Thoughts on the Fan Community and Conflict Resolution

This morning, as I began my daily routine of checking out the various Sailor Moon forums and blogs I subscribe to, I got really pissed off. I usually ignore the little things that people do and say that get to me online, because usually the foulness is forgotten within a week. But what I read today was the same thing I’ve been reading every day for the last week, and the nastiness has gotten to a point where I want to say something about it:

I am disgusted by the hostile behavior of the Sailor Moon online community.

Yes, this is coming from me. And yes, this is regarding the debate going on about the new Kodansha Comics release of the Sailor Moon manga. Grab your popcorn, ladies and gents.

Every single day since the Kodansha Sailor Moon manga was released, I’ve read one person or another going off about how it somehow makes you less of a fan if you aren’t thrilled with the mistakes that litter the new releases. People seem to think that it is perfectly reasonable to insult someone for pointing out something as innocent as a spelling mistake. After waiting almost 8 years for the re-print edition manga to make its way to America, I think fans are well within their right to make commentary without being labeled “wankers” and a bunch of other hideous names. After eight years of patience, we’re “rewarded” with this? It’s insulting, to be frank. No wonder there’s a splinter group in the fandom who isn’t pleased with the new work.

The lack of maturity in the online English speaking community (mostly made up of 20-somethings who grew up watching the anime in the ’90s) is astounding. There is a trend right now where some people think they have the right to determine who is a “true fan” and who isn’t. Apparently, anybody who applies regular critical thinking and reasoning skills to Sailor Moon isn’t a “true fan”. In order to be a “true fan” you have to be anti-intellectual; you can’t point out flaws with spelling or grammar (or translation), you can’t critique the graphical design work that was so shoddily done, and you certainly can’t comment on the laziness and sloppiness of the American manga industry at large. To do so smacks of elitism and intelligentsia, and clearly anyone who is like that isn’t a “true fan”.

Indeed, it seems that being a “true fan” these days involves mindlessly accepting any piece of new Sailor Moon merchandise as holy and above any criticism. “True fans” only give prayerful praise to the official companies for being gracious enough to take our money in exchange for a copy of their sub-standard product. Actually, the backlash against those who have looked at the new manga from an intellectual perspective regarding translation, editorial, design, and publishing practices has been very disconcerting. There’s a cult mentality among some fans that defend Sailor Moon releases like gospel. The extremist language and the personal attacks against individuals and collective websites for “daring” to give negative opinions about the new manga is a sign of how extremist the fan community has become.

I remember 10 years ago when it was acceptable to point out the errors in the Tokyopop edition of the manga, or to point our translation flaws in ADV’s subtitles. People would actually listen to each other’s opinion and make a decision on whether or not they agreed with it based on the argument’s intellectual merit; not based on whether or not they were personally “aligned” with any particular group within the fandom. The community used to be so much more tolerant and rational — and I miss that.

Just because this is “the internet” and we’re “only discussing a comic book” doesn’t mean we should all refuse to take the subject seriously. Those who don’t take it seriously are within their rights to feel that way. What I object to is the current trend that mocks anyone who _does_ take the online debate seriously. If none of us were to ever take Sailor Moon seriously because it’s a cartoon and a kid’s show, we would be without great sites like Dies Gaudii and The Manga of Takeuchi Naoko who specialize in criticism and corrections for the source material. No one would have bothered to build a massive, detailed site like SailorMusic.net because we’d all be too busy spamming our Tumblr’s and LiveJournals with memes and screen shots. There is room for online intellectualism and debate, even in regards to something “not serious” like Sailor Moon. Of course, there are times when people do take things too far, but automatically shooting anyone down for taking a serious approach to Sailor Moon would prevent the growth and diversity of the fandom at large. I’d rather take the risk of being too serious than risk losing the plethora of great material and diversity ‘serious’ fans have given us.

My opinion is that in order to be a true fan, you don’t need to be an extremist. You don’t have to hate all Sailor Moon dubs and be a subtitle purist. You don’t have to favor the manga over the anime. You don’t have to love Sera Myu. In other words, you don’t have to only have positive opinions of everything in order to love Sailor Moon.

Many of my favorite Sailor Moon websites are sites that defend unpopular opinions, such as In Defense of SuperS and Bunny’s Ambition. I would much rather listen to the critical opinions of someone who is genuine and sincere than the same tired chorus you get everywhere else. In fact, those I respect the most are those who are genuine about expressing their opinions. It often takes much more courage and personality to stand up for what you believe in, especially when that belief is unpopular.

What defines someone as a fan is their care for Sailor Moon. When your opinions about a certain aspect of Sailor Moon are critical, this doesn’t make you a “hater” and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t a ‘real fan’. Consider the following: if you put a lot of effort into finding all of the mistakes in the current Kodansha release, you are spending hours of your time focused _on Sailor Moon_. If you are displeased with how a *company* handles some aspect of Sailor Moon, this does not make you less of a fan either. Whining about a company that handles the franchise isn’t the same as complaining about the actual franchise material itself; you can love the Sailor Moon manga even if you don’t like the Tokyopop or the Kodansha versions. And you are still a fan of Sailor Moon no matter which side you fall on regarding dub vs. sub — what matters and what makes you a fan is that you love the anime.

I believe fans all have the right to express their opinions about anything without having to face an ostracizing backlash. Even though I disagree with those who don’t consider the problems with the Kodansha manga a big deal, I respect their opinion. In fact, I enjoy discussing the subject because it gives me the opportunity to see the debate from a different perspective than my own. It is a humbling and rewarding experience to step outside of the boundaries of how your own mind operates. There are plenty of intelligent people on both sides of the argument, and they are all worth listening to.

What I would like to see happen is an organized, respectful debate. Instead of bickering and random insults strewn throughout endless forum threads and various Tumblr accounts, I’d like to see a group of fans work together on a website that explains their point of view rationally — regardless of whether they are pro or anti-Kodansha. I’d like to see both sides of the divide make well-thought-out and respectful opinion pieces that don’t resort to name-calling and ad hominem attacks to get their message heard. We are *all* Sailor Moon fans. Just because we have differing opinions doesn’t mean we need to be at each others throats.

If both sides of the divide work together, we can reverse this extremist trend that I am seeing become more apparent with each passing week. One of the main themes of Sailor Moon is compassion and understanding; I hate to use a cliché argument and say that we should all try to emulate this model, but this is how I genuinely feel. Imagine how much more our community could accomplish if we were all more understanding of each other!

I am going to work toward this goal. It is my hope that others will join me.

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