Much Ado About Nothing

About a week ago now I attended the Anime North Convention and all that nonsense that entails. I had been primed and ready for some conflict of interests considering immediately next door, the Conservative Convention was transpiring. I use the word transpiring accordingly; many a “normie” was astounded and befuddled by the sight they were presented with while trying to get to the Con-Con (the term I will herby be using to describe the Conservative Convention, and for no other reason than it sounds funny).logo (1)

I was ready for a lot of silly things to emerge as a result of that, but shockingly, the only really ridiculous thing that occured was on the Sunday of the convention when I had already gone home. The Anime North FB page had posted a link to an article in Maclean’s about the overlap between both conventions; reading the article made it pretty clear that whoever posted the link didn’t actually read the article before sharing it.

I had a few issues with this: surprisingly, not issues with Maclean’s half-assed report of the day’s events (more on that later), nor with the opinions voiced by the only person who was interviewed in the article (again, later-later), but rather on the nerdy-side of things; with the somewhat unwarranted knee-jerk reactions I had read in some of the comments of the shared link.

Some of those reactions I’d have loved to quote here, but the original post has since been taken down, so that lovely bit of lore is now gone. But it had crossed my radar and I was invested, so I carried on with my research on the matters. And what I present to you here is my personal response to the article: to the writer Jeff Geddes, to Anonymous George and to the fan-base at large that, quite frankly, got way more worked up about this than was necessary.

mask-man-mysterious
Anonymous George: cleverly disguised as a generic internet pic!

Let’s start with a few of the facts about the article itself. For simplicity’s sake, the link is here, which you can give a quick read-over if you so choose. There’s only 606 words in it, so it only takes about 3 ½ minutes to read. If you don’t feel like reading it: that’s cool, there’s really not much there anyway.

One of my first observations about this article was that it didn’t really cover anything, while simultaneously covering a little too much. A couple of paragraphs were spent mentioning the Con-Con, a couple more then dedicated to Anime North, a few airy opinions from Anonymous George and his hobby (which then discussed his job and political affiliations), then back to a brief mention of one of the candidates for the vote, with a lovely summary denoting that Anonymous George cares more about anime than about politics.

A riveting tale: this is not.

With that brief outline, you’d expect that covering each of those things in any metric of detail would require almost a full editorial about each; what we were presented with was a series of half-formulated thoughts and statements that only very loosely tied together. You can probably already see where this was a formula for let-down. If you look far enough into the ingredients list here, you’ll note that there’s a great deal of passive language and, more importantly, there’s no real subject.

In the end, you’re served a dish that is not unlike a crueller donut. It looks like something good, until you bite into it and discover that it’s 95% air.

Handiwork like this made me wonder if this was written by some fresh-outta-college reporter looking to get their sleuthing nose into something (I didn’t think Maclean’s was prone to those choices, but stranger things have happened). The article was written by one John Geddes, and only 3 mouse-clicks later, I had pretty succinctly disproven my own hypothesis. Geddes has spent two decades writing political articles, so something was amiss. While I certainly can’t find any evidence to suggest otherwise, I suspect he (much like nearly every other regular human-bot who attended the Con-Con) didn’t realize that there was a gargantuan festival going on right next door. A festival filled with elaborate costumes, plenty of almost-real swords and food vendor stalls from the land of the rising sun (also a donut one; frankly those things were an addiction waiting to happen!)

geddes-300x300
I mean, the man just looks like the embodiment of political correspondence!

Brief intermission: this article is already over 100 words longer than its source material. Carry on…

So, the ground-work had already been laid for bad coverage, and the article was written then published for Saturday, the only day that the Con-Con went on. I’ll be generous and assume it was published around 6pm, though that’s also probably wrong as the article makes no mention of the closing problems that voters faced after the 4pm cut-off (though that was covered in another article by CTV news, again, published same-day). Some more reading and poking around yielded to me that Geddes’ primary job was as an Ottawa Bureau Chief  for Maclean’s, which was a term I had heard nearly every weekday night on evening news but had no idea what it meant.

Turns out a Bureau Chief’s responsibility is to coordinate other reporters in the city/area for political news coverage. Okay, Toronto (technically Etobicoke, but meh) is a little far from Ottawa, and the main reason Geddes was down this direction was for the Con-Con. Okay, cool: this is starting to make some more sense now. It’s not good, but at least it’s making sense. He (or whatever unnamed reporter he directed) probably came down here with an idea in mind for what to cover, instead found the utter madness next door and rapidly-changed gears to include that in the article. Surely it’d make for some more click-traffic that way. Bonus.

Well, with the inclusion of this new subject, there needed to be a foil. Cue Anonymous George, probably one of the most vague anime fans I’ve met. Correction: I haven’t met him in person, but an article like this really paints a vivid picture of a person, y’know? So here’s George, clearly someone who was attending the con (anime con, not Con-Con; note the singular “con”), then popped over to perform his civic duty to vote for the next leader of the Conservative Party. How can one tell he went to both? He had a pass letting him into the Con-Con, and was in cosplay.

I want to get something out of the way here before we carry on: Anonymous George has my 100% respect for taking time out of Anime North to vote for the next leader of the Conservative Party. Participating in the democratic system is hella important and frankly we need more people intentionally invested in the politics that govern our country. I might be riffing a bit on the guy, but it’s definitely not for this reason.

Back to our story: reporter see Anonymous George decked out in his cosplay and wonders what’s up? In interest of not making this a novella, we’ll cover some of the broad-points of Anonymous George’s interview:

  • His cosplay is based on Kemono Friends, a bizarre little CGI-based anime with lots of cute animal girls
  • He briefly mentions a web-browser game that features warships as cute girls
  • Some personal views on what the Anime North convention should be focusing on
  • How he became a card-carrying Conservative
  • His day job
  • Peace-out, yo

Anonymous George gives some good ground-points to begin a really interesting conversation about what anime is about and why it’s fascinating. Granted, I’m a little concerned with the breadth of his knowledge about different shows because one of his main points are, quoted, “There are consequences from whatever happens. Let’s say you kill someone in one episode, that fact stays forever.”

Just about anyone whose watched mainstream anime knows for a fact that is pretty well the exact opposite of what typically happens: contrivances to keep named characters alive/brought-back-to-life is an anime staple. Unless Anonymous George is fortunate enough to have stayed away from the mainstream stuff and only watches the really fringe-shows: in that unlikely scenario, I’d apologise.

So, Anonymous George doesn’t give good descriptions of anime? Surely that can’t be the source of Self’s grievances. You’d be right if you’re thinking that; how uncanny that you’d think the same thing I thought while typing this out. We must be mind-linked or something. But yes, you’d be right. The real problem I have with this whole thing comes down to us: the fan base.

In the interview, Anonymous George states that he doesn’t agree that there are a lot of politically sensitive topics for panels for Anime North, instead wants to see more panels about anime, manga and the subculture. Which I just now, as I’m typing this, realized how odd that statement is: discussions about feminism and other “politically sensitive” topics covered at the con are a part of anime subculture. Many anime and manga make great strives to address some of those topics, for better or worse (typically worse, but it’s a start anyway). Unless, of course, you only watch the mainstream stuff, which in fact, typically doesn’t touch on those topics… Wait, I think this goes back to an earlier point I made….

Of course, despite my disagreement, Anonymous George is absolutely entitled to his opinion on the matter. There is a part of me agrees: I too would love to see more panels/discussions at the Conventions about the anime and manga themselves. I remember the first year I went to Anime North, which I’m inclined to think was 2011, there was a great panel discussing the history, theories and symbolisms behind Alchemy that was the central focus of Full-Metal Alchemist. It was a brilliant panel, more akin to a university lecture, that I was completely engrossed in. I understand it’s very difficult to put those together, but I too would love seeing more of those panels.

That’s not to say that I agree that politically sensitive topics shouldn’t be at the con. They have a place at Anime North, sure, but it’s a part of the convention. Unfortunately, due to vague wording, I’m not entirely certain that Anonymous George intended to say that there should be no mention at all of those subcultures at Anime North, but God knows that’s how many folks from the fan community took it.

Why+would+the+republic+of+ireland+care+the+tricolour+is+_cacaee58006b2be259c07a3dced8fdf0Before the original FB post was taken down, there was a great deal of anger, and almost bile-spitting, in the comments at Anonymous George and Maclean’s about how this post was against having inclusive groups at Anime North. Which was neither the article’s intention, nor would I postulate that it was Anonymous George’s opinion either. What we were given was a slightly mindless article about not much of anything, that mentioned Anime North a half-dozen times (correction: I went back and counted, Anime North is only mentioned four times by name). What was received, however, was an attack on people’s beliefs and sense of securities.

Where does this all stem from? A great number of problems, unfortunately. People who are typically identified as fans of anime regularly get slapped with less than fond labels such as “nerds” or “weaboos” and many others that I’m either refraining from re-typing because I don’t remember or it’s a little too vulgar for this platform. This of course stems from any number of issues such as a lack of empathy, confusion, conflicting views, pettiness, etc. Of course, lack of knowledge on this topic also comes from fear of being labeled as weird or lame (or many other word choices), or from ignorance or inexperience.

We haven’t even got to mention an overwhelming sense of insecurity that is inherent to our society in general, where finding a “weakness” to exploit in others is an encouraged form of self-gratification; or an “us vs. them” mentality (one that I too fall into the habit of: perfect examples are in this article when I referred to non-Anime North goers) or any of the countless other reasons that we could start picking and pulling at. I could keep going with this, but I’m well over two-thousand words now and I’ll soon need to start adding chapter numbers.

As I said before: this article was built on a bad foundation. It was fairly evidentially written as something quick to fill space, and only a solitary view-point was expressed. When you add in supports of a wishy-washy focus and haphazardly added political statements about something, then coat the whole thing with long-standing issues of rejection and stigmatization, you get the perfect recipe for a disaster.

The article is bad. But so were many of our reactions to it.

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