How America Invented The Weeaboo

(Warning: The following post may contain generalizations, and national stereotypes. That’s inevitable, since it’s about general trends in the community, not about individual people. Try to read it as one possible aspect of these trends, and not as “Alterego explains how shit works “. )

A few months ago, I wrote a post about Weeaboos, their common traits, and the strange fact that those elements of the fandom that are most vocally opposing them, with their consistent consistent criticism of all of the anime subculture’s most japanese attributes, aren’t equally shunned with such monikers.

From that post alone, you might have figured  out that I’m just a weeaboo who doesn’t want to get criticised.  And there is an element of truth in that. I’m certainly more sympathetic towards people who just want to embrace their fandom, than towards those who are obsessed with appearing normal. But there is also something more to it: Many of these stereotypes about being the annoying type of anime fan, simply don’t register with me. I learned them, and I take care to avoid them so I won’t sound ridiculous, but intuitively, I wouldn’t have felt that they are considered bad. You see, I’m not an American.

Well, that is not exactly a shocking reveal. Mainly because I already said it many times, and also because it’s not all that rare anyways. In the english-speaking fandom, there is a rather large minority of foreigners. Large, but it’s still a minority. But first and foremost,  this community was still created by native english spaking people, mainly Americans. Created by them, led by their mentality, and influenced by their culture.

And American culture is in the special position of experiencing globalization from a home turf. You might call that phenomena “Americanization”, as something that is just happening to the rest of the world, or even “cultural imperialism”, as something that is actively done to them, but the result is the same. Native english speakers are becoming the only ones in the world, who can look around on their cities’ streets without seeing a single foreign word, and who can turn on the TV without finding foreign shows on most of the major networks. (I’m using examples of language, because language is a good example f it all, but it can be applied to other forms of culture, too.)

That Japan has it’s own pop culture, is an anomaly compared to that, and a strange new experience for american anime fans, while nothing special for others.

For me, the debate between subs vs. dubs, is an everyday part of forum threads about watcing NCIS, Dexter, My Little Pony, or Game of Thrones. The TV normally airs dubs, but pretty much everyone who is nerdy enough to know aout series before they are localized, prefers subs (or raws). Mainly because translations will always be imperfect, and even if not, they already got used to the original.

For an American, watching foreign cartoons is a rare, special case, so if someone shows that attitude of constantly dismissing dubs, that would be explained in that special context alone, as being so obsessed with Japan,  that they prefer japanese over english.

Likewise, for me, sprinkling my hungarian speech with english loanwords,  is the default norm. For an english speaker, loanwords are something that you use to describe a foreign culture’s quirks. Tequila, karate, führer, croissant. Either because it’s an entirely new foreign concept and it needs a name, or because the loanword emphasizes the foreignness. But you rarely hear people replacing perfectly functional english words with new foreign ones, just because those are “cooler”, and because you hear them so often that they are the first ones that come to your mind.

When I started this blog, I showed it to some hungarian anime fans were the first to see it. “Nice, but why english?” – they asked “I understand it, of course, but still, a hungarian blog would be nice. I replied: “Yeah, but it would sound idiotic. There are so many english terms that we use to describe media, that along with the Japanese anime terms, it would still be a trilingual mess.  Even if many of these phrases could be translated to hungarian, it would sound silly to use them when we are all familiar with the jargon. So I thought I might as well skip one of the three languages.”.

The American anime fandom is the other one, that didn’t ever experience this outside the case of anime and Japan, that still finds it completely bewildering that any other culture than theirs can be appealing, and that loanwords, customs, and trends can creep into one’s personal life through media, and believes that if someone does accept them, that must be some sort of crazy delusional person who “pretends to be Japanese”.

Lucky them, I guess.


One response to “How America Invented The Weeaboo

  1. As always, excellent thoughts. I never thought about it that way – the fact that Americans are so obsessed with their own culture, they’re more apt to criticize an English-speaking person who’s vastly interested in another culture over theirs. They don’t realize that the pop culture of most other countries is a mix of American and other media, so in those countries being interested in something like a foreign TV show isn’t so strange. Like you mentioned, it even goes so far as many countries having more than one common language (I assume you learn both Hungarian and English in school?) whereas in America, there’s little encouragement to learn another language unless your parents came from another country and they make you learn it too.

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