Being Different, Being Hated
by Benjamin Turner
I can’t say I was able to collect any of the same lessons from Sailor Moon that Jason mentioned in his post. You see, I mostly watched the North American dub, where Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were recast as cousins (and Zoisite as a woman). It’s interesting that audiences here wouldn’t tolerate gay characters in a children’s show, while in Japan and elsewhere it was no problem. For all the talk of how our American society values individualism, certain differences are still not widely tolerated.
I’ve always felt as though I was different from most people. I’ve been a geek as far back as I can remember. As a kid, my favorite musician was Weird Al. (He’s still in my top ten, of course.) I started playing RPGs in middle school. (Amazingly, that’s how I finally got the girl – I know there’s a lesson for the kids there.) And I finally discovered (and rapidly became obsessed with) anime in high school. These are just a few of many, many examples. I never felt alone because there were always other geeks who I was friends with, but we were a tiny minority. And although I was self-confident enough, thanks to my loving and accepting mother, to largely ignore it, I was not oblivious to how we were disdained – by some other students, by mass media, and by society in general.
All that said, I’ve also always been a straight, white, middle-class male. “Trekkie” and “Dungeons & Dragons” might have been looked down upon widely enough to be the punch lines to jokes, but they were not the sorts of things that would elicit really serious prejudice. No professor ever suggested I couldn’t have a future as an engineer. No one shoots dirty looks if I hold hands with my spouse. I’m not watched like a hawk while just out shopping. People might have thought I was a bit strange, but no one was going to judge me as worthless to society or inherently damaged because I own a replica of Xena’s chakram1.
Then I became a brony. Suddenly, mainstream2 news outlets are reporting on what a creepy scumbag waste of space I am. I see in the documentary how bronies in some places are threatened with physical violence. There are people who truly hate us. And I would argue that it’s not for what we choose, but for who we are. Yes, we choose to continue to watch the show, buy the merch, and participate in the fandom, but we didn’t choose to love it in the first place.3 That’s just part of who we are.
What I have chosen is to take a positive lesson from this hate by refusing to perpetuate it. I’ve never really been one to judge people for being different from me, but I now make a concerted effort not to, and even to call out those who do. So you’re a furry, or a Twihard, or you prefer D&D 4th Edition? Okay. That’s not my thing, but so what? Not only has what I call “geek-on-geek violence” got to stop, but more generally, too many people spend too much time hating others just for being different, then trying to justify that hate with bullshit excuses. I was getting pretty sick of this already, but nothing drives a point home like personal experience.
By the same token, it’s made me less tolerant of intolerance, and a bit more confrontational where that’s concerned. (This is probably good, because I’m often far too non-confrontational.) The reason I want to wear MLP swag, for example, is just the same reason I want to wear Star Trek swag: I like to express myself and my interests through what I wear (also Pony is so happy I like having something from it around at all times). But the reason I allow myself to do so is because if someone has a problem with it, it’s their problem, not mine. To me, they’re simply being small-minded, and I have no interest in accommodating that. It may not be likely that I’m going to change anyone’s mind this way, but hiding who I am is a sure way not to do so.
As far as personal growth, I’ve gotten some things out of the show and I’ve gotten a lot out of the fandom. I guess, loath as I am to admit it, I’ve even gotten something out of the haters. (Namely, that they should knock it the hell off!) It’d take a better man than me to know why humanity needs these constant reminders: “Do unto others…” “be excellent to each other,” “if you embrace each other’s differences, you just might be surprised to discover a way to be friends after all.”4 But I’m glad there are people out there willing to keep giving them.
The good one from Creation, not the crappy one from Icons! ↩
The majority of these have a clear conservative slant, but at least by circulation, many are pretty mainstream. ↩
Twilight’s letter to Celestia, S1E8, “Look Before You Sleep” ↩