Zeroes of Cosplay

The new Syfy series Heroes of Cosplay isn’t for everyone. If you’re not into science fiction/fantasy, gaming, crafting, dressing up in costumes or just general fun and goofiness, this show definitely isn’t for you. It’s especially not for you if you prefer to watch people treating others kindly and being all around good folks.

For anyone who’s been living under a rock: The show follows several cosplayers as they create and model costumes based on geek pop culture. These costumes are displayed at “cons”, conventions of like-minded folks who get together for a few days of fun centered around said geek pop culture.

Except for some of these folks, it’s anything but fun. I’m sure there’s a good bit of reality show editing done to show us folks at their worst, because hey, that’s what we watch reality television for, right? But there’s no getting around that some of the things said are just plain ugly. Some of these people treat their significant others as just so much slave labor. Friends are a convenience, to be given up as soon as their aesthetic or craftsmanship doesn’t match your own. I started watching this show to learn more about cosplaying, expecting to find people enjoying the process of creation and self-expression. Instead, it’s a toxic mess of hypercompetitive, dysfunctional personalities who are hard at work sucking the fun out of cosplay.

Let’s give kudos to those who deserve them, first of all. There’s Jessica and Holly, who I love like the long lost daughters I never had. I can easily picture hanging out with them, playing video games, talking about our favorite movies, and practicing effects makeup techniques. Seriously, call me, you guys. I’m rarely in Cali, but we’ll make it work. I’ll bring some killer munchies and we’ll geek out, as long as you don’t mind that I’m an Old. Likewise, Chloe Dykstra, who was honestly taken aback when a group of the ‘players indulged in body shaming others. (Apparently, if you’re not shaped like a fitness model with ginormous fake boobs, then you’re not allowed to cosplay. No, it’s not my rule, just what I gathered from the conversation shown.) Chloe is all about the joy of being with like-minded people in a costume you had fun (there’s that word again!) putting together and enjoy wearing.

And there’s Jesse, the only male cosplayer featured on the show. Jesse has amazing fabrication skills, and puts together some very cool costumes. Personally, I can do without the steampunk, but I can appreciate that he obviously puts a lot of thought and effort into his gear. So far he’s been bewildered that he hasn’t won anything, but he comes across as a decent guy.

The rest of the cast? Mostly, just ugh. Where to begin? How about that no matter what position their significant others inhabit in their sphere, they treat them like full-on slave laborers. We’ve seen husbands, boyfriends, even roommates berated and abused for issues they had nothing to do with. Being a powerful woman doesn’t mean you get to walk all over your man and make him your personal drudge! It doesn’t mean you get to shriek at him like a harpy when something doesn’t go right, either. Respect goes both ways, and we sure don’t see a lot of it extended to the male counterparts of the women on this show.

Respect for others seems to be a problem all around. Monika, my most unfavorite, seems to think her mother is there simply to get in the way, and talks to her like the most spoiled of brats. Monika also tells a friend and fellow cosplayer that she’s not good enough for Monika to consider doing any kind of team costume with her, in just about those terms. Victoria acts like Jinyo is her very own sweatshop employee, isn’t at all contrite when she makes more work for him because of her bad choices, and isn’t gracious enough to give him credit when asked if she made all of her costume (Spoiler: He made just about the whole damn dress). A panel judge whose name I missed mocks competitors for losing/forgetting the number they were assigned. Yaya, the imperious queen bee of the group, always has a snarky comment about someone’s work or ability. Riki blames her husband for a badly molded costume component.

They come across badly. Really badly. And the show doesn’t make cosplaying seem like fun because of it. If it’s meant to inspire people to get involved in cosplaying, then I’m not sure it’s going to be successful. The feeling is that unless your outfit is completely 100% handmade by you and “authentic” (whatever that means in the context of fictional characters and stories!) you shouldn’t even bother to show up. What the show is, however, is a good example of how badly competition can mess up a good thing. I mean, what’s a person’s feelings worth against the possibility of WINNING?!

I’m willing to hope that the major problems are with the show itself, and not with the individuals it follows. Apparently Syfy has had problems with using still photography of some of the cosplayers without approval from or credit given to the photographers. Here’s hoping that’s indicative of a larger problem with the show, and that all these people are just badly portrayed as horrible, because I’d hate to think that a culture I’m so fond of is welcoming of this particular kind of horribleness.

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