Fujojocast No. 14: When Asian Fans Socially Distance because of Cultural Tensions in Fandom

An image of a circle's merchandise at Comic Frontier 2018
Photo of a circle. Taken by the author at Comic Frontier 2018.

In case you missed the memo, fandom is not a safe place, especially for BIPOC fans.

It’s something that we Asian fans have been keenly aware of since our engagement online. It’s something that has been documented by scholars. In the last week, as different organisations respond to justice and equality, the Organisation for Transformative Works also made an effort to address racism in fandom. Of course, there are people who felt these promises are empty as there is no promise of structural change that supports BIPOC fans.

This recent drama has left my friends and me in a tiff, as we have been enraged as fans over the years. The ways in which Western ideas, practices, and morals are shoved down our throats has left a bitter taste in our fan experiences that, more often than not, we disengage with fandoms popular in the West or we seek for circles that understand our contexts.  For a space that claims to be “our” own, this should not be the case and yet this displacement continues and it impacts the way we express our fandom.

Here are links to some of the articles and discussions I mentioned here and others that may also reflect the cultural tensions we face in fandom.


Fujojocast No. 14: When Asian Fans Socially Distance because of Cultural Tensions in Fandom

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Music Insert: Zhu YiLong and Bai Yu’s “Flying Across Time” from the Guardian Soundtrack.

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6 thoughts on “Fujojocast No. 14: When Asian Fans Socially Distance because of Cultural Tensions in Fandom”

  • Hi!
    It’s been a real treat that you’ve come back to podcasting after being gone for a while.
    I listened to your Thai BL Primer episode and loved to hear about how much the dynamics have shifted in the BL genre.
    I haven’t listened to this episode as of yet but I’m looking forward to, I don’t check the site as often as I should but I do have this in my podcast app and the episode was picked up as text only for some reason.
    So I couldn’t listen to the actual episode in the app, I think it’s because a direct link to the audio is missing. I’m going to listen to it now through the site but just wanted to bring that up incase of future episodes!
    I wouldn’t want to miss out on any of your content due to that.

  • Hello! This was my first episode of Fujojocast, and I wanted to thank you and your friends for your candor. I’m a Western fan and have been at the outskirts of fandom for a while, partially for some of the reasons you mentioned. I’m making a game right now called Terranova that dives into the Western fandom of the early 00’s so I listened to this podcast hoping I’d find more resources and a different perspective, and I wasn’t disappointed.

    This may be a result of me being at the outskirts, but I was genuinely sad to hear about your experiences with the Western LGBTQIA+ fans. As a queer person and activist, it was so disheartening to hear that queer fans who previously had no place to call home have now become a force in the fandom telling asian fans that their experiences are invalid or wrong. We used to practically beg for representation, and when I saw more representation in our favorite media, I hoped that we’d try to make the room for others…

    Respectfully, something I struggled with listening to this podcast was the way the word “transgender bodies/experiences” and “the Western experience” were used in such close proximity to each other that I heard undertones of “the transgender experience IS inherently Western.” I currently live in Japan and many of my friends are Japanese trans folks or non-binary individuals, and they too, get told that “being transgender is a Western, thing” and it invalidates their experiences as being both non-Western and transgender individuals.

    I really appreciate the candor you all shared your fears and worries or having to detach from something you genuinely love. I sometimes wonder myself why I’m not more active in fandom, and sometimes it does come down to those interactions in the community that over time, poison the water.

    Thanks for the podcast, it was a good listen and sparked some really meaningful discussions with my partner and I.

    • Thank you so much for embracing our discomfort and engaging in this discussion. It’s a start and I think it’s healthier for everyone to connect and position themselves in the shoes of the other. To seek understanding and hopefully have a healthier engagement online.

      I do agree with you on the thin line crossed on the discussion on trans representation in BL works and how the sentiments of my friends have aligned it to the West when trans identity and expression is also part of Asian history. I do recognise this importance of space and history in queer identity and hence I apologise for not being able to catch this in the conversation and respond appropriately.

      The context on the reaction of one of my friends came from an earlier discussion prior to recording on how some LGBTQI+ fans are quick to seek gender-bending works, especially in fan works, and heavily critic its trans representation rather than welcome the queerness of its gender play. Our discussion was informed by observations of these discussions online, especially with local fan artists we love, where this tension has reached an unhealthy point where some creators refuse to explore gender play to avoid these negative discussions. If queer politics seek for equality and empowerment, then the policing of these works definitely nips our freedom to express ourselves.

      I truly appreciate you for listening, leaving a comment, welcoming this discomfort in hopes of finding ways to make things better.

      • Thank you for explaining the context—that makes more sense now.

        “If queer politics seek for equality and empowerment, then the policing of these works definitely nips our freedom to express ourselves.”

        This especially resonates with me—fanworks mean so many things to so many people and can be an outlet for understanding or exploring gender in a fictional space. Thanks again for releasing this podcast!

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