I believe the scarcity model of acclaim has led us to the insecure carriage of our enthusiasms.
I spoke about manga to a class of collegiate Ivies recently and found myself wanting to explain the sheer volume of movement in the Japanese publishing industry, rather than to focus on editorial artistic direction. I practically gloated about how popular Shonen Jump was in the 1980s, how high the minimum threshold of circulation is for a major publisher to continue running a series, how much more popular manga is than American comics could ever be as a print medium. I must have sounded defensive. This information should shock Americans. This information should impress Americans. This information should shut Americans up forever. I was trying to big dick over the American industry. But the problem is, everyone here loves manga. There was absolutely no reason for me to defend it. So why was I taking such a defensive tone (even if it was only present in my mind)?
I’m certain a lot of it has to do with race politics and cultural identity. But some of it most certainly has to do with Philadelphia culture. Second cities always point out when things originate from here. That thing that’s so popular in New York? Well, guess what. It’s from Philadelphia. I hear this refrain a lot. That’s actually from Philadelphia. It’s kind of like how in the 1990s we kept being surprised at how many comedians were from Toronto actually. Even the Canadians were surprised.
When will we be satisfied with our acceptance?
I believe the scarcity model of acclaim has led us to the insecure carriage of our enthusiasms. I really believe that in the past, if I talked about a foreign culture, it was not to position it necessarily as a higher or fuller culture, but to emphasize what aspects of it we might benefit from incorporating into the local ecosystem. I was trying to graft practices rather than distinguish them by competition. I don’t necessarily think this is a superior model of comparative acculturation, but the way I practice differentiation today leaves me really uncomfortable.
This is a funny tweet. But I don’t know why we’re making fun of people’s taste in obscurantist art, and I will find myself joining different brigades of popular versus esoteric depending on the day. I mean, who are we protecting by mocking the popularity of a NY Review of Books author? Why can’t I accept that I will never know half the people plugged in a playlist? Why? Why not?
Anyway, I’m gonna try to relax.