Wednesday, February 17, 2010

(Blue) Skin that Speaks

A while ago I commented on Avatar and the racial cross-dressing of the main character. Since then, things have obviously got more intense.

OK, so this is a parody. But L.A.R.P. (Live Action Role Play) is very real and has been around for a long time. It presents something of a soft target for comedians, for obvious reasons.

Yet I can't help thinking that this phenomenon offers a unique perspective on racial politics and performativity. As the video above points out, these role-playing scenarios involve becoming a fantasy 'Other.' But what does it mean to colour your skin in the context of play? Does the fantasy world provide an alternate reality in which real world boundaries can be crossed safely? Can people of different racial groups really come together and become 'the same' as part of a shared imaginative ritual? Those involved clearly believe so, which is significant in itself.

The documentary Monster Camp (2007) is worth a look, if you are interested. It follows the organisers of a monthly camp in which participants engage in live action role-playing. The documentary treats its subjects in a fairly respectful manner, and gives an insight into the reasons why people get involved.

It's pretty funny, but only because those involved are genuinely entertaining and creative people. It's also interesting to see the how many rules are required, and how interpersonal politics interferes with the role-play. Fantasy is hard work. Perhaps it isn't the complete escape from reality that we imagine?

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