I just checked out the premiere episode of Heroes of Cosplay on the Syfy channel a couple of days ago. This new ‘reality TV’ series follows a a group of mostly female cosplayers in their quest for costume supremacy at different comic conventions around the nation. Some are famed cosplayers like Yaya Han and Chloe Dykstra, while others are struggling amateurs trying to break into the world of competitive cosplay. I was interested in seeing this series since I know a few of the participants as well as I was at Portland Comic Con where they shot the inaugural episode. Overall, I have mixed feelings about Heroes of Cosplay. In short, my experience oscillated from nerdgasm to the painfully bad- so let me explain:
Like most budding reality TV shows, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that the interactions are scripted or situations are prompted. It may or may not have been the case but the dialogue felt forced and directed at times. Having a little reality production experience myself, I know it is very challenging to tell a story coherently unless you do some staging- especially when you are telling multiple stories. The banter worked fine in some cases and was cringe-worthy in others. The other big problem I had with HoC was the over emphasis on cosplay competition. Most of the cosplayers I know (when I say most, I mean all), do it for the love and creativity of embodying a fictitious character. I get that drama is needed to tell a story but in ‘reality’, the competition is just the added bonus after a long few days at a con. I wish HoC would have highlighted the amazing cosplayers as they inspire fans with their creativity or showed their support to charities and hospitals- which to me is truly heroic. Most of my complaints about HoC is that it shows a narrow focus of what the cosplay world is all about. Plus, being in the middle of many costume competitions, usually the atmosphere is jovial and celebratory. It’s honestly less stressful and more a big party.
What has set Comic Cons a part from any other fan base has been the eclectic and diverse group of cosplayers. Their passion is unparalleled and their art delivers amazing creativity to shows all over the world. However, like anything of beauty, it comes with a price. I’m glad that HoC showed the extreme effort these artists endure to bring their creations to life. They all sacrifice time, money, energy, and for some, relationships. I’m glad HoC showed their dedication to their craft, even though it was a bit clumsy at times. I also think it is great that, for the most part, ordinary cosplayers are being followed. For too long cosplayers have been overly sexualized and objectified so I think HoC struck a good balance with that by keeping the boob count down. With a mostly female cast, it’s bound to be an issue from time to time- but I’m glad HoC tried to portray them as who cosplayers are- smart, passionate, and skilled craftswomen. It was also good to show that extreme cosplay is a team sport that requires a support team to make it all possible.
How should the nerd community respond to this show?
As I have been tracking the feedback for HoC on Twitter, there has definitely been a lot of criticism in the wake of the premiere episode. Let’s face it, as fellow con nerds and cosplayers, we always have a lot to complain about. Largely because our ‘gut’ instinct is to say “that’s not like the cosplayers I know…” or “there is so much more to cosplay”. Well, I want to encourage you to suppress your deep seeded urges to criticize. Not because you are not right, but rather for the sake of supporting the art form of cosplay. We are finally getting the media attention we deserve so to me, awkward progress is better than no progress. This show has received similar nerd-rage as Kevin Smith’s and AMC’s Comic Book Men. There is a lot wrong (and stereotyping) on that show as well but it is at least getting comic culture out to a wider audience. Personally, I can’t believe we are living in an era where we are watching reality TV shows about comic books and cosplay. Sure, it’s not going to get it right half the time- but at least it’s out there taking awkward first steps. I think it’s important that we embrace the good with the bad for the sake of the big picture. This is not a perfect show by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s highlighting the story of good people doing a work that is still largely misunderstood. It takes bravery to put your life on display and put it in the hands of unknown producers, directors, and editors. Who knows, I might jump ship as the episodes continue but I am at least willing to give it a solid try. Come on, anything to compete against the dreadful “Real Housewives of…” series has to be a worthy cause. Can we all agree on that?!?! Maybe I’m just a sucker for people pursuing their dreams. Either way, I want to do my part in making this show a hero and not a villain.
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