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.
Photo Credit: 1derwoman via Flickr