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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dear Nerds: Don't Do Blackface

Posted by on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 1:58 PM

The internet is still churning over two cosplayers at Emerald City Comicon who wore blackface. One was a white guy playing Star Trek: The Next Generation's Geordi La Forge, and the other was a woman and her friends posing as The Walking Dead's Michonne and her zombie entourage.

Lots of words have been written about this, but it's really pretty simple. This isn't okay. You know why it's not okay? Because the actor's race isn't part of the character's costume. I'm not telling anyone to not dress up as their favorite character, just because their favorite character happens to be a different race. But neither of these costumes needed the blackface to "work." Everybody would know who the Star Trek guy was cosplaying as, based on the visor over his eyes. And Michonne is a pretty recognizable character now, too.

The blackface totally overrides everything else about these costumes. This is basic math. He's not wearing a Geordi La Forge costume. He's wearing a blackface Geordi La Forge costume. If the guy didn't wear blackface, he'd just be wearing a Geordi La Forge costume. Blackface anything is a bad idea. You just shouldn't do it. Period.

 

Comments (75) RSS

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1
I don't quibble with your main point, but referencing Michon might be a problem. In a story that has one outright racist who beats up a 'nigger' the race of the character is very much relevant. Without spoilers, the tension between group members and former group members absolutely has a racial undercurrent. Could a character like Django be a different race? Could Sheriff Bart be any other race? Would either of those films work with actors of different race in those characters?
Posted by BornAgainInBellevue on March 6, 2013 at 2:13 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 2
David Brothers lost me very early on.

"I made a racist joke as a kid, but I didn't mean any disrespect."

No, dude. You were being as INTENTIONALLY Racist as the kid in your earlier story was in singing the Jingle Bells song. You weren't showing ANY respect to ANY Asian peoples by joking about them being slant eyed.

The guy doing blackface Geordie LaForge was not being intentionally racist by trying to replicate skin color as part of his costume.

Try again.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on March 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM · Report this
Arsenic7 3
The race of the character is relevant to the plot.
But referencing the character is just as effective, if not more so, by simply copying their dress, hair style, and accoutrements.
Posted by Arsenic7 on March 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM · Report this
4
There was a pic on Slog the other day of a guy dressed up as Dana Scully, complete with red hair wig. I guess to some people there's not much of a difference between dressing up in a hair color, versus dressing up with a skin color. Of course to normal society there's a huge gulf between the two. Then again, we're talking about cosplayers...
Posted by GermanSausage on March 6, 2013 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Indighost 5
I disagree. Blackface is offensive because of the history of blackface comedy theater, not because you're representing a race.

People in sci-fi and fantasy (and furry) conventions dress up in scales/fur/feathers as alien races all the time. This isn't offensive or disrespectuful to aliens.
Posted by Indighost on March 6, 2013 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Shibari-san 6
Cosplay is racism. Gotcha.
Posted by Shibari-san http://youtu.be/IHnGMV8yOEQ on March 6, 2013 at 2:23 PM · Report this
Shibari-san 7
I agree with with the other posts here. They're cosplaying, not being racist. They are paying tribute to a character, the intentions is not racist. They are trying to be the character. Homage to both the character and even the actor for bringing them to life. What is sad well meaning tribute is being seen as hateful.
Posted by Shibari-san http://youtu.be/IHnGMV8yOEQ on March 6, 2013 at 2:27 PM · Report this
8
Be curious to hear some black perspectives on this. The handful of black people I've personally talked to about this issue tend to think white Seattle liberals need let go of their self-righteous outrage.
Posted by paulus on March 6, 2013 at 2:28 PM · Report this
9
Yeah, I disagree. It should not be a big deal. It has an unfortunate history. But lets get over ourselves.
Posted by give me pom on March 6, 2013 at 2:30 PM · Report this
jnmend 10
No, blackface is racism.

The fantasy worlds in which these characters live are not more important than the realities of our world, in which blackface is and has always been a highly racist thing to fucking do.

Cosplay is short for COSTUME PLAY, and any theatre kid will tell you that costumes and makeup aren't even the same department.
Posted by jnmend on March 6, 2013 at 2:30 PM · Report this
11
It's simply in bad taste, considering the origins of blackface and our culture's ongoing struggle with racial equality, to do blackface if you are white. It's not okay in the same way that using the N-word is not okay: it originated as a weapon for white people to oppress people of color, so they aren't allowed to have it anymore. Period. If people of color want to pick that weapon/tool up, that is certainly their prerogative. But it's off-limits to anyone else.
And in cases where the skin color/ethnic background of the character is important (or becomes important) to the story, such as with Michonne as referenced above, it might be a more respectful choice for white folks not to choose that costume. Cultural appropriation, etc.
Posted by heatherly on March 6, 2013 at 2:37 PM · Report this
eclexia 12
We should be grateful that people no longer know what "blackface" was. It's been dead and gone for half a century, and only seen in a few old movie clips.

Blackface was not a white guy dressing as a particular black figure, or a white realistically portraying a black person. "Blackface" is not simply making one's skin dark with makeup.

Blackface was an entire form of theater, with shuffle-walks, eye-rolls, and throwing the hands up while shouting, "lawdy".

The most similar thing might be the members of Monty Python dressing as old women, assuming they were sneaking out at night to beat down old women or making sure old women couldn't live within a mile of their house.

A white guy doing Barak Obama or LaForge is not blackface.
Posted by eclexia on March 6, 2013 at 2:38 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 13
And in Tunisia and Egypt, students are doing the Harlem Shake in defiance of Islamist goverments.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on March 6, 2013 at 2:40 PM · Report this
14
I think it's cringe worthy, but certainly not outright racist unless they're making them into black caricatures to be mocked... though its shakey ground to be sure. Ultimately, is it better to try and represent these characters as faithfully as possible, is it better to whitewash them, or should cosplayers just avoid different race characters altogether? It's an interesting question (and for the record, I'd avoid playing another race myself, but that's just me)
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on March 6, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 15
@3 "The race of the character is relevant to the plot."

In what episode of Star Trek was it ever relevant that Geordie was a black man born in Africa?

Michonne's being black in the comics comes up, if memory serves, only when a couple of people insult her, as Merle does in the TV show.

99% of the time her being black and 100% of the time his being black is irrelevant, unless my memories across 100+ issues of The Walking Dead and almost 140~ hours of The Next Generation (and it's films) are faulty.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could just cast someone for the role of "Mark Smith" in a film, and have the race be irrelevant, and not even ever come up in the film? Example: cast a black guy in a role played by a white guy. Does his being black have to be relevant to the film? Why can't he just be an actor playing a role?
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on March 6, 2013 at 2:44 PM · Report this
john t 16
I get that the history of blackface is ugly and hateful and should not be minimized or dismissed. But the needle on my outrage meter just doesn't jump very much when a white person dresses up like Geordi La Forge at a cosplay convention where the entire point of the event is for everyone to dress up like fictional characters that they like and admire. And the Geordi character is about as far away as you can get from the black stereotype that was perpetuated and mocked in the blackface/minstrelsy tradition. For the same reasons, I didn't get too worked up about it when Sharon Needles dressed up like RuPaul for an episode of Drag Race where all the drag queens were supposed to impersonate a celebrity. Is putting brown makeup on one's face ALWAYS blackface, in every single possible context?
Posted by john t on March 6, 2013 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Purocuyu 17
Is dressing up as a Romulan or a Klingon (because you can't really do it without making your face look like another race) racist? How about as a vampire? Aren't they a different race? Is it okay because they are fiction? Is it okay to be hateful to a fictional character, because they feel no pain? Does context really have no bearing here? Are we all so simple minded that we cannot recognize the difference between the racist intent in "blackface" and the homage that is being paid to a memorable character and the actor who portrayed LaForge?
Posted by Purocuyu http://littlevictorygarden.tumblr.com on March 6, 2013 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 18
Maybe give it a few centuries after the end of slavery*, let alone open and state sponsored racism. Then we can be a bit more open about these things.

* Mississippi just ratified the 13th Amendment last month, finally ending slavery in the US.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on March 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
biffp 19
Is there only one kind of blackface? It can be racist, but it seems like there is more to it when it is: the voice, the body language, the costume. Going as Geordi when you're a huge fan, at worst that seems misguided. Maybe I give him the benefit of the doubt because I'm also a Geordi fan. Maybe it's because I like putting on The Crow makeup and don't think that's racist - just immature.
Posted by biffp on March 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 20
As an aside, I bet the guy playing LaForge wasn't even a guy.

Cosplay already has enough weirdness without throwing blackface in the mix.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on March 6, 2013 at 2:46 PM · Report this
raku 21
Blackface isn't such a historical relic. This very popular minstrel show had a stage version until 1987(!). Blackface is still common in the more racist parts of Europe (eg, Netherlands).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoYOraDt1…

If you want to know what actual real-life black people think about blackface, there's an Internet for that.

http://www.racialicious.com/tag/blackfac…
Posted by raku on March 6, 2013 at 2:49 PM · Report this
Bound for oz 22
A white person wearing dark make-up will be in bad taste for the foreseeable future. But the racist aspect lies in whether or not the make up is an attempt to look like an actual black person, i.e., brown make-up vs black shoe polish. There was nothing offensive about Robert Downey Jr. done up as an actual black dude. Blackface was about racist caricature Shoe polish skin and huge bright red lips.
Posted by Bound for oz on March 6, 2013 at 2:49 PM · Report this
23
What about Worf?
Posted by tkc on March 6, 2013 at 2:49 PM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 24
I can't speak for the Walking Dead character (because I'm only on Season 2 right now), but Paul is right that someone dressed as Geordi absolutely would not need the blackface for the costume to work (the visor and the right color uniform would be about all you'd need). There's also no aspect of race to the character at all -- the character of Geordi could have been any race, with no changes to the show/script whatsoever.

Anyways, I'm not sure it's worthy of more outrage than any number of racist things in the world that I can think of off the top of my head. But, for sure, I would never, ever use blackface myself in a costume. Yeesh.
Posted by Julie in Eugene on March 6, 2013 at 2:55 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 25
FRANK GORSHIN ON STAR TREK.

can one cosplay that?
Posted by Max Solomon on March 6, 2013 at 3:05 PM · Report this
26
I don't know, I think it's much more complicated than your argument makes it out to be. First and foremost, I think the desire to emulate African American characters is a significant step away from racism, and encourages the creation of strong roles for African Americans in film. Secondly, cosplayers tend to be extremely literal in their costuming, mimicking every precise detail that they can manage, including hair and makeup; setting race aside as the one thing they can't mimic -- and only if it's an African American character -- seems like a kind of backhanded racism. I think the worse thing that can happen is that people simply stop dressing as a member of a different human race, placing African Americans, for caucasians, in a category even more alien than, say, Andorians.

Ideally, we will eventually reach a point where we're only talking about complexion, not race, and it's perfectly fine to darken or lighten your complexion to look like an actor. Perhaps these cosplayers are getting there a little ahead of the social realities, but I find it hard to blame them for that.
Posted by Erica Tarrant on March 6, 2013 at 3:09 PM · Report this
27
I rolled my eyes so hard that I can now see the inside of my head.
Posted by treehugger on March 6, 2013 at 3:18 PM · Report this
mikethehammer 28
I know next to nothing about cosplay and obviously these folks simply should've been aware enough of current cultural stigmas to not do this, though I gotta respectfully disagree with @24 & others who suggest race doesn't play any role in Laforge's character.

No doubt the casting director who originally filled the role was aware of what he/she was doing and my wholly ignorant take on matters is the decision was made as a nod to our future ancestors evolving in some sort of a multi-cultural fashion, rather than homogenizing to a uniform tannish-grey color.

There's an obvious distinction to be drawn between character and costume and @26 would seem to be correct that these folks are hard core enough to want to shoot for the former. Still a hyper-stupid move.
Posted by mikethehammer on March 6, 2013 at 3:24 PM · Report this
29
Did the obnoxious anonymous racist(s) take a day off from Slog today?
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on March 6, 2013 at 3:37 PM · Report this
My Other Car's the Tardis 30
@TheMisanthrope: So you're giving a pass to Black Face Cosplayer Geordie merely because he meant no ill will? That's weak. Brothers also fesses up to his having been an asshole: "I didn’t mean to be a dick to Asian peoples when I was a kid. I thought I was just having fun with my cousin. My grandmom knew better and put me in my place... You can be a jerk through ignorance as well as malice." Would you like to rethink your argument now?
Posted by My Other Car's the Tardis on March 6, 2013 at 3:38 PM · Report this
CodyBolt 31
I am torn on one had I totally get the yeah its probably a bad idea to do this still. But I love that we have strong minority and women characters that are inspiring people. Not that we have enough we need more of these characters!
Normally I feel all great about judging people but this one time it feels crummy to judge some one for being inspired and loving these characters.
Posted by CodyBolt on March 6, 2013 at 3:38 PM · Report this
MajordomoPicard 32
You don't understand the dedication most cosplayers have. Their goal is to look as much like the chosen character as possible. They drop hundreds or thousands of dollars into their costumes. This includes makeup and prosthetics, but it's just another part of the look to them. Just because you have a hang-up about this doesn't mean they should, too.
Posted by MajordomoPicard on March 6, 2013 at 3:39 PM · Report this
33
@ 25 That was a brilliant episode for it's time. I guess you could consider Frank Gorshin's make up job to be black face but you'd be wrong. Still such a costume does beg for a partner to go with done up in reverse.
Posted by Machiavelli was framed on March 6, 2013 at 3:41 PM · Report this
My Other Car's the Tardis 34
@Shibari-san: Your argument, then, is that these twits weren't racist because they were "well-meaning." What is that old chestnut about the road to hell being paved with good intentions?

David Brothers says it much more succinctly than can: "People intend a lot of things, but the only thing that matters is what they actually do. If what you intended to do is show your respect for someone, and you do it by replicating an incredibly dehumanizing practice, guess what! You’re a jerk. You can be a jerk through ignorance as well as malice. And blackface? Kind of a jerk move."
Posted by My Other Car's the Tardis on March 6, 2013 at 3:41 PM · Report this
35
Hello, news flash, LaForge's CHARACTER is BLACK. As PC as I try to be sometimes PC gets ridiculous. It would be one thing if the guy dressed up as a lawn jockey. And while a Starfleet Officer with a visor isn't black or white, Levar Burton and Georgi Laforge's character was black. I think it's insulting to pretend otherwise. If a white person wants to dress up as a Klingon, should he use all white makeup even though Michael Dorn and more importantly ALL KLINGONS have dark skin? Pretending an actor or character isn't black by not trying to look like him should be just as insulting to people of color. I bet if the guy didn't use makeup, people would accuse him of being racist and ask if he's ashamed to wear black makeup. I don't know the guy in the photo but seems to me he's honoring Levar Burton and the Geordi character by trying to look like him. This seems like nothing more than crying PC wolf.
Posted by hifiandrew on March 6, 2013 at 3:44 PM · Report this
biffp 36
Could everyone who is outraged sign the petition to Chief Justice Roberts re: Scalia's public statements in encouraging Senate Republicans to gut the Voters Rights Act of 1965. I'd certainly agree it's 'too soon' for that (and far more important).

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/raci…
Posted by biffp on March 6, 2013 at 3:47 PM · Report this
Sabotage 37
Look, no one's saying "these people are horrific human beings" here. There are plenty of wonderful non-racist people, especially in the Northwest, which doesn't have as much of the racialized history present elsewhere, who don't know about blackface and why you shouldn't do it. Just saying...you shouldn't do it. It is inherently problematic and almost never necessary.

Also, "reverse racism" isn't a thing, guys.
Posted by Sabotage on March 6, 2013 at 3:47 PM · Report this
eclexia 38
Per my earlier comment, this is what Blackface actually meant. I would guess that many younger people have never seen it. So it's good that we have youtube to keep the history.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfiNT6AKG…
Posted by eclexia on March 6, 2013 at 3:52 PM · Report this
39
All this kind of bullshit does it encourage people not to ever dress up like a famous person of color. Maybe next time this guy will dress up like a white character instead. We should be happy people want to imitate actors and characters of color who they consider to be ROLE MODELS. The guy is being punished for trying to be true to how the character looked on TV. That's shameful. It's not a guy doing "blackface" it's a guy trying to faithfully dress up as an actor and character who happened to be black.
Posted by hifiandrew on March 6, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
40
@16

Note the recent shitstorm because the star of the Nina Simone biopic isn't black. Ray, starring Bruce Willis would be an impossible suspension of disbelief. Jalil White as John Adams?

In my limited experience with cosplay, it seems getting the look perfect is the key. So regardless of its relevance to the plot, a guy wanting to hear, "Oh My God your Geordie is perfect" the question of looking black isn't necessarily racist. Its a requirement of looking exactly like the character on screen. For the people assembling their costumes, race, blackface or gender probably isn't a consideration.
Posted by BornAgainInBellevue on March 6, 2013 at 3:55 PM · Report this
41
Just wondering, if a black nerd went to Comicon as Ensign Crusher, wouldn't everyone ask him were his visor went?

I know I'm not helping the discussion.
Posted by BornAgainInBellevue on March 6, 2013 at 4:02 PM · Report this
42
I would never do Cosplay of any sort; I would feel utterly absurd. And I understand that it's a very gray area. What's more, I would never impersonate a person of another race; I'd feel very uncomfortable doing so. That said, a couple of things:
1. A lot is being made of La Forge's race. What about his blindness? Considering our country's track record with the handicapped, why is it okay for a sighted person to pretend to be blind, but not black & blind?
2. Isn't one of the points of diversity and multiculturalism to expand white people's appreciation of black characters? If La Forge is so clearly non-stereotypical in his portrayal of a black character, is it really racist to impersonate him?
3. Does intent really not matter? Are we really saying a frat boy dressing up as a poor black man for Halloween is the same as an individual doing an homage to a character he obviously cares for deeply?

I have no dog in this fight. I think it was probably shortsighted on the part of the cosplayer, and blind to some other people's feelings. I also think there was no harm intended, and if it was done with good intentions, then it should get a pass.

By the way, has anyone bothered to ask LeVar Burton how he feels about white people dressing up as La Forge? That would matter to me a lot more than a bunch of random people's opinion.
Posted by NateMan on March 6, 2013 at 4:04 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 43
@30 No.

Brothers DID mean to be a dick to Asian peoples. He's wrong. A child's racism is still racism. He may not have meant to be a dick to Asians just because they weren't in the room, but I've gotta say, slanting your eyes in a Ching-Chong fashion of old is WAY more INTENTIONALLY disrespectful than coloring your skin because you're paying respect to a character. And if you don't see that, you're a fucking moron, no disrespect.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on March 6, 2013 at 4:24 PM · Report this
Gus 44
I briefly had a friend convinced that Billie Dee William's talk was entitled "Billie Dee Williams: Black Men Are More Alien Than Wookiies"

That would have been a great talk.

Also, blackface is just plain offensive. And this guy got the skin tone wrong (too orange for Geordi) and splotchy (which is worse). Well done blackface might --might-- overcome the offensiveness.
Posted by Gus on March 6, 2013 at 4:29 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 45
@44 His whole outfit was kind of cheap...but we're ignoring quality.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on March 6, 2013 at 4:40 PM · Report this
46
Yes, dark makeup on white people is socially problematic and can be misunderstood and/or cause offense, no matter what the intent, so best to avoid it. However, I saw Tower Heist recently. (Terrible movie.) Eddie Murphy wears dark makeup, which can clearly be seen along his jawline when he turns his head to the side. He's supposed to be a criminal. I got the impression that someone thought criminals should have darker skin than Eddie Murphy does in real life. How is that not an actual racist example of blackface? See also: Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. Wore makeup much darker than his own skin to more accurately resemble the character he portrays. Could be considered an example of non-racist blackface, and he won an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
Posted by pox on March 6, 2013 at 4:42 PM · Report this
treacle 47
Ye gods.

@42 - Ok, blackness & whiteness in our society are unfortunately intertwined power and the history of bigotry, violence and abuse perpetrated in this country & others by whites against blacks.
Blindness has nothing to do with bigotry and abuse power. These are not related issues.

White people don't get to do blackface at all, why? Because racism is alive and well in America, and being a white person wearing blackface immediately recalls and compounds the existing reality that people are afforded different privileges in this country merely because of skin color. Because of that racist reality which is still here today, white's don't get to do blackface. AND they don't get to say how racist it is or isn't either. Intent doesn't matter. We whites don't get to tell blacks how pissed off they should or should not be at any example of racist behaviour. We don't set the anti-racist agenda, and presuming that you can say so is an exercise in privilege.

For all of you saying "What about dressing up as different alien races or Worf". Good fucking Lord, think about it for a second: Sci-fi "Aliens" are fictitious characters. There is zero history of malformed power relations between Humans and: Tholians or Ferrengi or Klingon. They aren't real.

Black people are real, and still live with the reality of malformed and destructive power relations every single day vis-à-vis a white majority society that still holds the keys to power.

Until that is well and looong past being "no longer true", whites don't get to do blackface. At all.
Posted by treacle on March 6, 2013 at 4:46 PM · Report this
48
"Blackface anything is a bad idea"

except for blog posts at every opportunity.

"Hey everybody; look! it's more people in blackface!"
Posted by carsten coolage on March 6, 2013 at 5:04 PM · Report this
lolorhone 49
@47: Thank you from an actual black person. You said everything I was about to say.
Posted by lolorhone on March 6, 2013 at 5:17 PM · Report this
50
I have a friend who is as pale as a tub of plain yogurt. She dressed up as Dave Chappelle doing Rick James for halloween one year, wearing a superfreak wig and brown makeup that made her look like a chocolate bar. My black friends at the party thought it was the funniest shit they'd ever seen. Should I whitesplain to them why they were wrong and should instead have felt outrage?
Posted by paulus on March 6, 2013 at 5:29 PM · Report this
51
Let's ask some African American actors.
Posted by Mr.Black Magic on March 6, 2013 at 6:06 PM · Report this
NOP_Spinster 52
I think this article written by a black cosplaye… is relevant to this issue.
Posted by NOP_Spinster on March 6, 2013 at 6:10 PM · Report this
53
Is drag sexist?
Posted by mint chocolate chip on March 6, 2013 at 6:26 PM · Report this
disintegrator 54
Oh fucking please. How is this denigrating people of African descent, exactly? They're not doing some minstrel caricature dance intended to enforce a stereotype. They're dressing up as one of their favorite characters. If a white person wants to cosplay as a black character and include their skin tone, what the fuck is wrong with that?

Oversensitive, white-guilt-driven nonsense, people. Caaaaaaaaaaaaalm the fuck down.
Posted by disintegrator on March 6, 2013 at 6:27 PM · Report this
Jubilation T. Cornball 55
Thank you, @47. Spot on. It's unnerving as hell that anyone would float an alien as an equivalent to a human ethnicity. That the walls of reality and fantasy are so blurred for these people isn't quaint and curious; it's fucked up and fraught with all kinds of peril.
Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball on March 6, 2013 at 7:04 PM · Report this
57
As a Mexican, I could care less what white folk think about race. Now, if Charles Mudede has an opinion on black face, that, I'd like to hear.

WHITE PEOPLE: Let us minorities worry about ourselves. We'll tell you what we don't like.
Posted by scratchmaster joe on March 6, 2013 at 7:56 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 58
I doubt their intentions were racist. And yes, if there were no ugly history associated with it, maybe it wouldn't be a provocative thing to do.

Here's my problem, though: It is well-known to be provocative thing to do. People are guaranteed to freak out regardless of circumstance. So these two either did it to provoke, which makes them assholes, or they are somehow completely unaware of societal taboos.

Borderline autism could explain the latter, which isn't unlikely. Otherwise, they are either assholes or... hell: I'm not sure what word describes that level of cluelessness.
Posted by Free Lunch on March 6, 2013 at 9:49 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 59
@33: i consider that makeup half as racist as blackface.

now, on to Die Antwoord's Fatty Boom Boom video...
Posted by Max Solomon on March 6, 2013 at 9:49 PM · Report this
Pridge Wessea 60
@47 - Perfectly stated.

@50 - Cool story bro.
Posted by Pridge Wessea on March 6, 2013 at 10:17 PM · Report this
61
@53 I've heard that argument made before.
Posted by Clayton on March 7, 2013 at 5:38 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 62
@53: Mu.
Posted by undead ayn rand on March 7, 2013 at 7:26 AM · Report this
treacle 63
@53 - There are definitely serious sexist issues with drag, not the least that drag performers often refer to being über-feminine as being "fishy", which is gross and demeaning. You should talk to some female burlesque performers about their opinions of male drag queens and drag culture.
Posted by treacle on March 7, 2013 at 8:44 AM · Report this
64
Huh? The actor's race is _absolutely_ a part of the character.
Come on Stranger, educate your writers!
Posted by Abcdef on March 7, 2013 at 12:12 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 65
@63: There's really some amount of gray area there. I can understand the dislike of buffoonery and genderfuck elements that bother both radfems and some of the trans community. It doesn't have to be that way, obviously.
Posted by undead ayn rand on March 7, 2013 at 1:33 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 66
@65 There are a lot of different aspects of drag culture, some of which are firmly straddling the line of pure sexism and radical feminism.

Wait, what? How?

A lot of radical feminism and a lot of the sexist aspects of drag culture serve the same end: the destruction of the cultural norms of femininity. Radical feminism tries to destroy those walls by intellectually bashing against the patriarchy. A lot of the sexist aspects of Drag culture try to take down the cultural norms by lampooning and/or exaggerating it. I'm obviously not talking about the now expected traditions of celebrity impersonation which comes out of respect for the celebrity. I'm talking the rest of it

The problem is, that drag culture doesn't have positive feminine powers in it. Sure, they're men acting as strongish female characters, but they're mainly men abusing the character of femininity.

So, to answer the question, is drag sexist? I say it frequently is. It certainly isn't about female empowerment. But, it's a teardown of all cultural norms. And you can't have a polite teardown.

Which is allllllll completely different from LaForge, which is drag out of honor, not out of political movements.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on March 7, 2013 at 11:04 PM · Report this
67
I'm kind of sad this wasn't about Drow.
Posted by dirge on March 8, 2013 at 1:51 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 68
@66: I don't think we're necessarily arguing here. I appreciate the art, but I can understand why the greater "it" and the surrounding culture might make certain people feel uncomfortable.

"So, to answer the question, is drag sexist? I say it frequently is. It certainly isn't about female empowerment. But, it's a teardown of all cultural norms. And you can't have a polite teardown."

So is a Shirly Q Liquor -style character then healthy? Because that's pretty "impolite".

You can be impolite and "tear down norms", but reinforcing misogynistic and racist stereotypes upholds the dominant cultural norms. It's neither radical nor reforming.

Mad Magazine in its political heyday would be an example of subverting the mainstream through absurdity and social criticism. South Park and Family Guy would not be considered similarly progressive.
Posted by undead ayn rand on March 8, 2013 at 9:14 AM · Report this
69
Regardless of whether the costume was inappropriate... That guy doesn't look like Geordi LaForge even with his poorly applied makeup. He just looks like a blind guy from Star Trek. I don't watch or read TWD, so I don't know if the woman would have been recognizable as Michonne without her makeup.

This isn't blackface in the Minstrel Show sense. No one's portraying blacks as infantile or foolish. It's pretty clear that these people dressed up as these characters out of the same admiration that inspires any other cosplayer. I guess what it comes down to is not whether these nerds did it to be offensive—it's pretty clear that they didn't—but rather whether black nerds or blacks in general were offended.
Posted by DRF on March 8, 2013 at 11:48 AM · Report this
70
No and please stop. Also, it never died. People have been doing it forever. Make it stop.
Sincerely,
this black girl.
Posted by Taryn on March 8, 2013 at 12:40 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 71
@69: "This isn't blackface in the Minstrel Show sense. No one's portraying blacks as infantile or foolish."

The historic (as 70 mentions, it hasn't gone away, so current) context is what makes it a terrible idea, independent of "intentions". White people haven't somehow redefined and destigmatized minstrelsy.
Posted by undead ayn rand on March 8, 2013 at 12:52 PM · Report this
72
@70 has answered my question.

It's not the offender who gets to decide whether the act was offensive. It's the offended. It does make a difference whether the cosplayers weren't trying to make a statement about race, but if @70 and other black contributors to this thread are representative, then yes, the act was offensive.

I suppose it's kind like cracking jokes about someone's death. One day it will no longer be too soon for white cosplayers to dress up as black characters, makeup and all, but that day has not yet come.
Posted by DRF on March 8, 2013 at 7:43 PM · Report this
73
Cosplayers playing black people is not blackface.. If you want to bitch about something, Bitch about how performing drag is Blackface for women. Though, that of course would offend the gay people and we can't have that.
Posted by Ezmyrelda on March 9, 2013 at 1:16 AM · Report this
74
Cosplayers playing black people is not blackface.. If you want to bitch about something, Bitch about how performing drag is Blackface for women. Though, that of course would offend the gay people and we can't have that.

As hard as they might try, I have never gotten a feeling of respect of womanhood from a gay male performing drag.
Posted by Ezmyrelda on March 9, 2013 at 1:21 AM · Report this
75
i know the family and they are huge walking dead fans!!! the actress is african american they were simply cosplaying her as she is featured on the show! in fact danai gurrira (michonne) loved it she took out her own cellphone and took a picture and complemented them! im offended by the potrayal of african americans in alot of todays videos bling bling, thug life, bitches and hoes now thats racist and unflattering!
Posted by areuadiva2 on March 9, 2013 at 4:49 AM · Report this
76
@40: Zoe Saldana is black. The problem is that she doesn't look anything like Nina Simone, which I don't think would be tolerated if it was a biopic of a white person. It's the "black people all look the same" aspect of it that's so troubling.
Posted by alguna_rubia on March 10, 2013 at 11:33 PM · Report this

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