We Remember Love Editorial Folio Vol. 3: Meditations on Fandom

the way of the fan

While some writers of anime blog content may profess to write using the voice of a critic, a filter for quality, I consciously do not do so. I write consciously and purposefully using the voice of a fan. I have a bias for the subject as a whole, and appeal to fellow fans of anime and manga.

Late 2009 saw a militant attempt to cull the fandom in the name of authenticity. A group of self-proclaimed otaku accused the broader fandom not only of grossly misappropriating the word, but causing much harm in doing so in the misinformed and incorrect practice of blogging their hobby.

The attempt drew a lot of attention, albeit fizzling out unceremoniously leaving the status quo comically intact. Despite this, many of the bloggers who paid notice to the inflammatory activities may have reflected more on the nature of their hobby and how this figures in their identity. While some reflect on the impact of growing older on the hobby, others take on specific aspects of being a fan, and how fans respond to the media they love.

[Click on the images to go to the linked articles]

identity and fandom

Moritheil takes note of quite an insightful discussion by Jonathan Gray, on why fans hate things. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally for me, as my usual response to something I dislike is to ignore and stop caring about it. Some people seem to enjoy actively hating certain works, and those related to them.

Moritheil takes the position (to agree with the discussion he refers to) that identity is quite a factor. I will attempt to illustrate:

X show signifies xy, but I am not xy, I am Q. I must not be identified to like show X, to accomplish this I shall display aggressive hatred towards it and dismissiveness toward its fans.

This issue is of much interest to me, and I have written about it at length even as I was starting out as an anime blogger.

blurring the distinction between masculine and feminine

Identity issues are very much the business of gender. As a male viewer, I still am conscious when I am watching material that is “for girls” though I don’t have a big problem acknowledging my taste for them (e.g. Revolutionary Girl Utena). Yumeka explores this issue after a stint as an “anime enrichment teacher” at her local YMCA. How interesting a gig that was!

The American children that took part of the class were still young enough to exhibit the formula above (as I imagine them):

[Sailor Moon] signifies [“girlyness”], but I am not [a girl], I am [a boy, and a manly boy]. I must not be identified to like [Sailor Moon], to accomplish this I shall display aggressive hatred towards it and dismissiveness toward its fans (girls).

Yumeka notes that in recent times (at least), there is more interest among males in shows about girls, doing girly things. There’s more to this I think, since the girl element in the shows mentioned (K-ON!, Clannad) are there precisely to appeal to males. Still, I do know as an 8-year old I watched Macross and would have nothing to do with anything like K-ON!. My tastes are maturing?

interpretative strategies in three distinct flavors

Still somehow related to identity, liking and hating some works, is Pontifus’ deft distinctions between the methods by which viewers and readers interpret the works they consume. I really suggest that all of you read this post and find yourself among the three strategies presented.

I think much of the noise and pointless conflict in discussions about anime and manga (among other things) can be significantly reduced once more fans understand each other and how they approach the things they consume.

self-insert characters & the idol-fan relationship

I didn’t expect K-ON!! to suddenly turn self-examining and point the spotlight on the fans that make it so popular. Even I underestimate it so grossly that this level of intelligence somehow isn’t supposed to manifest. I’m glad 21stcenturydigitalboy took note and then some. He wrote a very insightful look into how the 7th episode of this series lovingly parodied otaku and their behavior.

Because Mio is the fanclub’s Absolute Goddess, she can do no wrong whatsoever – after all, her being herself is exactly why they are all obsessed, so anything in the range of her character is exactly what they want. See: when Mio is giving her opening speech and keeps biting her tongue.

This observation may be even more telling than even digiboy intended. For many fans of the show, it is what it is, and any kind of analysis (even mine) is superfluous.

the language of desire

What is beyond consumption? Collection? Interaction with the makers of the work? Sharing with a community? There’s a fan activity that accomplishes just about all of the above: the crafting of fan fiction. Strictly speaking, it’s not something that I’ve done or am into (the farthest I’ve gone was in the service of a blog post), but Itsubun spent her early adolescence immersing herself in its world. She writes,

Fan fiction is a medium that allows the fan-author to alter, develop, deconstruct, or subvert a plastic world that was once perfectly packaged in order to facilitate their own desires, dreams, and dynamic understanding of that world, thereby challenging the technophobic myth of the consumer passively absorbing any media that is presented to them. The very existence of fan fiction is proof that we are not merely victims of media and technology, but we are capable of channeling our own creative energies through an active engagement with the fantasy that is being sold to us.

If she puts it that way, what’s stopping us from making our own?

I think there’s much more fun in fandom than pursuing “X show signifies xy, but I am not xy, I am Q. I must not be identified to like show X, to accomplish this I shall display aggressive hatred towards it and dismissiveness toward its fans.” I’m all for diversity and variety, and it’s part of such openness that I can imagine how some people can really like works that I personally find abominable.

More often than not, those people will also like things that I like to. This is always where I want to start.

[Vol. 2]

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
This entry was posted in we remember love editorial folio and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to We Remember Love Editorial Folio Vol. 3: Meditations on Fandom

  1. Looks like I have some homework. I’m intested in reading most of these posts, maybe most of all the one about gender identity. As for the formula presented above, I think as (probably at my core) a mecha fan that this applies pretty well to Gundam. Its metaverse is so large, spanning almost 4 decdes, that fans can be separated by age and the specific universes series occur in. Just as there may be a level snobbishness and segregation among fans of different eras in sports or entertainment.

    The example relating to me: “ZZ Gundam or SEED Destiny Gundam show signifies a blind UC fanboy/a fan with poor taste, but I am not a blind UC or SEED fanboy/a fan with poor taste, I am mecha fan with excellent taste/someone who cares more about quality of narritive than quality of model kit. I must not be identified to like show SEED Destiny, to accomplish this I shall display aggressive hatred towards it and dismissiveness toward its fans.”

    I like to think I’ve started to outgrow that phase. The phase where I’m a combative anime fan, degrading people’s choice in a forum or a blog. Though I’ll freely admit I still have slight physical reaction (snarl, sneer, a twitch) when someone tells me or I read that they enjoy a show a deplore. I want to ask myself, “I’m growing as a fan, right?”

    • Yes, you nailed it. Those are definitely some of the versions of the madness that goes on in the Gundam fandom as a whole.

      Now the thing isn’t that you shouldn’t feel that way when you do, the important thing is to get over yourself and figure out what’s really important to you in the pursuit of this hobby.

      If lording your ‘good’ taste and trashing others is in fact an important part of your being a fan, then at least own up to it so we can all choose to ignore you. There will be others who enjoy showing up people like you and you can just all get a room or a space colony.

  2. Salinea says:

    Oh God, I hate those stuff. I hate those stuff and I know they influence me as well, depending on the context I’m in, and the people I talk to. I really hate especially how gender segregated anime fandom is. The way the girls are on this side doing their stuff; and the boys are on their side doing their stuff; and they don’t talk to one another because COOTIES or whatever. I remember when I reviewed Spice and Wolf saying I liked it and more than 3 or 4 of my female friends went all “O_o but I thought this was one of those icky moe anime for fanboys” and I felt so defensive about explaining that it was good and didn’t even have a lot of fanservice. *sighs* And of course that works in reverse when I talk about “girly” (especially BL) anime in an audience which includes guys, I feel all self-conscious.

    I’d like to think I’m honest enough to just, like what I like when I like an anime, regardless of the guilty feeling I might get when I don’t like what it says about me that I do. I’m still watching House of the Dead at this point, and I very much don’t like what it says about me, and I don’t really like it, though I appear to enjoy watching it enough.

    Amusingly enough the Utena fandom has always been the one anime fandom I know with a lot of male and female fans together, talking and writing fics together. I dunno, maybe it’s because it’s good at throwing as much yuri and yaoi bait together as well as being overall very intelligent.

    And I hate the discussions about what’s really fandom and who’s an authentic fan. I love watching (the base of fandom!), sharing squees, collection of facts, criticising (even negatively) and interpretating, and I love fanficcing and all the other kinds of creative fanworks… all of those are fandom.

    • For me, culture is flat, and really isn’t the province of guilt anymore, I’m more interested in exploring the guilt in some other aspects of pleasure.

      Regarding the “authentic” fan, I shudder. I have my own ideas on what being a fan really is, but I realize that it’s pretty extreme and each fandom would probably benefit from a scale or something that doesn’t measure authenticity, but rather intensity.

      A rough draft for Macross (from least intense to most intense):

      7. Watched either SDF Macross or Macross Frontier. Liked it enough to recommend it to others, purchase some merchandise/use desktop wallpapers/ring tones, etc. but not interested enough to see the rest of the franchise.

      6. Have seen at least two shows and like them a lot, manifest some of the behaviors above, but not as interested to complete the franchise.

      5(b). Watched Macross 7 and hated it.

      5(a). Watched Macross 7 and loved it.

      4. Completed the canon, reads manga when translated, collects images and related illustrations. Listens regularly to the OSTs.

      3. Completed the canon, reads manga when translated, collects images and related illustrations. Listens regularly to the OSTs; and favors the franchise as a whole over other things s/he likes, even if s/he acknowledges them to be superior in some (or many ways).

      2. Completed the canon, has seen Lovers Again, reads manga when translated, collects images and related illustrations. Listens regularly to the OSTs; and favors the franchise as a whole over other things s/he likes, even if s/he acknowledges them to be superior in some (or many ways). Expresses love for Macross through various expressions (which may include blogging, fanfiction, participating in collective fan activities, creating self-made fan peripherals). This is me.

      1. Does all the above, and makes it a point to visit Japan to watch concerts, buy original merchandise, participate in fan activities involving first-generation fans. Has photos of himself/herself with Kawamori, Kanno, Itano,, Ishiguro and/or Mikimoto.

      Again, this is very rough and unrefined, but I wanted to present an alternative to the authentic/inauthentic fan binary.

      • Salinea says:

        For me, culture is flat, and really isn’t the province of guilt anymore, I’m more interested in exploring the guilt in some other aspects of pleasure.
        Actually if I understand you, I think it’s the same as my feeling of guilt : the one that comes from watching shows that are exploitative, of morally wrong things; not the ones that are just “bad” in term of not being high art.
        My problem with Highschool of the Dead, for example, isn’t that it’s a trashy show (though it is), it’s that it’s misogynistic in a way tailor made to appeal and vindicate to feeling of frustrations in the audience in a way I have moral issues with.

        I don’t think making a scale like that, of intensity or authenticity, really help the issue of “authentic fan”. The things is, in fandom dynamics; such a thing usually is used in order to attack a person, by claiming they don’t have the authority to make whatever claim they do, because they aren’t a “true” fan. However all claims should be judged by the value of the claim itself, not by ad hominem arguments. It’s also used in order to work hierarchies within fan communities; pulling one’s weight around and boosting one’s ego. I mostly see negative sides to that >_>;

        • Yes, ad hominem arguments invalidate themselves. Also, appeals to authority are problematic as well, especially regarding some matters of opinion.

          First, fans are already biased for their pet shows. We will relate differently to our pet shows than other people do. There is an intensity to our manner of liking; “fanaticism” perhaps sums it up well.

          Societies — and yes, fan communities are habitats for domination by “alpha” fans. Part of my avoidance of internet forums is precisely regarding this. Forums are programmed to have rankings and status. Besides, I want to spread the love for Macross and make new fans, and not dominate those who already like it.

  3. moritheil says:

    This is basically the same as hipsterism – to like or dislike X not because one actually has such opinions naturally, but rather, because one is self-conscious about what it means to like or dislike X.

  4. Baka-Raptor says:

    I think much of the noise and pointless conflict in discussions about anime and manga (among other things) can be significantly reduced once more fans understand each other and how they approach the things they consume.

    Be careful what you wish for. Understanding doesn’t always breed tolerance. “The more you know” could equal “the more you hate.” You’d could end up sadder but wiser. Is it worth the price?

    my usual response to something I dislike is to ignore and stop caring about it

    What’s it gonna be? Are you for ignorance or understanding? Can’t have both.

    • It’s no guarantee, but it can be. And it really doesn’t cost me that much to attempt to see things from others’ points of view.

      I would choose understanding knowing that there are people who would hate precisely because they are certain of what they hate. Now, given that this is about hobbies and not politics or warfare, I need not be offended or be a victim of such hate. Unless, that the matter of hating cultural units is exaggerated into a real hatred for those who like such and there is actual committed effort to bully or harass me or other fans. Is this common? I doubt it.

      Disclaimer: I don’t regularly frequent forums so it’s easier for me to remain ignorant of such extreme cases should they happen.

      • Baka-Raptor says:

        Understanding should cost you if you’re serious. Anyone can drop a show after a few episodes and say, “I understand that different people have different tastes. This show just isn’t for me.” That kind of superficial rationalization doesn’t qualify as understanding. If you really want to understand why other people like something you don’t like, you need to get down and dirty. The more you dislike it, the dirtier you need to get.

        To discuss a show meaningfully, you need to watch enough of it to develop a meaningful opinion. Then when you’re discussing the show, you need to reflect on all the parts of the show you didn’t like and try, often repeatedly, to see them through the other person’s eyes. This can be very painful. Think Poo-tan from Cromartie High School.

        I want to like everything I watch, but I don’t try to like everything I watch. I believe it’s the show’s job to make me like it. When I actively try to like a show I instinctively disliked, I more often than not end up disliking the show even more. When I dwell on it to try to understand it, I end up hating it. I do come away with some understanding and appreciation, but it doesn’t make me happy.

        • coburn says:

          Terrific comment, and I’m looking forward to the reply.

        • Anyone who drops a show and tell themselves I understand that different people have different tastes. This show just isn’t for me,” won’t be the haters who say “X show signifies xy, but I am not xy, I am Q. I must not be identified to like show X, to accomplish this I shall display aggressive hatred towards it and dismissiveness toward its fans.”

          They will not be able to discuss the show very well, only talk about how the show they dropped reminded them of the others they finished and disliked — but then again, the hater doesn’t necessarily provide meaningful opinion anyway since their positions are so rooted in protecting their self-image and/or discrediting others; hence my lack of interest in flame wars. In the end they’re not really about the subject up for “discussion.”

          As for the cost of understanding, it costs effort and time and more than just giving the benefit of the doubt. It took me several posts to “get” your site. I had to get Maddox to begin with. But, the benefit of the doubt is a good place to start and I got to a place where I can value your post as much for the humor and stylistic effort even when I disagree with your opinion about a show.

          Do I get to be an expert with regards to your disliking Evangelion or your mild recommendation of Macross DYRL? Probably not, but the posts to a degree entertained me, enough to remind me when I agree with what you say I am far more entertained with your humor. But I don’t think this is superficial, and I don’t think this is a costly effort as well.

          If someone drops LotGH, or Slam Dunk after 3 episodes and dislikes it, the most likely reason is a dislike for the genre and it will show in the opinion expressed if honest. The rhetoric will reflect some understanding at least of the “kind of show” LotGH is, but not for the show itself. Is this a person who we should seriously attempt discussion with in the first place?

          I want to like everything I watch, but I don’t try to watch everything. I believe it’s my job to fill my time with shows I will end up liking. I don’t consider it my job to write about every show I watch.

          But what this discussion is showing me is that the thing to understand in the context of arguing over shows or books is less about the actual subject but is more about understanding each other.

        • gwern says:

          > “You have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.”

          _Major Barbara_, George Bernard Shaw

  5. Emperor J says:

    I can’t say I’ve ever really hated something as much as some people, nor can I say I’ve really loved anything I’ve watched completely unconditionally. From this perspective it’s easier to find understanding with arguments for or against certain shows, but on the other hand it’s really hard to be part of fandom at all without very much emotional stake in anything. As I see it, the leap to aggressive hatred has nothing to do with the subject in hand, but more about what the person’s perception of someone who would like it is. As something is more mainstream, that hatred is a reaction against society itself.

    On Baka-Raptor’s comment I would choose knowledge over ignorance every time. And sorry if a lot of this made no sense at all.

    • Some people may choose to love, or hate like that — based on perceptions of how certain fans are, and not necessarily on the object of the fandom.

      As for being emotionally invested, it’s not that easy. Macross, I give everything to it. I’m more conditional for everything else, including Gundam.

  6. Pingback: Baka-Raptor on the Cost of Understanding « The Ghosts of Discussions

  7. kadian1364 says:

    Since I’ve taken up the mantle of amateur anime critic (and even for some time before that) I’ve made it a point to seek out reasoned opinions that differ from mine and try to understand them. You quickly figure out not all opinions are equal, some just lack valid arguments behind them, but I think its worth the effort. It helps me better identify and articulate what problems I had with a title, or (even more difficult) acknowledging criticisms of titles I love. I just don’t think you can watch as much anime as we have without developing a flexible perspective.

    • Indeed. This is also why as much as I wave the banner of my favorite franchise, I almost never go out of my way to change anyone’s minds once they’ve made it clear that they do not share a similar enthusiasm for it or the shows in it.

      I can always ask why, and decide for myself if the person is being authentic or not when it comes to their strong opinions.

  8. Will of the wisps says:

    I love the meta-analysis of the fan-blog thoughts. In a way, fan-blogging is moving closer to the way research is conducted. Each fan write their own thoughts and cite others who supports or refute their answers. There is interaction between experts (fans) in the form of comments, much like dialogue from a poster presentation or letter-to-the-editors. Then, there are meta-analysis like this which synthesis thoughts by various fans on different subjects while interpretting them in a unique light — similar to review articles I love so much when I dive into a field I am not familiar with in my lab. Various bloggers are also introducing ideas from other disciplines such as post-modernism, psychology, literature, and social sciences, just like how research is becoming more inter-disciplinary in universities.

    Is this good for the community? Would it formalize the subject and bring it out of the grasp of fans and into rigid academics, therefore moving away from its original appeal of fans having fun as fans? I have no idea. But the thoughts exhibited by the community is wonderful, and I hope to see more of it in the future.

    • I do like a plurality of approaches. I made a comment on a recent take on Azuma, wherein I did some apologetics for academic approaches.

      While I do think there is a place for such, I wouldn’t necessarily put them here on WRL, but instead make a proper blog for such posts. After all, I wouldn’t consider rigorous academic scholarship on anime/manga as light reading.

      What I’m not so happy with is if partisans of academic research would look down on the casual writing on blogs like this one and the ones I linked to, or if the readers/anime fans in general categorally reject earnest efforts to write criticism of anime and manga for whatever biases they might have.

      All is well. yack deculture etc.

      • Will of the Wisps says:

        I read your other post that you linked to, and it was fascinating as well. Being immersed in more… thought-provoking (I am not going to use intellectual or academic here) blogs, I never saw the resistance against those analysis. I do visit more casual blogs as well for humorous reactions toward each episode (AOMM and Shin’s, for starters), but I did not see these reaction against analyzing anime too deeply there as well. Even 4chan seems not react against this topic from my brief foray into the jungles there. Perhaps I am merely not going to the right places. The anime-fans whom I know are also in university, living under an atmosphere that promotes learning and analyzing.

  9. Pingback: We Remember Love Editorial Folio vol. 4: We Remember Satoshi Kon and Find My Love for Animation Itself | We Remember Love

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