What do a presidential town hall meeting and an anime convention industry panel have in common?
If you guessed a similar Q&A process, you guessed right. It struck me one day, as I watched President Obama take part in a town hall meeting in Florida regarding his economic stimulus package, that although the town hall surely covers topics more dire and immediate than, say, FUNimation’s panel at New York Comic Con, they still both offer an interesting closeness of character to one another.
Take, for example, the goal of those attendees with their questions. They want information, and more often than not, they want to have a legitimate effect on both the proceedings and on the subject of the event (i.e. FUNimation or the President).
There’s also a similarity of presentation: the rehearsed feeling of the questions, the turns of phrase intended to be particularly clever or striking. And then there’s the attitude. There’s a certain respect, even reverence for anime and manga company representatives, but at the same time there’s sort of a feeling amongst fans: we are the almighty Consumer, and we are who you need to please. Similar to this we have those asking questions of President Obama: we made you, and if you don’t deliver, we can unmake you.
Finally, there’s the ultimate goal. What do the people want out of their questions? As I said earlier, information and to have an effect are the primary goals. Question-askers also seem to often want to impress those around them with their cleverness, their tough story, or whatever it is they share.
But there’s also something these people want that will never actually occur in a panel. When someone asks in the midst of a panel, “will you license XYZ title?” they would probably die for joy if the rep comes back and says “you know, I’m not supposed to say anything yet, but…yes, we’re getting that title.” Which, of course, no rep would ever say, and no regular convention goer would ever expect it, even if they might fantasize.
Similarly, I think a lot of these people at the Obama town hall meeting are probably secretly hoping that he’ll come out with a magic solution to their problems, that he’ll suddenly bust out a brilliant idea or something along those lines. Or maybe even that he’ll pull some kind of Oprah moment and give them all a car or something. (Hey, I mentioned this was fantasy, not what they actually expect, right?)
So, there you have it, just a little observation: when you’re standing up to ask that anime or manga publisher to pick up your favorite title, you’re probably not all that different from those demanding answers from our President.