Over the past few months, I've been thinking long and hard about a subject I find more than a little troublesome: am I not a nerd anymore? Well, we all know the answer to that one; I make the guys I play D&D with cringe with my encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars. So, rather, the question is, "are my interests less nerdy?" I have to reason through this first, then we'll come to a conclusion and work with that.
So, are my loves less than socially shunned nowadays? I suppose the simple answer is, "yes." Certainly, those who know me well enough know I have very large places in my heart for comic books and movies, and by large, I mean these fandoms are enshrined, but the point is, there is some acceptance. For instance, comic book movies are making insane amounts of money. Video games are now being considered as art. My ilk and I are finally allowed to talk to girls (with mixed success, the mixture being that of "bad" and "worse."). We are no longer on the fringe of pop culture, but rather, in it.
The commerce market noticed before I did. Check it out. We have the aforementioned superhero flick, making mad cash from day one, we have no fewer than three huge bookshelves at my favorite Waldenbooks showcasing manga (while my beloved US books occupy a scant two rows), we have anime everywhere. I do mean everywhere.
Bringing me to the heart of the matter: with this influx of consumer goods, especially those of otaku fare, I cannot help but wonder: "with this level of mainstream acceptedness, is true fandom dead?" Think about it. Sure, Trekkies are rather... obscure people, but if everyone spoke Klingon or was aware of the Praxis Effect, there would be no real Trekkies at all. I wonder if anime fans are at such a crossroads. It's true. Consider, gone are the days of rummaging around in some video store bargain bin, the one next to the porn, getting eyed over by the other client el as you searched for a very badly-dubbed copy of Akira to call your own. No longer are we wapanese obliged to order comics from Japan, gazing at our heroes triumphing over evil and knowing the only way it could be better is if... we could read it. I can wear Batman t-shirts in public. Batman shirts. In public. As far as Star Wars goes, well, I have entire conversations in Star Wars quotes, so I'm a skewed source. The point is, I've been worrying, with the proliferation of goods and the internet, is fandom is dead.
I thought long and hard about this, thinking this essay would be a eulogy for my beloved eclectic nature, my idiosyncratic disposition, my weirdness. Rather, dear reader (you are dear to me if you've read this far), there is hope on the horizon. See, I was thumbing through an old issue of Animerica, an anime magazine, when something struck me as odd. On one side I saw the cutest thing you could think of: a smirking little hamster with his little hamster friends who go on big hamster adventures. Ah, Hamtaro, you frighten the living piss out of me. On the page opposite, I found, in all his badass glory, Optimus Prime, ready to take on any Decepticon come 'round. I looked at that gun-toting semi-bot. I looked at that kawaii (Japanese for "cute") hamster. I looked, at the giant robot. I looked at the little hamster.
This was the moment of my epiphany. I understood. Fandom isn't dead. It's never been more alive! These odd loves have brought together all sorts of people. People who love giant robots, people who love fantasy adventures, people who love seeing a girl snuggling up with the tentacled love of her life. These people all have something to talk about!
There it was, right before me. I realized, people are brought together, people who would (and by people, I mean, "me") otherwise be faced with their extreme social retardation. We find ourselves with a shared love. That is fandom. That is our love. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch The Simpsons.