4) Yaya Han as Ambassador
Now, on the one hand, creating a show called Heroes of Cosplay and neglecting to either mention or include someone like Yaya Han - who has been cosplaying in a notable capacity since before my time as a convention goer - would've been disingenuous at best, ignorant at worst. On the other hand, making her a focal point of the entire show - an "Ambassador of Cosplay," in her own words - is just as ignorant and disingenuous.
Like I mentioned before, Yaya Han is lucky in that she is one of the very, very few people who can cosplay for a legitimate profession. That makes her both an invaluable resource for something like this, and also, a skewed, warped image compared to the rest of the people in the spotlight. Yaya Han is the green fairy; the culmination of both body and skill that most cosplayers can't necessarily achieve; merely because they're into cosplay just to have fun and hang out.
But there's a major problem. In episode 2, Yaya has some lightly harsh words against her cosplayer-in-arms Jessica Nigri, because of her predilection for low-cut, revealing outfits. To her, quote, "The content that Jessica Nigri puts out, really displays cosplay in the wrong light." Uh, okay. You're both being paid a living wage to put on skimpy, dorky outfits at conventions. That makes you a hypocrite at worst, and patronizing at best.
(And now, a brief aside about Yaya Han's breast implants: I'm of the opinion that if all of us are supposed to be cool and supportive of a woman's choice of appearance - namely, ANY sort of image they want - any woman who wants to get breast implants should be treated with the same amount of respect, because that's their choice and we're supposed to be reasoned adults who don't care about this shit. If you're a pro cosplayer and you want bigger boobs, well, that's her call - and from the looks of things, it's paid off. So let's not be crass.)
While Yaya Han has certainly earned her place as a cosplay aficionado, and I certainly understand why she is chosen and paid by various companies to dress up as their characters, she was not appointed as any sort of "Ambassador of Cosplay" by some senior cosplay authority. She doesn't speak for cosplay as a whole any more than I do. And the funny thing is, I don't think she'd disagree with that statement. I'm sure she's a rational adult that realizes what she does is unique to her own standing, and that cosplay is a much bigger phenomenon than herself.
The problem is - according to Heroes of Cosplay, she is. The producers of the show, lacking any sort of coherent guidance, merely latched on to whatever person of cosplay fame they could find. (It should be noted that Jessica Nigri was contacted to be a regular part of the show, but declined.)
In other words, the list of "notable cosplay professionals" is pretty slim, and while in a certain sense it's ideal that they cast Yaya Han in the lead, it sort of ruins the illusion that the other cosplayers are competing for some sort of fame or glory. Hey, that brings me to my next point!
3) Masquerades Are Pointless
Back when I was writing for a major anime site, when it came time for convention season and the various events that needed coverage, there was always one major point of contention for all of us; who had to be the one stuck covering the masquerade.
"Ughh" was usually our reaction.
Here's the problem with the masquerades at cons: they're loud, obnoxious, and they're COMPLETELY unfair to the concept of competing for actual cosplay "quality." They're dumb loud noisy affairs for us nerds to cheer and boo and hoot and holler at people all dressed up, performing lousy skits that are rife with in-jokes. And the judges are always just some Guest of Honor they wrangled who had a free evening; former Power Rangers, voice actors, comic book artists. Definitely not experienced cosplayers, costume designers, or anyone with any spectacular technical insight.
Rather, the person or persons who "win" the masquerade are typically those who put on a big silly costume that whips the crowd in a tizzy; the judges feel that rush of energy from the bombastic audience, and reward the cosplayer in question with a prize, maybe some free DVDs and other swag, and that's it.
Most of the best cosplayers I know have never, ever "competed" in a masquerade, because they're a farce. They're a fun farce, but still a farce. Impressing the former Green Ranger with your gothic lolita Princess Leia is one thing, but it's a far cry from the professional scrutiny SyFy gives the contestants on Face Off.
The convention organizers recognize this, and that's why - 90 percent of the time - masquerades don't offer anything like a cash prize. Now, call this a hunch, but I find it very, very odd that of the three cons so far in each episode - the next one reportedly features Anime Matsuri in Houston - none of the cons ever offered cash prizes for their cosplay contests, until they were featured on Heroes of Cosplay There's nothing inherently shady about forking over money to a convention to offer a cash prize, but if that's really going on, it shows how incredibly stupid the producers are, unless they go the whole nine yards and bribe the judges too - because they're going to vote however they want, usually for the audience favorite, the Heroes of Cosplay cast wins nothing, and the producers are out a thousand bucks. Whoops.
And that leads me to the big huge I-don't-understand-this problem plaguing this show.
2) The Producers Have No Real Concept of the "Story" of the Show
On paper, I can see the pitch meeting for Heroes of Cosplay going swimmingly.
"Y'know, at these conventions, there's all these guys and gals in costumes, right? Some of them are really good, and really competitive with each other! I'll bet we could do like what we did with Face Off, where we pick some folks who are really into this stuff, show 'em off, and we got another hit! And they already compete at these conventions, right? Cool! We don't need to waste money renting a studio and hiring judges! Sweet!"
That's a solid pitch, but it's completely inaccurate. The "competitive cosplay" community isn't looking for Best In Show trophies; they're looking for page clicks, Facebook likes, and all that social media pizzazz. Jessica Nigri, for instance, is a cosplay superstar, but not because she won any awards at the conventions themselves. But she did win something much more important - an Internet contest, sponsored by IGN, for a promotional gig for the video game Lollipop Chainsaw. THAT'S the competitive side of cosplay; the battle for mindshare, visibility, and promotional gigs. Winning a Best In Show trophy means diddly squat if your victory gets trumped by a guy in a giant Totoro costume getting on the front page of IGN or whatever.
Of course, that side of cosplaying - actual competitive cosplaying, on the Internets and Facebooks and Twitters - is inherently unfilmable. Oh, also, there's the copyright infringement. That, more than anything, shows how completely un-researched this whole endeavor has been on SyFy's part. How a major fuckup that bad happened on any television network, with reams of lawyers at their disposal, is completely insane.
And yeah, I know "it's reality TV dude, what did you expect?" Reality TV shows, even the scummiest ones, typically have a much better, more thought-out approach to their subject. They have an idea, at the basest level, of what their story is. Heroes of Cosplay just shot a lot of material of these people and hoped and prayed that they'd have something in the editing room.
What they came up with kind of works, I guess, but not as a show about cosplay.
And that's leaving out my biggest, gnarliest complaint of all:
1) STOP ABUSING THE ANIME EXPO 2013 B-ROLL
SERIOUSLY GUYS, KNOCK IT OFF. YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN GEORGIA, OR SEATTLE. Besides, I was there first.