Consumption as Expression, Or Do What You Always Did

Following up on the conversation I had with Mystlord in the comments, we talked about fan expression. I think it’s a logical next step to my post on fanaticism, or lack thereof, in today’s fan base.

I think there’s a lot of merit in thinking that creative expression, in terms of quantity, quality, and the nature of it, can be one way to express one’s fanaticism. I think furthermore the participation of it alone can be some kind of sign as far as a matter of identity. However, just because we might self-identify via our actions, I don’t know if it is a good measurement of fanaticism. It’s like just because you go to a con and wear a Naruto headband while at it, that does not mean you are a cosplaying otaku. Or does it? I personally don’t think so, but it might just be because I draw my lines much higher up than that.

I don’t really have a definitive answer for that question. I do have to say that consumption is also a form of expression. While consumption is not always a creative expression, however, it can spur creativity and become a primary reason to create. Because of consumption, this site exists: If you understand the attraction of BakaBT, then you understand why it is created as an expression of consumption.

Consumption is why anime fans are so hung up on the fansubbing debate. Consumption is why fans take it upon themselves to save the industry [a hilariously trolled thread by the way]. The industry, which in R1 terms, is almost purely an artifice of consumption: Its primary function is to repackage it by translation, and retail it at a lower cost, while being legit. Consumption is why we can have an Anime Diet in the first place, pardon the pun, guys. It’s why I talk about seasons and why some people watch Hidamari Sketch by their annual calendar. There is a reason why back in the days we said “Anime: Drugs are cheaper.” That was the mantra of the anime otaku overseas. I mean, hell, a nontrivial number of fans care for the legitimacy of what they are consuming, when in reality it doesn’t seem have a real impact on the quality of what they are consuming. Why? Maybe they were brainwashed, but that in itself is part of the plea of the pure fanatics: Moralfaggetry is an expression of fandom. It is a form of fanaticism, which I hope is obvious.

As much as more and more people turn to low-quality video streams on the web to get their fix, relegating expensive, ultra-high-fidelity home video releases to its small, economically muscled community, it is a tell-all sign shared by other fandoms: there are fewer “otaku” than ever %-wise, to go back to what Oswalt was saying. And the irony is we are talking about actual American otaku, and not just a culturally-appropriated term as applied to fanatics in general.

Second, I think anime, specifically, is a highly commercialized sort of fandom. In a lot of fandom studies the subject matter are focused geeks. Often they have to turn to fan-created activities because commercially little else exists to satisfy their inflated need in regards to that particular franchise or specific fan niche. It’s like studying people who only love Naruto and not much else, rather than studying “anime fans” in general. But there’s sooooooo much crap about Naruto alone that I’m sure it will satisfy a large portion of fans via its commercial spinoffs alone. I mean, after all, that headband is a licensed product. Multiply that kind of stuff to the nth degree, and you kind of get what is available to anime fans generally.

To take it a step further, the same can be said of Japan’s pro costume shops, its Mandarakes and Melonbooks, its maid cafes and escort services, its Love Plus tour in Atami or the Washinomiya shrine new year specials, among countless other consumer outlets of fanatic expression. Pop culture fanatics are commercially exploited so much more in Japan than they are in America. In fact the only thing that comes to mind that even comes close is when it comes to pop music where America probably outdoes everyone else outside of AKB48.

Well, maybe “more” is not the best term, because I think American enterprises do try just as hard. Still, there seems to be a bigger focus on catering to niche fanatics and what commonly strokes their particular fancies, for Japan, than the more mass-market, Halloween-costuming counterpart in America. How does a Harry Potter theme park rank on that scale? I’m not entirely sure if it is any more or less fantastic than to chat with a bona fide Disney Princess in their theme restaurant in Disney’s Magic Kingdom (in Orlando). But you would think anything worthy of a Hollywood big-buck movie spinoff could qualify for that kind of treatment.

Well, all of the above are, to varying degree, modes of consumption. I suppose I can give you a pass if you made your costume from scratch. But I think it’s good to note there are some modes of consumption where it is also creative and just like anything else humans do, can be of mixed motives.

For another example, to go back to BakaBT, often time that “collector’s curse” in which they have to splurge for the special super LE box with that useless trinket is part of that fanaticism of fandom. However more often than not, it is just as much of a conditioned response to “gotta catch them all” compulsion that some human beings have, after years of training as expert consumers. I guess it’s a subset of perfectionism.

And as I said in the previous post, not even these things are tell-all signs that one is an otaku. These are just examples of competencies, and understanding the reason one consumes is a core anime otaku competency. If you don’t know why it’s better to enjoy anime in its proper form, you have a long way to go in the way of the otaku.

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