Friday, September 20, 2013

Heroes of Cosplay the Continuation!

Last night my podcast cohort Amber and I got together with Joey and Matt, along with Jordan of CosCast from the Nerd Reactor to talk about Heroes of Cosplay and what will happen now that the show is over.

Between the five of us we have either met or interviewed or to some extent know as friends all of the cast members on the show. Because of this, we have a better idea of who these people really are when the cameras are turned off. And for some, their personalities did come through, and others did not: a lot of it thanks to the strain of having the cameras always there. (That myth of reality television: “Oh, you will forget the cameras after a while” is very much a myth. You will always know and be aware of its presence.) Joey pointed out that their interview with Holly from Crabcat showed a different person on the air versus off. Not different bad, but that she was aware of the fact that “hey, this is a show, I need to be professional and not a dork.” And Holly is a great person to hang with outside of the con scene. It’s the same thing that actors and actresses do for press junkets. They put on a face meant for the public and come off as the glittering star that they are, before going home and crashing into their normal lives for a few minutes. It’s what audiences expect.

What I can say is that Holly and Jessica with their short bickering matches is very much what they do. But they make up 5 seconds later. That’s the nature of their friendship that SyFy didn’t capture as well as I would have liked. It looked more volatile on television then it really was. And now that I’ve met Chloe, she is sweet and bubbly and very much about the “everyone can cosplay” route that we all tote. So while she has the acting and camera experience, she’s also very natural when she’s in the spotlight. A lot of what you saw with her, was really her. With Yaya Han, I know a number of people were turned off by her attitude. I don’t know her personally, but I’ve met her a few times, talked with her, and even judged a contest with her. She has the type of personality where she can be abrasive, but it’s never done with the intent to hurt. She says things in hopes that people will improve on their craft because she knows that they can do better. I’ve seen her make suggestions to contestants and would speak about them in the same manor behind the scenes as she did in person. Her life is revolved around cosplay because it’s her business. That’s great! Glad that she found something that she loves to do and can make a living from it. So yes, she’s going to talk a lot about cosplay and little else. There’s nothing wrong with it. So I can understand why some people may not like her personality. She’s been kind to me and taught me a lot. I don’t idolize her, but I respect her for what she has been able to do for the hobby and for herself. She’s a regular person just like everyone else, and coming from that angle makes her much more approachable.

Something Joey and I both touched on was the “reality” aspect of the show. Both of us having camera operator backgrounds and have worked in some form of a TV setting, we understand what’s going through the production team’s minds when they see the footage. They want to craft a story around the moments that show the most intensity. A lot of those involve the groups and couples while at a convention. It’s what people want to see, so the “reality” of the show is going to be questionable. HoC focuses on a small sub-sect of cosplaying: contests where yes, bitch moments and cattiness can happen.

Reality television isn’t about the normal and mundane. It’s about exploring the sub-sets of our culture and bring something new to the lives of the viewers. Duck Dynasty probably opened up a lot of eyes to an unknown world where people made millions off of those duck calls. But even in that situation, there are stories crafted from the footage to make the people, situations, and life more unique. HoC is no different from any other reality show in that aspect. If you were looking for a more accurate portrayal of cosplay, this is just a very, minor, section of the hobby, not the whole. Documentary style is not welcomed in reality television.

And this is where I decided to rate the show from two perspectives: one as a filmmaker and one as a cosplayer. The filmmaker in me give the show a 7. It’s a good base and did some things a little differently from other reality shows, such as providing more context on  why people do this hobby, and some glances (all-be-it very brief) into how these costumes are made. But it wasn’t ground breaking. The should would have been so much better if they made it more like a competition such as King of the Nerds or Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Joey came up with a fantastic idea of giving people a weekly theme or a prop and say “You have 4 days to do this however you want, go.” Because we know that, similar to Project Runway or any of those cooking shows, people are going to take the challenge and come up with different ways to complete the task. Yes, it would be another contest type of reality, but it has much more potential.

The concept reminds me of a fashion show that I believe was on Bravo for only 2 seasons. The concept was to take 3 fledging designers and give them 2 days to make an outfit based around a theme. Their work would be judged in front of an esteemed panel in the industry, and the winner would receive a cash prize, and a chance to return to the final round for a larger prize. There were 6 challenges and 6 finalists for one grand finish. Imagine that with cosplayers. It would be very easy to pull in a wide variety of talent as contestants that could allow the show to endure past a season (Project Runway is still going because of the focus on the creative aspects, with the occasional drama, not the other way around.)

The other suggestion that we could all agree with was to have more emphasis on the construction and the material discussion. A lot of what happened was “here is A and now it’s C, but we didn’t show you B on how A got to C.” So much great information was left on the cutting room floor. Argh! But, understandable. Again, filmmaker response. It’s not interesting enough to capture the attention of the average Joe. Or if they had done more of the stuff like “let’s show you archery to help get into character” that would have satisfied both spectrums of the viewers (cosplayers and the general audience).

As a cosplayer, I give the show a 4. The drama that you saw…okay that does happen. I have been a victim and an unfortunate witness of it. The last episode irked me to no end and drummed up some unpleasant memories. But the low rating is not because I didn’t enjoy the show, but because of the reasons that I listed from my filmmaker perspective. So much of what cosplay is about was not shown. Too many repeats of one convention (AnimeExpo) in the B-roll footage and not enough of real cosplayers. We missed the crafting, the joy of being in a costume, and just having silly ass fun being with friends while wearing pointy ears.

And yes it did have entertaining moments, in the way that America’s Next Top Model makes me giggle: because I’m amused for all of the wrong reasons. The things that I dislike about the show and said “that is not cosplay” also made me laugh. Because it was so over the top in the faked editing (Riki describing her Betty Paige Rockateer costume to judges was cut to show Riki faltering and appearing to blank out after expressing concern earlier in the show: however footage online from the same con shows Riki being completely fluid and flawless when talking to them-some of those vidoes have been removed after a request by SyFy. Lame), and the forced drama that I had to laugh. HoC became a guilty pleasure. You love to watch it because of the wrong reasons.

It’s a show. It was created to entertain. And I’ll bump that rating up to a 5 if it can help encourage one more person to try cosplaying. It will have served a greater purpose.

Another aspect that was discussed, and Matt really took the lead on this one, were words supposedly taken out of context. Here’s the thing, whether they were in context or not, you still said them and a tv crew captured it. You can’t take back those words. You can apologize and admit that you were wrong, but there is no do-over to be had. And it’s difficult to misconstrue “a 300lb person shouldn’t be Superman.” So all of this damage control that some of the cosplayers have been doing seems a bit trite. But we get it. With Yaya, this is her lifestyle. If this causes her to lose a few sales, that’s money she is potentially losing. I get it. For the rest of us, is it really that big of a deal? It was said. Was it right? Of course not. But the best way to respond to it is to say: “You know what? I was wrong to have said it, but I said it. I have learned from it and will be a better person because of it.” And more on.

And now we move on to the almost unanimous favorite “Hero” of the show: Chole. I added in Becky as a very close second. (Though we all want Jinyo to be the star. It's Jinyo! He needs his own show.) Why? Because they seemed the most “real.” I loved watching them when they were on the stage. The pure joy in Chole’s eyes when she went upon stage in her Lydia (Beetlejuice) costume made me smile. “That’s what cosplay is about,” I remember typing out to Amber while we were IMing each other during the show. And then Joey went and busted the bubble by pointing out that those two had acting experience. Chole is the host of JustCos on The Nerdist (which may be doing another season? I’m not sure). It’s possible that they were acting for the cameras. I know, shocking. Some people will act on a realty show? Who’d a thunk it!

Okay, so I don’t have people yelling at me, I’m not stating for a fact that people were acting on the show. It’s always a possibility. Having been behind a camera for over a decade, I have seen how people react when they are faced with a camera. No matter how “natural” you want someone to be, they still feel the need to do something, anything, to grab your attention. Most of the time, it’s entirely subconscious. Which is why I can’t really state with 100% certainty that people were acting on HoC. Having met Chloe briefly, she acts very comfortable with herself both on and off camera. So Chole is pretty much Chloe. I’m taking the positive route and believe that they, Chloe and Becky, were the most like their real selves on camera. So yea for real cosplayers just having fun!

Will there be a second season? It’s difficult to ascertain. There haven’t been any signs on the SyFy channel for open or closed casting calls, though there are rumors and they were spotted at DragonCon 2013 taking over portions of the hotel. Raitings the show has done decently. The finale fell to #26 in the raitings for Cable shows from #21 last week. It’s close to that 1 million viewer mark, but not quite. It was competing against a number of new seasons and season finales on USA and TNT. But for a cable network, getting just shy of a million during prime-time hour on network shows is pretty good. And cable tv numbers are always smaller then network shows. It’s about what King of the Nerds averaged, and that show was green-lighted for a second season. So we’ll see what happens.

You can watch the joint podcast here:

Part 2 because the Google servers crashed. We were apparently too amazing for them to handle:


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