I have a lot of friends who cosplay and a lot more who I’m just peripherally friends with on Facebook – fellow Harley Quinns or just people I’ve connected with at various conventions, so there’s always something going on about Heroes of Cosplay. People who are like “eh, it’s not so bad” and those that absolutely hate everything about it. I have a few friends who aren’t really into costuming or they’re involved vaguely and they send messages that are like “Watching Heroes of Cosplay and thinking of you!!” and so there’s a lot of conflicting perspectives. This is good, it keeps me from becoming exceptionally catty and entitled, but I still have a ton of problems about this show.
So here we go, episode 3.
Let’s start with the basics.
The cosplayers starring in this episode & their costumes:
• Becky: Taffyta Muttonfudge, from Wreck-It-Ralph
• Riki: Betty Page as The Rocketeer, from the comics
• Holly: Laliari & Thermian prop, from Galaxy Quest
• Jessica: Tank Girl, from the comics
The most important things that happened in this episode are:
- Yaya’s getting a professional high-quality doll made in her likeness, and had herself 3D scanned. This was a cool process, except for the 7+ unnecessary boob shots, which is nice and ironic, coming from episode 2 where she shamed Jessica Nigri for using sex appeal to sell her image.
- Becky enlists her roommate Lance to make an actual race car for Taffyta, which he does. In a week. Yep. And then en route to the convention, the airline loses part of it, so they have to scratch the whole prop.
- Riki was very proud of the light-up jetpack that she evidently made, except it definitely had more screen time in her husband’s hands than hers, and she didn’t credit him on stage.
- Holly’s Thermian alien was made in three days out of upholstery foam and liquid latex. She also makes Laliari’s squawking noise quite well.
- Jessica’s convinced her Tank Girl will be great because it’s designed from the comic, not the movie, and she’ll be the “first” to be bald.
- Results: Jessica wins second place and Riki is given a runner-up award.
The repeated themes for this episode are:
- Holly and Jessica are competing by themselves for the first time, against one another instead of as a group, and they’re far from happy about it.
- According to Riki and Becky, the best way to win a competition is to have something BIG or something FLASHY that lights up.
- Yaya, Victoria, and Chloe make mentor-style cameos to spotlight these themes.
The most absurd quotes spoken in this episode, out of context but no more crazy because of it:
- “Now that I have the perfect skin colour, I really wanna find out from Victoria how Emerald City went.” Becky, proving that transitions don’t really have to make sense to be used.
- “I’d like the judges to see the work I put into the rocket pack.” Riki, who must have done something to that rocket pack though viewers never got to see it.
- “When you’re cosplaying, you’re putting yourself out there to be judged.” – Becky, stating the obvious.
- “This competition is better without pants” – one of the many comments on sex appeal.
Things I disliked about this episode:
Ok so I know that with a name like HEROES of Cosplay, I suppose I should assume from the get-go that there’s a level of entitlement to what I’m going to see, but I’d hoped that with the new “changes” going on they’d have dropped the exclusivity aspect of the series. Obviously, there’s only so much they can do with footage they can’t reshoot, but there are definite areas capable of improvement – the narrator, for one; picking and choosing the lines to focus on, for another.
Here’s the big issue: None of the cosplayers appear genuinely EXCITED about their work. They’re excited to win the competition, but that’s the attitude: “I’m going to do this because I have to” not “because I want to.” The whole episode is cut for viewers to feel the pressure building on them to win (don’t get me started on the music), which totally diminishes anything positive about the show. Even in the end, when they’re on stage, the idea is that we should all be chewing our fingernails off in anticipation. Uh. No? Shouldn’t you want your viewers to see that the cast aren’t flat and dimensionless characters but are instead real, breathing humans who get excited about the things they’re doing?
Sometimes I think these kinds of shows are geared towards a lower level of intelligence than the general population, because everything – including the cast – are always so dumbed down that it’s impossible for any actual substance to be showcased. Heroes of Cosplay is no different; you have a cast of very different people and more times than not, they are still quoted speaking their “token” lines for the episode.
Example: I stopped counting at nearly a dozen comments about how difficult it was for Holly and Jessica to have separate costumes and compete against each other. And I’m not counting the times they repeated the footage! They spent more time on screen complaining about not working with each other than anything else, including making their costumes. Yeah, we get it. Every time you have them repeat themselves, it lessens everyone’s sympathy. Also, it’s bad filming. You can convey the difficulty by actually showing them working in their studios, alone and without help. Like figuring out the back panels for Holly’s costume, or how Jessica managed to hold all those foam missiles in place to glue them.
There’s such a huge jump between the steps each person takes for their costume. We don’t even see Holly doing anything with the jumpsuit, and we only get to see Riki cutting out the fabric for the Rocketeer. Why not do a quick montage of what each did, instead of focusing on repeating the same lines over and over again? If I can summarize in five minutes how I assembled a costume, they can too.
I do think there’s some element of dishonesty here, when it comes to the cameras and acting like they’re not really there. These kids aren’t filmed 24/7. It’s not luck that had Chloe show up at Holly’s house to talk to her and Jessica about going solo; it was planned. I would have much more respect for the show if it could just admit to the parameters they’re placing on the characters. For example, suggesting that Holly & Jessica compete on their own. Considering HOW MANY TIMES they mentioned that they hated this, obviously it wasn’t exclusively their idea. There’s no shame in presenting parameters – it’s a tv show! There’s much more shame in making Chloe be the false instigator. Also, you’re fooling no one.
The costumes are still an afterthought to everything else, in my opinion. They’re the setting for which to film drama and people in stressful scenes. You could substitute anything for the costuming – baking a cake, learning to drive, basket-weaving, and it would have had the same effect. All the interesting things I found about the episode were quick summaries of how they did something, instead of filming examples.
And, okay. I don’t care whether you’re Yaya or just starting, I’m sorry. There’s no way everyone makes a totally new costume a week before they’re going to a convention. Every time. There’s a circuit, yeah, and people want to aim to hit them all, sure. But everyone I know plans that stuff. Sometimes a year in advance! And things change and characters change, but the point of it is – they’re making a new costume a week for this tv show.
Galactus (who won in episode 2 at ECCC) is at SDCC every year. That doesn’t make his cosplay any less incredible, as evidenced by the fact he won a competition with it. It probably took him months, and we don’t get to see that craftsmanship, that attention to detail, that effort, because we’re watching our cosplayers hastily throw something together to the best of their abilities in the time allotted to them – which is not how the show is portrayed. I’d have much more respect for it if the presentation was like, “Here’s seven cosplayers. We’ve challeneged them to make 12 new costumes for the following 12 conventions. CAN THEY DO IT?”
Ending on a good note, things I liked about this episode:
This was great. Episode three followed less cosplayers than the first two. This means that immediately, there was less need to rush around and gloss over important costuming features. Not that they really took advantage of that, but it was still noticeable.
There were only four costumes! This meant they were able to make it more about them as individuals instead of the group geared for the competition. They focused more on what I personally wanted to see – the construction and development process, the trial and error not exclusively revolving around meltdown-worthy failures.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still mad about a lot of it. I’d say of the 43 minutes, about 15 were about actually costume assembly, and not drama related to the assembly, or whining about the process. That leaves a lot of free space for the recording of stuff that shouldn’t be as important as the costumes themselves. But it was great to see more focus on each cosplayer because there wasn’t as many of them to keep track of.
Filming in the WORKSHOPS
I was very pleased to see more shots filmed inside cosplayers’ workspaces. There’s still definite room for improvement, but they made an effort to include at least one explanation from each person, about a step they were doing. I do wish they did some quick montages of different steps they completely skipped over (the entire sewing of Holly’s jumpsuit, for example), even if it was silent with a voiceover complaining or talking about whatever. Just something to help the viewers see a solid before & after, so the final presentation of costumes aren’t a complete surprise out of left field.
No Yaya as a Judge
I’m sorry, when you’re filming for a tv show and you know the cast that’s going to be competing, isn’t it just a little bit biased to have one of the cast as a judge, while the others are competing? It didn’t seem fair to the competitors who weren’t followed by cameras and who Yaya didn’t know. Though I do feel she chooses fairly and honestly but it just seems a difficult line to waver and asks for outrage regardless the outcome.
Things I would have liked to see more:
- Riki’s jetpack was modeled and cast before we even saw it on screen – and in her husband’s hands. That’s a major loss, really, especially how focused she was on being a “master craftsman” – yet, we saw her do little more than cut out the fabric for the Rocketeer jacket (and obviously, she made that). It would have been great to see the whole process.
- The patternmaking and assembly for ALL the costumes. This episode focused near exclusively on the “lighty-uppy WOW factor” of cosplay and even then, we still didn’t see much construction on that.
- Less flatness to the characters. I can’t remember seeing Jessica do more than buy fabric and explain how to melt latex – everything she said was complaining about The Holly Separation, and I know she did more than just that.
The structure of the show is just so odd to me. It’s trying to do too much at once. It’s trying to cover multiple conventions and competitions, while ALSO trying to document way too many artists’ process to get to said convention. Either cover a convention and competition per episode, or cover cosplayers making their costumes. Combining the two – when you’re unable to focus on all competitors – comes off as disingenuous and false.
Or, I wish they picked a convention or two – like a big-name costume one like Dragoncon – and then did a few episodes that filmed cosplayers over the course of a few months making one costume in preparation for it. Then, not only do viewers get to see the process people go through and the end result, the cosplayers themselves have a chance to actually showcase what they can do, instead of spending a whole convention season playing catch-up.