Wank is Not a Fandom Value
I don’t mean literally beating off, I mean self-aggrandizing, compartmentalizing fandom to insulate against criticism, and by extension the fandom equivalent of circle-jerking: stroking each other’s egos in a crescendo of increasingly unreliable pseudo-criticism. Only surrounding yourself in the cocoon of your own fandom is not going to prepare you to exist in the real world, or even on other parts of the internet. This kind of self-sheltering only breeds over-sensitivity and that over-sensitivity only breeds misunderstanding and hatred from other groups and outside observers of the culture. Anime and manga fandom has a reputation on the internet for being the vocal minority of hate-mongers infesting other media culture. It is going to stay that way until we get over ourselves and grow thicker skins.
And this goes for the “professional criticism” side of fandom as well. Reviewers and the products they review should have no other professional relationship from just that. Reviewers can have social relationships with one another, but it has led itself down a comically meta path of self-justifying over-saturation of positively reinforcing each other’s work to the point of manipulative intent. It may not be meant maliciously, but it is all the same there and creates an impression of unreliability.
Sometimes the best, or only, way to deal with this is to take a step away and seriously consider one’s own actions and attitudes. We can think we are being objective or professional, but allowing ourselves to be labelled “fan” in and of itself is a modifier. We cannot be objective from within. Trying to claim anything of the sort without first critically observing one’s own behavior is folly and leads towards my next issue with fandom culture.
Possessiveness is Not a Fandom Value
What I mean is the culture of “this is mine and you can’t be a part of it,” or, “I want this so you better give it to me.” As discussed already, much of the core problem with fandom boils down to what fans expect. They expect that their favorite publisher will always publish what they want. They get defensive when their preconceived notions are challenged. They hate it when anyone they deem as an outsider says anything they don’t agree with.
Fans do not “own” a work, genre, medium or style. Nor do they own their creators, publishers or licensees simply because they are fans. They don’t get to dictate content or control the conversation about it. Their input should be valued, of course, but the free expression of ideas includes the expression of those outside our core group. It extends beyond the intended audience. What fandom needs to understand is that we don’t own anime and manga, we are one of many participants who include creator, producer, consumer and critic alike, both the casual and the fanatical. But that doesn’t mean fans should be silent. Far from it.
Silence is Not a Fandom Value
I’m talking about the silent majority. I sit and I watch and I fume and I say nothing. I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want to be ostracized by my community, but is it really even my community at all if I feel this way around them? When people buck the prevailing opinion, when they jump off the bandwagon and say, “hey guys, I think this way of thinking about this issue is non-constructive, hypocritical or simply misinformed,” often they are booted or marginalized. But staying silent out of fear of being left alone or turned on by your community like an auto-immune disease is just as indicative of the toxins in the culture as anything I’ve mentioned above.
But silence isn’t only about fear. Sometimes it is also about apathy or ignorance. Remaining oblivious to problems in front of you or saying it doesn’t matter if you complain because nothing will change is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nothing can be achieved to better ourselves as a society if only the vocal minority pleads their case. Everyone who calls themself a fan should have their voice heard, sincerely and without malice.