The Five Follies of Fandom

I’ve often been described by people as someone who wears her heart on her sleeve. It is never meant as a compliment and I understand this well. I don’t revel in my shortcomings, but I have always seen myself as an earnest person who tries to view the world fairly. However, I’ve spent most of my years since college mired inside manga and anime fandom, too far entrenched to be able to see clearly what was going on around me. In fact, throughout my life on the internet I’ve moved from one internet community to another, tripping over my own immaturity, elitism and subjective view of the world, whether it was popular music communities, gaming communities or, in my post-college life, anime and manga fandom. In these constant and inevitable shifts, and while I slowly grew as a person in maturity and worldview, I only ever saw my former flaws from the lens of hindsight. Such is life.

My problem is, as it is probably with most people, particularly on the internet, that I don’t want to expose my vulnerabilities, the things that I like and have an interest in, to those who might mock me for them. I would cope with this fear in different ways. Sometimes encapsulating myself only within communities of like-minded people, shutting out all dissent. Sometimes turning my frustrations into spite, refusing to admit to anyone what I liked. And sometimes pretending myself more high-minded than I really am, suggesting my tastes are an objective view of the world. As someone who strives to live by my own standards of decency, I can’t look at these faults and not hold myself accountable, especially if I expect to hold anyone else to them.

I recently succumbed to an ongoing bout of fandom burnout. Not anime or manga burnout: Fandom Burnout. It started innocently enough, checking in with one of the many manga communities I frequent. This one focuses on BL, though not exclusively related to it. The mostly female population were bandwagoning on the disgust they felt over the covers, and subsequently content, of some hentai manga titles now being carried by a prominent English BL manga publisher. I was struck with the hypocrisy of the viewpoint. As if somehow masturbation fodder written for women about incomprehensibly unrealistic gay romances was somehow not the same kind of thing as incomprehensibly unrealistic porn written for men.

I escaped into the manga blogging community, and while mostly encouraged by the generally less knee-jerk over-sensitivity, was also struck by the overwhelming feeling that the manga blogging community is a giant circle-jerk of women (and men) stroking each other’s egos and those of the publishers with which most of them have seemingly social (and occasionally professional) relationships. I began to question just how “unbiased” you could really be in this kind of environment.

And I don’t want to suggest “unbiased” is something you can have in reviewing. I’ll be the first one to tell you that a review by its nature is subjective: an unbiased review is a summary. What I mean by “unbiased” in this context is being separated from your subject enough to give an informed opinion of it that is not colored by your relationship to it outside of your consumption of it. That is the core of the reason Cherry Blossom Reviews began in the first place. A small group of us sat around talking about this very subject and decided to do something about it.

And then I had a sudden and terrifying moment of ennui. It happened when my brand new computer’s hard drive crashed, mere weeks into the writing of my first reviews for the group. I had 5 or 6 articles, ideas for articles and reviews in the pipes that were all lost in an instant (I have backup drives but hadn’t thought I would need them on a computer that new, a mistake I will not make again). I found myself completely uninterested in rewriting and recollecting those thoughts. Sure, other things going on in my real life had a compounding effect on this, but I discovered that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t involve myself in fandom. It made me too angry and upset. I needed to walk away and reboot my feelings, give it some distance and hope it would pass. It didn’t pass. It is nearly a year later and I am finally ready to even talk about what I am feeling at all.

So, let’s talk about it, about the pretense, disparagement, wank, possessiveness and silence. No walls, no excuses, no excluding myself of involvement in any of it.

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3 comments on “The Five Follies of Fandom

  1. aoi_aka says:

    I have found myself guilty if not all of those things, then at least a couple of them. I know I tend to be in the silent majority. Sometimes I’ll disagree with what’s being posted and I start typing a reply. I realize that my point is stupid or makes no sense or I don’t want to rock the boat. More than likely it’s the latter. And so I click cancel and continue on my merry way. I’m a coward.

    Hentai doesn’t bother me. I read it. Some kinks I stay away from and others I look for them specifically. I do believe that hentai is healthy in moderation as everything else in life is. It does become a problem when it becomes an obsession and the person needs professional help. Any person condemning pornography is more than likely guilty of having looked at it and to assuage their guilt, they lash out against it and people who provide it or enjoy it. They are hypocrites.

    Any woman condemning hentai, and is a fujoshi, should seriously look in a mirror and shut up. They really have no ground to stand on. I’ve never hidden the fact that I enjoy it. I’ve said it on different social media outlets before as the occasion arose.

    About a month ago I read the history of two huge Harry Potter … personalities, for lack of a better word. The histories were about Msscribe and Cassandra Claire. The wank that resulted was so terrible that all I could do while reading was sit back and thank the stars I never got into HP back in the day (not really my thing). I did sorta witness some wanking in the LOTR fandom, but it was all second and third hand. My tendency is to stay on the fringes of fandoms and slowly disappear the same way I appeared. Wanks are so vicious and can ruin your life if the people after you have the means to do it. They really have no sympathy, but for themselves and their sycophants.

    Your article as opened my eyes. I wish to be more aware of my behavior in the fandom. I do believe that if I have nothing nice to say, I keep my mouth shut. There’s a bit of cowardice there, but if what I say is only hurting somebody else, it really serves them and me to stay quiet.

    • cmbranford says:

      The thing about fujoshi ripping on hentai that baffles me more than the hypocrisy is that they seem completely oblivious to their hypocrisy, even when you point it out. It might stem from a mass delusion that yaoi is never pornography because porn is that stuff that only men look at.

      My cowardice was the thing I considered first when I was writing this, but I did see my own actions a little in each section as I was writing. There is a way to get your point across, though, without being hurtful. As I was reading the Moe Talkback discussion (and that Free one, too) on the ANN forums a few weeks back (and admittedly cowardly did not participate) i read through some of my old posts on the forum. Even then I was trying not to be an unrepentant ass while the people around me were falling over themselves to be the biggest ones. That’s why I ultimately stepped away from those forums as well. I couldn’t make myself suffer that way anymore knowing that even if I tried to be a decent person, no one cared.

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