Fandom, Otaku, and Home Guys in Taiwan

Last week in Taipei, Taiwan, 朱學恒 (Xuei-Hen Ju) recently hosted a big get-together for fans and readers of his blog, 朱學恒的阿宅萬事通事務所 (Xuei-Hen Ju’s Home Guy’s Guide to Everything–I’m not sure about this translation–it could also mean “everything is good”) called 725阿宅反抗軍千人誓師大會 (July 25 Home Guy’s Resistance Army–1000s Show Your Commitment).

You may be wondering why I’m writing about this event. You may also be wondering what the heck is a ‘home guy.’

Xuei-Hen Ju is a Taiwanese blogger and translator of English language SF and fantasy novels including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, but he originally majored in electrical engineering. He is considered a ‘home guy’, originally because of his education, and later because of his passion for what we in the States would consider geekdom.

Home guy (阿宅) is a term that was originally reserved for folks who majored in computer science in school, but now the term has an expanded meaning that encompasses someone who is shy, plays video games, and reads comic books (girls are a marginalized minority in this group but there are definitely some out there). Home guys are aligned with geekdom, fandom, otaku, and other marginal groups who are passionate about some aspect of pop culture, SF, fantasy, etc. Due to these cross cultural connections, I wanted to mention the Xuei-Hen Ju’s work and the home guy phenomenon to an English language audience.

Xuei-Hen Ju uses his blog to promote his own kind of ‘homeness.’ In many ways, he encourages other home guys to break out of the reductionist and stereotypical boxes that have in the past confined and stifled social acceptance of home guys. Through his blog, books, and the 725 event, he promotes a socially aware and proactive sense of what it means to be a home guy.

Like an otaku Tony Robbins, Xuei-Hen Ju inspires other home guys to follow their passion and tap into their enthusiasms, not as a cross to bear but as a marker for their sense of self. Also, he tells others that anyone, despite their educational background or personal condition, can achieve personal happiness–that it is up to each home guy to achieve what it is that he wants. He connects masculinity to his vision of the home guy by rallying others to maintain social justice (e.g., if you see someone abusing a dog, it is the home guy’s duty to call that person out) and do something with passion. The subtitle of his site is 熱情從來不是被找到的,而是奮戰努力才能獲得的!(Passion is never to be found, but gained by fighting!).

His idea about what it means to be a home guy may be skewed toward men more so than women. During his posts, he does occasionally insert pictures of attractive girls during an otherwise non-girl related post just to pause or breakup the flow of what he may be talking about.

However, he is conscious of respect for women when he threw the 725 event, because he warned the other home guys to not hit on girls in attendance (but they could do what they wanted to outside the event). If you click through to the 725 event post with pictures of the event, you will see a number of girls in the audience, and some of the Star Wars cosplayers were women, so there are home girls/gals, too.

More about the 725 event: I definitely recommend you clicking here to read (if you know Chinese) and see the pictures of the extremely successful event. There was music, Star Wars cosplay and demonstrations, presentations, and video game play on the 400″ screen. There are men, women, and children in the audience. And, the audience beat out an earlier torrential rain storm that killed power to the adjacent movie theater and shopping mall. Folks from all over Taiwan converged on Taipei to go to the free event, and they were determined to go come hell or high water (literally).

I liked the idea of the event being free, and I don’t exactly know how it was pulled off. Perhaps there was corporate sponsorship, or Xuei-Hen Ju used his own money to pay for the space and the setup. Directly, he didn’t get any money by hosting the home guy get-together, but he did sells some copies of his popular book, which he would personalize for attendees (and those not there–but by saying “loser, why didn’t you come out?!”). Also, there are the Home Guy Army t-shirts that are in some of the pictures. Oh, and the event itself wasn’t advertised anywhere else, except on Xuei-Hen Ju’s blog. Essentially, he told his blog following, home guy friends to “Come here on this particular day and let’s show everyone what we can do.”

You should definitely check out Xuei-Hen Ju’s blog, and if you know Chinese, you should find out more about home guys and Taiwan fandom. From talking with Yufang (who was sweet to tell me about the 725 event, and who I asked to help me with the translating and descriptions), Taiwanese popular culture is an amalgamation of cultures from surrounding countries. It seems that much of the culture consumed in Taiwan comes from other places, but I suspect that there must be a local flavor to the way that other cultures are interpreted, consumed, and enjoyed by home guys and every other Taiwanese person. I think that more work should be done on SF fandom in Taiwan, because that country and its people are more unique than many due to their position as a cultural crossroads.

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