Creepiness, Availability, and a Vocal Minority
Welcome to another You Say Tuesday. Instead of focusing on all of my wonderful uneducated rambles, today’s post is about you. And your valuable comments. Together, we might be able to solve an amaranthine problem that has haunted countless generations of netizens and Fox News reporters alike.
What makes fandoms creepy?
“The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that uses the ease with which examples come to mind to make judgments about the probability of events. Sometimes, this heuristic is beneficial, but the frequency that events come to mind are usually not accurate reflections of their actual probability in reality.” – Wikipedia
Speaking from a strictly non-statistical viewpoint, the availability heuristic (and many others) permeates all of our lives. When somebody asked you to estimate the number of Asians in a school, do you conduct a randomized survey, or do you only think about your friends? If your school had a large but separate French immersion programme, wouldn’t your estimate always be skewed? Yes, it is – but heuristics aren’t supposed to be precise. They’re unconsciously embedded into our thinking, and most of the time, they do a fairly good job (for example, my school is approximately, eh, 99 ± 3 percent Asian).
Another example: think about the quality of J.C. Staff’s productions. What are you immediately thinking of? Most likely Joshiraku, Ano Natsu, Shana, Index, and if you’re one of those people, Little Busters. Also probable are older classics; Honey and Clover, Nodame Cantabile, Toradora, and of course, Azumanga Daioh.
Do you think of Hatsukoi Limited? Starship Operators? Best Student Council?
No! (Again, unless you’re one of those people.) You think of the most recent shows and the most memorable ones, and that’s how you judge J.C. Staff. For example, I loathe J.C. Staff with an undying passion because of Ookami-san, Yumekui Merry, Kamimemo, Arcana Famiglia… purely because I’m too hipster to watch older, good J.C. Staff shows. Also because watching Joshiraku makes me feel sick inside and I WILL WRITE A POST ABOUT THAT. WITHIN A MONTH. of this season’s ending (read: mid-February)
I’m sure there’s a scientific bias around this, but the name escapes my mind. I guess I lost all my memories of that late-night Wikipedia binge after those aliens hit me with their amnesiac Reagan.
When we hear of groups or events, we don’t hear about the common folks. We always hear the extremes – extremely devastating natural disasters, extremely gruesome murders, extremely violent religious protesters, extremely creepy bronies. Do we hear news of that one-day drought in central Mongolia? Do we hear news of those three thousand daily car crash fatalities, or of the one thousand eight hundred daily rapes? Do we hear news of some devout Muslim studiously following the Quran’s strict justice? Do we hear news of those fundamentalist Christians who just want to live their lives in peace?
No, we don’t. That’s because they’re the silent majority, and out of sight, out of mind. What we do hear is from the vocal minority, and the greater volume of available information means…
…yep. We judge entire groups based on their most vocal members.
There’s been much brony hate swirling through the web these days. At first glance, I’d agree: these grown men adore a children’s show. The entire premise is unnerving and reeks of paedophilia or emotional/mental retardation. Furthermore, choice images that proliferated quickly across the ‘net (showcasing bronies ejaculating on figures, among others) cemented this image of creepiness in my mind. (By the way, there’s nothing wrong with being mentally retarded; however, I’m viscerally unnerved by those physical incongruities. I’m trying my best to overcome my instincts, though.)
Among further reflection, many communities are characterized by their most prominent members. For niche subcultures such as bronies, Touhou, and anime blogs, the most prominent members are those who do things non-members would tell their friends about. It’s about memes – a robust meme will be passed along from non-members to non-members. For example, the brony ejaculation thread is a robust meme as I have an urge to pass on the thread, even though I’m not a member of the community.
Most often, these robust memes showcase negative aspects of the niche. Positive aspects are less prominent to non-members, and will quickly die out in the wild.
Among non-Touhou fans, I see a general perception of Touhou as composed of fat crossdressing men, insane gaming freaks, and antisocial shut-ins – with even more paedophilia than the MLP fanbase! Similarly, some still think anime is hardcore kinky pornography or stupid foreign children’s cartoons.
We still haven’t gotten to the actual question. What determines a fandom’s creepiness?
Is it the average creepiness of each of its members? The average creepiness of the most creepy members? The least creepy? The most average? The most vocal? The least vocal? The ones that produce the most robust memes? The ones that spread said memes?
You’ll notice that I actually haven’t said anything about this question. That’s because… to be honest, I don’t really know. Which is why I made this post, since it’s always good to start flaming about which animation studio is worse. So, I said what I said.