Whenever I think about anime humour, the first thing that occurs to me is that it is very often self-deprecating. This is especially noticeable whenever a joke centers around a male character. He may be a brainless pervert, a loser geek, clueless about girls (and in many cases, all of the above), and he will often be teased by the female characters, sometimes even physically abused in a slapstick manner.
I’m not going to pretend that anything about “anime humour” is unique. If you’ve ever watched a Japanese variety show, you’ll understand that the tendency towards exaggeration and silly jokes is hardly confined to anime. And, of course, the gender bias in slapstick is a common media trope in general.
Still, I did get to thinking about how “anime humour” and “fandom humour” overlap. It certainly makes sense that fans of anime would engage in self-deprecating humour themselves. You can see this in words like “waifu” or the common fandom joke: “Your favorite anime is shit!”
In general, people use self-deprecating humour to create an aura of approachability. There’s really nothing inherently wrong with it. It’s good to have a sense of perspective and the ability to laugh at yourself.
Self-deprecating humour can also be indulgent and self-serving, though. In the fandom context, it can come across as a self-defense mechanism, a way of deflecting outside criticism while carving out a distinct identity for oneself. By making fun of themselves, fans establish themselves as an in-group. Outsiders can only laugh at them, not with them.
In my last post, I discussed my stance on sexism in male otaku fandom. I described my ambivalence about my own fan activities and how I have always felt complicit in sexist attitudes despite my desire for gender equality. It is certainly easy to point out that anime fanservice objectifies women (among other things) and in doing so turn your critical eye away from yourself.
This time, I want to focus on the female anime fan’s perspective. In doing so, I hope to show that sexism in the anime fandom lies far beyond what is shown in anime itself. The sharp division between anime communities “for boys” (i.e. Reddit and 4chan) and anime communities “for girls” (i.e. tumblr and fanfiction sites) does not help. There is a distinct lack of open communication between both genders online. This enforces gender stereotyping on both ends.
This post is a collaboration with my friend AquaJet. She is an insider of both female otaku culture and tumblr culture. I decided to feature her writing on my blog because I feel this is a perspective that needs to be shared to a wider audience.
Picture is relevant, I swear.
WARNING: 2500+ word long post ahead.