Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Hoarding

Guess what? I spent my holiday off from work rearranging my living room (temporarily) so I could make an epic display of my Steven Universe merchandise and take a ridiculous photo of everything together. 

I know, it looks like a store.

I took some closeups so people could see the items in more detail as well, and I posted the photos in several places: Tumblr, Amino, and Reddit. The day after I shared it with Amino, it was chosen for a front-page feature.

In a community specifically dedicated to Steven Universe with over 250,000 members, you can imagine making the front page gets some attention. I also got an unusual number of comments for a featured post--over 150 comments. And many of them were exactly what I'd expected: enthusiastic expressions of approval, along these lines:

  • This is the coolest thing I've ever seen
  • I'm jealous
  • You're so lucky
  • They don't have this merch in my country
  • Wow I thought my collection was big, nope
  • I can't afford to buy merch
  • How much did you spend on this
  • Where can I get X
  • I also have X
It was fun bantering with people who were enjoying what I put together, but I also got a couple negative comments. Obviously I was expecting those too, and they sounded exactly what I expected they would sound like.

One: "LOL it's going to be hilarious when you stop liking the show and you realize you've wasted all this money."

OK, yeah that sounds like a really wholesome thing to wish on somebody, you don't sound bitter or anything. (I have a great track record in continuing to like things I liked once. I still have all my Animaniacs merch from 20 years ago and most of it is happily in use/on display in my house. Bite me.)

And then there's number two, which I will quote in full:

"Ok, please dont take this negatively because your collection is amazing. But aren't you a Steven universe hoarder? I'm sure 80% of your collection is just to have it, not to use it"

No. Really. Why would you say this to someone?

Even if you preface it with "yo this isn't negative," you know very well that calling someone "a hoarder" is a negative label. You're saying it's impractical for me to collect things I like because you're straight-up assuming I'm somehow "not using" the items, and there is no way you're not implying my choices are maladaptive.

This person went on to say I was the DEFINITION of "hoarder" because that's someone who obsessively collects things. Well, no, but here's the thing:

Why would someone look at another person's collection--presumably something that represents a shared interest you have with them, even!--and say something designed to make them feel ashamed?

What, I wonder, is that person's best-case scenario if I reply? Am I supposed to say "wow. You're right. I'm a hoarder. I'm going to stop"? 

Am I just supposed to feel like a jerk for having this stuff? Am I supposed to try to justify it? (I really don't feel like I need to, though lots of people have trouble understanding why someone would want to amass a collection instead of spending similar money on, say, expensive hobbies or vacations.) Really, I would like to know. Why does someone want me to feel bad about something I care about?

Why does someone want me to feel like what I've done here is inappropriate?

Why do people take it upon themselves to nose into other people's space and vocally disapprove of how they choose to engage in their interest?

Someone might counter to say, okay, why do you even want to post photos of your collection in the first place? Do you want attention? Do you just want a bunch of people to tell you they're jealous and want your stuff? Do you just like to show off? I mean, there are some reasons why a person might want to take pics of their collection, among them being able to show people that lesser-known items exist, or share enthusiasm with other fans, or even just because it looks freaking cool together and you can't invite the Internet to hang out at your house so you just want them to see it. After all, without showing people, I am just "having" these items as my detractor above says; I'm sharing it with no one, and it's cute, so why not?

But there are also some collectible items I would really like to get my hands on and I haven't found people selling them--they're rare or hard to find, and I did think making a post like this might help me find some people who could assist me. (I wrote as much in the post.) After all, in the past, posting images of partial collections has involved someone giving me a rare item for no reason ("because it should be in a REAL collection"), and another time I was able to find people to trade with to complete sets or even received a discount code from someone from a site that sells the merch.

But like . . . really, do some people not understand collections?

Some of the items I own, primarily the toys, don't really "do" anything. I don't play pretend with them or anything (though I have done some fun things acting out scenes from the show with mini figures and taking photos to make people laugh). The other stuff, yeah, I use it; I've read the books and comics (and reviewed them); I've stuck the stickers on things to decorate; I've drank out of the cups and mugs and I wear the apparel, carry my stuff in the bags, use the phone case and calendars and jewelry in the expected ways. But mostly, I started collecting it because I love the source material and enjoy having expressions of that love outside of the show itself. It supports and shows enthusiasm for the show; it serves as a conversation piece to get more people interested; it serves as a message to merchandising companies that the show is successful and ideally communicates that audiences are engaged and hungry for more of the source material. It's the least I can do for something I've enjoyed so much, right?

And on top of that, I don't just enjoy it. I find the show to be bringing vital, important messages to the world that cartoons haven't been able to before. It's a really special piece of media that needs and deserves the enthusiasm it gets from some of us.

Personally, I'm not all that bothered over another judgmental wanker judging me for what I spend money on and what I think is important. But in general? I think it's really a problem when someone reacts to another person's lifestyle with "Oh. You've gone too far. I'm going to use an intensely negative term to describe you, presumably because I would like you to feel that something is wrong with you."

Enthusiastic consumers of content do frequently get told they're crossing a line if they're "too" engaged, whatever someone else determines is too much. Even when it's not hurting anyone (including themselves), sometimes people like this feel entitled and determined to stop other people from having fun in ways they find meaningful. And I just think it's really gross. It's really gross that with behaviors and situations out there that really do need intervention, someone would choose to spend their time and energy trying to make me feel bad about myself.

Just mind your business, people. I'm having a good time and engaging with something I love on my terms, without hurting anyone, so seriously--this may sound a little funny coming from me, all things considered, but get a life.

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