hey infant, wanna talk about subculture media and how academics don't get what the fuzz is all about? i've been thinking about how writers and thinkers rarely emphasize how they are filled with young people who want to find their own identity against the more hegemonic narratives
unlike western subcultures which are more countercultures and political movements (punk rock, reggae, and glam rock), japanese subcultures are happy to be the endless rebel providing new avenues for a new kind of culture; they don't want to be part of the main or high cultures
thus many academics like azuma glamorize the extreme self-indulgence found in otaku fans: they focus on the mass consumption aspects and caricature them as "database animals", those creatures of nihilism who eat data forever because collecting cute girls is all they do
however, that's not the whole truth: these folks engaged in subculture media are overcoming nihilism through its fictive and imaginative aspects; they embrace the consumerism because these fictional worlds are temporary avenues to express themselves in a oppressive "real" world
these subcultures like goth lolita, train otaku, and ofc the anime/manga ones develop because they want to be those virtual worlds; they are a solipsistic respite for these people who have accepted their status in the world and their existence is a challenge to the status quo
we can situate japanese subcultures somewhere between "proper" counterculture movements and hobbies
in fact, when japanese people talk about fashion subcultures, they like to compare the clothes to western hipsters; the "subculture girl" (サブカル女子) is the best example
the most stereotypical depiction of a サブカル女子 is a girl with short hair, glasses, a parka or an oversize t-shirt, and a camera
the heroine of Melody Lyrik Idol Magic, owari ako, is one of the more memorable depictions of such folks; her sense of fashion is perfect
what distinguishes subculture fashion from hipsters is that they're not too into the "ironic" bent nor do they espouse beards and bicycles in search for authenticity; japanese subcultures recognize the inauthenticity and enters the relationship knowing it's all virtual and fake
japanese subculture people and their media recognize the tension of artificiality and nature esp when discussing themes on identity
identities are Creative: they are not fixed but remain in a flux of creation and destruction -- they are fluid because it's how they consume media
japanese subculture people are not the "society of spectacle" the situationalists warned us about; they don't applaud for every "spectacle" they see
these subculture folks are reinventing themselves against newer forms of hegemonic cultures that threaten their livelihood
mainstream cultures exist because ideas and values are accepted for a status quo to use; they also evolve and eliminate any leeways for dissent
subcultures thus must pick up their game and it's why these folks are required to recreate their identities in order to remain relevant
so if we compare them to british punk subcultures in the 70s, japanese subcultures are a kind of cultural dissent and thus not that overtly political; every time mainstream cultures change their strategies, they too must react and their borders have to be redrawn
the most interesting expressions from subculture media comes from these borders: yokoo tarou's games like drag-on dragoon 1 and nier automata are anti-games because they challenge what we conventionally see as fun and storytelling -- it's why he characterizes his games as "weird"
this "weirdness" doesn't come from wacky japan but the transgression of accepted conventions and norms in mainstream storytelling; we have come to accept certain ideas and values so playing his "anti-games" is a blow to our "knowledge" of discourses
japanese subculture media and fans are outside the discourse or one may say "knowledge" itself; that's why we often hear they are disgusting, mentally ill, childish etc
they are Othered as these "weird" people who aren't, well, normal; they are basically abnormalities of society
a confused mainstream person (or academic) might ask the jp subculture fans, "why do you want to do this? isn't it fruitless to reinvent yourself? why not be one of us? aren't you just setting up to be contrarians?", but they'll be disappointed because that's what they want
subculture fans recognize they are Othered; that's how subcultures exist in the first place! a subculture cannot exist without being rejected by the mainstream
so they know they are seen as festering sores on the world and accept their status as a minority group
japanese subcultures are cognizant of this Othering process and that's how fans find their identities: they are intentionally being Othered so they can find their own identity; it isn't for some grand ironic project or New Honesty bullcrap but as an existentialist struggle
the tv ending of evangelion is emblematic of that existentialist struggle; like shinji, many japanese subculture fans feel powerless and unrecognized by the mainstream -- so they accept the contradictions of their solipsism and try to grow up with it
evangelion is quite literally about a world that pushes their responsibilities to a bunch of kids
how are these kids supposed to make sense of what's going on and remain sane? all they can do is embrace their position and live with these traumas
these identities are discontinuous and fragmented they can't be saved; they are orphans from a history that have disowned them and they know they are sick to the core since they read each other's tweets and blog posts to feel like they are in an imagined community
when they realize "who" they are, they are paralyzed and only have two options: to become a nihilist or reinvent themselves from all these tears, paradoxes, and othering
the source of transgression in subculture media comes from accepting the latter
the catharsis from this postmodern condition is best expressed in the ending of mgs2: snake tells raiden that because reality isn't absolute, fabricated pasts don't matter; it is the job of people who are "reborn" to make better futures -- that is the goal of subcultures
subculture media is about finding a "name" for yourself in being othered, in being transgressive, and in being immersed in these subcultures; folks who engage in them develop their utterances against the mainstream and learn to find something worthy of passing on
that's why these subcultures recognize these artificialities; they know they are playing with a fiction but they are also trying to find some kind of inner truths in these fictions
this transient reality is ripe for new identities to be born
hence it isn't enough to talk about the formation of identities in japanese subcultures; identities are formed, deformed, and reformed! this culture is thus an extremely creative space where people are allowed to play with challenging ideas and values without irony or questions
if you ever find yourself going "wow, this isn't a cynical but an honest and thorough examination of a theme i don't see everyday", that's japanese subculture media at its best! it doesn't hesitate in playing with taboo subjects and even use them to "unravel" ourselves
japanese subculture media are inherently critical because of this "unraveling" of selves and that's why they remain effective "tools" for people who are continually searching for their identity
this is not to say other forms of media don't do this but it's just a given in them
when you realize this, it is impossible to separate japanese subcultures from their users' need to reconstruct and deconstruct identities for themselves; this transgression found in their creative spaces is part of their journey to find who they really want to be
every time i discover a japanese subculture, i just fall in love with them at first sight; their humorously honest retellings of themselves are so charming that i want to know more about them
esp when they drown themselves in silly jargon and produce great content for free!
japanese subculture is a new kind of humanism; some might describe it as a new wave of antihumanism but they are missing the forest for the trees -- it wants to understand what the human condition really is
~cue in the yokoo tarou/david cage human condition comparisons~
this is a long ass thread and i apologize for the length (i lost a follower it seems lol)
but i had an interesting discussion about academic views on subculture media with a friend and they tend to dehumanize folks in them
i hope my interpretation clears up some misconceptions!
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