Should otaku come out of the closet?
There is an interesting comment by relentlessflame over at Major Arcana about how criticizing outgoing fans like Danny Choo is tantamount to refusing progress towards social acceptance of our hobby. He argues that some of us cling onto marginality out of some immature sense of rebellion against mainstream culture, and that we should be open about things. That, as respectable human beings, we should not be ashamed of our idiosyncracies.
I have several issues with this line of reasoning.
The first one may not be very important, but it seems dubious to me whether people like Danny Choo, or to take an example I know slightly better, Nakagawa Shouko, are advancing the social acceptability of otaku. For one thing, they came up at a time when Akihabara and maid cafes where all the rage in the media, as opposed to, say, Okada Toshio, who would talk about the fandom when “otaku” was a banned word on the NHK and brought up Miyazaki Tsutomu to everyone's mind. But more importantly, the way they are advancing otaku acceptance is a bit like how Hard Gay is advancing the cause of homosexuals in Japan: maybe they are in some sense, but only at the expense of integrity and genuineness.
Second, there are degrees in social acceptability. Nowadays, if people learn that you're watching high-school girl cartoons on late-night TV, they won't freak out and think you're a child murderer. They will just assume that you're childish and socially inept. I can live with that. Heck, that's probably true to some extent. If otakudom were to move much further into the mainstream, it would probably mean more scrutiny and I'm not sure we want that. The underground is not always a comfortable place to be in, but it is free. It has plenty of icky, smelly corners. I have mine, you have yours, and we don't want mainstream noses telling us to wash them clean.
Third, while I agree we shouldn't be ashamed of what we like, it doesn't mean we should stick it into people's faces. For all I know, my neighbor may be a stamp collector, or he may be into strong BDSM. If he told me that, it would probably color my perception of him in a way that has more to do with common social prejudices than rational thinking. So he won't tell me, and I won't tell him that I'm into cartoons featuring younger girls. And social harmony is safe for now.
I'm not arguing for a “don't ask, don't tell” environment in which you're not allowed to be out even if you want to. I'm just not convinced that there is more to be gained than lost by being open about your hobby, especially in this Internet age when you're far more likely to meet like-minded people on specialized webforums than at your workplace or in the neighborhood.