[MA-SOC] Chiming in about "then and now"

Serdar Yegulalp thegline at optimum.net
Wed Oct 1 17:07:09 EDT 2008

Right before leaving for NYAF, I had a chat with a friend who had more or less stopped going to cons for a couple of reasons. The most legitimate and overriding one was a personal issue which I won't go into here. The other was a general sense of burnout, or malaise, or indifference -- any number of labels can go in this space.

The impression I got from him was something I've seen in many other circles -- that his chosen fandom/fascination was better before it became a Big Popular Thing, and all of these people came in and cluttered it up with their mediocrity. It's not something exclusive to anime fandom; it's something I've seen in everything from fans of Marillion to fans of H.R. Giger to you-name-it.

I felt this way, once. I was annoyed that something I'd discovered at the cost of having my elbows and knees scraped off (so to speak) was now being *handed* to people -- or, worse, they were stealing it outright. That irked me. I felt like many of my fellow fans had not earned the right to be a fan, because they'd a) not gone through the same rites of passage I had, and consequently b) their understanding/appreciation of the same things was shallower. I'd waded through muddy waters just so these kids could jog across a bridge built over my head? The hell with that.

It took a while for me to put that aside and think about the whole thing differently. I'm glad I did, because I didn't like the idea of cultivating a snobbism about a scene where one of the very virtues was that I had been welcomed in without judgment or condescension

It's very easy to think of any scene you're in as "your" scene -- as in, it belongs to you, it's mine, I earned it, etc. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized this is a little like saying the New Jersey Turnpike is mine because I drive to work on it every day. Sure, in some arch sense, you could make an argument for that: I drive on it, I pay taxes and tolls, so in some sense it's "mine". But that requires making a herculean effort to ignore the tens of thousands of other people who all zip through the tollbooths and E-Z Pass lanes. Many of them were making this drive long before I ever got into a car, and there are people just now learning how to steer and park who'll be making a commute much like mine long after I've driven off the road for the last time.

Okay, so maybe that's a bit tortured of an analogy. But it's just something I've learned to accept: the scene is what you make of it. If you look at it and see nothing but a bunch of kids who've not earned the right to savor it (whatever that means), then that's all you'll see -- instead of a whole slew of enthusiastic young new potential friends. If I'd been around longer than they had, then I owed it to them -- to the scene as a whole -- to turn that around and allow both of us to benefit from it. Someone comes to me as a "Naruto" fan, I say, "That's great! Now, here's where it all came from," and I lay "Dagger of Kamui" and "Kouga Ninja Scrolls" and "Shinobi no Mono" on them, and start a dialogue. Sometimes they just think it's old; sometimes they realize they're missing out. But hell, you never know until you try.

I guess my point, under everything else, is that my nostalgia for the good old days (whatever they were) is exactly that: nostalgia. Not a reality. Not the present environment, which as cluttered as it may be with dross and irrelevancies, is also bursting at the seams with things I could never have imagined in the good old days of nineteeneightyoomph. As fun as it is to reminisce about the times when we got everything dubbed from LaserDisc and there were no subs, you had to get someone who spoke Japanese to translate on the fly -- you live here and now, and you might as well move forward. It never hurts to glance back over your shoulder, but you can't live that way.

It's easy to be spoiled, but it's just as easy to get cynical, and I try not to fall into either trap if I can help it.

* * * * *
Serdar Yegulalp
thegline at optimum.net

My problems have become social rather than musical.
  -- John Cage, composer

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