I’ve received a few e-mails recently about how to deal with parents or family members who don’t understand one’s love for sci-fi, fantasy, or anime in particular. One reader wrote in about how her mom started to worry about her after attending an anime convention with her. She stated, “She was totally crazy. My mom now thinks [anime] is for geeks and nerds, and she does not tolerate it. What can I do?” Another writer stated, “My family thinks I am a loser, and they tell stereotypes about geeks to my mom. How do I explain to my family and friends my obsession for star wars and anime?”
I’ll bet there are many more of you out there who have faced this situation, and I’m really sorry that there still seems to be a negative stereotype about fans. I’m especially sorry when family and friends who don’t understand the fan community perpetuate these stereotypes. One would think that with the growing popularity of sci-fi, fantasy, and anime these days, that there would be fewer negative stereotypes about fans. Yet, many people in mainstream society still look for groups that they can consider “different” from themselves so that they can feel superior to them. This is truly unfortunate, and I’m sorry that so many fans have to suffer because of these stereotypes.
In terms of parents, when children are different from the mainstream or somehow fall outside of the “norm,” parents often worry. They worry that their children are not going to fit in or to succeed out in the world. Parents remember who was bullied during their own childhoods, and they worry that their children might be bullied or be socially isolated too. They worry that their children might suffer throughout their lives as a result. Having such worries about their children can make parents feel terrible. Perhaps it was this type of feeling that made the reader’s mother worry and become “totally crazy” after accompanying her daughter to the anime convention.
Parents just want to be assured that their children aren’t going to suffer in life because of their interests and the sub-cultures they engage in. To the reader whose mom is worried, you may need to set your mom’s mind at ease by showing her that you can still function well in society while also enjoying non- mainstream activities. Show your mom that you can still do well in school, that you can make friends, and that you can be well-rounded and have other interests too. Doing so will help assure her that you are not going to suffer because of your passion. However, if you are having trouble functioning at school or making friends, your mother may have good reason to worry, and you may benefit from getting help. Many people can learn to perform better in school and to feel more comfortable socially with help from counselors and with practice.
To the reader who asked how to get her family to understand her obsession for Star Wars or for anime, it may help to explain to them what you love about the show or the genre. Perhaps there is something about the storylines, the idea of space travel or life on other planets that you love. When it comes to anime, perhaps you appreciate the emotionality of it. For many anime fans, it seems that watching anime is an emotional outlet for them. Whatever the reason is that makes you love this genre, if you can explain it to your family in a way they can understand, then that may certainly help.
However, you may also have to be okay with the fact that your family might never fully understand your obsession. Different family members have different interests, and if they love each other and respect each other, they can find a way to accept the fact that they are not exactly the same. If you believe that there’s nothing wrong with you for being different or for liking different things, then your family or other people are more likely to believe so too.
It also may help to show your parents and other family members that there are many successful, interesting, and confident fans out there in the world. Show them all of the wonderful fangirls of the day here on Her Universe. Parents need to see examples of successful and confident fans to understand that liking these things does not mean that there is anything wrong with their children. You could also show them examples of people who have turned their passion into their livelihood, such as Ashley Eckstein, Kevin Smith, Dave Filoni, or J.J. Abrams. Many of these successful people suffered for being different as kids but used their passion to help them succeed as adults. Knowing about them may help to reassure your parents. As long as your family can be confident that you will be able to survive and even to thrive in the world, then they won’t have any reason to worry about your interests.
Wishing you all the best,
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