Our culture has grown more in recent years. We are no longer “alone.” Rather, we are, as media sociologist and author Volker Grassmuck might put it, “Alone, but not lonely”. No longer are we without a place.
Once, we thought no one understood our passions, or our fantasies, or why we put so much time, money and effort into anime, manga, videogames, etc. The internet has put a stop to all of that. The sheer amount of conventions, online forums and anime streaming websites have given otaku more of a home than we’ve ever had before.
But…remember what it was like growing up?
There were the jocks, there were the scene kids, there were the “Barbies”, the preppies, the “this”-ies, the “that”-ies. Then, there were Magic the Gathering nerds, there were Starcraft kids, there were “THE ASIANS.” Then there were those kids that were open about being otaku, maybe just three or four. There were “closet otaku” among various cliques. Yet, either way, you were usually “alone” in your obsession.
That’s how this culture was “found” in the first place. Subcultures develop because mainstream culture marginalized other people for being outsiders - thus the rise of subcultures like “Otaku.”
The saddest part about our proud subculture is that, finally having found each other, otaku turn then around and alienate people who are “not” otaku or that don’t “look” otaku.
The “prep” that shows up to the Anime Club because she has seen some anime, and loved it; loved it so much that she wants to explore more of it, she is alienated by the otaku. The SAME kids who were misunderstood and shunned by ALL of society for being different!
An otaku doesn’t look like anything. I know male and female otaku of literally all ages, of all races, and of all kinds of levels of attractiveness. Some have seen more anime than others. Some speak better Japanese than others. Some have anime tattoos. Some don’t play RPGs. The point here is: it doesn’t MATTER.
People that were once lonely in their interests; that wanted friends more than anything that understood them: they establish their own places in the otaku scene, they become “specialists”, and then they get haughty. They shun other people. They tear them down. They judge someone who might have a genuine curiosity about anime, manga, games, anything otaku, as if they are somehow a “threat.” Everyone has to start somewhere. Just because someone doesn’t know as much about Naruto as you do, or can’t name every track on Asian Kung-Fu Generation’s 4th album, doesn’t mean they are “less” than you. Why suddenly has the mission changed? When in the beginning we wanted more members in our group. Who does it serve to cut people down?
It’s just mean and hypocritical.
This isn’t a race. This isn’t a competition. At the end of our lives, there won’t be any kind of special prize for who knew more about anime, or who played more games in their lives. I know people who have a manga collection 3 to 4 times larger than my own, but haven’t read a single one of them. Does the fact that they have more manga make them “more” otaku than I am, despite the fact that I’ve read the majority of my books several times over? No, and it doesn’t work the other way around either. I am not better than they are. The fact is that there is no “scale.” Younger generations are being brought up in this “Otaku Kingdom”, where people much older than they are, people who have jobs and income, who are better able to support their own passions and fund their own collections are the bourgeoisie.
The attitude that there are different “classes” of otaku not only intimidates younger people, but teaches them that that is fundamentally what being an otaku is all about. And it was not until recently that this hierarchy existed in the world. Before, being an otaku was “weird” or “strange.”, and somewhat limited to children, but now everyone is cashing in on the entire “otaku” thing. Not only are professional models turning to cosplay, but other idols and celebrities are suddenly outing themselves as hardcore nerds. There are even reality shows such as “King of the Nerds” sprouting up on television networks everywhere. Although these shows focus more on “nerds” than otaku (meaning more Marvel, DC, Dr. Who, and Star Trek kinds of nerds) it’s no big secret that being a nerd right now is “hot.”
Anime touches people’s hearts, the same way it’s touched yours.
OUR culture is supposed to be all-inclusive. Let’s keep it that way.