucky.

I look like 90% of the women on the big screen, the small screen, on the covers of novels and in the pages of comic books.

I am white, skinny and have learned how to use makeup (as well as a few laser surgeries) to cover the birthmark on my face with which genetics graced me.

That doesn’t make me a good cosplayer.

In fact, it means that I can be a little more lazy with my costumes than someone who doesn’t share the basic physical characteristics of a character.

Photo by... someone with my cell phone.

Photo by… someone with my cell phone.

Like this one. This is jeans, a white blouse and a pair of cowboy boots from my closet. Topped off with a wig and some creative makeup to give my very pale skin a more tanned look.

But it’s recognizable as River Song, if you’re familiar with the source material (The TARDIS probably helps.)

As much as I love being Batgirl, My Batgirl isn’t the best one out there. It’s a purple bodysuit, not cut quite screen-accurately, made out of the wrong fabric and beginning to show its years. My red hair is a different texture than the red wig that the character wears. And I look *nothing* like Yvonne Craig. But it’s recognizable. People love it. I get celebrated for it. Just by showing up.

I get away with a lot of shortcuts. I don’t need to make sure the details are perfect. I don’t need to hunt high or low for the perfect accessory, or perfect my poses. I am immediately, and unconditionally accepted as presenting a valid cosplay of that character, whether or not I really have any resemblance to the woman I’m imitating. There are a few negative comments on my costumes, occasionally. Usually having to do with the fact that my chest is not big enough for comic book standards, but on the whole, the reaction is positive.

But here’s the thing: I don’t need to defend my presence and my choice to engage in the activity of cosplay (all gender assumptions aside). As long as a photo is taken by a decent photographer, the overwhelming response to my presence in the cosplay world and the geek world at large (again, geek girl issues aside) will be positive (if sometimes problematic from a gender standpoint). I don’t need to compensate for my color, or my weight or my height or my physical abilities. I don’t need to justify my presence by being absolutely perfect. I don’t have to face that higher bar for being judged as “doing cosplay right”. I am “doing it right” by being a conventionally attractive white woman in spandex. End of story.

Photo by Russ Creech

Photo by Russ Creech (And if you’re wondering who my favorite Batgirl is, it’s Jay Justice’s Batgirl, hands down.)

Making the costume and showing up is the end of the effort I need to put in. The same isn’t true for women who are the “wrong” color from the geek world’s standpoint. Or who are the “wrong” size. Or who don’t wear makeup. Or who are genetically male and present as a woman.

I love being a superhero, and being perceived as one. But just because I look the part expected of me doesn’t make me better than anyone else. In fact it mostly lets me get off a little easier than the next person.

Not that this is a metaphor for life or anything.

17 thoughts on “Cosplaying While White

  1. I can’t believe we’ve been online friends since 2005 and I just discovered your fantastic blog a few weeks ago. You are great! Keep flying. I’ll keep reading (seriously, I’ve got some catching up to do!).

  2. Fantastic Cosplay and an interesting read, especially the other blogs you linked at the end there.

    Yet another thing I never think about while playing on easy mode.

    It’d be nice if people could do whatever they damn well pleased without someone telling them they weren’t (insert) enough.

    p.s. I’m especially fond of the Phoenix Force costume, though at first I thought it was a gender-bent version of Capt. Marvel.

  3. You could certainly see your enthusiasm in the work you
    write. The world hopes for

    even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how
    they believe. Always follow

    your heart.

  4. Fabulous articles – I am not off to read the next one – love your cosplay honesty – oh and Bill Hedrick makes great Klingon pieces

  5. Heya! I know this is kind of off-topic however I needed to ask.
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    Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for new aspiring bloggers.
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