Episode 100: The More You Know
In Episode 100, “The More You Know,” Elizabeth and Flourish celebrate the ways they’ve learned and grown in the past four years of Fansplaining, reflecting on key areas where they’ve changed their frameworks—and their minds. Topics covered include lurkers, the realities of TV production, racism in fandom, and our old friend, capitalism. Here’s to a hundred more!
Someone actually took video of the entire “Fandom Is My Fandom” SDCC panel, so you can watch Flourish and Elizabeth’s first-ever interaction:
[00:06:51] Elizabeth’s Benedict Cumberbatch article is called “Why it doesn’t matter what Benedict Cumberbatch thinks of Sherlock fanfiction” and that says it all.
[00:11:45] East Los High’s first episode:
[00:24:29] Elizabeth’s various writings for The New Yorker’s “Book Bench”!
[00:25:16] This clip comes from Episode 17, “The Powers That Be.”
[00:36:14] If you’re not familiar with RaceFail, Fanlore has you covered.
[00:36:48] Rukmini has joined us in several episodes, but Episode 89 was all about her work.
[00:39:11] The article in which Flourish gets into race is “Shippers on Shipping.”
[00:41:19] Tell Flourish this starfish is not kinda creepy when it walks.
It looks nothing like this:
[00:42:01] Elizabeth’s “fansplaining 101” post is still a great place to find starting points if you’ve recently joined us!
[00:42:44] We’re talking about Episode 70, “Our Most Passionate Fans”
[00:46:15] The VICE piece Elizabeth is talking about is “How black ‘Game of Thrones’ fans made #DemThrones more than a hashtag.”
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is EPISODE 100!!
ELM: Can you do an imitation of, like, an air horn?
FK: [trumpets] [ELM laughs] That’s my best air horn.
ELM: Oh, oh no. All right, thank you. Thank you!
FK: What are we calling it, Elizabeth?
ELM: It’s called “The More You Know!” Dun dah-nah dunnn!
FK: Just imagine the rainbow and the star.
ELM: You won’t have to imagine it, it’s gonna be the cover of the episode.
FK: Aw yeah.
ELM: Unless NBC comes for us.
FK: Well. I think that by—I think that that ship has sailed for them.
ELM: It’s a meme now, so…
FK: It’s a meme now.
ELM: Yeah. So this is our 100th episode, and we are going to talk about where we began and where we are now.
FK: How we’ve learned and grown.
ELM: Yes. Along the way. The friends we’ve made along the way.
FK: [laughing] We’re not, we’re gonna, um, spare everyone from hearing about how I have learned about…I haven’t really learned about it. How I’ve slowly become better, very slightly better, at copyediting. But not much better.
ELM: I, I just sat here for the last 10 seconds being like “What is Flourish gonna say?”
FK: [laughs] We’re not gonna talk about that, though.
ELM: No no no, side note, here is what’s happened: Flourish, prior to like a month ago, didn’t know what a comma was. Just literally never, never knew. And now… [FK laughs] Every, word… It’s like William, Shatner, over here, it’s like, I, Flourish, Klink.
FK: You know, some people would say that at least I am flexible and able to change. So pretty soon it’s gonna, like, dial it in. Just dial it in. Dial in to the right number of commas. It’s gonna happen.
ELM: All right. That’s fine. It’s fine. It’s a journey. [FK laughing] We’re still on this journey.
FK: We’re on this journey! But this is not the journey we’re gonna talk about, cause that’s like a boring journey.
ELM: Yes. I mean, it’s not boring to me because commas are vitally important. But we can have that one privately. OK. So here is what happened. Here is our origin story. In 2015—everyone knows this, but I’m just gonna say it again in case they don’t.
ELM: I feel like prior to when we met, I had seen you around on the internet a little bit but I didn’t really know you.
ELM: And I feel like that Mariah Carey meme right now, I don’t know her. Head-shaking.
FK: Right, whereas I had seen you and I was like “Ahh, I so resent this person who gets to write about fandom for a very large audience! Why didn’t they consult ME?!” [laughing]
ELM: Yes, which is partly why we called the first episode “Why Wasn’t I Consulted?!”
FK: It’s true.
ELM: How we met is, we were on a panel called “Fandom Is My Fandom” at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, and I remember it was on a Thursday.
ELM: My first Comic-Con.
ELM: And I’ve told this story a million times, but in case you haven’t heard it, this very large panel, very disparate opinions and approaches and we were all having different conversations, but Flourish and I were having the same conversation.
FK: Yeah, so then what do you do when that happens? Obviously you walk up to this person that you have have never met before that day and say, “We’re going to start a podcast!”
ELM: Yeah. No, but, you know, I don’t know if I’ve talked about this on the podcast. My favorite part is when you said that, it was at a party and it was in front of like five other people?
ELM: And multiple people were like “Sure!” And I was like “Oh, this is not happening. These random people are not doing a podcast.”
FK: No. And then later on I was like, “Just you and me.” [both laughing] “I didn’t mean that…”
ELM: So then Flourish found me the next day and very aggressively talked to me while we walked across the length of San Diego to attend a Nerf Herder concert.
ELM: With Lev Grossman, did we mention that part? [laughing]
FK: Yeah, with Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians, hot-button topic right now. He was really into it, we were just talkin’ about a podcast.
ELM: Yeah, yeah, it’s true. All right! And that magical night! And then, and then that was that. But. I just wanna foreground this conversation by talking about where you were at and where I was at that that time.
FK: Absolutely, because we were actually at very different—despite the fact that we had, like, a lot of things in common, we were in super different places and we literally had not met prior to that day [laughing] so there were a lot of things that we, like, really had to sync up on over time! And teach each other about!
ELM: Yeah, and not necessarily sync up on, because it’s like…I don’t think that, I mean, I do feel like we actually wind up agreeing a lot, which maybe could be…maybe a problem.
FK: But not always, not always.
ELM: No. And I feel like sometimes we agree intellectually [laughs] but spiritually we maybe are on slightly different pages? Which is fine.
FK: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
ELM: We have different approaches and people are different.
FK: Yeah. We definitely often come at things from different approaches but end up at the same place, I think. But at the beginning I will say, I had no idea—like, I thought that we were, like, just gonna dance along in sync the whole time, and there was a moment of “Whoa! We have very different ideas and we’re both wrong about things sometimes!” [both laugh]
ELM: OK. So.
FK: So what were you doing? Where were you at at that point?
ELM: Let’s see. This was four years ago. 2015. Barack Obama was the president. Bill de Blasio was still the mayor I guess. Right? He was the mayor then too.
FK: Yeah I think so.
ELM: And there are definitely—you know, I started writing about fandom in earnest while I was in grad school, and there were lots of takes that I had then that I would stand by now. Like, the, the one that was the biggest hit was yelling at Benedict Cumberbatch for being kinda shitty about his female fans and fanfiction in particular, and I stand by everything I wrote in that article. Like, nothing’s changed. Like, I could see that it was a power imbalance, and that was punching down, and I still believe that fanfiction is for fans and not for anyone they’re writing about, and certainly not for the actors of the show that you’re writing about, like…
And so, like, that’s where I was at. You know? And I was writing a lot about fandom as a journalist, and back in New York working, you know, back in editorial work. And, but, you know, very firmly still thinking of myself as someone in, in fandom, and kind of representing fandom in the media.
ELM: Like, as a voice for…like, “Here’s how we think about these things, and here’s how you could not be jerks to us. Please stop.” You know, that kind of thing.
ELM: And you?
FK: So at that point I had been working for, like, five years in the entertainment industry after grad school. And I had come from being, like, really really involved in fandom and like, finding my way into these rooms where I was the only one who had ever been in that situation. And doing a lot of sort of, like, explaining fandom to people. When I would run into a topic that I didn’t know as much about, like a fandom that I wasn’t involved in or something like this, right, or even something that I was involved in but I needed, like, to back it up with something other than just “cause I said so,” doing, like, classic primarily qualitative and a little bit quantitative research around, like, what are people doing? What can we track, right? What’s going on online with this? Looking at the Twitter firehose or whatever.
And so I was in this position where I was really…the thing is that, like, a lot of those things were stuff that, like, if you weren’t from the community you wouldn’t even know what to look for to begin to answer any questions.
FK: I mean, obviously I was interacting with other fans and so on too. But I was definitely used to being in a…kind of authoritative position compared to a lot of people in the rooms I was going into professionally. About fandom. Like, I was really used to that dynamic.
ELM: How, I’m just curious how you felt as a fan and…you know, like, on the flip side of it. Cause, can I say for me personally, five years ago when I started writing about this at great volume, you know [laughs] like, I started writing about fandom a few years prior to that, but it was like really five years ago when it kicked off. You know, I really felt like…I had some anxieties about, like, the position that I was in, cause I was like, in fandom but kind of also talking about it to other audiences…and, like, people would also send me messages saying, like, “thank you for expressing this thing and trying to make other people see what we’re like”…
FK: Right, yeah.
ELM: And I appreciate that, but I also felt a little, you know, I didn’t want to be…I don’t know. It was weird for me, and having been a lurker for so long too that it was like, it was a very weird thing to balance.
FK: Right. So, because my work had been not public, and still isn’t usually very public except for Fansplaining, right. Like, I don’t talk about who my clients are. So I hadn’t gotten much…people in fandom knew that I was doing stuff like this, but I hadn’t gotten much commentary or engagement with this, and it actually took me, like, that was, around the time that we met was the first time that I had begun to feel the tension between those two things. Cause for so long it was like, I would just go do my fan thing, and then it was like I would go and take a field trip into another room and like, “Let’s explain some stuff!” You know? But then, like, I never heard from fans about this because none of the fans knew I was doing it.
ELM: Yeah, yeah.
FK: I mean, my friends did, but it wasn’t like it was in the Guardian, you know?
ELM: Right, right.
FK: And so, uh, it was, it was actually that year that I had begun to be in situations where, like, I knew actors, or I knew producers, or something like that, and I began to be like, “Now I’m in this weird position! I’m at Comic-Con and it is a professional experience for me now, and not a fannish experience as much,” and like, that was beginning to become visible to people in a way that it hadn’t been before, and so. It was like, it was this weird moment where I was like “Ack! Oh wait, actually there is this tension that I have been completely ignoring!” [laughs]
ELM: Huh, I didn’t know that was happening at that time for you. I thought that had already happened. But that’s interesting that that took a little while.
FK: Yeah, well, for a long time I had been working on projects that were like, not as, um, established. And so right when we first met was around the time when a lot of things in my business life were transitioning so I was working on bigger franchises and more established stuff.
ELM: Mm-hmm. Gotcha.
FK: And stuff that was more traditionally, like, in the kind of fandom I work on, right. So like before that, like, one of the big projects that I’d been working on was this show East Los High, which is a telenovela, and the idea had been, like, actually, fans of things interact in some of the similar ways, like, whether it’s a telenovela or whether it’s a science fiction show. And it worked, and it was a great show, and I’m really incredibly proud the work that everybody did on it. But it wasn’t something that crossed the streams too much. Right?
ELM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Gotcha.
FK: I mean, this was, this was before—this was before, like, Scandal or any of the stuff where, like, there were more sort of dramatic shows that were creating the same kind of fan reaction. This was like…
ELM: Sure, sure.
FK: Cast your mind back to before, you know, fandom was widely understood to be something that was happening across all genres.
ELM: Mm. That’s interesting. I love how that was only like five years ago.
FK: I know, right? It was more than that. East Los High was more than that. But anyway.
ELM: OK. All right, gotcha. OK. So that’s where we were when you very aggressively attacked me in the bar with your ideas and your words. And then we started this podcast. And then eight episodes later, we almost canceled the podcast. [FK laughing] Cause we had a giant fight that lasted for like an hour that I had to edit out.
FK: We did. I think that we were both in tears. [both laughing] Mostly angry ones.
ELM: Yeah. Not only that, OK. So, the first…after our first episode, the first five, the five that followed were all other people who were on the panel, and then we had two more with guests. So that was the first time, I believe…[FK laughing] that it was just the two of us without other people.
FK: And we had to face up to it!
ELM: And look what happened. OK. So what we’re gonna do in this episode is we’re gonna talk about some major ways that we’ve learned and grown, each of us, and times that we were wrong.
ELM: And, uh, because you don’t learn and grow without admitting that you were wrong. And…
FK: You do not!
ELM: And the more you know.
FK: The more you know.
ELM: So in this episode, it was called “One True Fandom.” And we wanted to get at what it meant to be in fandom.
ELM: Cause we can easily say what does it mean to be a fan, obviously there’s no one answer, but like, that’s a much easier question, right? Like, because you’re like…
ELM: “I like the thing!” You know? [FK laughs] That’s the, that’s the baseline, you know? Like, there’s…maybe you actually also hate it, but like, at the root, “I’m drawn to the thing” is, like, at the base of being a fan. But what is a collective?
FK: Right. And I argued really hard, and this was the—this was the point that we were [laughs] This was what we were fighting about! I argued really hard that it had to be, like, participatory and active. That you needed to say things, that you needed to do things, that you needed to, like, be quote “contributing.” My words from then. [laughs] You know, I’m not saying that I necessarily hold this entire view now, you know. I really felt like there was this strong line, like, if you’re a lurker and you don’t ever contribute any kind of a statement or an interaction, then I was ready to say “You’re not part of fandom.”
ELM: Right. That’s a really bad attitude Flourish. [FK laughs] I’m glad we established that.
FK: Here, let’s listen to—let’s listen to a clip.
ELM: Let’s listen to a clip from that.
ELM: Yeah, I don’t know. I just feel like…and this is something I was talking about with Lori when I was asking her for her opinions on this. A lot of the discourse we have about collective online, blah blah, older fans can feel very…it comes from such a place of privilege, to say “Oh well of course, I went online and I found everyone who loves something that I like—” Yeah, that’s the modern world…
FK: It’s the modern world in the United States and in other places where we have continuous internet access.
ELM: Right, which is a fraction of the world!
FK: Yeah, it is.
ELM: A small fraction! It’s not the majority of people in the world, you know. And also have the leisure time to engage with this stuff…the number of people who were like sharing fanzines and stuff like that was tiny, back in the, you know, 30–40 years ago. I think when you say that you have to, that you can’t be solitary, that your fannishness doesn’t count as much if you don’t communicate, even if lurking is a form of communication…
FK: I understand what you’re saying and I’m sure that, like, by not talking about lurkers and by not talking about solitary fandom I’m, like, contributing to the view that those people don’t exist or aren’t important. Those people definitely exist and are important when I talk about fandom in my day job. That’s just not what I’m as into.
ELM: I think part of it is that you do have zero personal experience in this realm.
FK: [laughs] Yeah, so, I wouldn’t approach this this way any more.
FK: I would not approach it this way any more. No. That, that’s not what I would do.
ELM: I mean, what is there to say about this beyond, like, you…you think I was right in the sense of, like, you hadn’t thought much about this because it’s not something that you’d ever experienced, nor probably had ever seen, because you were so used to, like, running the convention and like…
ELM: I honestly think if you go to a convention, even if you’re like the most introverted shy person, like, you physically went to a space, that’s not lurking. Like, even if you don’t say a word to anyone else.
ELM: You know, you put your body into that space. That’s not lurking anymore. So…
FK: I think, I think that much I would have said, like, going to a convention counts because you’re physically present in real life.
ELM: I’m just talking about, like, who you ever had exposure to in your life, even those introverted con-goers.
FK: Yeah, even they are—yeah, yeah yeah. For sure. Yeah, I think that, um, so I think that actually the thing I would say here is that the way that I was approaching this was definitely, like…the first thing that I would have said is, I was saying in this, like, “Oh yeah, lurkers exist and they’re important when I talk about fandom in my day job.” [makes a buzzer noise] They are important in that lurkers buy most movie tickets, you know what I mean, or people who don’t engage in a fandom but…
ELM: The majority of people…
FK: The majority of people…
ELM: The majority of people in a group are lurkers. Yeah.
FK: Right, exactly. So, so in that sense, yeah, they’re important, but most of what I was studying in my job—and still am, right—is things that you can measure, and things that you can, like, measure without having to find people who are in no other way participating. And so it’s all of this visible stuff, just like you’re saying. Like, it’s all of the like…I can only see it if you, like, tweet about it. If you don’t tweet about it, I don’t know about it, you know? I can only see it if I, like, reach out to fans and, like, interview them, and they agree to interview with me. And a lot of lurkers would never do that.
So like, even though the existence of lurkers was important, the whole thing is predicated around the idea that, like, we’re gonna look at the people who are talking and interacting, because they’re having an impact on all these lurkers, right? So like, actually, like, it was totally unfair for me to say that I was thinking about lurkers in my day job. I knew they existed. But like—that’s not what my focus was on.
And I think that, uh, the more important piece with this, that I’ve come to see over the past four years, is that all of the stuff that’s happening in my job—as I think I’ve said on the podcast many times before—is driven by, fundamentally, capitalism. Like, I’m interested in fandom. But why do I do my job? Why do I get paid for it? It’s to sell more movie tickets, right. It’s to sell more figurines and all of this stuff. Right? Over a long period of time, sure, but that’s what it is.
And I think, now, by focusing on that, I wasn’t even seeing a lot of really important stuff that happens when people love things, that’s not monetizable. You know what I mean?
ELM: Yeah, yeah.
FK: Like, my job had—and again, not that I never had an experience of loving something in a non-monetizable way. And I actually have loved things and not talked about them every once in a while.
ELM: Really? I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that’s true.
FK: Mm. I mean, I don’t talk about boxing online at all.
ELM: Yeah but you talk about it a lot out loud.
FK: Yeah, to you.
ELM: A lot.
FK: But like I’m not part of a boxing community.
ELM: Yeah…I don’t know.
FK: Regardless, my point being though, I also, like, separate from knowing it or not, like, it’s not like I haven’t felt fannish emotions. And fannish emotions are important even without an action attached to them. You know what I mean? But, like, emotion without action attached to it? That’s not monetizable, and so something that I was, like, slowly being driven to ignore more and more over the course of becoming a professional fan, basically.
ELM: Sure. Yeah, I also feel like, I don’t know. The structures of the web have changed even in, you know, significantly in the last five years even, and they were—
FK: That’s true.
ELM: —in the process of changing then from where they had been in the 2000s. And, I don’t know. There’s a lot of, if we’re talking about a wholly non-monetized space of fanfiction, for example—for example, it’s easy to see now in a way it wasn’t ten years ago, just how many lurkers there are, because, you know, and people complain constantly, it’s like “Oh this got 50,000 hits and only 100 comments?!” It’s like, “Yeah! That’s how it works! Those are the ratios, I’m sorry to say, I know it’d be great if more people commented, but like, also…”
You know, in the past, depending on where you’re publishing, you’re maybe not able to see stats. Obviously you could see stats on fanfiction.net. But like, it’s so front-and-center now in a way that it might not have been a decade ago, and so, like, you know, half a decade ago we were like, kind of in that—that arc of transition into being able to see that, you know? Or more and more people being on social media and being able to measure likes, like, likes and kudos as in-between space between participatory and, like, pure lurking.
ELM: This very gentle way to, like, half-participate by being like, “support!” You know? And the fact that you can see that now.
FK: Yeah. Yeah.
ELM: Whereas, like, I feel like you see that so much more clearly now than you might have even in 2013-14.
FK: Yeah, I agree. I agree completely. I mean, it’s funny. I also [laughs] I have also changed my, I used to be one of those, like, “You must comment! People are assholes who don’t comment on fanfic!” You know, or “who don’t comment on fanart! If you see it and you like it, you should comment!” And I’ve super, like, chilled out on that now. [laughing] I no longer wish to make moral yelling at people about how they should or should not do that, because it makes it so transactional. Right? Like…I actually, like, this is the thing that pisses me off, is because commenting and liking and so on now is so monetized and so…all of those things, attention is so transactional.
FK: As this has changed on the web. So like, while at one time I was like, “This is the only way that you can tell them you like them!” Now I’m like, “This is just another way that we turned fandom into a transactional thing!”
FK: Yeah, of course, if it moves you I think that you should reach out to someone and tell them that their piece moved you, if you want to have a, like, fulfilling and engaging relationship with other humans, because that’s lovely. But like…I don’t think you should think about it just as a, like, “transactionally you must comment.” That’s, that’s just like saying “pay them.” Which maybe you should do instead! [laughing] I don’t know!
FK: I haven’t come to a final conclusion on that yet! You know, like, I don’t know!
ELM: I think that—I think the language about this has gotten so, so much stronger over the time that we’ve been making this podcast, too. The posts have gotten more, more explicitly asking, framing it this way and asking for it this way.
ELM: They’ve gotten angrier. Five years ago I feel like I saw, you know, only a tiny fraction of what I see now in terms of, like, ‘“If I’m not going to be paid in money, I must be paid in comments, and if I’m not paid in comments, I will never write again.” You know? [laughs] That kind of thing, and you’re like “Maybe this isn’t something you should do, then, if this is like, literally the only thing keeping you going!”
Like, I understand why it’s valuable, and whenever we talk about this obviously I say that I come from a, you know, a place of, like, simultaneous confusion, as someone who’s capable of writing fiction [FK laughs] solely powered by my own internal feelings, and not by external validation, and simultaneously being a professional writer who is paid cash money for many words I write.
ELM: So, you know what I mean?
ELM: It’s a weird spot to be in.
FK: Yeah, and let’s be clear, I do think that it’s good. Maybe this is just me as, like, a non-lurker, but I do find it fulfilling to, like, interact with other human beings around things I like, and I think that it’s good for people to do that, and it’s good for fandom as a whole for people to do that. But I don’t think that it should be framed in that transactional way. You know? Like, I still—to some degree I guess I still do think you should comment. But I don’t think you should do it because you feel like…
FK: This is like paying someone.
FK: That’s not why. And if you can’t do it without feeling like you’re paying someone, if that’s what gets you to do it, then just don’t do it!
ELM: Yeah. Right.
FK: You know? Not a big deal. It’s fine.
ELM: Yeah. I think even too the kind of idea of like, “If you don’t know what to say, just say I didn’t know what to say but I wanted to leave a comment,” that—that truly does feel transactional to me, you know? Because like, “Oh, I need you to take that action of writing the words down to me that you didn’t know what to say.” [sighs] You know.
ELM: As opposed to like, a comment being like you said, a way to connect people and a way to, um…further conversation, or a way to highlight something that really moved you. It’s really hard.
FK: Yeah, or, or even just as a genuine thank-you.
FK: I mean, I don’t think that you have to leave, like, a review or anything. If you read something and you really do love it and it’s very meaningful to you,then I do think that you should send someone a thank-you, even if you don’t have any deeper conversation to get involved with. But I don’t think you should do that because you wanna pay them, I think you should do that because it’s nice to thank people for things! [laughs] Like, broadly! Like, it makes you feel good! Psychological research has shown that this makes you feel good. So…we should all do it more, you know?
FK: Now, OK. We’re getting down a terrible “attitude of gratitude” path here, and I don’t wanna go there, so let’s stop. Let’s, let’s talk about you now for a little bit.
ELM: All right. Yeah. Hook me up.
FK: OK, yeah! So while my job may have led me down some less-than-great paths at points, it also taught me about some things that you didn’t know about.
ELM: Right. The irony of our, of our two examples is like, I…maybe it’s just the way we’re framing them, but I still think like your learning-and-growing has a weird moral tinge to it, like you were being a dick to, to lurkers… [FK laughing] Whereas mine is like, “I didn’t have this information and now I have it and it has shaped the way that I approach the things,” you know?
FK: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know…I don’t know that I was being a dick to lurkers just by, like, not engaging very much. But I think I was being a dick by not admitting that I was, by not being able to admit that I wasn’t engaged with it. [laughs]
ELM: All right, go ahead, defend yourself, whatever you need to do.
FK: OK. But tell us about yours, cause we haven’t talked about yours yet.
ELM: Right. So like I said, especially when I was working…I mean, you know, when I was working on my dissertation in grad school, like, because I was writing about the book industry I definitely had a lot of knowledge about how the book industry works. I’ve also been a book industry journalist, a blogger back when there were bloggers on websites.
ELM: For NewYorker.com for several years. And so I was aware of the industry, on the industry side, like, you know, reading Publisher’s Weekly and things like that, not just writing—not just book reviews, that kinda thing, you know what I mean?
ELM: But most of the fandoms I had been in, other than Harry Potter, had all been TV shows, and I had what I would say is a normal fan’s perception of how TV works, which is wrong. And continues to be fuckin’ wrong. So when people are so wrong, every day of my life, I read how wrong they are.
FK: [laughing] I like that you found this out and then you started getting really angry whenever you saw someone say something wrong. [ELM laughs] I have never felt angry about this in my entire life. It’s actually a delight because you tell me I should be more angry in this way.
ELM: When I learned about this—it was not too long after we did Episode 8, it was Episode 17. So that’s, you know, what, like four or five months later?
ELM: And we decided—we planned this episode out, we called it “The Powers That Be,” and I think I asked you if we could do this. Cause I wanted to learn more about it. And—
FK: Yeah you did.
ELM: You were gonna be in L.A. for work, and you went around and asked a bunch of questions, because it was like, “How does a TV show get made?” Like, and I think partly why, it’s like, the more you talked over the first, like, 16 episodes, the more I was like “I need more information about this right now.” Some of the things you told me were things that, like, while not secrets, were things that I didn’t think people were talking about in…
ELM: …in fandom. I think because a lot of people, when they make that leap over the fan-to-pro divide, stop talking to fandom, or start talking to fandom differently. Like, somewhat patronizingly, right. Like “Well, I was once where you were and now I’m on the other side of the wall, goodbye!” Like, “I’ll wave to you from above!” Right? And so it’s rare you get people talking back-and-forth. So then you—
FK: I think it’s less rare now, but it was really rare at the time.
ELM: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think it’s…
FK: It’s not super common now.
ELM: …great now, but it’s better than I think it was five years ago, and obviously way better than it was, like, when I got into fandom. So we did this episode and you just blew my mind. Wild times.
FK: [laughs] All right, let’s listen to a clip from it.
ELM: Look Flourish, we don’t know how that show’s gonna end, so…
FK: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
ELM: Yeah, I mean, that’s a big thorny trash pile of a conversation to talk about…
FK: We don’t need to get into that. But you see what I’m saying, right? It’s, yeah. But there’s a lot of questions about why things happen, why do particular ships happen. Fundamentally they happen or not, it’s the showrunner’s decision. That actually is the showrunner’s decision, but sometimes it can be affected by practicalities that are out of their control.
ELM: OK, tell me if my idea of, like, network executives making decisions is a realistic one. Because when I think of the Powers That Be, I imagine, like, a well-meaning writer just typing away and then some asshole studio executives coming in and being like “Here’s what you actually need to do because of these market reasons,” or these whatever the fuck, I don’t know. “These advertisers think this.” Is that a deeply cynical, unrealistic view?
FK: So, I actually think there’s a lot more sort of soft power and negotiation involved in this than you’re thinking. So for example, right, fundamentally, if a show is basically not what a network needs or wants it’s never going to go to pilot, and then if it’s not that, it’s never going to go to series.
FK: Yeah, so things are murky.
ELM: [laughs] They are murky. I mean, they’re not that murky! Like, I don’t know. Looking back at this too, I understand…and like, not just looking back but thinking about conversations I see now, I understand why people wanna think that there’s some sort of, the Powers That Be are an actual group of, like, men in a room who are saying “We’re gonna do this because we like this, and we don’t like that.”
ELM: You know? And that feels like an easier explanation than, like, “19 different bad choices were made, and…”
FK: Right. “Any one of which would have been fine on its own.” [ELM laughs] “But together they turned into this.”
ELM: Right? And like, you know, it’s also, like, looking back at this conversation and looking back at where we were as humans on this earth four years ago, and thinking about conspiracies and…
ELM: I mean obviously there were lots of conspiracies prior to five years ago, but it’s just kind of reached this fever pitch to the point where, like—and we’ve seen so much commentary in the broader world about the kind of alternate narratives that people have, and so much of it is about feeling that they’re out of control and feeling that that’s the way that they can make this all make sense.
ELM: So I understand why this is all happening. I feel like this is supposed to be self-critical to me, but now I’m making it about everyone else.
FK: Well, it’s about you too to some extent, right?
ELM: Yeah, I mean, I…it’s hard for me too, because like, it makes it harder for me to… [laughs] just look at media! Like, it’s really…I already felt this way about books as a critic, like, it’s like, books are basically ruined for me. And it’s actually one of the reasons I like fanfiction a lot because while I am internally deconstructing things and saying “Well, here’s why I think this works,” because I cannot read without doing that, for books it’s dialed up to the next degree if there’s some potential that I would have to review it in any way. It’s hard for me to think about TV sometimes as a text, because now all I do is think about how it’s being made. And I didn’t do that before…
FK: I’m sorry! [laughs]
ELM: …so that’s really ruined for me now. That’s fine. You know.
FK: I’m sorry.
ELM: I don’t know, I actually find the—I find the pieces very interesting, and I imagine you do as well, you’ve chosen to work in the entertainment industry. It’s interesting! It’s interesting that this is how this stuff gets made. Hollywood is weird and goofy and there are many things that I think are stupid. But I understand why they exist! You know? Those are the structures that exist, and maybe they shouldn’t, but I—you know what I mean? Like…
FK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s like a giant shambolic monster that has been composed of many different things and, like, none of it really makes sense together, and like, it keeps functioning somehow!
ELM: Great! Well, even thinking about, like, so many of the things I’ve learned from you in the past few years about how things work. Like, the whole idea of like, you can’t talk about an idea for a plot, like, at a party, cause then you might get sued, you know what I mean?
FK: Yeah, I mean, you can, but then people sometimes—yeah. Totally.
ELM: You shouldn’t if you don’t wanna…that kinda thing. Even the idea that you could own the rights to something that I think is a very basic story. Like, “Duh, that’s a cliché story.” And you’re like “No, they own the rights to to that!” And it’s like, “How?” Like, learning about all this stuff has really…it’s probably shaped my perceptions of, I feel like it’s done the most work, if I were to rank things, of how I understand fandom now.
ELM: Yeah, I mean, do you think that’s weird? I just feel like…
FK: No, I don’t think it’s weird! I’m just glad that you’ve gone through this experience. Because…
ELM: Yeah I feel like—here’s the kinda flip side of your journey. I understand at the very fundamental, fundamental heart what it means to be a fan, in a way I do think that—we’ve talked about this at length, but there are some ways…not to use moral language, but there’s something that’s very pure about my, like…
FK: That’s true. You have emotional reactions that go beyond anything I have ever had.
ELM: [laughs] YES. Extra!
FK: Sometimes you say, like, “Sometimes I wonder if anybody else has ever felt this strongly”? I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as strongly as you feel about some things. I can say this now, four years in. I’m very enthusiastic, but you take it to the next level.
ELM: Look, I just, right? But it’s all inside, and my, like, my extreme ideas and all the things I wanna write and then I just write them and it’s like, very quiet. It’s like, very quietly happening. Right? So like, I feel like I understand what it’s like to be a fan. Sometimes I feel like when I listen to people even in fan studies—not all, but some—maybe it’s just the language they’re using, cause sometimes I’m like, “don’t you understand what it’s like to be a fan?!” In my weird little, rocking in the corner, fine, “WHAT ABOUT THE FEELINGS PEOPLE HAVE?” You know? Whereas I feel like if you’re studying it, you can wind up in that space where you’re like “...and then they do this. And then they do this.”
FK: Right. Totally.
ELM: And I’m sure that lots of people in fan studies have strong feels, but sometimes you get the sense that people are more interested in observing dynamics, but they don’t necessarily have those hardcore all-consuming feelings internally. Which is like, totally fine. Like, you don’t need to, I think, to be a really good researcher.
You know, so that part I’ve always had a lot of access to and, like, really understanding that deep inside. But I think in terms of understanding fandom itself and the structures and the way they interact with media and the way the media kind of dictates how they interact? Like, how they feed the back-and-forth? I feel like deconstructing the entertainment industry has been vital. Like, and I think learning stuff from you and learning how things truly work has been very, very valuable for me. Yeah.
FK: It seems like we both learned and grew and continue to learn and grow.
ELM: Yeah! I think these are really, these are two really good examples of, like, somewhat extreme sides that we were coming from and the gaps in our knowledge and thinking and, I think we should take a quick break because there were a few other things that we kind of both—
ELM: —evolved our thinking on together that we want to comment on, but I think these are, these are the best examples of kind of, I imagine this in like, arcs. Whoosh. You know? You can imagine it, right?
FK: Yeah, you—very effectively for a podcast where you can’t see, Elizabeth, she’s like making this big arc gesture with her arms.
ELM: Actually now, I’ve evolved into doing a like, “Hey! Ho! Hey!”
FK: I was thinking like a lighter—you know, at a concert where everyone waves a lighter, or now I guess it’s not lighters, it’s cell phones.
ELM: Yeah. It is cell phones.
FK: For a slow song.
ELM: Which is way less cool. But no, I’m thinking of like a ’90’s “Put your hands in the air! Hey!” You know, that kind of thing? So.
FK: Yeah, totally. Totally. OK. All right, yeah. Well, let’s take a break, on the “hey, ho”s, and we’ll talk about other things in a minute.
ELM: [laughs] OK. Hey ho. Goodbye!
FK: OK, we’re back.
ELM: [laughs] We are back.
FK: All right. So things that we evolved on together.
FK: There’s a bunch of this, actually.
ELM: Yeah. So, let’s see. What are some really big areas? I’ll start. I think that the, I think that we talk about this a fair amount, about the fact that we’ve learned from it a lot [laughs] but I’ll say it again: I think that our conversations with people of color about racism in fandom and race in fandom, it’s just been, I would say, you know, a big—“awakening” feels like a trite way to put it, but…it’s really, really, just…having kind of the frameworks hitting me in the face over and over again has been so valuable for me to have.
ELM: Cause I, it’s not like I was thinking very very differently in the past, but it was like—it just gave me these structures on which to place the thoughts that I had.
FK: That’s exactly what I would say. So I had really—I felt like I really came to understand that there was a problem during RaceFail, I mean, not that I hadn’t seen individual things. But that when I was like “Oh shit, this is a big problem,” because, you know, I’d been walking along in my happy white fandom world ignoring everything until that point. But after that, I still was just like, “This is a problem,” and I hadn’t yet—tell me if you were in the same position, but I had not…
I didn’t understand the idea of, like, whiteness as a category that kind of organizes thought and that can shape the way that people, people’s desires and—and interests and beliefs and choices around fandom. And so I really—like, Rukmini’s work in particular really helped me see, like, this is more than just about individual aggressions or microaggressions or things like that. It is about those things, but it’s also about this broader, like, category that shapes the way that fundamentally our lives are structured.
ELM: So, I think I’m coming at it maybe from a different perspective, actually, because I’ve, you know, I spent my whole undergrad career studying post-colonial literature.
FK: Ah! You had these things!
ELM: So that’s about deconstructing—
FK: I didn’t have those things! [both laughing]
ELM: Deconstructing the kind of white gaze. G-A-Z-E. [FK laughs] But you know. And that’s fundamentally, and it’s so explicitly about deconstructing the kind of, the, you know, white narratives and white perspectives. That being said, I think that I would say that the way I was coming to it over the first, like, 15 years of being in fandom was definitely being like, “Well, but also, it is for fun!”
ELM: And, you know. That kind of thing. And, “Well, it’s not supposed…” That kinda thing. And so it was very helpful to, you know, to kind of have a lot of these conversations where I think it’s, you know. I think it’s tricky to try to find the right balance between “I wanna talk about this, I wanna talk about it honestly and openly and listen,” mostly listen, but also acknowledge that, like—you can structurally be part of the problem. That doesn’t mean you need to set your individual ship on fire or something. [FK laughs] Like…you can understand that you’re perpetuating broad trends.
ELM: It’s not a personal attack.
ELM: Not necessarily feeling like I was personally attacked or whatever, but like, just trying to, like, continually say, like, “You can talk about the fact that this is happening without being, like, ‘OH! What am I doing!’” Or like “I’m not doing that.” You know?
FK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thinking about the the time that I blew some anti-Reylo person on Twitter’s mind by tweeting about how Reylo exists because of structures of whiteness, and then saying “but by the way, this doesn’t mean that I wanna set it on fire, in fact, I have written many hundreds of thousands of words.” [laughing] They were like “What! What do you mean! How can you hold these two things together?” and I was like “OH HO. I have been taught by much more intelligent people than I.” You know. Yeah.
ELM: Yeah. So, I think it’s—I’m, you know, I’m very, very glad that we’ve had these guests on and I’m hopeful that we can have more. It was good, so, we—you know, we have the, we’ll talk a little bit about at the end, but with the Shipping Survey there has been some discourse, because you put in your article—which I think rightly so, you actually hit it kind of lightly in the beginning and then on edits you were like “Actually I wanna, I wanna go into this a little bit,” and you know. Because people were saying that they cared about their ships going canon when it was a queer ship.
ELM: And rarely mentioned race, or mentioned queer characters of color, you know.
FK: People did do that, but it was, it was not as frequent by far.
ELM: Yeah. And you know, the survey obviously was taken by, you know, majority white people.
ELM: You know, something like 70-something percent.
FK: 75 percent at least.
ELM: Yeah, said they were white in the demographics section. And you know, you got some pushback on it. And I really, I thought that your—you know, your response really reflected the, like, the journey that you probably have gone on. And me too. In terms of, like, just—yeah. This is, just, like, this isn’t a condemnation, it’s just saying this is what we’ve observed, and you know, no. No one was primed to answer questions any way in this survey about any facet of identity, and…
ELM: You know. So. Yeah.
FK: Yeah! OK. So, the other thing that I think that we’ve both really sort of developed on in a variety of ways actually maybe—I mean, I don’t know. I feel like we’re going down this greatest hits list of, like, politically and socially hot topics, but capitalism!
FK: I hate it a lot more than I used to! [laughs]
ELM: Amazing. I feel like I don’t necessarily hate it less, but I have come to accept it more.
FK: [laughing] OK OK, so give me some context on this. Give me some context on this, cause you’re the one who pointed out that we’ve both been on this journey, when we were talking about this episode.
ELM: Yeah, early on we had—we had a running joke that you were our resident capitalist. And your line was always, like, after we made that joke was like, “No, I’m just the one who’s, like, realistic.” [both laugh] And I coming from more of a, purely the fan side of the fan–creator stuff or the fan–industry stuff, that was, you know, me being like, “Oh, I know it exists, I just don’t want it to!” You know? [both laugh] All right!
FK: But it does! I don’t want, like, I don’t know.
FK: I don’t really want starfish to exist! I think that they’re kinda gross and creepy the way they walk.
FK: But they do!
FK: Also, I know, whatever, ecologically they need to exist.
ELM: Fuck off! You don’t like starfish?! They’re so cool!
FK: When they’re dead and pretty!
ELM: Oh my God. You like squids and you don’t like starfish?!
FK: Have you ever seen one move? Yeah. I don’t know why they—starfish, they freak me out more.
ELM: You don’t like Patrick?
FK: I have no feelings on Patrick. Patrick is a cartoon.
ELM: He’s a starfish, right?
FK: I think so. I don’t know, I was never into SpongeBob!
ELM: I saw the musical. It was one of the best things I’ve seen since we started this podcast.
FK: Ah, delight.
ELM: So. Good. Anyway, so, I would say last year was our big year, cause I remember we mentioned this, I mentioned this on the podcast but I had to submit a‚ you know, a list of what I thought were our greatest hits recently, and they all wound up being about capitalism! [laughing] But we started on this journey talking about how transformative fandom actually breaks the cycles of capitalism, or can, if you are just, you know, you kind of setting—you’re having parallel conversations that don’t actually, you know, I can write all the queer characters into Harry Potter I want, but my transformative works are not gonna change…that’s a very bad example because the whole thing is such a nightmare. Oh, man. Why don’t we just devote the rest of the episode to talking about how much J.K. Rowling has let us down since we started this podcast?
FK: Nope, nope, not goin’ there. Not today. Gonna be too depressing.
ELM: Anyway! And so then we talked about, last year also, the, um, “Our Most Passionate Fans,” that was some stuff, and I honestly think some of this is not just us evolving but also, like, what’s going on in the world is evolving.
FK: Oh yeah, for sure.
ELM: So that was the specifically, the episode that was pegged to McDonalds releasing this really weird podcast that was supposed to be, like, a true-crime reporting on the time when they didn’t get enough Rick and Morty sauce and then people, like, threatened the lives of their employees to get some fuckin’ sauce, and they were like “What passion!” [laughs] It was just like, “NO!”
FK: And they were not very concerned, it did not seem—they were a lot more concerned about, like, the guy who invented that kind of sauce than they were about, like, the actual $10-a-hour-or-less employees who were getting trapped in refrigerators to avoid mobs of people who wanted to hurt them for sauce.
ELM: Right. That kind of, that, that side of it is just them being, you know, typical awful corporation. But like, it’s the fan part of it was like, they were like “Well, we love the passion here, because that generated…” You know, no news is bad news, right. No coverage is bad.
FK: The two things together really created this piquant sauce [laughs] you know? Yeah, I don’t know, I mean, over this past year for me, like, I—I still, you know, when we came into the podcast I felt like “I’m a realist, here’s what it is, this just is what it is. Don’t, I don’t love it, but it is what it is.” And I think I’ve, over time I’ve come to feel that a lot of this stuff is more corrosive than I had previously thought. But it’s very complex because you can’t, like—fundamentally, like, we live in a capitalist society and we don’t get Avengers: Endgame without the entertainment industry, which functions within capitalism in a very explicit way, you know what I mean?
ELM: That’s the thing, that’s the thing that you’re grateful for?
FK: Well, no, but I was just trying to use an example of, like, a big and topical thing, right?
ELM: [laughing] You like Game of Thrones. You can use that one.
FK: Sure. But you know, you know what I’m saying. We don’t get the things that fannishness often, like, comes around without this capitalist system. And the capitalist system then fucks with fandom in ways that I can sometimes be complicit in, and sometimes also, like, I’m trying to like mitigate damage or I’m trying to be like—
ELM: OK, wait. Hold on.
FK: —do it better…
ELM: Hang on. Hang on, hang on. I think what you just said is very circular and chicken-and-egg. I think that—
FK: It is chicken-and-egg!
ELM: There’s something fundamental in humans, and we’ve definitely talked about this over the last 100 episodes, but this…some people have a fundamental desire to, they get invested in stuff, they get obsessive about stuff. And I think the way capitalistic structures shape how that works now, like, shapes the way that works now, but I don’t think the fundamental desire to be into stuff and group around stuff is something that is related to capitalism.
FK: No, no, I don’t think so either.
ELM: OK, all right.
FK: Yeah. I wasn’t, I wasn’t trying to say that, like, we only become fans because we love Avengers: Endgame. [laughs] You know.
FK: I was trying to say that people’s innate, like, desire to become fans, for a variety of reasons gets focused on these really big, like, global multi-million-dollar things, because then you have, like, a large number of people who also like it, right?
FK: As opposed to, like, getting really obsessed with something that’s, like, small in your community, where there’s maybe like three other people and if one of them gets sick there’s no one to talk to about what happened that day at the poetry slam, you know? [both laugh]
ELM: Right. Well, it’s interesting too—can I just say as kind of an aside, but a related one, I’ve been very, like, it’s…I don’t know if you’ve been feeling this way, but like, a lot of the commentary right now about the, like, the end of the monoculture and “these are the last gasps of the—” like Game of Thrones and Avengers or whatever, but it’s so weird to me because there was a, a piece that I put in “The Rec Center” that I thought was really interesting about, it was a, it was a video piece from VICE that was profiling a few black Game of Thrones fans, particularly people who were like—one was a podcast host and one was, like, throwing parties. They were doing some kind of action, not just some black fans, like they…
ELM: OK, now we’re getting back into the action of the fans.
ELM: But you know what I mean.
FK: I do know what you mean.
ELM: And, and it opened, I thought, very thoughtfully with saying that, like, they say that, like, Game of Thrones is one of the last, like, things, monoculture things that we’re all fans of, but actually Game of Thrones fandom is like a bunch of different sub-fandoms, right? And it’s like, of course! You know? And like, it’s so weird that there’s so many cultural critics talking about how “Oh, we’re all united by this one big thing, because…” I go on Twitter and I see people engaged in—black fans that I follow on Twitter having different conversations than, like, people in transformative shipping fandom on my Tumblr feed, some of whom, you know, people of all races. I’m not just saying—you know what I mean.
ELM: You see certain hashtags on Twitter, versus people involved in certain kinds of shipping fandoms on Tumblr and stuff.
FK: For real.
ELM: And I think it’s very weird that culture critics are framing this as sort of one big conversation, when it’s just a shared base to start a ton of different conversations. But I also think what you were just saying ties into this, because without that scale, then there aren’t space—you know, then there isn’t space for all these different kinds of conversations, right? Like, there’s not room for, like, 50 different kinds of subcultures within the, like, tiny independent movie that, you know, made $12 million or whatever. You know what I mean? There’s probably only space for a couple conversations.
FK: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
ELM: You know, if you see the world differently.
FK: Right, and so some of those things are structural, you know, they structure fandom and the way that fandom interacts with—the way that people within fandom interact, and so then, then, like, when that then has impact on, like, the way fans are treated, because of the capitalist society in which we live and because of people, like, trying to get money from fandom and so on, basically doing my job, it’s sort of like “Well, chicken-and-egg! Like, here we are, in this circle where, like,” you know.
So I guess I’ve become, I’ve become more down on that. Not to say that I don’t think that it’s good to be involved still—I’m glad that I do the work that I do, because I genuinely think that, like, there’s a way to both make things suck less and also to, like, make money for people. But I do think that there is something kind of corrosive sometimes in this, where it’s like, you’re all part of this system. And it’s—it destroys certain things. Like some of the stuff that I learned from you, some of the things about passion and emotion and so on that’s not tied to a measurable thing.
ELM: [laughs] I taught you about emotions!
FK: You know? No, genuinely! Right? Like, like…
ELM: Right, well…
FK: That isn’t tied to a money bit.
ELM: That brings me to the, the, the other two moments in the past year that I really think speak to what you’re saying right now along this topic, which, one was when we talked about non-monetized fanfic.
ELM: Right? And that actually, that was a turning point for me too, and especially because I had been researching the, you know, I’d been reporting on the AO3 because there was a stupid debacle about it, as there is once every six months. Over the course of this podcast, up until then, I probably would have made a strong argument for monetizing fanfiction if people wanted to.
ELM: And now I’m, now I don’t know what to say about that. I’m not sure that I actually would argue for that, right? And I think that what you’re talking about, that corrosive stuff—
ELM: It’s part of the reason, right? So much of what I like about it comes from the non-monetized space. On the flip side, right around the same time last year we talked to Kenyatta Cheese, and that was I think one of the most valuable conversations that we had ever.
FK: Yeah, and he also really—he put a delightful burn on anyone who is, like, invoking Marxism in this conversation. [ELM laughs] And it was one of the best things anyone’s ever said on this podcast. I was like, “I am running to get some aloe RIGHT NOW.”
ELM: Right! Right. And so that was, that was I think a very helpful conversation in, like, pushing us forward, too, because it’s like…you know, we can grapple with these structures, or we can, like, start to think about what it looks like when we move beyond these structures and we move to the next stage in the conversation. Because sometimes I think we can get so…we can be so busy kind of overlaying these frameworks that we have that we don’t see that actually, things are kind of moving on, and we need to think of a better way to frame it. So.
ELM: Yeah! Valuable.
FK: So you’re talking about the future now.
ELM: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
FK: What do you think the future of this podcast is?
ELM: Jesus Christ. Future of this podcast. Now that I’ve taught, I’ve taught you about emotions…
FK: [laughs] And now that I’ve taught you about capitalism…
ELM: Good! Great. So, in terms of, there are, like, 50 guests I can think of off the top of my head that we wanna talk to.
FK: It’s true.
ELM: So you know, we have lots of room for that in the future.
FK: [laughing] Yeah, spoiler alert: the podcast is going to continue for the foreseeable future!
ELM: Yeah, I didn’t think there was any doubt on that, but in case there was! Also, the Shipping Survey obviously was a great success in terms of how many people took it. I obviously was, had mixed feelings since we put out the results because a lot of the feedback that we got was “Why didn’t you do X?” and it was, like, something that we had done, and so it just makes me kind of despair. And feel like all the labor we did was for naught. So thank you to the majority people who have been very excited about it and [laughs] engaged with it. It’s just, it’s, it’s just the like, you know, the handful of responses that are not good are the ones that, like, you know, stick out in your mind and overtake your thoughts about it. So.
ELM: So, like, I do wanna do more surveys.
FK: Yeah! And I think that one of the things that we’ve—we’ve talked a lot about doing a demographic survey of some sort and I think there’s a lot of questions between now and when we would actually do that, like, a lot of, of questions about, like, the ethics of running surveys that require people to disclose things, or that—even that don’t require but invite people to disclose things, and like, how would we structure, like, a question about people’s races that actually takes into account…like, this time we were basically like “We’re gonna put in U.S. racial categories and just let it go because this is not the point of the survey,” we would have to deal with that. So, like, there’s a lot of research to do before we could do that.
But I do think it’s something that we want to do. We’d like to—you know, the last time someone tried to do any kind of a census of a group of fans that I know of, broader than just like a single fandom, was 2013.
FK: So…someone should do that. Maybe it should be us. We’re gonna see. We’ll find out. We’re gonna try.
ELM: Yeah, and then a couple—we have talked about a couple of other things in terms of surveys recently. One is, we mentioned on the Shipping Survey that it was about fictional characters, and we wanna do one about celebrities, and I still wanna do that. Which would have space for different kinds of celebrity fandom too, not just like RPF shippers, but—or RPF, you know, transformative works fans.
FK: Celebrity fans more broadly.
ELM: Yeah. And then also, one of the things that we regretted was, there was a sort of self-selection in the Shipping Survey which didn’t lead us to get as many non-shippers as we wanted, because you see “shipping” in the title and you’re like “Oh, that’s not for me.” But, if we—we were talking about doing a broader fandom survey that incidentally asked questions about shipping, or contextualized shipping within people’s fannish lives more broadly.
Someone asked a question on Tumblr about if we, if we had asked about where, how important shipping was to someone, you know, within their fannish lives, and it’s like “Well—no, no, because the subject of the survey was shipping, it wasn’t…” You know. And like, there are people who said they were not in fandom.
ELM: Who shipped. Right? Not an insignificant number of people, like, hundreds of people said that.
ELM: So the object of the survey is shipping, not, like, shipping fandom.
ELM: So it would be interesting to be able to ask those questions and to say, like, “Well, is that a big part of your life, or a big part of your fandom life? Is X a big part of your fandom life? Why?” Et cetera. So, yeah. Those surveys are things we wanna do, but possibly not in the next couple of months. There’s a limit to how many surveys we can run.
FK: Yeah. We’ve also still got a lot of qualitative coding of responses, so we are still working on actually, like, processing all of the data from [laughs] from the survey we already ran, with 17,000 people responding. And if anybody wants to help out with that, we mentioned this last episode, but we’re definitely not done and we’re not gonna be done anytime soon. So if you feel like learning some things about qualitative research methods and, uh, helping out fandom broadly, send us an email. It would be wonderful. We have some great volunteers already, but we could always use another hand.
ELM: Yeah! You’re training, some of the people have experience doing this but I think a few people said they wanted to learn, or were going to be doing, you know, were in school, were in college and were gonna be doing this soon, but wanted to get some practice before they did their own research.
FK: Yeah! There were a couple of people who had begun, like, data-gathering, but hadn’t actually done qualitative coding before, and were like “Hey! Let’s learn on this!” And I think that’s great. I really, I really think that’s great. Just, like, practicing making the kinds of decisions you need to, like, make in order to do this, is really good. It’s like working a different muscle in your brain.
ELM: It’s funny too, it makes me think of—when we had Casey Fiesler on talking about how many people who worked on the AO3 learned to code, not just like, burst in there—in my head that was like the Kool-Aid Man. “I wanna code!” [FK laughing] But started as tag wranglers, which is like the, you know, one of the various straightforward, least…it’s not uncomplicated, but you know what I mean.
ELM: And as they saw people coding alongside, said, “Oh, I wanna come up to that.” And that, I feel like, this kind of skill, I think that—not to, not to toot your horn too much. That’s not how it works. But, like, you are—this is your job, like, you are an expert in this. You have, like, you know, significant experience doing this stuff, specifically around fandom, and so I think it’s, I feel, while I feel bad that we’re asking for volunteers I also think it’s like—the kind of skill-sharing within fandom, it just makes me feel like… [FK cheers] feel nice about that, but I don’t wanna toot any horns.
FK: Yeah, well, I feel like my horn has been tooted. [ELM laughs] One thing to note is this kind of coding is a different kind of coding than you do on the AO3, there’s no programming involved.
ELM: Sorry, I used the word “coding” twice, but yeah.
FK: It’s OK, it’s a little confusing. The reason I mention it though is in order to encourage people, which is to say that if you have no experience with this but you are capable of reading something and comprehending it, you can do this job. I believe in you.
ELM: Right. Anyway, I feel like now you asked me about the future and then I just brought us back to the recent past by talking about the survey, but… [laughs] It’s just all-consuming right now, so.
FK: It’s, it’s fine. And I think it’s also worth saying that, you know, at this point having asked people to volunteer and help us out in that way, I think it’s worth noting in a larger format than we sometimes do that the only way we’ve gotten to 100 episodes on this podcast is from the support of our listeners and fandom broadly.
ELM: Do you mean monetary support, or do you mean, like, spiritual support?
FK: Both! [ELM laughs] Both of these things are true!
FK: 100 episodes in, we are not breaking even on this podcast, don’t you worry, but we are…
ELM: I thought—I thought you were using, I couldn’t tell. I was like, the most cynical interpretation of that is you’re asking for more money. The most…
FK: Well, I am.
ELM: The least cynical interpretation is that we couldn’t make this podcast if we didn’t have such an engaged listenership who wrote their, their incredibly thoughtful thoughts to us and left us voicemails and participated and—
FK: PORQUE NO LOS DOS?! Porque no los dos.
ELM: Which means, to the non-Spanish speakers…
FK: Why not both?!
ELM: Dot gif.
FK: Dot gif.
ELM: Yeah! No, absolutely. On both sides of the coin. Yeah, I mean, not, not to—not to make it all about Patreon, but I think it is 100 episodes, it’s OK to talk about it a little bit more. We really, really do appreciate everyone who’s ever donated, even if you have donated in the past and then had your financial circumstances change, like, we totally understand and anything that anyone is able to pledge is very, very helpful to us. Yeah.
I think, it is also worth stressing that we do not break even, people can look at how much we make on Patreon and divide it in two. And then, and then you understand. But that being said, like, especially for someone like me who over the last—you know, the course of this podcast has not had just one job, like Flourish, not to throw you under the bus here, but…
FK: [laughs] It’s OK, I can go under the bus. I have a, I have a job that has been stable and…
ELM: It’s very steady.
FK: Makes money, and, you know, all that. It’s good.
ELM: Yeah. But, you know, I have gone through like, over the last two years I have had the same job, but prior to that I was freelancing and as you know if you’re a freelancer, it can be hard when you have to calculate your life in terms of how much an hour of your time is worth. You know? It’s the thing of, like, and then you think every hour you’re not working is money you’re losing [laughs] whereas, like, you’re…
FK: And you, and you work many hours on this in specific, doing the audio editing. Which is something that in most podcasts, like, we wouldn’t be able to do this without spending enormous amounts of money on an audio editor and you do all that work to a very high quality, and I really really really want to…
ELM: Well, thank you Flourish. Thank you.
FK: …to emphasize that, cause this would, this would… [laughs] All the other stuff is fine, but like, this would suck without that. That’s like the core of this.
ELM: You saying you wanna, you wanna shout out to my internship at WFCR, while I was at Amherst College?
FK: I do.
ELM: In 2007? Actually, I cut very little tape at that internship, so I really shouldn’t credit it for that. [laughing]
FK: OK, no shout-out. Shout-out rescinded.
ELM: But I did, I did briefly have the opportunity to do an internship at a real live NPR station while I was in college.
ELM: Yeah. Cool times! I love the radio, in case anyone wants to know.
FK: [laughing] I think that if people have been listening to this podcast, they know that by now.
ELM: They know. They know my deep love of audio. But, maybe you’re not listening, maybe you are reading, and so you could thank Flourish and Flourish’s recent discovery of commas… [FK laughs] I know, I know, I have friends who are regular readers of the podcast! And that’s another thing that I really appreciate that you do, because if you didn’t do it, I would also do that, because I think that you should not put out a podcast if you don’t have a transcript.
FK: I agree, I agree. And for anybody who’s been watching, like, I’m actually going back and fixing commas in earlier ones [laughing] to the best of my ability, very slowly, over a long period of time!
ELM: You know, everyone is using, they are comparing. Everyone every day opens up their favorite transcript and refreshes it, hopes…
FK: And wonders.
ELM: Hopes there’ll be more commas…
FK: Hopes that, hopes that, like, the weird, like, we didn’t figure out what our house style was…it’s just gonna get solved!
ELM: No, here’s what happened: I assumed that you had some sort of consistent style.
FK: I don’t know why you assumed that!
ELM: Because I worked at the New Yorker for a long time and everyone I’ve ever worked with believes in RULES!
FK: Whereas I have worked in Hollywood for a long time, where everyone I’ve ever worked with believes in not using punctuation unless you have to. [laughing] And using a spellchecker or sometimes not. Ohh. We come from very different worlds. We’re working on it.
ELM: This is grim! So…
FK: It’s fine!
ELM: Yes. Coming to embrace commas, coming to embrace consistency, I’m very excited that you are coming to me. I’m not changing my behavior! It’s good.
FK: That’s OK! That’s fine. Sometimes it can be that way.
FK: I taught you, I, I taught you about how TV shows are made, so that’s fine.
ELM: Yep! And I taught you to have editorial standards. [both laugh]
FK: All right! On that note!
ELM: Well, I…I feel like because of some of the formats of our, so our anniversary episode we asked the last year’s guest to reflect on the last year, and our year in fandom, like, our New Year’s episode every year is a reflection on the last year? I feel like we do a lot of reflecting, so this one is kind of funny, kind of a funny one, because it’s half that but half about personal growth, which I feel like, it’s nice to talk about this without it, like, turning into some kind of conversation with, like, tears and like, threats to cancel podcasts, and…
FK: I was actually just gonna say, I think the biggest sign of our personal growth is that we got through this episode without a single fight.
ELM: That’s not true, Flourish! I’m gonna fight you on that statement!
ELM: Yeah, you know my heart’s not in it. [FK laughs] It’s fine. I really value our partnership. I hope that everyone gets that sense, even if it seems like we fight a lot.
FK: I do too.
ELM: We fight, we fight but we agree.
FK: Yeah, sometimes we fight about things that we actually agree about it. It’s great.
ELM: Yeah. Yeah.
FK: We agree really loudly. At each other. [laughs] Sometimes angrily. All right.
ELM: OK. So should we do some wrapping-up business for Episode 100?
FK: Sure. What, what, what further wrapping-up business do we have to do?
ELM: Well, in case people don’t know, if they wanna get in touch they can contact us at fansplaining at gmail dot com, or 1-401-526-FANS. Did I get it right?
FK: Yeah! You did, you got it right! That’s a, that leads you to a voicemail box and you can leave a voicemail.
FK: And it can be anonymous, like, just don’t say your name and we’ll never know, right?
ELM: Absolutely, and if you send us an email we’ll also keep it anonymous. We’ve had a few people use the submission form on our website. If you were asking us a question that requires an answer, and it’s not just like a statement that you want us to consider on the podcast…
FK: Leave an email.
ELM: Yeah, that may not be the best solution because we don’t have any way to contact you then.
FK: Yeah. If you wanna send us an anonymous thing and you want us to read this on the podcast, and like, talk to you that way, we might do that. But we also might not.
ELM: Yeah, but yeah, and if it’s‚ if it’s a question like “Where can I do this?” Like, you should give us some way to let you know! This has been a bit of an issue recently, so you know, I really appreciate—it’s important to both of us to have places for anonymous feedback and anonymous commentary and question-leaving, but…
FK: Yeah, it’s just like, think about the way that’s gonna get responded to, because like, it might not. If it comes in that way.
FK: Unless it’s like, we choose to publicly read it on the podcast.
ELM: Right. So, and you know, the other places to get in touch, fansplaining.tumblr.com, our Tumblr has been seeing a lot of action recently! If you have a relatively short question, that’s a perfectly fine place to leave us an ask with your username or turn on anon. You can also tell us, you can sign it and say “Don’t read this out loud,” or “don’t respond to this publicly,” and we can respond privately if you do it with your username.
ELM: And Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, we are Fansplaining on all of those places and we’ll be continuing to share observations, results from the shipping survey, and all of our coverage over the next few weeks!
FK: All right!
ELM: I think that’s it.
FK: This has been a good 100th episode, and I look forward to Episode 101.
ELM: I thought you were gonna say “100 more!” And I was like “That is quite a distance in the future!”
FK: I look forward to 100 more! But whether or not we, we get there, it is a really long way in the future, I definitely at least look forward to the next, you know, 10, 20, 50.
ELM: I don’t, I don’t have any plans to stop. So why not? Let’s look forward to the next 100 episodes.
FK: We just, yeah. We can look forward to it, right.
ELM: It’s gonna go by like that. [snaps]
FK: Thanks, Thanos. [ELM laughs] Talk to you later!
ELM: OK, well, thank you for 100 episodes Flourish!
FK: Thank you too. Bye!
FK & ELM: Fansplaining is brought to you by all of our patrons, especially Kathleen Parham, Bryan Shields, Boxish, Grace Mitchell, Christine Hoxmeier, Desiree Longoria, Jennifer Brady, Bluella, Georgie Carroll, Goodwin, Earlgreytea68, Menlo Steve, Katherine Lynn, Clare Mulligan, Heidi Tandy, Megan C., Sara, Josh Stenger, Tablesaw Tablesawsen, Jennifer Doherty, froggy, Meghan McCusker, Michael Andersen, Helena Romelsjö, Willa, Cynsa Bonorris, veritasera, Clare Muston, sekrit, Maria Temming, Anne Jamison, Jay Bushman, Lucas Medeiros, Jules Chatelain, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Stephanie Burt, Jennifer Lackey, Tara Stewart, Dr. Mary Crowell, Secret Fandom Stories, Felar, Bradlea Raga-Barone, Jennifer McKernan, JungleJelly, Molly Kernan, and in honor of One Direction and Captain James McGraw Flint.
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