Curmudgeon’s Corner: Fads and Mainstreaming

Written by Sanford Begley

Fusion - a figurine from a horror game, with Korean Tacos.
Fusion – a figurine from a horror game, with Korean Tacos.

DU2 and DU3 are into Anime, Manga, and DC universe fanfics and side characters. There is a possibility they will be coming to live with us permanently this fall. What they worry about is whether they can find anyone of their fandom in this area. You see they are, in the manner of teenaged girls everywhere and everywhen, sure that they are hip and edgy with their tastes. I’m pretty sure that it is just a fad, and a lot more mainstream than they believe.

We are a nation more faddish than most, or so I believe. Fads sweep the country every few years, most of them die out soon, a few hand around and become mainstream. While i was overseas as a young man I didn’t see fads as prominently in other cultures as I did in ours. That may be because I was always at the edge of cultures I was around and just missed them due to communication difficulties and the fact that any fad over there was usually something that had become passe in the U.S.. For example the western was still big in Germany long after it had died here. Yes I know there are still western books and the occasional movie or TV show, it is still a fairly dead niche genre.

To be fair Japan seems to have even more faddishness than we do. I think that is because weirdness in Japan IS the mainstream. And a lot of their insanity crosses the ocean and washes up on our shores. I think the reason Japanese fads are so welcomed here is because of Japan always being such an alien culture to us. We have had a long history of being unable to look away from that trainwreck.

Still I was thinking about fads and mainstreaming. I can remember a lot of fads that thankfully died. Do you remember Fondue? Perhaps the biggest food craze of the seventies. That decade was responsible for a lot of crazy fads, leisure suits, disco, the shirts with collars almost as big as the shirt itself. Most of those things died a death, despite people trying to revitalize them occasionally. Some of those fads didn’t die, they became mainstream. The one I am most familiar with is Dungeons And Dragons. It was a fad for a while at the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties. Somehow it made the crossover and is no longer any weirder than, oh, say, lacrosse.

I remember when Anime and Manga were definitely fads, and comics relegated to teen boys. Now they are suddenly big in our society and very mainstream. Teens seeking to be different, just like all the other teens, are sure these are edgy things. When major motion picture studios are doing blockbuster movies on the subject it is no longer just a fad.

I think this is actually what a lot of the rancor among SF fandom has been about the last few years. The geeks were different, they lost the popularity race in high school and chose to wear their geekiness as a badge of honor. “I’m too special for the tall attractive popular students to understand” was their source of self esteem. Now the tall attractive popular people are stealing their fads and taking them mainstream and they feel that they have lost the high school battle all over again.


One response to “Curmudgeon’s Corner: Fads and Mainstreaming”

  1. Reality Observer Avatar
    Reality Observer

    An interesting theory, sir. Just barely started the caffeine drip, so I’m going to have to think more on it later…

    One thing, though, that might be added – the majority of the “geeks” from our day did see their “culture” taken over into the mainstream. But they are actually the stereotype of CONSERVATIVES – they didn’t want things to change, and they didn’t want a NEW geek culture to replace their own.