The Nature of Anime Fandom “Discussion”

Icon-AnimeIcon-MOEThe “#EducateAnime” movement has popped up recently. It’s growing, but where it goes still remains to be seen. The premise is to encourage discussion and debate, and discourage blind hatred and negativity.

Longtime She’s Lost Control readers might recognize this as everything I’ve been on about since before this site launched, back when I was on Blogspot and writing for The Moé Coalition.

I’m a firm believer that all media deserves a fair shake and fair criticism. Everything can be discussed and everything should be discussed. Yet, time after time in anime fandom, shows are written-off, ostensibly as not deserving of discussion. We see that there are certain types of shows that do get discussed and looked-into on a deeper level, and certain types of shows for which that kind of discourse is thought to be an absurd proposal.

Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, REDLINE, The Flowers of Evil, shows by studio Trigger, some shows by Gainax, etc. The general community is fine with discussion about shows like these. Shows like Clannad, Strike Witches, To Heart, Upotte!, and some other shows by Gainax, however, are written-off as “moeshit,” and discussion is thusly discouraged.

On a basic level, this kind of makes sense. A show like Cowboy Bebop or The Flowers of Evil certainly has more to say about the world we live in than To Heart or Upotte! does. As I said, however, that’s only on a basic level. Quite frankly, discussing anime that directly relates to our real world by way of being realistic is easy. It’s surface-level. That’s not to say it’s any less valuable, or that people who engage in this kind of discussion are deficient in any way, but that the reality is different from how it’s portrayed in the fandom.

There are layers of abstraction involved with discussing shows like Strike Witches or To Heart. They certainly don’t take place in our real world, but they were most definitely still created in our real world. Their fantasy worlds are influenced one way or another by our real world and understanding the influences behind even these shows can be valuable in gaining more understanding about the medium.

Some fans, including plenty of those who fancy themselves “intellectuals,” choose instead to wear blinders and narrow their horizons by clinging to arbitrary rules like “Sturgeon’s Law” and “Death of the Author” that only serve to shut down in-depth discussion of certain media, which incidentally happens to be media they dislike.

Circumstances like these have made it easy for fans and critics to condemn anime that doesn’t meet a certain standard as “pandering,” “derivative,” “sexist,” “pedophilic,” or any number of other damning marks. We can rarely talk about how anime that Western critics perceive as “sexist” gives us insight into the elements of Japanese culture that inspired those shows, and even when we do, it’s with a judgmental undercurrent, criticizing Japan for not being more like the United States in this aspect or that.

This happens a lot. People who normally would suppress discussion of shows they don’t like are suddenly on-board when it becomes a chance for them to write off a show they hate with a surface-level criticism. Once someone expresses disagreement in an effort to turn it into a real discussion, however, it’s back to shutting discourse down.

The blind hatred, dismissal, and negativity shown for certain kinds of anime will only hold the anime fandom back. Discussion is our best tool for gaining understanding and increasing our enjoyment of this medium we love as anime fans. We cannot allow people who can only express negativity for certain kinds of anime to continue to dominate the discussion about those shows.

Fighting blind hatred and promoting real discussion in the anime fandom is something I’ve been doing for years, and will continue doing until we have a fandom where subjects like moé can be discussed without people trying to shout down the discussion simply because they don’t like it.

That’s why I’m on-board with #EducateAnime.

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