In TVTropes slang, “ghetto” stands for the attitude that a certain content type should stay limited to the narrowly defined pigeonholes that it’s critics made up. For example, the common western attitude that all animation should be made for kids, is the Animation Age Ghetto, or the common expectation that female-targeted shows are strictly for women only, is the Girl Show Ghetto.
These ghettos can even manifest themselves literally as closed-off areas where these stereotypically “inferior” stories can be rounded up and separated from “proper” entertainment, such as libraries sending all manga down to the children’s library, or separating everything all speculative fiction on a sci-fi/fantasy bookshelf, outside of everything else’s alphabetic order.
That latter one, the sci-fi ghetto, gets some of the most interestingly illogical reactions. While by now there are so many mainstream, popular, and even artistically acknowledged sci-fi stories, that you would expect it’s critics to just give up, that’s where prejudice shows it’s stubbornness: Instead of just admitting that, say, 1984 is an intelligent sci-fi novel, therefore sci-fi can be intelligent, the truly prejudiced can still think like this:
“Oh, sci-fi is that silly Star Trek-thing where spaceships shoot lasers at each other, and men wear pajamas, so if 1984 has none of that, it’s not really sci-fi, it’s Proper Literature”
And that’s not even an exaggeration. Critics, and even authors, have really argued that their works are not really fantasy or sci-fi, if they don’t fit into the crudest stereotypes of these genres. Just how arrogant you have to be, to redefine an entire genre according to your own admittedly limited familiarity with it, while dismissing the established definition made by it’s actual audience? As anime fans, you might be directly familiar with that kind of attitude. While most of the above preconceptions are limited to the hilariously ignorant and old-fashioned mainstream, in case of anime, even our fellow fandoms and nerds and enthusiasts, who are protesting the same prejudices themselves, might think and speak like this:
“Anime is that thing that I occasionally saw on Animax, where everyone has huge eyes, then there are huge sweatdrops appearing on the back of everyone’s head when they feel awkward, and there are guys yelling the names of their attacks with a fireball erupting around them.
Therefore, Miyazaki movies, Satoshi Kon series, and basically anything that doesn’t have huge-eyes and colorful hair in it, aren’t really anime, just animation from Japan. Conversely, Avatar, The Legend of Korra, Teen Titans, etc, ARE anime, because they fit the bill (that I just made up).
Anyone who would disagree with this definition is either just some elitist weeaboo who wants to separate his precious “real anime” from “dirty bakagaijin cartoons”, or at least a pointlessly nitpicking categorization-obsessed fan who thinks that the technical details like the country of origin, are more important than the obvious style similarities and differences that even I can notice.
Of course, these claims are wrong on many accounts, the most obvious being that this supposed definition of anime actually lists some of the shonen fighting series’ stylistic elements, and with the same arrogance as writers who assume that they can just redefine what sci-fi means, they assume that they can just replace the existing terminology, and expect established communities to bow before their personal vocabulary.
Vocabularies always have a purpose. Don’t ever assume that when two people are arguing about specific phrases, citing dictionary definitions, and bringing up descriptive vs. prescriptive linguistics, they are just doing it because they are grammar nazies. Especially when the same specific argument is brought up too often, there is almost always some ideological purpose behind it. There are some freuently debated terms inside the anime fandom as well, and the purpose behind these debates might be disturbingly similar to the dismissive ghetto-builders. I’m talking mostly about these good old phrases:
– Slice-of-life / moe / healing
– ecchi / fanservice
It’s always the same deal. As soon as an anime starts with obvious signs that it belongs to either of these genres, it gathers a hatedom. And that’s not the problem, not everyone likes everything. If you want more action shows, or if you dislike sexualization, then good luck at finding what you are looking for. The problem starts, when one of these stories starts being good, or at least decent, and even many of the people who watched it until now, start making excuses about how they didn’t ever fit the genre in the first place.
After all, harem shows are those awefully boring generic shows with the bathing episodes, and the big-breasted childhood friend feeding bento to the whimpy hero on the school rooftop. Therefore, obviously if a show where four main character girls are falling for the same guy is exciting, original, and well-executed, then obviously, it is not a harem show.
When Nichijou started, there were several comments about how KyoAni is just playing it safe by mixing Lucky Star with Azumanga Daioh, in a moe comedy. Then it started to be genuinely funny (and often cute!). Then the first reposts came in about how it bombed at the disc sales. And by then, it was already KyoAni’s tragically failed attempt at breaking away from their cute-girls-doing-cute-things formula. Right now, almost exactly the same thing is happening with Hyouka.
When you want to criticize a show, anything vaguely sexual can be a “fanservice” or “ecchi” scene, from teenagers flirting with each other, to narratively implied sex scenes. But when a whole show is based around sexuality in a unique manner, not just as a series of panty shots, it’s no longer an “ecchi anime”, it needs neew terms.
What I’m saying is, if you MUST use labels, at least don’t use them to build ghetto walls, to separate the “inherently bad” from the “normal”.