16:00 - 23rd November 2013, by Mary-Ann Russon


About 15 years after cosplay first hit the UK (generally thought to be in 1997 or 1998), the world is finally starting to take notice. Cosplay has been featured more and more frequently in the mainstream British media over the last two years, and is now the subject of a new series on the Syfy cable channel, called Heroes of Cosplay.

The six-episode documentary series features several well-known American cosplayers such as Yaya Han, as well as Jessica Merizan and Holly Conrad from popular website Nerdist, following them as they attend comic cons and fan conventions in the US.

But TV programmes and magazines aren't the only way to gain fame as a cosplayer - and it's not enough to just attend conventions. As we've previously covered in NEO, cosplayers who have talent in sewing, crafting, prop design, stage makeup, singing and acting are now using their skills to start businesses - all made possible due to the advent of social media.

So what do cosplayers think about how they are portrayed in the media?
"Generally, we're seen as being a little bit weird by the media, but they seem to accept that people are interested by the weird and the wonderful, and continue to write articles about us. Unfortunately, there are not many articles or documentaries that seem to show cosplay for what it really is," says Kelly Jane, who has been cosplaying for six years and has completed 40 costumes.

J-Ney Antique (Manticore EX Cosplay), who has also been cosplaying for six years and has completed 20 costumes, agrees.

"We're now viewed by the media as an emerging culture. Big Brother angered the British public when they recruited 'weird' and 'wacky' characters to their show in 2012, so they're more careful in how they portray us, but they still lack research. Coverage of cosplayers should be done with dignity, respect, and with honest intent not to make the subjects feel misrepresented," he stresses.

Both J-Ney and Kelly Jane have mixed reactions to the new Heroes of Cosplay TV series.

"It's a reality TV show that is made to get ratings. Just like any reality show, it's not realistic in its portrayal of cosplay and convention scenes," says Kelly Jane. "There were comments made by the Executive Producer saying that male costumes are 'simpler' compared to female ones, which to me shows he really didn't research the hobby well enough at all."

J-Ney's view is more positive, but feels that the show is a good example of how the media needs to change its coverage of cosplayers. "[The show has] done well to portray the heavy action of competitive cosplay, but it's based on the American scene," he told us.

The media's coverage of cosplayers might not be perfect, and while we can't do anything about that, we do have the ability to present ourselves in a more accurate, creative and interesting way online.

(Photo: Amonkira from Mass Effect 2. Credit: Photo © Suet Yee So "Pez".)

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