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With Great Costumes Comes Great Responsibility: Think Twice This Halloween

With Great Costumes Comes Great Responsibility: Think Twice This Halloween

I’ve never been much for Halloween. As a kid, I didn’t like to be scared and I didn’t like going up to people and interacting with them in any way, candy or no candy. Even today as a grown-up, I’m not really into crowds or parties. And now I can buy my own candy.

Consequently, I’ve never been much into costumes. It takes a lot of work just to be put into an uncomfortable situation. However, recently I came across a comic book character I would love to dress up as, but I can’t.

Why? Because this character is a woman of color, and I’m a white person. Please, before you scroll down to the comments and call me a terrible racist, hear me out.

The character I would like to make a costume for is a comic book heroine called Virtue from a new book called The Movement. She’s amazing. She’s passionate and principled, and I just like her. But I’ll never, ever wear a Virtue costume. It just wouldn’t be appropriate.

Kids, as far as I’m concerned, can dress up as whatever they want. Life becomes void of whimsy soon enough. But I’m a grown woman who cares about social justice and I can’t take this character away from women of color.

Here’s the thing. At least when it comes to dressing up as superheroes or sci-fi characters, the pool of characters to choose from is overwhelmingly white and male. There are some people of color and women, but they are drowned out. For every Wonder Woman there are 10 Iron Mans. For every Black Panther there are 10 Spidermans. And for women of color, the choices are very few.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

It’s important to see characters that look like you. After a while of never seeing your face reflected back at you, you start to notice. I’m simply not going to whitewash one of the few women of color in comic books.

That’s not to say that people in the minority can’t reinterpret characters and costumes. Women have been doing that for years. Gender-bending cosplay is practically an art form. It can be done the other way around, but you have to be very careful. Men in women’s clothing has lost its panache.

You see, when you reinterpret a beloved character, it’s a political act whether you mean for it to be or not. There was outrage when word got out that Michael B. Jordan was being considered to play the Human Torch in a Fantastic Four reboot, not because The Fantastic Four is generally boring and terrible, but because Jordan is black. I mean, how can a black man play a guy who can control fire? We’re going for realism here, people!

When people of color reinterpret white characters in their image, they are fixing an imbalance. When women gender bend the cast of Star Wars or The Avengers, they are fixing an imbalance. It’s not the same the other way around.

Let me be clear. I’m in no way saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to dress up as whatever character they want. That’s your right. I know it’s just a silly costume, but think twice when choosing your costume this Halloween, because there is more at work here than just individual preferences.

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Photo Credit: 1derwoman via Flickr

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128 comments

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2:45AM PST on Mar 2, 2014

Thank you

3:47PM PST on Nov 18, 2013

this article was quite presumptuous and inappropriate. we can dress up as whoever we want. period. why pussyfoot around and keep the world pc esp on a day when the whole POINT is to become something you aren't?

7:29PM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

Interesting

11:42AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

The author needs to realize that superhero characters represent *ideas*, not real people. I remember an episode from the old Jeffersons TV show. One of the characters - the Jeffersons' BLACK neighbor - went to a costume party. Her costume? Snow White. And OMG, this was on TV - in the 1970s!!!

As long as a costume covers everything the law requires and isn't inappropriate if seen in public (ie. would be deemed unsuitable for children), just wear the damn thing and enjoy yourself. I was active in the Society for Creative Anachronism for many years and thought nothing of getting decked out in my long dresses and capes and walking around in public - no matter what time of year it was. I wore costumes at science fiction conventions, and if anyone had a problem with it, they had my permission not to look at me!

11:04AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

I'm with you Linda R.

6:34AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

Sorry Mindy, I have to agree with everyone else.

Honeslty, this article should never have been written. This is not an issue: be who you want to be regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, or what ever difference you might have. By you not wanting to be this person because of the color of your skin, no matter how noble your reasons may be, is bottom line...bringing attention to racism.

6:21AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

The author misses the point -- it's about fantasy and make-believe. Costume parties are opportunities to be whoever/whatever a person wants wants. Besides, why does life ever have to become "void of whimsy"? Be whimsical today (and tomorrow) -- you'll be a better person for it.

5:12AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

Yawn...... need another cup of coffee after this one.

5:07AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

thanks

3:27AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

Much ado about nothing.

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