The Strange Journey of Weeaboo

I came across a post on Joystiq today that got me thinking about multiple things. I’m currently in Chicago for the National Communicaiton Association convention, so I don’t have much time to unpack this right now, but I want to make sure I write it down before I forget it.

The aforementioned Joystiq post was discussing downloadable content (DLC) in the upcoming release Rock Band. I was reading it for personal interest more than research interest originally, but that’s how these things often start for me. I was pretty pleased that the pricing scheme for the DLC seems friendlier than the system set up for the Guitar Hero games, but I was curious how other Joystiq readers felt about it, so I checked out the comments.

One commenter expressed an interest in downloading Japanese pop and rock music for Rock Band, and was met by a chorus of negative and somewhat hostile responses, including one stating, “stay on 4chan.” (I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I’ll get back to that in a moment.) Another comment finally defended the request to some extent—not because the commenter also wants that music, but because making it available is sound business:

that’s kinda how these music games got started. [i.e., offering J-pop/J-rock …] Besides, with this heavy count of DLC, the idea is to appeal to niche audiences. Imagine a geek rock pack, or an unsigned pack, or a J-Rock pack. Even with these prices, it’d be crazy to expect someone to own every single song.

Over time, your Rock Band band is going to fall into a certain genre based on what stuff you download. If tye wants a Japanese-style band, weeaboo as it may be, he could.

As I started reading this whole exchange, I thought I might be following up with a post about geeky music niches, or perhaps hostility toward J-pop fans from other kinds of geeky fans. Then the bit about ‘weeaboo’ kind of derailed me.

I recognized the word ‘weeaboo’ from a Perry Bible Fellowship strip that involves a bunch of people at an office meeting shouting the word while spanking a guy (another thing I consumed more out of personal interest than out of research). There’s nothing particularly J-poppy about the comic. I poked around to figure out what was going on with that, and came to an Urban Dictionary page. Through a mix of amateur etymology and frequent use of the word ‘faggot,’ Urban Dictionary contributors suggest that the term was appropriated from PBF to be used as a derogatory term replacing “wapanese” for modern-day, white Japanophiles, such as those who frequent A longer, even more derisive post devoted to ‘wapanese’ (which lists ‘weeaboo’ and ‘Japanophile’ as synonyms) appears on Encyclopedia Dramatica.

Reflecting on this, the post idea about niche audiences for geek music had receded in my mind in the wake of even more flagrant geek-on-geek hate, and now I was thinking of an entirely different direction to look at all of this: the influence of webcomics on geek lexicon. That latter topic is part of an even bigger topic I’ve been pondering lately, as I realize that a couple sites I have visited for my dissertation (i.e., PAX and the XKCD meetup) have revolved largely around webcomics audiences in a way I never really intended. I do read some webcomics, but I’m certainly not plugged into that scene as much as I used to be. Assuming it’s not just my webcomics-oriented bias in picking out sites, then, I wonder why webcomics figure so prominently into the way some geek cultures construct themselves.

I’m not sure when I’ll be able to revisit all this, but please feel free to respond in the comments on any of the several branches suggested above (or more, if you see others).

5 thoughts on “The Strange Journey of Weeaboo

  1. Bleah, stuff like that is why I avoid the comment sections on probably 99% of blogs I read.

    I too eagerly await Rock Band, and was clicking around yesterday, eventually finding myself on a Joystiq post announcing that Harmonix would release some tracks by the Grateful Dead as Rock Band DLC.

    The comments there are 90+% “Eww pot-smoking hippies”. Why? Nobody is forcing them to download and play these songs. As the (IMNSHO eminently reasonable) commenter you quote above says, the wide variety of music available means that Rock Band players can customize their band’s playlists to include music that they themselves like.

    This is perhaps a whole topic in itself, but why do people feel the need to comment on something when the comment consists of nothing but mocking the topic at hand? If it’s not to your interest, close the Firefox tab and move along. There’s plenty more Internet out there.

    (Admittedly, this is more of a general rant than anything specific to this post… but hey, spurring discussion = good, right?)

  2. Julia:
    Yes, spurring discussion = [very] good.

    That is an excellent summary of some of the computer-mediated communication research that I have been seeing presentations about this weekend at a conference. (It is also hilarious.) My only quibble is the implication that women on the internet really are men, when that’s also how women are treated when they reveal that they are women.

    Leigh Alexander writes about a cosplayer who gets picked on just for being dressed as a character people don’t like (link via Kotaku). Cosplayers and LARPers seem among the most widely derided/hated among other geeks, it seems.

  3. “That is an excellent summary of some of the computer-mediated communication research that I have been seeing presentations about this weekend at a conference.”

    That vid is about a year old. I’d say that the computer-mediated communication research you’ve been seeing is an excellent summary of *it*.

    And the key there is, when guys-as-girls are asked for naked pics, they send them.

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