Looking back at the Free! situation, an easy question to ask is “Why were the same people who advocate unity and decry hostility in the anime fandom so quick to laugh at the moé fandom and revel in their anger when the show proper was announced?”
That’s easy: Moé fans are privileged.
“Privilege,” in this context, is a sociological term used to describe a set of advantages possessed by a group by default. Its use as a concept comes from the belief that those with privilege can understand that they have it and use it to combat or perpetuate inequality. In social justice circles, one might hear of “Straight-White-Cis-Male Privilege,” but there are also concepts like Neurotypical Privilege: Preferential treatment given by society to those without mental disorders, Able-Bodied Privilege: Preferential treatment given by society to those without physical disabilities, and Thin Privilege: Preferential treatment given by society to non-obese people. Evidently, in the anime fandom, we have “Moé Fan Privilege” as well.
Let’s examine “Moé Fan Privilege” as it applies to the overall concept of privilege.
One of the key points of privilege is a preferential treatment from society. For instance, a common example of Male Privilege is that men are paid more than women for the same job. Looking at the anime community as “society” in this case, it’s tough to see the moé fandom as having privileged. Being shouted down, called names, and blamed for the “downfall of anime” isn’t what I’d consider privileged treatment. Media made for moé fans does dominate the world of TV anime, but that brings me to my second point.
Another key point of privilege is that it’s unearned, which is to say, nothing has to be done to receive the preferential treatment associated with privilege. A white person has “White Privilege” simply by virtue of being born white. The anime industry does give moé fans preferential treatment by way of creating more media aimed at them, but the only reason that’s the case is because moé fans spend more. They put money into this. As a result, they get more made for them than segments of fandom that don’t put as much money into the industry as they do. It’s not “privilege” because it isn’t unearned. Moé fans get what they want because they’re good customers, not because they have privilege.
Let’s tackle this from a different angle, though. Let’s look at the concept of privilege as it applies to the anime fandom.
The use of “privilege” is an interesting decision by the Anti-Moé Brigade, but not one without their usual disconnects and halfway thinking. Remember, privilege exists as a concept partly so those with privilege can realize that they have it and use their privilege to fight against social inequality. The Anti-Moé Brigade wants more anime made for them, so they attack the moé fandom, perhaps in the hopes that they will be less vocal and less keen on supporting their chosen media, but what makes them think that moé fans would use their “privilege” to combat the inequality of media for the various sub-fandoms in the anime fandom? The privilege argument has another big flaw, however, and that goes straight to the core of the concept of privilege itself.
When the endgame is equality, there are two ways to go about it. The first is to bring everyone up to a level of parity. The second is to bring those at the highest levels down to a level of parity with the non-privileged groups. The concept of privilege attempts to harangue people into apologizing for something that isn’t their fault (It’s also often used as an easy way to discredit people in an argument). The problem is, if we were to achieve equality in the anime fandom by bringing everyone down to the same spending level (Remember, the difference is in how much money people put into the industry), then the anime industry would cease to exist.
Moé fans aren’t privileged. They spend more.
So, taking all of that into consideration, let’s look at just how privileged moé fans are:
- Constantly dealing with people calling the shows they like “garbage?” Check.
- Called names for liking the wrong cartoon? Check.
- Shouted down in discussions that involve the media they enjoy? Check.
- Blamed for “killing anime” when their only crime was buying the shows they like? Check.
At what point are moé fans favored by the fandom again?
The “Moé Fan Privilege” issue is an example of a failed Anti-Moé Brigade attempt to bring real-world social issues into the moé debate. Let’s be real: The issues of social inequality that the concept of privilege attempts to address are far greater in scale and scope than the moé debate. By trying to use the concept to guilt moé fans into acting the way they want, the Anti-Moé Brigade misrepresents both the moé debate and the concept of privilege itself. It portrays the Anti-Moé Brigade as the underdog, the rag-tag guerilla resistance fighters battling the oppressive Moé-Moé Empire and its legions of otaku hivemind stormtroopers. It distorts privilege into something that can be gained simply through spending money. Neither of these things are the case.
The privilege argument can be picked completely apart, trivially. This is why larger social issues don’t fit well with the moé debate when brought up out of context. These large-scale, heavy social issues just don’t scale down to the level of a disagreement about cartoons and cartoon fans without a lot of meaning and significance being lost in the process.
But hey, what else can you do when you have no argument?