Sexuality vs Talent – Why Manufactured Drama on Syfy’s ‘Heroes of Cosplay’ is Ruining Cosplay

- 08-21-13Cosplay, TV Posted by Luke Gallagher

heroes-of-cosplay

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.

Yaya-Han-Heroes-of-Cosplay
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.

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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.

Category: Cosplay, TV

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  • efrat94

    Monica Lee as Poison Ivy

  • ZackForester

    The phrase you’re looking for is cultural commodification.

  • Ringo Juna

    Talk to any real pros in the FX biz and they’ll tell you that Face Off is a massive joke.

    • Rod Bowsher

      How so? I like the show because it seems to be rather drama-free. Not being snarky, promise…I’m curious as to how it’s considered a “joke”.

      • Panzerbjørn

        Hah hah hah, when I read Ringo’s comment, I thought he was referring to the movie :-)

        • Anastasia Howell-Roberts

          Thank you. Your comment made my day. Love that movie.

      • Kalinka

        I’ve only seen one episode of it but in that episode two people were hating on this girl who was letting the guy on her team do all the work while she cleaned up after him and only did the makeup. The latter team got praise, especially the girl, for her “work”, while the former team got so mad they told the judges in front of everyone during the elimination. Entire episode was whine-fest.

        • Rod Bowsher

          I remember the show you’re talking about. Still doesn’t seem to be a “joke” tho…these artists are really creating something in a high-pressure situation with limited time. I’m sure lots of edits are employed to create tension, etc…but not nearly as much as, say, Hell’s Kitchen. Their creations are genuinely interesting and unique to the reality show genre, imo.

          • Kalinka

            That’s true, there were many highly skilled artists participating and I liked some of the creations on that particular episode.

            The reason why it might’ve been considered a ‘joke’ is the overdramatization of the contestants and the process of creation. There are many FX-artists out there who can go through grueling tasks at pressing deadlines without coming off as aggressive as the people on the show did (post-edit), who can work more effectively and creatively than what was shown (post-edit) and so on. Then again, I’ve only seen one episode but its just my fifty cents .______.

      • Ringo Juna

        You’ll have to take it up with them. Ask guys like Steve Johnson or Tom Savini. They might not elaborate too much, but you’ll get the idea.

        • Rod Bowsher

          Since you brought it up and seem to have some insight, I figure it’d be easier to take it up with you.

  • J Kegley

    Yes, that’s Monica Lee in one of her many amazing cosplays

  • Panzerbjørn

    “Editing made it seem she did, or at-least agreed, with another casts members dumb remark.”

    1) Out of curiosity, is there an unedited version available so it is possible to see what was said, or is this just guesswork?

    2) It would be interesting if people who agree with the quoted statement, also applied that same position to other ‘Reality TV’ shows…

  • NamaeX

    Forget “Heroes of Cosplay”. I’d rather be watching “Leaving Mundania”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3r0MS5KE5I4

  • Taylor Scheinuk

    aaand now you know how the furry community feels every time someone says “Oh, i think i saw a CSI episode with one of ‘those’ in it”

  • MrGutts

    Yaya is just a cool chic. Syfy has gone so far down hill in the years.

  • Thetruth

    Yeah, she posted that comment on her facebook AFTER the show aired and all the backlash. She’s just saying it to save face. Most fake cosplayer in the business. Down with Yaya Han.

    • Emil Cas

      She has been saying this WAAAAAAAAAY before the show started and was in production. If you don’t know anything, don’t post.

  • Charmedseed

    “The content that Jessica Nigri puts out, really displays cosplay in the wrong light.” – Yaya Han

    What Yaya said must be read in context. She didn’t insult Jessica herself. She voiced an opinion about Jessica’s work. This is a thing that happens all over everywhere. You’re an author? Someone isn’t going to like your book. You’re an actor? Someone isn’t going to like your show or movie. You’re a musician? Someone isn’t going to like your song. It’s an opinion, not an insult, but of course for SyFy, it’s going to sound more interesting if they make it seem like they’re going to start a fight.

  • Bill Watters

    …A Legend?

  • RealityGirl

    I didn’t work on this show, and I don’t know anyone who did, but I think it’s very interesting that you are picking on the editors as the ones to blame for the episode. A whole team of Post Production staff work on the series: editors, producers, Executive Producers and Network Executives make the decisions of how to make a scene look & sound in the final product.

    I haven’t seen the series, but if it’s similar to the way most reality shows are cut, then the scenes were probably cut down to play up the drama. It’s a risk anyone takes signing the non-disclosure agreement and being on camera for days on end. Editors and producers can’t make you say or seem anyway that isn’t already in your personality, but we can highlight and accentuate what’s there already.

    Is it right?? I don’t know, but people keep tuning in.

  • Dale Van Brocklin

    Why was anyone expecting this series to show cosplayers in a positive light – the second the word/concept/notion of “Reality TV” was stated? My friends always wonder why I despise reality TV. It is the lowest common denominator of TV, and it’s taking over like a plaque. It’s cheap, easy to make, and no thought is required while watching. I mean, Food Network, a channel that used to show how to actually cook food, is filled with this crap. One of the last shows I watched involved ladies making cupcakes…..okay….we see ladies, fighting, being rude, crying?, getting in arguments, – never actually making a cupcake. I’ve baked before – there is NO drama in baking. You bake the cake, then it’s done.

    They were never going to find a talented cosplayer, and simply document their creative know how, challenges on designing and building a costume, etc. No, they will find the hottest cosplayers and create artificial drama to get ratings from people hoping to see boobs.

  • Alex

    Everyone keeps blaming the show for ruining cosplay, but the cosplay community is ruining cosplay.

  • Jaeger

    jessica nigri is overrated

  • Alendra Harris

    There are people on this show that are seriously talented people and it really bothers me how so many of those talents, where they are touched upon, are overshadowed by the manner in which these people are sexualized. Sex sells, everyone knows that, but there’s no need to make it the highlight of every damn new thing that pops up on TV and especially about cosplay when it’s sex-centered enough as it is. As a flat chested female cosplayer, I feel the brunt of it all the time and people tell me ‘Oh, you should be on Heroes of Cosplay~!’ Where I don’t think I’m nearly as talented, I know that I won’t be high on that list regardless because I don’t have the killer body. Being a model or having a body like those emphasized on these shows has its merits, but it sends such an oppressive message to every other person who doesn’t – which is the majority. These people like Yaya or Jessica can say the most inspirational things, but because we’ve been herded and programmed to paying attention to their bodies more than their words or their work, it’s practically pointless. They could say whatever they please and dirt still gets dug up – hence this entire article. It shouldn’t be about boobs or sex or anything of the sort, it should be about talent and accuracy and hard work. I know the ‘tits or gtfo’ can never be fully avoided, but it’d be nice for it to stay out of the mainstream, too

    • supervamp

      Why don’t you practice what you preach? These women choose to go with what they want and if you can’t pay attention to more then their bodies then you are the problem.

      • SpookSquad

        So Alendra is the problem? For pointing out the obvious bias in the way people and media look at and portray female cosplayers. Yeah, no.

        “Despite the other positive aspects of the show, there’s no excuse for the lack of diversity. That does not get a pass just because they’re depicting cosplayers as regular folk. “Just be happy with what you got” is not doing it for me.

        It doesn’t matter to me what specific *night* the show is on. I think that’s a distraction, since we’re talking about diversity. If we want to drop the cosplay aspect and just say, “reality shows featuring predominately female cast”, well, there are lots of those out there. Why anyone is trying to act like this casting is some great feat I definitely cannot understand ,esp. if they’ve been doing cons long enough.
        The “cute/hot/sexy/kickass/badass/whatever girl cosplayer” spotlight is standard in our community. We are not underrepresented, we are not marginalized. We have the stage. So SyFy isn’t doing anything
        groundbreaking by have their entire cast minus one, be cute girls. Not even on Tuesdays.

        I didn’t realize there was such an internet debate raging about it, but the reaction from our cosplay “community” wanting more male players is valid because it’s so obviously needed here, because they are so obviously absent. Not “next time, next season”, but now. They should have done it from the start. Spotlights for both sexes and diverse backgrounds. There was NOTHING stopping them from doing that, other than they didn’t want to” –x-posted

        http://fourthingsandalizardinc.tumblr.com/post/57843392883/spooksquad-not-trying-to-diminish-the-coolness

        • SpookSquad

          My above comments we made in reply to the idea that this show was somehow doing all the “mariginalized” ladies in geek world a solid by featuring a female cast. “Look! Now the cosplay girls have a chance!” Uh,you mean like always?? We’re pretty well-focused on, sorta standard around here.
          And comments on the types of female cosplayers who are always spotlighted.
          Any one with two brain cells to rub together and eyes can see this is very much how it is. It’s biased, and does not place as much attention on cosplayers who also work hard but don’t do ‘sexy’, or one of the other cute-girl-cosplayer categories.

        • supervamp

          So it’s bad to represent women in obviously woman dominated field?
          Also alendra was saying that they were focusing too much on sexualized cosplay and that it would draw more attention to the outfits then what the cosplayers themselves were talking about.

          To your bottom comment
          You do know that 2 males won in the first episode and the female that won was a full costume. Yaya even told one of the cosplayers that it was better to focus on making a crafted outfit then sex appeal and even the hellgirl cosplayer though her outfit was sexy was trying to stress to her that having a crafted outfit even if it’s sexy is the way to go.

          • stupidarse

            Cosplay isn’t woman dominated lol.

            That’s the only segment people like you are willing to look at, though.

          • supervamp

            People like me? You mean a girl who doesn’t mind seeing a chick in a sex outfit?
            Exactly how isn’t cosplay woman dominated?

          • jsmith0552

            If you look at the American end of it, one would think that they are, when you look at Asian countries you find male cosplayers with huge numbers of fans.

        • jsmith0552

          Other countries do tend to appreciate male cosplayers more than in the U.S. while still giving ample spotlight to incredibly talented and (of course) attractive female cosplayers. Here some incredibly talented male cosplayers go pretty much unnoticed — and they certainly aren’t winning that many contests contests. I don’t know any that make a living off of it, though their may be a few.

          For a guy it seems the best bet is to go directly into something like film.

    • zakito

      Why do you cosplay? Is it to climb onto the top like Yaya Han and Jessica Nigri, or was it out of pure love and enjoyment?
      Sexualization for cosplay exist, but it only exist because of human nature, like you said, sex sells.
      It’s the same logic as why some girls are more popular than the rest, they’ve got a better body than others, and so they get more boys going after them.
      Cosplay is not all about sexualization, it’s only a problem when you start looking at it like it is, and that the reason why you aren’t on the top is because you aren’t as sexy as them.
      The only reason why Syfy chose to stir up some drama on this issue is because it’s a drama-worthy topic, it’s gonna get people like you offended and annoyed

  • OldSchool

    If you alter the character in any way it is not true
    cosplay, this includes versions that never happened like a sexy or gender bent.
    If the character did not wear it, it is not cosplay. You may as well call it an
    original character. Who cares about the drama when what they produce does not
    even support the name of the show.

    • Tralx

      Honestly i have to agree to disagree here. How can you say that no alteration is cosplay? Your basically saying that any cosplay that isn’t absolute perfection isn’t real cosplay? Then their isn’t a such thing as cosplay period because no cosplay is perfect. If the creator of the cosplay does the best they can with the limited resources and funds that they have to create a costume that looks as close to the original as possible then that is cosplay at its core. I agree with your statement of if the character never wore it then it doesnt count. However i must disagree on gender bends because sometimes a gender bend is the only way a cosplayer can play a character they like without going into weird uncomfortable cross dressing. No one ever wants to see a dude Fey Valentine but if the cosplayer creates a male alternative that still fits the spirit of the character so be it as a fan i still get the general idea and i as a guy am personally better off now seeing a dude in yellow hotpants

  • Julie McLaney

    I have to say that while I have not watched an episode of this show, I have a Daughter who is seriously wanting to get started with Cosplay and now I don’t know what to think. I found this article because a friend of mine said that he watched an the episode from the other night and he was very put off by the impression that the judges feel that “fat people shouldn’t cosplay”. That’s how he interpreted what was said on that episode. Unless you’re going to go as “The Blob”, then don’t waste your time.

    I was horrified to think that in this community there would be that kind of judgmental B.S., so I googled “Heroes of Cosplay too fat to cosplay” and found this article.

    Thank you for pointing out that Syfy is doing this, because I have to tell you, upon reading what my friend said, I was ready to be done with the idea of cosplay at all. My Daughter is far from the perfect body type, but she has a wonderful spirit and brilliant imagination and I will not let anyone or anything step on that or somehow make her feel less than she is just because she’s not physically “perfect”.

    I’m not going to watch the show, knowing what Syfy is doing, but I’m not going to discourage my Daughter from having fun dressing up either. I just hope that you’re right and that she will find the acceptance that she desires among the local crowd here in our area.

    • yayness

      The real people don’t care. Encourage her on with it, and don’t let her quit, Julie :P.

      • Nagi

        Oops this is in the wrong spot xD

    • Nagi

      As a “bigger girl without a perfect body” who cosplays I have seen both the positive and negative. The negative usually comes from the online community. I do agree that if you don’t have a thick skin and absolutely love what you do, the comments online can get discouraging…But they say the more adversity you face, the more your name is getting out there. At conventions and events people have been very positive, asking questions about the construction of my costumes and prop work. I think no matter what you do, someone will be petty enough to try and bring you down for doing what you love. I think your daughter has a wonderful support in you and she will be fine ^__^

      I think it’s a good idea not to watch the show…It’s depressing even though the costumes are beautiful. You could always put it on mute and watch the costume construction. If you want to ask questions, you or your daughter can find me here: http://sabriel-chan.deviantart… I’m no master…But I have been to enough conventions to know my way around them and the community up here in Canada at least.

      All the best ^_^

    • republican jeezus

      American young people desperately wanting to escape from reality, get attention, and act like they are living in a cartoon are not positive things. Their first world problems are a cry for help. Self-absorbed young people with failure to launch symptoms are nothing to ascribe to.

      The best you can do for your children is help them learn to deal with the real world, to develop meaningful skills and real personality traits, to maintain real relationships that are based on caring about others, to give them your love and teach them your values.

      Cosplay is like being totally absorbed with the ultimate “selfie”, and serves no legitimate purpose, other than to be yet another outlet for self-obsessed first world western children to magnify their own personalities and entertain themselves.

      • no

        well fuck you too

  • Kerrigan

    I’m just going to be straight forward as I’ve been contacted by reality TV show producers before regarding a project. I passed on it because i know how it works. Unless you sign a contract where you get finally approval prior to a studio airing a product you’ve worked on….your SOL. (shit outta luck). A studio WILL NOT allow talent to have final approval over a product at most times because it becomes a pain in the ass for them and also they need to figure out ways for an audience to ENJOY a show. So they can really edit a show anyway they want….

    They DO TEST viewings prior to airing a show on a network most times to see the reaction of the audience and then they modify the show to what will work on air. Reality needs a better selling point then just “watch me create a costume/etc” which is why they add drama, pressure and set up false situations.

    The Talent (in this case is the cosplayers) – By agreeing to be on the show they probably knew the up’s and downs of it. Who knows…maybe people passed on the opportunity too and signed an NDA. (which does happen in most cases)

    SyFy and NBC Universal will probably be sued soon for an issue:
    http://bgzstudios.com/blog/photography/heroes-of-copyright-infringement-the-photographer-litigation-against-syfy/

    So the show might not last anyways.

    Just to sum it all up – I don’t feel bad for any Talent on the show if they were shown in the wrong light or whatever. They knew what they were getting themselves into and they possibly got paid for their appearances.

    Regarding the most recent possible lawsuit – I do feel for the photographers who had their work used both online and within the tv-show.

    In all honestly – I don’t think this shows hurts cosplay. I think any sensible person should know what Reality TV is and I don’t think it can destroy a persons career. Damage (maybe) but destroy – The only person in life that can give up or destroy their career is the person who put it together (IE YOU). Not some stupid TV Show.

  • Logan

    Yaya is slightly annoying. She got breast implants to improve her sexuality. So obviously to her, its not all about the craftsmanship. All her pictures show off her huge cleavage. Yeah, she has some sewing talent, but some of the costumes are kind of, well, too much. She really needs to work on her body more. Muscle and abs are sexy. Especially when you are selling prints to people, and making money off of this whole “cosplay” thing.
    Jessica is a fit girl. Much cuter, than Yaya. She comes across more like she is having fun.
    Thought this whole cosplay thing is about having fun, right??

    • Kimberly

      If you have an issue with YaYa, please pick on something other than her boobs. SO what if she has implants?

      • Lethe

        Okay, let’s look at the images these women are portraying. Female characters in gaming and anime (where most of the cosplayers get their inspiration) are THE most distorted female images out there. So, yeah, if you’re taking it to a professional level, like Yaya has, it’s no surprise that some body modification is involved, whether it be thru the use of devices like corsets, or thru implants. No REAL woman anywhere has ever looked like that. (http://yayacosplay.deviantart.com/art/Jessica-Rabbit-collab-with-Jay-Tablante-330353222) Problematic? Well, okay, name a main-stream film actress that hasn’t had ‘some work’ done.

        • Lethe

          Okay, link didn’t work. Just google yaya han as jessica rabbit and check the photos, or go to Yaya’s deviantart.com page to see her cosplay photos.

      • rob

        it’s that she has implants, but the fact that she SAYS to not sexualize things AFTER she got implants…

  • Leonid

    I really don’t want to hear from so called cosplay “push up bra”professionals who can and who cant dress up in different costumes, otherwise I enjoy other people misery on the show

  • David Fullam

    No need to edit things to make Han look like a beyotch. She does a good enough job of that on her own.

  • SpokenMind fuhfucka

    Yaya’s a fuckin’ hypocrite.

  • rob

    I feel like I need to chime in here… I’ve pretty much stopped following Yaya as much as I did at one time, because I feel like she is being hypocritical in a couple ways: 1. by SAYING that body type is not important when she has breast implants; 2. by repeatedly stating that taking care of oneself is of utmost importance, when she has had repeated episodes of fainting from her “Jessica Rabbit” corset being too tight and restricting her breathing. There are probably more instances in which I disagree with her, but those are 2 I know.

  • Orcus

    So now there is going to be a season 2??

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