‘You don’t even get that reference thus I will look down on you’ is the general feeling that seems to come along with some fandoms. With the rise of easy to buy cheap Chinese mass produced costumes, social media elitism, and the growing divisional cliques at conventions there has come a rise in some fandoms becoming not very friendly to newcomers. Even if you are a fan of a series like Love Live or Overwatch you might find yourself outcasted from the big group of cosplayers you just ran into because you don’t get their Tumblr in-jokes or aren’t part of their Facebook group. It is a sad direction that fandom has taken in the last five or so years and it likely won’t change any time soon.
It has gotten to a point that many people, both cosplayers and general fans, have dropped specific series from their list of favorites due to the attitude of the vocal side of the fanbase. Putting away costumes, ceasing to purchase products, and turning their backs on those few good fans are not uncommon behaviors. It is likely that everyone knows or has met someone who has apologized for the fandom as a whole and given the ‘not all fans’ speech. Many have turned toward shunning or avoiding those asshole fans, but that doesn’t always work.
LEARNING FROM HISTORY
However, the fact that some fandoms might not be welcoming does not mean that avoiding that fandom is your only choice. When Sailor Moon finally hit Toonami, the Sailor Moon fandom was out of control. If you liked the North American version you were not a ‘real’ fan and if you were not following all the various spin offs you were not part of the real fans. In the end this turned off many people from the fandom, but like the turning of the tide this did not last.
By 2006 things had really calmed down with the Moonies. Many of the old message boards and fan groups had almost completely faded away. Those who wanted to enjoy the series their own way came out of the woodwork once more and being a Sailor Moon fan was not seen as being an elitist snob anymore now the fans were seen as your typical anime fans who happen to like a mediocre magical girl show from the 90s. In many ways it was considered ‘normal’ to be a Sailor Moon fan since so many had grown up with it and the negativity had faded away.
Of course, with the resurgence of the series in 2014 the old attitudes started to come up once more, but many of the fans resisted this attitude since many of them had been made to feel less than during the height twelve years prior. While there are still some terrible people in the Sailor Moon fandom, however the overall perception is that they are fans of a mediocre magical girl show from the 90s that has some less than stellar source material and spin offs. Of course this does not mean that the elitist snob fansdon’t still exist, they just have no more power over the reputation of the fandom.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE VETERAN
The general view of a fandom comes from how the fans interact with other people. If the fans are getting grey paint everywhere or give people an attitude while wearing their cheap Chinese made idol costume it will have major consequences on how not only that fandom, but all fandoms are viewed by the public. Bad fans and unwelcoming fandoms have that reputation for a reason and it is all due to those fans who are too self absorbed to remember they don’t rule the world. That reputation will influence the rules of an event, it will cause people to avoid and mock those fans, and it generally makes all fandoms at an event look bad. Worse yet, there is not a single thing that a single person can do to change that fact.
However, changing the attitudes of those you meet in your fandom can slowly create change. Obviously changing a person’s mind isn’t the easiest thing to do and there is no guaranteed method to achieve this goal. The only thing you can really do is begin with your own group. If someone amongst your team has an attitude either correct them or kick them out of your group. Being ostracized is one of the easiest ways of making someone comply with social standards. While your civics teacher may have told you that ‘judging is wrong’ be assured that anyone who believes that is a total idiot. Judging is what keeps most people from acting outside of socially acceptable norms. Convention culture has social norms at one point, but many had forgotten them in fear of hurting someone’s feelings.
It is the responsibility of the older fans, and younger mature fans, to keep others in their circle in check. A convention or gathering is not an excuse for anarchy. Standing up to your friends may not be an easy thing to do, but if you care about someone you should care enough to tell that person that s/he is being a total jerk. If the person ceases being your friend after such an action then that person wasn’t much of a friend to begin with and you are better off without that person in your life.
THE WO/MAN IN THE MIRROR
Outside of sociopaths and narcissists there are very few people who set out to act like jerks at conventions. It is human nature to want to share things you like with others. It is through this sharing that you can find new friends and connections that you might miss out on otherwise. Yet, some people may not even be aware of their behaviors because you might be so wrapped up in your convention experience that you forget that others are trying to enjoy their experience as well.
Having a selfish attitude at a convention isn’t entirely a bad thing. It’s the drive that makes you rush for that autograph line, it makes you hunt down that rare figure, and it is what drives you to do the things that make you the most happy at an event. However, that selfish drive should not be so strong that you ruin the experience of others. Running for an autograph line doesn’t mean you trample others, going through the dealer hall should not be a contact sport, and having fun does not mean destroying a hot tub with your body paint.
It might not be easy to self analyze, but it is something that all people should do. Even if you consider yourself a polite con goer that might not mean that you really are one. If you are in doubt of your behaviors try asking your friends and those select few that only know you via conventions. If you are lucky they will give honest answers and help you find your weaknesses. Self improvement is part of growing and an important part of life. As you become a better person others will see the change and likely be driven to grow themselves or like the friends who cannot take criticism they will leave you, but in that case you are better off not having those self stagnating people in your life.
AND THAT’S THE BOTTOM LINE
There is only one “attitude era” and it has nothing to do with modern anime or sci-fi series that people cosplay from at conventions. Having a bad attitude can be harmful to both yourself and others. If the goal of an event is to have fun or learn something new then that should be a part of everyone’s experience not those few elites who think themselves greater than all others. By ruining the experiences of others you are bringing down the event as a whole. By not correcting those who act this way you are also part of the problem. The sad thing is, being polite is not that hard to do, but apparently many people have forsaken their manners for their own selfish reasons. However, there is no better way of showing how someone can change than a real life example:
Once upon an Anime Boston a Jotaro Kujo cosplayer was angry at the rude people at the event. After having random people give him the stink eye, crowds pushed him around, and having his foot stepped on so many times he lost count the cosplayer was about to explode with rage. When a person came up to him to give him a compliment he just ignored the nice person and went on his way with an angry grunt. Then he remembered something, that person wasn’t any of the reasons why he was angry. He realized that the nice person was just trying to be friendly. The Jotaro cosplayer turned around and walked back toward the person he had push away. He apologized for his behavior and told the person that he was having a bad day and that he didn’t mean to be a jerk.
Many cosplayers could learn from that story. It happened at Anime Boston 2016 and hopefully those who witnessed the event learned something important. No matter how bad your day is going, no matter how elitist others may be, there is no excuse to ever be rude to someone who was just trying to be friendly. Self improvement is free all you have to do is chose to be a good person and recognize when you are a jerk then apologize and try to do better. In an age where it seems like everyone is trying to be the most popular perhaps we should remember that what’s most important is reputation and it’s impossible to have a good rep unless you are a good person.