black and nerdy: 5 reasons why black cosplay is pretty much the best thing ever

May 13, 2015

The first time I saw a black person cosplaying, I’m not gonna lie — it blew my mind. I was only in middle school, and it hadn’t quite occurred to me that just because all of my favorite characters in my favorite comics/shows/video games were white (simply because most, if not all, of the main characters were), didn’t mean it had to stay that way. Why couldn’t Batman be black? Why couldn’t Spiderman be a black girl just like me underneath that mask? There is no good reason, none at all, and cosplay is what helped me to understand that. Here are five reasons why black cosplay is pretty much the best thing ever.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt, AFROPUNK Contributor

Photo info: Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, via
Looking for ideas? Eartha Kitt’s Catwoman is a personal favorite of mine, as far as cosplay goes.


1. It challenges exclusionary traditions.

I love black cosplay for the same reason I love speculative fiction starring black protagonists — it’s a way of proclaiming the value of and making room for other identities in spaces that have, for far too long, been dominated by white men. Cosplaying while black battles the idea that superheroes have to look a certain way, and that can have positive effects all around. Sure, you might just be a dude in a Captain America costume that you don’t think is all that great, but who knows? You may just cross paths with a kid whose world will be rocked by seeing a black Captain America in the flesh. There’s value in that.


2. It’s good for kids.

Cosplay can be a direct response to media that tells you, however implicitly, that you have no place in these fantastical worlds, and the sooner kids learn to challenge dominant narratives in that way, the better. I honestly wish that someone had exposed me to cosplay when I was a young fan first getting into genres that seemed dominated by nothing but white guys. If you’re a parent, I’d highly recommend encouraging your little ones to cosplay as their favorite superhero or character — and not just on Halloween. We’ve all seen those photos of adorable children dressed up like the Avengers or whoever — not only is it ridiculously cute, but it can be a major confidence booster for children who are battling with never seeing heroes that look like themselves. Help them create their costume, take them to check out a con, and teach them that they can be their own hero.


3. It promotes body positivity.

I’m a firm believer in cosplay being for every body. Basically, if you love it and you’re having fun, I’m with it. (Some may not agree, but seriously, we’re dressing up as fictional characters — when you start spewing hate on the internet because you don’t like how somehow looks or the costume choices they made, it’s time for you to take a look at your life.) During a time where I felt like an outsider for being a black female geek, the world of black cosplay represented a place where I could see women who were the same race as me, with a variety of body types, fearlessly participating in a culture that I had long been too timid to explore. For that alone, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for cosplay. There’s so much fun you can have with it, and that starts by ignoring any ‘rules’ the internet cosplay police may try and impose (You must be this white/thin/whatever to play? I don’t think so).


4. It’s a creative way to showcase your fan-love

From fan zines to fanfiction, fans as a general rule are never short on creativity, and cosplay is just one example of that. While I appreciate straightforward cosplay, I’m especially impressed by people who take it a step further by putting their own spin on a character, like by exploring steam punk interpretations of well-known heroes or even engaging in a type of inception-level of cosplay, wherein they dress up as a character dressed up as someone else.


5. It’s just plain fun.

I truly believe that every fan should try their hand at cosplay at least once in their life. While it can seem intimidating at first, the best way to start is to jump right in. Maybe you want to start simple, or go all out and build your own mech suit out of cardboard your first time out. Luckily for us amateurs, there are plenty of resources out there for those interested in entering the big wide world of cosplay. A quick google search of ‘cosplay tutorials’ will point you in the right direction — Pinterest is great for this task as well. I’d also recommend checking out one of my favorite tumblrs, Cosplaying While Black, for your daily dose of black cosplay inspiration. Above all else, just remember that the most important thing is to have a good time.


* Sharon Lynn Pruitt is a writer born and bred in St. Louis, MO. She can be found talking about things like intersectional identity and Battlestar Galactica on her blog, The Black Feminist Geek, or on Twitter at @SLPruitt trying to make her long-winded rants fit into 140 characters.