Review: “Heroes of Cosplay” Episode 1: Wizard World Portland

Special Thanks to:

Cosplayer - The Mad Masker (FB)

Cosplayer – The Mad Masker (FB)

  • Stephen Bajza for edits

I know there have been a lot of controversies regarding the SyFy Reality TV show “Heroes of Cosplay” ever since it was announced.  There has been no shortage of controversy, from stolen photos to promote the show, to the biased and hurtful statement made by the show’s Executive Producer, Mark Cornin, about which gender is more interesting in the cosplay world.

Nevertheless, this show is the first cable show specifically about cosplay (I am not including the SyFy Reality Show “Face Off” since it has less to do with cosplay life than “Heroes of Cosplay”).  However, is the show successful in portraying cosplay life or is the show fake?

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DISCLAIMER:

I am neither a cosplayer nor a TV show critic.  I am writing this as a cosplay photographer who has an opinion on this show.  Nevertheless, I will try and maintain professionalism about the show in question and the cosplayers who are staring in it.  I will avoid criticizing the individual cosplayers and instead focus on the show itself.

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Yes, I Knew What I Was Watching

First and foremost, “Heroes of Cosplay” is NOT a documentary.   Its job is to take a real life aspect of life, refine it, package it, and then sell it.  Many shows like it are all about hyping the drama, the failures, the hatred and jealousy of the contestants.  And the cosplayers on the show are certainly contestants.  Compared to shows like “Survivor” on CBS and “American Idol” on FOX, “Heroes of Cosplay” uses the same basic formula:  take a group of people, put them into a situation where they have to compete and then watch and wait for something to happen.  The difference for “Heroes of Cosplay” is that it is taking a specific sub-culture of the geek community: cosplay.

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A View From Olympus

According to the show’s opening, cosplay is a “sexy” and “cutthroat” world where if you do not have the skill, drive, guts, and stomach for the harshness of competing with the best of the best, you are going to cry.  In the first episode, the cosplayers, it shows bunch of girls together, the judge who is trying to stay relevant in the community, and a new guy trying to be the very best and make it a career.  The audience sees all the things that can go wrong, from overestimating their abilities, to dangerous risks in creating cosplay, to equipment malfunctions, the elation of minor victories, and the taste of defeat.

The show is very formulaic.  Have a contest, see how the contestants handle the challenge, and then watch the final judging.  The twist is that one of the cast members is also a judge, though still feels compelled to participate.  We see a cosplayer who is not affiliated with the show win the highest award at the end of the episode, changing the usual formula.  And while it does show that these cast members are not the almighty gods or “Heroes” as the title suggests, it does push the stereotype that cosplay is very much a hobby where only the skilled and sexy can survive and get famous while men, for the most part, are ignored.  These “heroes”, however, are shown as overly egotistical to the point where one considers herself the “Ambassador of Cosplay” while the rest cower and fear her as if she is the queen of a powerful empire.  The real question is “how real this is”.  Like the rest of “Reality TV”, the show is more scripted than most people realize.

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It’s Got…CharacterDSC_6370

The show takes several cosplay celebrities and the one male and showcases their cosplay competition process.  I will admit it’s great to at least give lip service that many cosplays actually have day jobs (as opposed to nerds living in the basement and mooching off their mommies), but that’s throwing a bone compared to what is shown on screen.  Each of the cosplayers has opinions that focus on completion, winning, and bashing the weaknesses of their opponents.  Instead, all the audience sees are sewing machines breaking or a head cast not working out so they have to buy it at a store.

With all the drama, the dramatic music, and the quick angle changes and edits, the show feels very unpleasant to watch.  It’s always doom followed by more doom.  I especially loved it in this episode when the little girl saying they want to grow up like the cosplayer.  It is manipulative.  It is biased.  And it’s all about “win or die”.  There is no joy in it.

Personally, I hope that the cattiness we are seeing is more from the editing than from the actual cosplayer.

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“What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.”

– Alfred Hitchcock

I know that there is drama in cosplay from internet trolls and catfights to “stuff happens”, but the amount of drama that is flowing through this show is like a fire hose.  Every minute they focus on either why the other cosplayer will fail or something broke and needs to be fixed.  It’s funny, but on other shows like Star Trek, Stargate, Battlestar Galatica, the repeated “if I don’t fix this in two minutes, we’re all going to die” is done every episode.  And yet, I actually enjoy watching those clearly fake characters instead of these “real” cosplayers.  Those characters may represent various stereotypes or character tropes, but at least they are fun to watch and will actually react like real people. In “Heroes of Cosplay”, none of the emergencies give the audience a sense of dread so they compensate by adding more needless emergencies to create drama.  The sheer amount of problems from procrastination to on-screen equipment malfunctions, to arguments about cutting corners and using store-bought accessories ceases to create drama and just feels tacked on.  It leaves the audience with the feeling of “so what” instead of “oh my God, how will they fix this”.

Watching this show also makes me feel sorry for the spouses/partners of the cosplayers shown.  The stars in this show are constantly yelling at each other and their spouses/partners and the abused have to take it in stride.  For all of these cosplayers, only one of them had a decent, tender moment, but that is spoiled by failure.  Shows like Mythbusters have builds and yet can see the cast having a lot of fun.  Antics between classic straight man Jamie paired with the childlike Adam are great to see.  And the team of Kari, Tory, and Grant are always finding ways to annoy or tease one another.  The key to a show’s enjoyment is chemistry and the Mythbusters have plenty of it (pun intended) but the cast of “Heroes of Cosplay” don’t.  These cosplayers are mostly portrayed as “I’m going to win, the others are losers” and screw everyone else.

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Glass Case of Emotion

Cosplayer - Andrew's Progress on Cool Stuff and Cosplay

Cosplayer – Andrew’s Progress on Cool Stuff and Cosplay

Reality TV is great at grabbing your attention and the first episode of “Heroes of Cosplay” did that extremely well.  There is certainly a lot of drama and you’ll even wonder whether or not your favorite cast member will gain glory or suffer defeat most foul.  It is non-stop negativity with a few glimmers of hope with the tender moments between a cosplayer and a little girl.  This show has a lot of gaps in information, but a casual viewer, especially one not familiar with the cosplay scene, will not care about the details anyways.  If you’re looking for a show about costuming contests with the drama magnified, then this show will not disappoint.

However, there is so much arguments, malfunctions, and bullying going on throughout the one hour of television that, if one were to use their brain, it feels more artificial than the characters they are dressing up as.  It is true that drama gets rating,s but how much is too much.  This is definitely more fantasy than reality.  And for Cosplay, the art of becoming a made up character, that is saying something.

The episode was clearly Round 1 and the battle for glory and fame continues in the next episode.

Rating:


2 out of 5 (average)

************************************************Tomorrow, I’ll have my own personal opinions about the show.

In the mean time, what do YOU think about the first episode of the show?

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~ by BlizzardTerrak on August 21, 2013.

6 Responses to “Review: “Heroes of Cosplay” Episode 1: Wizard World Portland”

  1. You can tell they were trying to amp up the drama just by the music they were using- embroidery machine breaks? Just put some dramatic string music on it, that’ll add the drama for you. Honestly, whenever I heard that dramatic music, I just said, “WOOoooOOO, sooooooo dramatic…”

  2. The show really went the wrong route in trying to show just what sort of community and scene cosplaying truly is. They could’ve just done the show as a sort of profile following a select group of cosplayers and see their day-to-day lives crafting one cosplay to the next and it would’ve been more dramatic and real than what this show has ended up being.

    I think some of the cattiness and negative vibe coming off the show is due to the editing, but I think it’s also a glimpse at how some people within the scene think of other cosplayers and their own ideas of what makes for good cosplay.

    As some have said, editing may make certain comments sound mean and negative, but in the end the players who were filmed saying those words still said them.

    If you thought Episode 1 was bad just wait til you see Episode 2.

  3. I think this is a very good non-biased standpoint on the show, I really appreciate the honest vs “OMG this show sucks etc.” I have to agree that this show isn’t meant to show cosplayers in the truest or best light, it is to entertain and what better way to entertain than add excessive drama that viewers crave outside of their true and “boring” lives.

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