You might think it’s a joke, but I have a few serious questions. To me, the answers are obvious, but they’re obviously not obvious to everyone.
“Cosplay” (costume play) means dressing up as a fictional character. Some people earn a living at it. They perform at conventions and parties, but they seem to make most of their money by selling their cosplay photos on the internet. It is probably not a coincidence that most cosplayers are attractive young women.
Suppose that I decide to cosplay as Wonder Woman. I make an elaborate costume, wear a wig, put on makeup, and study the character so that I know how to act the part. I immerse myself in “Wonder Woman” lore, make videos in character as Wonder Woman, and start wearing the costume all the time instead of wearing my normal clothes.
Here are my questions:
- Is everyone else required to pretend that I’m really Wonder Woman?
- If they speak to me, must they address me as “Diana Prince”?
- If they talk about me, are they required to refer to me as “she”?
- Is it hateful and immoral if they don’t?
My questions are prompted by a fuss this week about the Twitch website, which features live video streams of people playing computer games. To its “trust and safety council” (i.e., ideology and censorship council), Twitch has added a person who it says is a “trans-deer girl.” All the articles about the event refer to this individual as “she.”
Regardless of our opinions about pronoun usage, the idea of a “trans-deer girl” presents some problems in itself. Are we supposed to believe that it is:
- A man who thinks he’s a woman who thinks she’s a deer,
- A woman who thinks she’s a deer,
- A woman,
- A deer,
- An insecure person who desperately craves attention,
- A cosplayer who’s really committed to the role, or
- A crazy person who really needs to be committed?
Some combination of insecure and crazy seems most likely to me. The person wants to advise a gaming website about what to censor, and has opined that:
“I think a lot of you gamers are actually white supremacists. Sorry. Just a fact. Of how I feel.”
Video blogger Sargon of Akkad replied that:
“Why bring it up? You don’t know the race of the people you are playing against … However, you know that this person actually does not believe that gamers are white supremacists, because of this massive, sh*t-eating grin. She can barely contain her joy at telling you that you are white supremacists. Now, you have to somehow justify that you’re not a white supremacist … When someone makes wild and ridiculous allegations like this, with a huge grin on their face, that’s a person having fun at your expense. This is not a person you should be taking seriously, and it’s certainly not a person that Twitch should bring onto a safety advisory council, because they are not an honest actor.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think that things are what they are. A rock is not an egg, no matter how much you want it to be an egg or how you cook it for breakfast. If you try to eat it, you will break your teeth.
And I am not Wonder Woman. And if someone is genuinely confused about what species or sex he is, then he should not be put in any position of authority or responsibility.
Cosplay is not reality. It’s cosplay.
Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”