The Resistance to the Moé Discussion

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.


Stay frosty.


15 thoughts on “The Resistance to the Moé Discussion”

  1. I think another issue is the fact that many moe fans are reluctant to stand up for their interest in moe, which is why there’s a hugely disproportionate amount of anti-moe anime fans who walk all over the very few that actually say that they I happen to love moe. More moe fans need to be on the frontlines of to make the moe discussion work.

  2. The fact that these people switch the moe debate to something as pointless as political bs that’s not related in any way goes to show that these people don’t want to have a discussion about moe. They just want to showcase their hate to the point where it is forced onto other people. It’s disgusting. And I have to agree with VZ that moe fans need to take a stand and make an actual discussion about moe. Hence the reason why I decided to make my blog public again, despite the problems that I’m having.

  3. No sarcasm intended, but I’m actually interested in what a “moe discussion” would be? Is that like Trekkies getting together to discuss their favorite episodes and concepts in Trek? Or discussing the very concept of moe in general, ie trying to come up with an agreed-upon definition?

  4. Discussion of moe is hard. Even discussion of word ‘cute’ may be hard. I find Godzilla ‘cute’, and sometimes feel equations like a^p=a(mod p) are ‘moe’ when p is a prime number.

  5. It’s stuff like this that made me give up on forums it’s almost impossible to have an semiintelgent coversation on Moe in a forum becuese it either devloves into a debate of mysogiony.

    Or Anit-Moe people just decideing to be snarky jerks and make all kinds of unfair comparesons or imply that Moe fans are the ones with the problem. It sadens me that people can’t be more adult about this.

  6. @VZMKII
    Very true. The imbalance between the pro-moé and anti-moé camps enables this kind of heinous illegitimacy of the moé discussion so far.

    Indeed, and that’s a problem that bothers me about the moé discussion. I don’t see what’s so difficult in the moé discussion, and I don’t see why people are so resistant to it, to the point where they’re more willing to talk about dumb sociopolitical arguments instead.

    @Hogart & WitchWatcher & maglor
    When I talk about the “moé discussion,” what I’m talking about is a fair, reasoned discussion between pro-moé fans, anti-moé fans, and those inbetween about moé, moé culture, the moé fandom, and how that affects us as anime fans. It’s an in-depth fan study of moé by multiple groups and people with different perspectives.

    It’s a real shame that most of the people who speak up about moé are also people who have the least constructive things to say about it. This is the reason more moé fans need to start discussing moé. If we can crowd out the snarky jerks and the people who can’t discuss moé without devolving into a misogyny argument, we can finally have a real conversation about this stuff.

  7. I dont really have time to read a 77 page thread but did you respond to the devastating points Zac brought up in the interview, like about how cynical moe shows are? Might be an interesting topic for an article.

  8. If you were to ask people to give a list of moé centric shows I wonder what they would come up with. Zac had mentioned Spice and Wolf hiving moé aspects, but if there was I didn’t see any, I was too busy enjoying the show.

    When people are exposed to only negative images about moé fans from sanaku and other sources it does get into their heads.

  9. I would also be interested to heart of examples of moe shows. What are the shows that embody the concept of moe? Are there shows that enough moe fans agree represent the concept well enough to be used as obvious examples to jumpstart discussions?

    I was super against moe until I listened to the interview on ANNcast. There are still aspects of it that skeeve me out, but I’m also curious now. I also have a very moe character on my hands in a book I’m writing, and I’m not sure what to do with him.

  10. “Why can’t we talk about this stuff without it somehow becoming a completely unrelated argument?”

    Because there’s nothing to actually talk about.

    You seem to want to have a discussion about moé with people who have no interest in having a discussion about moé. They hate it. That’s it. There’s no deeper philosophical reasons, no confusion on their part about what moé is, or anything substantive on which to build a discussion. They hate it, and that’s ALL.

    That’s a large part of the reason why threads like that will always drift to other topics. You’re trying to have a conversation with people on a topic they have no interest in other than to disparage it, so of course you’re going to get folks who just thread crap. Even if there are a few people out there who dislike moé but are willing (for whatever reason) to actually discuss it with moé fans, unless that discussion is taking place somewhere that YOU can delete the non-productive postings, the discussion will drown amongst the crap. So you can’t have the discussion that you want about moé in a general anime forum; you’ll have to have it here (or somewhere else under your control).

    “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…”

    You’re assuming that people are abandoning those things. I really think it’s far more likely that plenty of people don’t have them to start with. After all, if they had them, they’d be far more likely to understand moé in the first place.

    What’s more interesting to me is why you want to talk to people who hate you — not just hate moé, but hate you because you like moé. What’s the point? Is it a “missionary to the heathens” type thing; are you trying to spread the wonders of moé to the unbelievers? I’m curious (sorry; I recently watched Hyouka; couldn’t resist the reference).

    1. “You seem to want to have a discussion about moé with people who have no interest in having a discussion about moé.”

      Simply put, the people who have no interest in having a discussion about moé don’t have to participate in the moé discussion. The problem is less that people don’t want to participate in the discussion, and more that some people seem actively hostile to the idea of a legitimate moé discussion even taking place, for whatever reason (My theory, with full admission that I could be 100% incorrect, is that a legitimate moé discussion would involve these people questioning things about themselves that they’re not comfortable questioning).

      “You’re assuming that people are abandoning those things. I really think it’s far more likely that plenty of people don’t have them to start with. After all, if they had them, they’d be far more likely to understand moé in the first place.”

      That’s actually a very good point and one I didn’t consider when I wrote this, but now that you mention it, it really does seem that way.

      “What’s more interesting to me is why you want to talk to people who hate you — not just hate moé, but hate you because you like moé. What’s the point? Is it a “missionary to the heathens” type thing; are you trying to spread the wonders of moé to the unbelievers? I’m curious”

      There are a couple reasons I’m so hard-up on trying to talk to people who hate moé fans. Part of it is because I want to figure out “why?” Why hate moé, why hate moé fans, why disparage people based on what cartoons they watch? Part of it is because I feel like it’s valuable to the fandom at large to know how these sometimes incredibly hostile people think. Yet another part of it is because it gives me the opportunity to correct misconceptions and expose hypocrisies, double-standards, and outright hatred and contempt for the rest of the fandom to see.

      It’s not so much a “missionary to the heathens” type thing. It’s more like showing everyone that the Emperor isn’t wearing clothes made of fabric so fine and luxurious to be invisible to the hopelessly stupid, he’s just parading around the streets naked and nobody’s saying anything because he’s the Emperor.

  11. Hey Chris,

    I thought you had a great interview with Zac on the ANNCast. I personally enjoy lots of different types of anime: shounen, seinen, shoujo, comedy, drama, action, ecchi, fantasy, adventure, romance, etcetera. I like how you define Moé as a feeling that is elicited by a character or set of characters’ aesthetics and mannerisms in an anime rather than the type of anime itself. I too feel the term Moé has all to often become a derogatory slur used when one dislikes certain types of fandom and subset behaviors that may be seen as bad or wrong to them.

    One thing that really bothered me during your interview with Zac, was his inability to notice one simple truth. We are all anime fans at heart and share the same passion for the medium regardless of Moé aspects. Zac seems to think Moé is nothing more than masturbation fodder for the masses and uses that type of incendiary language every chance he gets. For me personally Moé is not sexual in nature, at all, but actually very close to the euphoria description you gave. When I see Moé aspects in anime characters it puts me in a mellow mood and lifts my spirit as well. The mood Moé elicits in me actually helps make me want to see people I may disagree with in new lights and attempt to bridge the divide in a respectful and civil manner, not the opposite. Zac, however, seems to feel quite jaded harboring stereotypes about Moé fandom at large. His actions seem to show he feels very strongly that most Moé fans are actually anti-social perverts to be scorned by the rest of fandom. This overly simplistic world view he brings to his podcast and reviews does nothing but fuel vitriol and confusion among fans because he is quite blunt about how he thinks the Moé /fanservice (it’s all the same to him) stuff hurts anime during his rants.

    I was recently appalled at his continuation of this childish behavior when discussing Sword Art Online in his latest ANNCast “Fast and Waifurius,” the title alone tells me all I need to know about Zac’s hypocrisy. He railed hard, and I mean hard on this show. It would be fine with me if that is all he did, however, in comes the KiritoXAsuna=waifu loving otaku shtick once again. He just can’t refrain from commenting on Moé fandom now can he? The worst part is I thought their fake marriage was innocent and actually advanced what little good writing the story had, not the other way around. Again Zac conflates Moé with his perceived misogyny in SAO, I thought the marriage was actually mutually empowering and beneficial and so did many other posters on the ANNCast Talkback forum. I came to a fellow poster’s defense (I registered there as sonic7 too just for that) after seeing Zac go off on him/her with little reason other than hating their differing opinion. I also know his fellow colleague, Theron Martin, reviewed the show as it was streamed and did find value in it despite the flaws in writing. If he can give an unbiased review not delving into stereotypes of fans, why can’t Zac as well?

    Sorry if I’m ranting a bit, it just makes me so darn frustrated to see industry professionals act so hostile and immature in response to legitimate criticism (of course there is never any legitimate criticism in their minds) and continue spreading ill conceived notions about fandom to the masses.

    1. Part of the problem with defining moé is that we have this subset of people within the anime community that are really hard-up on moé being defined as just the slice-of-life genre, or just shows like Clannad, or just cute girl anime this subset of anime fans dislikes.

      The thing about Zac Bertschy is that he’s a person with a significant lack of perspective, and an adamant resistance to gaining any. He thinks he’s right all the time and will preform whatever mental gymnastics necessary to make it appear that he’s never in the wrong, and the problem is that, because he has the position of Executive Editor of ANN, too many people go along with it, and not enough people call him out on it.

      We saw this back during the Spring Preview Guide, where he was called out on saying that people who like Date A Live were probably masturbating to it, and then tried to play it off as a “joke.” We saw this recently when he was called out for supporting hostility against moé fans, even though he professes to be against hostility within the anime community, and this time he tried to come up with any reason, however stupid and childish, for why moé fans have to be treated like garbage in the anime fandom.

      He claims that it’s dull and cowardly to not answer to one’s critics (, but quite rarely even answers to his own, past being snarky or derailing the topic away from the real subject. You’ll notice in the thread you’re talking about that nobody, including Zac, wanted to talk about Zac’s hypocrisy. He did say that he’s against hostility and immaturity in the anime fandom, and he then did turn around and say: “Fanboys don’t understand that we wouldn’t delight in their torment so much if they didn’t make it SO FUCKING EASY”

      It’s really easy to talk shit and try and make it look like you’re trying to make a better fandom, but it’s more difficult to actually try and make a better fandom, because that sometimes involves defending people you disagree with and taking to task people you otherwise agree with. Zac wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants people to think he’s out to improve the anime community, but he doesn’t want to do the legwork: He doesn’t want to question his own beliefs and practices, he doesn’t want to address his own hostile tendencies, and he doesn’t want to step up and defend people he disagrees with, and treat them with the respect they deserve as fellow anime fans.

      1. Thank you for taking the time to respond thoughtfully!

        I appreciate your efforts to get people talking about this stuff in a civil way. As you said before, no one should look down on someone else because they like different cartoons than them. At the end of the day we are all individuals with different tastes, preferences, and opinions, but we should all agree to unite around our shared passion for anime.

        I like this site and the NTR Radio podcast is fun too. Keep soldiering on with the discussion on moé. For what it is worth, your discussion on ANNCast helped me engage with other fans about anime and moé.

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