Last night marked the premier of the Heroes of Cosplay series on Syfy. The series profiles 9 prominent cosplayers and the stresses of competing in cosplay competitions at conventions across the country. Online cosplay communities have been voicing a lot of concern regarding the series, as they worry a major TV network like Syfy won’t do the community justice on the big screen.
Nerd culture has become one of the new cool things, and it just so happens that cosplay is one of the most visual and elegant subsets of nerd culture. It makes sense that a major network would try their hand at it at some point. Syfy’s choice to narrow their focus on competition makes sense, as they needed to give the show a more tangible plot that creates weekly highs and lows amongst characters as they compete.
Perhaps it would be helpful to think of the differences between doing an entire series about Cosplay vs. doing something like True Life: The World of Cosplay. MTV can get away with a less-dramatized, more documentary-styled approach because they only need to fill a single 45 minute episode. Syfy has to fill an entire series, and that series has to have a plot, which its supported by the hot drama on each episode.
We decided to take a look at the good and the bad of Syfy’s newest series.
The main characters lost in the end. I liked that none of the main characters took home the grand prize at the end of the episode. The two D&D characters won best duo, but no one else on the show even made it to the top 3. It’s nice to have some reassurance that the show isn’t completely scripted.
The tone. The first episode had a tone that seemed supportive and investigative of the cosplay subculture. The characters are played up to add drama into the episodes, but the overall message was the complete opposite of the garbage we’ve heard from mainstream critics like Linda Stasi. We can applaud Syfy for avoiding the use of the judgmental “well isn’t this weird” mentality in this series.
There was a side of realism. One character was forced to buy the horns she needed for her cosplay because she didn’t have enough time to complete the hand crafted set she had originally planned for. Another one of the cosplayers didn’t even make it to the competition because she couldn’t sew the remaining pieces of her dress together fast enough. Both scenarios represent real concerns when cosplaying; the show amplifies cosplay stress by adding the deadline of a competition, but still seems to represent the very real stress that comes along with cosplaying.
The editing. You can tell SyFy ran out of juicy drama, so they had to take some liberties by editing sentences together from different cuts. If you couldn’t tell, go back and watch the episode again; pay attention to when they use those quick cuts to distract you ;).
Imbalance of the sexes. Of the nine main characters featured in the series, there is only 1 guy. Its not surprising that Syfy chose to feature female cosplayers, as they tend to fit in to a dramatized reality series much better than men in a lot of cases. It would have been nice to see more male cosplayers and the array of challenges they face.
Its very dramatized. The scene when the Merida was upset about her weight seem a little over the top (and in bad taste, in my humble opinion). Victoria drinking too much the night before the con instead of working on her unfinished costume seemed like unnecessary drama. It’s safe to say the personalities they chose to portray don’t come close to representing your average cosplayers.
At the end of the day, the main characters in this series are still amazing cosplayers. They do amazing work and really bring their characters to life. Heroes of Cosplay may be a mainstream attempt to cash in on cosplay, and it may not paint the most accurate picture of the community at large, but I think it still portrays cosplay in a overall positive light.
The general takeaway for the people that hadn’t heard of cosplay before seeing it on Syfy is probably something positive, perhaps along the lines of: “wow those costumes are pretty cool.” Viewers can still appreciate and admire the effort that goes into cosplaying, despite Syfy’s dramatized TV presentation.
Overall Syfy’s latest series creates more awareness and appreciation for the art form that is cosplay, despite their narrow focus on a handful of competitive cosplayers.