On a recent post I made on this blog, I received a comment that “disagreed” with my point that although it’s fine (and cool and awesome) to cosplay as a character (from any medium) of any ethnicity – even your own – yellowface comes from a long history of fetishizing Asian women and has led to the continued double standard of Asian beauty in which white girls can go up to actual Asian girls and say that they must be Asian on the inside because they “look more Asian” than we do. Pardon my scorn and distaste for this comment.
That said, the commenter did raise the valid point that I’ve made it difficult to relate my point back to video game characters, so that’s going to be my focus in this post.
Our trip to The Quarter actually provided me with a good example to use for this post, so there’s that XD
This character is Chun-Li, from the Street Fighter series. She is a Chinese martial artist and Interpol officer who wants to avenge her father’s death. She’s also by far one of the most-cosplayed female characters I’ve seen.
As far as I know, the Street Fighter franchise doesn’t address her race as a major plot point. However, her fighting style does seem to be inspired by the Snake or Dragon styles of Kung Fu, from my limited observation, and since Street Fighter IS a beat-em-up game, her martial arts and ethnic background is a large part of who she is.
Cosplaying as someone like Chun-Li is super cool; it shows how much people love her and appreciate having her in the games. Once again, I’m not hating on people playing or cosplaying as her.
Yellowface comes from a completely different mindset than cosplaying or playing a video game as a character of a different ethnicity. Whereas cosplaying or playing a video game come from mindsets of respecting the character and/or the character’s story, yellowface comes from a mindset of making white people look “exotic” for the sake of having white women play roles as Asian geishas in racist movies. Yellowface was originally used to block Asian actors and actresses from the business, and later evolved to become what it represents now: a way to caricature and fetishize Asian people.
So don’t tell me I’m “making sure” that people aren’t being racist. People who do yellowface ARE racist, and “wanting to look Asian” is another way of fetishizing us and reducing us to pretty porcelain dolls with no important personality. And it needs to STOP.