Whenever your tastes and hobbies fall out of the norm, you run the risk of being called out by those who don’t approve of anything “different.” Anime, being the niche medium that it is, is a likely thing to be put down about by classmates, family members, coworkers, etc., who, in all likelihood, have a distorted, ignorant view of what anime is. Luckily I haven’t had to experience any extreme pressure at school, work, or home about my anime obsession, but I have had a few incidents that I wanted to share…
I didn’t experience any kind of teasing or bullying in school until my second year of middle school, which is, ironically, the same year my anime fandom began. As I’ve mentioned several times in various posts, getting into Pokemon when I was around 13 years old is when I started to become an anime fan. But unfortunately I went to a private and snobby middle school, and none of my classmates shared my interest in it. One reason could be that I got into Pokemon at an older age than most kids at that time; the majority of kids getting into it were around 7-10 years old while I was 13-14. So many of the younger boys at my school were into it, so of course, being in middle school where peer pressure is rampant, you were considered a nerd if you were older than them but liked the same things. All the girls my age were into boys, glamor, dating, the latest hit movies and TV shows, and other teenager stuff. So liking Pokemon and cartoons at my age was out of the question! As far as actual incidents of bullying, there was one girl in particular who would always mock my Pokemon obsession. She wouldn’t attack me directly per se, but she’d do it by making subtle comments in my presence. For example, she had a 6 year old brother who also liked Pokemon and one day when I brought my Poke-Dex toy to school, she said something like “Oh, my brother has that, but he’s 6 years old…the right age.” And another time when I brought a magazine to school that had Pokemon fan art drawn by artists in their late teens and I showed it to her, trying to prove to her that older teenagers like Pokemon too, she said “Well, they must have no life.” Then another time when I took a Pokemon book out of my locker, she tried to take it away from me and give me a fashion magazine instead.
There were countless other incidents like that with her, and a few with other students too. When we were talking about going to high school one day in class, and this other girl found out I like Pokemon, she was like “You’re going to high school? Drop the Pokemon” (wish I could tell her now how Pokemon is what helped me make friends in high school!) Then I remember another time Pokemon somehow came up in the topic the teacher was discussing and some boy blurted out “Isn’t Pokemon for preschoolers or something?” and the whole class laughed while I just sat there feeling awkward. I even recall a couple of my teachers saying Pokemon is stupid, and one time, when I had brought my Pokemon Red version to play on the bus when we were on a school trip, one of my teachers noticed it and, after confirming that it was Pokemon I was playing, he asked the girl next to me “You like Pokemon too?” and she said “No, I hate Pokemon!” Then he turned back to me and said, “Hear that? She HATES Pokemon!” I don’t think I responded at all and just continued to feel bad.
As you can see, compared to extreme bullying cases you hear about, this is pretty mild. I wasn’t being verbally or physically abused and no one was vandalizing my stuff or anything like that. It was just a lot of hurtful remarks which, at that impressionable age, inhibited my self-esteem and made me keep thinking something was wrong with me for not being like everyone else.
Thankfully I went to a public high school with thousands of students, so there were plenty of “nerds” like me who liked anime and Pokemon. That, together with the fact that during those years, anime was becoming more well known as a form of entertainment for adults too, with anime DVDs becoming available everywhere and anime airing on TV via Adult Swim and Toonami, so that helped make it more acceptable to like by the time I got to high school. Surprisingly, despite covering my school notebook in anime pictures and wearing anime shirts to school, I don’t recall being put down about it at all. Everyone just ignored it, or, if they were anime fans too, they’d compliment my stuff. That’s how I made a lot of friends in high school actually. It was also around this time that I started learning how lucky I was in terms of having a mom who supported my anime fandom and didn’t put me down for liking so-called childish things. A couple of my friends in high school weren’t so lucky and were constantly being harassed by their parents for liking “cartoons” at their age. While my mom was always buying me the anime stuff I wanted, it baffled me how my friends’ parents would never buy them anime stuff for their birthday, Christmas, etc., even though that’s what they really liked. Some years later when I was in college and I was telling one of these friends how my other friends who like anime got accepted to these prestigious universities, she said she had to tell her mom about that – that she had to prove to her mom that you could be an anime fan and still be smart and do well in school. It made me sad to think that people were that ignorant.
Luckily my only account of bullying in school was when I was into Pokemon in middle school, and luckily I never had any family members put me down about liking the stuff I like either (since my family is basically just my mom and she has total respect for it, and the 2-3 other family members I have I’m hardly in touch with, but they don’t mind either). But besides school and home, there is another place where you have no choice but to interact with people who might not approve of your tastes: the workplace. At my first job at a greeting card/gift store, a few of the girls working there would tease me about liking anime, insisting that it was all hentai and I was watching perverted stuff. Of course I would try to tell them that not all anime is hentai, but they wouldn’t listen. I would even fantasize about how I would someday get up the nerve to tell them about the stories of good anime series I was watching at the time, like Nana and Fullmetal Alchemist, so they couldn’t keep saying all anime is hentai and may even get interested in watching it themselves (I never did get up the nerve though). But it wasn’t anything serious, just a few remarks here and there, and unlike being teased for liking Pokemon as a kid, I was an adult by then and I didn’t let it get me down at all. It was just a little annoyance.
Looking back on these incidents now, I have to say that it’s true that people act differently as a group than by themselves. Back in middle school, most of the girls acted alright when it was just me and them. Even that one girl who always teased me about Pokemon acted nice to me when it was just me and her. I remember we used to both get dropped off early to school before most of the other kids and so we’d hang out together and I’d be playing Pokemon and she wouldn’t have any snide remarks. Sometimes she’d even talk to me about it in a friendly way. But once the other girls were around, she changed her tune. Another girl even went so far as to act like she liked Pokemon too when it was just me and her, saying how she would have certain Pokemon cards I would tell her about. But then she’d make fun of it as soon as the other kids were around. And even among the adults at my first job, they wouldn’t make any hentai comments when it was just me and one of them, only when they were in a group. It really is interesting how people can be persuaded to act differently than they normally would when they’re in a group and they don’t have enough self-confidence to overcome peer pressure. Which is why I’ve always felt that “I like individuals, but not people so much.” Unless the thing that someone likes is immoral and by taking part in it they’re causing actual harm to others, I don’t think anyone should be put down for the things they enjoy.
Anyway, I guess I’m lucky that my mom always respected my hobbies, and once I got away from that snobby middle school, I met a ton of fellow anime fans throughout the rest of my school years, many of which I’m still friends with today. And at my last job and the one I’m currently at, I haven’t had any teasing. In fact, I’ve met many coworkers with the same interests. I even have a group of coworkers at my job right now that I get together with sometimes outside of work to play Pokemon and talk about anime. I really feel that during the past several years it’s becoming more and more acceptable for the adults of the new generations to like anime and similar mediums like video games. If that’s the case, I’m very glad for it ^_^
To my readers, I’d love to hear any instances of bullying or teasing you’ve experienced for liking anime or similar things? What was it and how did you feel about it? How did you deal with it?