Anyone who has been to any kind of convention or geek gathering in the last 10 years has seen Cosplayers. Cosplay began as literally Costume Play, a subculture for people to express their love of a particular character, story or franchise. Cosplay has now begun it’s march into the mainstream. Thanks in part to the rise of Comic-Con and other events.
Cosplay is just part of the fun that goes on at Conventions. But it is becoming a larger and larger part of the Con going experience. It is a win/win scenario for everyone. The Costumers themselves get to create and share their creations while helping to bring that same thing to life for the con goers. How much more fun is a Star Wars Convention when Darth Vader can be seen roaming the halls?
But now Cosplay and Costuming is taking on a new life with the Syfy channel’s new show Heroes of Cosplay. Syfy has had a fairly good track record with it’s reality programming, especially with the very popular Face Off. While that show does have all the hallmarks of a reality competition show, it also showcases the skill of the competitors. They are not given any kind of ridiculous or silly challenges, all of their challenges are ones that could be potentially dealt with on set and in the actual world of movie and stage productions.
Syfy announced that they were filming a reality show on Cosplayers and that it would air the same night as Face Off, I know I was assuming that they would approach the subject matter in a similar way. However, what we have is more in line with the manufactured drama of the Real Housewives. Not enough attention is paid to the time and creative efforts that are spent on creating these costumes, and barely any time is spent on why any particular costume is chosen.
In place of anything that would show us how or why someone would want to spend all this time and effort in creating something as complicated as most costumes, we get everyone obsessing over Costume Contests at various Conventions across the country.
I do understand why the producers used the framework of the various Conventions, because it gives the story a sense of drama and urgency. But, the time at the various Conventions we see more of each “characters” hotel room than the Con floor. I say characters, because it’s painfully obvious that story lines and drama were cooked up in the editing room or by producers just off camera.
I think what bothers me the most about this show is that is the focus on the Costume Contest as being this gateway to a career in modeling, acting or costume design and the focus is taken away from the creative and fun aspect.
Repeated ad nauseum on the show is “I hope I can win this contest so I can do this for a living.” I have found myself literally yelling at the TV “You are doing it wrong!”
A wise man once said, “If you want to be a writer, then you need to write.” This is true of any professional career that you may want, whether it be writing, acting, painting or costume design. Want to be a costume designer? Start working with local stage productions and theater companies, find indie filmmakers and start creating with them. Want to be a prop fabricator? Start fabricating, take commissions, post up what you have done, what skills you have to the larger world, get your name out there. Stop focusing on a silly Costume Contest to make your dreams come true.
The show is it what it is, hopefully people will do their research and look into the thousands of blogs, podcasts, websites and social media discussions surrounding the show to discover what really goes in the Cosplay world.
Personally, I would call myself an amateur Costumer. I have a high quality Stormtrooper costume and I’m a part of the 501st Legion, a worldwide costuming organization covering the “bad guys” of Star Wars. Now I’m starting to expand and improve my skills. I have several different projects in various stages of completion. Some are merely off the shelf clothes with a few tweaked accessories, whereas others are full one of a kind creations.
It saddens me that the Syfy show doesn’t cover so many other aspects of the Cosplay world. The main one being the fun aspect. Cosplay is just that, play. It’s a ton of fun. It’s exhausting, but it’s so much fun. It’s a true labour of love. I know for myself personally, I love seeing the little kids faces just light up as the see these characters come to life. You can really feel like a Rock Star at times.
In addition to the fun that we all have at these events, the TV producers failed to show the community aspect. Every Cosplay group I’ve been a part of has always been a very supportive group that wants to help others succeed to do their very best. Instead, the TV show has the people backbiting and talking bad about each other. Now, that’s not to say drama doesn’t happen. It’s going to happen in any group, but the amount of drama is massively outweighed by the positive.
The best advice I can give to anyone who is interested in Cosplay, whether they were inspired by this show or not, is to go out and get involved in the community. Talk to people in your area, explore the different Cosplay groups online. Go talk to people at Cons, the 501st and other similar groups almost always have tables at Cons for just that reason.
I am hoping that shows like this will continue, but will stop trying to focusing on manufactured drama and cooked plots to instead focus on the truly creative people and great communities that exist out there.