Monday, October 6, 2014

Listen to Their Passion

Today's Blimey Cow video is titled "The Fandom Menace (or: Why I Hate Fandoms)." I've enjoyed many of their videos, but this time, I'm at least a small part of their rant's target. I reminded myself to keep an open mind before I clicked play. Sure enough, it was not my favorite video (although I liked it better once they moved past TV fandoms to celebrity "cults"). I understood where they were coming from, though, and I knew better than to be offended (hyperbole and sarcasm abound in all their rant videos). Still, I had to respond... especially after reading some of the comments.

This post is, in part, a personal explanation and defense of fandom and passion. However, this is addressed to everyone, no matter their current relationship to fandom. You can watch Bimey Cow's video first, if you want, although it's not necessary:

I'm an anime fan, but I can, to some extent, appreciate both sides of this issue. I try to be responsible about my fangirling, but it's a learning process. Sometimes, I blab about anime too much, and I know it. Since I love anime, it's often on my mind, and it's hard not to talk about it. This applies to anything I'm passionate about, and not just my fandom. I'm still learning how and when to keep silent.

Here's the thing about some of us nerdier fans: we know we're not "normal," even without hearing Jordan say so. And we're often self-conscious about it. It's not that I want to meet all the qualifications of "normal," but I don't want to alienate myself from the so-called normals, either. Nor do I want to alienate other fandoms.

There's another side to my experience, though: In the online anime community, I encounter a lot of otaku more passionate and knowledgable about anime than I am. And, since there are so many anime out there, we all have our own favorites, and which may or may not include esteemed "classics." These two facts occasionally cause insecurity. For example, I've questioned whether I really qualify as a fan of certain show when I can't even keep the characters' names straight. It's like I need permission to simply enjoy without obsessing. But that's something I have to sort out for myself. I have to come to terms with my level of investment in a particular facet of anime fandom. Once I do, I enjoy listening and learning from the more extreme fans. After all, they don't mean to make me feel insecure. Every now and then, I do encounter someone who likes to show off their superior anime knowledge or taste in shows. This is rare in my circles, but I've seen some of the negative affects of such attitudes. I keep these experiences in mind, and try to avoid sounding judgmental or condescending when I'm in opinionated-fan-mode myself (especially when I've got budding anime fans around me, and I don't want to scare them off).

So, here's what I've learned: all of us, fans and non-fans, need to shut up sometimes and love by listening—really, truly listening. We need to be okay with our differences, and enjoy them. I might never have the combination of time and interest to get into Doctor Who. But I'll happily listen to friends talk about it, and I'd enjoy watching a couple episodes with them. It's fun to watch people geek out about what they love—their faces light up. If, however, I were to reject Doctor Who entirely, a Whovian friend might feel like I'm rejecting part of who they are... and, in fact, I would be. I don't need to love Doctor Who to love a Whovian friend; but I need to appreciate its importance to them. And they'll hopefully realize that, when I don't become a radical fan, I'm not rejecting them. I'm just enjoying our differences.

Oh, and this logic doesn't just apply to fandoms: if Grandma is passionate about quilting, I should listen to what new techniques she's learned and ask to see her latest project. If my younger cousin loves playing soccer, I should learn why, and maybe ask her to show me some moves. If my friend is passionate about any cause or interest, I should listen. I confess, I'm not always great at initiating these conversations, but it's a social skill I want to develop. Because when someone expresses interest in what I love, I know they care. And I want to show other people that I care, too.

If I only talk about what I am passionate about, I can be part of what they call the "fandom menace." If I spend too much time complaining about or belittling other fandoms, then I become part of the anti-fandom menace. Either menace is annoying, occasionally hurtful, and never loving. The easiest way to avoid becoming that? Pay attention to what someone else likes or doesn't like. And legitimately care about their opinion.


  1. I had trouble with that in my teenage years. I grew out of it, and I bet most others do too. But you're right, boy is it annoying.

    1. Like all social skills, it takes time to learn, and probably comes more naturally as we mature. People with "normal" interests probably stand out out less, because even if they're going on and on about something, the other person will understand and even be able to chime in. Those of us with "geeky" interests or fandoms might have to be extra careful, because the other person isn't interested and/or doesn't know enough to participate in a conversation, so it ends up being a one-sided monologue. :P


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