Wednesday, 9 December 2015

TANDQ 15: Animated Discussion

In 2014-2015 I wrote an education column called "There Are No Dumb Questions" for the website "MuseHack". As that site has evolved, I have decided to republish those columns here (updating the index page as I go) every Wednesday. This fifteenth column marks the last in the series. It originally appeared on Thursday, June 2, 2015.

Should TANDQ be resurrected in 2016? Well, if so, what would you want to read about?

What animation is acceptable at your workplace?

There’s my question to you. As I’m not at your workplace, YOU tell ME (in the comments, or email if you prefer) - what is your workplace, and what is the threshold of acceptance there? Would you be allowed to have, say, “Despicable Me” minion figurines at your desk? A “My Little Pony” poster? Could you wear a “Sailor Moon” brooch on the job? Yes, I’m trying something a bit different here, turning this last question back to you. I’ll explain why the subject came up, then provide my own answer too.

This particular idea came out of a panel at an anime convention regarding “Fans in the Professional Workplace”. On the panel were a lawyer, a banker, a teacher, a graphic designer and a librarian. (I’m simplifying the job descriptions slightly.) Now, obviously there are lots of fandoms out there… and on a related note, I recommend checking out the recent “Fan I Am” series of postings by Steve Savage. (Have you considered politics as a fandom?) But I’ve decided to target animation. Partly because it was the primary topic at the panel, but also because there’s a lot of conflicting information about it on the internet, and out in society.

There’s this notion, particularly in America, that animated films are “children’s entertainment”. But are those attitudes changing? Or are we merely expanding the demographic? What about outside the US? The more I look, the more I feel like animation has lots of misconceptions tied to it, perhaps because it bridges so many different genres. Even Ben Zauzmer, who used data and statistics to predict almost all of the 2015 Oscar winners, missed out on his prediction for “Animated Feature”. (For that matter, why didn’t “Lego Movie” even qualify?) So when an audience member in that panel I attended indicated that she was soon graduating from post secondary, and essentially asked how much one could or should put anime out there, I was intrigued. It felt like something relevant for this website [MuseHack]. But there was no clear answer - as often happens with good questions.


To be clear, I’m not talking about whether it’s proper to engage in your hobbies while on the clock. Nor am I suggesting fandom should be completely excluded from a resume, given the lessons it provides that may be relevant to your career. What I’m looking for is the middle ground. Can one person name drop “My Little Pony” in a workplace with the same ease as someone else drops “Game of Thrones”? Remember, one of those shows involves rather more violence and death! Well, it turns out the answer is likely no, as “FiredBrony” found out in 2013. (See my “You Can Be Fired for This” link below. Though let’s not pretend the issue is specific to gender.) So I ask again, in an age where new graduates are worried about simply getting entry level jobs, which workplaces are more accepting of one’s interest in things like anime and animation? My suspicion is “Your Mileage May Vary” (YMMV).

I’ve done some online searching, but figure it’s better to hear from those with actual experience. To that end, let’s first consider the people on that panel. The lawyer had to be totally undercover. The banker was mostly undercover, in part because when she was a summer student, she’d had complaints from older people at work about her reading manga on her lunch break (seen as “unprofessional”). The graphic designer could get away with subtle decorations (like an anime belt on casual Friday), but wouldn’t comment about it randomly. The teacher could potentially say something depending on the audience - for instance, recognizing a Totoro shirt is a safer move than recognizing “Kill la Kill”. And towards the other end of the spectrum, the librarian could discuss anime and manga with coworkers, and even use it to connect with people when done correctly.

While we’re on the subject, some other thoughts that came out of the panel was how the mention of anime (like volunteering at a convention) could make your resume more memorable - but you may also want to look up the hiring manager on LinkedIn to see what the company expects. There was also mention of the fact that, if you type in “The Manga Guide to” into a search engine, you’ll find they’re being used as a learning tool beyond the high school level. Someone’s even doing their PhD as a graphic novel. Is there a generational divide forming? At minimum, I suspect the definition of “professionalism” may be evolving.

Anyway, here’s my answer: I’m a high school mathematics teacher. As the teacher advisor for the anime club at our high school, I have some anime CDs on my desk, and occasionally discuss it with students. I could discuss it with coworkers, but there isn’t much interest. I haven’t thought much about American style animation; I’m no fan of the Simpsons, but I don’t get hassled for that. How about you?

For further viewing:

1. Yes, for the Millionth Time: You Can Be Fired for This

2. Why animated films are the UK’s favourite - and why that’s not likely to change

3. History of Early Animation (video)

Gregory Taylor is a high school mathematics teacher in Ontario, Canada, who does serial writing in his spare time. He can be found on twitter @mathtans, and runs a few blogs including "Mathie x Pensive".

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