The Five Follies of Fandom

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.

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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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