FREE food for thought

All right, I have an editorial blog, so I guess there is no way around writing something about FREE, the new KyoAni anime. Also, something about moe, or whatever.

All right. First of all, here is some advice.

  1. If you want to tell your interpretation of how “everyone” or the “otakudom” is completely wrong in the show’s reception, you need to take a step back, go to a forum thread or a blog aggregator or a large comment section, and count 100 reactions to FREE’s announcement. If you truly confirmed that everyone (or even most people) reacted the same way, go ahead. But there is only one thing that is more annoying than a one-sided debate, and that is a many-sided debate where absolutely everyone has a persecution complex, and a conviction that they are alone with their opinion. 
  2. If you want to talk about the meta-discussion of how there is more debate about the debate of FREE than there is debate about FREE, head over to omonomomo. He got it covered.

 

Personally, what I found most interesting, is how obviously this the outrage is happening in our western side of the otakudom, as much as the feminist defense and the anti-moe outcries. In the video gamer community, the past monhs have been all about dragging the geek subculture’s underlying sexism, and misogyny to the spotlight, to admit that WE have a problem.

So far, the anime fandom mostly deflected any such accusations by dumping them on the Japanese otaku. WE, the classy western anime fans, would like more gender  equality, and less sexual objectification, and less moe (whatever the hell that means),  it is the dirty, moe-obsessed, hug pillows-buying, eroge-playing Japanese otaku’s fault that the industry is still backwards.

To see actual western anime fans lose their shit about one particular anime having sexualized guys in it, is an interesting reminder that WE as a fandom still have a problems, or maybe they are not real problems, let’s just leave that inconclusively,  but in either case, you can’t just explain away accusations of sexism with xenophobic stereotypes about Japan.

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The Genre Ghetto

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:

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