Popular Twitch Streamer Karina “Karupups” Martsinkevich, known for cosplaying various game characters, has received a temporary ban from Twitch for wearing blackface. The Twitch stream was originally planned to demonstrate to viewers the timeline and work that goes into taking a cosplayer from their streetwear to the kinds of costumes that we normally get to see them in.
Martsinkevich, a Lithuanian-born streamer, hosted a live stream of herself preparing a cosplay of the character Lifeline from the game Apex Legends. With roughly 160 viewers in attendance, Martsinkevich would spread dark foundation across her face to mimic Lifeline's skin tone, to help create a convincing cosplay of the character. Reactions online were mostly negative, with Twitch stepping in quickly to discontinue the stream, giving Martsinkevich a 30-day ban.
According to an email sent to Kotaku, Martsinkevich wanted "to show the viewers how hard [it] is to prepare for a cosplay, how much time the makeup, costume and other details can take." The stream was taken down before she could finish her cosplay preparation by Twitch.
Blackface, which originated in the 19th century, is the practice of white actors dressing up as black characters, often to highlight exaggerated or racist stereotypes. Historically, blackface has cultural roots in the United States as being an example of overt racism towards African-Americans, including inspiring racist caricatures such as Jim Crow, based on an 1820's blackface song and dance routine.
Martsinkevich shed a little bit more light on the situation in a video she released via YouTube. It's in this video that she explains that in wanting to look like Lifeline she didn't just want to color her hair or put on makeup but change her complexion to look even further like the popular character. She states her decision to change her complexion though wasn't meant to be a joke at anyone's expense.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from, which skin color you have, or which language you speak. I understood, I took a lesson from that situation. I truly believe you will understand my position as well. Let’s stop the war right here. Let’s stop fighting.
Video games have long suffered allegations for racial insensitivity, nicknamed 'high-tech blackface' by academics and journalists worried about the negative effect of racial stereotyping in video games. Stereotyping black and latino characters into specific roles and caricatures since the mid-1990s. In terms of actual accusations of blackface, Game Freak and Nintendo famously came under fire for the Pokemon character Jynx, who was said to resemble blackface stereotypes on the game's debut. Nintendo responded to the allegations by officially changing her skin color from black to purple. Other games, such as the indie puzzle title Chuchel, by Czech developer Amanita Design, have also come under fire for creating a blackface protagonist. Amanita Design would later update the game by removing any blackface connotations in Chuchel's original design.
Issues regarding blackface in the cosplay community have often been hotly debated as well. Several white cosplayers, who have dressed up as famous characters from various forms of pop culture, have received criticism for the practice. Black cosplayers have likewise dealt with a different set of racial barriers, often facing criticism for dressing up as non-black characters from pop culture.
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