Sunday, January 15, 2012

cosplaying a different race from your own

Here's a doozy. 

I've been researching a new character for a story. She's the offspring of Chinese prostitute and a British sailor, born in Shanghai in 1870 or so. One of the theoretical themes of said story is of ostracism and finding a place of your own.

Partly out of interest in researching the story and partly because I'm a big geek who likes to dress as my characters, I've been considering ways to make my very white-girl face look more Asian, or at least Eurasian. Looking at photos on the internet of mixed-race actresses and models demonstrates the incredibly wide variety of genetic recombinations you can get from an East-West hybrid. I'm especially interested in Maggie Q and a model/activist named Celeste Thorson, because they have longish faces and prominent jawlines, like myself.

Predictably enough, it's a big hot-point with people in the fashion and cosmetic industries, when Asian girls tape their eyelids to create folds where they weren't before, or European models tape their brows to make them look straighter or more elongated, because we're all supposed to be satisfied with what we have and not bow to the pressures of western beauty standards, or seek to satirize Eastern appearances... or whatever. Frankly I tend to think that if enough women on either side of the International Date Line are doing it, it should all balance out and everybody could quit hollerin', but I've always been crazy that way.

So what do you guys think? It's kind of trendy these days to put skinny people in fat suits to teach them sensitivity, or dress people as the opposite sex to get a different viewpoint--if you could change your features and/or skin tone *temporarily* to spend a day with the shoe on the other foot, would you? What kind of reaction do you think you'd get? 

The cosplay community I interact with is generally pretty tolerant of crossplay, e.g. dressing as the opposite sex, or re-gendering a character to suit the cosplayer's own sex, so I'd think cosplayers would be accepting of cross-ethnic-play, at least more so than the public at large.


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