Forgive the presumptuous title. I don’t really think I can legislate love in the context of being a fan or just media appreciation in general. However I do think a good deal about these things (especially having read this), and I attempt to organize my thoughts here.
I’ve chosen to keep it raw, and not consult my library. I don’t suggest that the thoughts I put down here are original in any way, only that they are a product of mostly free thought (implying memory). I arrive at three questions.
- Why do we love what we love?
- Is there a wrong way to love?
- How long does it take, does time matter?
There must be an originating attraction, and within that attraction is a powerful curiosity. In my case I want to know more. There’s never enough material to fulfill my need to experience the work again and again. There’s a desire for the same, familiar, original feeling, but also there’s an appreciation of how it’s never really the same whenever I watch a show I’ve seen many times before, or read a book I’ve gone over many times.
I ask for and expect the same feelings and yet enjoy the new experience. It it is what you love, it is always new.
I suspect this is not the case for everyone, but I ask you to consider this, in your own experience. I know there are those who do not make a habit of going over the same material, despite claiming that they love it. They are not invalidated by my assertions – there’s more than one expression of love. However, rewatching is not an expression of love. It is rather selfish, a need to feel love as an experience.
Is there a wrong way to love?
Probably not, in absolute terms. However let us consider a phenomenon I often see when it comes to the appreciation of characters, and perhaps the support for character pairings. Character pairings produce rivalries within and beyond the narratives. Presumably there are fans who love one character pitted against another in a love rivalry.
There is nothing wrong or suspect in this. However, the rivalry extends to the fans of the respective characters and scathing name-calling occurs, and fans start fighting. While some may fight each other, the real object of the hatred is the rival character. Criticism becomes mean, for both the character and the fans who support her. Which brings us to what I personally consider the wrong way to love.
Defending beloved characters as if they are infallible (and the corollary of invalidating claims to good characteristics of the rival character, and assigning bad characteristics on the same).
The Mary Sue accusation gets thrown about wildly, losing most of its meaning. The way it’s used in these arguments is “since you deny my accusation that Misa is a whiny loser, she’s obviously perfect and a complete Mary Sue (and you fail for liking her)” …see here there is no real commitment to the accusation of Misa being a Mary Sue but it has more to do with characters being accused of faults, and the idea that if one acknowledges a fault, two things happen:
- Character is not worth loving/not deserving of love (fan-love)
- Fan is an idiot for loving irrationally
This is the trap. Acknowledge a character’s fault and you’re made to look foolish. Denying the fault implies the character is too good without inspiring universal love from the fandom, ergo the show is “trying too hard” to get fans to like her, ergo you’re a victim.
Ultimately your love for a character is your own business. I personally am sympathetic to the love as implied by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. It’s a contradictory kind of love, which describes itself as “patient and kind” and yet “does not tolerate evil.” This is why I am merely sympathetic to it, I don’t really buy it. It is, however a great place to start. My main idea:
Perfection does not require love. Evil is suffering. The lack of perfection is suffering. The lack of perfection is an evil, it describes the state of having faults. On the one hand, we can make a rule that says we must love that which is closest to perfection and forgive its few faults. I have no problem with this, but I think this is not a great love. It is an easy love.
Loving a flawed character, requires much acceptance, much forgiveness. It makes the lover suffer the experience of the subject’s flaws and imperfections more. It is the greater love. It requires much more effort, generosity, and suffering.
MACROSS 7 I LOVE YOU.
But I’m not the fountainhead of love, mind you.
I HATE MOBILE SUIT ZZ GUNDAM AND IT CAN GO TO HELL.
Am I clear? When your favorite character is being hated on (Ranka Lee, Lynn Minmay, Kozuki Kallen, etc.), often the criticisms are fair ones (immature, selfish, stupid – respectively), but these are things that make their characters interesting as narrative constructs! What you really object to, deep down is the hate thrown at them (the act of hating, often joyfully taken), and what you make it mean about yourself as a fan of a ‘faulty’ character.
How long does it take, does time matter?
Instantly, but only time and hindsight validates this. I’m writing this essay on November 12, 2010, and I’ve just finished watching Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt episode 07. I liked this show from the first episode. I started using the word love for it by the third episode (the jizz army securing a “beachhead”). I was in love with it after the fifth episode (with the art shift for the salaryman vignette). And now, I’m crazy about it.
The above paragraph describes my behavior, but question at pantygunpoint time: do I love this show? Yes. Is it a great love? Not yet, only time will validate this. It hasn’t really disappointed me yet. There’s nothing within it, or perhaps surrounding it (other fans, commentary) that inspires me to write about it, explore it in ways I’ve done so for other shows I have a great love for (e.g. Revolutionary Girl Utena). Nothing yet, aside from wild ravings on twitter, and the occasional comment on tumblr.
Time matters because there will be externalities that test the feeling: other shows, opinions of trusted others, further thought and exploration, etc. Also, it remains to be seen what output within the normal realm of behavior I make should measure to a degree, my own love for a show (I’ve often questioned my love for say, Ghibli films – which I regard very highly, because I never really talk about them, or am interested in doing so).
In this hobby, love is manifested in conversation – in the various media and for a I participate in. Other people consume (collect) as an expression. Others like myself create (discussion, content). But these activities play out over time, which is why I think it’s an important matter in thinking about love and fandom.
Here’s one rule I’m pretty high on: You can love more than one show, more than one character. I love Gundam almost as much as Macross (and I even esteem Gundam higher though my wild passion is obviously in the service of the former). I love Minmay but in real life I married someone who Misa would aspire to be. Being a Ranka fan doesn’t mean hating Sheryl or her fans.