If you’ve read my previous articles, I’m a veteran cosplayer. I’ve been doing that hobby for ten plus years now and I’ve seen a lot of things happen in this hobby’s community. I’ve seen verbal wars from both inside and outside, I’ve seen people come to blows over small petty things. It was only a matter of time before reality TV was going to sink its fangs in and bring disorder and chaos to a set of people that partake in a particular activity; and cosplay wasn’t going to be left out.
I knew was it going to lead up to this. I saw person after person pitching documentary after documentary of the subject. They all had their ups and downs. It’s hard to compress an entire hobby’s community and the hobby itself into a DVD and let it be accepted by its targeted audience, let alone the general public. But those were hobby documentarians. What about a cable channel that is backed up by the financial power and outreach of NBC? How would they fair? Well that’s what they did with the Syfy show “Heroes of Cosplay”. And let me tell you, two episodes in and somehow it’s already a trainwreck and waste of NBC’s “efforts”….(well at least those “efforts” aren’t being used to give Rachel Maddow another show). But nonetheless, I’m going to drive my thoughts down on it so hard, there’s a reason why I’m called the “The Glenn Beck of Cosplay”.
Before it all began.
When information/auditions of this show was publicly announced to the world,
something happened in the community.
It’s as if millions of cosplayers’ voices suddenly stopped making drama
about each other and were suddenly silenced.
Well, despite the fact that I was sort of excommunicated from the community (details can be seen here) and the fact I needed to get my real life/career off the ground, I kept my finger on the pulse of the cosplay community thanks to social media and certain places on the internet like 4chan’s /cgl/ (AKA “the 8-mile of cosplay”). Around late 2012, early 2013, someone broke the news that Syfy was doing a show about cosplay and were looking for cosplayers. The reactions were varied. Some were interested, some were laughing in mockery, and others like myself began overthinking. We heard about the many people who were applying. “Famous” cosplayers from around the country wanted to take a shot of national fandom. Meanwhile the others stood by the sideline and jeered like the Cleveland Browns’ Dawg Pound (both equally rabid when it comes to conflict).
Anyway, after a while, nothing happened. The show’s idea slipped away and became the cosplay community’s equivalent of vaporware/Duke Nukem Forever. Then about June/July of 2013, the show came back out of nowhere and into the spotlight.
And everyone began losing their minds.
Cosplayers were making speculations. Many had doubts, others were angered and basically creating a mob mentality that was only missing torches and pitchforks, and few others didn’t mind it and cheered it on.
Then came August 13th, the show’s premiere on SyFy.
Episode 1: It Begins…
“If you’re into cosplay, [this series] is basically the Room” ~random 4chan commenter.
And thus for once in a millenium, a 4chan poster offers some insightful words.
You know, going into this, I already was so filled with snark, it would make Anthony Bourdain blush (provided if Anthony was into cosplay). And before we begin and before you give me the “if you hate it so much, don’t watch it” approach, let me tell you this. How the hell am I suppose to criticize something without watching it first? I’ll leave the uninformed blind commentary to the professionals at ESPN.
So episode gives us the introduction about cosplay and the cosplayers they will be following around for the season, Becky, Chloe, Holly, Jessica, Monika, Jesse, Riki, Victoria, and Yaya Han. This episode focus was on the Wizard World Portland in Portland, Oregon.
Anyway, the episode opens up with the introduction of Yaya Han and her career as a cosplayer/model, Jessica and Holly and their adventures of construction, Jesse the armor-making newcomer, Becky the method actor/archer (who was working on Merida from Brave), and Victoria the strict dramatizing one (though I can sympathize with her at times).
The episode goes on following the cosplayers through their prop making and costume designing activities. And this is where the TV starts placing intangible wires in your head and cranks the electroshock machine to 11.
“THE PAIN! THE PAIN! WHY ARE WE OVERDRAMATIZING ABOUT STORE-BOUGHT HORNS!?!”
Thanks to the glorious magic that is Syfy’s (read: NBC) editing team, the show really hypes the drama of cosplayers getting their things ready for the upcoming convention. The show that was suppose to be about cosplay in general (you know the daily life, balancing the hobby with real life like family, etc.) has decided to turn it into a grown up mash of unbelievability and overly sensitive drama where there should not be drama. In summary, think of “Big Bang Theory” meets “Toddlers and Tiaras” meets “Say Yes to the Dress”.
Editing team really knows how to overdramatize things. I’ve met Yaya Han a few times, as she’s a close friend of a friend. They edited her appearance in her Vampire Hunter D cosplay with applause and shock of the crowd. Excuse me Syfy, but I don’t think it goes that way in real life for conventions. We don’t stop and applaud other people’s cosplays, we just ask for a photo and maybe a small conversation if we’re interested. I mean it’s a GODDAMN CONVENTION NOT THE PRESIDENTAL INUGURAL BALL!!!
Then again, if I look back at my article about reality tv isn’t reality anymore, I should have seen it coming. I guess when you’re full of fiery nerd rage, you tend to forget things.
More things I want to point out. There was a small part of the show where some of the cast decided to go outside of the convention and get some drinks while in cosplay. I know that Portland is suppose to be the “weird sister” of the other American cities, but it’s still a city and you’re still a human being. Thus, have some common sense. Don’t go outside of the buffer zone of the convention in cosplay. Let me explain why. I used to think it was okay to wear cosplay outside of the convention “area” (which is basically the convention’s location and some outside locations for the sake of private photoshoots). Then my friend Miles and his fiance Tess give a logical explanation for going against it.
1. Cosplay in public amongst the “normies” is never really fun, it’s a bother and a cry for attention.
2. People’s disgusted reactions should not amuse you. And if they do, please seek counseling.
Because of this, I changed my view. If I want to go out for a sit-down dinner or non-convention activities, I’ll make the effort to go to my hotel room and change out of my cosplay. It seems like a bit more of a mature thing to do. Don’t believe me? Well I remember a dinner once at a convention that when cosplayers like me and others managed to change out and get dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, we were more mature than the others that came in in cosplay and became an annoyance. And this didn’t just happen once, it happened multiple times, in multiple places. Anyway, in the show, when the girls went out for drinks as Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, they were doing it for the sake of reaction of others.
Anyway lets zoom to the focus of this “reality show”, the competition. Judged by Yaya Han, Jason David Frank (the Green Power Ranger), and comic book writer Jesse Snider. Anyway, while during the judging, the show manages to find a way to dump a pile of more drama into the competition aspect of the show by overthinking and overanalyzing of cosplays. Anyway, Galactus wins, lots of “I can’t believe I didn’t win” moments happen, and well there’s a bit of sympath for Victoria and her cosplay mishap.
Anyway the show ends, and due to all this “creating drama where there shouldn’t be drama” and “creative uses of editing by the Syfy Network”, I had to go to the gym and take out my rage on a defenseless punching bag, which actually did break during the rage session.
Though I thought “this is just the first episode, maybe I’ll give it a second chance. Most pilots aren’t as good as they are.” I’ll wait next Tuesday.
Episode 2: Our Rage is Beyond Our Control…
Episode 2 focuses on the Emerald City Comiccon in Seattle, Washington. But anyway it starts out the same, with some of the stars talking about their cosplay and the “problems” they face like Monika and her “chesty”-ness. But what I think got me is that Riki managed to capture sometime with Jose Fernandez, a Hollywood costume/prop designer who did work on movies like Tron, Godzilla, and Batman Returns. What got me is that was one gigantic blow to the term of “reality” in this “reality show”. I’ve known cosplayers who are known across this country and outside of it, but never have I heard of them sitting down with the Hollywood elite.
Yes, Heroes of Cosplay, the average cosplayer does high connections to Hollywood. [/sarcasm]
The episode goes on and then it comes to where basically the great people of Syfy (read: NBC) make themselves themselves the grand alchemists of bullshit that they are. They draw a transmutation circle and create drama where there was no drama. How did they do that you asked? Well, by just a simple conversation between Monika and Yaya Han involving someone who voluntarily declined this show, Jessica Nigri. Now I never heard of this rivalry/drama/cat-scratch fever between Yaya and Jessica. The only clash I’ve heard of it just constructive criticism of each other’s costumes and design. Nothing on the levels of “Desperate Housewives”.
Anyway there’s this conversation between Monika and Yaya and Monika brings up going by the path of Jessica Nigri’s advice/guidance. Then through some clever editting and splicing of personal talks of Yaya, tension is made between the two, even when Jessica is ALL THE WAY OVER HERE IN ARIZONA! Anyway, due to this, social media and “dramu” in the cosplay community went nuclear that night and it’s been about two weeks since that episode and I’m still seeing bits of fallout (despite the two “made up”…despite there wasn’t any tension to begin with)
Going on, the episode goes on in its usual formula of “OMG this costume isn’t finished” and “OMG, this happen to this” blah blah blah. The convention goes on and like the first episode it ZOOMS straight to the competition. Because when I think of a reality show that is supposed to be focused on the aspect and bonds of cosplay, I automatically go straight into the competition. Anyway, episode ends, there’s disappointment, a nearly-unlightable Tron prom dress cosplay, and some more out-of-thin-air SyFy alchemy drama.
By the time I’m writing this paragraph, episode 3 and episode 4 have aired and aside from giving my thoughts on that, I think I can sum my pain in a clever image.
Yeah…let’s conclude on this “documentary-reality-show” and my views shall we?
The show is something more than just the usual “an insult to the cosplay community”. It’s more of…well if the cosplay community was like an anthill, the show was like an Iraqi SCUD missile flying towards it. Making people panic, people screaming out in anger after it lands, and seemed quite unnecessary to do in the first place. And like an Iraqi SCUD missile, it most of the time misses its point of where it was suppose to hit. If this truly was going to be the show they described to us earlier about a show about cosplayers and its following, they somewhere went off course.
Seems about right.
There’s many other parts of the cosplay community they could have gotten. I went out to a local convention (Sabotencon) and gathered some thoughts from local cosplayers (like AZ Powergirl, a huge critic of the show as well) and here’s what I came up with.
What about the private photoshoots? What about meeting new friends? How about the other struggles cosplayers have they barely mentioned? Sure they mentioned one of their stars going to the gym to exercise…but she just JOINED THE GYM RECENTLY according to the local cosplayers near her. I’ve been going to the gym and exercising for the sake of cosplay for nearly six years now and I’m still struggling. I’ve lost and gained and lost again like Oprah, but I’m no longer in my 330s, I’m in my 250s and slowly dropping over time. What about cosplayers like that? Those are are heroes. We call people on the Biggest Loser who lost lots of weight to be heroes. DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT? Or here’s something, how about the cosplaying vendor who’s making doing his or her best to making her hobby her life’s career? (example, my friend, Crizl and her store, Planet Go Boom)? How about the cosplay photographer who is trying to make art with other people’s art? Alone they are good but together they are grand? Or maybe the photographer who’s just starting out getting the best photo?
But no, they’ll never listen to good ideas, especially behind the logic of those heading this show.
All in all, I don’t know what they were shooting around in that boardmeeting at NBC’s tower of gold when it came to making new ideas for Syfy’s reality line up, but all I can say is that they really missed a lot of golden opportunities there. And executing it isn’t so grand either (especially with the news that they forced a bunch of cosplayers out of an entire area they reserved at Dragoncon so Syfy can shoot another episode).
Now if you excuse me, I’ve got to find a way to numb my brain down from all this “unclean” I have acquired from watching this show.