The Reality Show Cosplayers Deserve…

…But Not The One They Want Right Now

The other day, I learned that a group of cosplayers had started an online petition to change or get rid of the show “Heroes Of Cosplay.” I actually laughed out loud when I saw this (and startled the cat). These cosplayers were so incensed that the show portrayed cosplayers overdramatically, that they acted out in the most overdramatic way they conveniently could, from the comfort of their own chairs. They are correct, the drama in the show is unrealistic. To accurately portray the so-called cosplay “community,” they would need to increase the drama… dramatically.


I think that cosplayers get caught up in what they WISH a cosplay TV show would be, and fail to notice what the show actually gives us. This is partly because, as cosplayers, we know what it is to be a cosplayer, but forget how the non-cosplay world (most of the viewers of the show) see us. Yaya says that “nerd culture is pop culture,” but geeks are not yet mainstream enough to be the norm. You and I are pretty normal, able to interact socially, we’re in relationships (or have been), we take it for granted that the world sees us as normal. But this is not the case for cosplayers in general.
About a week ago, I saw a TV commercial in which a woman drives a car to a movie theater, sees a bunch of Transformers-like cosplayers outside, and uses her navigation system (or whatever they were selling) to find a different theatre. Because COSPLAYERS ARE WEIRD, so weird that she would rather drive to another theatre than walk past them to see her movie. Or look at the most popular depiction of nerds on TV now, “The Big Bang Theory.” I love the show, but it adheres to some pretty old stereotypes of nerds being socially awkward, unable to interact in society like normal people. Weird.
Now we have a TV show about cosplayers. Cosplayers who are social, who are in relationships, who (aside from making costumes) do things like go bowling, shopping, and partying. In fact, Victoria bowled in college and owns her own bowling ball & shoes. You may not think twice about the fact that “cosplayers do things like normal human beings,” but to the public who views us through the lens of the “nerd stereotype,” this is actually news. Yes, they dress up in costumes, they go to cons, but they are NORMAL PEOPLE.
Take one second to think about how easy it would have been to make a show that makes cosplayers all look like Howard Wolowitz and Raj Koothrappali. Yeah, it would have been really easy, maybe even expected. But the producers made the conscious decision to depict us as human beings, not freaks.
This is just one example of the things the show has given us, that we take for granted.
Here’s another example: Of the top 30 rated cable shows on Tuesday night, do you know how many featured a predominantly female cast? About three. Even in the 21st century, television is centered mostly around male leads. And yet here we have a show that features mostly women. Isn’t that great? NO. It’s NOT great, says the cosplay “community.” We want more men! When is the last time cosplayers started a petition to demand more women on any TV show ever?
How about this: How many TV shows feature a main character who is Asian? Three? Out of the hundreds of shows on the air? Apparently, that is too many for the cosplay “community.”
I could go on, but I think you should try looking at the show yourself, to see what you can find.
Yes, this is a reality show, and it subjects us to the SAME reality show formula that it subjects pawn shop owners and real estate agents and bakers and everyone else to. It treats us like PEOPLE. I know that this particular reality show addresses something near and dear to our hearts. So we would like it to put us on a pedestal, give us privileged treatment like the special snowflakes we seem to think we are. Cosplayers should be depicted as fun and awesome and wonderful, because we are somehow different from jousters or target shooters or ice road truckers. But remember that not depicting us as “weirdos” is better treatment than we geeks usually receive from television.

29 thoughts on “The Reality Show Cosplayers Deserve…

  1. Good points made.

    I think for myself (as you saw from my blog entry) it’s not so much that we want ‘more men’ but more of a balance of men and women on the show. I would hope to see in future episodes more about the work revolving around making these costumes come to life. As I said before, it was only the first episode but there were a few missteps that it took…but hearing how many times this show was edited, re-edited and so forth really makes me wonder how this may go. Thanks again for this perspective and hope to hear from you again soon.

  2. VERY good points!! Some stuff I didn’t really think about the way you did- like yes that a nearly all female cast is practically unheard of- yet female cosplayers I know are complaining like crazy! Also, when you say “but geeks are not yet mainstream enough to be the norm” I totally agree and have been saying this for a while now. As much as I love The Guild’s song “I’m the One That’s Cool”, I disagree. Yes, we have a geeky shows like Big Bang Theory (which you’re right does perpetuate a lot of stereotypes- but I can’t help but love it anyway, haha) but I think it’s more that with the way the internet is now with social networking it’s just SOOOO much easier to find like-minded geeks. I think it’s this new world of networking and news that is giving us an illusion that we’re so accepted now, personally.

  3. I completely agree with what you are saying. I love the show and I hope it sticks around for a really long time. I really enjoy watching how you and the others come up with your designs and make it happen. The competition was heavily featured in the promos before the show aired, but honestly I feel that it shows a good balance of the crafting and the stress that goes on prior to the competition and the competition itself. I don’t know how people don’t already expect drama to be in the show. Not only is that a reality tv show staple, but fellow cosplayers should know that there is always going to be drama when making costumes. I just started cosplaying this year and I have already lost count of how many times I have burst into tears because something went wrong or I didn’t get my costume done on time for a convention. Cosplaying is really only fun after you have seen the fruits of your labor and get to show it off to the world, but can make you want to pull your hair out prior to that. It is all worth it in the end.

    • I think people forget about the drama (or the trauma) that happens when we are making costumes, because the fun we have cosplaying overshadows it. When you think about it, a few weeks of working your butt off is a lot of effort for that one day of convention fun. But it ends up being worth it. That’s a really difficult thing to convey on a reality show.

      • For minfresh:


        Loved your contributions to the show, Jin. I advise the anime club at our college, and it’ll be nice to share and discuss the show, enlightened by your insights into the production.

        Great job on the last episode, by the way. Without spoilers, let’s just say that your use of the death star and the reception thereof were magical. Congrats x2. :-)


          • Love the General Grievous in your FB header image. Is that your design?

            And I concur with Tess Fowler: A “HoC Spinoff: The Adventures of Jinyo” show would kick butt. ;=) Better yet, an ensemble cosplay “how-to” series would be terrific … sort of YouTube meets This Old House, I guess… lol! (Probably would need to be produced by someone other than SwhyFwhy, though… PBS, ideally. Heh. Hey, I can dream!)


          • Ah: As I look closer today, it looks like the FB banner is a screencap from Clone Wars. Still looks cool, and it would be interesting to see you and Victoria tackle that pair of characters. I imagine you’d have fun putting together Grevious’ lighting effects. :=)


  4. Thank you, Jinyo! That is an awesome post and I totally agree. I have no problem with strong, ambitious, and normal geeky women being the stars of my new favorite show. And, of course, I love the guys that are featured (especially you, LOL). I am a wife, mom, and total geek and haven’t ever felt like I fit in anywhere (my friends aren’t geeky enough and just don’t understand my goofiness and fangirling over anything sci-fi/fantasy oriented:-). And honestly, I didn’t know about the cosplay community eventhough I’ve been to cons before. The show has totally opened my eyes and I’m stoked to start cosplaying and meeting new friends that are as goofy and weird as I am.

    • That’s wonderful! I’ve read numerous messages from people who are inspired to cosplay after watching the show. And while I can’t take credit for that, I am glad to have been a tiny part of something that inspires people to try something I love.

  5. Hi, Jinyo! Here’s the thing…

    Despite the other positive aspects of the show, there’s no excuse for the lack of diversity. That does not get a pass just because they’re depicting cosplayers as regular folk. “Just be happy with what you got” is not doing it for me.

    It doesn’t matter to me what specific *night* the show is on. I think that’s a distraction, since we’re talking about diversity. If we want to drop the cosplay aspect and just say, “reality shows featuring predominately female cast”, well, there are lots of those out there. Why anyone is trying to act like this casting is some great feat I definitely cannot understand ,esp. if they’ve been doing cons long enough.
    The “cute/hot/sexy/kickass/badass/whatever girl cosplayer” spotlight is standard in our community. We are not underrepresented, we are not marginalized. We have the stage. So SyFy isn’t doing anything
    groundbreaking by have their entire cast minus one, be cute girls. Not even on Tuesdays.

    I didn’t realize there was such an internet debate raging about it, but the reaction from our cosplay “community” wanting more male players is valid because it’s so obviously needed here, because they are so obviously absent. Not “next time, next season”, but now. They should have done it from the start. Spotlights for both sexes and diverse backgrounds. There was NOTHING stopping them from doing that, other than they didn’t want to.

    • I would love more diversity on the show. And I obviously would like more male cosplayers to be shown. That’s why I insisted on cosplaying in my Puss In Boots outfit, rather than just being a random sewing elf.

      However, you are statistically incorrect about how many TV shows are predominantly female. I welcome you to find a list of TV shows on the air right now, and count how many of them are actually led by women. “Tuesday night” was simply an example. It’s not as though Wednesday through Saturday are “Ladies’ Nights.” The number of predominantly-female TV shows is far outnumbered.

      You say that the “cute/hot/sexy/kickass/badass/whatever girl cosplayer” is standard in the “cosplay community”, and I have no statistical evidence to contradict you, but in my personal experience, this is only true in the ANIME cosplay community. But anime is only one genre of cosplay, as you see on the show. The sci-fi costuming communities, like Star Trek fans, and the 501st, are weighted much more heavily toward men.

      Regardless of whether “cute/hot/sexy/kickass/badass/whatever girl cosplayer” is common, my point is not whether the show pushes boundaries in the “cosplay community.” Rather, it is the boundaries it pushes in the television world. The TV show isn’t made to change the cosplay community, but to entertain and expand the minds of the general population.

      • I said reality shows, specifically. HoC is a reality show, so it falls into that category, and there is always some reality show on (at least every time I glance at a list) that is a female-lead or centered show and is very popular. That’s why I said there are some of those out there. That’s not even counting the talk genre. Then include the popular comedy and drama on cable and in basic primetimes that have female leads or popular stars. I’m not saying that female presence in tv is equal to male presence, of course it isn’t. I’m saying we *are* on tv, we’re not absent, and that’s why I personally couldn’t get excited about this show having all women just for the sake of getting excited about it, as if I’d never seen girls in cast on tv before, because it’s just not true.

        I will agree that anime cosplay does this a lot, but by no means is it the only. All cute cosplaying/costuming girls have the spotlight. For whatever genre they’re doing, anime, manga, cartoons/animated series, comics, gaming, etc… it really doesn’t matter. Yep, your hot Borg chicks, your hot Uhuras, your legion of hot Princess Leia’s lounging around or being led by their sexy hot collar and chain, and hot Jedi chicks, with even hotter sabers and bodypaint, all your hot alien chicks…. Whatever it is, pics will be taken, there will be a sexy cosplay thread up before the con is even over with, maybe with a “Girls of [insert con name here]” title, somewhere. The “Girls of…” posts, threads, features, far outnumber any “Guys of…” feature I have ever seen in all my times of doing cons and reading the internet and watching features about conventions. Could this be because males outnumber females at cons? Sure. I have seen more “ass collections” than I care to ever see again. No, no, I really mean entire photo collections of almost NOTHING but cosplay cleavage and butts. I’m ashamed to say: #1 one was made by someone I actually know #2 I scrolled through the entire thing, just to see if all he really had in there was girls’ parts. It was. He had two cameras, one for cosplay girls, one for everything else. He went around the con for three days doing this. When I saw pics posted online I thought they were his, but nope, some other dude’s. They were all taking pics of the same girls, mostly. I’ve always seen lots of threads like this online after cons, not all were so tasteless as to do just parts, they at least featured the whole person and some actually made attempt to comment on the work put into the costume. Media outlets are not so obvious, as to zoom in on total stranger’s chest and show it on tv like that, but when their segment is “so and so con has come to town” and they show you the cosplay and 4 out of 5 of any shown are “sexy cosplay”, when they are actually surrounded by other costumers and many guys, they are basically doing the exact same thing as my friend with his ass pictures.

        So I get it. I’m a part of it. This is my community, too. That’s the only reason I feel justified saying that their casting of this show was a failure. You cannot call your show “Heroes of Cosplay” and be so very NARROW in your definition of “heroes” that you show to the world, to the general population. If that’s what we’re showing to the general population, no wonder people think wrong ideas about cosplay. A while back, (a long while) I had friends who didn’t even realize that cosplay meant “costumed play of a character”. Not “these weird kids in Japan dress up as their favorite cartoons”. They didn’t realized that *anyone* could cosplay and lots of people did, all over the world, not just in Japan. They’d only gone by what they’d seen in some docu and some photo books about Asian kids, and hadn’t given another thought to the world “cosplay” since. Until they met me and learned that I made costumes.

        Jinyo, I would love to see your cosplay on a regular basis. That’s how we get to see variety! I saw a massively awesome God of War, Hellboy and Assassin’s Creed cosplay once that I would have liked to see the process on, like watching them put their idea together on screen, like on the show. But my chances of seeing anyone on this show do these or any typically male cosplay,are cut dramatically. I love cross-play, but I’m not sure how much these contestants do any of that. And even though anyone can be an one, and there is a female character as well, I’ve only seen two girls cosplay Assassin’s Creed in person. (I want to, and my sister does, too, so I’ll probably end up doing costumes for these, hey more girls!) And no girl doing God of War or Hellboy.

        And since we’re showing cosplayers workout, I wouldn’t have minded seeing the God of War guy hit the gym, because holy damn…

        • I’ll also add, that so far, the lack of diversity is my ONLY complaint about the show. All reality shows have manufactured and real drama, you just have to take that along with everything else, it’s not a big deal. People not in front of a camera can have plenty of drama too, you know that for sure if you know any costumers at all.
          Anything stupid said by cast members, or edited to seem so, will quickly get hatched and killed Twitter/FB/Tumblr, so that’s that also.

          I love costuming, I love cosplayers, and although I’d prefer not to expose our con-going lives to the entire world (hey, these are my babies, I’m protective of it) I love that people are learning about something so very basic and simple: How to be yourself, how to have FUN. For God’s sake, people just don’t have enough fun in their lives. I have little friends, kids, who cosplay, and friends a lot older than me who do as well, and I would have LOVED for SyFy to feature this amazing age range and show the world, look, it doesn’t matter your age, DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, have fun!! You’re an adult, you have the money, you have the resources, you have a secret interest. DON’T keep it a secret, get together with some people, get some help, start making your own costumes, go find a con and get involved, have a good time. So, so simple. Fortunately my younger pals have very understanding, like-minded parents and can cosplay, but what about those kids who don’t. I wouldn’t want someone to tell a 9 year old, “No, you can’t do that, it’s not Halloween yet, that’s weird”, when maybe all they’d have to do is point to the tv and see tons of kids their own age doing cosplay and having a blast and get their parents to help them out. These are all good things.

  6. wow I really love the points you brought up. I didn’t think of some of them.
    I really like the show, despite the amount of people that seem to be so against, I really look forward to watching it. It seems like it’s becoming a pattern that when I watch the show it inspires me to plan for the cosplays I want to make as soon as possible. I find it to be a really fun show. Would be great if people did get so overly dramatic about it and just enjoy it like I do XD

    • There are a lot of people being really vocal about not liking the show, but they represent a very loud but small portion of the potential audience. If you look at the ratings for the show, there were 25% MORE viewers of episode 2 than there were for episode 1. The audience keeps growing, so I think that a lot of people are enjoying the show.

  7. Hey Jinyo, I respect and am blown away by the work you and Victoria do with your costumes, and you make a lot of excellent points, but I do have a few opinions of how this show is going. I’m not a cosplayer myself nor have I ever been a part of the community, but I have plenty of friends who are and seem to be pretty opposed to the portrayal of the show even if they aren’t as vocal about it as the girls you wrote about.

    During the first episode, I appreciated the work and effort that went into most of the costumes, the grief experienced when being unable to finish something on time, and the way that the show didn’t just hand 1st, 2nd, 3rd place prizes to the participants of the show.

    The second episode I saw something, though, that blew my mind and turned me off from the show. I was already getting annoyed with how Yaya puts herself out there and treats others, but when all of the girls and yourself were sitting down to dinner and they were commenting on how fat or ugly people shouldn’t be doing certain cosplays, I wanted to turn the channel off right there because I lost all respect for them. The only redeeming qualities of the show at that point for me were Chloe, who disagreed with the whole table’s view, and Jesse, who clearly has a ton of heart in his work.

    I’m fascinated with all of the work you all put into your costumes and appreciate how hard it must be, but the way the show is portraying you all is making me, as an outsider viewing into the cosplay world, not appreciate some of the best talents out there.

    • For years, Yaya has consistently and repeatedly told people “I support cosplayers of all sizes, shapes, gender, ethnicity, skin color, height, and weight. I will continue to be a positive influence as much as I can, in this community.” She is among the most famous cosplayers in the country, and has been interviewed in print and video many times. You can find her interviews and public speaking all over the internet. She has never wavered from the position that all people, including all body types and ethnicities, should cosplay in any way they like. She said this for years before the show, and she continues to say it now that she is finished shooting the show.

      In that scene, the line Yaya said was, “You have to really look at yourself in the mirror, and know that, if y’know, my boobs are out, I’m going to get shitty comments.

      Riki, who was sitting next to Yaya, mentioned an example of a 300 lb. person cosplaying Superman. Although not as famous as yaya, she has been cosplaying for a long time, and has given numerous public statements. Her message, consistently, is this: “Anyone can Cosplay, but if your 300lbs and cosplaying as superman, be prepared for awful comments on the internet (or anytime you put yourself out there), I hate the idea of someone getting discourage from cosplay because of crappy comments online. If you don’t think it’ll affect you, then go for it!”

      In that scene, she said, “If a 300 lb person wears Superman, and they put themselves out there, and it gets on the ‘net… how is that going to help them?”

      Then Monika said, “A lot of people can’t handle, you know, that criticism.”

      In short, what they are really saying is:
      If you cosplay, pictures of you may end upon the internet, and you should be aware that you may receive insulting comments. If you don’t mind internet comments, then go right ahead. But if internet comments will upset you or damage your self-esteem, then you should take that into consideration.
      No one said anything REMOTELY close to “fat people shouldn’t cosplay.” All they said was, “people are mean on the internet.”

      Personally, here’s what I think:
      - Anyone should cosplay whatever they want.
      - The internet is full of assholes who will say shitty things about you.
      So before you cosplay, decide if that should deter you.

      My self-esteem is pretty high, so I can take a few comments from random strangers. I understand f you come away from this conversation with a general impression that someone said something about fat people, but if you pay attention to the words they actually say, you see that you get this impression mostly because of how the conversation is juxtaposed with Chloe’s interview footage when she says, “you shall not cosplay something if you are overweight!”

      You should keep that in mind as you watch any reality show.

      • I finally saw the second episode this morning. (Funny one of them did a light, girl version of Hellboy after I’d mentioned wanting to see Hellboy on the show!) After all the teeth-gnashing on the net, going after Yaya and the other two, I expected to hear her say what people were saying was said. Never happened. I’d like to say I’m totally surprised that it got so twisted online, but I’m not. With that said, their overall sentiment was one of warning, in this particular case, and not pure encouragement, and maybe that’s what set some people off.

        In any case, I prefer, and love, Chloe’s comments the best. Do what you want, have fun.

        • Thanks for actually paying attention to what was said.
          Next time you watch that scene, enjoy noticing how I am eating almost constantly. Conversation, TV cameras, I don’t care. You put food down in front of me, I’m gonna eat!

          • I don’t even hardly eat at cons! I’m so busy running around, in and out of panels and hotel rooms for changing and stuff. When I finally sit down and eat, like you, I am stuffing my face!

            Congrats big time on that Tron dress, btw!

  8. I have a unique perspective on things here. I posted a statement on my facebook and I thought it was relevant to post here.

    There ARE issues I have with this show. Some are dealing with the fact of Producers not giving Photographers credit or compensation and outright stealing pictures. Other issues I have with the show is HOW it is edited. But the issue one I DON’T have is the people on the show, and the time they invested in this show.

    Four years ago I was in an episode of MTV’s True Life called “True Life: I’m a Fanboy” (I think it’s still on MTV’s website if you want a good laugh.) So I have had the “Reality Show” experience.

    I have noticed that some people have quoted lines one of the people would say in an interview or during a scene, but I can tell you, those quick interviews, yeah, they usually last a couple hours and the only part you see are the parts the producers wanted you to hear.

    I was criticized from my episode of saying the quote “Not too many people more about Power Rangers then I do” DO you know how long it took to get me to say those words? I would say things like “I know plenty of people who know more about Power Rangers” and they would respond with something like “Yeah, but this is about you, and the general public might not know these other people you know” This is something people within the community forget. Although we have interest in the show, WE are NOT the target audience.

    Many of these interviews focused on getting me to say a certain thing. If I trailed on, they would tell me to simplify it, and keep it short. For those who seen the episode, do you know how much it pained me to call Sentai “Power Rangers” because that was the more recognizable term to the public in the US? One of the scenes shows me going to DC to a festival specifically to see Psychic Lover, a Japanese band that has done memorable songs for the Super Sentai Series. They were IN America, so I was going to see them. Yet when I talked about this I had to say ” They do music for Power Rangers”

    I think I may end up doing a video reply on this show at some point in one take to show how things can be when NOT edited. But that’s for another time.

    Finally, despite the editing, I don’t get SyFy’s obsession with showing how when you are competing you CAN’T have fun. It can still be shown while focusing on the “cosplay is HARD” story they present. It seems they show if you are professional, it’s not about fun, it’s serious business. Yeah, I have Two words to say on that, Actually one word, and a hyphenated word: Team Con-Doc. It’s a Doctor Who themed Improv team that has grown to the point where we are starting to get booked as guests for panels. Everybody that knows me knows how I approach Team Con-Doc as a “business” But I ALWAYS have fun at conventions. Here’s the thing though, Having fun, enjoying yourself at a convention, that’s NOT Drama. It’s not marketable TV. This is just how TV works.

    I remember a camera person for my show saying that for the 15 minutes I was going to be in the true life episode, they had to record a MINIMUM of 40-60 hours of material. This is a MINIMUM amount. So there is SO MUCH that is unseen when it comes to these kind of shows. So the material they use has to stick to a theme. Sometimes you end up being influenced without even realizing it.

    Just remember guys, HAVE FUN! Support others new to the community instead of putting up a Titan-Size wall, and remember that you were also “new to this” once. I really believe this is understood by anybody who has been in the cosplay community for a long time. In fact, After my true life episode aired, and even on replays, despite the negative responses I read all over the internet, I still get positive ones. I get facebook messages from people that say “I have been in YOUR situation” and I have a feeling that despite the way it’s presented, “Heroes of Cosplay” will have the same effect.

    Finally, as an insider thing, I really want to know Jinyo, how many times did you have to go through the SAME DOOR multiple times just so the film crew could get you at every angle?

    • Thanks for the comments, Jason! You have some great insighs about the reality show experience. I actually remember seeing that episode way back when it was first on. I remember noticing that you were referring to all Sentai stuff as “Power Rangers, and thinking that they probably made you do it because the term “sentai” wouldn’t make sense to the non-fan audience.

      Thanks for your unique perspective. I think the portrayal of geeks on TV is evolving, and it’s about time.

  9. Great show! Enjoying it very much. Even my daughters (7&4) watch with wrapped attention.

    One thing that people tend to forget is that when it comes to casting a reality show, especially it’s debut season, is that there is not like a full catalog of “characters” to choose from that will represent racial and cultural diversity, a balance of gender roles, genre, hopes, dreams and wishes . To make a show, to make a show WORK, it has to have people who would make good subjects, that want to participate and understand what that -really- means, and who will engage the audience.

  10. Dear Jinyo,
    Let’s get the CHANCE ! The BIG CHANCE ! We got here on SYFY (in USA, i’m in France… so far away but i’d watched the show…viva internet ) about COSPLAY, about comics & video games in the same time ! An original TV series about “Reality” and the same time as a Documentary with people with a passion of cosplay ! People intelligent, clever, creative, artist … and “Sex Appeal” ! ( Please Yaya ! get ouf my body please .. fun. Joke )
    Lucky time ! We are FAR AWAY in France to have such a programm on ANY french channels ! Actually it turn for “youths”, around french people closed on a island, or somewhere in a big house in USA Miami or New York, Los Angeles.. and THEY GOT NOTHING in their Heads NOTHING in their hands ! With the WORST french speak EVER ! I sware Moliere is already dead 100 times easy ! What they do ? just “work” dancing close naked in a Club-house or girls just do “Wash Car”.And.. nothing ! ( that’s why we got the parody of them call “les débiles”- the idiots ) . And to finish, on the line : some tvshows about tv talks about tv ! with extracts from those peoples without nothing in their brains.

    Damned ! What a great show is HEROES OF COSPLAY ! You are all HEROES ! Any of cosplayers ! You as Yaya with her “Sex Appeal” (joke ! she said that word in all episodes )

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