On Fandom: Weeaboos Are People Too

By | Friday, March 14, 2014 Leave a Comment
I was recently pointed to this article on How to Avoid Becoming a Weeaboo and thought I should point out the utter horseshit of it.

Let's start with a little background. The definition, according to Know Your Meme, is "a Gaijin (foreigner in Japanese) displaying a heavy bias towards everything from Japan or virtually exiling oneself from the indigenous culture (also known as “outside”) in pursuit of the “superlative.”" It's a little different than "otaku" in that otaku tend to be more focused on a certain aspect of Japanese culture (e.g. anime, manga, etc.) whereas a weeaboo is more indiscriminate, taking an extreme interest in all-things-Japanese. Basically, a weeaboo is a person who is such a fan of Japanese culture to the extent that they regard everything else as inferior.

I don't know that I've ever met anyone who might be considered a weeaboo. Stu Levy is probably the closest, but while he has a clear appreciation for Japanese culture, I don't know that I've seen him eschew everything else as inferior. But I'm sure there are people out there who would generally be considered weeaboo; I just don't travel those circles very regularly.

So why is this "Avoid Becoming a Weeaboo" horseshit?

Well, first, there's nothing wrong with liking Japanese culture. Beyond manga and anime, they have deep, rich culture with a history at least as fascinating as anyone else's.

Second, there's nothing inherent in one's own culture (whether you're from America, France, Egypt, or anywhere else) that's necessarily superior to Japan's. We're generally taught a sense of patriotism, or even jingoism, wherever we grow up and it's infused so pervasively at such a young age that we rarely have the wherewithall to step back and recognize it as the propaganda that it is. There's no fundemental reason that says we have to accept that at face value or, for that matter, that we have to accept it at all.

By calling someone weeaboo, you're effectively saying that their value judgements are fundamentally wrong. That they're not allowed to consider Japanese culture, traditions, language, and mores better than their own. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing with that judgement, but we're not talking about anything quantitative here. It's no different than claiming someone's an idiot because they prefer vanilla over chocolate. If anything, it displays more small-mindedness on the part of the insulter because it shows how they can't accept that anyone might have a different set of values than they do.

Take a look at that How to Avoid Becoming a Weeaboo piece again too. Most of the "rules" center around not being a newcomer. If you want to actually learn Japanese, don't you have to start with just a few words? Don't many cosplayers start with relatively easy costumes using store-bought products? Doesn't everybody adopt different styles from other people as they're discovering what works for them? Don't many authors consider using Mary-Sue characters as a viable way to train yourself to write better? This list of Don'ts that we're presented with essentially says that you're not allowed to start becoming interested in Japan; you have to skip over the education portion of becoming a fan and simply be an expert without any learning curve. They're basically laying down club rules that say you can't be a member of the club unless you're already a member of the club.

And what a shitty way to treat fans! Look, I've gotten annoyed with comic fans who asked very obviously newbie questions. I used to moderate a Fantastic Four message board, and I got really tired of answering the same dozen FF questions every 6-8 months for the new guy who just discovered how awesome the comic/cartoon/movie was. But I still recognized that I had that level of excitement when I first discovered the comic as well, and I didn't want to potentially kill that excitement and sense of discovery for this new person. That's not fair to them, and it robs fandom of someone who could have a lot to contribute.

You want to roll your eyes when somebody online tastes Pocky for the first time? Fine. But don't try kicking them out of the club before they've even had a chance to see what it has to offer!
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