LARPing or Cosplaying Drow: Is It Blackface?

Drow Painted Woman

Drow and Blackface: Author’s Addendum: Submitted April, 2019; posted May 2019:

It has been brought to my attention that this dated piece has been utilized by people who support blackface, despite the fact that I explained what blackface is. However, I realize that I gave a pass to the cosplayer listed, as to me that wasn’t an example of the true meaning of blackface. What I didn’t clarify then is this: it’s still ignorant, unnecessary, and wrong.

This piece was never meant to be utilized as a prop for white supremacy, and I was disgusted to learn that it has been.

There are no shortage of of-color cosplayers who portray characters who are different from their own ethnicity, myself included. From classics like Batman and Wonder Woman to newer characters like Elsa and Rick Grimes. We have genderbent cosplay like Jon Snow White and Lady Negans, and none of them have used face paint to change their skin.

Yet, when it comes to [some] white people cosplaying as other ethnicities, particularly black characters, for some reason they can’t manage to not use brown or black makeup? Is your cosplay so poor, your costuming so obscure, that no one will know who you are without it? If that is the case, then perhaps you should stop cosplaying altogether. If your cosplay skills are so shit that no one will get it, then move on to something you can do. Or hell, even better, find a new hobby.

This message is specifically to those who think blackface okay. Why don’t you do everyone a favor and just cosplay as a dumpster fire instead? A flaming pile of trash in a box.

Bottom line: If everyone else can cosplay as a different character and leave altering the appearance of their skin color out of it, so can you. If you choose differently and decide to use black makeup, brown coloring, or several shades of spray tan, just know you will be dragged, humiliated, and, karma willing, go viral, your face a human stain on memes. You know better, so DO better.


Original piece (published November, 2015)

When I first saw a discussion about drow and blackface, I actually didn’t even know what drow were. Apparently, they are a sub-race of elves that live in the Underdark. They have obsidian skin, with hair ranging from pale yellow, gold, white or silver.

For those of you not in the know, here is the definition of blackface:

black·face

ˈblakfās/

noun

noun: black-face

  1. the makeup used by a nonblack performer playing a black role. The role played is typically comedic or musical and usually is considered offensive.

Drow are not representative of black people or Africans; they are a fictional race of elves. And yet, there are some who are still offended at this particular brand of cosplay. I don’t know who these people are, but I am convinced they are rabid hipsters who are probably offended at everything, and have no idea what blackface really is, or the historical context behind it.

About a year ago, there was a fabulous cosplayer who went the extra nine for whoever she was dressing up as. One of the characters she donned was Michonne, including darkened skin, a locked wig, and prosthetic enhancement to look like the character. Her goal was to be as accurate as possible to the character of Michonne. While I don’t think the extras were necessary (skin and prosthetic enhancement), I also don’t think it was racist. She has since enhanced the look, leaving it on prominent display on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Purple-Candy-Cosplay-294657134029793/

Purple Candy Cosplay's Facebook Page

Here’s the problem: actual black face is a derogatory misrepresentation of what a black person looks like—tar black skin, and huge, cartoonish pink or red lips and ratted hair. Drow are not black; they aren’t an actual race of people. I haven’t come across a Drow cosplayer or LARPer, but do they think they’re dressing up as black people when they don the makeup? I’d imagine no.

There is no shortage of legit things to be offended at, and no shortage of racist displays. Creating a problem where there is none is what is truly harmful in that, it lessens both the importance and the spotlight on the truly objectionable, obscene and racist displays out there. Comparisons such as this one—drow is really blackface cosplay—diminishes the conversation. It also speaks to a level of ignorance in regards to those expressing this opinion. I am all about standing up for what is right and being politically correct, but it is not necessary to create things to be offended at. Part of me has wondered if the initial upset was a joke, or being pushed as offensive in order to be used as a strawman—

“People are offended at everything. They should get over it,” etc. Things like this can be used in an attempt to make legitimate concerns look farcical. When I hear complaints such as this, I can’t help but wonder that, as I can’t take it seriously. Of all of the things one could be upset at in American society that are problematic and harmful to black people, this is the cause you take up? This is what needs to be discussed? This is what matters?

Drow paint

There is something inherently wrong with that.

In conclusion, drow cosplay is the problem that isn’t. For all of you who were concerned about it, please, rally behind a real issue.

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About Jill Robi 11 Articles
Writer. Journalist. Creator. Jill Robi is a writer first, and a fangirl second. A Chicago native with a BA in fiction writing, she is a journalist, movie aficionado, self-proclaimed geek, avid comic-con attendee and panelist, cosplayer, and fandom participant. A freelancer, she continues to grow her own creation, Fangirl, as a press and film critic. Jill is a seasoned writer, predominantly known for her interviews. She has worked for Unite4:Good magazine, where she cut her journalistic teeth with legend Dionne Warwick, a plethora of CEOs and various musical talent. A freelancer, she has worked for the Sugar Gamers and Black Girl Nerds. Jill regularly contributes to The Geek Initiative as a press and film critic. 11893743_10101299606964507_8393959155463387595_o Currently, Jill is working on her fourth novel. Not keen on being traditional, it is also her fourth, vastly different genre to write in [street contemporary]. Though she favors pop-fic and chick lit, Jill also likes to write poetry, noir, and sci-fi/fantasy. She particularly loves exploring character studies. She writes first and foremost for her own entertainment. She hopes that by sharing her work with the world, she can also achieve the entertainment and enjoyment of others as well.

1 Comment

  1. That was one HELL of a backpedal there (and just to clarify, your backpedal was obviously merely a defensive response that was ultimately executed to be *just* enough to appeal to the mass criticism, and to attack anyone and everyone who supported your original view that you are now revoking due to backlash to keep your “reputation” – I’m not referring to the simple acts of admitting you’re wrong, apologizing, and bettering yourself; which you didn’t do)

    I honestly hope the author got fired for this article – if not due to the original composition, then for the aggressive addendum that was:

    (1.) Extremely defensive and inappropriate – the revocation of your original statement is riddled with a poor attitude portrayed through your language; it comes off as incredibly insincere and unapologetic.

    (2.) A pathetic attempt at retracting your ignorance – you state in your very first paragraph of your addendum that, “as to me that wasn’t an example of the true meaning of blackface.” That’s great that you don’t take offense to certain types of blackface (and your example was *VERY MUCH* blackface right down to the fact that she even used a prosthetic), but last I checked, you aren’t the designated speaker for every minority exploited by the use of black face and you don’t get to decide what is offensive or not and apply that to everyone. Also, by not retracting the notion that a VERY fitting example of blackface is okay to you and, instead, actually enforcing the notion that it is *still* okay to you, you are continuing to display the same initial ignorance. Not only that, but you used the, “fact that I [you] explained what blackface is” (without even citing a source?) as a deflection against your article being used to support blackface when, even with the definition you present, your example of “not blackface” is ACTUALLY blackface by *your* definition – “the makeup used by a nonblack performer playing a black role” – whereas the rest of the “definition” is merely descriptive of what type of role that the performer MIGHT be performing (though it is not a concrete element).

    (3.) And lastly, profoundly inconsiderate – your attempts at ostracizing racist people was so broadly proclaimed that it could easily destroy the self-esteem of many (especially beginner) cosplayers who have not perfected their cosplay methodology or those who cosplay as entities of already obscure fandoms. The generalized inference that successful cosplaying is determined by whether or not people can distinguish who you are cosplaying as is incredibly toxic as you are gatekeeping, exclusionary, and just overall rude. The blanket statements leading up to the claim that “if your cosplay is not discernable then your skills are shit and you should just give up and find another hobby” – atrocious and ignominious altogether.

    I agree that painting your skin to portray a FICTIONAL race is not racist. Drows are fictional and they’re pitch black so people tend to portray them as black or (about 50/50 dark and pale) grey, purple, blue, and seldom but sometimes green – black paint is not even representative of the darkest of actual skin tones. That’s not blackface to *most* people due to the fact that it is a fictional race and nonrepresentative of black people in any sort of way (however, if someone tells you they are offended then their feelings are valid and you should still apologize and/or at least give them an explanation of your thought process as a courtesy). I really don’t find it any different than painting your skin green to portray a goblin – another fictional race. I do, however, believe that if you are trying to portray a skin tone that exists on the color spectrum of human skin (such as shades brown) and/or you are trying to portray a race (fictional or not) that is obviously representative of black people (if you know anything about drows, you would actually find it offensive if someone likened black people to them) then you are perpetuating racism.

    However, your article is a poor and illogical representation of this viewpoint or any version of it. You only displayed a shameful depiction of backpedaling after writing an offensive article excusing “certain types” of ACTUAL blackface.

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