Quick story time

The “this character is xyz so only xyz people can cosplay them” mindset is so stupid. 

Cosplay is for everyone. If someone wants to cosplay their favorite character, they’re allowed to, no matter their race, sex, gender, etc. Halloween is a perfect time where people need to get that through their heads.

I volunteered a couple hours this weekend at a Halloween festival, running a booth where kids play a game then get a stamp, and when they get so many stamps, they get a prize. When the kids would come to my booth, I’d call them by whatever character they were dressed as, like “You’re up next Hermione” and “good job, Spidey, high five.”

This one little girl who was white and had blonde hair came up to my booth, dressed as Moana. She seemed shy and was hiding behind her dad. As soon as I said “oh my goodness, it’s Moana!” she immediately lit up, she smiled right away, my heart melted. She played the game and seemed so happy when she walked away with her stamp. 

Cosplay and dressing up is for everyone. It doesn’t and shouldn’t matter if someone isn’t the exact race as their character. That little girl was the opposite skin tone and hair-type of Moana, but that doesn’t matter. She obviously loved Moana enough where she wanted to dress up as her for Halloween, and she seemed to be having a good time too. If instead of a little girl, it was a grown woman dressed as Moana, that’s perfectly okay too. The whole point of dressing up as characters is to have fun. It’s crazy that some antis are trying to police cosplay now

I hear you, but I kinda disagree in some circumstances?

Like, first – yes, kids can dress up however they want. I’m not even that fussed if an adult just does a fun costume of a character for a Halloween party or wandering around at a con.

I think it’s important to include in this conversation, though, that at higher tiers of cosplay – the kinds that enter their costumes in competitions and pay for professional photography – it is far, far, far more common for POC and fat people to be told “you’re not right for this character / costume / photo shoot / competition”. With that in mind, cosplaying characters who are representation of these groups when you’re not, especially if you’re aiming for promotion or money, is…. pretty close to appropriation. Like, POC people get shafted and told that they can’t cosplay characters that don’t match their race constantly, so I can understand their frustration when the argument suddenly becomes “anyone can cosplay anything!” when it’s a white person cosplaying a POC character.

I know that’s not what you’re referring to, and I know some people take this too far and apply it to kids and amateurs who aren’t trying to get fame or money, and aren’t trying to make fun of anyone, they just want to have fun. But the further up in cosplay you get the more racist and fatphobic things are, and “anyone can cosplay anything” is an argument used far more frequently at those levels to excuse skinny, white people cosplaying than POC or fat people cosplaying.

The thing is, the problem there is not the skinny white person cosplaying a fat POC. The problem is the people who treat a fat POC cosplaying a skinny white character badly.

I see this a lot with discourse around cultural appropriation. For example, the argument that “black people are penalized for having dreadlocks, therefore white people shouldn’t have dreadlocks”.

The issue is that they are conflating two different questions – “should black people be penalized for having dreadlocks?”/“should POC and fat people be penalized for cosplaying white and skinny characters” and “should white people have dreadlocks?”/“should white and skinny people be able to cosplay POC and fat characters?” and assuming that saying yes to the latter is saying yes to the former.

When the way I see it, anyone who wants to wear dreadlocks should be able to, and anyone who wants to cosplay a character should be able to.


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