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[personal profile] laleia

In middle school, I read books.

In high school, I also read a lot of books. In addition, I started reading manga. My friend had CDs of scanlations that she'd lend me - I was on dialup, so watching anime was not an option for me at the time (unless you count dubs of Sailor Moon, which I only caught occasionally on TV in passing). We didn't have cable, and we didn't have Tivo, so I didn't watch much US TV because it was too hard to tune in at the same time every week, and there was never anything interesting. (I did watch a lot of Chinese wuxia tv shows, bootlegged VCDs that some Chinese family visiting China would buy, then bring back to the US, and lend out to every other Chinese family in a 50-mile radius.) (In high school, I also started reading fanfiction, and that is an interest that's never really waned, only waxed.)

In college, I watched more anime, read more manga, started watching more Asian dramas (mostly Japanese dramas and Taiwanese dramas) and even started watching a little bit of US TV (mostly House, if I remember correctly). I read less, but then I read a truly prodigious amount in high school (I had a reputation for reading in the hallways) so "less" was still a ridiculously large amount of books. I was limited, though, because a university library stocks considerably fewer fantasy/sci-fi/YA novels than a middle school or high school library does.

And then in college, I studied abroad. Studying abroad presented a lot of things to do in one sense, and fewer in others -- there were no extracurriculars, for example, and I ended up with a lot of free time on my hands. I started watching US TV shows online in addition to Asian dramas (I think this is when I started really watching Korean dramas, but I'm not positive), stopped reading books, and my interest in anime/manga waned considerably.

When I came back to the US, those patterns held. TV-watching became a communal experience in a huge sense - I was closer friends with people interested in US TV, so I watched Leverage, Community, and Big Bang Theory with them. I found out my friends were watching Doctor Who, so I started watching for their sake (though I didn't really commit myself to watching all of Doctor Who until I was bored in Korea, but that was later). I had one friend, only, who was interested in Asian dramas so those I watched with her, but I watched fewer than I used to.

I realize now what an influence my friends had on my media consumption, only as I type this all out now. In high school, my friends and I read prodigiously, we recommended books to each other, we lent books to each other, we talked about books. I also had friends (mostly one friend) who was interested in manga, and so that was another interest of mine, because we could exchange recommendations and talk about it.

In college, everyone stopped reading as much, so I had fewer people to talk to about books in general - my friends still read books, and I still read books, I simply read fewer books than I did in high school. (Frankly, we all had less time. College does usually involve a number of exciting things happening that can distract from reading in your spare time.) I also started hanging out more with friends who watched Western TV, and somehow ended up spending less time with friends who watched anime & Asian dramas. (This can be directly tracked to my living situation, actually. My "anime friends" were my roommate and my immediate neighbor freshman year, while my "Western TV" friend -- she's listed in the singular because she was the one with the TV so we gathered at her place more often than not -- lived directly across the street in the apartment mirrored to mine my junior/senior year. Apparently my TV viewing habits can largely be tracked to who was I living near at any given point in my life. This revelation is rather disconcerting.)

I am bringing up all of this, and thinking through all the stuff I've ever read or watched, because it appears my interests may be making the pendulum swing back in the other direction. In law school I've mostly watched Western TV but this summer I've spent an awful lot of time alone, and I somehow no longer have the energy to keep up with television (even though at numerous other points in my life, such solitude made me feel like I could keep up with television). Instead, I'm reading an alarming number of romance novels (I've probably read more than two dozen in the last two weeks), I've started reading manga again, and I'm even starting to watch anime again. This pleases me because I've been feeling for a while like I should start doing non-Western TV again, and read more books.

(I've since changed my mind about books. I shouldn't read more books. I get addicted to reading books in a way that does not compare to anything else - I can't stop reading, even if I'm crossing a street, even if I'm walking home late at night, even if I'm at work and should really be working. It probably comes as no surprise that I was banned from reading by my parents at various points in my childhood. The ban was never particularly effective.)

This accounting of the history of my media consumption is not complete. I leave out family and friends who did watch anime, or Asian dramas, or read books, or the like, but were not numerous enough or did not live close enough to me at a given point to influence me into swinging back into watching/reading the same media as them. (This is weird because some of them have livejournals, and may even check their flists regularly, and I am convinced there will be somebody I will have forgotten in this accounting, but I cannot for the life of me remember who. If I've forgotten you, it's not on purpose! It's late at night! My brain is not working properly!) I leave out an entire year in Korea spent watching Korean dramas, or the period of time in which I watched solely medical dramas and crime procedurals.

In any case, it's strange to realize how much of my media consumption can be attributed to peer pressure. At the same time, it makes sense. I am at heart a fannish person (I never stopped reading fanfic), so I am more likely to enjoy media when I can be fannish about it with my friends. (I am also more likely to watch or read something if a friend can sit me down and make me watch it.)


As a side note, I find that the stuff I consumed in high school was far more soul-crushingly tragic and depressing and tearjerking than almost anything I read or watch today. This is partially because all of this was consumed in my formative years. This is partially because nowadays I refuse to watch anything with a hint of tragedy - my US TV show list is composed of 60% half-hour ensemble sitcoms, 30% formulaic crime procedurals, and 10% dramas that I usually drop after half a season because there's too much drama and not enough comedy.

And this is partially because my friend was lending my CDs full of happy-go-lucky schoolgirls in love who ended up conscripted to fight in a world war by being force-fed addictive drugs that changed the composition of their body, ending in an apocalypse that destroys the entire world except for their boyfriend, who a spaceship with vague memories of once being that girl manages to save so he can be the last human ever for all existence. Or CDs full of creepy and intriguing mysteries, but then suddenly the main plot arc pops up and everyone ends up dying, betraying, or being betrayed by the end. Or CDs full of CLAMP, who ripped out my heart with all the apocalypses, death, destruction, and mind-bendingly tragic love stories. (I still haven't finished reading TRC, and this is partially because I can never get through xxxHolic, and partially because I still can't wrap my head around the exact nature of the S/S clone switcheroos that were going on last time I tuned in.)

Nowadays, I can read synopses online and decide if something is for me. Back then, I could only read what she gave me, which meant I saw the names of manga, and then I clicked on them and read them. I never had any idea what I was getting myself into, and I never chose not to read any of the manga.
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