In My View: The Weaboo Menace?

Okay, so I feel like I need to explain my last post a bit. My intention was not to defend Weaboo actions (although arguably I did.) My intention was to point out the inherit flaw in elitist arguments and specifically pick apart an argument which seemed to say the only people who can create a product is the culture that developed it. And people who attempted to do otherwise were exploiting the culture and therefore bad people.

However, I do think the responses are interesting and I find myself torn on the issue of Weaboos.


The issue of race

The fact that Weaboo came from the word Wapanese is not lost on me. With any discussion of culture clashes like this, race is going to come up.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little uncomfortable talking about race. Not because I don’t have opinions about race in America, but because I’m still bitter about being a white male going to a four-year university and being told I was a closet racist. So any opinion I have is tainted by my dislike of my liberal arts education. Also my inherent dislike of the idea of there being a singular white culture devoid of regionalism and class.

That said, there are some important issues revolving around race in this country. They’re issues which need to be discussed on a country-wide scale.

However, bringing race into a discussion about Weaboo bothers me for a couple reasons. First, it muddies the waters of what we’re talking about. What we seem to be talking about has less to do with race and more to do with people behaving badly.

While I can understand why someone self-identifying outside of their culture does seem disingenuous, I have a hard time thinking it’s racist. It’s like the white suburban kids who pretended to be black in the 90s, before rap became acceptable to the mainstream. Sure they were posers, but are they any different than the hipsters who pretend to be nerds because intellectualism is cool? I dismiss them, but I’m not offended by them.

Obsessive fanboyism and social ineptness

What I find interesting is the discussion of Weaboo could really only come out of geek culture. We wouldn’t blink twice if some tweenie thought Fall Out Boy was the BESTEST THING EVAR. We might scoff a bit at the emo eyeliner, but in general, we’d accept it. We don’t balk at someone who is obsessive about their football team to the exclusion of all other football teams. We might even chuckle if they get half-naked and put paint on themselves. The thing is obsessive fanboys (or girls) don’t bother most people.

But when we start talking about obsessive fans in geek culture, well there’s something different. Now in all fairness, I haven’t dealt with too many Weaboos. I’ve dealt with a few here and there, but judging by what people have said the ones I’ve dealt with seem to be pretty mild.

I have dealt with a lot of D&D geeks though.

When I started playing D&D, I was desperate for something to take me out of the hell that was middle school. (I used to do some pretty bad things to myself in hopes of getting sick so I wouldn’t have to go.) I needed the escapism D&D offered and I became obsessive about it and by extension the fantasy genre. And in a lot of ways, I became the stereotypical D&D geek.

I breathed, ate and slept D&D for about two years. It was the only thing I could talk about. I was socially inept on a monumental scale. I’d say I was self-absorbed, but I think that would understate the problem. Even when my utter obsession faded, I was still horribly socially inept.

Now like most geeks, I grew out of it (at about 21 or 22.) I developed some level of social skills so I could pass in the normal world. My geeky hobbies because, well, geeky hobbies. I still have a certain level of embarrassment about being that kid, but I understand it too.

This leads me to my thoughts about Weaboos.

The Weaboo Menace?

When I see people who are as socially inept as I was at 13 trying to operate in polite society, I’m torn.

On the one hand, I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to be associated with some guy who can’t talk to a girl without staring at her breasts and talking about how amazing his Great sword +5 is. Much like the embarrassment I felt watching the Sakuracon commercial, I didn’t want to be associated with those people either. (Although I think for a 30-second ad, it didn’t deserve the sheer amount of analysis it got.)

I want my geeky hobbies out of the eyes of people who are going to judge me for them, or at the very least I don’t want to wave my freak flag in everyone’s faces.

On the other hand, I understand the obsessive behavior. I understand wanting to identify with something when you’ve essentially been outcast from everything else. I understand taking a romanticized version of reality and believing it’s true. And not only believing it’s true, but not accepting any other fact to dispute it. I understand not being considerate of other people’s opinions and feelings and just being a jerk.

I can understand why a certain subset of people acts obnoxious because I’ve done it too.

So while I can’t completely condemn them because they’re ignorant of what they’re doing. I can’t really condone their ignorance.

While I agree it’s bad behavior, I have a problem saying they’re bad people for it, just misguided and misinformed.

10 Comments

  1. LOL I was obsessed with D&D as well. I played mostly DM using AD&D 2nd ed. rules (my heyday was around age 12-14). What is really the issue? If it’s social ineptness, then can the hobby be considered the symptom and not the cause?

    If there are many socially inept people who aren’t into geek hobbies, then what I said would make sense. But I don’t know really.

  2. @ghostlightning – I think there are socially inept people who aren’t into geeky hobbies, but I do think geeky hobbies tend to attract a certain type of socially inept person. Generally people who want to escape real life. I would argue they’re probably reasonably intelligent and probably from a household where they don’t need to worry about food or shelter.

    They also tend to be people who don’t fit in for some reason.

    Granted, you could say they also want to be something they aren’t. I think that’s a tough question right there.

    Although you could argue the average Britney Spears fan uses his or her fandom to escape real life, but I don’t think it’s really the same thing.

  3. I’m a pretty heavy otaku culture geek. Lately though, because I like to talk about things from this hobby on my blog (and occasionally make embarassing videos/mp3s), I have been receiving a lot of flak, people saying I’m weeaboo and all that. The problem is these people know me IRL, on top of that they share my enthusiasm to a certain degree. What they cite as The Problem is exactly that degree of enthusiasm. I have never eaten sushi or pocky, but I believe that certain Japanese things go hand in hand with this hobby as you submerge deeper. I needed to learn a certain level of Japanese language to be able to play eroge and read Japanese anime websites (for blogging purposes). Even the embarrassing vids, it was to present what I like in an entertaining format. Now either these people just had a bad day and needed a vent, hate me deep down inside, or are serious hypocrites. Any other possible impression I should have?

  4. There’s a lot more I could say about the Sakuracon ad, but quite frankly I don’t really care about the content as much as the meme it spawned and the DMCA stuff that the convention organizers are messing with.

  5. “What they cite as The Problem is exactly that degree of enthusiasm.”

    I think that’s the complaint that most people have about people like “weaboos”. And when I hear that, I think that the complaint partly stems from people being too far away from what’s considered “normal” society-wise. Which in my train of thought leads to “bringing ‘negative’ attention to anime fans as a whole”, which leads to the desire for anime to be accepted in the mainstream. But that’s a kneejerk train of thought.

    But I do think the annoyance at people like “weaboos” in anime culture is related to, say, the fear that licensing a show (like Strike Witches) could bring fire and brimstone down on anime fans who watch stuff that’s “not like that”. The idea of “we’re not all like that”, and the fear that fans as a whole will be defined by the more extreme elements of the culture that always seems to be there.

  6. @Miha: I think the term “weaboo” is getting thrown around a little too much and too easily these days. Being heavily into geek (anime) culture does not necessarily make one a weaboo. Learning Japanese solely to understand Japanese blogs, games, anime, or manga in its native language does not necessarily make you a weaboo. Even being an over the top fan who is overly enthusiastic about his or her anime/manga hobby does not necessarily make one a weaboo. In the latter case, that’s not a weaboo, that’s a wacko.(TM)

    With all that said, I’m still trying to figure out what a true weaboo is without getting it mixed up with the aforementioned “wacko.” =|

  7. @Miha – Just adding a few thoughts to what nckl said. I have to agree weaboo is often used too often and too much. It’s kind of become a defense mechanism of a lot of people to adopt words which are bad and then self-apply them in a way that’s self-deprecating. So a term like weaboo is really diluted.

    That said, I know there are people who essentially glorify all things Japan (or arguably all things anime and then make Japan fit that mold) to a point where they do things that are thoughtless (like assuming all Japanese people watch anime or at least watch the same anime we do.) I think it’s something different from someone who’s just a fan (even a fan who’s really into being a fan.) I tend to think it’s someone whose fandom extends into their real-life interaction with strangers (i.e. people who yell, “I love sushi!” in the middle of a restaurant come to mind.)

    I do have a problem with the idea that using a few Japanese words in daily conversation is bad. I mean we use a Japanese word to describe the medium we watch. I certainly don’t think learning Japanese so you can read blogs/play games/watch anime makes you a weaboo.

    I have a feeling my idea of weaboo isn’t that far off from nckl’s idea of a “wacko.”

    @omo – I agree with you on the DMCA stuff. It’s really in bad taste. I understand why content carriers want to control their liability, but it seems to me there needs to be some kind of ruling to clarify fair use for the digital era. Granted, I doubt this Supreme Court is going to do it.

    @TheBigN – I agree with you that it’s largely related to the fear of the bad behavior of a few with taint the rest. That’s kind of why I think it could only come out of geek culture because I think the more “normal” people interested in anime are very conscious what they are doing is not understood by the mainstream. So there’s a tendency to want to attack people who are doing things that aren’t socially acceptable. Granted, even though I argued it, I’m not even sure obssessive fanboyism is really the best word for it. But I couldn’t come up with a better one.

    @nckl – If you figure out the difference let me know.

  8. AND I THOUGHT THIS WAS A FAMILY-FRIENDLY BLOG :( (I am totally kidding here)

    But let’s look at The Problem from a totally theological point of view.

    Now, for most people who don’t encounter this problem often, they are repulsed by it, much like how I was repulsed by the same people a looooooooooooong time back. But the problem is this: In these people, they see the depths of human depravity and how low a human being can go to deny reality.

    The irony? They also see themselves in them. Because for every weeaboo one sees, it’s a reflection of how low one can really go, just with different things to obssess over. Replace the anime and figurines and eroge with, let’s say, porn, cash, material things, people you’ve slept with, income, prestige…

    It’s all the same thing. What we see in the weeaboo (and on a related note, otaku and hikkikomoris in Japan) is basically us, in a different and (culturally-influenced) context.

    The bigger irony: No one ever realizes this, not even until someone has to point it out in bright neon signs.

    Replace the talk of anime with the talk about cars, soccer teams, females, grades, money, etc… You realize it’s the same thing.

    Judge not, lest ye be judged. Lest ye be judged with the judgement ye judged with, and be measured with the measurement ye measured with.

    (I am an Ye Olde Englishe Fag.)

  9. Interesting Op Ed. I remember back in college telling a friend that when I cooked any kind of “ethnic” dish it made me feel guilty as a white male blank slate, etc. It was a joke to a degree but also not.

  10. I simply can’t hold a stance on weaboos, since I identify too closely with whatever a weaboo is. That’s the thing: what is a weaboo? Oh, it’s just somebody who is more obsessed than you, however obsessed you may be. (See the law of hipster relativity: http://www.dustinland.com/archives/archives464.html)

    Before I decide to consider that “rabid” fanboy or fangirl to be a weaboo, I remember that to somebody else, I am a weaboo.

    About social ineptness: we were all there at some point. Let’s not ridicule them, let’s help them grow out of it! I know I wasn’t the most socially forward teen.


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