In an environment where we have plenty of people with large followings who make a name for themselves off of downing on the stuff other people like and the people who like that stuff, it’s not only refreshing, but constructive to see people carry themselves with enthusiasm for the things they’re into.
We often draw a false dichotomy in fandom. You’re either enthusiastic with shallow knowledge, or you’re bitter and negative with deep knowledge.
Part of this mentality comes from the perception that cynics are more experienced by default, but another part comes from the fandom’s flawed value system.
Fandom values knowledge. This makes sense, given that fandom is a niche with plenty of arcane knowledge to archive and share with others. As a result, people who’ve gone through the trouble to learn about the depths of the medium are seen with a degree of reverence.
Two things are wrong with this approach today.
The first is that, as the internet has become more popular as a method of fandom interaction, much of the fandom’s collective knowledge has been archived and compiled, requiring fewer highly knowledgeable people to maintain and spread that knowledge.
The second is that, because individuals used to be the only way to gain certain knowledge in past eras, accessing that knowledge meant dealing with those individuals, for better or worse. Many highly knowledgeable people became quite elitist in their attitude, knowing that they were the gatekeepers to the community’s arcane knowledge, and using that to enforce their own preferences upon the community.
These two factors coinciding require a shift in the community’s value system.
We need to value enthusiasm.
Further, we need to value enthusiasm over knowledge.
This seems counter-intuitive for a niche community, but it makes sense. Raw knowledge is just that: Raw knowledge. It can be taught and it can be learned. Enthusiasm can’t be taught or learned. It can be encouraged, but if someone’s a bitter person, it’s going to be difficult to cultivate enthusiasm in them, no matter how much you encourage it.
The fact is, for fandom to thrive, we need both. It’s important to preserve knowledge, and it’s important to keep the passion alive. Knowledge is sacred, but it’s enthusiasm that gives that knowledge meaning and purpose.
Many of those who’ve taken it upon themselves to become the fandom’s keepers of knowledge made the mistake of allowing themselves to become bitter and jaded during that pursuit, in the process fundamentally losing sight of the reason to gather knowledge in the first place.
What’s more, it alienates them from the very people they sought to educate. Nobody wants to have to deal with a jerk just to learn more about anime.
Enthusiasm breeds a thirst for knowledge, and knowledge sought out of enthusiasm resists the pitfalls that catch those who seek out knowledge simply to appeal to the fandom’s value system.