Heroes of Cosplay Premiere: America's Next Top Dark Elf
We here at Cultist got into a bit of a scuffle with the New York Post last week when a review of SyFy's Heroes of Cosplay show ended up offending all of cosplay-kind. Last night marked the premiere of the show, so we decided to see for ourselves how the show really represents the cosplay and wider geek community.
Paul Conrad/Syfy Yaya Han, HoC's "queen of cosplay."
The short answer: Inside cliched reality tv tropes and its glossing over some of cosplay's more serious issues, Heroes of Cosplay does give viewers a glimpse inside the cosplay experience.
Right off the bat, the show's narrator talks about the "artistic, sexy, cutthroat" world of cosplay, raising eyebrows and immediately lowering expectations. The focus on showing the competition- and professional-based cosplay side may perhaps justify the expense and passion for viewers new to cosplay, so it might be a good approach to rein in the more mainstream folk. But as a cosplayer, I'm wary - it looks like we'll get less wig-making and more wig-snatching as the season goes on.
Yaya Han, the Queen (or Ambassador, as she prefers) of Cosplay, shows off how she's able to turn cosplaying into a full-time career. She's so popular that she doesn't compete - instead, she's hired to judge cosplay competitions at major events. Other entrepreneurial cosplayers include Jessica and Holly, who've parlayed their cosplay habit into their own custom shop and entertainment channel. Jesse is the only dude on the show, and represents cosplayers who fit cosplay within a more mainstream 9-5 framework (though he does dream of bigger opportunities as a propmaker). There's also Jessica, ever the frenetic perfectionist.
And then there's Becky, a theatrical cosplayer who goes the extra mile by embodying her character's accent, script, and spirit. While the Post review may have run with this and deemed it "weird" or "confused," it actually makes total sense. She's a "theatrical" cosplayer! Of course she's going to want to do research on the character she's embodying (Merida from Disney's Brave, in this case). It doesn't mean she actually thinks she's a Disney princess.
After the introductions, we're taken to the design and construction process. Becky is at the gym, where she briefly touches on an hot-button issue in cosplay - women's literal character embodiment, and what that means for body image and Internet reaction. Sure, the Internet is a cesspool and will attack anyone who dares to exhibit any percentage of body fat that's not a boob, but I would say the focus needs to be on the way in which female characters are created with impossible body types in the first place.