Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cosplaying Drow

I am not sure what everyone thinks about this, but there is a good post on Cosplaying Drow.

I know there are some people out there reading this that are not going to "get it".  And to be honest my understanding is academic at best.  I belong to the power class. I am a well off, hetero, white male in a hobby predominated by white males. But that doesn't mean I don't have empathy or understanding.

To me a universally despised race that is inherently evil being depicted as dark skinned seemed to smack a little too much of racism or white-privilege at the least.  I have prefered to make my Drow pale skinned like the monstrous Morlocks from H.G. Wells.  Though I am also happy with purple or pale blue Drow (no offense to Scottish people).  

No I don't see this as reverse racism since like most Irish descendants I tend to be more pale pink than anything else.  My wife who has more Ukrainian in her background tends to be more reddish.

What are your thoughts?
I happen to agree with the original poster.  It is not how some other might see things, but how the people who have been harmed might.


Roger G-S said...

I concur, black Drow don't make sense as subterranean creatures so you have to fall back on some curse-of-Ham nonsense to explain them. I recall that, awfully, the Forgotten Realms explained them as "jungle elves" from fake-Africa that got pushed underground.

Besides, my unique explanation for how they appear can be found in this post.

Anonymous said...

Celts are famous for painting themselves with blue woad. Drow use black warpaint which works well in the dark against those without nightvision.

Tom Doolan said...

Drow are black because they were lifted straight from Norse mythology (Dökkálfar) where they were described as "blacker than pitch" in the Prose Edda. They are actually BLACK, unlike Africans who are only referred to as "black" even though they are actually brown.

I may be deemed a racist for this, but this smacks of a manufactured slight, and a knee-jerk reaction to an image without exploring the background of the image. If some African American decided he loved the Elric books and cosplayed as Elric, should I be offended at his "white" make-up?

Apologies to anyone who is offended, but there are enough real-world instances of racism. Do we really need to project them into fantasy worlds?

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Back on the Halloween of 1999 I and my very pregnant wife went as a nun and priest. I walked around with a rolled up sock in my pants so I could look like I was "tentpoling" all night long.

I thought it was hilarious.
Still do in fact.

But that doesn't mean I can't acknowledge that someone would have been hurt by it.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Though about the Elric thing.

"White-face" had no where near the gravitas as black face because there is no history of this. White people pretended to be black people as a farce. Surely you can see how that is hurtful to many.

Also when dealing with race politics the under privileged minority can't harm the majority by using the tools, or this case the appearance, of the majority.

There are a lot of pejoratives that describe this situation but most fall under the heading of "acting white".

Don't forget, the albino character in the Da Vinci code did in fact anger some groups,

There are plenty of mythological antecedents for "black" Drow race. But I would like to think we are more clever than a bunch of primitives huddling around a fire and scared of the dark.

Tom Doolan said...

The "Elric" anecdote was more of a reference to how ridiculous I see this as. My point is, the Drow are a fantasy race. Made up. Make-belive. Not real. Based, specifically, on Norse mythology. To infer any kind of real-world "racism" in their appearance (or someone who temporarily models themself after it) is reaching for something to be angry about.

Like I said, Racism is real, and it's a blight. But that doesn't mean we need to inject it into every corner of conversation.

Unknown said...

I've never liked the fact that drow have black skin. It doesn't make a lot of sense from an evolutionary stance. Also, I think they'd be a lot creepier with extremely pale skin and red eyes.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

The original poster is an African American role-player. Are you saying he should not be offended?

Dethand said...

Tempest in a teacup. Tying race into fantasy gaming is just trolling. The real problem here is that again it's fantasy and make-believe. If you confuse drow cosplayers with blackface performers that's kind of on you.

Tom Doolan said...

That's what my wife would cinsider a "land mine" question. However I answer, I'm wrong. :)

I may have come across a bit harsh. All I am saying is that he is equating Drow Cosplay with Vaudeville Blackface based on a single common element. That is creating a false-equivelancy. People do it all the time in political debates.

Now, the commentary about black Drow not making sense or not being appealing is perfectly legit. But making it about real-world racism is a disservice to the fans, who are just as likely or unlikely to be racist themselves, regardless of their views on Drow.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

The trouble with that example is it basically says "your opinion is not valid because I have a different opinion". It's about as deep as reading the ingredients on a bottle of ketchup and never asks the questions "wait. Is there something here I am not considering? could this be something real to someone else?"

Like I said. It doesn't really matter what I think. The OP feels this is real to him.

Tom Doolan said...

No, that's not what it says at all. No one has ever said he has no right to feel that way, and that if he does he must be wrong. That was never stated or implied. He is free to be offended by whatever he feels offended by. However, when we are offended by something without an actual logical basis (which this doesn't have), it's an emotional response.

Again, no one can tell you how you feel. Just be prepared to be questioned as to why you feel that way, and to be disagreed with if the answer doesn't cut the mustard. So, personally, I disagree with him, because he is basing his opinion on an emotional response that I don't share.

What he doesn't have the right to do is imply that the cosplayers are wrong because they don't share his view. Nor to imply that they are being racist, even passively.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

To bring this back around. I am the guy that when people say "I am offended by that" I usually respond with "who the fuck cares?" granted it is usually when it comes to religion.

This original poster thinks this situation is a certain way. I happen to emphasize with him and agree. I am more interested in the dialog. My thinking so far is A. Maybe we are hitting a post-racial society, so then yeah us.or B. We are just opinionated and like to argue. I have not got much further than's still the work day for me.

Alec Semicognito said...

I agree with everything Tom Doolan has said. And I'll add the characteristics of imaginary Drow don't overlap at all with those associated by racists with Africans or African Americans. I never saw a blackface show, but I doubt the characters spent any time worshipping spiders, enslaving svirfneblin, dual-wielding scimitars, etc. The association is extremely tenuous.

Scott Anderson said...

Only racists hear racist dog whistles.

Patrick Mallah said...

You're right, I totally thought of that character from Hellboy 2 as a Drow. Which then begs the question: why does the skin color of the Drow matter?

Cross Planes said...

I understand the concern, but I want to play a game that with dungeons and dragons and even drow. The drown, like many other things about the game remind me of my youth. I don't think everyone was as sensitive as they are now or maybe we just have instantaneous and constant communication at our fingertips and we were that sensitive.

I like my drow as portraying in the game, except when I don't. That's the beauty of this hobby is we can change what we want and if its cool enough other people will adopt our ideas. In my Realms games the worst villains in the setting our High Elves, because I HATE Elves. In fact, they farm the Drow for much of their supposed crimes. But not because I worry about their skin's pigmentation, but because I hate Elves and some of my player's like playing Drow.

I don't mind listening to anyone's objections, but this is where I go to play make believe and none of my intentions in using the Drow are designed to be hurtful.

Since I mean no harm and my group means no harm, that's the most I can do when I'm playing a game that I love.

In the end it really is just a game.

StevenWarble said...

Life is complicated, and saying this is "only a game" is too simplistic. People in real life are said to be "black skinned" so having people in a game that are black skinned creates a "similarity" relationship. The fact that they are unredeemably evil just strengthens the western black=evil mind set.

If you had a game where raping elf women was the way to go up levels, and you said "they are elves, not real women" and "its just a game" you would probably still upset some real life women.

If you had a game where the objective was to assassinate the Pope and overthrow the Catholik Chruch, you mike offend real Catholics even if you say (its Catholik, not Catholic, don't be so sensitive."

Fiction mirrors and informs reality. People are sensitive to different triggers. Your gaming only really needs to deal with the triggers of the people around you, but that doesn't make other people's feeling trivial, or nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Cosplaying a drow may not be done with any racist intent. What a lot of whites seem to have trouble swallowing is that your intent does not make it ok. We were just told that black drow makeup makes some blacks uncomfortable. Is it more important to stay true-to-Gygax/the Eddas or to acknowledge that white-people-in-black-make-up is a thing that has a ton of racist baggage. Sheesh. For a hobby that sometimes pretends to value inclusivity and treating others with dignity, the 'defenses' I'm seeing of black-drow-cosplay (particularly at another site) are bizarre.

Timmy Crabcakes said...

I prefer my Drow have pale/near-translucent skin... but the idea of BLACK skinned villainous beings doesn't strike me as racist.
If I were at some cosplay thing (hah!) and saw people in BLACK makeup... with elf bits... I just wouldn't make the connection to 'OMG! Minstrel Show!'... and on that level it seems no worse than red, blue or green makeup.
I think intent DOES matter... and before you take offense it's best to know if offense was intended. Kind of like folks who get all bent out of shape at the word 'niggardly' not having a clue of its origins.