Cosplay is an artform where in one moment in time where people put creativity, time and passion to have a brief escape from everything in the real world from politics whether left or right ,jobs and stress where you become your favourite character. For some, there is no greater thrill than to dress-up, and enter a competition to try and win at Eurocosplay, being accepted by your peers for your talent, skill, and dedication to a craft in becoming another character.
Sadly, in 2019, moments of escape no longer seem to come that easily, as one Cosplayer from France has recently discovered. France’s entry from Livanart Cosplay was deemed offensive by a small vocal minority and as a result her costume has been suspended.
The EuroCosplay Championships, to be held at MCM Comic Con in London later this month, pit together the winners of individual competitions in 25 European countries.
Alice Livanart won the France Cosplay Cup in September 2019 with her cosplay of League of Legends character Pyke.
However, her costume has now been banned from the European finals after allegations on social media that it was insensitive.
“We hear and appreciate all of your concerns regarding the costume of one of our finalists,” said EuroCosplay in a statement addressing Livanart’s entry. “We would like to confirm that this cosplay will not be appearing in the event, and we would like to apologise for any offence caused.”
Livanart posted a comparison of herself in normal life and in the Pyke costume on Instagram, which she said was intended to highlight the “power of cosplay”.
The Pyke cosplay was considered to be Blackface only 3 weeks before the competition. Many people took to social media to voice their grievances and the response has split the cosplay international scene during an already divisive time in our culture.
Good. Consider tightening your rules to prevent racist cosplays like this from slipping through the qualifiers in the future.
But was it really racist? Was this truly ‘blackface’ as some upset Twitter users cried?
‘Blackfacing’is a vaudeville style dating back almost 200 years that was used to mock and ridicule people of color. Those negative stereotypes were promoted across the US and Europe. In the early 19th Century, white actors called ‘minstrel performers’ used to paint their faces black and do comedy routines about black people, which were objectively racist, performing insulting impressions of black people in very exaggerated ways.
Those depictions were inaccurate, hurtful and deeply offensive, but many people of the era saw it as an acceptable form of entertainment.
However, in the modern cosplay world, where players put so much time, money, and effort into their costumes – trying to imitate precisely the same designs and looks of a character, does this ‘blackface’ argument still have a leg to stand on?
Clearly, this particular cosplayer’s intent was not one of mockery, insult, or making fun of people of color. While it is true that terms and definitions change over time, but in age of constant progress and culture debates, we have not stopped to think “what is the new definition of blackface” or “what is to be deemed racist?” and should we? No matter your sex, gender, or race, everyone has their own take what may be deemed racist or in this case ‘blackface’.
In a show of solidarity, Czech cosplayer ‘JustJay’ has withdrawn from his part in the competition in support of Lavinart Cosplay. In a interview with Irish anime and geek podcast Geek Eire, he stated that Cosplay “should be about fun, not racism. No one that spent that much time and money would be doing a cosplay for racist intent!”
Watch the interview with JustJay below:
If one recognizes cosplay as an artform, one would also have to conclude that this person has created art in this regard, because anything that creates that much emotional power from people whether positive or negative has to be art.
Luckily, the critics have not affected Livanart’s plans to cosplay the character in the future.
“I am going to cosplay Pyke,” she said. “I will not let him down, he’s like my baby. I worked too much on this cosplay for it to stay in the closet.”