Phrases that I hate: Fanservice

No, this won’t be about how “fanservice”  used to have a broader definition before it got limited to ecchi scenes. I have no reason to hate it because of that, words change their meanings all the time. My problem is with the “fan-” part, and it applies to both definitions.

When did we, as a fandom, decide that what fans what is the shallowest, most pavlovian, most inconsequential elements of a story? You certainly wouldn’t get that picture just from listening to us. When was the last time you heard a fan declaring that they want more fanservice? Not just “tolerating it in moderation”,  or “not particularly minding it”, but actively demanding that a certain show needs more fanservice?

And when was the last time when you heard a fan complaining about too much fanservice? Or rather, how many times did you hear it today?

Even in our day and age, with “nerd” and “geek” becoming something that we identify with rather than something that bullies insult us with, and with “fan” transforming from the original “fanatic” into a synonym of “liking something”, there are still several ways used to socially pressure us not to indulge in too much fannish behavior, pushing us towards the mainstream, away from any sign of “obsessiveness” or “fanboyism”.

For example I’ve already wrote about the curious case that we have such an annoyingly overused term as “weeaboo” for a type of excessively japanophile fans, yet we don’t even have any term for their ideological opposite, the kind of anime fans who seem to hate everything about anime’s japaneseness, and motivated by wanting to appear as “normal” as possibe. In the previous edition of this “Phrases that I hate” series, I just wrote about “pandering“, and how inconsistently it is only ever used against well-defined stereotypes of fandom groups (e.g.: fujoshi-pandering, otaku-pandering, moe-pandering) , to divide us into hostile groups, but never to describe general cases of other shallow story elements  that are intended to grab someone’s attention.

Even outside of the world of anime, there are many similar examples, with fans trying to put themselves outside of fandoms, to give the impression that they are the only “true fan”, while those under the fandom label are all hive-minded sheeple who are being manipulated with bells and whistles.

The problem with “fanservice” is the same. It’s a phrase invented by the fandom, and popularized by the fandom, to express the feeling that the rest of the fandom is full of idiots. To make you feel better about not being one of those dirty, obsessive perverts down there in the fandom, who can be influenced with panty shots and beach episodes, but a classy, intellectual audience of the series who wants more depth, and more art and more plot.

Which is, of course, a silly idea. Fans are the last people who would want to see a show to become more shallow. The only ones who are attracted to these shallow elements such as ecchi scenes, gratuitous violence, or random shout-outs to other popular series, are exactly the most casual audiences, who just happened to tune to that channel and it catched their attention.  Calling it “fanservice” just pointlessly fuels the fandom’s self-loathing, and hostility against each other.  

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4 responses to “Phrases that I hate: Fanservice

  1. Reblogged this on Medieval Otaku and commented:
    I rather enjoy reading this gentleman’s articles, and his rant on fanservice struck me as particularly apt. Basically, he makes a strong case that true anime fans actually are those least into so-called fanservice.

  2. I have no problem with this term because it’s defined well enough. I think people are rarely confused when the term is being used in the typical way, and it describes something that is well defined from the perspective of someone creating the thing.

    Snooty people exists on a parallel plane to fandoms. It’s like people who are tall or short or likes to eat vegetables or are racist or likes little girls or like to judge other people. It’s not really something I worry about because it’s the sort of thing decent people are, as the saying goes, bigger than.

  3. Good post as always. Fan-service is one of those terms where people in the fandom know what it means but it doesn’t mean what it sounds like – “fan-service” should be a “service to the fans” but in reality it’s all the stuff that most anime fans don’t like, particularly the ones you described who do their best to make themselves out to be the “real” fans with “normal” tastes and distance themselves from the fans with niche tastes. What you said in your second to last paragraph sums it up well. I use the term “fan-service” for convenience’s sake because everyone knows what it means, but you’re right that it’s a questionable term.

    • Actually, I use it too. Just looking back at the past posts, we could probably find examples of it, along with “pandering” and “guilty pleasures” that I also wrote about.

      You wouldn’t know it from the sensationalist title of this post category, but actually I’m not much of a terminology nazi, I’m aware that most people are just trying to make sense with their choice of words, not personally attacking me. 😛
      A more accurate but less attention-catching title would have been “Phrases that leave kind of a bad aftertaste in my mouth when I consider their potential implications”.

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