Conversations with AM Cosmos: Personal Evolutions of Fandom

I often gripe about how I wish my job was just to sit around and talk to interesting people all day, having earnest, in depth conversations about joint interests. Social media isn’t the best place for this because there’s a risk with publicly revealing yourself, unedited, to a live audience. Last GDC, I sat down with my fellow rotten girl AM Cosmos to talk about fandom and what it’s like being a fan of media with oppressive imagery and stories in a time of heightened social awareness. We will eventually start talking about Persona 4 (spoilers for it) and the character Adachi, but first, we start candidly about what got us invested in fandom way back when. AM’s lines are in bold, and enjoy!

Well, let’s just get started talking about fandom itself. For me, fandom started when my best friend introduced me to Gundam Wing

I wonder if that isn’t like, a general first?

Yeah, it’s a probably general thing

Even when that question came up at TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival), during the erotic comics panel, it was Spike Trotman, she edits Smut Peddler, Jess Fink, Katie Skelly, and there was my friend Hamlet Machine, and then there was the guy who translates and edits Massive, which is-

That’s that bara magazine right?

Yeah, it’s awesome

That sounds like an amazing panel

It was such a good panel. But everyone was asked the question, “How did you first realize that comics could be an erotic artform” and Spike would say “I would walk into the comic store one day and see Heavy Metal” or something like that and we were all like woah and Hamlet is just sitting there like “So there’s show called Gundam Wing…

Yessss

And she would say “So I tried to google some of these characters and stuff popped up and I was really into it” and I was like “Oh that makes sense, how you draw hair, all the sci-fi stuff is very Gundam Wing

So what was your first fandom then?

I think I was into Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy VII was like my really big one, ‘cause that’s the first I remember reading fanfiction of.

Yeah, I think they were around at the same time?

They’re both contemporaries

What is your favorite FFVII pairing? Gimme the OTP

I thought it was going to be Zack and Cloud-

Yes that’s mine!

Ha, that’s your jam? But I actually think I’ve come to terms that it’s actually Reno and Cloud

Oh??

I was always really excited when Reno would show up and I would always be like “Ooo, are you going to hassle Cloud?” and that’s how I knew that was my jam. And [the pairing] had a very small subset of fans.

It’s interesting to me that I liked Zack x Cloud because they were rarely seen together in the game. So is like, very figurative

Yeah, so when you say you’re into that, some people don’t really get it, because you don’t get a lot out of those scenes

It’s interesting to me because, for one, fandom tends to create certain archetypes for characters and it was the one I found that Cloud was really different than the rest of the pairings, right? He gets infantilized a lot because this pairing takes place in the past-

And there’s so many times when he’s just like, totally comatose and helpless, so it might have something to do with that

Yeah, and that change really got me. So like, what do you think really grabbed you into fandom?

Well I think it was because, while I was playing Final Fantasy VII I got really into it, and eventually I got to a point where I stopped playing it and I was thirsty for more, I wanted more stories, I liked these characters a lot and wanted to see more of their adventures. And I don’t know how I was exposed to all this- I bet something on Livejournal exposed me to all this probably- I had a Livejournal because I had a friend who became my roommate he was a sysadmin for Livejournal and I was probably like “Oh alright I’ll get a Livejournal” and it turns out that’s how I communicated with Joel back then. Speaking of fandom, I met my boyfriend on a Dragon Ball newsgroup

There you go! My best friend is the person who introduced me to Gundam Wing fandom and that’s how I found fanfiction existed because I didn’t look on the internet for video game stuff when I was younger until, you know, this Gundam Wing and Final Fantasy fanfic

You know, we’re saying ‘fandom’ and I guess I didn’t really count my first two. My first real introduction was a Sailor Moon board, like where you chat about Sailor Moon, but I wasn’t really into the fandom, like reading fanfics. We were more just there to talk about Sailor Moon. It was a board that also had more general stuff but it was a Sailor Moon community. And then, later, when I figured out how to do newsgroups and stuff, I joined the Dragon Ball newsgroup and that’s where I met Joel

It’s interesting that you put it like that because in a way, I guess I’m almost saying fandom to mean fanfiction, but also at the same time I am thinking about fan stuff overall, like, what is that? But, to be fair, we probably started on one weird strain of fandom-

You really need to read Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, there’s little essays from actual fanfic writers and one of the chapters I’m reading now is about a lady who made Star Trek zines, like she had stapling parties, and that’s how they distributed fic back then, by collating them together and just passing them around and swapping zines. Which is really awesome. I’m also really interested in fandoms that have survived that long, like anime and video game ones are very short-term, but like Sherlock Holmes, it has many different iterations, so there’s the original Sherlock people and then the TV series people, like there are many different things to keep the fandom alive. So it’s like the same but also branching itself out

For me, when I think of fandom overall, what my fandom is centered around is fanfiction and fanart, I don’t really do fanart but it does do work to spur my imagination, right?

So you’re more into transformative works?

Yes! Or at least, that’s what comes to mind when I say ‘fandom.’ I mean, that might just be because that’s what I’m more interested in, I never really went on GameFAQs or any of those forums, thank god. No, for me it started when my best friend and another one of her friends started a fan site-

Oh yeah, I made a lot of those, like, I had my shrines-

Yes, shrines! But they made a site for their own AU (Alternate Universe) of Gundam Wing where they mary sued themselves in. Which is funny because I don’t remember using that term too much back then but I like how it eventually became a real thing I don’t have to explain anymore. But yeah, it was so great and ambitious and I was so jealous that I wrote fanfic that mary sued myself into their mary sue of Gundam Wing

So it was like you wrote fanfiction of their fanfiction

Right, I totally did! And it totally caused a rift in our friendship-

Oh my god yes we had similar rifts. So my friends liked Sailor Moon back in middle school, and we wanted to pick a Sailor that represented us. But there were less Sailors that we knew about at the time than there were friends, and one girl got left out and she was like “No fuck you guys, I’m going to be Sailor Saturn I’m going to design my own thing.” She went on to become a fashion designer so it’s fine, she designed her own Sailor Saturn outfit. It was actually really cool. And then one of our friends got the internet and then we discovered there was a whole new world out there and there was a Sailor Saturn and she was awesome looking. And there were the Sailor Stars and we were like what?? But yeah that original caused a rift since we didn’t know about Sailor Saturn

So yeah when I mary sued myself into my friend’s fanfiction I pretty much just stole the man of the other friend! It was basically my best friend’s friend really loved Trowa Barton-

I didn’t like Trowa

What! I did too!

I liked Duo

Duo was okay, but, oh my god this is going to get even better: so the start of the AU actually starts with my two friends orphans taken cared of by Duo before he left to do, you know, Gundam Wing

Oh my god this is really good I really like it

I know right? So yeah, ‘Big Brother Duo’ became, oh my god you’re laughing so much

No I like it!

I’m admitting so many things right now

It’s so great

So basically he was like an older brother figure and he was dating Heero as he typically is and was relatively absent for the most part, just off doing whatever, and it was like all the rest of them doing whatever. And you know what was interesting? Because of the Trowa pairing, and you know how Trowa and Quatre are typically together, and since that other friend was in charge of that pairing, Quatre was made out to be a really bad character and you know, when you think of Quatre he’s just a very nice, overly polite character but this time around they made this character to be like, not vapid, but emotionally or morally absent-

I like that

It’s so interesting, in order to make room in the obvious pairing, yeah they headcanoned Quatre out. So it was interesting because that was my first introduction to Quatre and I was surprised when the rest of fandom treated Quatre so differently: he was more bubbly and innocent and stuff like that. But when I first encountered him he was just like, really intense

I love it when someone takes a character and puts a twist on them, it makes them infinitely more fascinating. That’s why I think ships are so fascinating. I’ve noticed this more recently with the bicycle show (Yowamushi Pedal), there are characters I’m indifferent to, they’re okay, and they’re popular in other ships and I’m like whatever. But then one scene will happen that will trigger a new ship and fanart will pop up and I’d be like “Oh right, this does make sense” and I start to adopt those characters and I’m really into them now

That makes me think that we’re now in a time where, you know, we see shows that are like ‘ready to ship’ before the anime has even started

Yeah, people also call that fujo-baiting

What’s that called?

Fujoshi, the ‘rotten girls’ that do all the shipping

Ooooh

So they call that fujo-baiting, it’s like slightly subtle pandering, you know it’s done all ways, done for guys, girls, whomever.

But then there’s also like this ad-hoc pairing where, you know, like once everything’s said and done everyone in the show needs to be in a pairing, so you have your own perfect universe where everyone is paired in whatever you way you like.

There are totally people who will be like “No, these two would never pair” and it’s like, calm down. People have all these different perceptions about what feels right.

So how about we look more specifically into Persona 4 fandom? What is the environment of Persona 4 fandom, is it different?

So, I haven’t really been involved in it, Persona 4 fandom is more like, I’m in this weird phase where I’m in games and so are a lot of my friends, and Persona 4 fandom is mostly just my friends who like the game. Oh, have you seen the sweatshirt I just bought?

You bought an Adachi sweatshirt??

I bought a fucking Adachi sweatshirt

Oh my god, (reading the sweatshirt) “The world has gone straight to shit”

I know we were out and Joel was like “There’s some Adachi stuff” and I was like “What? Nooo it’s gotta be fake” but I look over and he was right. I don’t know if it’s like a localized shirt? But it’s like legit merchandise

I think this is an interesting look at fandom though, like, those who were in fandom and moved on, but now we have all these different little ways to keep fandom in our lives. You know, we found friends who like the same sort of thing, and it’s like we have our own culture now

Yeah it’s our own little fandom but we just define things our own particular ways

So, how would you say this particular arm of Persona fandom looks like?

Well, they all pick a favorite that they want to date. A lot of them do accept the headcanon of Yosuke dating the main character and being closeted, it helps make his character feel way more acceptable you know? And hard because other people have very valid points about him so when you go “I like Yosuke” they’d be like, “What’s wrong with you” so you have to be like “No, you have to look at him this way and it works really well”

So basically, Yosuke as closeted is the only thing that’s allowed for Yosuke

Yeah and they definitely pander to that [in the anime] and it’s wonderful. I actually brought another thing. I forgot to mention that Kris Ligman is also a part of the Adachi Swamp-

Wait is it officially called the “Adachi Swamp?”

That’s what Japanese fans call it but I got a friend, she understands Japanese, and she gave me these to show, look- it’s lewd stuff between Adachi, the main character, and Yosuke-

Oh my

There’s a lot of problematic shit here, lots of bad romance in here

Oh my

It’s really good. She has a collection, came over to my house with like a stack of doujin. It was really fun, she left it at my house for a couple of weeks so I went through them and they are so good.

I have one doujinshi that I’ve kept, I got it on eBay when I was like fourteen-years-old or something. It’s Zack x Cloud and I can’t understand anything in it, just like the pictures.

I got rid of so much of my manga. I got rid of my Final Fantasy doujin, I had Gundam Wing, Digimon. I had a lot of Harry Potter doujin, those were interesting. I kept one called Heavy Fucker, that’s a parody doujin but it’s really good.

Let’s say if you had to characterize how you and other people reacted to Persona 4 as opposed to, let’s say video games or other fandoms, like, what is it it you like about this fandom or this game?

You know, it was very interesting watching the Giant Bomb Let’s Play, I don’t know how they got into it but they were just playing thinking they were just going to do a couple episodes. But then they started to get grabbed to the point where they played the entire thing, and it was so interesting watching that. And it was hilarious watching them play, they were so bad at it, I don’t know how they beat some of those bosses. I’m watching like “You don’t even know how weaknesses work! What the fuck are you doing?” I actually should watch through and see reactions to Adachi, I haven’t seen that. Oh, this is another aspect of fandom: When I’m playing a game, I used to go to the thread in Something Awful and I’d partake in a thread depending on the game, so instead of GameFAQs I had a games forum, and it was pretty active. But I had Adachi spoiled for me because of an avatar of his deformed face and I was like “Ooooh nooo, I see what’s going on here.” So I played through, and caught him and he ran off, and I got to the final dungeon but didn’t really play past that. And now I got Golden (an updated release of Persona 4), and it’s really awesome in Golden when you know what he’s up to. So I don’t feel bad getting spoiled because it’s better knowing in this case.

And that’s it for now! We will continue this conversation about Persona 4 and Adachi in particular next time. And you should read AM’s great work on otome games too! Stay tuned~

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