Lessons on Geek Anthropology explores fandom as an extension of the Self today. In other installments, we’ve argued that fannish objects might be points of identification that help us explain our individual personalities. However, fandom is more than that. It could be argued that fandom is an extension of a fan’s self. Fan objects can work as role models. Think about a fictional character that we love. Not only we can find points of identification with the fictional character, but we can also use it as a role model for our daily interactions. Thus, not only the fan shapes the fannish objects; the fannish objects also shape its fans.
Fictional characters can be read from different points of view. They might have different closures, different interpretations for different audiences. These differences come from our personal experiences and cultural backgrounds. Shared cultural experiences are the source for groups of fans to find common ground, thus conventional interpretations. This is why we can find groups of fans interpreting a character in the same light. These fans will have points of identification with the fictional character, but they may use it as well as an extension of their Selves.
This week’s lessons on Geek Anthropology are focussing on fandom pleasures: collecting and collectors. When we think about collecting we usually think about fandom, but these might not be related at all. Collecting is one of the fannish activities some fans might engage to get pleasure from their favorite fandom. This means that not all collectors are fans nor belong to a specific fandom. Think about, for example, collectors that are engaged in collecting beer bottle caps, or stamps from all over the world, or vintage toys of all kinds. So, being a member of a fandom does not mean that we’re talking about collectors or the activity of collecting. Some fans might engage in collecting; others won’t. So, while historically collecting and fandom have been overlapped, they are, in fact, not the same thing.
Now that we’ve established the premise let’s dig deeper into it!
We return to our lessons on Geek Anthropology after a hiatus due to moving home. I’m back with a hot potato! Superman’s layered identity, a child from two worlds. When we take a look at Superman, we always think of him as Superman and Clark Kent while forgetting that he is from Krypton and Kansas. So, what is Superman’s layered identity telling us? Is he an example of someone who belongs to more than one community? Is his personality revealing to us anything else than just hints of his personality?
Let’s remember a bit about Superman first. He was born in Krypton and sent away by his parents to Earth to save him. So, he is a super baby, with super strength when he arrives on planet Earth. However, he isn’t raised with Kryptonian standards, but by the Kents, his adoptive parents, who happen to be from a small town in Kansas.
Yup, another chapter of Pepi in Wonderland. Today is all about aliens. When I came back from Europe, I just felt that everyone is so alien. I first landed in Vienna, Austria. It’s not that you find all strange people in Austria, it was only that I wasn’t used to seeing so many foreigners like me anymore. Okay, you might say, but you did come back home during vacations, didn’t you? Yes, I did. But it was always for a very short time. What do you think it happens when you go over the short period of time? Your brains enter into the panic zone.
So here we are again with a new chapter of Pepi in Wonderland. Today we are going to talk about Japanese etiquette: Japanese bowing. Japanese bow as a salute, to say thank you or to apologize. Rules are quite complicated, but if you follow the basics, you can never go wrong. After three months living there, I already got used to bowing instead of shaking hands. However, once you get used to it, it’s really hard to explain how it works to friends who would like to pay you a visit. One of such friends had a funny episode with bowing that made me laugh for a long time.
Welcome to another chapter of lessons on Geek Anthropology. Today we’ll explore what Geek Social Identity is. But first, let’s think about identity as a quality that’s attributed to us as individuals by other individuals like us. Said in other words, identity depends on a social group. We need others to define part of our identity as much as we need ourselves to define our personalities. Thus, there’s no surprise in finding several identities for each person depending on the groups they are into or the situations they find themselves into. If we take a look at identity as a social process, we’ll find that there’s only identity through others. Thus, we need a community to share to find ourselves.
So here we are again with a new chapter of Pepi in Wonderland. This time, we are going to talk about the gomi adventures, also known as how to manage the trash. This might seem totally weird, but I never thought as much about trash as when I started living in Japan and moving from house to house in Tokyo. Tokyo is divided in “ku,” wards. Each ward has different rules on how to deal with trash. Some are easier than others, but as a general rule, it’s way more complicated than just their EU counterparts.
Before going to Japan, the only thing I had to worry about was separating the trash into different types, and go out from home and put the trash into their bins. And that happened whenever I wanted. Furniture would be taken care of by the city council. So, you only needed to put it next to the bins. End of the story.
What happens when the mainstream makers do not deliver what fans want? Very simple: they do it themselves. The “do it yourself” (DIY) phenomenon is not only something related to crafts, but also a very deep trait of fandom. When a mainstream maker does not deliver what the audience wants, the audience will eventually create what they want.
One recent example of fans creating for fans is the unofficial “Loki movie” called “Loki, Brother of Thor”. Fans of Loki have been demanding a solo Loki movie for a long time now. Tired of waiting, some fans have decided to take action and create a solo Loki movie editing the existing Marvel movies, creating a version of the events using available material.
This not only happens with movies, it also happens with cosplay dresses, t-shirts, jewelry, shoes, and all sorts of different merchandising. Traditionally, fan fiction and fan art have been the realms of the “DIY” expression. Fans who wanted things to happen in the movies, but didn’t happen write down the alternate stories. Others, decide to create for themselves, as well as for others, goodies that would love to have bought from the mainstream makers.
Images compel us far more than discourses. Even similar images can trigger our subconscious mind. In it we can find more than just our own tastes, we can also find shared hopes and fears, our shared identity, our shared high and popular cultures. Using shared images, about myths, or remarkable things that have happened in history, is not something new. Darius the Great communicated his power through images: sculptures. He started an artistic revolution in which he combined artistic elements throughout his Empire. Off the main road of Persepolis, he decided to picture himself as a bowman. The bow, for the persians, was a symbol of balance and control, key elements for a good king. Alexander the Great used the political portrait heavily using his image as a human strong leader who could defeat anyone. They presented themselves as heroes, as ultimate kings that would bring the final peace to the land uniting all their peoples.
Throughout history art has been used as means to communicate power but also communicate shared emotions. Ancient Greece created myths so strong, we still care about them today. Images have been used to trigger shared emotions and behaviors making the viewers empathize with the figures in the image, to the point of identifying with them. Shared culture helps trigger those emotions in the viewer. Those viewers who do not share the same culture, might just see an image, but will not emphasize with it. This is what happens with Marvel’s “Infinity” #6 cover and the picture of the Iwojima flag rising.
When I first read the book of Ruth Benedict, the Chrysanthemum and the Sword, I was in a deeply falling in love with it. I already had a crush on Japan… But, when did all started for me? To tell you the truth, I cannot really remember when all of it started. After asking to my mom, if she could remember when I started to talk or show signs about “wanting to go to Japan” or “liking Japan”, she startled me. I wasn’t prepared for her answer. “Since you were a baby”. It turns out that I chose things with oriental motives since I was able to point things out. When asked “which one you like?” I ended up pointing at anything which had asian patterns. In fact, one of my first tissues ever had weird asian dolls as a pattern! And one of my favorite barriguitas (a famous plastic doll in Spain) was the Japanese one!
Back in the 80s, you could not really find many “cute” stuff “made in Japan” in Spain. In fact, everything was sort of “messed up”. My handkerchief with asian doll patterns is a mix of Chinese and Japanese. But, in spite of that, the country that I loved was Japan. I am, in fact, unable to put a date on me starting to say “I want to learn Japanese” and “I want to go to Japan”. So, just think it was at the beginning of the 80s, when I started to crawl around. And, when I started to read… Oh my! I think I discovered a whole new world!