I recently updated my Facebook status with words to the effect of: “If I hear one more professional Anime (or Anime Fan) reviewer go off on a rant about ‘autistic anime fans’, I’m going to reach through my iPhone and punch you in the face. I have Asperger’s (a mild form of autism) and you are being a bigoted asshole. It’s not cool, it’s not funny, and you’re insulting a large (and quite diverse) swath of your own listners, many of whom are on the autism spectrum (and huge Anime fans). Please knock it the fuck off.” I may not be quoting myself precisely correctly from memory (and I’m too lazy to go cut & paste from my FB profile), but it’s close enough.
I posted this still in the grip of quite a bit of rage and passion, remembering precisely just such a slight from an anime reviewer I listened to just this morning. At the time, I simply winced and kept listening. Generally speaking this reviewer is interesting, deliberately provocative, and yes, sometimes funny. He seems to delight in taking very edgy, contrarian positions. Sometimes I found myself agreeing, other times disagreeing. But his extended rant on “autistic anime fans” which he equated with people who like/obsess over genres in Anime he strongly dislikes and whom he characterized with the usual stereotypes (single men in their 30s living in their parent’s basement with no social life or job), etc…really stuck in my craw. And it’s not as if I haven’t heard this kind of rant or expression of exasperation before even from more “professional” reviews and reviewers (looking at you, Anime World Order) using the term “autistic” as an insult rather than description.
I won’t deny there are individuals out there in Anime fandom that may be judged to be creepy or strangely obsessive or even goddamn annoying online when arguing with people who disagree with them in even one iota. Sure. There are individuals, even fellow autistics, who creep ME the fuck out. It’s legit to criticize specific tastes one disagrees with, or call out particularly egregious behavior, say. What is not legit is to demonize an entire and quite diverse class of people (those of us all along the vast Autism spectrum) as a lazy shorthand for all the specific little things that annoy you.
I’m sure it feels hip and trendy to praise the stuff you like while condemning “those people” in Anime fandom who are “ruining” Anime as a whole in your opinion. But slinging around the word “autistic” as a broad insult is bigoted and wrong and needs to be called out. I’m autistic and just as revolted as you by certain familiar trends in Anime that get under the skin of many North American viewers. I also resent it when others suggest untoward things about my sexual preferences based on the kinds of Anime artwork I happen to like.
One anime reviewer/commentator I recently listened to speculated that sometimes there may be projection going on, too; A concrete example: Someone else looks at Anime images of young females and feels aroused then disgusted with themselves and then projects this disgust (unfairly) onto others who view the same image much more innocently. That could easily happen because of an Aspie/NT divide in worldviews.
Yes, sometimes I think there are certain images that go too far in Anime. There are sometimes certain animated sequences in certain shows that make me squirm and laugh uncomfortably, even avert my eyes. But other times there are images I sometimes post to Facebook that I view as innocent and aesthetically pleasing and it is *other* people who sexualize their interpretations of these images and project that back onto me by insinuation and god fucking damn does that piss me off so very, VERY much. I tend to suffer such unjust slings and arrows stoically, keeping tight lipped. But I do burn with anger on the inside at this.
I’m bothered/disturbed by certain Anime fetishes like incest themes, and anything that skirts into “pedo” areas disturb me as well. I am not aroused by underaged individuals of any sort, animated or real. I value a potential partner’s mind and values as much as their physical appearance. In Anime/Manga, I’m far closer to “Ecchi” preference than outright “Hentai”. And I decidedly prefer stories with mainstream romantic relationships between consenting adults to anything outside those norms, which quickly go outside my comfort zone. What people want to enjoy in the privacy of their homes is their business, but it may not be for me. It bugs me how Japan draws characters a certain, very adult way yet lists the official character ages as something ridiculously less than their appearance would suggest. In such cases I privately ignore the canonical age often derived from Manga source material and mentally re-assign the character a more believable age in my head that I stick with.
I’m also not overly fond of depictions of characters that are supposed to be High School age but are drawn more to look like children.
I also understand there are just some profound cultural differences between how Japan views things and how Americans view things. And I’ll be the first to admit that I could be wrong/prejudiced but that I also think there are some pretty f*cked up/disturbing things in Anime that are there because of the peculiarities of Japanese culture but also recognize that not even all Japanese agree on these things, and many of these disagreements and questions are borne out in the motivations and actions of different characters in Anime and Manga. It is bound to be true that there may be certain topics or views where Americans and Japanese will never quite see eye to eye on, too. But there’s also obviously some universal themes we DO agree on or Anime would not be the worldwide phenomenon that it actually is.
But getting back to my main topic, I do have to praise ANNCast generally and host Zac Bertschy specifically for his careful sensitivity in focusing specifically on behavior in online forums that annoy him and not reaching for the broad brush labeled “autistic”. Would that other reviewers and critics of Anime & related fandom followed Zac’s example and showed the same level of sensitivity and restraint…
This was a difficult post to write, but I feel some of this just had to be said.