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That’s Just, Like, Your Opinion (Why I Can’t Stand Gatekeeping)

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I have a lot of opinions. Doesn’t everyone on the Internet? Especially when it comes to fandom involving any kind of geeky or artistic media. Everyone experiences the world differently, and we bring our ideas and our life experiences and our preferences with us whenever we sit down to watch, read, or listen to something. And because so much of our discussion is online, it’s easy to share our opinions and hot takes without really understanding the other person’s point of view, leading to, well…

Image result for demon slayer flame breathing"
There were no winners in the Great Flame War of 2019

One of the nastier side effects of this is that sometimes fandoms be victim to a kind of elitist mentality, where certain opinions are seen as better or more correct than others. They use social media and a groupthink mentality to give popular opinions a bigger platform and discourage people from disagreeing. If someone does disagree, they get called hateful things or told they have shit taste. If what I’m describing sounds like the techniques an authoritarian regime or a religious cult would use to spread propaganda and prevent people from protesting, that’s because it is.

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Would you be interested in joining the Axis Cult?

And it all seems rather silly, at least to me. You should like something because it resonates with you, not because it’s popular or because some guy on YouTube told you it was good. That’s especially true when it comes to art, which is so subjective and personal. If we interpret every show we watch or every song we listen to differently, who can really say that any of us are right or wrong for how we feel?

I recently watched an anime series that everyone I talked to said was a masterpiece. Watching it myself, I could see that the art direction was solid, the music was awesome, the story was interesting and unique… and I still dropped it after nine episodes, because I HATED it! It wasn’t that I thought any of these things were bad, but I just didn’t like any of the characters and didn’t care enough about them to watch the whole thing. I can definitely understand why other people enjoy it so much, but just wasn’t for me. And that’s fine – just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean my opinion is any less valid than all the folks who did, or vice versa. 

I don’t want to mention the name but it rhymed with… Pines Bait?

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be open minded to other people’s perspectives, or think critically about the media we consume. I know my blog doesn’t look like it, but I actually do a ton of research for most of my blog posts! I don’t want to live in a bubble and I want to find out what other people have to say. But at the end of the day, I’m still going to write in my own voice, from my own perspective. I can’t expect everyone to share my point of view, but I can say how I feel and hope that we can at least come to some sort of understanding. 

Gatekeeping, elitism, and groupthink make this kind of understanding impossible. If people are so caught up in their prejudices about what good art should or shouldn’t be, it shuts out other people’s perspectives entirely. It silences people who don’t have as much social capital (often minorities) and encourages a cult-like mentality. And it’s completely counterproductive: we are all in this community because we love anime, so why are we shutting out those who might not agree with us? Our community is hugely diverse and includes people from all walks of life. That’s part of what makes it wonderful, and I think everyone in the community deserves a space to talk about whatever they want without having others push their own tastes and preferences onto them.

After all, wouldn’t it be boring if we all just liked the same thing?

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