You don’t have to look very far online to find a discussion about gate keeping an anime. Of course you also don’t have to look very far to find someone making a comment implying that if you haven’t watched whatever they’ve decided is the pinnacle masterpiece of anime then you aren’t an anime fan. And the entire situation baffles me even after all these years.
I’m not new to being a fan of anime having been a Sailor Moon fan in my early teens and ‘rediscovering’ a love of anime in my early twenties. Yet the number of times someone has started a conversation with me after knowing I liked anime, made a few references to One Piece and then realised pretty quick I don’t watch it and don’t really want to leading to them deciding I’m not actually a fan of anime.
Here’s the thing though, I don’t really need to defend my status as a fan. If they think my not watching One Piece, or the Monogatari series to completion, or anything else for that matter makes me not a fan, I’m more or less happy to walk away from the conversation.
But that’s probably because of my other great love growing up, fantasy novels. I devoured Eddings, Pratchett, Brooks, even classic sci-fi like Asimov and I loved it. There were very few books in the fantasy section of the local book shop that I hadn’t read and very few in my school library that I hadn’t borrowed out. Yet, I remember getting livid at someone one day after we started discussing fiction because of a comment they made.
You can’t be a fantasy fan if you haven’t read Tolkien.
As a teenager that was infuriating and I remember listing off all the books and authors I’d consumed and yet they sat their smugly with a know-it-all look on their face. Regardless of any point I raised they just repeated their declaration like it was an absolute statement of fact.
Looking back on the situation, the person was arrogant beyond all measure and clearly just missed the point of sharing a love for something. See, they didn’t want to share a love of fantasy. They wanted to lord their knowledge and status of being a fan over all others. ‘Appreciate fantasy the way I do and only this way before I will deem you worthy of the title of fan’ is more or less the message they were sending.
Note to that person if they ever come across my blog: I still hate Tolkien. His writing is tedious and I’ll pass.
As an adult, I’ve learned that sometimes I don’t need to convince the other person. They are allowed to hold onto their view even if I think it is ridiculous. Particularly when it comes to fiction fandoms. It really doesn’t matter if someone believes that you must watch the Legend of Galactic Heroes before you can receive the mantle of anime fan or not. You know you are a fan or that you like anime. If they can’t see that and enjoy being a fan with you, I’d count that as their loss.
Where it does become a problem is when new people try to enter the community. If they run into too many people slamming the door in their face or looking down their nose at them for being new and their knowledge limited to the five anime their friend recommended to them and they absolutely loved to pieces and now they’d like more, they are very likely to decide to walk away from the community.
And that is our loss as a community.
You don’t have to agree with someone. You don’t have to have watched some super secret list of 100 anime before a halo appears above you, trumpets roar and you get your official fandom status. If you love anime, you love anime. While others want to stand at the gate and keep people out, just keep in mind that gate isn’t connected to a fence. You can ignore it and walk around.
What has been your experience entering the anime fandom? Did you, or do you, encounter gate keepers?
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