I’m learning a few things after 6 weeks of blogging anime. There does seem to be an inversely proportional relationship between my effort put into a post and the attention/commentary it recieves. My previous post, which in hindsight was under-theorized, went NOT AS PLANNED. However, it yielded the most stimulating discussion that We Remember Love has ever gotten.
In this post I’ll be pursuing a part of that discussion, related to the concept of understanding. The context of the previous post is the hatred directed towards studios, and by extension, anime shows and franchise. There is a perception that some of that hatred is ‘mindless’, and this mindlessness can also apply to fandom (i.e. my devotion to Macross). There is this idea that we would better off if we understood what’s behind the behavior, for us to be able to remove the ‘mindless’ tag from the behavior, with a view that if the hatred/fanboying would be reasoned out, we can just agree to disagree and move on.
I’ll be exploring the idea of understanding, and the purposes to which it is applied. And part of the method is an annotation of the previous posts comments section.
Here’s part of the exchanges:
[…]But… do we really need to understand hatred or criticism?
Just to be an ass for a bit and challenge the discussion occurring. Do people need a “good reason” in our eyes to hate something? Do they need to convince us? In other words, do they need to challenge themselves and think?
Most anime fans don’t like challenging themselves or thinking, a surprisingly large percentage even of anibloggers included.
lolikitsune went on to challenge a percieved double standard: hatred needs to be justified, but fanboying/love doesn’t. Fair challenge is fair. Sharing why I like the things I do can be of more interest than the fact that I like them. But this is not the point. Read on.
[…] Understanding hatred is a good goal, but I’d like to see equal challenges to love. Too often do I see someone saying that they don’t need to explain why they like something, that objectivity doesn’t matter, etc. I’ve heard “you don’t need a reason to like something” a million times. In the end, that’s the same as disliking something with no good reason.
This begins to approach the crux of this post. Again, the issue isn’t whether I agree with Dr. lolikit or not (for the record, I do). I’m after this idea called ‘understanding.’
animekritik on November 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm
[…]Putting love and hate on the same level is insightful, a fanboy and a hater are two sides of the same coin. Still, you add “People need to think more, and challenge themselves to understand their feelings more”. Why?? That sort of introspection is unseemly! Are we in need of shrinks now?
Analyze the shows, stop analyzing yourselves.
To which lolikit responds:
[…]Not all rational thought is “unseemly introspection.” If I wonder to myself, “why do I like AIR?” and then I come up with the answer that “oh hey, I like AIR because the environment it portrays is absolutely gorgeous speaks to my aesthetics, and in spite of the show’s countless flaws, I am drawn to that environment,” that’s not introspection. It’s reasoning.
And reasoning is all I want to see.
Understanding here becomes a product of a familiarity with the subject’s reasons for the behavior. Lolikit will understand the hatred, and perhaps the hater, if the reasoning behind the hate is provided (preferably by the hater).
@lolikitsune: Same here, all I’d like to see is reasoning as well or something to make clear that people are indeed holding a position out of their own belief and not because they read it on Derailed by Darry or something. If people would say something like, “I hate x because” or “I like y because” more often and then proceed to give a valid reason as to why then people would hear almost nothing from me ever on this subject other than perhaps an “I see” or a “suit yourself”. I’d already have my answers.
For the record I used to love challenging peoples love of Kyoani until they finally started giving some answers as to why they liked their work and started making some concessions as to their shortcomings (meeting me halfway can be huge in terms of making a counter-argument believe it or not) and then I pretty much backed off. No entity is infalliable or all-encompassing no matter what some would like us to believe.
Kaioshin here provides a good example of the behavior adopted by a person who ‘understands’, in lolikitean epistemology (forgive me, I couldn’t resist), reasoned-out hate leads to understanding by the reciever/observer. Kaio’s behavior upon reaching this understanding, is backing off (from an antagonistic stance). More on this later.
Let’s take another response to lolikit’s question on ‘needing to understand’ hatred:
[…]No, not necessarily. I think this is the pit that al|together guy dug himself into in his “anti-reading” of that porno thing [see here].
I’d say the desire to understand is quite a..uh…egostical(?) thing. Perhaps that stems all the freakin’ way back from Greece. Yeah, with those old gay men. That’s probably western culture for you. And of course, those that defy that canon of understanding are labled as x,y,z and every other meme under the sun. It’s quite hard to divest yourself of that philosophy, but to me it seems like the notion of understanding is more about society rather than the self, it’s to prove your status as a knowledgable person or w/e.
Okay, this is what really interested me. Why do we need to understand? What do we do with that understanding? lelangir speculated on two things: self/egotism, and society. I’m looking into this. I think it’s egotistical – even in its social application, but it is also necessary from a survival point of view.
In the concept of understanding, I want to distinguish a few things (dear reader, this is all a mental exercise on my part devoid of research on psychology and epistemology; please forgive this ignorance and share with me whatever you may know about these things that is relative to the subject at hand): First there are the levels of understanding (akin to levels of learning, IMO):
- Identification (including context)
I’m not too sure if I can linearly place application after appreciation, but I’ll work with this for now. Interestingly, Coburn made a post on OH! related to the understanding and appreciation of a ‘complex’ anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion. To use that anime as an example:
- I am aware that it exists, and that people say it is good.
- I identify things in the anime that entertain me, and that the story somehow works (great character design, great mecha action, interesting character interactions, dark motives, astonishing if strange resolution).
- I take it as an example of anime progress, pushing the boundaries, awesome audacity.
- I begin to read other anime, (if only at least other GAINAX works) within the context of how are they adding to the overall body of work of anime (even if only anime science fiction).
Ok. If somehow I don’t make it to level 2, I will fail at life. Let me clarify that because I am dead serious. Let’s say that I have a self-identity of being an intellectual, a smart guy. That’s how I relate to myself, and I’m okay with other people relating to me as such. Not being able to articulate why I like Evangelion to myself or others, or failure to recognize the things about it that others enjoy assaults my self identity. I cannot interact with others who (I percieve) to know better about Evangelion. I fail at being smart. I could divert the attention to the anime and declare it to be the failure at being smart. But this is both risky, and inauthentic (I loved it too much for me to trash it).
This is how understanding can be read as a survival function. The self survives as an identity, and the self is determined to maintain that identity. In my case I became obsessed with Evangelion, and read as much as I can about it; lurking at forums and re-reading fansites and Wikipedia over the next year. After all that, I was an otaku; level complete (at 27 years old, LOL).
To review this bit: The self cannot function when its identity is compromised. Thus, understanding is critical, and therefore related to survival. This is not the biological survival, but the survival of the identity.
Perhaps I should share that understanding is fluid. New information, whether from the source text or secondary readings/reviews, etc. can change someone’s understanding. This change most likely impacts the appreciation of the anime, as well as possible adaptation of the methodologies used in the reading. Still staying with the Evangelion example, I recently performed a character reading of Gendo Ikari here.
You’ve given me a completely new perspevtice on Gendo’s character; years ago I was (as cliche as it may sound) young and naive, but thinking back, I can see how Gendo was hopelessly in love with Yui and, though he was kind of trying that whole “saving humanity” thing as a secondary goal, his deeds seemed to me to be focused on bringing back his wife. If you look beneath that cold, heartless, hateful exterior, you do find a romantic.
Also, more viscerally,
yaku on November 20, 2008 at 8:20 pm
WTF? did you just make me LIKE Gendou Ikari?
I hate him with all my guts (heck, I’m a Shinji fan) but damn this post made me think “what a f*ing cool guy”.
In this case, we begin to see two possibilities for understanding. It’s harder to associate a survival need reading Omisyth’s comment, though in a preceding paragraph he described an epic investment in terms of time spent and thoughts devoted to understanding Evangelion. The reading I wrote gave him no big changes, but perhaps a new appreciation for Gendo Ikari.
In Yaku’s case, I risk reading a survival need because he stated an identity (him being a Shinji fan), that is threatened (too dramatic a word, I apologize) by a radical admiration for Gendo. While being a Shinki fan and admiring Gendo are not mutually exclusive behaviors, the antagonistic relationship between the two in the anime (Gendo did not care for Shinji much and did not play the expected role of father in his life, while risking his underaged son’s life and sanity to pursue his selfish ends) makes this reading possible.
Now we move on to the use of understanding (knowledge) to dominate others (power). Going back to lelangir’s example, which leads us to leucanoe’s MAL blog where Seung Park’s analysis of Crimsoness was discussed. My objective here is neither to agree or disagree with Leucanoe and his commenters. My purpose is to demonstrate how an understanding of a subject is used to dominate others (those with less understanding and/or with opposing views). Here are some quotes that I believe clearly communicate put downs:
These readings have more in common than they like to think: they are all remarkably similar to each other in their manufactured outrage against some supposed patriarchal hegemony that supposedly controls the world — and all remarkably boring in their utter lack of imagination. Let us therefore critically examine the short novel game Crimsoness by Porn from a feminist perspective, and see what we learn — or don’t — along the way.
Here Park refers to feminist readings of cultural products, and condemns them for their utter lack of imagination. It puts down the readings referred to, and anyone who would attempt to read the subject using the feminist methodology. Note that no such reading exists yet. Park imagines for himself such a reading and condemns his resulting product.
Crimsoness is an enjoyable novel game, and one that is designed to provoke laughter, not the unthinking rage that the protagonist of the piece demonstrates so well. From conversations with the author of the piece, I know very well that he had no intention of broaching any of these topics — indeed, he would roll his eyes at anyone who seriously read Crimsoness in an analytic manner. And at the end of this exercise, so would I.
Requiescat in pace9, Andrea Dworkin: sorry, but not all intercourse is rape.
And sorry, but sometimes a game is just a game.
Even Especially if it is written by someone named Porn.
Andrea Dworkin was an American radical feminist who is notable for her criticism of pornography. Again, it is not my purpose to agree or disagree with Park, only to demonstrate how he uses his understanding of the ff: the subject game (which he appends with his anecdote referring to personal interaction with the author of the game) and feminist criticism. He would laugh at those who attempt to read the subject in this manner.
The role Park plays is that of a judge, which has power over the subject. In this case he extends the power over those who would interact or read the subject. The judge is an authority role, and here Park makes the case that he is one.
Let me be clear that I’m not judging Park or any of the entities I’ve quoted in this post. They are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ for my purposes. To go back to lolikit, Park here reasons out his disagreement with feminist readings; in lolikitean terms, it’s not ‘blind’ aversion, it is thought out (even if someone disagrees with his reasoning).
To review this bit (and some concluding thoughts): Understanding (knowledge) can be leveraged to dominate others (power). Being the source of knowledge and an agent of understanding is a means to acquire authority. Authority can then be used to invalidate others, rendering them powerless in discussions, and other possible social interactions.
So that’s my amateur theorizing on understanding. If I am unclear and only detracted from your understanding of the concepts discussed here, then I apologize. And to the commenters and bloggers whom I quoted, all mistakes in context here, and all misunderstandings on this post are my own.