The market and the medium are NOT separate conversations

February 10th, 2009 by Laura Leave a reply »

I occasionally read Anime News Network’s Chicks on Anime because as some one who tries to keep up with fandom, it is helpful to know what is going on in the industry and they discuss topics which are relevant to fan community. Knowing this information, being exposed to the topics discussed there, it makes doing my job at Fan History that much easier and helps to insure that we’re covering things.

So I read the latest post with some interest. The first part was kind of really disappointing because they had a fansubber involved in their discussion and they totally under utilized that person. It was like one of the panelists, Bamboo, had a set agenda of things that they wanted to say and they weren’t going to let the fansubber get in their way. Fine yeah. Whatever. Disappointing.

Let’s move on and read the second part and hope it can improve. But nope! Fail. The Sara and Bamboo crap in the first part continued on in to the second part. Only this time? They managed to pull out the offensive with their disconnect. This time, they really managed to piss me off. I don’t know if Sara and Bamboo realize it, but they sound like privileged academic oriented elitists who don’t have to worry about the real world. And when they talk about the anime industry? When most of the consumers of that don’t necessarily fall into that cushy group? When they talk about people who would love to be involved with the industry but can’t because they lack the money? Just ARG! PLEASE SHUT UP AND GO AWAY!

These two chicks on anime don’t seem to get it: Money and financial compensation do matter to the health of any industry, especially the creative industry. Because, you know, lack of financial compensation means only the elite, those who are financially privileged, can be involved. If you have to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from, if you can’t spend the necessary time to get the training you need, then you don’t have the incentive to produce.

Trust me. I know this. I’ve seen it happen in fandom often. I’ve also heard about it from my friends who are artists. In the fan fiction community, some of the best authors can’t write as often as their fans would like them to because the authors aren’t getting compensated for their work in any tangible sense other than getting praise and adulation from the fan community. Those that are really, really good at writing, those that want to make a go at it as a career, they have to write original fiction. For most of them, that means loads and loads of marketing of themselves, something that takes time away from writing. And it also means continuing to work because even when they do sell, they don’t make enough to quit their day jobs. It can be stressful to watch, especially when your friends trying to make the leap to professional writing from the working class. That stuff is hard to balance.

And that’s writing. All you really need there is a basic computer. Forget animation and art. Those require a lot more of a financial commitment. You’ve got to buy a lot of art supplies. You’ve got to buy special computers. You’ve got to buy expensive software. (Or you have to use pirated stuff and hope you don’t get caught.) Money. Money. Money. I know of a few professional artists who are pretty damned good at what they do. It would be fantastic if they could continue to produce more… but you know what? They can’t. Why? They need real jobs in order to pay for their continued involvement in the art community as artists. The lucky ones can stay in industry by working as art teachers. And by art teachers, I mean on the collegiate level. That requires more money as you need a lot of training, including a Masters degree, in order to get to that point.

Did I mention that it pisses me off, the suggestion that you can remove money and marketing and a discussion about adequate compensation from any discussion about fostering quality in the world of anime? It does. Sara and Bamboo obviously don’t live in a world where the above matters.

Let’s not forget another piece of underlying subtext to the message that Sara and Bamboo, our lovely chicks on anime, are conveying: Talent is hereditary and doesn’t need to be cultivated. The best artists will naturally emerge and be compensated for it as people recognize their inherent talents.

WHUT? Also, WHUT? Seriously? Talent is not hereditary. You aren’t born a great artist. There is no genetic gift where you just born a great manga artist or a stupendous animator straight out of the womb. Artists need to practice, to have their inherent talents cultivated. It takes time. Sometimes, that time stretches into years. The time required developing any inherent talent means that they cannot be concerned about making a living because if they have to worry, they can’t produce. They’ll lack the time. Or they’ll be so distracted that when they have the time, they can’t produce their best work as a lot of people just do not work well under pressure. Because who pays the rent for a Room of One’s Own?

Sara and Bamboo seem like a lot of non-professionals who wrongly make that assumption that talent is inherited and doesn’t require a lot of nurturing and training. Thus, they undermine fair market value because they place art and animation on pedestal. It is something that they hold sacred, where they refuse to place any concrete monetary value on art because how can they fairly value that wonderful work? Of course, this is again based on the assumption that the talented will automatically rise despite their lower class status because our culture inherently recognizes talent and quality.

What does this mean? Those lovely assumptions that Sara and Bamboo have? It means that we, the consumer, get an inferior product, where the overall quality of what is brought to the market is inferior. Why? Because the only people who can produce are the non-paid hobbyist who labor out of love.

This attitude in turn has the trickle down effect of hurting the industry as a whole. Why? Because if you refuse to pay for quality work, then the product being brought to market will be inferior which means that consumers are much less likely to purchase it. If that happens, then everyone on down gets hurts. This includes your publishers, your book and DVD sellers, your anime specialty shops, anime conventions, professional bloggers, retail employees, magazine publishers, etc.

So Chicks on Anime, Bamboo and Sara? Please shut up about that which you don’t know. Money and compensation of artists matters. You can’t separate this from the issue of quality and health in the anime industry. All you’re doing is hurting the rest of us.

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  • WHUT? Also, WHUT? Seriously? Talent is not hereditary. You aren’t born a great artist. There is no genetic gift where you just born a great manga artist or a stupendous animator straight out of the womb.

    All too true...I look back on some of my earlier writing and think : OMG! I like to think Ive improved with practice. Those really great and admirable writers out there all had to start out learning basic grammar and making the same mistakes we all do. The difference is they pay attention and learn from there mistakes. Cannot tell you how often I have come across people who insist that their work should be accepted as is, and no correction is necessary. Drives me spare....

  • Cannot tell you how often I have come across people who insist that their work should be accepted as is, and no correction is necessary.

    I don't have a problem with that per say. So long as the person understands that while they might feel that way, I have the right to rip them a new one for publishing it in my space. If you're writing just to write, more power to you. If you know your work isn't great and you don't want to improve, that's cool. It is the issue with the taking criticism, understanding that your work doesn't exist in a vacuum that is another issue.

  • sidewinder_FH

    >Artists need to practice, to have their inherent talents cultivated. It takes time

    Time, and money, too.

    I don't argue that some people may have a more natural inclination towards being and artist (or writer, or what-have-you) than others, but without practice, time, and most of the time some sort of instruction, their work is never going to get past the amateur level. A few people may get lucky bypassing that system and "stumble upon" a great career as an "outside" artist, but those are fairly few and far between. And I hate how the fan community often seems to put artists on a pedestal as compared to writers - as if anyone can write a story, but only a gifted few can draw a picture. This is simply because we don't put the time or effort into teaching art/visual skills the way we do writing skills from an early age. Children learn their "ABCs"very quickly, and reading/writing is drilled into you, whereas "art" is relegated most often to a once-or-twice a week single class of very limited scope. Which thereby frustrates kids who don't have the natural inclination there into thinking they just can't do artwork. Meanwhile, I've been in classes where, with the right instruction, a person who never picked up a paintbrush could learn how to create a well-crafted oil painting in a week. However, that class also cost $600 to attend...

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