As most probably already know, the wonderful and terrible thing about the internet is that there is an insurmountable quantity of not only information, but also opinions and biases, just like any culture.
What some may not know is that in some deeper corners of the internet, people who are genuinely interested in Japanese culture are often mocked and ridiculed because of a stereotype that has been increasingly warping over the past 20 or so years.
In Japanese culture, a person who is very interested in a particular subject is referred to as an “otaku”. Otaku does not have an inherently bad meaning, as there are all sorts of people who focus on one particular thing they just can’t get enough of, ranging from trains and electronics to models, puzzles, anime and more.
in Japan there has been a less than positive reputation for the likes of otakus
However, in Japan there has been a less than positive reputation for the likes of otakus of anime, manga and otherwise manga-esque figurines. They are oftentimes considered socially inept, reclusive individuals that cannot accept reality and thus indulge themselves in fake worlds (let’s be clear that this is again, a stereotype.)
This stereotype has pervaded western countries as well, but it goes much deeper and much more unbalanced than having a poor opinion of someone just because they like anime and manga. In many places on the internet, simply expressing an interest in Japanese culture inspires many to scream out an insult all too familiar to many of us: “weeaboo”.
This term originated from a webcomic called “The Perry Bible Fellowship” several years ago and eventually ended up replacing the term “wapanese”, the former term used for westerners (namely white people from which the w at the beginning of the word originated) who were interested in Japanese culture.
The original meaning of “weeaboo” was very similar to the term “otaku” except that it was specifically for those obsessed with Japanese culture in an unhealthy way. They were considered people that for all intents and purposes, seemed to think that everything about Japan was the best and had no weak points.
Its original purpose was to poke fun at those who had a warped obsession with Japanese culture, and became a commonplace term in many online forums. However, in more recent years the term has been warped meaning-wise even further, carrying along with it the negative connotations brought about by its predecessors.
Eventually, “weeaboo” became an insult to hurl at anyone who even mentioned anything knowledgeable about Japanese culture, from Japanese pronunciation to knowledge about traditions and festivals. With the original “unhealthily obsessed with Japan” meaning gone, it has become a relentless term still used to belittle those who have chosen to be knowledgeable about Japan.
So what should a person do when met with belittlement and discrimination for having expressed any sort of interest in Japanese culture? As with any problem that has come about because of ignorance, education is important.
It should be made known that interest in a particular culture is not in itself a bad thing—it is the unrealistic ideology that the culture is the best in every aspect and can do no wrong.
However, if your efforts to educate are still met with stinging insults and an unmoving air of ignorance, it is best to ignore these types from that point on. They either have no intention of changing their minds or are internet trolls whose only purpose is getting a rise out of you.
Have you ever been called the “W” word before just from expressing some kind of knowledge or interest in Japan? I would love to hear your personal experiences.