Or, Whence the Urge to Burn and Protect?
I’ve been having odd thoughts lately, mostly when I walk to and from class — but also in the shower (both places from which ideas emerge). Where does moe come from? That’s the question underlying our work here today. I’m not going to quibble about the definitions of what moe is, I’m going to try to examine where it comes from.
Moe is typically viewed as a structural element. Simply, fans view moe as something in the text that they decode. It’s an emotional reaction fans have with the text, but the beginnings of moe itself are within the text. To be a little more precise, the text does something, performs some action or makes some reference (whatever it is we view as moe), and we read it there and respond appropriately, according to our interests.
Here’s my thought: moe isn’t a structural element; it’s a phenomenological element in the space around the text. That is, we read into a text the moe we feel, rather than read from a text the moe we feel.
This construction might sound like it’s splitting hairs, but the implications of each view are very different. If we view moe as structural and a constituent part of the text then we must feel the moe to read the text. Besides being authoritarian, this stricture is also theoretically problematic. If one fan does not see the moe that is, apparently, inherent in the text, that fan has actually not read the text. This is different than seeing it and not enjoying it.
Consider horror, an entire genre based (generally) on the emotional response of the reader. Can we say “horror” (however we define it) is structural? I think so. We can point to the elements of horror that always happen in texts (or almost always), even if we don’t feel any fear or disgust ourselves. Some examples, taken at random, would be the attempts to undermine the typical societal view of our own well-being or strength; the highlighting of the horror of birthing; or the horror of the body (check out I Am Legend, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Three Imposters respectively). We may not feel the emotional, phenomenological aspect of the horror, but we can see horrifying elements within the text. To not feel horror is not to mis-read the text, but to not see the undermining elements is.
Back to moe. Let’s pull out an example of moe. Pontifus has some interesting examples here. The urge to protect these girls, if in the text — that is, structural — means it is equally “solid” within the confines of the text as the guns and the music.
Can moe be, instead, phenomenological? Might we consider it a reaction within the fans, or the fan-group, and not something woven into the narrative, imagery, &c.?
I think we can. I am not suggesting moe is entirely woven in the fan-space, like many slash relationships. Certainly there are typically markers in the text on which moe is built, but those markers are not, in themselves, moe. We have coded them as such in the fan-space, the viewing gestalt. Hence the arguments as to the definition of moe. We cannot define something concretely that is entirely phenomenological; in turn, we cannot insist on readings that deal with moe structurally.
[written during a class's library instruction period and the break immediately afterward -- in short, sorry for the short post]