EDIT: After talking with one of the women on the show, I have made some edits to the story. It was brought to my attention that my words came off as mean and hurtful, which was never my intention. If you’ve already read this, please scroll through and read my edits.
Okay, so as I mentioned in my recent article about Wizard World’s Comic Con New Orleans, I went to the costume contest at the con, and Syfy’s Heroes of Cosplay was taping during it – which meant that the stars of the show were competing in the contest, and famed cosplayer Yaya Han was one of the judges.
I watched the whole first season of Heroes of Cosplay, and felt very torn about it. The show was built to be very stressful, with strict timelines on building costumes (eg, sometimes they only had a week to build a new costume), and they highlighted whenever there were trouble or conflicts. But the costumes were cool, and even though they were made to look like assholes, some of the people on the show seemed like nice people that I’d want to geek out with. So, again, torn.
Anyway, once we got there, we were told that they were actually filming two different episodes, one for the single competition and one for groups. The group contest episode is supposed to be the season finale, and I’m not sure where the single competition episode falls, but if they don’t air back-to-back, I’m not sure how that will make sense. I mean they’re at the same con…it’s not really like a whole ‘nother episode. But whatever, I digress.
After standing in line, we got into the theater at around 7pm. The program was supposed to start at 7:15pm and go until 9pm. Thanks to the BILLION cameras that they had to set up and lighting to fiddle with, we didn’t get going until around 8:30ish or later. Oh, and they had this guy (a former pro-wrestler) announcing everything, and over and over again he’d ask the crowd to scream their heads off. One, this was annoying. If we’re here, we’re excited. I understand you have a lot of time to fill while everyone tries to make the show happen, but please, stop wearing me out before the show starts. Two, you just know he kept making us do that so they can use the best take of reactions when they want them!
After much ado, the show finally started. First episode, the singles competition. This part of the show was fun. I enjoyed most of the costumes, and there were some pretty awesome ones! Sure, there were some shitty ones, but hey, I commend anyone who lovingly made something and then had the courage to get up on stage in front of a ton of people and show it off.
One of the things that I liked is that this part of the competition didn’t feel rigged. Any time the judges saw a costume they liked, they would stop the person and ask them a question or two. Sure, when the one guy that I recognized from the show, Jesse, walked on stage, OF COURSE they stopped him and asked him about his costume. And yes, Yaya gushed over it, but in the show’s defense, his shit looked awesome. He was dressed as Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit. And wow, he made each scale in his scalemail armor individually. It looked fantastic!
Jesse won an award, but the best in show award went to the Dalek, who was even more amazing, so that was awesome! And again, it made it feel not rigged at all. I don’t have a lot to complain about with the first taping, besides the fact that it started an hour and a half late.
But now, we move onto the second taping. So there we were…sitting…FOREVER. They had to change the stage, change the cameras, and do costume changes for the judging panel. So the audience who was willing to wait, even though it was already 9:30pm, just sat and sat. For another hour and a half. During which they had just some production assistant come on stage and attempt to entertain us. What the? So at first, he was just talking. And then he said something along the lines of, “So, I don’t know any good jokes. Anyone got a good joke?”
He just turned the mic over to a (probably half-drunk) audience in New Orleans. What the fuck? So the first joke was a real winner. “Why don’t people invite tampons to parties?”
“Because they’re stuck-up bitches.”
Yep. And the crazy thing is, he didn’t stop. He just kept going from person to person, letting them talk. It was horrible. I really wish they would have just let us chat with our friends, because again, if I’ve already waited this long, I’m probably going to stick it out and wait for the contest.
At about 11pm, the group contest FINALLY got going. This time, Yaya was only hosting, not judging. As you can see, she brought her A-game with her costume. She was on stilts, and the costume was amazing – which is probably one of the reasons it took so long for the contest to start. Not only did she have to get into her costume, but they had to film her getting ready!
For the group contest, there were a lot less competitors. Very few were stopped and asked questions, but when the people from the show finished their skit with music (most of the other contestants didn’t have a real skit, and didn’t get to have their own music), the judges gushed over them, as if they were the best things in the whole entire world. I mean, there was a family team of Pyramid Head, Creepy Nurse, and Creepy Child from Silent Hill! They were awesome!! And a family! Adorable! Did they stop them and ask them questions? Nope.
When the Peter Pan group took the stage, made up of Chloe Dykstra, Jessica Merizan, and Holly Conrad, it was like Jesus had walked onto the stage. The judges lost their shit. And you know what, I was not that impressed. While their concept (basically, if you assume that Peter and everyone in the story is dead) was awesome, their execution on all of the costumes wasn’t the best.
Going from best to worst, their Hook was fantastic. It looked really cool. My only qualm was that because there was so much black, it was really hard to make out the details of the costume. It looked like a lot of work went into it, but again, I couldn’t actually see the detail. The Peter Pan costume seemed messy; it looked like it was made well, but there was just way too much going on for me. Now for the worst: Chloe’s costume looked horrible. It was very simple and looked like she picked it up from a thrift store. Very meh.
EDIT: After chatting with Jessica (you can see her comment down below) I realize that my comment about Chloe’s costume, instead of being constructive criticism, which is what I was vying for with my comments, was instead not constructive, and in fact mean. I am sorry for that. What I should have said was, “I’ve seen the costumes that Chloe has made on the show before, and they were amazing. This one looked sub-par for her. It seemed very simple and not like her best work.”
The internet can be a horrible place and a wonderful place, and as a writer, I do not want to contribute to the horrible parts of the internet. I’m thankful that Jessica spoke up and told me how she felt, and I will use this as a learning experience. When I write another opinion piece, I will make sure that my words are not hurtful.
I think what made me angry was how obvious it was that they were totally going to pick the Peter Pan group, not because they made fantastic costumes, but because they were on the show. The judges suddenly perked up and gave glowing praise, making sure they were clearly heard and seen by the cameras. It just felt like such a farce. And all I wanted was to see some costumes!
EDIT: The specific reason that it felt rigged was because by the time we got to the group contest, the taping had gone on much, much longer than the program said it would (I had never been to a taping before, so I had no idea what to expect, and I wish the production crew had been upfront from the beginning about how long it would probably take) so they rushed the majority of the people across the stage. As an audience member, I could feel that rush, and it made me angry. I mean, I’ve already waited a long time to watch this, I’m willing to wait another 15 minutes so that everyone can do their skits and perform with their music. This was the fault of the production staff, not the participants in the show. Also, I want to make it clear, I’m not saying that I think the cosplayers on the show rigged it or would participate in a rigged show, just that because of the actions of the managers of the show, it made it feel like the judges already knew who they were going to give the award to.
All-in-all, I kind of felt like the whole taping process ruined that portion of my night. By no means did it ruin my con experience, which was definitely fun. One of the things that upset me about the whole process was the timing issue. I mean, come on, you’ve filmed a lot of other episodes already, couldn’t you have told me how long it was really going to take? I had plans to go to the official con afterparty at 9pm. If I’d known the contest would have gone on until midnight, at least I would have been prepared. And even though it took five hours, it still felt like the whole filming process was rushed and completely disorganized.
Another thing that struck me is that it’s kind of unfair of this huge show to descend on smaller cons. For them, it’s great, because the assumption is smaller con, less competition, shittier costumes, which isn’t always the case. But I’d love to see them go to San Diego Comic Con and compete. Good luck with that.
EDIT: The comment about them going to San Diego Comic Con is also mean. I realize this comes off as disparaging to the cosplayers on the show, which is not what I want to do. To be clear, I think that the show would never go to San Diego partly because of the scheduling nightmare that would entail, and partially because I’m sure the producers of the show would like to see their contestants win. I’m not saying that they couldn’t win, because Jessica and Holly have in the past, but could they win on costumes that they were forced to make in a narrow filming window? Maybe? Maybe not. But talk about stressful! And if the show is alienating people at cons with their filming, they probably don’t want to take the chance that something goes wrong, and thereby upset and alienate their fan base at one of the biggest nerd conventions on the planet.
And my final thought on the whole experience is that I think it’s completely unfair that Yaya is not only on the show, but is also one of the judges. I mean, really. Maybe during season one they could get away with it, but at this point they all know each other, and they all know they’re on camera together. How can you be a completely impartial judge?
Basically, the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. So if they’re filming at a con you’re going to, go if you want. It’ll definitely be an experience. But be prepared to be there waaay too long and for it to feel at least partially rigged.