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.