Posted by: Leek | October 15, 2010

Living like a Community

Colorful isn't it?
Takes me back to eating out during Anime Expo

Before delving into the depths of this article I figure as this will be my first big “one shot” interest sort of article that I should clarify things. No I am not a scholar nor do I try to be one at all by posting things like this. These things are nothing more then rants and banter. They’re simply written for my own interest and that other people might have some fascination into my odd thought concepts. If you happen to take anything from any of these I will be very happy but I don’t expect you to ever completely agree with me. I like to raise questions a lot and maybe one of these will spark someone else to write a follow up or reply article. I would rather like that and if you do be sure to tell me so I can see it.

More or less recent events have kept pushing me towards this subject. It also doesn’t help that many a classes I’m enrolled in right now involve community studies. So a lot of what I have seen and read has hit very close to home and made me mull things over a bit. A lot of us have been fans of anime for varying times, have watched various things, and obviously have varied interest. But is there anything that can really set us apart and should we try and separate ourselves so openly? That is what I want to get to the bottom of in this one shot.

Oh and the Ore no imouto tag is probably only there because I used the image. And partly the thought back to the novels kind of helped me motivate this concept a bit more. For those familiar with the series (either people who read the novel like me or people who started the anime), I’m sure you can probably see where a lot of where it ties in.

A brief intro of generalizations
I’m fairly sure that all of us have experience with such things as generalizatios. It happens a lot and is relatively tied to historical conflict before us. While we are little this is probably limited to things like frineds, family, grown ups, etc. that aren’t necessarily important at the time but start the process. With all these cases though we often behave accordingly. We know there are things we shouldn’t do around grown ups that are completely acceptable among friends. It’s probably okay as a little boy to put your brother or best friend in a head lock. It would probably not be the best idea to put your grandmother in a headlock. So at this point these generalizations just form a set of behaviors but that is of course very important to what I’m getting at.

Now as we move forward the most important next step comes when we create social groups. This isn’t strange to any of us. For those that have reached high school or even junior high, you start to see such things. Yes you are all still students but this is a generalization that begins to matter little in the social scheme. Your interests become an obvious target of where to aim your interactions and where not to. In the end it turns into a mess of conflict. Active types don’t always see eye to eye with those that don’t have the same ability as them. Popularity begins to flare and before you know it there is conflict just like one would expect. It is the fun problem with groups and especially those that don’t always need to rely on one another in the greater scheme of things. But let’s stop talking general and get to what I’m after.

Where do you start? It really comes down to where you want to draw lines. What lines matter? Obviously this turns into a bit of how do we all get along and where does the hate really need to stop? It would probably be best to say that it would stop in all cases but this isn’t exactly that kind of problem. More or less this is my effort to attack one single area as opposed to raising the large question against everything.

Let’s think about our membership in the anime community. That is of course very simple to think about. Do you enjoy and watch anime? While the term “enjoy” could be used very loosely, I’m sure you understand my meaning. Point is, most of us can fall in this category and I’m sure the majority of you as readers. Now obviously the limits of this are known. If you have just watched one series or to a smaller extent a movie, you probably do not fall into the greater community. This of course could skate towards broader communities such as fans of animation in general or those in the larger multimedia communities. Point is this comes down to those of us that either watch a variety of things, those that watch the things on American TV that are released, and those that exclusively watch one series. All of it culminates down to the very large anime community and my point of focus.

Generalizations in the context of the anime community
Once you become a member of the greater anime community and start trying to forge alliances it probably is easy to start. Try to look towards a specific place that bolsters up the types of series or a specific series you are into. Depending on what you like this could build up to a rather great task. More or less, a step forward comes when you admit to being in the anime community and those others in it would proceed to socialize with you. I doubt there is too many people who would simply blow you off if you just said as much as, one would believe, you are similar to them in at least on respect. Obviously this is the ideal amount of friendship you would want from a community regardless though it isn’t always so easy.

The problem surfaces once you expose your interest within the greater scheme of things. It is probably easy to say that anime is a very broad thing to deal with. And if you possibly just said that your favorite series is Naruto then you may have set off around 100 red flags around you. Suddenly that initial friendliness from some people would soon lead up to an instant act of scorn and loathing. Now where may have you felt this feeling before? Oh yeah, remember High School? Yeah, it’s probably coming back to haunt you about now. Suddenly you’ve been isolated in something you thought was already a community. But what’s really the problem here?

This is somewhere where generalizations in general and more specifically in the anime community become a bit muddy. In a recent class I have been discussing Eugenics (for those unfamiliar just think of social uses for genetics) which, in it’s early days, created a lot of dealing with race and what you were as a person. Ideas were obviously created of superiority and hierarchy of groups, well racism to be frank. So does this turn into a bit of anime discrimination as it were? It’s probably the best way to look at it.

The problem becomes that these generalizations we further embed in the anime community become too narrow. Rather then describing some groups within as just people interested in these series, or that series, it becomes a series of traits attached to groups. It becomes something like:

“Man, this guy is an IDIOT. He must watch Naruto!”

Take as it were but this is generally the problem. The group doesn’t becomes possibly too much about the group. Somehow being a part of groups can be a crime and someone of normal intellect could be dismissed as a slobbering dimwit for liking something. And of course these traits don’t just lie in with things with intellect (though the general worse grouping involve it). It becomes a range of groupings that essentially throw out a ton of unnecessary conflict.

“Him? Oh he has to be a pedophile.”

“That girl can’t have friends being a fan of that.”

“You have to be some basement dwelling, unemployed dropout that lives with his parents.”

And the like. While I am being a bit extreme it’s hard to say that certain tags aren’t thrown on people. While it is easy to propose a series and most people won’t lash out. It’s hard to say they won’t get a bit shifty eyed around you if they’re aware of what tags are out there that are commonly attached. And of course unnecessary tension begins to form and can eventually just erupt into a insult of your character.

And thus, the generalizations grow and grow with time and eventually become obscenely narrow.

Stories of the cause
It’s hard to say why or why not these things have to happen. Does it all really come down to a difference of interests to raise such hostilities? Possibly. Or is it really a problem of acceptance or fear of being affiliated with a community. Are there some responsibilities and titles people just don’t want to take on? More or less I believe retelling a bit of my own past experience will lend me a bit of a hand.

Back in my late junior high years to early high school years is when I advanced quite a bit into Japanese. And with that I also started delving more into eroges and the like despite my lack of age. This put aside (and I assume no one will hold it against me), I started to come to a very disturbing conclusion. At the time I was worried that in fact I was starting to find traces of being a lolicon. Well perhaps the thing was that I knew I wasn’t one (being not a year over 18 at the time) but I knew if such a problem persisted it would not be so easily ignored later.

Beyond that, I knew well what came with such a title. People who shared such interests were perhaps not the intellectual desirables I wanted to be grouped with later. It honestly was an abhorring though that when people would start to look at me from a distance that they would possibly be a slobbering pervert with no sense of left and right. And in such a way I would be easily just be dismissed as a pedophile and thrown on the bottom floors of society in but an easy instant of my interests being revealed. As such, I became highly reclusive about my interests and tried my best to keep it in the closet. Only a few choice friends knew of such a habit and seemed just as discouraged as I was about it’s impact on my distant future.

It was not long before I began a strong period of lashing out. I did not waste anytime in openly mocking those that were similar to me. It was my way of trying to feel that I wasn’t the same and tried to call people out as if they should be in any different group then me. I needed society to see me differently so I wouldn’t have to suffer the scorn of my peers. And thus at the same time, I counted down the days until I turned 18 I would truly begin to face a strong junction of whether to continue running, admit to my vices, or try and destroy my mind until I could no longer remember any of my personal preferences.

I would say in the year before I turned 18 it became honestly clear what I had been doing that entire time before. In a way I had merely been running circles in a fenced area. As I tried to run more, the fence got smaller and before I knew it I was simply left standing. I had nowhere to go and my own refusal to accept what was going on had just made things albeit worse. I was no closer to escaping and in fact had just made it so I could suffer all the more beating for what I had done.

As such I took the liberty to try and repent for what I had done. While this heavily included a lot of open acts of shame, debates, I decided to stick it through. In the end I probably did suffer a lot more then what I would have originally had to deal with had I not boxed myself in. Perhaps it was a good lesson though and since that point I have never had any real issue admitting to any of my interests. While many give me many a good headache, I have openly gotten used to discussing these things and defending my many a troubled brothers around me.

So where does this leave my talk? Well it’s hard to say that my example was perfect. I had to deal with a much larger spectrum since while I said I was a lolicon this is often grouped with pedophile. It’s hard to cross the definitions or traits as easy as someone who watches Naruto or Haruhi with someone who watches anime. The semblances are closer and is possibly why I feel as member of the greater anime community we should be practicing patience with our brethren.

Divisions and Backlash
Why is all of this really matter in the long run? We could look at it a variety of ways.

First of all is the obvious split you’re going to make into the community. It gets rough mostly because terms get thrown out a lot. The use of the word otaku seems pretty rough in a lot of contexts and it’s introduction to countries outside of Japan as well as day to day stretches in Japan get worse by the day.

It’s fairly bad when you see things getting thrown out like “light otaku”, “disgusting otaku”, what have you. What is all of it anyway? If you’re going to call yourself an otaku it’s not like people are going to see you any differently. Granted if you say you’re into anime you’re still going to be seen from a certain standpoint. Is there a point in trying to create groups? It’s kind of hard to say that it’ll get you very far and if you’re desperately in the mood to defend yourself then it’s probably effort better spent in just supporting the group as a whole. So it might be better to just drop the idea of trying to pronounce you’re a “light otaku” and just deal with the fact you’re going to suffer from some definition that is far off base.

Worse enough those that are in their new group can turn to a variety of actions. They may just accept it and/or act as if such a different grouping doesn’t exist. While this is the optimal there are many a time where people won’t stay to such a noble path. The easiest thing to do is to wage war back at your attacker and albeit elevate the tension within the community. Another is to begin to act out. If you’re already in that corner, why behave? It’s sometimes just easier to begin to act in the space given to you and stain the image more. In the end it can thinks rougher for those that want to separate themselves.

All around we have a community that is slowly but surely rotting in the nastiest sense. There’s no real reason behind it and it’s mostly incited for no real reason.

What’s to be done
So where are we left? A lot of anger, grief, and unnecessary tension is about where we place it.

In the end we’re just left at the responsibility. Do we choose to live as a community and realize there’s nothing that sets us apart in the eyes of most or do we continue to try and draw lines and just hope that someday these lines will be recognized? Is it really worth trying to divide a community up in the public eye or would it be better to bind things together. It’s hard to say. I can say as much as it’ll probably be a easier fight to work together and live with an image. It just starts with viewing things the right way.

Am I trying to defend every person in the anime community? Not really. The point is there are people everywhere in any community that aren’t like the others. It’s a fact and it’s the point to make it clear that it’s not the embodiment of the greater community. Does that mean we have to create a sub-group for them in hopes that it will make things better? Maybe. Would it work to also just work around what are personality traits and realize how basic a community description is? It might be a bit easier.

So I guess my word is that yeah that guy isn’t symbolic of everybody in the community. Is he still a member though? Yeah. That guy carrying around his pillowcases probably isn’t someone that I would necessarily approve of for extreme public stunts. Is he still a member of the anime community nonetheless? Yeah.

Afterward
I guess I don’t really need to wrap things up but I just wanted a few more formal words before calling this one a wrap. I worked on this article quite a bit and mulled over ideas on a constant hour to hour basis trying to gather my thoughts. In the end I still feel pretty unhappy with it and I’m sorry that I sound so preachy. I guess there was no real other way to get my point across.

In the beginning I had a long past tie in talking about generalizations that I threw a way. A lot of other times I started rambling on about the image of otakus and trying to gather what people thought. I feel like a lot of this is common knowledge to those who are in the anime community. And for those that aren’t I believe your personal view is probably sufficient enough to see what issues there are in this all.

I also don’t want to make this into some sort of “everybody get along” spiel. Like I said, I believe there are those people that have some terrible personality conflicts. I utterly resent a lot of people in the Vocaloid community but I won’t say that they aren’t members or try and make myself different from them. I simply preach what I know and I hope that people see me by my personal problems (which there are a lot of) rather then making me out to be different in some way.

I narrowed this down to the anime community for obvious reasons. Well aside from the nature of my blog, it’s also hard to say this beyond something that is a real close cut community. What we use to separate ourselves are usually personality grievances rather then actual distinctions is also my aim. I would never try and take this to things such as race. While they obviously are problems, it’s not as easy to address.

Oh and last of all I did this for meeting a lot of different people. I have to admit for a long time I had much of the same thought process. I didn’t like socializing with a lot of people because of certain values attached to series. But after spreading out a bit I learned that you can meet some very interesting people in very interesting shells. I think you can meet some interesting people these days if you just drop your guard a bit.

So go out and learn to accept your pillowcase hauling brother. I’m sure you’ll find your life a lot more enjoyable when you can live with your own vices. Yeah, it’s a bit of grief and you probably can’t make friends with everybody. But I think as long as you’re moderate. You just have to go about life as you do and I’m sure you’ll make friends. If you’re calling out others and trying to separate yourself to make those friends, then you should probably find a new group to roll with.

With that I’ll bring things to a close. Sorry to drag on so long and sorry again for being preachy. I promise all my long shots won’t be like this.

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