There’s no going around it: this month has been a hellscape. The discovery that my country is imprisoning children and babies is horrific, even if it’s what we’ve always done.
I have lived in DC for decades which means politics have always directly affected my life. Many of my friends and family are government employees or contractors, so when Trump tweets something stupid, they are the ones who pay the price—getting downsized, losing half their office budget, or spending valuable time creating a report on why it’s not possible to restore WWII era technology to the military, and yes that really happened.
During these times, fandom has been an escape for me. But last week crushed that solace, too, when we learned that there is going to be a white supremacy rally about a mile from Otakon. I’m well aware of our ties to the alt-right; I know that hate is always just a click away in the Crunchyroll or Anime News Network forums. But this is a new kind of closeness.
Times like this, it is more difficult than ever to be motivated as a pop culture journalist. These past few weeks, I haven’t even published anything on my Forbes blog. Reporting is like shining a spotlight, and I keep second-guessing if my coverage deserves people’s attention. When the world is a mess, can we still afford to focus on fandom?
I knew I couldn’t be the first writer to have this concern and I’m not—Vinnie Mancuso wrote What Is the Point of Pop Culture in a World Gone Mad? in 2016. Unfortunately, his essay is even more relevant in 2018: “What’s the use in marveling at dragons on-screen when the dragons are all here, and they’re more terrifying figures than any CGI budget could afford?”
It’s exhausting. When this all began I was calling my senators daily. Now I throw donations at organizations like RAICES and the ACLU as if money will excuse my inaction. At the very least I vote in every election, even dinky little local primaries. I know this isn’t a whole lot. As a white cis woman, I know that I have it easy and that I should be doing more.
This has been the deafening background noise of my life for months, but I checked out my archive here and realized I haven’t written about what it feels like to live in DC in this era. (The answer: suffocating.) Instead, I’ve been posting about cartoons as usual. Part of it is that I feel I should stay in my lane: I’m not a political reporter. Still, everything is political now: from the survival of my LGBT friends to the presence of immigrants like my father in this country.
There is no roadmap for where we go from here, but I know the answer isn’t black and white. The solution won’t be a total retreat into subculture writing nor full-time rage. I think it’ll be a little different for everybody reading this—what we can each contribute, the ways we can support each other in a world that has gone off the rails.
Additionally, I think fandom will be a part of what saves us. What’s incredible about conventions like Otakon is that even when there are 30,000 people in one spot with all the differences that come with that, there’s still at least one shared interest we all have in common. Its very existence refutes what the Nazis next door would have us believe—that some people are so different, they’re not even the same species. We know that’s flat-out wrong.
I’ll be sticking to fandom moving forward, but don’t think for a second that I’m not angry, that I’m not fighting. But like Mancuso concludes, there is a point to all this: “Pop culture doesn’t exist to save lives, but it can be a reminder that every single life is as valuable as your own. Just think to the last time a piece of art truly moved you, and realize there’s a good chance it moved someone half a world away.” I want to believe that still, so I’ll keep writing.