Never being one that's cosplayed myself, just a person that enjoys the medium, I couldn't help but tune into SyFy's Heroes of Cosplay - a reality series that chronicles (somewhat) new and veteran costumers as they go from con to con in their latest garbs to be judged and take top position for fame and money. As with any reality series, some (very obviously edited) drama ensued. Some superficial BS, which has sent the cosplay community in a fritz. When I say fritz, I mean fans taking to Twitter and saying, "Well cosplay community, brace yourselves for the newsfeed attacks and people's opinions." Well, I guess, since I'm writing this, I'm guilty as charged. What I'd like to do, though, is discuss the abhorrent editing from SyFy and how its depiction of cosplayers and misrepresented opinions is actually hurting the community.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP.
So, what's all the fuss about? Well, in last nights episode (the second of the season), the main judge and famous cosplayer herself Yaya Han (above) was talking about the direction of one of the contestants costume choice. The contestant, who's name I can't remember, went for a sexy burlesque version of Batman villain Poison Ivy (see below). Now, keep in mind, this contestant is a close personal friend of Yaya Han and has received much tutelage from the veteran; aka Robin to her Batman. Yaya has a personal view that craft and talent should take precedence over sexuality. The contestant apparently ignored Yaya in favor of modeling herself after another famed lady cosplayer by the name of Jessica Nigri; who is known for displaying her body proudly in revealing (that's an understatement) costumes. Which, I guess she did, because the girl trolloped on stage flaunting her goods and getting no praise for it.
Le sexy Victorian style Poison Ivy
The real drama here, though, was a quote from Yaya referring to Jessica Nigri as whats wrong with cosplay, saying "The content that Jessica Nigri puts out, really displays cosplay in the wrong light". Basically, "sexuality vs talent". Catfight in the making, people! Queue up the Mortal Kombat "Fight" song.
Clearly, if you watched the show and read into what Yaya was trying to say rather that what was said (or rather what was conveniently edited) you'd know she was expressing her stance on appreciating work involved in costume making. She wasn't personally attacking Jessica Nigri or those like her for choosing to embrace the sexy side of cosplay. In fact, Yaya often has presented herself in promiscuous costumes and poses, so she's no prude. She's not a hypocrite either, just someone that tries to find the right balance. There's no beef here between two authorities on cosplay. No matter how much SyFy takes comments out of context and intercuts shots of an opposing cosplayer, things are not going escalate to some fight in high heels.
Beside churning up some crap catty-ness between two different minded cosplayers, the show went on to make Yaya sound like more of an elitist when a discussion amongst the contestants came up on whether or not unfit people should be wearing costumes that don't flatter their body type or the character they're portraying. Yaya (and others) said pro cosplaying is a serious thing and not everyone can be subject to scrutiny. Implying that heavy set people should fill costumes that match their body type; in other words a fat person shouldn't be Superman. Which, if you've ever read Yaya's view on cosplay (there's a great write up on her Facebook Page - HERE), couldn't be more far from the truth. She's been very vocal in her support for all cosplaying body types. In fact, here's a direct quote from her on the subject:
This is a hobby. An art form. A career for some. A social pastime for others. Cosplay is not a sport. There is no rule book, commandments, or memo on HOW you should cosplay. If you want to dress as a character that looks nothing like you, go for it! There is so much judgement on race, gender, weight, size, height and other things that CAN NOT BE CHANGED in cosplay - it has never made sense to me. Just like anyone should be able to collect an action figure of their favorite character, or wear a T-shirt of their favorite superhero, anyone should be able to show their love for a character by cosplaying them. People get so wrapped up in how THEIR ideal real life version of a character should look like that they forget that they are talking about REAL HUMAN BEINGS. With feelings.
I won't argue that ignorant comments were said, but not by Yaya. Editing made it seem she did, or at least agreed, with another cast member's dumb remark. How horribly misleading and damaging it is to present a legend that way. It just goes to show you how a genuine person with such a supportive mindset can be easily manipulated to capture eye-widening television.
Based on what I saw transpire on the show versus how I see cosplayers act in real life (and online), coupled with the negative reactions abound on Twitter, SyFy's edit team is sooooo obviously manufacturing drama... and it's total crap! It's a gross misrepresentation of what cosplay is all about. Which, if you're not clear on this, is about dedicated fanboys/girls who spend time and money to craft costumes of their pop culture idols. Yes, there is a pro level to cosplay in which fame and money are involved and puts certain participants on a pedestal (with some egotism). For the most part, though, it's the simple joy of expressing oneself through costume. There is true talent, creativity, hard-work and comradery amongst those who choose to partake in this venture. A dramatized show like Heroes of Cosplay tarnishes all of that in favor of digging for melodrama. It really takes all the fun out of it. Completely discouraging to those who currently cosplay or are thinking about doing it for the first time. I mean, honestly, who'd want to be associated with such egos and assholes, right? I'm all for nerdism hitting the mainstream and all, but not like this. It does more harm that it does good.
In the end, this is a TV show. I would expect nothing less than for there to be some level of amped up crisis, tension and people being douchecanoes (ignorant to think otherwise). I just wish it wasn't so goddamn blatant. Especially on the subject of cosplay, which is a self creative medium and something wildy appreciated in the nerd-verse - in other words, something of value. If there has to be a show about cosplay, put more of a focus on the magic of costume making, what goes into it and the personalities/story of the person behind it. Something SyFy's Face Off does very well. Watching passionate people make something from nothing and owning it... that's true entertainment.