Hiyori struggles with the muse.

I think I need to add in a new tag, called "fandom" or some such. I'd use it in cases, like this, when I muse upon the vagaries of the meta; not so much anime itself as the enjoyment thereof, and the observations surrounding the people engaged in such enjoyment.

Conversations among several acquaintances in assorted fields of interest have indicated that it appears to be a common human trait to assign some form of levels within any sufficiently sizeable gathering, perhaps as a method to determine the next plateau to aspire to, but more often than not merely as a device to decide which set of unfortunates are acceptable targets for derision and ridicule. This is, I believe, why we have lawyer jokes, which does seem to pair neatly with one's innate distrust of those with Too Much Money (or those seen to have Too Much Money), but this may be an artefact of media influence, and I'm digressing from the point anyway.

In the great and nebulous superset of that amorphous social blob known as anime fandom, there appears to be a highly complex hiearchy of respect (and the accompanying ridicule in the other direction) wherein someone may place him or herself and know, to some minor degree of accuracy, whom to look down upon. In fact, I've generally only noticed the ridicule, with the respect going to a very few people: the makers of anime themselves, lumped together in one large group as "The Creators", and good fan artists. These appear to be the people who gain the admiration of their friends and acquaintances merely by being, by existing and doing what they do best. However, since I am neither a Creator Of Anime nor a good fan artist, I have no real insights into these particular strata, and so will leave it at that.

Comes then the next level, that of the viewers of anime. And here we have a multidimensional spiderweb of intrigue and illusions, as it appears that every fan of every show must look down on every fan of another show, and all these shows are different for each and every person, although I would hazard a guess based on empirical observational evidence that the shows being looked down upon are the shows which are popular and which the looker is not a fan of. There are also some subtle variations to take into account, such as whether a respected member of the particular community, whether a Natural Respected like the fan artist or Creator, or simply a Big Name who gained their position from effort, reputation, or longevity, also likes that popular show. For the extremely popular, this may not save the show anyway: I bring your attention once again to the myriad rants I have written about the views arrayed against Haruhiism, which does have several Big Name fans, but nevertheless still suffers from popularity backlash.

And then we have, for some reason, cosplayers. Now, I personally have great respect for cosplayers, since there is no possible way I can even begin to imagine the effort needed to make some of those costumes, but, like lawyers, lolicons, and people who talk too loudly at the theatre, it seems that cosplayers have become Acceptable Targets for derision among otherwise level-headed anime fans. I'm guessing, with next to no evidence about this whatsoever, that this is due to the belief that Sturgeon's Law hews strictly to this aspect: for every "good" cosplayer, there are nineteen not-so-good ones of varying quality. Personally, I have yet to encounter such a statistic, but most of my experiences have been with the Singaporean cosplay community, as well as one single ACen (2006, if you're wondering), which I remember primarily for the large number of non-anime cosplayers; Final Fantasy 7 was greatly represented, as well as Kingdom Hearts. Anime-esque, but not actually anime. (Also, I remember it for that time I got drunk, but that's another oft-told story.)

Even lower than that, and the one I have to admit to a great amount of personal bias regarding, are fanfiction writers. Now, I write fanfiction. I treat this as just another aspect of enjoying an anime, like drawing fanart, or blogging about it. There is nothing particularly bad about this, at least when Sturgeon's Law, convenient excuse that it is, is considered.

But going "well, I write fanfiction" appears to be an open invitation to the more trollish members of the amorphous community to, well, troll. What answers unadorned by ad hominem insults I am usually (if rarely) able to obtain seem to have to do with the idea that we are somehow sullying the work of the Creators by forcing our interpretations upon them. How exactly this enforcement is done is left vague, perhaps intentionally so. I dare not probe further into this matter in a great many cases, as it is invariably likely to lead to my being compared as unto yet another lowly maggot again.

It is a mystery. Of course, many aspects of human nature are a mystery to me anyway, so that's nothing really new.

6 Responses to “Hierarchies Of Fandom”
  1. Kalium says:

    (Also, I remember it for that time I got drunk, but that’s another oft-told story.)


  2. Author says:

    Let's face it, most fanfics are sullying (an overwhelming majority, in fact). We both know it.

  3. DKellis says:

    Actually, no, I don't. I still have yet to find out how a separate work of fiction explicitly mentioned not to be connected to the official canon can "sully" that canon.

    If you mean the quality of the fanfic, I did mention Sturgeon's Law. It applies to a great many other fields, and I don't really see why fanfiction (among other arbitrary groups) gets such a bad reputation, and other (also arbitrary) groups do not.

    It could well be an Acceptable Target, but I don't know why it's an Acceptable Target.

  4. Kalium says:

    In many fields, the good stuff tends to rise to the surface. It's not so easy with fanfiction, with it being far too easy for someone completely uninvolved with the scene to come across the worst stuff there is by accident.

  5. DKellis says:

    What bothers me is that fanfic writers appear to be all tarred with the same brush of mediocrity, while, say, AMV makers are not.

    This strikes me as singularly unfair.

  6. ChaosTangent says:

    It is unfair as there are no doubt excellent fanfic writers just as there are terrible ones (and all points in between). The derision could be broken down into a few areas:

    The most prevalent is probably group mentality, a majority are "against" fanfiction so the majority will continue that in case they are branded as an outcast. It's cyclical and probably the core of it being an "Acceptable Target" as a biting comment against a fanfic writer is unlikely to be contested in most anime communities.

    Another major problem is the barrier for entry for fanfiction is so low compared to other fandom you mention like cosplay and AMV. It takes very little skill to write badly, but it takes a greater amount of skill to be bad at cosplay and AMVs (if that makes sense). So while I could write terrible fanfiction in this comment box, I would need a sewing machine, material pattern for cosplay, or Adobe Premiere and timing skills for AMVs.

    Another significant area could be the perceived lack of creativity some attribute to fanfiction. As if having an established world, set of characters and canon somehow gives a "free pass" to writing fanfiction. This is of course not the case, but is difficult to convey to non-writers without concrete examples. AMVs and Cosplay are visual by nature meaning their effect is immediate rather than slow burning.

    There are probably plenty of other reasons for what you describe and unfortunately, no get-out clause in sight.