Almost since its inception there’s been nothing but drama and controversy surrounding SyFy‘s reality program, Heroes of Cosplay. Initially the choice of content combined with a predominately female cast raised concern the series was only interested in parading around sexy girls in costume. Thankfully, the series has managed to steer clear of that, though sexuality and how much is proper for cosplay did become a hot-button issue. An issue that was only escalated by some heavily manufactured drama between Yaya Han and Jessica Nigiri; a matter we’ve covered before.
Now it seems only a handful of episodes, and a new editor/supervising director, later there’s only more drama and fan backlash for the series. To the point where I’m questioning what SyFy’s intention for the program was if all it has caused is dissent in the community it chose to portray?
After watching the first two episodes of Heroes of Cosplay, I stopped. Not because I didn’t like those participating in the show, but because I wasn’t interested in an hour long program that spent most of its time focusing on the stress and, at times, animosity which occurs in such a competitive cosplay field. I wanted to watch phenomenal costumers create amazing costumes, but so little of the show actually focuses on the time, effort, and craftsmanship the contestants put into each of their works. I was expecting Face-Off, and I get America’s Next Top Model.
And perhaps, that’s really all I should have expected. It’s a reality show, right? And being so it has certain criteria that must be met, the most important of which is: DRAMA. And Heroes of Cosplay appears to go at any length to get it, including bringing their show with its many established and professional cosplayers to Kansas City’s Planet ComicCon’s obviously amateur costume contest.
As I admitted earlier, I don’t watch the show, so I learned of this whole ordeal when a blog post written by Amy Schley (who along with her friends organized one fantastic looking femme-Doctor group featuring all 11 Doctors) describing her experience as the “villian” of last night’s episode was brought to my attention. I read it and was heartbroken to hear of someone’s hometown convention being overtaken by SyFy – or perhaps more accurately I should be saying 51 Minds, the production studio behind Heroes of Cosplay, though SyFy clearly agreed to air it. You can read her entire summary of events over on her blog, but here’s some points I want to draw attention to,
We arrived at the convention and went to sign up for the masquerade, only to discover that not only were we required to agree to be on the show, but also that we had to do a skit. In speaking to other entrants, we realized that no one had been aware of this requirement, and that in fact the skit requirement had been added only a day before the competition. We, like our fellow competitors, frantically threw a skit together.
The actual masquerade was an exercise in humiliation and frustration. We went first, which allowed us to see how miserably outclassed all the locals were by the “heroes.” They had gigantic props, soundtracks with prerecorded dialog, light cues, grips, and smoke effects. One group had cosplayers who owned their own production company and had done a gig for Guillermo del Toro; the other had Yaya Han herself, who boldly came out of “retirement” from competing at cons to compete at a con with no professional/ amateur split. The only local group that was able to put together a decent performance was a group of fairies who also dance at the local Renaissance Festival.
Right off the bat they’ve created a situation where, inherently, someone would become peeved to see those attending the convention because they love whatever it is they love, made a costume of it, and chose to compete at their local con be “outclassed” by such famous talent as Yaya Han and Holly Conrad and Jessica Merizan of Crabcat Industries. I want to be clear I’m not knocking those on the show, the “Heroes” if you will. It’s evident they are just as passionate as anyone about their craft and are there because they love it. What I’m criticizing is the show’s decision to bring them into a competition which is so obviously not a major cosplaying competition like the one featured earlier at Anime Matsuri in Houston, TX.
Schley writes, “Planet Comicon gave out approximately $300 in 2012. The show subsidized the approximately $5000 handed out as prizes at Planet Comicon in 2013.” Yaya herself often refers to her coslay as a professional gig, it’s how she earns her living. At the pre-judging for the group costume contest she was clearly miffed the judges wouldn’t check the seams on her stunningly beautiful Queen of Hearts cosplay to ensure the quality of the craftsmanship. Well, of course they aren’t going to look at your seams, Yaya, this simply isn’t as intense or serious of a cosplay competition as you’re used to!
From there, things unfortunately took a turn for the worst. As tempers grew heated, remarks were made between the group of Who cosplayers and Holly, Jessica, and Becky Young, and a situation arose that puts no one in a good light. Schley admits in her post to losing her temper and saying comments she regrets. She also talks about how those running the show – Heroes I mean, not the cosplay competition – wanted to push the drama sparked between them and even offered to hold interviews in their confessional room in order to get their side of the story. Wisely, they declined, but even in their refusal to continue arguing a shot of Schley’s sister dressed as the Third Doctor holding up her hand and saying, “We’re done, here,” was edited and inserted in such a way to appear very aggressive. Reading Schley’s account of the events her sister was simply doing her best to stay non-responsive and calm during the confrontation, but it’s already apparent what a bit of tricky editing can achieve.
Now, I also want to make it clear I don’t want everyone believing the group of Who cosplayers were victimized and the “Heroes” were the arch villains of this piece. Again, the villains are whomever is in charge of the show and makes the decisions of where they go, what they film, etc. I’m not defending their name-calling of Holly, Jessica, and Becky because that was rude. Chloe Dykstra, who didn’t compete in the group contest but won for her awesome cosplay of Gaige from Bordelands 2 in the solo competition, wrote her own response to Schley’s post. She’s pretty terse, but makes good points,
Syfy didn’t tell the Doctor Who girls they needed to cause drama. It happened all by itself because of three things:
- People don’t like things like TV shows invading their small community (understandable).
- People don’t like when the odds are stacked against them in a way that feels unfair (though the cast entirely made their own costumes and paid for almost everything). Either way, they won something.
- Cosplayers tend to tear down their own kind when they feel threatened. All people do. Especially the cosplay community, though, as I’ve noticed A LOT on Tumblr during the airing of this show.
So to those ladies trying to blame their BS on the show: You can’t edit something in that wasn’t said, and the show portrayed you just as you were.
Very true, they couldn’t create the comments said, but they sure could choppily splice it all together to make the scene look all the more uncomfortable. And yes, the Doctor Who group took home $500 and the award for Best Craftsmanship which is awesome and proves at least the judges were taking into consideration the unusual circumstances of this competition. In the end, Yaya, Riki Lecotey, and Monika Lee won Best in Show for their kick-ass American McGee’s Alice group because it was, simply put, AMAZING. But again, these are top notch cosplayers who arrived with a practiced skit, pre-recorded audio, impressive costumes, etc., so of course they were going to wipe the floor with anyone else who entered.
To add a nice ending to this whole debacle, after scanning the comments on Schley’s original post I did note an exchange between her and Jessica where the two agree tempers were flying high that night and both acknowledge there are no hard feelings after the fact. And that’s quite heartening, and only further proves my point that these women, both of the show and of Kansas City, were manipulated into being the heroes or villains of bad situation that need not have occurred in the first place.
Shame on you 51 Minds and SyFy for fabricating needless drama and attempting to cause a rift in the cosplay community all in the pursuit of ratings.