My natural sounds machine has a bad volume control button. The thing either goes super loud or turns off unless I beat on the darn thing. It doesn’t help that whenever my cordless phone in the charging base by my bed seeks out the base unit it causes a buzzing in the natural sound machine speaker. So I’ve been using my “mini-tablet” (short version: phone company shouldn’t have sent my dad a smartphone) as an experiment, using natural sounds videos on YouTube–I recommend The Relaxed Guy or for music LoFi Girl if you try this idea–as a replacement. So far it seems to be working out. While waking in the morning, rather than reaching for the radio that for some reason isn’t picking up my preferred “wake up” radio station very well lately I’ve used morning podcasts on YouTube.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with the title of this article.
Yesterday that morning podcast was catching a bit of the Literature Devil‘s “morning nonsense” stream, which he doesn’t seem to archive on YouTube. (Maybe for his Patreon supporters or something.) I didn’t catch a lot of it but two items stood out. Sadly I can’t seem to find anything on this new “run a cafe” campaign for Dungeons & Dragons, though I did have a few thoughts on that I posted to the chat as he talked about it. The other is a video by another channel that has popped up here in the Spotlight more than once, Comics By Perch. It’s cool when channels I follow also follow other channels I follow. I mean, cooler when they follow mine but given how seldom I get videos out it’s easier to follow this site for my reviews and commentaries. When I post a video, it comes here anyway.
Perch’s video goes over an article by Forbes contributor Ollie Barder, where he uses anime fandom to go over the modern online accusations of “gatekeeping” by the usual suspects. I’ll go a bit over that but LD made the case that the various geek fandoms have never gatekept in the past and can’t. I’ve been in this grouping too long to not know better, but what the usual suspects are calling gatekeeping really isn’t…but I can give you examples of what actually is.
First, if you can’t access the article because Forbes only lets you read about four articles before the paywall comes up (a different form of gatekeeping :D) Perch goes over the whole short article in his video while adding his thoughts. Then I’ll add mine.
Let’s call out the modern gatekeeping charge for the utter rubbish that it is. The usual suspects, who probably aren’t even fans of the media they’re “rising to improve”, are trying to remake everything in their worldview. This is primarily sociopolitical but it’s also cynical, dark and gritty, and a colorless void that lacks hope, happiness, and not trying to kill anyone not down with “the cause”. I focus on the end product and not the stupidity that brings us to it because that’s not how I use reviews to improve my storytelling. I have my political views and one’s world view affects his or her story, but I’m also not an ideologue and I don’t use that stuff in my own comics…except for Jake & Leon but that’s a weekly strip on a review and commentary site. It’s not part of Captain Yuletide or Captain PSA or any story I work on that doesn’t involve someone named “Captain”.
As Perch notes, the term is often used by those who for whatever reason has decided to change the original IP into something that more fits their worldview or simply just their tastes in stories. It’s not gatekeeping to insist something you love remain that thing you love, but it sure is gatekeeping when they take it, drain everything you love out of it, and then insist “this wasn’t made for you”. The original wasn’t made for them, and that didn’t stop them from changing it into something that does. This is why I refer to them as the “everything for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” crowd. Everything, even if they don’t care about it, has to match their tastes and preferences, whether it’s political or simply tonal. It’s my problem with Battlestar Galactica, and I don’t have high hopes for that new reboot they’re talking about getting either take right. It’s my problem with Battle Princesses…sorry, I meant Netflix She-Ra and don’t get me started on new kids sci-fi He-Man. It’s all marketetting for something you couldn’t sell otherwise, or just Todd Phillips level of ego that “I can do it better”.
However, Barder brings up anime twice in his article and I want to highlight that here, especially if you didn’t read the article or follow Perch’s read of it.
Picking a specific example in the case of anime, back in the day many anime were not available outside of Japan. This meant if you wanted to watch something like The Vision of Escaflowne, you joined an anime club, attended its meetings and acquired fansubbed versions of the anime on VHS tapes.
This meant the people in charge of said anime club could actually gatekeep when it came to a fan’s access to anime.
Put simply, if you are a current anime fan then there is no-one gatekeeping you from acquiring various anime works and enjoying them as a hobby. You don’t need to befriend the higher-ups in an anime club, you can just buy it and watch it whenever and wherever you want.
Later he writes:
Going back to my anime example, when I originally got into anime all those decades ago the size of the international fandom was relatively small. These days though, anime is a global pop-cultural phenomenon. This means there are a lot of anime fans out there and the fandom itself is consequently influential in an industrial and cultural sense.
So the accusations of gatekeeping are being used to leverage access to effectively run each fandom and acquire power as a result.
In other words the accusation today is from those who want to fundamentally change a property they don’t care about into something they do because the everything for meeeeeeeeeeeeeee crowd hates when something isn’t made for them, even if they aren’t going to watch, read, listen to, or play it. And yet there is a section of the anime fandom that in the past did complain that casual fans were coming into “their” medium, as if going mainstream meant they weren’t unique anymore or something. For this group it wasn’t about good storytelling but their insular fandom, a place to escape all the jerks, the anti-geeks, the bullies, and the “normals” who refuse to understand anything they consider “unusual”. They hated the idea of casual fans, just like a group of “hardcore gamers” who hate those dirty casual players, as if you’re scum for playing a mobile game when “real” gamers only play nine hour stories on console or PC, or neverending MMOs and multiplayer when you just want to play a quiet game of Tripeaks.
This same group of anime fans will use random Japanese words when there’s a clear English word (did you know that “kawaii” is simply Japanese for “cute”, “manga” means “motionless pictures” or in other words “comics, and “anime” is just short for “animation”, which even the Western snobs insist you never call a “cartoon” because that’s a dirty word), pretend they know what Japan is like because they watched this show or listen to that J-Pop group (look, I’ll give you “idol” because that is a specific term they use and not simply Japanese for “celebrity” but unless it’s a specific genre like “city pop” I don’t want to hear it), and hate 4Kids for altering works to cater to a mainstream Western audience instead of solely them. Nevermind that shows like Gigantor and Robotech paved the way for anime to be seen in the West before the cheap VHS home market craze of “Japanimation” (a term they hate) brought less censored versions over her for better, worse, or whatever US Manga Corp was putting out. (Sooo….much…blooooooood………)
If you listened to some fans back in the 1990s, and even some today, people not steeped in Japanese culture or want dubs of a work and not just subtitles (I’m surprised they don’t insist you also must learn Japanese, though with the modern “appropriation” crowd I’m not sure you’re even allowed to learn another’s language OR enjoy their media) are “doing it wrong” and not treating the material with proper reverence no matter how many Japanese creators say they’re okay with it and how few Japanese people react to it or give our works the same treatment. Then again, these Japanophiles think our animated works are garbage compared to the pedestal they place anime on so if Transformers Prime gets a gag dub only they’re fine with it…but don’t you dare add extra jokes to Digimon. If I never see that damn “jelly donut” clip again I’ll be a happier person. Point is this too is a form of gatekeeping. You must be as dedicated as I am in order to be allowed in. Compare and contrast that with the social gatekeepers of today who want to burn it all down and replace it with something in their image. It still is about chasing out those who don’t conform, and thus don’t “belong here”. It’s not the openness of inclusivity either claims it to be. You can be included…by our rules and not simply by enjoying it for what it is and updating only where it’s actually updating without altering.
On this I do give some leeway to the anime fans. Robotech couldn’t and probably shouldn’t be made today. It doesn’t have to. Back then however there were reasons they did it, which I hope to go over someday in the videos, and we live in different times. It was shows like Robotech that paved the way for anime to be released in the US so at least give it proper respect. I enjoy Mospeda on its own, not so much Macross, which I guess makes me a heathen or something. That kind of attitude chases away people from the fandom, and at least sours them towards the original. You can defend the original without being a jackass. Jackasses will be used to defend Netflix’s live-action demakes, Funimation’s political rewrites of the dialog, and whatever changes get demanded of Japan to make their work conform with far-leaning political worldviews that don’t exist in Japan.
Lest you think I’m picking on anime fans solo, let’s not forget that experience I had daring to go into a Star Wars chat room with a Power Rangers screenname nobody else in other rooms on the server gave a second thought to. Or the very negative reaction to the Commander Keen series getting a release on mobile and looking like a graphical upgrade of the original DOS game. Can’t let those dirty casuals have access to this classic game, and the only real change was adding a female playable character and having the old kids game look like a modern kids game. Yet somehow all the changes to Cowboy Bebop we were supposed to accept when that was poor adaptation. I’m guessing another old group of gatekeepers are since gone. You know, the “true fan” nonsense. What, you thought I wouldn’t bring up the ultimate apolitical (does that still exist or has that gone the way of “platonic friendships”?) gatekeeper…the “true fan”? You know the ones.
- If you were a true fan, you’d know the full history of this character or that obscure piece of trivia nobody cares about.
- If you were a true fan, you’d love everything official in this franchise whether it sucks hard or not and even if the adaptation is so inaccurate you’d swear it was intended to be an original property.
- If you were a true fan you’d completely agree with me because I’M a true fan and refuse to say anything negative because you don’t call out something you love to be better.
True fans are/were in a sense the polar opposite of the everything for meeeeeeeeee political ideologues. If you weren’t a true fan you weren’t allowed to have an opinion on anything and it could never be negative. Character acting out of character? It’s your fault for not understanding why it totally is. (This is coming from a man who can totally defend Rattrap’s actions in the Beast Machines: Transformers episode “The Weak Component”, and even I know I’m retconning more than I am believing it because of how much the show did get wrong. It’s more explaining his actions based on what they did to the character and trying to accept it.) If you at all disagreed it’s because you weren’t a true fan and you need to leave the fandom. Oh, if only they knew what an actual “fake fan” was, but that’s a more recent issue, with the everything for meeeeeeeeeeeeeee crowd and social engineers getting over just enough of their own elitist snobbery to “fix” something they otherwise don’t care about.
Don’t even get me started on the “fake geek girl” stuff, as if you can’t be a geek if you’re at all mildly attractive, and especially if you’re a girl. No, you were just dressing as Yoko from Gurren Lagann to mess with the real geeks, boys who have never touched a breast unless they wackily fell on top of a girl, just like in their favorite anime. If anything has made the fandom look bad “true fans” and “fake geek girl” arguments were it. And this one we can’t blame on the usual suspects because the fandoms did that to themselves.
That’s what real gatekeeping looks like but it’s not the gatekeeping we’re talking about today, is it? It’s the people who want to change the fandom and the content we love into the things they love or to virtue signal to people who don’t care. You know, hypocrites who want to gatekeep all of pop culture into their warped worldview and their own tonal preferences. Everything has to be “realistic” and “inclusive”, when the changes they want to make to a world where people in tights fly around and punch each other turn to be neither realistic nor inclusive. The ones screaming “gatekeeper” need to look in a mirror because they’re the gatekeepers of today, on all aspects of storytelling and entertainment, and they’re working beyond that as well. We can have different opinions and like things for different reasons, and we don’t have to like everything that’s out there because there isn’t time to watch every TV show and movie, play every video game, listen to every audio drama, and read every book and comic that has ever or will exist. Let’s not pretend geekdom has never kept the gate, but let’s stop acting like that’s what’s going on now when fans want something they love to remain something they love.