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Heroes of Cosplay: Some Concerns

Here’s a hilarious article by Linda Stasi at NY Post about the new show Heroes of Cosplay by SyFy.  A quote that basically sums up her reaction:

It’s not enough to go to a costume store and rent a Demon Hunter outfit? I mean, seriously. Renting is so last decade!

[…]

The weird thing, (well, all of it is weird), is that these folks really want to be the fictional characters they portray.

I’d almost encourage you to NOT click on the link above, since I’m sure Ms. Stasi gets paid by the pageview and thus wrote this inflammatory article about the new show ‘Heroes of Cosplay’, which is produced by SyFy and will start airing next Tuesday.

The article typifies the mainstream reaction to the cosplay hobby: a bunch of teens and adults playing dress-up, living in a world of make-believe, and making poor budget choices by spending ‘millions of [collective] dollars’ on materials.  As a wise friend of mine pointed out on Twitter: wouldn’t it be great if we talked about every money-wasting hobby the same way? ‘he spent hundreds of dollars on basketball tickets!’ Nobody would blink an eye at that, but spending money on producing a costume?  Wow, what a weirdo.

You can almost hear the groan Ms. Stasi gave when she was assigned to review this TV show.  ’You mean I have to write a 750 word article about a bunch of nerds making costumes?  Ugh.  Maybe I’ll just fast-forward to the good parts and google ‘cosplay’.’ I’m not surprised (though I am deeply upset by) the article itself.

But the article is written not in response to the hobby in general, but to the show Heroes of Cosplay.  So let’s talk about that.

I’m always very wary of reality TV shows about niche hobbies - especially ones that do not, for the most part, either offset costs by being an investment/winning prizes or outright make the hobbyist money.  They tend to heavily focus on what STRANGE PEOPLE these hobbyists are.  They encourage us to point fingers, laugh, and feel a bit better about ourselves because hey!  We might have problems, but at least we aren’t spending our whole rent budget on a costume!  Right?  Right?  Hahaha!

Additionally, reality TV shows are fueled by drama.  That’s what keeps the ratings flowing; people want to see other people be horrible to one another.  It’s cathartic; it gives the viewer two different emotional ‘highs’: (1) You have somebody/something to get righteously angry at, which gives your body an actual hormonal high in response to re-affirming your rightness and goodness, and (2) again, it makes you feel better about yourself.  At least you’re not a huge jerk like these jokers on reality TV.  At least you don’t get hysterical about finishing a costume for a competition that won’t matter in a few months.  At least you, the viewer, are a better person than the subjects of the show you’ve tuned into.

Therefore, reality TV as a whole trades on real life drama.  Yaexrae writes about an experience that was likely with the SyFy filmers here, which only reaffirms my worries that Heroes of Cosplay is written to be about small people worrying about small things, footage cut to make the cosplayers look even more ridiculous, and encourage viewers to shake their heads and sigh at the silly people in the show.

It doesn’t help that previous experiences with mainstream coverage rarely do a better job than reality television.

Maybe SyFy will prove me wrong.  Maybe this show will be respectful and interesting.  But I very much doubt it - not with a show that encourages the apathetic viewer to write the horrendous review linked at the beginning of this post.

To those of you looking forward to the show, I just encourage you to take it with a grain of salt and not be surprised if the final result is less than satisfactory.  I’ll be waiting to see if it’s worth my viewing time.