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Who are you calling geek?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Most of us Disney geeks aren’t just Disney geeks. Yes, we have lives outside the Disney fan community….but that’s not really what I’m talking about here. Most of us are geeky about at least one other hobby or interest. Some of us are computer geeks. Some of us are music geeks, or photography geeks. Many of us are multi-faceted geeks.

Me, I’m an Anime geek. As I write this, my bags are packed for ConnectiCon, a multi-genre fan gathering that focuses primarily on anime, web comics, science fiction, and gaming. Yes, I sewed my own costume. Yes, I’m presenting on a panel (along with my spouse and child, even!).

The funny thing is, Disney geeks and Anime geeks seem to think they’ve got nothing in common, even though plenty of Disney geeks have enjoyed anime (Spirited Away, anyone? Speed Racer?)  and many Anime geeks were raised on classic Disney animation. But talk to either group about the other, and you’re sure to see some upturned noses.

I guess I don’t need to tell you what Disney geeks tend to think about Anime geeks, but I won’t let that stop me. Disney geeks tell me that Anime geeks are just, well, weird. They dress up like their favorite characters, after all, and parade around in the convention center as if there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. They’ll even go out in public that way! And, well, the funny thing is, when Disney geeks are telling me how weird Anime geeks are, we never seem to get past the wardrobe issue.

Anime geeks, on the other hand, tend to think of Disney geeks as boring, mainstream, without any sense of adventure or imagination. Anime geeks see Disney films as lacking in significant plot or character development, and by association see Disney geeks as somewhat unimaginative dullards, to be satisfied by such simplistic entertainment.

Now, I will admit that Anime geeks are definitely more weird on the outside than Disney geeks. Let’s take a moment though to reflect on demographics.  When I’ve been to Disney fan gatherings (geekfests of the highest order! Faces painted like Tigger! People riding Segways!), I’ve seen everything from families, to young singles, to empty-nesters. But who’s at the Anime cons? Well, at the ripe old age of 42, there are only a few people older than me. Teenagers (and middle-aged women like myself) often come up to congratulate me for being “brave” enough to attend the convention, assuming that I’m there to support my kid….not knowing that in fact I dragged him to his first Anime convention when he was five, since I wanted to go and didn’t have child care. And what do we know about teenagers? They like to rebel, to be different, to stand out. And who can blame them.

And of course, if each side is so quickly dismissing the other, they’re missing some significant commonalities. Both groups are interested in animation, and both seem to have a certain attachment to child-like fun. Perhaps the Anime geeks express this by playing dress up, but aren’t there plenty of Disney geeks who’ve costumed themselves as a favorite character for Halloween? And can you really say that WALL-E or lacks significant character development? Plus, were there no Snow White, would you ever really have Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis?

Amusingly enough, one of the characters I see portrayed at absolutely every anime convention I attend is Captain Jack Sparrow. And there’s almost always Stitch plushies somewhere in the vendor room. So at least we’ve got a little common ground….let’s see if we can find more.