Sunday, April 24, 2011

Faction: The Anime Fandom

As TV Tropes became more popular, it gained a reputation for catering to the whims of the anime fandom. This became an increasing point of consternation in site policy discussions. Not because we had any particularly strong feelings on anime one way or the other, but that the site was supposed to be inclusive toward all fans of all kinds of shows- anime for whatever reason is a divisive topic, and some people dismissed TV Tropes out of hand because of this perceived bias.

For my part, I had difficulty feeling anything but annoyance for these anti-weeaboo sentiments. Mainly this was just because they weren't very helpful. There was once a dispute over the fact that examples from anime come first in most example listings. As you may have guessed, this is because example ordering is traditionally done alphabetically. Attempts at "compromise" in this regard ended up looking silly. It's difficult to think of any reason to create the classification "Manga / Anime" (as opposed to Anime / Manga) except to deliberately cater to this issue. As casual tropers had little awareness, let alone interest in this topic, that solution quickly failed. I did make a point after that to not alphabetize the example categories of any YKTTW proposal that I launched- not so much because anime was at the top but because anything being at the top all the time was sort of boring.

The more public and salient issues on this topic were titles and page pictures. Anime-inspired titles, were often proposed for renames, and so as renames became controversial, so did these titles. Tsundere, Dojikko, and Nakama are some of the wiki's most well-known mainstays. They had been challenged, unsuccessfully, for about as long as I can remember. And even though these names are complete gibberish to people who don't understand Japanese, members of the anime fandom have lobbied and defended these terms just about every time. Granted, on plenty of occasions these efforts have failed- but those renames, save for exceptionally outrageous cases like The Daisuke, were quickly forgotten.

Page images actually ended up being the impetus for reassessment. Anime images had been singled out as a culprit in developing impressions of the wiki. The assertion was that images of anime characters were more likely to be misused than images of non-Japanese origin. And here, for the first time, we tried to quantify the problem with mathematics. The wiki has a random page option that allows for the viewing of random pages. So someone just went through a few dozen pages with images on them, wrote down how many came from each medium, and roughly listed whether they were good or bad images (as in, did they make sense without context). The results of this survey indicated that while about a third of the wiki's images were from anime (far more than from any other individual medium), they were misused at about the same rate as non-anime images, possibly a little less.

The best consensus we could come up with at the time was to just do a better job checking the Image Pickin' forum and trying to weed out poor page images- get rid of anime images if you like, but pages images on the wiki were a problem writ large. It wasn't something that could just be blamed on the anime fandom.

Over time I came to realize that this was the main problem to be had dealing with fandom groups on the wiki. It's not really possible. Fandoms are just too diverse. When someone posts an image of a character from Code Geass, they aren't in cahoots with some other troper a few pages down putting up a panel of dialogue from Ninja Nonsense. The fandom for these shows may intersect - I really have no idea - but the basic motivation behind the putting up of either image is really just "I like this show. I think it would make a good caption." It has nothing to do with a larger group mentality except to the extent that fans of anime and manga tend to have more images of whatever laying around because they download their hobby from the Internet more often compared to other fandoms. They're hobbyists who are ignorant as to what makes for an effective title or page- the actual hobby is really quite irrelevant.

In other words, wiki problems had to be solved holistically. We couldn't solve the image issue, or for that matter any issue, by singling out a fandom. Ironically, this way of looking at the problem did result in the creation of one clear villain- the anti-weeaboo faction that battled this crusade. While the anime fandom at least made a genuine (albeit misguided) effort to improve pages, the anti-weeaboos were primarily concerned with hating anime- even though it had been proven (with mathematics, no less) that hating on the anime fandom wasn't going to accomplish anything. This made them the first faction to be singled out for complaining. And thanks to the isolation of the wiki maintenance forums from the wiki proper, it was some time before this development was fully realized.

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