Last night I watched the first episode of the new Syfy series, Heroes of Cosplay. I have to start off by saying, this series has stirred up a lot of emotions and opinions in the cosplay community before the premiere even aired. Lots of people completely refused to watch the show, because they don't like how it's representing the cosplay community.
Commercials for this series seemed to lean towards drama and competition. We all know drama is what makes a reality show remotely entertaining, but a lot of cosplayers were worried that it would take away from the fun and creativity that cosplay really is about.
Personally, I'm not a fan of overly revealing costumes (as in, I don't wear them myself), but I can respect any who has the confidence to rock it. A lot of times, it's accurate to the characters design, and the actual construction on some of these costumes can be very intricate. Other times it's simply a "sexy" version of a character that might normally be wearing more clothes. When you're in costume, you're going to get a lot of attention. I would just rather that attention be on the detail of my costume, and not my lady bits.
One of the cosplayers, Holly Conrad actually said on the show when asked if she would wear anything low cut for the competition, "We're in a competition, about costumes not cleavage." That line alone gave me hope for the show. All the cosplayers featured on the show are extremely talented costume and prop makers, and I just hope that the show actually tries to showcase that.
A lot of people were also complaining about the lack of diversity in this series. The show follows nine cosplayers, and only one of them is a guy. Executive Producer Mark Cronin in a TV Guide article said, "Male characters tend to be simpler — lots of body armor and weaponry and spandex and capes. They're usually nowhere near as interesting and intricate, or sexy and cool, as the costumes worn by the women. And, let's face it, female sexuality is a big part of comic-book art and a big element in the Con world."
A lot of cosplayers, male and female alike, were in an uproar over this statement. Armor, props, and even spandex suits are no easy task to just brush off. Seeing that kind of attitude from one of the shows producers made me think right away, that this show is going to focus on the wrong aspects of this hobby, and give people who might be new to cosplay, the wrong impression. As a female cosplayer, I love that the women are a huge part of the show, but they should have featured more than one guy on the show.
I have come to terms with the fact that Heroes of Cosplay will be focused on the competitive side of cosplay, and hopefully people who just get into cosplay don't think this is all the hobby is about. Honestly, I stay away from serious cosplay competitions because of all the drama and stress that can be involved.
The first costume contest I entered was at a small local convention. I was really proud of the details of my costume, and just signed up for the contest last minute. I didn't have any skit or routine planned out, but I actually won Best Novice. Since then, I've been in a few contests with friends, but I did it just for the fun of it, and to show off my costume. The stress of trying to get your costume just perfect, and looking at other people's costumes with a critical eye is not fun to me, so I don't compete.
Cosplay is not just about winning money and getting street cred. Cosplaying is very much an art, and a form of expression. A lot of cosplayers make costumes for fun, or even for charity events. Also, you don't have to spend your rent money just to make an awesome costume.
I tried to be open minded about the premiere, and not pass judgement on the show until after I saw it. Overall, the show was ok. I personally loved seeing two of the cosplayers create original designs for their Dungeons & Dragons characters. A lot of the conversations between the cosplayers seemed kind of forced or scripted, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is a reality show.
My favorite part was when they introduced the cosplayers, talked about their background in costume making, and showed a little bit of their process on how they make their costumes and props. They even showed the sketches and inspiration for the costumes. I love that stuff! It would be nice if they showed more of the crafting and details of how these people make their costumes, there just isn't enough of it on the show.
During the show, cosplayer Yaya Han says, "It's no longer a body of work that defines a cosplayer, now it's how many followers they have." It's sad, but I do see cosplay going the route of a popularity competition. Cosplay has definitely gone mainstream, and it has changed the way people participate. Cosplay use to be about the costumes and not how many retweets, likes, and followers you can get.
I don't like how the cosplay world has changed, but I'm not trying to become this huge costuming superstar either. I'm not going to have thousands of "fans," and I seriously don't care. Cosplay has allowed me to come out of my shell, and be more social, and I've met a lot of my closest friends (even my husband) while cosplaying. At the end of the day, we're people who love dressing up in costumes, and it should be fun.
I know a lot of people will not watch Heroes of Cosplay, but I wish all the cosplayers on the show lots of success. It appears that a good number of people on this show have made costuming their business, and being on TV will be a great opportunity to promote their work. More power to them. I just hope it doesn't paint them in a negative light in any way.