Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fandom as Identity: A Few Thoughts

Anime and Manga fans are a passionate lot, we make cosplay of our favorite characters, write fan fiction, write reviews and critique of Anime and Manga we watch and engage in discussions about them with other fans. But is this an identity? First some other questions need to be asked and answered such as "are you allowing this to be your only defining characteristic in lieu of real personality?" "Does you're identification with something become way too personal?" In that you are taking any criticism of you're favorite series as a personal affront these are the dangers of making Anime fandom you're sole identity. Other problems can include the inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality which taken to it's logical extreme is pathological and delusional, such as the person who wants to "marry" their Wifu. Or thinks that it's their right to inflict themselves on others, these are simply problems with Fandom as identity. I see nothing wrong with identifying strongly with a character or series good Art and fiction is supposed to allow us to see what it's like to be a different person or have experiences we wouldn't otherwise. Two series that show this sort of identification for me are Watamote and Neon Genesis Evangelion, I feel a strong sympathy for both Tomoko and Shinji, that being said if some on criticizes Evangelion because they feel it's philosophically bankrupt or because the second half seems incomprehensible those people are entitled to their point of view. Where I as a fan of that series get irritated is when people criticize it simply because they find Shinji "whiny" or "Emo" and it's used as some way to make themselves feel like the "big man" alpha male type. It's a lazy reductionist view point that also doesn't take into account the seriousness of mental illness in Shinji's life as he's pretty much got depression and I wouldn't get as mad except for the fact that depression is something I as well have struggled with for years. Also the "Stiff upper lip" mentality accomplishes nothing except causing men to withdraw deeper into a skewed and in some ways sinful misappropriation of masculinity and manhood. That's an aside though, fandom as identity isn't harmful in it's self it only becomes harmful when it is allowed to be used as a way to overcompensate for you're own personal short comings. Or it's taken out of a grossly stereotypical and quasi-racist appropriation of Japanese Otaku culture, this second one is seen in the people who proclaim themselves "Otaku" without having any knowledge of the term's origin or assume that Japan is some sort of mystical romanticized "other" which frankly reeks of orientalist thinking. Or out of some reason for those that are privileged due to race or class, want to feel like they also are somehow one of the "other" because they like Naruto or Bleach, it's nothing more than a self-serving martyr complex couched in "identity politics." Reading Manga and watching Anime does not make you a persecuted minority like African-Americans, Women, the mentally ill or the developmentally disabled (among others). You are a consumer of a product people who consume Royal Crown Cola over Pepsi and Coca-Cola, are not a victimized group nor are for the most part those who read Manga and watch Anime. While there are examples of "persecution" these are the exception not the rule, and while I don't want to blame the victim sometimes it is very much the person's fault if you go out of you're way to make a spectacle of yourself don't be surprised when others hold you up for ridicule because you decided to be "up front" about it. From personal experience I find it's less non fans that are the most mean as they will mostly look at you're interests with a kind of bemused bewilderment or gamely try to hear you out or just not get it and give up, it's the fans that perpetuate the "true" fan vs. Casual fan falsehood or fans that feel by tarring down what you like so they can feel better or casting moral aspersions on you for liking something. Now yes there are some truly reprehensible things in Anime and Manga Angel Cop is grossly Anti-Semitic, and the amount of incest fetish material is legion, things like these need to be called out for being bad non-art in short go after the medium and the message behind it not the consumer who enjoys these things as they are as much a victim of being sold a false concept of entertainment and sexuality. However one does not go around making assumptions about why someone likes something a personal example I can share is I'm a big Strike Witches fan and there is a lot of Fan Service in the series. But I tend to enjoy it for the character interaction and the overall story line. I'd bring this up or it would get brought up in forums and I'd say I'm a fan and people would make the automatic assumption I was a Lolicon and cut me off and not let me explain myself. I've said it once and I said again if fandom is going to survive it needs to be willing to have open, frank, and honest communication instead of condemnatory sermonizing, in conclusion taking on Anime fandom as an part of you're identity is fine just don't let it become the only thing that defines you.
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