The tacit pressure of conformity, both to the community and myself

December 17, 2016

My best N in 2015 agreed pretty well with my year-end APR votes, but my 2014 best N did not. In 2014, my APR vote rated Mushishi's second season as my top show; almost a month later, my post demoted it all the way down to being only my third APR-eligible choice and I was not entirely enthused about it. So, what happened?

Here's the simple version: Mushishi's second season was a show that I was supposed to love, so I did. For a while. I was supposed to love it both because I genuinely loved the first season so how could I not love the continuation (well, there were reasons for that) and also because the anime fan community that I'm part of ostensibly liked the show and gave it critical acclaim. In the face of all of that I buried my qualms (also, also). Mushishi was good, the second season was not obviously bad and had basically all of the same magic, how could I not like it and love it, especially when plenty of people I respected also did?

So I rated Mushishi highly in APR and in public because it was something I was supposed to like as a good anime fan and as myself, even though the second season didn't land with the same impact as the first one (and I felt it at the time). I could only admit to my qualms around the edges and with qualifications that of course Mushishi second season was great, but. But by the time I wrote up my best N in 2014 the passage of time had made it so that I'd stopped being willing to lie to myself about it, and I could more clearly articulate my concerns (and being able to do that helped things along, because I could put logic behind what my gut was saying).

There was no explicit outside pressure here, no one who was pointing derisively at the people who didn't like Mushishi S2 or had qualms with it. It was the more subtle tacit pressure of conformity and expectations. Everyone wanted Mushishi's second season to be great and have the magic of the first one, so I convinced myself that it did, probably partly so I wouldn't be disappointed (us humans hate to be disappointed and betrayed, even by our own expectations).

I don't have any solutions to this general issue. Cutting myself off from the anime fan community and its aggregate tacit expectations is certainly not it; even if I wanted to do that, I'd still have the tacit pressure of my own past watching experiences. It's all well and good to say that I should get more backbone about listening to my gut and taking a contrary direction, but that's hard; the tacit pressure of conformity is real and not insignificant. I think the best I can hope for is to be consciously aware and alert about the possibility that it's acting on me.

(This is another of my 12 days of anime posts.)

Written on 17 December 2016.
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Last modified: Sat Dec 17 18:24:45 2016
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