Anime can be questionable. Like, extremely questionable. It’s not always like that, but more than enough happens to be premium Don’t Show This To Your Parents content. To some being mindful of this comes with a sense of responsibility to condemn messy works. To see them as not only problematic, but also morally wrong. To tell people that they shouldn’t like the things they like if they do questionable things. So I guess we need to talk about why it’s okay to like anime despite all the crappy stuff it does.
So WWE just did their first ever women’s royal rumble match. It was mostly great but it left me with a lot to unpack. A lot of good stuff to unpack but also a lot of bad stuff.
Content Warning: Discussions of slurs, as well as discussions of erasure and violence against trans people. Be aware if you find these topics confronting in any way.
Okay, let’s get some things out of the way. I love anime, and I love it for its trashiness. And I think it’s totally cool and okay to like crossdressing characters in anime. But I have… an issue with the word “trap”. The word “trap” has been floating around online for over a decade now, particularly in western anime communities, but it’s especially picked up steam in recent years. It’s often used to refer to crossdressers and transgender people both in media and in real life. And heck, I know trans people who refer to THEMSELVES as “traps”. But even with the intent to reclaim the word it doesn’t sit right with me at all, so let’s talk about it.
Rick & Morty has been all the buzz lately. And that’s great because it truly deserves it, it’s an intricate and funny and moving series. Its third season has been its most profound yet, giving genuine introspection into the character of Rick Sanchez and how toxic and destructive a human being he truly is. But that’s not what my social media feeds have been interested in. They’ve been talking about the fandom, the would-be real life Ricks who find themselves in almost every online community spewing indulgent nihilistic hatred on everything they touch.
Some friends have even expressed being turned off the series by this, which just really sucks. On one hand I can’t blame them but on the other it’s really just not fair. It’s not fair that people find themselves unwilling to have new media experiences because of hostile fan culture, and it’s not fair on the creators of earnest good works that they need to be accountable for crappy people. So what should you do if something you want to get into has a rubbish fanbase?
Broadly speaking we tend to see society become a little more open towards different groups over time, and with that comes slowly but surely increasing media representation of them. A cynical way to look at this is that it’s simply because their existence has become profitable, and that’s certainly a very valid way to look at it given the slew of middlebrow oscar bait exploiting historical prejudice and hamfisted tokenism. A more positive way to see it is that media representation gives us a platform to humanise different groups, to become aware of their existence and their validity as individuals. I believe both perspectives can be true at once, and in that sense there needs to be conscious thought about how representation is implemented.
As it has been known for quite some time, and as has grown tenfold with the expansion of net culture and the agency it gives people to yell at one another more easily than ever before, there’s a very clear subset of people who cringe at the simple idea of “art”, of interpretation. You really can’t get too invested in any media analysis or criticism without being called a pretentious blowhard at some point or another. It’s a basic inevitability. Maybe they didn’t like doing English in High School, maybe they had a bad personal experience with an snooty elitist or two; but I’m not here to assume why they might feel annoyed or even threatened by the notion of “art”. What I want to discuss is specifically the mindset itself. I want to discuss the relationship this thought process has to how people consume and discuss media. It’s a subject that’s come up many times in many circles, but I think it’s still a subject as pertinent as ever.
Criticism is one of the best means by which someone can intellectually engage with the media they consume. Whether it be towards literature, paintings, music, video games, TV or film, critique can strengthen your relationship with media by allowing you to understand how it communicates with you from its ideas to its themes to its presentation to its emotional resonance among other aspects. At this point in my life it’s one of my greatest passions, and yet one of the most toxic damaging things within the My Little Pony fandom. There seems to be a broad collective issue within the Brony fandom regarding how people critically engage with it. After a recent video by Tommy Oliver wherein he discussed how criticism has, in its own way, made the fandom overwhelmingly jaded and divided and a recent post on EQD about Digibro’s channel being taken down filled with malicious comments towards him for looking deeper into the series (e.g. use of the dreaded term “pretentious”), among other smaller incidents and personal experiences, I decided this was a topic I wanted to touch on.