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:
- 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/
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?
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.