Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Musing - Why Are They Trying To Make Geek Culture Popular?

It builds character to be an outcast in school. >.>

I remember when TokyoPop announced they would be bringing a bus to the area for anime geeks and nerds alike. I thought it was just them promoting something. And I was sort of right.

America's Greatest Otaku!

If you too want to feel like your culture and fandom should be made fun of by millions, or probably thousands based on the low number of members/viewers on the website, feel free to join in on this madness. >.>

On HULU later this month, they will air an 8 episode mini-"documentary" series about the "otaku" culture in the U.S. I was hoping The Social Network "everyone has to wear glasses now because they're cool!" thing would be done, but they're just starting. All the little niches that were nice and safe to hide in where the world won't touch and now becoming noticed by television. So not geek. Here's why.

Aside: The term "otaku" in the U.S. is an individual who is very passionate about Japanese culture, in particular anime and/or manga. In Japan, the term means a fan of a particular theme or hobby and is not limited to anime and/or manga (such as cooking otaku). It originally was an honorific second-person pronoun meant for another house/family before the slang became popular. For this particular piece I'm writing, it's in reference to the U.S. interpretation of the word.

The first motivation for any form of "reality" television or movie is entertainment. The concept of reality hasn't existed since the first season of The Real World back in 1992. Even then there were at least a few writers on staff to help create a story out of the thousands of hours of tape they had collected. Just take a look at the credits since the series began after the "cast members". The number of directors, producers, writers, and editors outnumbers the "cast members". Why? Because it's about making a story for entertainment purposes. No one wants to see 7 people doing normal, everyday things. They cut out all that and create a story based on the parts that draw interest. The "otaku" show won't be about the process of making costumes and living in a fan's real, everyday life. It'll be about 3 or 4 people who are crazed and need to be brought back down to reality.

Which comes to point number two, shows will pick the person that is the loudest, most obnoxious, outgoing, crazy person that they can find; aka the extreme. Those are the individuals who make for good television, whether we like it or not. That's why people watch Jersey Shore. How many people are actually from the shore on that show? One. Everyone else is just loud and obnoxious and fits the profile they needed. Imagine that for anime/video game fans. We're either going to get the 12 year olds swearing their heads off on Xbox Live or the epitome of stereotypical U.S. anime convention fan. I hate for this to be the case, but that's how it is. Those are the people that will bring in viewers because they are the extremes. While the 97% (throwing a figure out there, but it's probably more like 90-95) of us sit in the middle of the road, that 3% on the right or left of the bell curve will be the ones people are going to be drawn to. And it sucks because it won't be an accurate portrayal of the fandom. The 97% in the middle are pretty normal. They have jobs, go to school, have kids and bills to pay. They have a social life outside of internet forums. But people don't watch television to see what's normal. They want to see the extremes.

Which leads into my next concern, copying the fad. Again using Jersey Shore as an example. Have you seen the number of people attempting to emulate the "characters" on that show as of late? It's crazy! Do you really want to see people go on an otaku craze? Do we need to have more annoyances on forums and conventions of people claiming to be something that they're not just because it's the "cool new fad"? Just the thought makes me want to avoid all conventions, gaming and comic alike. One or two of the extremes are easy to ignore. But get an army and I'll keep my ass at home.

And that turns into my major concern, over-generalization of the culture. We know what the popularity of Star Wars and Star Trek did to it's fans. They are always going to be portrayed as overweight, pimple-faced, loveless nerds who sit in their parents basement all day everyday. The anime and gaming fans are stereotyped in the same way, but because of the limited number in our circle, we don't see the extremes as often. And when we do, we try to smack them down before it becomes a problem. Now gaming has been branching off to try and get the "cool" people into it. We have a good portfolio of male celebrities in their 20's-30's that play video games that aren't trying to fit into the group. They've always been a part of the group. That's fine. Funny enough, they give a more accurate portrayal of the gaming crowd then most others about how normal gaming people are. Since the anime group is still fairly small, it'll be easy to pick out the stereotypes and showcase those individuals. And that's where we'll run into trouble. I don't want to be associated with the stereotypes because I don't fit that mold, but that's the entertainment business. It's about entertainment first. "Reality" comes in much later.

So for all the people who are trying to make the geek culture popular, please stop. I'm quite happy with how things are and not having the masses drop down on it. I like being unique. I like not fitting in with the rest of the world. It doesn't mean I'm not normal because I do a lot of normal things. But I like having something that I can say "I'm a part of this" without it being observed by the watchful eye of the media. I enjoy being in something that feels like I can be myself without having to put up barriers and play pretend. Chances of this "otaku" mini-show doing well? Probably pretty low. Again, premiering at the end of the month and already a low turnout on the website and promo video. But just the thought of someone trying to make "otaku" popular is poking at my brain and telling me that this could get worse.

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