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APA's resident fangirl Kanara Ty discusses contemporary fandom in Asian pop culture, and the power of the internet to heighten our passions and create global communities.
As a contributor for Asia Pacific Arts, I'm no stranger to the world of fandom. In fact, I owe my APA writing career to my pursued interests as a fan myself, or better put, as the "resident fangirl" of this very publication. But you see, my fellow colleagues at APA are fangirls and fanboys of Asian pop culture.
Our office pays homage to the great Shah Rukh Khan in a glorious poster showcasing his hard-earned abs for Om Shanti Om, next to another poster of the seemingly ageless Takeshi Kaneshiro. We're all blantantly biased and also take pride in worshipping the idols (and not-exactly-idols) through our published work, such as our previous issue's particular Top Ten featuring some very hot Asian men. But rather than all sounding like rambling fanatics, we also take pride in bridging our interests with academia, of course, to give it all context. While we're fans on entirely different levels, it's easy to say that we express it best through our articles.
While we are just merely one set of fanboys/girls, one may or may not realize the fandom devoted to all aspects of Asian pop culture, whether it be Japanese pop idols, Hong Kong movie stars, or even the devoted followers of Japanese based video game consoles. And whether you like or not, the fandom that exists within Asian pop culture plays an influential part in how different parts of the entertainment-related industry has shaped (and will shape) the future.
An important factor in looking at how fandom has developed over the past 10 years is the internet. The internet makes media much more accessible to people of all ages. Remember when anime was underground – and not even remotely mainstream? Today, it is much more widely recognized by people of all ages. Fans generally have become a lot younger in the fandom surrounding Asian pop culture. This is the case for both within Asia, as well outside of Asia.
Fan communities on the internet have served as not just a place for media and informational resources about the idol/star, but also as a space for discourse amongst fans. Fans who are not in Asia are able to communicate with other fans around the world. On this level of communication, fan culture becomes much more developed in various ways. It's important to recognize how blogging becomes important in this type of community. For example, on the blogging site livejournal, fan groups exist where there are all sorts of exchanges. It's very common for someone in America to purchase concert tour goods for their favorite Japanese pop stars from another individual in Japan. While it may seem risky and scams exist in these communities, there is a prevailing sense of trust between members in these blogging communities. Information is also immediately exchanged – as if it were a chatroom or forum, but instead it comes in the form of a central blog, where fans can post different types of information about news, music, videos, images – to name some. What makes it more interesting is when individuals post their own encounters or experiences. It's very common for a fan to blog about their concert experience, word by word, picture by picture, including every little detail. It's actions like this that make it quite easy for fans to trust one another. The act of sharing precious information, especially if you're an overseas fan, becomes very valuable. These blogs have also served as a means to communicate with local fans; in some cases, if you're an overseas traveling to the country of your favorite star, you can meet up with the fans there who can also give you pointers about traveling for the first time, as well as engage in some activities together. Fans all over the world become friends because of the shared worship.
Fan culture is taken to another extent, when things like fanfiction come into the picture. Fanfiction exists as both a space for creative expression and more obviously, an expression of desire. Fanfiction based on Japanese pop culture is very popular, especially amongst anime and pop idols. A fan can recreate a fictional situation with real people, as well as entirely made-up characters. Some stories wind up being written from a personal point of a view; some in third person. In fanfiction, the author often takes factual evidence about the star's personality to create new stories in alternative universes. The sexual content found in fanfiction is also very high, and they can be sexually explicit in detail when describing scenes. It's not common for fans to write about members within an idol group in romantic relationships with each other, placing an individual's sexual orientation into question. Whether or not they actually believe in it is up to them, but surprisingly, there is a higher amount of homosexual fiction found on the internet.
Fandom has contributed in shaping the entertainment industry in many ways, such as through fansubbing. With streaming sites such as YouTube and Crunchyroll, who've taken steps towards legal streaming of various television shows, I believe the popularity generated around watching subtitled media from Asia is due in part to fan-subbers. Granted the legal issues surrounding the issue of unpermitted video uploads and downloads has led to the removal of fan-subbed material on streaming sites, the action towards legal streaming as permitted by the production companies is a positive step. Years ago, being able to watch an episode of Naruto the same time it was streamed in Japan (with subtitles, to boot!) was not a possibility. However, it's very much happening right now – thanks to the efforts of Crunchyroll. In the past year alone, more and more streaming sties are popping up.
These fansites and fan communities also exist for new fans to come and discover music, movies, television shows and famous individuals. It's an international exchange. While sometimes I look at Asia Pacific Arts as a public site for sharing our interests on Asian pop culture with the rest of the world, we merely serve the same common goal as fangirls and fanboys, and that is merely engaging in something we all enjoy. Nothing wrong about that, right?
Date Posted: 6/5/2009