After 77 pages, the comment thread for the ANNCast episode in which I discussed moé with Zac Bertschy was locked. It was locked after a 20+ page argument about feminism, misogyny, and men’s rights activism. This was after the thread had derailed several times and I had intervened to put the thread back on track. After a certain point, I just gave up.
This was supposed to be a discussion about cartoons.
Let me first make clear that this is not an Anti-Moé Brigade issue. Some of the people forcing this conversation were moé fans. Some were not. At a certain point in that thread, the battle lines were redrawn, not around people’s stances on moé, but around their stances on feminism, misogyny, and men’s rights. Nasty things were said on both sides, and both sides generally had pretty half-baked standpoints. I’ve observed that certain arguments truly bring out the worst in people, and the argument surrounding feminism, misogyny, misandry, and MRA is one of those arguments. This is one of those arguments in which people are tempted to abandon their own humility, empathy, courtesy, common decency, and humanity in favor of becoming a talking head with whatever “movement” they choose to identify with, and that sickens me to my very core. It makes me seethe with rage. More importantly, however, it makes me ask questions such as: Why can’t we talk about this stuff without it somehow becoming a completely unrelated argument?
Let’s face it: Some debates are easier to have than others. The feminism debate (At least as it occurred in the forum thread) is remarkably easy, much easier than it seems, in fact, because the default position of people on the outside looking in is such that it’s very easy to simply shout down anyone who disagrees (However reasonable their position might be, or however willing for discussion they might be.). While other, more challenging subjects, such as societal pressure, societal empathy, how love (or lack thereof) affects people, and the criteria by which society values people (All of which are subjects I was trying to push that were rejected in favor of a feminism argument) wait to be discussed, tired, easy subjects are favored.
There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to have a real moé discussion. It just takes some willingness to have an actual debate and actually think about everyone in the discussion is saying. The gender debate pissing-match in the forum thread is a good example of how not to conduct the moe discussion. What occurred in the forum thread basically amounted to a group of people all yelling loudly at each other while sticking their fingers in their ears. Everyone was talking, but no one was listening. Everyone wanted to make a point, but nobody cared about the points others were trying to make. It was not a discussion. It was a shouting match.
I believe in the moé discussion. Talking about moé, moé culture, and the moé fandom taps into many different conversations that are all very valuable to anime fans’ understanding of the medium, of the culture it originates from and the culture build around it here in the West, of the reasons we all love it so much as anime fans, and of each other. It’s a conversation, however, that requires understanding, and some fans have demonstrated that they simply aren’t ready to understand. They’re not ready to question themselves and question others reasonably. They’re still at the point where shouting matches pass for discussion, and derailment provides an even better environment in which to have a shouting match, free from complex issues and legitimate discourse.
The moé discussion cannot operate as a shouting match. Nothing will get done and everyone’s time and effort will be wasted. Sure, the temptation is there on both the pro- and anti-moé sides to abandon humility, abandon empathy, abandon courtesy, abandon common decency, and abandon humanity in favor becoming a speakerbox for the pro-moé or anti-moé movement, but the essence of a productive discussion is in resisting that temptation, truly listening to what everyone has to say, being reasonable and respectful to one another, keeping to the topic, and understanding what we as anime fans have in common, despite disagreeing on some issues.
The moment we start being nasty to each other over these stupid differences in opinion, however, is the moment we forgo our own humanity and resign ourselves to being megaphones for whatever movement we identify with. It’s the moment we allow our affiliation to control us, and accept a “movement” as our master, and allow an ethereal idea to shape our worldview such that people become “the enemy” simply by experiencing the world differently and believing different things as a result.
Realize what all of us anime fans, pro-moé and anti-moé, have in common and don’t lose sight of that. From there, we can start talking about moé.