Today’s guest author is Stan who is Editor-In-Chief of Plastic Ronins (FB Link), a website dedicated to reporting news related to American and Japanese geek cultures like action figures and Tokusatsu series. He has also been cosplaying for 9-years, mostly within California convention scenes. He wanted to give us his thoughts on Heroes of Cosplay.
(Proof-read by Scarlet Rhapsody)
With sigh of relief, I am glad to see Heroes of Cosplay wrap up and hopefully never come back to TV or on the internet. Deb and I have expressed our disgust towards this show, as many other cosplayers have over the past 6 weeks. What was supposed to be a fine showcase of cosplay as a hobby turned out to be a fabricated drama full of horrid character stereotypes and hypocritical messages that goes against everything cosplay stands for. Not surprisingly, the show has left an interesting end result within cosplay community during its 6 episodes run.
The obvious result we see over the internet is the division within the community. I recall Yaya posting on her twitter about how community should stick together, and shy away from separating people by tiers. During and after the HoC’s run, there have been social media posts all over the internet about how much people dislike the show for its inaccurate portrayal of cosplay community, as well as the show’s over-the-top focus on the cosplayers as some kind of models. On the flip-side, contestant’s facebook page would be mostly filled with encouraging messages towards them, with some people agreeing that the show portrays cosplay community realistically well. I have seen several heated exchanges over the legitimacy of Heroes of Cosplay, including back-and-forth posts between one of the contestants and her now ex-friend. Is this really what Yaya had in mind when she practically sold out the cosplay community for her 15 minutes on television? Fellow fans fighting over her project? Does she even care what happens nowadays? Who knows. But there have been signs in which they contradict her twitter post above.
The separation also created shift in perception, more specifically how people perceive ‘famous cosplayers’. To most cosplayer fans, the contestants’ actions were non-issue. One of them could beat her boyfriend down on TV and her fans might brush it off and say ‘OMG, he deserved it!’, because they’re so enamored with this illusion of glamor. For the cosplayers that enjoy this hobby and don’t care about fame and fanboys, the behaviors displayed in HoC were embarrassing. Not only that, various social media users posted Syfy tampering with convention masquerades they have recorded, which have caused anger from people within the cosplay community. These reactions resulted in half-hearted PR clean-up by the show’s contestants that would make any professional publicists facepalm. Yaya would deny the accusation of kicking out cosplayers from public photoshoot area at Dragon Con, citing it as ‘a rumor’. Meanwhile, Chloe replied to Doctor Who group of the last episode, in which they had exchange stemming from Syfy’s intervention with masquerade. While Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc conedmned these posts, as a show contestant, Chloe showed a lack of professionalism calling out the Whovians. Chloe’s ego and pride took any precedence over any tact or professionalism. Whereas Yaya showed lack of maturity and PR skills to crisis manage the Dragon Con issue.
Now people will look at these cosplayers with weary eyes and distrust. Not only them, but to other ‘famous cosplayers’ to a certain extent, due to ‘guilty by association’. Imagine if you’re a person that’s new to the concept of cosplay community, and you see Yaya talking about how number of facebook followers matters and people should only cosplay according to their body type. You also find Victoria to be a horrible girlfriend, and wonder what Jinyo sees in her. Then you see Becky claiming to be ‘method-cosplayer’, and CrabCat Industries bickering over mundane things. Given how these people make themselves appear to be important figures in cosplay community, it’s most likely that the next question in the viewers’ mind is ‘Are all famous cosplayers this crazy?’. After Yaya verbally bashes Jessica Nigri in episode 2, some people may have searched the internet looking for Nigri’s info. They’ll find out about her fame, but they will also come across Masamune photography watermark incident and her snarky replies on facebook if they dig deeper. Naturally people will remember the negative far more than positive, therefore the egotistical image of cosplay fame can easily affect people beyond Nigri and Yaya.
With these rising disdain, people are slowly but surely reacting against these types of cosplayers. Even before Heroes of Cosplay, people are beginning to get jaded over the concept of cosplay fame. This is especially apparent after the abomination that is Liz Katz’s Sexy Princess Peach project, as well as disappointing preliminary shots from The Wild Places by Anna Fischer. Project: Cosplayers Unite is a crowd-source project that incorporates 18 well-known cosplayers into calendars and SGC (Sexy Girl Cosplay) Magazines. Despite being promoted by various geek-related media outlets, it failed to meet its goal. The project has been under fire during its funding duration for its unrealistic financial goal, as well as the blatant cosplayer promotion scheme that has little to do with uniting the cosplay community. Now, after what people saw from HoC, I would not be surprised if many cosplayers will not be inclined to support these folks from this point and on.
So with all this divided fandom and image tarnishing aftermath, does that mean cosplay as we know it is over?
Not at all.
If anything, cosplayers have become more perceptive while still maintaining the bond that they have forged over the years of this wonderful hobby. Cosplayers have been turning towards projects that represents cosplay in a more realistic sense, such as Cosplay In America by Ejen Chung. While his project may have come down to the wire in meeting his goal, his success shows that people want reality over vanity. In addition, a gentle soul has started ‘REAL Heroes of Cosplay‘ facebook page, where it features cosplayers that contributes to the community in more meaningful way. Cosplay groups such as East Coast & West Coast Avengers and 501st Legion volunteer at children’s hospital, brightening up kids’ day and make them smile. These people don’t care about receiving proper recognition from fandom, nor do they use sex appeal to make any kind of statements.
Also, in terms of community as a whole, most cosplayers will still support each other. They don’t care about whether cosplayer’s famous or not, and they sure as hell don’t care about other people’s body types. They will come to a cosplay gathering, spark a conversation about their fandom, and simply be the dorks that they are. Cosplayers will still help out with cosplay exhibition event at a certain local event despite the distance and cold 7PM beach breeze weather. They have utmost respect for the cosplay couple that organized it. They could care less about their facebook page likes count. Most of all, we do all of these because we love cosplay as a hobby, not as a business.
It’s a shame that Heroes of Cosplay had to exist. This train-wreck of a TV show dropped a bomb that created shockwave throughout the cosplay culture. As if perception towards cosplay isn’t bad enough already, this show added insult to the injury. However, every adversity comes with silver-lining underneath, and this show didn’t do enough damage to the core of this hobby. People will still cosplay, cosplayers will still love one another, and convention will still be brimming with happy shenanigans. Only now, the tolerance towards ego and fame-hungry parasites will be at its lowest, as hobbyist cosplayers have had enough of the vanity-driven view of cosplay.
As the saying goes, ‘What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger’.
And this community will only get stronger from this point on.