communitas, sports fandom, anime fandom, fair use, identity, emotions

Identity is an intrinsic part of any fandom. No fandom exists without the group identifying a shared interest or purpose for existing. This identifying factor fuels the community that chooses to use it. The spirit, with which these individuals exude over the course of participating in these fandoms, ultimately crafts their identities.

I often find whenever I see someone bringing up identity in fandoms, it’s just the outer layer that gets examined or looked at. In fact, especially within the sports fandom, identity doesn’t get past the surface. “I identify as a Seattle Mariners fan.” Why? “I was born and raised in Seattle and I like baseball.” For many people, the conversation is as simple as that.

Now, by no means do I consider myself a psychologist. The extent of my psychology study is “taking” two introduction courses during college and watching the entire filmography of Dr. Frasier Crane. However, as a journalist, I think it’s important to understand how the bread is made beyond just knowing that it was the baker who made the bread. 

Sports and anime fans come to their identities differently. The identity of sports fans derives more from the purpose and indirect results of their fandom. Meanwhile, anime fan identities will come from the literal content their interest produces.

It’s safe to say there are fewer identities within the sports fandom then their are the anime fandom. This is the result of many factors, some of which that can fall along party lines. Your average sports fans would identify themselves as a conservative whereas anime fans are often far more liberal. Using this line of thought, you can begin to dissect each fandom and magnify a few things regarding identity. 

At its core, conservatism will often breed nativism. The desires for less interference from outsiders and the protection of what’s in your immediate vicinity is well apparent. This line of thought is often the basis for most sports fans when they choose to root for a team. “It’s the hometown team. That’s why I’m supporting them.” That thought-process is conservative. It’s also an indirect form of nativism. It’s why a team’s closest geographical opponent is often considered their rival. The impact of a win or a lose against someone near you is felt more than someone who is farther away.

If a sports fan has no invested interested in a team, such as being an employee of the organization or having a family member who once played on the team, then what’s the purpose of rooting for a sports team? It’s for the indirect products of being apart and contributing to the fandom. This holds true, to a smaller degree, with the anime fandom as well.

Civic pride is often the most identified byproduct of a sports team. The notion that a successful sports team can bring the community together and instill in them a pride that’s difficult to obtain elsewhere largely holds true.

I, for example, was one of the individuals who rolled their eyes once they first saw the SEC’s ad campaign last year that stated “it just means more.”  Not being apart of the SEC community by any means, it’s tough for me to identify with them. Even though I’m an Oregon Duck alum, I still never got invested into the program, to the same degree, as the casual SEC fan does with their school. There is a disconnect.

Yet, I don’t disagree with their assessment. I can’t say for certain it doesn’t mean more to them. After all, being from “the south” is one of the last widely accepted negative stigmas in the US. Their local economies are much poorer than other parts of the US. They’re seen as less educated then the rest of the US. No one bothers to talk about living in Montgomery or Jackson as they would San Francisco or Austin or New York City. 

The south is also the most densely conservative part of the United States. So it makes sense that a fandom which, at its core, is rooted in conservative identity attracts so many individuals from this part of the country. SEC football probably means more because, to be perfectly honest, they understand they don’t have much else to instill pride in their communities. 

The whole notion of something “meaning more” exists in every fandom. There will always be different levels of participation within fandoms. It’s up to the individuals, as well as the community at-large, what those different levels ultimately signal. 

Getting back to anime, I imagine that by now some of you who’ve been reading each of these articles as they come out are wondering what image attached to this short series of articles depicts. For starters, you can infer it’s of a group of people. You can also identify the fact that it appears to be a group of individuals who look similar to one another, given the hair styles and colors. What this picture depicts is a group of people who went to Sakura-Con this year cosplaying as the male figure skating characters Yuuri Katsuki and Vikto Nikiforov from the anime Yuri On Ice (if you’ve seen the anime, you’d know why). 

The vast majority of these people who are dressed as male characters from an anime are women. This is where the liberal identity comes into play for the anime fandom. 

On Day 1 of my Sakura-Con experience, I saw more instances of crossdressing (predominantly women dressing as men) before I even acquired my press badge then I had my entire time at college. To say being apart of the anime community unshackles certain societal norms with regards to expression would be an understatement. 

At its core, anime is art. Art, at its core, is inherently subjective. Unlike in sports, where the skill of teams can be measured on a scoreboard, it’s up to the fandom to determine what is quality and what counts as art. Freedom of expression, which art is heavily reliant on, is a tenant of liberalism. Liberal thinking calls for the openness of accepting new forms of expression as well as the individuals who practice them.

To say that the anime community is “open to new behaviors” would be the understatement of the century. While I know it’s mathematically improbable, walking the halls of Sakura-Con after awhile made the question “what are the odds no one hear voted for Trump” pop into my head. It’s extremely unlikely and yet, once you’re immersed in the anime fandom long enough, you begin to believe that it might be true given the norms that are constantly being challenged. 

I could write an entirely new article about all of the things the anime community, and their actions, challenge with regards to identity. For the purpose saving your time, I’ll keep it extremely brief. 

The identity of anime fans, by and large, is apparent by the content they willing consume and showcase that they have consumed. There is no supporting the hometown animation studio with every anime, outside of RWBY, being made overseas. While you could argue that one feels pride when a show they love is loved by many other individuals, that often doesn’t attract someone to a particular anime. They see something they like within the content of the anime and choose to view it rather having to view it by default. 

The anime industry exudes liberalism when it comes to identity. You’ll often find anime with male casts, such as Yuri on Ice, directed toward women and shows with female casts directed toward males. This is unheard of in the American television or film market with My Little Pony being the lone outlier. The examination of certain topics such as love is far more open in anime. Sailor Moon, a show directed largely toward young girls, introduced a predominant lesbian couple in the middle of the series. A lesbian couple that, after being westernized, were turned into “cousins” so their relationship wouldn’t upset parents. Granted, that was the 90s, but I don’t see the Disney Channel doing anything along those lines in the near future. 

Personally, I could write an entire article detailing the reasoning behind my favorite anime and why I chose them. Each one would have its own unique and abstract line of reasoning. And yet, none of my reasons behind choosing a favorite anime would line up with reasoning behind choosing a favorite sports team. Why?

At the end of the day, sports and anime target different parts of my personal identity. While I’m more than willing to admit I’m liberal (hence all the satire), it would be foolish for me to ignore the fact that I have a conservative side as well. Ultimately, this is why I’m drawn to both mediums. Sports allows people to act out their protectionist and nativist without tendencies while anime allows people to explore a form of personal expression that goes in the face of societal norms without facing social consequences. 

To the half dozen male sailor scouts I saw while at Sakura-Con, I’ll say be proud and you do you knowing full well the gazes you’ll garner once you step far enough away from the convention. To the employees at the Huskies Team Store in downtown Seattle, I’ll say SCODUCKS!