Bootlegs When a Creator is Problematic

As a Sailor Moon blog/site I just want to clarify that Naoko Takeuchi has NOT been outed as a problematic creator. In fact, she’s quite private, and it’s rare that even fans see her in public. If she is, it would be difficult for us to know. This post was initially created as a Facebook status in relation to THAT author and her problematic twitter account, and way of handling LGBT characters, or lack there of in-book.


We need to have a chat about buying official vs bootleg merchandise of a property created by a problematic creator. If you love a fandom, but have issues with the creator and don’t want to support them monetarily there are options, but the correct choice is not to stick it to them by buying bootlegs. Buying a bootleg seems like an easy choice. They’re cheaper if you buy them through certain routes, they’re often nearly the exact same product, the money doesn’t go to the creator… you CAN have your cake and eat it too!

…no, you can’t. Not that way.

Buying bootleg means you are buying from a manufacturer that does several problematic things.

1. Stole product designs.

2. They might have straight up stole a prototype mould that was not efficiently disposed of.

3. They might be the official manufacturer going behind the license holders back to manufacture cheaper product to sell under the table.

4. They’re willing to manufacture these products with subpar materials that don’t hold their desired shapes (warping/bending over time).

5. They’re sometimes willing to paint these products with unsafe paints that contain lead.

6. They’re willing to sell products with manufacturing issues such as breaking, short shots, dripping glue, bad paint, yellowing, flash, etc.

7. They’re willing to steal box designs or straight up make their own to trick the buyer into being convinced they’re purchasing official merchandise.

8. They’re willing to pass off what ever they’ve created from beginning to end as official to you.

9. In order to keep costs down you’re likely supporting a sweat shop and maybe even child labour.

10. They might be storing the product in a way that rats and mice have access and leave droppings or trace matter on your actual merchandise or boxes in a way that remains by the time it reaches your hands.

11. Depending on the product your merchandise may have human fecal matter or urine as an ingredient and not just trace matter.

12. The manufacture clearly doesn’t have safety standards for their employees at this point.

13. The CEO likely doesn’t have much in the way of care for human rights and freedoms if they’re willing to let all of this go.

If your response to “I love this fandom but the creator is problematic” is to buy bootlegs you are supporting people just as bad or worse than the person you’re trying to avoid. You may be supporting child labour and organized crime.

If you’re buying a $15 or even $35 official scarf for some random magical school the problematic person might only receive less than a penny for your singular purchase, but the designer of that scarf may have always been or felt pressure to switch to ethical manufacturing that may even be local within your country.

Alternatively, if you’re unconvinced or still feel icky about buying something official brand new I recommend keeping an eye on the second hand market. Often when new merchandise is purchased fans will quickly change their mind and resell. Your money goes to supporting THAT person, instead of the problematic person. Two people get to enjoy it, and maybe more if you pass it on when you’re done with it! There are plenty of ways to buy second hand. From eBay, to Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, Etsy, and thrift stores. I’ve often found brand new items I’ve wanted for forever because I had patience. This is also a great way to get a better price than retail. I easily spent 1/3 the value of the items in my 90’s merchandise collection simply because I waited for deals or found them in thrift stores.

Last, support an independent artist. There are thriving artist communities for nearly every fandom, and even if there isn’t you can definitely commission an artist to make something you’re looking for. This DOES get a little more expensive, but that’s because you’re not supporting fast fashion, or mass production. You’re helping an artist pay for rent, food, and life.

Check out my other articles on bootlegs to learn more.

Please Note: This blog is ran by a pansexual polyamorous creator and hate will never be tolerated in the comments.


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