by Victoria Erica | staff writer
From the east coast to the west coast, all of my social media feeds were blowing up with comments and reactions to the new SyFy six part reality series, Heroes of Cosplay. It’s not unusual that cosplayers are disenchanted by this series; cosplayers are a very protective bunch. Case in point, when the NY Post made scathing statements about cosplay, it caused quite an uproar in Facebookland. The cosplay community is very protective in how it defines itself and how it wants others to see them as. Perhaps it’s because of how cosplay attracts people aren’t always accepted by society; cosplay attracts a diverse array of people.
With that said, Heroes of Cosplay debuted on August 13th on SyFy. The show follows a handful of cosplayers from Atlanta, Portland, and Los Angeles as they compete in various convention cosplay contests (note: the term “masquerade” is not uttered once in the first episode). “Heroes” focuses on the competition side of cosplay. We see cosplayers have little to no time working on their competition entries before the con.
The first episode takes place at Portland Wizard World. There is a ton of hype being built up to Portland Wizard World having the first cosplay contest ever. We are introduced to the following competitive cosplayers:
Victoria: She is all about the accuracy. We see her shop with her boyfriend, Jinyo in the LA Fashion district finding the right fabric for Final Fantasy X’s Lulu. Things go awry when her embroidery machine breaks down causing her to sew pieces on at the last minute. To Victoria, cosplay is not all about the fun. Rather, it’s about accuracy. Most of the episode, Victoria is constantly in contact with Jinyo to make sure her embroidered pieces arrive on time. We mainly see her in the hotel room finishing up Lulu. Most of all, Yaya makes her feel nervous about the competition. She knows Yaya will scrutinize and critique all the fine points. Thus, the pressure is on.
Crabcat Industries: You might have seen them before on Morgan Spurlock’s Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Crabcat Industries is made up of Jessica and Holly. Holly is the serious of the two; she wants everything perfectly made. Jessica is in it for the fun of it all. You have two different schools of thought working here. We do get to see Holly do a plaster cast mold of Jessica’s face so she can get the horns right for their original Dungeons and Dragons entry for Portland Wizard World.
Becky: She calls herself the theatrical cosplayer. She is first seen working on her archery skills so she can perfect the part as Brave’s Merida. To Becky, it’s not enough just to dress up as the character – she wants the accent, the nuances, the poise, the essence – she wants to be the character. Becky’s segment caused a bit of a stir; one scene had her going to the gym and talking about keeping a slim figure for her character. She does talk about the pressure from Internet trolls to stay slim, but in my opinion, she looks totally fine. I disagree with what her hipster friend said, ”For girls it’s so tough ’cause all the good characters are drawn with skimpy outfits” because I can name an army of female leads that do not fit that mold.
Jesse: The token male of the cast. Jesse has been cosplaying for five years; this is his first time competing in a cosplay show. We see him work away on his Vault Defendor cosplay from Fallout. He wants his props to move and work as they would in real life. It was interesting to see him work on his armor; I thought this was one of the more ambitious projects on the show. It was pretty funny when he was on his way to Wizard World and realized he could not get into his car while wearing the suit of armor. I find Jesse to be the most likeable; he’s humble, and is very much a go-getter. He doesn’t let one loss get to him and aims his guns high.
Yaya: She dubs herself the Ambassador of Cosplay. As the other cast members compete, Yaya serves as the judge of the cosplay show. I would not place her as Simon Cowell or Tim Gunn; we see her go under the same pressure as the other contestants. We see her work on her Fiora from League of Legends; she wants to get it done in time for Wizard World Portland (and it’s a very impressive costume having had the chance to see it in person at Katsucon). We also see her get dressed into her more intricate costumes. To Yaya, she feels the need to still impress people with her costumes because she’s one of the judges.
Everything leads up to the Portland Wizard World costume contest. Nothing is really highlighted about the con itself. We just know it is a first time con up in Portland. This is different from your typical anime convention masquerade. Contestants show up on stage and the judges ask questions about craft right before the cosplayers do their strut on the catwalk. Not my favorite form of a cosplay contest, but this format is more commonplace at comic themed events. However, we do get one endearing moment; we see a young Belle (Beauty and the Beast) cosplayer approaching Becky as Meridia.
“Heroes of Cosplay” is not the end of the world. Keep in mind, that it does focus on the competition side of cosplay. If you’re looking for a guidebook on how to make armor or worbla best practices, it’s not here. Because of the nature of reality television, audiences want to see competition and people going under pressure. Don’t expect an accurate picture of convention culture, but rather, the stressful nature of the cosplay’s competitive side. Nothing here is about the cosplay community, or really explaining why or how these contestants got into cosplay and why they prefer the competitive side. However, if it’s something I disagree with as a cosplayer, it’s this statement at the beginning, “It’s no longer the body of work that defines a cosplayer, now it’s how many followers they have.” I feel this statement will turn off most hobbyist cosplayers just tuning in because a lot of it is done for the love and spirit of fandom. The cosplay community generally feels that it’s not about popularity, but for the love of character.
Wait a second…these shots of Wizard World Portland look very familiar…like I was there last month…