She was looking for documentaries about anime. Figuring that it did no harm to pass on the information, I sent her a list (there have been, what, five or six over the years, and I was in most of them) and heard nothing more… until yesterday, when she suddenly emailed me back, very keen on meeting me all of a sudden. Very keen. Can we meet over the weekend? Can we meet next week? Can we meet on Monday?
Er… no, I said, we can’t. Because I’m moving house. And no, you can’t have my phone number because I don’t just hand it out to strangers on the internet. If you have any burning questions, then you can email me.
She was an anthropologist of some repute, who was teaching a course on anime. She had also managed to get some money out of a Japanese funding body to make a documentary about it, but hadn’t got much material assembled yet. So she developed a sudden case of manners because she needed someone else’s footage to pass off as her own in order to keep her funding past the milestone.
You see, she’d been “very busy” for the last eight months and hadn’t got round to doing much work, but if she could just have some unused footage from other people that wasn’t “too well-known” she could pull the wool over the eyes over the people who funded her in the first place. Of course, once they coughed up, she promised to finish the documentary properly and normality would be restored. And why am I going to believe this…?
This is not the first time this has happened to me. I get bizarre academia-related requests every month. Very few of them say: “Hi, JC, would you like to come to our conference and talk about anime. We’ll pay you and stuff.” Normally, they say: “Hi Insertnamehere, we’re paying ourselves to do something, could you come and do it for us for free so that we can take the credit? Your tax dollars have been redirected to us so that we can claim to be experts.”
One guy got paid to go to Japan and read out a speech I had written. Another tried to talk his way into a job with an animation company by claiming to be working for me (They called and checked. That was fun). Another claimed to be working for me, and wanted free copies of a company’s entire anime collection (they emailed me to check, he is still apologising for the “misunderstanding”). So I wasn’t new to this.
No, I said. I can’t put you in touch with people who are clued up enough to make a documentary about anime, but not clued up enough to actually finish it, just so that you can hang onto a grant you plainly don’t deserve. And the implication that I might be so fortunate as to appear in said documentary myself hardly fills me with glee when it takes you eight tossing months to respond to an email. Good luck with your “teaching” post at some dumb college.
“I realise” she said, “that this might all sound a bit cheeky.”
(This article first appeared in NEO #73, 2010)