On the Saturday of Otakon, an old man stopped John and I. He asked us for cash. He had just had dental surgery, you see, and needed cab fare. We would’ve been moved, but this same guy had stopped us with the same scam last Otakon.
I wasn’t about to forget him because I’m not too good at scams. Last year, we didn’t have any money so we vowed to wait with him and make sure he was okay. For some reason, he didn’t seem to want us to stay, and he wouldn’t let us call the police for help.
I’m sure that old man will be at Otakon year after year, because attendees are really compassionate people. At Otakon 2011, we collected $65,000 to donate to the Japan Relief Fund. Otakon was also recently named Customer of the Year by Visit Baltimore for being an all around great addition to the city. And if you want to really know about the kind things Otakon attendees have done, check out the comment thread on the Washington Post article I wrote about last week. The negative slant of the article has compelled commenters to recount random acts of Otakon kindness.
However, sometimes it’s tough for me to be nice because I worry it makes our fandom an easy target. There’s that perennial scammer, for one. But what really made me mad was watching this:
Do you feel transported back to high school? Just look at the popular girl picking on the nerd. Except these two are grown-ups, and the news station is framing it as if it is a relevant topic: nerds are having a grand old time and leaving everyone else in America to resolve the debt ceiling debate. We all know the two events aren’t at all dichotomous.
It’s stuff like this that makes me wish fandom was understood.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I tried to feed the trolls on Sunday of the convention. I was wondering if Baltimoreans knew we could see any tweet with the Otakon hashtag. I only got one response from an outsider, but several of my followers chastised me for getting mad. That’s just not how we behave. We aren’t supposed to ask outsiders to understand us. We’re expected to turn the other cheek.
After my poorly judged tweets, an observant Baltimorean wrote me an email:
“Have you heard the saying, ‘Never try to teach a pig to sing…?’ If you have you might not have heard the rest, ‘It wastes your time and annoys the pig.’”
The fact that hardly anyone responded to my tweets, even after I instigated an argument, shows that those outsiders didn’t actually want to understand. Outsiders view Otakon as they would a passing car crash, morbidly interesting for a mere moment.
If I want people to understand what I do, then as a professional fandom reporter, I’m in the wrong line of work. There are always going to be people who misunderstand fandom and take it out on me. But if I start to bite back, I’ll just get a reputation for being weird AND mean. If they want to find out more, they’ll look it up. They don’t need me tweeting my opinions at them like a Jehovah’s Witness pounding at the door.
Our best defense is to keep having a fantastic time with our hobbies and ignoring the naysayers. If you must say something, talk about how great the fandom is, like many of the commenters on the Post article. Stories about kindness help us. Lashing out just tires us out and wastes our time.
There are a lot of points of views on fandom out there. Our chance of ours being understood lies in our acceptance of everyone else’s.
Well just looking at the still image I don’t even need to watch that clip. I figure it would be just as painful as trying to watch HLN on a regular basis.
Oh hey you’re on twitter. *Follow*
Sorry, Lauren, this is making me super-nerd-rage out.
For the record, the woman conducting that interview with the cosplayer is a vapid cunt. I do not choose those words lightly, I believe that they are entirely appropriate. If anyone ever dared to ask me why I spend my money on my hobbies instead of helping poor people, I’d ask why they do the exact same thing which I can 100% guarantee that this woman does. I can guarantee that she spends her money on things that I find to be just as pointless and stupid as she finds costuming to be. I guarantee it. I guarantee that she’s spent a ton of money on something without any sort of socially redeeming value beyond that it made her feel good. What sort of hubris does it take to even ask that question? You can’t even really bother to waste your time being mad for more than the 15 minutes or so I plan to spend writing/revising/rewriting this comment because it’s absolutely not worth it to even address someone who would even think to ask a person why they spend their money on this-versus-this. Nobody can win or lose this argument. Worrying about what some shitbag small-time regional newscaster thinks about the possibility of me buying a Sailor Uranus doll before I’ve found a way to support any sort of legal action that the family of James Craig Anderson may take against the people who killed him isn’t a good use of my or anyone else’s time.
Still, I hope that bitch falls in a mud puddle.
I’d like to continue your line of thought. Donating to a cause is one thing (something we should all consider in an educated way, but that’s a completely OTHER rabbit hole to jump down), but claiming that these people are ignoring a crisis that was busy being mishandled by a bunch of jerks that didn’t really care what we thought is hollow logic at best.
Fandom gives us a chance to create our own dialog and feel like we’re making a difference. True, it sometimes falls on deaf ears (see: Megaman and Capcom), but our communities give us the chance to be passionate in a space where our passion seems to occasionally make a difference. That’s worlds away from the American political arena, where politicians get to make up a message to sell to people instead of the other way around (http://www.slate.com/id/2301160/).
True, not engaging is a civic disservice, but when it’s clear that the government doesn’t care about me, I have two choices ignore and vote angry or London.
I was actually just talking with my husband about how completely irrelevant it is to point out that Comic-Con was taking place during talks about the debt crisis. What’s her point? That America’s true heroes are the ones solving the debt crisis at the beach or at Disney World? The ones at $200/seat summer music festivals? It’s ridiculous. All I can think is that she really can’t stand to see people who are actually able to deal with the harsh realities of life but still be able to find fun and commonality with their peers. Pretty sad.
@Mara, I was really angry with the anchorwoman in particular, but then I found her Twitter account — http://twitter.com/#!/Frazzie. Notice how all she tweets about is work. To people like this, the fact that somebody would openly express their hobbies means they’re ready and willing to get criticized. Nobody is ever going to accuse this reporter of indulging in scrapbooking/fishing/drinking instead of spending every waking moment devoted to America’s problems because she keeps that stuff private. The difference is that we don’t see having fun as a personal weakness.
Yep, I’d seen her Twitter, too. It all just leads me to believe that she’s probably exactly the kind of person that I have decided to absolutely not care about (and maybe even pity a little) as an adult. We all know she’s jelly.
This is actually one of the primary motivations behind my documentary film work. I just did an interview about my movie, and someone asked me what I wanted to personally get out of the project.
The main thing is that I hate stereotypes and I hate people belittling others just because they don’t understand or aren’t particularly interested in what the other person likes. I like challenging their pre-conceived notions, and to quote myself “The best way to do that is to put a real person in front of them, and so that’s what I’m going to do.”
I find that it’s easy for people to hate on groups, and even random individuals from the group when you only get to know them based on a narrow set of ideas. So interviewing a cosplayer about cosplay and only that doesn’t really bring new information to the table.
But when you say “Listen, here is a person who plays WoW every day. They raid with a group on twice a week. They have a high level character and are in the top guild on the server. He also has a wife, two kids who are successful in school, a large house, a great job with the government, and he likes watching baseball. He goes to the park with his kids on Saturdays to play soccer, his mother-in-law loves him because he sends her flowers on her birthday.”
Of course, then I also like to start drawing the obvious parallels between what are considered “normal” hobbies and the “abnormal” ones. Major League Gaming events are exactly like football games or boxing matches or any other sport from a spectator point of view. Fantasy football/baseball/whatever leagues are so similar to RPGs and CCGs that I can’t understand why people who play them aren’t labelled nerds (and/or why the nerds aren’t always winning). Using video it’s easier to make those comparisons, because you can use editing relationships to make your point instead of stating it outright, because people get defensive when you just SAY they aren’t that different from nerds.
And all I have to say to anybody that complains that fans paid $175 for a ticket to SDCC during an economic crisis: head to toe, how much did YOU pay for YOUR outfit? Women like those anchors probably spend more than that on their shoes.
Lauren, I think you’re in a wonderful position as a fandom reporter. As you continue to establish yourself and become more and more well-read, you’ll be educating so many about anime and other related topics. I think your work is very important, because you’re bridging gaps and helping to create a culture of understanding and compassion.
Something else to keep in mind… RT is Russian Television’s news outlet. Even though it’s broadcast in English for English speaking audiences, there definitely is an agenda behind RT’s slant on this subject. They seem more interested in painting fans (read: Americans in general) as frivolous with money then they are about getting to the heart of why people gravitate to Comic-Con. The questions are skewed and the reporter continually glosses over the responses. I think RT could have done this story with any group of fans. They just used Comic-Con as an example because it is visually appealing and makes for interesting news.
@Jeff, that’s a great observation. Though they’re based in Washington, D.C., I guess they don’t have a lot of control over the topics. Did you know a former Otakon staff member works as a director at RT? Needless to say, he wasn’t too into the story, but according to him, the station in general wasn’t pleased. Email me if you want to hear what he said — I don’t just want to quote him here without his permission.
People will immediately judge anything that seems “deviant” to them. Unfortunately, when it comes to what actually constitutes “deviancy,” it tends to be “anything that I don’t understand.”
This news piece is the exact same thing. She openly criticizes the fans for their hobby, but never stops to address the idea that “normal” people probably dont care about the debt crisis either. How many of them donate to the Red Cross or for disaster relief? All she sees is “deviant fan spending money” and little else. Not the fact that the large cons keep their host cities afloat. Not the fact that fan communities are strong social networks that spend money at a time when others do not. She sees “weird” and equates it with “wrong.”
That’s the grand shame with out society these days. Different used to equal special and progressive. Not different equal deviant and wrong.
Ah yes, that video was pretty hard to watch. Especially towards the end when the con-goer was becoming visibly uncomfortable.
But yeah, I think you bring up a very good point – it’s not so far that people are misunderstanding the fandom, but that they really don’t want to understand. It’s not as if these skeptics have actually thought about the topic of fandom seriously – it’s more akin to just another “juicy thing to talk about” of the week. As you mentioned, if they really wanted to learn about the fandom, there are plenty of resources and it’s pretty hard to imagine that any person who was seriously interested in the learning about the subculture (and know how to use the Internet) would maintain any misconceptions for very long.
I think it’s helpful to see that in this context, many of the aggravators here are using their criticism as a means to an end – oftentimes we are defined just as much by what we reject as by what we hold dear. It’s the classic high school cliché – people maintain some semblance of a normal, “correct” self image by rejecting what’s considered strange. So the cynic in me is tempted to say that many of these people actually not only don’t want to understand, but are subconsciously rejecting said understanding even when the facts are clearly laid out before them, because such a rejection is convenient to this ill-conceived social notion of being normal (and hence, acceptable). So, why even try to make them understand? The actual understanding is not the point (as stupid as that seems), and in fact, genuine understanding would just make them unhappy and uncomfortable.
There is definitely a group out there who is just trying to figure it out, and with whom a discussion about fandom would be fruitful. But generally speaking, the people who are vocally *****ing about stuff like this on public channels might just be using the topic as fodder to reinforce their self-image. So, it’s best to accept that the trolls are just an unfortunate yet natural result of modern society, and focus on those who actually want to know.
And yeah, also what the hell with the debt crisis line of thought. Economically speaking, I do not see how fan convention consumption is different from any other type of consumption whatsoever. Except maybe that normal things are worth some amount of money, while con experiences are priceless ;).
I like how a bunch of geeks and nerds not going to comic-con is going to solve our debt crisis as opposed to the 500+ officials in Washington who were elected to do that.
HLN trolled us real good with that one.
Lauren, I think this is a great article with such a good message too. The haters are out there and it just isn’t worth trying to get them to understand.
At the same time, we must not let ourselves become judgmental of other fandoms. I’ve tried to warn Dragoncon-goers, don’t “look down” on any groups at the con. We’re all a little crazy for our respective fan tracks. Just revel in the fervor of it all.
I have felt like that for most of my life both in school and also outside of school.
I am in university now and believe me, there are allot of people in my class who don’t understand the things I like.
So here is what I think.
News people are full of bull, they try to make news and lie about information to make it news.
News people are the great manipulators of information that forces their view of the world down people’s throats just as bad a politicians and religious preachers.
So just turn the TV off, and enjoy your life while you are still alive and well.
Worrying about what others think of you is only going to kill brain cells.
Be happy for who you are and stuff all for those who don’t want to understand you.
Be happy to be an otaku, that is my motto in life.
I actually went to a panel at this year’s A-kon in Dallas, and this guy was telling us how similar our comic/anime/etc fandom is to sport fandoms, they think what we do is weird but it’s all the same kind of stuff, paying tons of money to go to events, dressing up as others (and in fact you see everybody wearing jerseys even outside of sports events and parties, something cosplayers probably do less often then them), and just overall being really excited about what we love.
I think if somebody wants to work on getting people to understand our fandoms, then do exactly what was said at the end of the article, say how great it is, and also try to explain to people how similar it is to their own “normal” fandoms, it would help greatly for people to understand it by actually seeing how similar they are to us.
But definitely don’t ever get discouraged from people telling you that it’s not normal, because in many ways it is normal, especially now that there are more and more like minded people. Anime, video game, and comic conventions are growing larger every year as fanbases get larger. Perhaps we will have a larger fanbase than sports eventually XD
@Zach, I’ve heard the extreme sports fan simile, too. Do you know who was giving the panel?
I’d love to see an anime fanbase that’s BIGGER THAN SPORTS. We’d meet in stadiums, watch the Masquerade on the big screen, and hold the rave on the field.
[…] an exaggeration to call Aja an otaku journalist herself. Aja and I have both written lots about how fandom can be misunderstood. Aja has written about how not to talk about fanfiction, a fan hobby that everyone loves to whale […]