The Alamo City Comic CON, held this weekend in San Antonio, got a lot of pre show attention for bringing in two spectacular guests: Arnold Schwarzenegger, making his first appearance autographing at a con ever, and Rick Moranis, making an extremely rare public appearance full stop. The show is still a locally run affair with well liked co-founder Apple de la Fuente and his wife Amanda overseeing proceedings. It’s also a rare example of a minority run comic con.
It seems this weekend’s show was marred by crowds and disorganization (common complaints) but also something a little more unusual. Saturday’s cosplay contest was MC’d by Travis Lara, who went in blackface as Powerline, the music star from A Goofy Movie.
Yes it is a cartoon, but Powerline is modeled on Michael Jackson and Prince and was voiced by Tevin Campbell – although the character was originally based more on and to be voiced by Bobby Brown. So yes, this character is African American.
And whatever you think of Powerline and cartoons, let’s just get one thing out of the way: in a time where we should appreciate dignity and equality, blackface is not okay because it is offensive and plays into historical racist tropes and discrimination. Simple.
Apparently Lara did not heed the lesson learned by NBC’s Megan Kelly, who got into a lot of hot water and endless criticism after musing that blackface could be fun on her morning talk show.
Although some observers didn’t see the harm, the blackface Powerline offended many people who attended and set off a firestorm on social media and among local media. Lara’s mother- a cosplayer herself – said he was sorry and apologized for him in a now deleted FB post. And the de la Fuentes have apologized:
I’m told that part of the problem is that the programming for the show has handed over to an inexperienced organizer, who oversaw the cosplay contest, and also hosted the Q&A’s with both Arnold and Moranis. Apparently some of the questions for the shy Moranis made him a bit uncomfortable, including asking him about his dating life.
I’m told this programming head was the subject of many complaints over the weekend.
I’m reaching out to more of the Alamo City folks for their takes on what transpired, but rather than make this a blame firestorm, let’s just restate the obvious once again.
BLACKFACE IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
Not for cosplay, not for anywhere.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.