Today’s post is brought you by: salt-crusted tweets I find whilst on my lunch break.
I was scrolling through Twitter today and found this tweet:
*Attention all new anime fans*
What if I told you that good anime came out before Demon Slayer?
And admittedly, at first I giggled silently to myself with a wee smirk.
But upon a closer look and deeper reflection, I feel pretty guilty about that reaction. Why? Because it’s calling out a group of people for liking something. Think about it: There’s nothing wrong with being new. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about one show. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with disliking popular anime or classics (cult or otherwise).
This tweet masquerades beneath a fascade of educating new anime fans but in reality it’s just insulting them in a strange, condescending way. Like: I can’t believe you think Demon Slayer is that good. Haven’t you seen Cowboy Bebop, you insolent swine. Filthy Peasant.
“You’re too pretty to be a nerd.”
Recently, I released a photo of the beginning of my Akari Kawamoto cosplay, and it received a couple of comments. And some of those comments could be seen as good, but could also be read as passive aggressive:
- “It’s not a hard cosplay.” = It’s great that you’re showing there are easier cosplays out there to put together and making the activity more accessible to others.
- “It’s not a hard cosplay.” = How dare you call that cosplaying. Did you even try? You just put on a black dress.
Futhermore, I wonder if I would get that reaction if I didn’t look the way I do. Whilst growing up, I was constantly labeled as a “pretty, dumb girl”, regardless of my interests or grades. My dentist once told me I was going to break a lot of boys’ hearts one day. I was ten. I was continually being told that I couldn’t like certain things because I was too pretty to, as if how I looked affected both my brain cells and my passions. I was treated like I must be an idiot when people first got to know me. They didn’t care that I played drums and percussion and knit stuffed animals for children with cancer; they couldn’t care less if I was a spoken word poet or had a rubik’s cube purse.
I was a tiny girl with a nice face and an hourglass figure, and that was enough to blacklist me from being an interesting or worthwhile person.
I’ve hesitated in cosplaying for a long time for a variety of reasons, the biggest one was expense. I just couldn’t (and still can’t) afford to spend a lot of time or money on cosplaying. I even struggled to think of cosplays that weren’t extravagant or wouldn’t cost me a day’s pay check or day’s work. Another reason was that I felt like I could only cosplay someone who looked like me: someone with tan/brown skin and brown eyes and long dark brown/black hair with bangs. I don’t know why I felt like putting these restrictions on myself, and it’s only now after seen other cosplayers of color that I’ve begun to understand I can cosplay anyone. I’m not limited based on how I look.
“You’re too pretty to be depressed.”
Other times I was rhetorically asked what I could be depressed about with a face and body like mine. And sure, while we could go on about how they’re trying to tell me to practice gratitude and keep perspective or that they’re giving me a compliment, what they’re really doing is assuming they know what my situation is like based on how I look. Not only that, they’re insisting my situation cannot exist.
My mother died from stage-four stomach cancer. She was 48, white, and lower-middle class. She never drank or smoked cigarettes or did drugs. She wasn’t overweight. She had always been healthy, until she wasn’t. Who is most likely to get stomach cancer? Old Asian men who smoke and drink a lot and are below the poverty line.
Illness, mental or otherwise, doesn’t give a sh*t about your measurements, face symmetry or weight. It’s all just chemicals.
Cancer doesn’t care. Depression/Anxiety/whatever doesn’t care. If it wants to, it’ll f*ck up your life regardless of what you look like or what you identify as.
Effects on Community Building
So far I’ve talked a lot about self-image/the image of others, stereotyping, and personal-identity, but this is all a long-winded rant that brings me to the centerpoint: gatekeeping.
The biggest concern for me with all of this, is the effect– namely, community exclusion. Let’s be honest, nerds and geeks aren’t really known for their social lives. We’re largely composed of passionate introverts, who would be more than happy sitting together in a room quietly reading or sharing memes we find on subreddits without giving context.
And because we’re largely not a social group, putting ourselves out there is really hard and the connections we do make are extremely important for our social interaction and sense of community.
Gatekeeping’s toxicity is killing fandoms, and sometimes, killing fans.
When we lose our place of belonging, we lose a big part of our identity. It’s akin to leaving home or losing a loved one: it’s a huge change that affects us in so many ways. Passive comments that loosely translate to “you don’t belong here” are extremely detrimental, and potentially life threatening. What if this was the only place of safety for that person to go to? When no where is safe, it’s pretty difficult to keep a homeostatic environment— it’s hard to be anywhere, so you stop wanting to be, period.
Ultimately, we should focus on building each other up and making bigger and better fandoms that are positive environments for all fans. We should be making it easier and less exclusive for people to join us. Why wouldn’t we; why wouldn’t we want to share something that’s given us so much joy and fulfillment and passion? Let’s use anime to help someone instead of hurt them.
Let’s be good to ourselves and to each other: we deserve it.
Take care and watch on, Annieme-niac!