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The Fannish Life: ‘Heroes of Cosplay’ — Not Enough Play

Longtime costumer Ann Morris gives her impressions of new Syfy show

Before I knew anything about the new Syfy show about cosplay, I was a bit put off. Unless cosplayers were out saving or greatly bettering people’s lives either in costume or in their daily lives, the title of the show was kind of wrong. “Masters of Cosplay” or “Idols of Cosplay” would have suited the show better.

When I read on Facebook that a cosplayer who is well known and often a guest at conventions in my home state, Florida, turned down the opportunity to be on “Heroes of Cosplay,” I became suspicious of the show. She did not give details or badmouth the show. She simply said that she didn’t like the way the show was going to go.

As more and more of my friends and acquaintances reported that it was awful, I thought I might not watch it at all. But I cracked.

The opening credits show you six cosplayers upon whom the show focuses, but time is not evenly split among the main players. It focuses a crazy amount of time on cosplayers who are not in it for fun but who are trying to make a living with cosplay.

I don’t have a problem with people wanting to turn a hobby into a profession, but having the show focus too much on that aspect of cosplay is a misrepresentation of what cosplay is to most of those who participate in it. Very few people who like to dress up for the various kinds of science-fiction and fantasy genre conventions are making money with cosplay or even care about making money with it. They just like to play a little bit and get away from the hard parts of life for a while.

If I were new to costuming and watched this show, I’d feel like quitting. It makes it seem as though your work must be professional quality or you should just stay home. It also gives the impression that you must be young and thin to cosplay. When Chloe Dykstra, who is one of the cosplayers on the show, commented that everyone should be able to cosplay without being told they were not fit for it, she was shot down by the several of the other cosplayers on the show.

Well, Chloe is right, and she posted a rant on YouTube about cosplayers verbally beating up other cosplayers a couple of days before the first episode of “Heroes of Cosplay” aired. She got around to mentioning the show at the end of her rant and asked that before people trashed the show, they think about what they were saying and whether or not it would hurt someone’s feelings.

If you want to hear what Dykstra had to say, just search YouTube. I’d post the link but if you are reading this at work, the rant is not suitable for most offices. She’s pretty passionate and her language gets a bit raw. Don’t let that keep you from watching it at home, though. It’s a good rant. It’s one I think many people need to hear.

It made me think about my own conduct. Though I would never ever say something mean about a cosplayer to his or her face, I’ve said things that were not my best outpourings to my friends.

There has been a lot of trashing this show and the episode I came in on made me want to trash it, too. In it, Becky asked Monika if she could team up with her and Victoria for a contest. No good came of this. Monika told Becky she was the last person she’d think of to team with and that Becky was not on the same level as herself. I almost gave up on the show when I found myself being glad that Monika did not win the contest she entered in that episode.

When a non-fiction television show has you feeling glad that something unpleasant or downright bad is happening to someone, it’s not a nice thing, and I think it’s not good television.

What got me to continue watching and to catch up on the episodes I missed was that I wanted to write my column about the show. It would have been wrong to praise, trash or go on the fence about the show without seeing all of its parts.

I also did not read any reviews just so my thoughts would not be colored by them. This was hard because people I know were talking about what they had read and I was curious.

I found good things and bad things in the show. The mean-spiritedness that showed sometimes goes in the bad things column. The amazing costumes you got to see go in the good things column.

There were some things that I found downright disturbing.
— Someone wearing a corset so tight that she almost passed out
— Someone making a wig she knew she was allergic to instead of either changing her costume idea or finding something else affordable she was not allergic to
— Someone binding her chest so tight (for a male character costume) that she almost passed out
— Many someone’s spending all their time in hotel rooms finishing costumes at the last minute instead of just wearing other costumes and going to the conventions
— Many someone’s not getting any sleep for days at a time just to work on costumes.

I was puzzled about the choice of cosplayers for the show. They are all great at what they do, but why did we not get to see more men? I think parity of the sexes would have made the show better. Several of the women had their husbands or boyfriends helping them to the point that the men were the primary costume builders. It would have been more interesting to have the men the focus in those cases.

While you saw judges who were not spring chickens, there were not any costumers (the old timey word for cosplayers) you could tell were anything but young, young, young. I would have liked to see at least a few older people in costumes. They are out there at the conventions and I know it would not have been hard to find several to show on camera for a few seconds.

I understand that the audience Syfy has to deliver to the sponsors is that 18-49 age group with money to spend, but you know what? With our economy in the unhealthy state it is, it’s more likely that we people who had money after things fell down the rabbit hole are at the upper end of that range or well beyond it.

If “Heroes of Cosplay” comes back for a second season, I hope it will go down a different road and focus on people who costume just for fun. Many of those have fabulous things they wear to conventions with never a thought of making a living costuming or even competing in contests. They just go in for being in a safe environment where they can express their inner fantastic children with costumes.

The show did very little to address hall costumes. We saw some of the costumes that the cosplayers wore when they were not competing but there was no discussion of what hall costumes are and how they differ from competition style costumes. Basically, if you can’t go to the bathroom without getting someone to help you with your costume (and you are over five) it’s not a hall costume.

Many conventions give awards for hall costumes. This allows people who do wonderful work or just embody the blithe spirit of costuming to get some recognition. Usually this is in the form of a ribbon or medal.

I’d like to see some helpful information about making hall costumes in the second season. For many people, a lot of the fun is in making the costumes and we didn’t see most of the costumers this time having fun with that part of it. They were all stressed, all the time.

It would please me if the show gaves a little more history of how costuming has become almost mainstream. That didn’t happen overnight and people who are my age and older who were wearing costumes long before the advent of the mega-giganto conventions could talk about the roots of costuming/cosplay.

I guess overall I found more negatives in “Heroes of Cosplay” than positives, but if you can ignore the drama and some of the health hazards some cosplayers subject themselves to, the amazing costumes you get to see when they show footage of the actual conventions make it worth seeing.

Till next time, peace and long life. Never give up. Never Surrender!

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Could they be a Rut-ro! Shaggy
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