Dedicated cosplayers will tell you that the real spirit of cosplay is supposed to be about having fun, making friends, paying homage to your favorite characters, and perhaps even about challenging yourself. Even so, some cosplayers demand absolute 'accuracy' when it comes to cosplay: and this can make things turn ugly.
What if, for instance, you're not the right gender? Body size? Or in Chaka Cumberbatch's case, what if you're not the right skin color?
Writing for xoJane, Cumberbatch explained much of the abuse and criticism she receives is because she dares to cosplay as characters that aren't black.
"After my pictures started making the rounds on deviantArt, tumblr and 4chan," she wrote, "it became pretty clear that my cosplay brings all the racists to the yard, and they're like… white cosplay is better than yours."
Despite going through painstaking measures to get a cosplay of Sailor Venus right (as an example)—from the accessories to the wig—she got some pretty nasty, racist comments. See, for instance:
"For a black cosplayer (not to be racist) she did an amazing job!" the original Tumblr post read. It was later was edited to include "I love her skin tone" after all hell broke loose.
Online, I was "Nigger Venus," and "Sailor Venus Williams" because I am black.
Some even accused her of ruining a character, which is completely absurd.
"The characters might not be real, but the racism is," Cumberbatch lamented.
And this isn't an isolated case; on websites like Tumblr, seeing comments like these are common. It's a shame because it's clear that many people who might not be "within range" of a character truly love cosplay anyway: and isn't that what matters?
Plus, as Chaka smartly observes: who in the world can actually say they look like people they cosplay, when so many characters in media are completely unrealistic?
Here's hoping that cosplay enthusiasts don't get discouraged from pursuing their passion because some of the community is hurtful. You should be able to cosplay as whatever you want.
But when you look at the harassment cosplayers undergo, could you blame someone for hesitating?
You can see more of Chaka Cumberbatch's great cosplay here.