Ok, ok… so I actually want to smack them upside the head usually, but I resist that urge because of something fairly important – they’re only what we used to be.
Ok, admittedly, I’ve defended weeaboos a lot in the past, so its a bit like ‘Why bother?’ at this pint. But, as is usual with things like this, I was prompted by another blogger’s post, wherein said blogger proclaimed to hate weeaboos. Whoa, ‘hate’? Isn’t that a little strong?
There are two types of weeaboos (and I mean weeaboos in general, not anime specific weeaboos): the kids, and the lifers. The kids make up the large bulk of weeaboos, primarily because being a weeaboo has a LOT to do with maturity, as opposed to with any inherent character flaw. Lifers make up the remainder, and these are the folks that I can’t really tolerate, since theoretically, they should know better, as, theoretically, they are adults. Basically, we’re talking the forty year old living in mom’s cellar type. They’re immature, and they have no excuse for it, because they’ve passed through physical adolescence already, where one is supposed to emotionally mature. But I’m not really concerned with them, since they make up only a small slice of the weeaboo pie (which is like regular pie, except it has SPARKLES, and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, and SPEAKS JAPANESE!).
To return to my initial statement, we were all weeaboos once, because we were all young once (unless you happen to be Benjamin Button). We weren’t necessarily weeaboos about anime – we could’ve just as easily been Star Wars weeaboos or Backstreet Boys weeaboos or Playstation weeaboos. I myself was probably a J-pop weeaboo – I loved American cartoons too much to develop into a full-fledged anime weeaboo, although I did sprinkle my conversations with a tad bit of Japanese as a high schooler… but, hey, I spoke a deranged mix of English, Cantonese, and Japanese when communicating with a lot of my Asian classmates in high school, as did they, so I’m not entirely sure this would fall within the purview of weeabooism.
However, the usage of language does connect to the question of how people end up becoming weeaboos.
So here you are – you’re in middle school or high school. You’re going through a lot of changes. How do you identify yourself? Well, by what you like, because this is how you form relationships – by what you share in common with others. Or what you don’t – those people don’t like this, and I do, so obviously they suck. This is something that’s a bit clearer when its the dominant group doing it to the minority group, but it goes both ways, since it really couldn’t work otherwise (sort of like orientalism).
Like I said, everyone is a weeaboo about something at some point. But the fact is that we only really tend to notice the more extreme, less societally-acceptable iterations, which is to say that you aren’t really going to notice that someone is an American Idol weeaboo, because a lot of folks are, and to their peer group it seems totally normal, while to adults it just seems like am amusing adolescent/childhood whimsy (granted, it can be taken too far, but this is less likely when the obsession is tacitly acceptable initially, because one doesn’t feel a threat to their identity). On the other hand, an anime weeaboo… well, there are some immediate alarm bells, for lack of a better term, on the part of their peer group and elders – wait a minute, you’re fourteen years old, why are you watching cartoons? And why are they in another language? Wait, isn’t all that stuff porn?
Generalizing, anime weeaboos are immediately marked aside as ‘weird’ by peers, even if they have a pretty normal like for anime – yeah, its something they like, but not the be all to end all. Even so, though, they get labeled as the ‘other’, since their behavior is deemed abnormal. Some people just roll with this, shrug their shoulders, and get on with their lives. A lot… well, don’t. Remember, they’re in middle school or high school – social life is a pretty big deal (not to mention that middle schoolers are all veritable monsters, fairly given to tormenting classmates) since it does have a lot to do with how comfortable (or not) someone feels at school, which is basically the equivalent of the workplace for minors (if your workplace was like middle or high school for you, how long would you last?). So, here you are, fourteen year old – your identity is being threatened because your classmates think you’re a weirdo, that you’re socially unfit. What now?
And so the weeaboo issue arises. If your peers are rejecting you, chances are you’ll strike right back and reject them. What do they know, anyway? Japan is basically the best place ever! I bet people don’t suck over there like they do here! I mean, look, they have anime on TV every day and adults read manga during their commute! They’re more like me than these losers!
So the weeaboo portion of the anime habit develops as a way of preserving identity. It handles social rejection by rejecting the ‘normal’ social scene, replacing it with a public sphere of one’s own. To go back to the language bit, using a foreign language with other fans acts as another way of reinforcing one’s own identity, since it necessarily excludes non-in-group members – they don’t know what you just said, so they can’t follow your discourse… and if they can’t follow your discourse, than they aren’t likely to join in. Consider it – if you don’t know what people are talking about, are you probably going to pay attention to their conversation? Are you going to join in?
This language thing is part of the larger process of going to further and further extremes to establish and protect identity. The ones who start wearing particular items or clothing from certain shows demonstrate another part, as this, again, identifies them as part of the anime fan group. Once they’ve established this fact, though, you’ll notice that they begin to jealously defend certain series they enjoy. This stems from the fact that, once they have designated their status as anime fans, they then face threats from other fans to their core identity, which basically boils down to ‘who is the best fan?’ This designation itself is bound up in a large variety of factors, since the term ‘best’ is pretty ambiguous when it comes to something such as being a fan of a certain thing. But the best fan can be considered to like the best shows – and if you’ve decided that Inu Yasha is the best show, guess who you’re going to be running around dressed as? And guess what show you’ll be defending tooth and nail?
The thing is, this really isn’t a permanent stage, and its pretty easy to notice that the number of weeaboos begins to drop at a breakneck pace once folks begin hitting college or the post-high school world. Suddenly those kids who refused to watch anything that wasn’t Japanese are talking about how interesting they found Watchmen or asking you if you’d like to go see The Departed. And the random Japanese words seem to be dropping by the wayside in every day conversation. And, now that you think of it, you can’t remember the last time they smacked you with a yaoi paddle or tried to glomp a stranger at a con!
Which is all to say – weeabooism is a stage for the vast majority of people. Yes, it is irritating, and, yes, I do want to kick them in the shins sometimes… but I try to remind myself that, given a few years, they’ll probably develop into a fairly level-headed young adult who loves their anime, but not to the exclusion of other forms of entertainment. In the meantime, the best you can do for them is try to point them in the direction of good anime or manga, and hope that maybe they’ll get hung up on a Princess Tutu instead of a Naruto, and point out to them when their behavior is too over the top – which, basically, is what you’d probably do to anyone running around being obnoxious.
So, basically: love the weeaboo, hate the weeabooism.