After what seemed a lot longer than it really was, "Heroes of Cosplay" finally made its' debut last night. Did the much anticipated reality show prove to be worth the wait and not be somewhat embarrassing?
In theory, Reality Television and Cosplay are two things that have the possibility of going together like bread and butter. On one hand, Reality Television has been an effective window into aspects of life that viewers only have a passing knowledge of. With pop culture’s curiosity about the art form being piqued, the timing for a reality show focusing on cosplay couldn’t get much better. However, this acknowledgement comes with complete awareness that Reality Television’s staying power is in the “real-life” drama it generates. Putting cosplay and television together is also like putting highly combustible elements in an unstable state into a Pressure Cooker. Even turning it on its lowest setting can create a destructive explosion.
With both wariness and curiosity at a high, does "Heroes of Cosplay” prove to be everything that its detractors feared it would be? The answer is just below you.
The Break Down:
“It’s no longer the body of work that defines a Cosplayer, but the amount of followers they have.”
“There are different types of Cosplayers, and one type is just Fun in a Costume, and I don’t really do… like “for fun.” I am trying to replicate a costume that has been on TV, or in the movies."
Victoria A.K.A Scruffy Rebel.
If there were ever two quotes that crystalized what is currently the community’s biggest conflict, these are it. As someone who was deep into the Cosplay Culture in the Early 2000’s, fell off, and got back into things, I can safely say that the game has changed. Of course, this isn’t to say that things are perfect, but never has the division been this stark.
To break this down in the broadest manner possible, you have those that are truly in it for the fun it brings (no matter the skill or ambition level) and those who are chasing dreams of fame and a Cosplay-centric career. As it stands, a show that gives the audience a look into how these two sides coexist, even if it’s sometimes a labored coexistence, would be interesting enough to carry itself for a season. However, it quickly became apparent that balance was not on the menu for this meal.
From the second the first word was uttered, the viewer is introduced to the side of the Hobby that not only causes people to feed into their obsessive tendencies, but causes their worst sides to come out. Through 4 different stories featuring 5 people, the first episode of “Heroes of Cosplay” shows viewers their journeys to the inaugural Wizard World Portland’s Cosplay contest. We got to see how the subjects handled different levels of stress, drama, body image issues and doubt in their abilities.
With this being a reality show, Syfy takes advantage of the personality transforming situations and gives us a cut that makes sure that no one is shown in too favorable of a light. Victoria in particular is in the running for being the most unpleasant person of the bunch, as her overreaching ambition brings out an ugly disposition that makes you feel sorry for her boyfriend, Jinyo, who is a picture perfect example of phenomena I’ll expound upon later.
Even the two Cosplayers that actually show another side beyond the Consuming Obsessive are kind of trapped in a framework that robs Jessica and Jessie of the empathy they deserve. Along with Becky’s body image issues (I seriously want to tell her that she’s gorgeous); this can be somewhat painful to watch if you’re not in the right mood. Still, none of this compares to the person this episode focuses on.
Yaya’s role in this episode is one that I didn’t expect in the slightest, and while it did serve to shatter my original misclassification of the show, I still question the wisdom of Production’s decision to go in this direction. Taking into account Ms. Han’s notoriety, this episode of “Heroes of Cosplay” makes the attempt to play her up as the Cosplay Ambassador she titled herself to be, only for them to fail miserably. For starters, the competitors that the show focuses on go out of their way to play up Yaya as some type of Dale Earnhardt intimidator just waiting for her next victim during the Daytona 500, which couldn't be any more false if they tried. From my limited interaction with her, Yaya is an extremely sweet and welcoming woman who will wear a smile for anyone who respects her. To make things worse, the show (not Yaya herself, mind you) makes her fiancé Brian (like Victoria did with Jinyo) look like the long-suffering “Cosplay Boyfriend” who comes off more like a chew toy rather than an actual significant other. This ends up giving the viewer a picture of Yaya as the “Cosplay Empress” instead of the ambassador that she strives to be. With her less volatile comments in the past recent weeks, one could begin to question if SyFy’s promotion hasn’t already gotten to her head.
While it may look like I have nothing but venom for this show and the people starring on it, let me just take the time out to say a few things. To begin with, I don’t know any of these people in any significant capacity, and as such my comments are based on what I saw last night. For all I know these people could be nothing like how they were portrayed last night, which leads right into my second point. Without taking away the accountability of the stars of the show, SyFy had a choice to either aim this at the lowest common denominator, or to go for something a bit more highbrow. By taking the easy way out, “Heroes of Cosplay” is nothing more than just another Realty Television Show that’s about characters based on the real names that are shown in the opening of the show.
To bring this and the other points I talked about home, here is another Cosplayer with a similar level of experience to those on the show, Caitlin “Lady Ava” Beards.
Caitlin’s 22 Cents:
More power to the Cosplayers involved in this show. I have met/interacted with most of them at least once and I wish them all the best. The show as a whole is a good reality TV show for SyFy, however I personally do not agree with how the production staff has put the show together to twist some of the personalities to be more outrageous than they actually are.
As I said, I know a fair amount of those involved and I they are all very nice people, but this show has made them look obsessive and crazed over this hobby. To those who don't know the cosplay community that well, this could show them one side of the universe we all call home. But to those who are involved more openly with cosplay, this could leave a sour and humorous taste in your mouth. We all have our reasons for cosplaying, so to each his own. Mine is to make myself better at a skill that up until 10+ years ago I never knew I had, so I can someday move on to bigger and better things. Cosplay to me will always be about the fandoms first, the creativity second, and any praise for the work third. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
My final 22 Cents:
To close this review out, let me just say that despite my misgivings, the show has plenty for fans of these types of show to enjoy. Cosplay Drama can be some of the most entertaining geek-related drama out there, and I will admit to laughing through most of the show. However, if you watch this first episode expecting something more than the usual Reality Show Tropes, then prepare to walk away from the show in complete disappointment.
In the end, the first episode of “Heroes of Cosplay” shows us the latter Cosplay World that I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Even if this is what we should expect more of from the next Five Episodes, I hope that we get more “Merida meets Belle” moments amidst the drama maximization SyFy seems to be going for. It would at least lift the show beyond the unintentional play on comedy we were witness to.
(This article could not be done without the help of Caitlin "Lady Ava" Beards and the principal writer of the article would like to express his thanks.)