Required Viewing Lists Are

Just to bounce off this post.

I remember high school. We didn’t have required reading lists for English/lit classes, but there are invariably a series of things we had to read for class. Why? Because we would talk about the things we read for class, to analyze and learn to think of the things we read critically. We would be taught to construct arguments and learn how to find support for those arguments. We were kids who didn’t know what to read, anyways. The familiarity of the canon of English literature among American kids, even the studious ones, is something mostly ingrained from their teachers and curriculum and rarely something self-taught.

The work wasn’t fun. Sometimes it’s just mind-numbing. Sometimes it was easier to crank out words to fulfill limits of assignments than really try to enjoy what I was doing. And maybe that’s the better way to approach it–I didn’t want to develop a knack for all-nighters; relying on them is a fool’s errand after all. Having the due date expressed in terms of minutes instead of days can be exhilarating! I learned the taste of caffeine and how to get by without it at 5am, but I never learned how to get by without sleep. It made for interesting memories, but I would rather have something else instead.

Those are not the things you want to learn to like, anyway. It shouldn’t be the thing that makes studying 18th c. British lit exciting. It makes more sense to make required reading lists to be meaningful in the context of the education you were going to get.

In a nutshell, I don’t think enjoyment has anything to do with required viewing lists. If the titles on a list happen to be enjoyable, great. If not, no big deal. Just like how you have or haven’t seen or read on the list has anything to do with anything, besides having a head start on the curriculum. If you watched all the shows I would like you to watch, great! The sun still rises next morning. If not, it just means now you have something to check out or debate about. I mean it seems like the only problem with those lists is by implicitly leaving things out you’re saying something about those things. It’s like being a jerk, walking around with a “your [favorite band] sucks” T-shirt. And that’s more a jerk being a jerk than anything about lists or implicitly or explicitly leaving something out. N-list based blog posts are all about that, and they tend to be popular partly for those reasons.

What is absolutely right is that creating the list is couched in a context. High school English lit is the context of my example, for example. Today, such lists typically come out from some kind of reason related to being able to communicate with some shared basis of understanding. I mean, it’s kind of like having some passing familiarity with the Bible if you want to talk shop at a seminary. Or how can I make references to boats and cabbages without you having passing familiarity with Yoakena or School Days? How can we talk about Gundam without, well, a passing familiarity of the various timelines and settings? Or being able to talk well for Mawapen and not having seen Utena? I suppose you could do all of those, but it just doesn’t seem like you could do just as well as a version of you that has seen them. So “required viewing” lists are more like “if you watched all this, you are my kind of fan, you belong in my church of /whatever/.”

Now if you just want a list of anime to wank off to, may it be for /m/ech freaks or disgusting moe otaku, you want to ask for a “wanking viewing list” or some such. Problem solved! As long as whoever curates such a list make it meaningful and presents it in a way where that meaning is taken the right way, I think people can knock themselves out.

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One response to “Required Viewing Lists Are

  • schneider

    This is a good response.

    Dave’s tweet was about a list of anime that’s required viewing to call oneself an anime fan. Without delving too deeply into what makes an anime fan, I’m sure that not everyone watches anime to pick up them apart, or even understand them on a deeper level. So I wrote my post with those people in mind.

    I felt that if I wrote a list, and showed it to some of my officemates who are anime fans (one of them loves Gundam SEED and Shana, the other has a Dango Daikazoku wallpaper on her work laptop), it wouldn’t mean anything to them. “Required viewing” suddenly becomes “you need to know these shows to be able to keep up with me on anime”, and I don’t want to go down that line of thinking.

    Such lists are great if you really want to get into the bones of anime in general. My half-formed list had stuff like the original Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy, Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still, Ghost in the Shell movie, and 5 cm/s. I had even thought about putting Legend of the Galactic Heroes (lol) in. Discussion of lists written in this context (learning anime) tend to be more thought-out and not the kind of “show X, which means a lot to me, isn’t here, list sux” responses. Which is fine by me. Proper context!

    Also krizz’s list rocks.

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