Counting Down!

As of this writing, Heroes Of Cosplay will premiere in less than a month. Production has been shooting B-roll at Anime Expo a couple of weeks ago, and some final bits of shooting have taken place this past weekend. There is a lot that goes into making a TV show, and I don’t envy the crew. Especially now that the release of the show has been moved up two weeks, from August 27 to August 13!

There has been quite a bit of “buzz” about Heroes Of Cosplay within the “cosplay community.” Reactions range from excitement to dread. It is encouraging to see cosplayers express excitement that their beloved hobby will be showcased in such a public way.

Some cosplayers and fans are also excited to see some of their favorite cosplayers on TV. That is what comes of having such well-known individuals from their various fandoms, together on a TV show. Yaya, of course, has a huge international fan base among cosplayers, especially the anime fans. Riki is known for the stunning quality of her comic-book-inspired costumes. Victoria is a fixture within the Star Wars costuming community for her representations of fan favorite characters from beyond the movies, such as literary heroine Jaina Solo and animated Jedi Ahsoka Tano. Holly and Jessica gained well-deserved notoriety among video game cosplayers after being featured in Morgan Spurlock’s Comic-Con documentary. Monika, our youngest cast member, has a huge fan base. Even Chloe, our least-experienced cosplayer, is well-known in the US Doctor Who fandom.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are cosplayers and enthusiasts who are concerned about how the show will depict the hobby. I think this is a valid concern. After all, reality television is not the most reliable medium for depicting a subculture. Not all Italian Americans are happy about the Jersey Shore. Real housewives find the Real Housewives shows altogether unreal. And look at what shows like Joe Millionaire and Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire have done to the venerable art of golddigging.

On the other hand, some reality shows have enabled viewers to appreciate the skill of professions they had previously ignored. Ace Of Cakes gave us pastry artisans for whom fondant is a carefully controlled substance. Pawn Stars depicts pawnbrokers as insightful historians. And Girls Next Door showed us that you don’t have to be born rich to live in a mansion.

I’m hoping that the show gives us something that is more Ace Of Cosplay and not Real Cosplayers Of LA. The final result will probably be somewhere in between.

It is inevitable that some cosplayers will be disappointed by the show. There will always be someone’s favorite cosplayer left out of the cast. Although there has been an effort to recruit a cast of real, legitimate cosplayers who are known as such, some cosplayers wish the show had been cast with unknowns, not “popular” cosplayers, and some cosplayers wish the show had been cast with inexperienced cosplayers whose journey of they could follow. Some cosplayers complain that the cast is too attractive, and not reflective of the broad range of looks and body types found in America and throughout fandom. This seems like a complaint that could be more legitimately leveled against the media in general, not just this TV show.

A complaint of some anime fans in particular is the gender and racial makeup of the main cast. In anime/manga/Japanophile cosplay, women outnumber men, and white and Asian cosplayers are represented in number. (Note that this demography is not the same through other types of cosplay, such as science fiction, comic book, pirate, etc.) Some anime fans complain of the lack of male, black, and Latino cast members. In US television programming, it is unusual for a show to feature female leads, and Asian characters are exceedingly rare. Some would see a victory in the casting of Heroes Of Cosplay. But some anime fans don’t see it that way.

Would Syfy have spent a bunch of money to produce a cosplay show about a racially-mixed bunch of average-looking, inexperienced, unknown cosplayers? I could speculate, but I really don’t know. Would it have been a better show? Again, I don’t know. First, I still don’t know yet how good our show is. Second, it’s not as if there aren’t some bad reality shows on TV starring average-looking, unknown incompetents of all races.

Right now, I know two things for sure about this show:  1: It features real cosplayers, not actors or fakes, who worked their asses off to make their own costumes for the show. There was no crew of helpers to make the costumes. The only help we got was sometimes a crew member would pick us up from the airport when we went to a convention.  2: The show could have been a lot worse.

As someone who has been part of the journey of this show nearly since its inception three years ago, my reaction is informed by the knowledge of the many missteps that have been avoided in the making of this show, the choices that could have gone worse, the shows that could have been. I know how the TV industry works, and however good or bad the show ends up being, I know how much worse it could have been.

The production company, 51 Minds, didn’t dream up this show. In a way, it fell into their laps. And while the producers really didn’t know much about cosplay or the convention scene when they first signed onto the project, they tried to understand. I think they will come away from the project with an appreciation for the hobby. They might not have been cosplayers, but a lot of them are genuine geeks. I had conversations about Evangelion with D, talked comics with M. From Larissa down to Joe, there wasn’t a single member of the crew who didn’t bust ass to do a good job. So that could have been a lot worse too.

A month from now, I will have answers to a lot of my questions. But for now, I’m excited, nervous, concerned, stressed, curious, and relieved. This leg of the journey has been quite a trip. I look forward to the next.

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