Episode 103: Slash: The Play
In Episode 103, Flourish and Elizabeth interview Leah Hennessey and Emily Allan, creators of “Slash: The Play,” which they recently performed at Joe’s Pub in New York City. Topics discussed include lurking, the appeal of “bad” writing, presenting ideas about fanfiction to people outside fandom, and the complicated interplay of irony and sincerity in fandom and in art. They also tackle the vitally important question, at length: What houses would the characters of BBC Sherlock be sorted into at Hogwarts?
[00:04:12] Sadly, the only photo we can find is from the wrong direction. And shamefully, despite staring at them for an hour along with the rest of the audience, Elizabeth realizes these are BLACK briefs, not white.
[00:35:56] The performance in the Lorimer subway station:
[00:46:26] If you aren’t familiar with Tom of Finland’s work, here’s a couple examples:
[01:06:25] Jia Tolentino’s piece in the New Yorker about the “run me over” phenomenon is “Love, Death and Begging for Celebrities to Kill You.” Radiolab’s segment is “So Cute You Can’t Even! - The Science of Cute Aggression.”
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is Episode 103, “Slash: The Play.”
FK: [laughs] Why did you read that colon out loud instead of just letting it be implied?
ELM: Because you might think “Slash (The Play)”?
FK: Or you might think “Slash, Anatomical Colon, The Play.”
ELM: No one thinks that. They’ll have context. Come on, come on.
FK: [laughs] All right. So this is the episode in which we’re talking about “Slash,” the play by Leah Hennessey and Emily Allen, which…we should talk a little bit about the history of what this thing is. Cause it’s not something that is, like, in some form of wide release or touring or whatever. So. It’s our job to bring it to you.
ELM: Literally the opposite of that, and you know, I have a little bit of hesitation about devoting an entire episode to a play that people can’t go out and see, even if they do live in the New York area, just because you know—it’s hard to talk about something that’s ephemeral, as it were. Right?
FK: Right. So the reason people can’t go out and see it is because there’s not, like, a current run of it. There was a run at a gallery, and then there’s been some individual shows, but it’s not actually currently playing on a regular basis anywhere.
ELM: And I believe the iteration we saw was literally a one-time thing. And it sounds like what we saw was the most fully formed version, so, you know, it’s just—you’re gonna have to take our word for it, I guess [laughs] about what we saw! No, but I mean, us describing the thing that we saw, because even if you did happen to see it at the gallery run—which lasted for several months—like, you wouldn’t be seeing the same thing. It sounds like it’s been evolving. So…
FK: Right, and it seems like also if it goes on a longer run it’ll probably be different again, yeah.
ELM: Yeah, so, I guess it is what it is. Talk about it. You are the one that told me about it, you found out about it how?
FK: OK, so I found out about it from a friend who is, like, friends with the…uncle?...of one of the two people putting it on? Like totally, totally—he was just like “here, look at this thing!” And I was like “OK! Look at the thing.” I was like “All right, here’s an Instagram of people doing a play at, like, a gallery in lower Manhattan, and OK, and it’s about slash, and I don’t know how I feel about this,” and we sort of DMed on Instagram a little bit and they were like “come, come, come!” And I was like “OK? I guess?” But I didn’t feel super motivated to do it at the time, because I guess I was just sort of like doubtful about the whole proposition?
ELM: And then you didn’t come.
FK: Yeah, and then some time passed, and then… [ELM laughs] We missed it…and then…
ELM: That was a very passive way of just saying you didn’t go! And don’t bring me into this! Like, it wasn’t my uncle!
FK: You were also invited, neither of us were extremely assiduous! But…
ELM: Just imagine all of this, I’m getting this very—not even secondhand. But yes. I just wanna remove my agency.
FK: [laughing] Neither of us were extremely assiduous. But then we heard about this, you know, that it was going to have this engagement at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. Like, a one-night-only thing. And Joe’s Pub is like a bar with a cabaret stage.
ELM: Right, and the Public Theater, for people who aren’t involved in theater or are not based in the New York area, is like…I think it’s definitely one of the hubs of New York theater. It’s, that’s the company that puts on Shakespeare in the Park.
FK: Yeah. “Hamilton” was there before “Hamilton” was “Hamilton.”
ELM: Yeah. So it’s that kind of thing. Or it’s where I got to see Oscar Isaac play Hamlet and take off his pants and just wear a chunky old-man cardigan and white briefs.
ELM: For like an hour. And it was really a sight to behold.
FK: Right. And it was where I saw the David Byrne Joan of Arc musical.
ELM: Whatever you just said, that was not even remotely on par with what I just said.
FK: [laughs] I don’t know, it was pretty great! Anyway, the point is though, I think that you get the picture.
ELM: Oh, whoa whoa whoa. All right. Sure. All right! You’re just saying that because you didn’t see…I don’t think any human…
FK: It’s true, I can’t conceive of it, not having seen. [laughs]
ELM: Not only that, can I just say, I’m sure people have seen this described on social media because it was like, it made a lot of—made some waves. But that theater is, like, quite small, it’s like, three-sided and maybe six rows max? So he’s got just his white briefs on, and his really—he’s, he’s like an ass…that’s his main asset, right? Like, his most important feature…
FK: His main…ass-et?
ELM: Ha, ha. And, and, he kept, like, bouncing around, cause he’s supposed to be—like pretending to be mad, or truly mad, or whatever, it’s Hamlet, we all read it, right? And so the, watching people’s reactions in the front row, people of all ages, all genders, all backgrounds, when he like, backed up against them… [FK laughing] It was exquisite. It was just like, the utter shock, and just the “I don’t know what to do right now! This is too much for me!” That was theater in and of itself, I could have just watched their faces for three hours.
FK: OK. So it is, it is this location—I mean not exactly, not the same stage, but it’s the same building [ELM laughing] that we were gonna go see…
ELM: This is an important aside!
FK: We were gonna see this play. And you know, you come in, little tables, sit at ’em, we sat right up front at a table, and then they came out and did the play.
ELM: [laughing] This is a cool story bro!
FK: I’m trying to, I don’t know, I’m trying to sort of set the scene in case someone hasn’t been to a—
ELM: I don’t think it sets the scene at all!
FK: —to a theater with little tables and a cabaret stage? I don’t know! [laughing] I actually wouldn’t be surprised if some people have not been to such theater if they don’t live in New York City.
ELM: Oh my God!
FK: I don’t know why this is really important.
ELM: [still through laughter] You’re makin’ this so weird! Basically—here’s what I’m gonna say in advance. It’s a play called “Slash” and we, um, you know, we weren’t familiar with the playwrights/performers, and I think we were both pretty wary that this was going to be, you know…and the context of it being like this very, this kind of high-art sort of space, we were very… Understandably, based on past experience, that makes me a bit nervous about not only what is going to be on-stage but how it’s going to be received by the audience, which I feel comfortable saying was the kind of audience you would expect at that space and not around this topic.
ELM: It skewed male. It skewed middle aged and up. And…
FK: It skewed fashiony, I would say…
FK: Some of them, I would say. Not all of them.
ELM: So I was very, I was much more doubtful than Flourish was and it was, it was like, shocking, what we actually saw.
FK: Because of how great it was.
ELM: It was so good.
FK: So, just to give people a little context since it’s unlikely that people will be able to see the play at all at this point or anyway, um, this version, so it sort of opens and there’s two actors—the two people we will be interviewing in this podcast!—and one of them is the Light-Haired One and one of them is the Dark-Haired One.
ELM: Literally and figuratively.
FK: That’s the names they’re listed as.
ELM: Those are their character names. In the first segment, one is Betty and one is Veronica.
FK: And it’s like this kind of girlish, flirty interaction in which it’s like…I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like…
ELM: I would describe it as, it’s sort of…it feels very, like, traditional slashy in the like, one person has an idea and the other one’s like “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” you know? That kinda vibe? I think that happens a lot in, you know, like… “Have you ever considered?” And the other one is like, “What?”
FK: But in this case the “Have you ever considered…” is like, “…making up fanfictional stories?” [laughs]
ELM: But like roleplaying, right?
FK: Kind of, yeah.
ELM: And it immediately kind of establishes the sort of interplay that they, they’re looking at the entire time—which made me really think about, I don’t wanna say “classic,” but old-school framings of slash and old-school conversations of slash as something specifically about male/male interactions written by women. And I don’t wanna use aggressively binary language here, which I clearly just did, but like…
FK: No that is an old—that is a framing that people have often used. And I think the thing that’s interesting is that that, like, opening thing, it sets it up immediately that this is—on the one hand this is about, sort of, like, Betty and Veronica in this, like, slashy situation; it’s also about, like, a collaboration that is maybe sexually tinged, that’s maybe about roleplay or maybe it’s about fanfiction writing, it’s hard to say…
ELM: But like Betty and Veronica are the women and they are the slashers, even if there is something…
FK: Sexual about…
ELM: …sexy in their dynamic…
FK: …them being slashers, right.
ELM: …that’s part of it, right? And like also, that’s something that I think, you know, this whole play was really tapping into sort of the conversations that I think I see less and less of. Which is weird to me, because I feel like it still totally happens. I definitely think there are a lot of women who use slash with each other this way, like, use male/male slash with each other this way. But I feel like—anyway I don’t wanna get too much into the discourse immediately, right. So basically that, that sets it up, and then they kind of—the scene, like, snaps and then they become the various couples…not necessarily like it’s all in those two people’s heads, but we shift into different couples in a way that kind of really really works, cause all of a sudden you’re like. “Snap! Oh, who are we now?”
FK: Right. It’s almost like a dreamlike kind of a switch, where it’s like these two characters that you see—or, like, a…it sort of felt to me like it was also playing, I mean, obviously with them being called the Dark-Haired One and the Light-Haired One, right, it’s also about…
FK: But, and they’re not all…like, some of them are classically slashy things.
ELM: Like Kirk/Spock.
FK: Yeah, Kirk/Spock or, or Sherlock and John. But there’s also ones that are not classically slashy, like there’s a bit where Joanna Russ fights with…
ELM: But I think that’s, this is pulling back on the gender thing again. Because there are, there’s certain, there’s several scenes with, like, famous second-wave feminists arguing with each other, right? And that’s, that gets into the more meta realm, right? They’re talking about the acts and practices and dynamics, right. And like…
FK: But they’re also framed in, like, ways that connect them up, so like—sometimes they’ll be like, oh, here is Catwoman and—who is it? It’s Catwoman and Wonder Woman?
ELM: Yeah. Selina and Diana.
FK: Selina and Diana.
FK: Right? And there’s this scene with them being kind of sexual at each other—more than kind of sexual at each other—and then it switches into second-wave feminists arguing.
ELM: Right, right. So it’s like really interesting things going on with gender, and…again, I’m not saying that these are conversations that are not happening, but I feel like, it just…it just brought me back to, like, an earlier time, and something that I found—I find is sometimes really missing, especially when we… I don’t know. I think there’s tons of people in fandom, especially now, who like, read whatever pairing appeals to them and are really interested in all sorts of queer pairings, et cetera et cetera, you know? And I say that in this very, like, cheerful sing-songy way. And not just queer pairings! They also like het pairings! Or, like, male/female people who are queer or whatever, et cetera. You know what I mean. Right?
ELM: And this kind of framing was very much—it was so much about gender in this very very twisty way.
ELM: It was one of the things I appreciated most about it, you know? It was I think a very complex conversation that they were engaging in, and—you know what I mean?
FK: Right. Absolutely, but it also never once to me felt like it was a conversation that was just using this as, like, a placeholder for something. You know what I mean? Sometimes you see something and you’re like “Yeah, that’s an interesting conversation, but it’s not really about fanfic.” But this is definitely about…
ELM: This is literally about it. And this is about, like, this historical practice of like, mostly women writing slash, you know?
FK: And right now to the sentence structures, and like, you really… [ELM laughs] You can’t. I know I keep, I keep thinking about this but it’s true, there’s just this sort of authenticity to what’s being shown that gives it the license, when it goes into something that’s like not really like fanfic, you’re like “But OK, but we know that it’s coming back to this thing,” which is, “this is not like fanfic but it’s about fanfic,” right? And it’s playing with this, right. It’s not like you’re gonna have second-wave feminists arguing with each other…
ELM: You might.
FK: Well, you might. Occasionally. But that’s not a main part of fanfic, but we can go over there and then, like, come back and see how it all folds in.
ELM: Sure. Sure. Yeah. So, it—it all—
FK: And there’s songs.
ELM: There are songs. And it all tied together in the end. And part of the reason I say it’s hard to talk about this, like, one-time thing, is I know that in other performances they’ve done bits and pieces. And I think one of the things I found so powerful about it was how it all connected together.
FK: Mm-hmm. Because it comes back.
ELM: And it all feels, like…I don’t know. It was very, it’s so hard to describe after the fact!
FK: [laughs] Well I think that we can probably just say that it was great, and that as video and audio recordings and so on become available—and what there is of such things, there’s a little bit of it, like, there’s bits of it that have been recorded…of other performances, not this one. But we’ll share those and put it in the show notes so you can at least get a flavor.
ELM: Absolutely. All right. I think that that’s enough set-up for now.
FK: Great! Let’s call ’em!
ELM: All right!
FK: All right! Now it is time to welcome Leah and Emily to the podcast! Welcome, we’re so excited to have you!
Leah Hennessey: Thank you so much. Welcome to my house.
Emily Allan: We’re so excited. [all laughing]
FK: I love that I’m coming at you with the most enthusiasm and you two are like, “we are extremely bored, fashionable persons.”
ELM: That was like, it was like dog energy meeting cat energy. You were like “Hey! Hi!” and you guys were like “Yeah all right hey.”
EA: Well, we’ve already established that Flourish is coming to us from 2020 and the rest of us are in 2006, so.
ELM: The chill past, and Flourish is in the unchill future. Yes.
ELM: OK, all right. Let’s, let’s start with background information. Who wants to go first? Talk about yourselves, talk about your lives, your careers, how that intersects with your fannish pasts—if it does at all or if that’s totally separate. All right, Leah, you have to go first.
LH: OK. So, I suppose I would say I identify primarily as a writer, but I’m a writer/performer, and most recently I’ve been performing “Slash” with Emily, and Emily and I notoriously have very difficult-to-separate and difficult-to-individuate lives and career paths, and we’re very [laughs] co-dependent, intertwined, and we one time submitted a shared CV for a grant proposal.
FK: What. That’s next level.
LH: “Leah Hennessey and Emily Allan” as one joint person. But I individually—
EA: It was a very impressive résumé.
LH: Yes. So I’m a performer, writer, for many years I’ve been working with Emily on the web series Zhe Zhe, which we called a cult phenomenon long before it was a cult phenomenon [all laugh] but now I would say is formally a cult phenomenon. And I’m also a singer-songwriter-performer and perform in my art-rock band called Hennessey, which is my last name.
FK: And what’s your fandom, what’s your fan universe?
LH: I would say that my fannish fandoms are, “Slash” really sprang from an obsession with the world of Johnlock. Emily and I were both Johnlock shipper fanatics who kind of stumbled on the world of Instagram fandom through Johnlock necessity and research. But I have, like, in my past, I was obsessed with Star Trek as a kid and that was really important to me, but also I would say that the fandom that has defined the biggest portion of my life is my pathological and terrifying obsession with David Bowie, which has dominated many life decisions, and is the one that has caused me the most joy and pain. [laughter] Dictated, like, the biggest chunks of my life. And I’d say a lot of the other fandoms are lower stakes, are pleasurable and not problematic for my life. But the Bowie thing has been a problem.
FK: [laughing] I like the categorization of, like, “well, I’m sort of a fan of this, but this is like—an issue for me as a human.”
LH: Yeah! And I think when we were talking, when I was talking to you both off the record, we were talking about the feelings that can be really obsessive and monomaniacal and, like, heavy and burdensome. Like, the feelings of fandom and obsession. And we were comparing it to falling in love or being in love or maintaining love. And I think that, yeah, for something like Johnlock it was tragic and heartbreaking, but it was never something that dominated 90% of my day. Which I know it can be for people. And like, the Bowie thing has. [FK laughs] So that’s what I’m saying, like, that’s the thing that I understand that level of obsession, because of the Bowie thing.
ELM: Sure, sure.
LH: Whereas other things, yeah, it’s given me a lot of pleasure and I love them. And they’re good, and they’re good for me. And some things are not.
FK: [laughing] OK, Emily, what about you?
EA: So, I suppose I’m also a writer and performer. At least I’m, like, one half of a writer and performer [all laugh] that’s made up of the two of us as one person. I’ve also worked as a freelance grant writer. Which didn’t help us get the grant we were talking about where we wrote one CV. [ELM laughing] Of a very, like, impressive person who owned a Time Turner so was able to, like, go to two separate high school, colleges, and over like—overlapping time periods.
My past as a fan, I’d say, I’ve definitely felt like…when we got totally obsessed with Sherlock BBC and, like, the Johnlock world, and sort of like, I became also obsessed with the worlds and relationships of Johnlock shippers. I started following—we started following together online. And there was definitely a part of me that felt this, like, insider-outsider, sort of tortured, I felt like “This is me. I’m you. I have this. I’m that.” When I was, like, reading—when I was like getting into the Johnlock slash and The Johnlock Conspiracy. But there was also a part of me that felt, like, an outsider in a way. And, like, they’re—and I felt, the part of me that’s still a child inside was begging, calling out, “Please accept me, please understand I’m one of you.”
But I also sort of feel like, we were talking today how I feel like I came of age between times where, like, places where fans would congregate in New York City where we both grew up—Kim’s Video, like, I talk a lot about how I had these two friends, older friends, who started the Magic: The Gathering tournaments on the second floor of Forbidden Planet and I would go with them and just sit there while they played, cause I felt like I couldn’t ever learn. And then I would rent videos from Kim’s Video and felt like I would end up working there one day, and then, like, when I got to the age where it would be appropriate for me to start working it closed. And like, then wasn’t really good at using the internet and didn’t find those early communities. So there’s like a part of me that I do feel like I’m coming into—like, I’ve had obsessions and I’ve, like, looking back I can trace writing I did when I was a kid and say “Oh, that’s kind of like slash,” or “that’s sort of a fanfic,” but I do feel like I’m kind of, like, coming in—discovering this internet world late in life.
FK: That’s cool! That’s cool to hear though because I feel like a lot of people feel that way, but it’s not like—that’s not, like, the privileged narrative of being a fan right? A lot of people—people really wanna be like “Oh yeah, I’ve always been like this!” But for a lot of people, like, maybe you’ve felt things, but you don’t necessarily get into it till later.
LH: And I think that something Emily and I have talked a lot about over the course of writing and performing our play is that when we started writing it and compiling it, especially in the first iteration, we talked a lot about being fans of a particular kind of fandom, being meta-fans and being, like, slashfic voyeurs and being fanfiction voyeurs, and really kind of identifying as outsiders, in a way. And as feeling like we missed the boat on something, or like, we were too old to participate in a certain way of communicating that fans have online. Especially with something like, with Sherlock.
It’s weird because as we’ve talked about it so much, and as we’ve gotten to know each other more, and as we talk obsessively about our childhood and our adolescence and these childhood and coming-of-age stories that we’re always unearthing and telling each other, it’s fannish obsession with texts, with TV shows, with books and music and everything has really dominated my life more than anything else, and I think it’s the same for Emily, but I think we both felt isolated in those obsessions and maybe had one friend that we did stuff with or that we watched stuff, that we wrote stuff with. And as, both as people who grew up without television, who came to the internet later in life, and yeah, as Emily’s talking about these places, coming of age in a New York that was changing very quickly, it felt like we didn’t have access to the spaces—the real-life spaces—where people would go to talk or care about this stuff. So it was like we had all these private obsessions and values and interests, and it took us a long time to realize that there were people out there who thought that way about the stuff we thought about, or cared about the stuff we cared about, and a lot of that has come to light through doing the play and seeing its effect on people, I think. And doing interviews about it!
ELM: [laughs] And having to think about it! Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I think that one thing that we talk a lot about, because I was a lurker for a really long time, you know, I didn’t participate in fandom for the first 15 years that I was ostensibly quote-unquote “in it,” you know, I would follow people and I would definitely understand that inside-outside duality. I think it can often feel like…people talk about a privileged narrative, is often like, I mean, this is a very wanky way to frame it, but it’s often framed as a coming-out kind of thing. Not even a coming out, but “Oh, I finally found my people, and here I am!” You know, kind of thing. And it—just in the same analogous way, that doesn’t work like that for all people. And it’s not like you’re like, suddenly, “Oh, I found my group and I’m gonna be loud about it.” And it sounds like you guys are kind of in that similar place.
LH: Oh, I was just telling that story to Emily today! I was just talking about how, when I was like 11 and I went to Forbidden Planet for the first time with my mom and I was like “oh I finally found my people!” and I said that, and it was like, but what does that mean? Because there’s the three clerks who work here [ELM laughs], none of them wanna talk to me, and then there’s some, like, older people milling around, and then it’s like “OK, you can buy one Star Trek figure,” you know, and I bought a figurine of Captain Picard, which nobody wants. What can you do with a figurine of just Captain Picard by himself?
ELM: He can go on solo adventures like he will on his upcoming show!
LH: Is that happening?
FK: Yeah, yeah yeah! And he’s, like, on a vineyard, and there’s a lot of very—it’s sort of like that—
ELM: I just think he’s gonna do things by himself. It seems like it’s gonna be—
LH: I don’t like that!
FK: —you know, like a cheesy middlebrow French—movie about France? That’s what it looks like.
EA: What about the crew?
LH: I would like a Q figurine by himself. That, that I’d be happy with. I would feel totally fulfilled. Picard by himself, I can tell you from experience, there’s not much you can do with one Picard by himself. [All laugh] But I was saying and then, you know, having this experience later, coming back to Forbidden Planet when I was 16, only caring about Vertigo Comics, only caring about Sandman and Grant Morrison Invisibles and then—and coming in there and it’s like, “That ship has sailed, honey.” Like, “we don’t care about that, maybe Grant Morrison will be in the store in two months, but there’s no culture, that’s like a dead culture, and you’re not keeping up with the latest comics,” or you’re not, like, a comic book person. So I feel like that was kind of my experience for a long time, was feeling like I had just missed these communities or cultural moments, feeling late to the party over and over again.
ELM: Hm. Even when you were, like, right at the height of—you were both right at the height of it with Johnlock.
LH: That was exciting! That was one of the rare moments.
EA: Yeah, living through it.
LH: Where it was like, really we were there from Day 1 and watching it unfold. But still feeling like grown-ups, kind of, looking at it.
ELM: Well, it’s ironic, because some of the leaders of some of the discourse movements as well as most of the biggest fic writers that I know of are all significantly older than everyone here. But definitely older than you guys. You know? So it’s very funny for me to think about. They’re in their 40s! You know?
LH: Right! I think that—we could tell that, but I think for us especially at that moment, which was like, a very inspiring thing we were observing, there was so much hysteria in the youngest tier of the Johnlock fandom—
LH: You know, like, the 12-to-16-year-olds, and they were definitely not the voices with the most power or the most input but they were so loud.
ELM: Yeah, sure.
LH: Those voices were so loud and it was like a Beatles, like, Beatlemania-level shrieking hysteria from the internet. And their, like, exuberant, unabashed, uninhibited sexuality and obsession was so inspiring and shocking to us, I think. So that was kind of, that was what we were really focusing on.
FK: It is interesting to hear you guys talking about how you felt like outsiders or you weren’t—because the point in the play, so we won’t, I don’t think we need to go through the play blow-by-blow, but the point in the play where Elizabeth and I clutched each other and were like “They have read—”
ELM: There were many points.
FK: Well, one of the big ones. We were like “they have read all the fanfic!” was, there’s this point where there’s a Hogwarts AU of Johnlock and there’s a few sentences in there where I was just like, “Oh my God, that sentence. It’s a—” you know. “That’s it! They may feel like outsiders, but that sentence tells me that you’re not outsiders!” [ELM laughs] You’re in this with us! You know? Not even being a Johnlock person myself, just having, like, read some fic and read a lot of Harry Potter stuff.
LH: I think the sentence in that one that stands out the most to me is your line, Emily, “He didn’t know what to say, but in a flash he knew what he wanted to say.” Is that what it is?
EA: Yeah. “John didn’t know what to say, but in a flash he knew what he wanted to say.” I mean, for me, the line of that—that gives me chills on stage, is, um, the line you say, “The tall, skinny boy lay in a heap of—”
LH: The line is, “In a small empty room, a tall skinny boy with a mess of wild black hair lay crumpled in a heap of black robes—” [speaking together with EA] “—and twisted limbs.” That gets me too.
FK: [laughing] It’s so extremely it!
ELM: Yeah, it’s correct!
FK: It’s just so correct!
LH: We definitely have read—I am really drawn to, I love Hogwarts AUs for anything. I love—when we found out about Potterlock it was like, I’m just looking at your face, Emily. I mean it’s indescribable. [all laugh] It was one of the more exciting things I’ve ever found on the internet.
ELM: Hang on hang on, query for you both: do you find it off-putting when, it depends, it doesn’t matter the fandom, but if the author sorts the characters into places you don’t think that they belong? Because I have a hard time with this, personally.
EA: BBC Sherlock as a Ravenclaw or a—
ELM: Oh, I haven’t actually thought about how I would sort Sherlock, Hogwarts AU. Hmm. No, I’m just thinking about right now, cause I’m in the X-Men fandom, and some people I think have very dumb ideas. Strong feelings.
LH: I have generally a hard time with the Sorting Hat.
ELM: Yeah, sure.
LH: I think as a self-identified Slytherin, I think I—
LH: I think I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation. [all laugh] I think there’s a lot of prejudice.
FK: Preach! Preach!
LH: I think that, um, obviously we’re seeing Harry Potter generally, canon Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, it’s a very Gryffindor-biased story. [FK laughs]
LH: And I think that the only reasonable houses for, like, a person who has any self-esteem to sort themselves into are Gryffindor and maybe if you think you’re really smart and you’re not so brave, maybe you’re a Ravenclaw. But as someone who feels like a Slytherin…really, in my heart of hearts…I have trouble with the way people are sorted, and when Sherlock is sorted as a Ravenclaw and not a Slytherin I find it very problematic.
ELM: Yeah. Yeah!
FK: I can buy him either as Ravenclaw or as Slytherin. Just sayin’.
ELM: This is the problem—
FK: But I’m not in the fandom, so it’s, maybe I don’t have the same insight.
ELM: My problem is people not sorting people into Slytherin when I think it’s clear that canonical texts make it clear that they are Slytherins. Yes!
EA: Leah and I…we both just pointed at you.
ELM: Yeah! Pointed at me, for the correct statement.
EA: That opinion, yes.
LH: That idea yes.
EA: Yes. Once someone tried to—I was complaining about this. I was complaining about Sherlock being sorted into Ravenclaw to someone who has never even watched Sherlock BBC [all laugh] at length and they were saying “Well, maybe the Sorting Hat could be more like, you know, astrology signs. Like, your sun is in Slytherin but you’re a Ravenclaw rising with a Hufflepuff moon.” And I found that sort of…
LH: I think it negates the idea of the Sorting Hat.
FK: You know, this is a huge aside.
ELM: No, but it’s an important one!
FK: I mean, obviously people request to be in the house they want to be in, in the Sorting Hat, so to me the real question is would Sherlock ask to be in Slytherin, and I’m not sure he would. I think he is—
LH: It would depend on where John was.
ELM: Well, but he doesn’t know John yet presumably.
FK: He doesn’t know John yet!
ELM: But, Mycroft, presumably, at this point, would be like a Prefect, a Slytherin Prefect.
FK: That’s true, that’s true. That is true.
ELM: So what is Sherlock’s relationship with Mycroft here?
FK: That’s the question!
ELM: It’s complicated, but…he’s also like, he’s gonna be 11 at this point, I imagine he may still idolize Mycroft. [laughs]
FK: Well, this is why I can believe either of these two possibilities! I’m not saying that he’s naturally a Ravenclaw, I’m saying that I can believe that he would, under certain circumstances, ask to be a Ravenclaw.
EA: I just—that’s funny because when you said that, I imagined a fic where Mycroft is being sorted, and he’s saying, like, “Please make it Slytherin! Make it Slytherin! It’s always been Slytherin for everyone!” And then the Sorting Hat goes—
EA: Hufflepuff! [laughs]
LH: Oh yes, 100%.
ELM: Oh wow, please write that one right now.
LH: I’m totally there.
FK: All right! All right!
FK: Write it. Podfic it. Boom.
LH: Done. Done and done.
FK: But I think that we should—we should get back to talking about the play. [laughs]
ELM: Let’s actually talk about the play! So I think we’ve, we talked about what led you there, but I don’t actually know if we know—like, why did you, just give us the origin story of this play.
EA: We have a web series, as Leah mentioned, that we’ve been working on for…I just had a vision of myself talking for 100 years about this, I’m gonna try to expedite this story. [all laugh] Someone was hosting a, like, a variety show in that zine—
LH: Lorimer subway station.
EA: That Lorimer subway station where there used to be a zine, the magazine shop?
ELM: Oh yeah!
EA: And they asked us if we would perform as our characters from the web series, who at the time didn’t have an on-screen relationship but who we’ve kind of—we’ve kind of, like, tried to write them, as the series has evolved, to be, like, shippable characters together. And this was sort of the first instance of that where we performed as versions of our characters, and it was like we were, like, in the throes of Johnlock obsession. And so it was a scene where our two characters, who are like, my character in the web series—which is called Zhe Zhe, Z-H-E Z-H-E—was, like, having a clandestine quasi-romantic meeting with Leah’s character and then they—
LH: And Emily’s character is a supervillain.
EA: Is a supervillain.
LH: Which is important.
EA: Sorry, I thought I said that.
FK: And that’s why it’s clandestine, is because—
ELM: Sure. Enemies to lovers.
LH: Cause we are, it’s a classic enemies to lovers.
EA: They were in a band together and then I leave the band and become a supervillain. So yeah. We’re enemies to, or lovers to enemies to lovers.
EA: Then we meet up and then our characters do, like, a Johnlock cosplay roleplay. And Leah had a small violin, and we sang “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
LH: Which was really inspired by what I always talk about as a pretty formative experience I had as a preteen. I snuck into—I don’t know if it was officially Comic-Con, but a convention, with this boy that I was pining away for. And he had photocopied passes for the con, and I was very scared of getting arrested—as you are when you’re 10 doing something illegal—and we snuck in in this, like, taboo moment, I saw my first cosplay performance. Which, as I was describing to Flourish, was someone dressed as…I don’t know if it was, I wanna say Sailor Pluto, I wanna say one of the non-five Sailors, singing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
And this experience was one of the more powerful artistic encounters of my young life, and I’d seen lots of performance art and lots of theater and lots of drag, but this was like the most absurd and jarring and haunting experience, seeing this kind of cosplay. And it was specifically the incongruity of the song choice and the performers. So we had this idea for the performance of our characters, and I was like “And it has to be a real cosplay, where we do a musical theater song that has nothing to do with it.” But actually, we didn’t really go far enough, because “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” is actually really accurate. [all laugh] Like you could do a good vid, a really good vid, for Sherlock. It’s kind of a perfect anthem.
FK: Right, so you, you should have picked something that was like, not relevant.
FK: That was just like—the thing where someone’s in cosplay and they’re karaokeing and you’re like “No relationship there!”
LH: Exactly. That’s kind of what we were going for, but again, again on our journey of, like, coming out with this kind of stuff, it’s like, we couldn’t resist the opportunity [FK laughs] to do something—you know, like, romantic and real. Cause we really were so obsessed with these characters that we had to give them the right song.
LH: Cause it started, like—and this was in a time, without going on and on, the birth of this project really came from a very nihilistic time in our artistic lives where everything was just like a, everything was like, “Oh, that’s a fuck you! That’s good cause it’s a fuck you, and that’s fucked up, and it’s good cause it’s—what does it even mean?!” And there wasn’t a lot of sincerity in the work we were doing. And then we kind of stumbled into this, I wouldn’t say sincerity, but this like—sensitivity and vulnerability, by accident.
EA: Well, that performance was, like, very formative for me, because I think you were like “We have to make it like a cosplay and it has to be this song,” we were definitely being contrarian about the event at which we were performing.
LH: Oh, yeah.
EA: We were saying like, “Yeah, and they won’t get it! And they won’t know what’s going on! And they’ll say ‘what?’ And we’ll just make them watch it! And like, they’ll hate it!” [all laugh] And then we get there and we’re going like “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Sherlock, Sherlock, you’ve never even seen it,” and then we’re doing this whole scene, and then Leah takes out this violin and starts playing as Sherlock, and I—actually, this is on YouTube somewhere.
ELM: Oh, we’ll share it.
FK: We will include it in the show notes. Don’t you worry.
EA: Well it’s very, like—very telling. You can see, we’re definitely trying to be cool and being like “Yeah, we are assholes.” And then I get hit with this uncontrollable fit of giggles. And it’s like, red face, like, can’t say the lines. Like, can’t do it. And I’m like, blushing, and Leah’s looking at me fully not breaking, like, like—in Sherlock, and being like, ‘Oh, John. Really?’” [all laughing] And I’m just, like, dying, dying. And I look like—doubling over. And it’s like, “OK, I guess I’m not cool. I guess…I guess this is really what I wanna do.” And then singing “I Don’t Know How To Love Him,” and I’m like, crying. Crying. Giggling. So it was—
LH: This was real. Crying laughing.
FK: I love that you’re describing this as this weird breakthrough into sincerity, because that was one of the things about “Slash”—like, the version that we saw of it, which was like, you’ve done it many times and it’s gone through many iterations, I know, and I want to hear about those. But by the time that we got to it, it felt so sincere and so real and so very much, like—that was the virtue of it. It totally blew me away, because I think that I came into it expecting—having seen a couple of things from Zhe Zhe and having, just whatever—I came to it kind of expecting it to be a “fuck you” and to walk out being like “FUCK YOU TOO,” you know?
ELM: The context of it too, I think, you know, cause like, we saw it at this performance at—the venue and the crowd too, I think, kind of, kind of set us up for that. And I was, I had a similar response, I was like, very surprised in that way. But like, so. But wait! I wanna know about the evolution, though. How did you get from this, the Lorimer emotional breakthrough scene…?
EA: Well, one thing that really led us was really following this, this vulnerability and, like, the passion of getting into a really deep dive into fanworks. So we started just doing these kind of…not impromptu but very unrehearsed, more performance-art versions of what became “Slash,” and so, there was a real unconscious logic to it. So we did one at MOMA that was the same scene that we have now in the play of Susan Sontag and Camille Paglia, like, a reenactment of, like, an argument they had in—it’s not in Entertainment Weekly, it’s about Entertainment Weekly. But like, it’s a catfight, really, an academic catfight between them that we reenacted. We did that at MOMA, but originally it was them, it was that and then it turned into David Bowie and his assistant Coco Schwab writing “Heroes,” but instead of writing “Heroes” they’re writing “Nothing Ever Happens On Mars” from Waiting for Guffman.
So, like, it used to have this—a randomer quality to it. But when we would do these little pieces. And then we started thinking about, I guess, the transformation in it, and the power of—like, what is the roleplay achieving? And is, do they, do the characters, like, become someone different by the end, and what has been achieved? And there really was—like, when we would do these little pieces, the song would always kind of be like a cathartic moment. Or like, a way of the characters coming together. And then sometimes we would have, like, an abortive kiss at the end of a lot of the pieces. Like, they’d always be about to kiss and then they wouldn’t. Or it would be a song.
So it was like, the structure came out of doing, like, little pieces, and then we were asked to do something, and I guess we’re such secret latent theater addicts that when someone said “do something” we heard “do a play.” [all laugh] And it was, like, a lot of projection on our part. Like “Here! There’s a residency where you could do something!” And we’re like, “A play? You want us to do a play? A musical? Of course!”
EA: “You need us to do—”
LH: “I would never dream, I wouldn’t impose…”
EA: “If you insist…” Yeah, that kind of thing.
LH: If you insist, we will write and direct and star in a musical. So we started, like, stitching it together. It was, like, at a time where, like, the thing that we found most inspiring was reading fanfiction and reading specifically slash fiction. And it was like, I guess we were depressed. Other things seemed boring. And as you both know, fanfiction can kind of blot out the pleasures of other things. [both laugh]
FK: Everything else in the world has turned to ashes in my mouth.
LH: Yeah, it does! And it was like, as we got more into it, it became more compulsively voyeuristic and we were consuming more and more of it. And it also was, I think also, Emily and I are both…maybe I’ll just speak for myself for once. But I, I think as a kid my first innate talent was—whether it was recognized—was being a good writer. From a very early age I was a good writer. And I didn’t really get to be a bad writer for a long time. I didn’t get to do any kind of bad writing. And I wrote good essays, and I wrote good stories, and it took me a long time to find my voice…after I’d written a lot that was ostensibly good but that I wasn’t connected to. So I think, like, part of the…the joy of fanfiction was two-fold: it was the uninhibited desire and expression and freedom from, I guess, you know, the obvious feminist idea, that fanfiction is like an escape from misogyny and slash fiction is a real haven from misogyny, I think. I mean, maybe it’s—it also has its own inherent misogyny—
ELM: Sure, sure.
LH: But that’s a whole other discussion. [ELM laughs] So I think there’s, like, the appeal of that, but also, like, part of the joy of it was how bad some of the writing was, but how it could be “bad”—I’m doing quotes in the air—and still be totally affecting. It could be totally visceral and powerful and moving and exciting and even arousing, but what I would call “bad writing.”
LH: And that was kind of like, a revolution in my mind. Of like questioning, “Well then what the fuck is good writing?!” Because this is what good writing is. I mean, writing that affects you viscerally, that makes you think, that moves you—how could it be bad? I mean, maybe the grammar and the syntax is, like, garbled and unedited, or insane… [all laugh] But yeah. So it really made me question what is good writing, and I think fanfiction—not single-handedly, but like, was one of the biggest things that freed me from the oppression of good writing.
ELM: So one thing that I was really curious about your take on—because obviously I have some feelings—is that context. And, about taking these things that I think are very contextual, and we all understand that contextual meaning, and performing them for…I would say the audience we had was one that doesn’t necessarily have that context. And not to say, obviously they enjoyed it a great deal, but it was also in the back of my mind I was like, “What are they thinking right now? And how are they trying to process this?” And I was wondering how that felt to you, the playwrights and the performers.
EA: Yeah. For me it was mixed, and it kind of also, like, the first run of the play we did for four months in this gallery in Chinatown and my feelings about how people would react, especially people who were like “I didn’t know what slash fiction was until I came to see your play!” It really would depend on the day and on—on my mood. But generally, it felt, it was actually very important to me that people would say to me, like, people would come up to me after the show and say, like, “You know, I really didn’t know who you were talking about.” Like, “I didn’t know who those characters were, and I didn’t always feel like I got it, but it appealed to something in me.” Or, “It made me remember something from my childhood.”
And that felt good, sort of because of what I was talking about at the beginning of the show, feeling like it could be an intro to, like—and this might be grandiose, but like…for me discovering slash fiction did also feel at first, in a very extreme way, like discovering sort of an alternative sexuality and something that I identified more—that I identified with more than predetermined categories of sexuality and desire that had been presented to me.
But then also sometimes, I had the feeling after the play where—I was describing this to you, I think—people would send me pictures of, like, a Tom of Finland drawing, and be like, “This is so slash!” And I would be like “No it’s not. It’s really not.”
ELM: Right, right.
FK: [laughing] Yeah, “How can I explain to you why Tom of Finland is not slash?”
LH: Let me count the ways! I felt like there was something, whenever we do “Slash” it’s really thrilling when people come up to us afterwards and say, you know, “I used to write slash fiction, I haven’t accessed that part of myself since I was a kid,” or like, you know, “I’m kind of closeted about my relationship with these fandoms,” or “this reawakened something in me that I’d forgotten about,” that was really powerful and exciting and also, like, when you’re doing theater, you can hear the individual reactions. And especially at the gallery where we did it for four months, it only sat like 50 people, so we would do two shows a week and you would hear—if there were two people in the audience who had a specific connection to that stuff you would know immediately. You would hear them laughing or screaming or, like, you know, [gasps]. [all laugh] So you know, that was really cool, that you had these individual reactions.
But also, in the earlier version of “Slash”—but also still it’s part of it—the knowledge in it and the cultural references are from a few different areas, so there’s, like, this more kind of conventionally I guess nerdier stuff. There’s like the Kirk/Spock and the Sherlock and the Harry Potter. But then there’s also I guess what someone might think of as cool music jokes and music trivia, and we used to have more cool music, like, there was like, a long scene with John Cale and Lou Reed fighting…but there’s still the Adam and the Ants song. So there’s, like, Beatles trivia, and then there’s also all this academic stuff.
LH: Which is really—and I guess you could call Trotsky and Stalin political, even though there’s no politics in it. But, and historical, and with the feminist theory, one of the most rewarding things has been our younger friends getting into, like, making jokes about Camille Paglia and Susan Sontag for instance. That’s kind of entered into their syntax because they’ve seen the play so much. And having really strong feelings about, like, Andrea Dworkin, for instance. [FK laughs]
ELM: That’s really good.
LH: And it’s like, you know, one way or the other, love her or hate her, it’s really cool that like 20-year-olds who have never heard of Andrea Dworkin suddenly feel like that’s within their culture to talk about. So there’s been like a—again, without being grandiose, there’s been like an educational…like, I feel like we’ve been in the role of educators in a way. So that’s been really cool. But also like what Emily’s saying, like, it’s really important to me that people don’t feel—coming into “Slash”—like they should know about all this stuff. And I think it’s richer for some people to know about some of the stuff, but I think like the way we’re using the stuff is, like, towards abstraction. Like, we’re painting with colors and the colors happen to be these fandoms or academia or music trivia or whatever. And I think that there’s a way to enjoy the play having very little knowledge of any of that. That said, having people like the two of you in the audience who’ve actually read the Joanna Russ essay [FK & ELM laugh] is like another level of, like, being seen, you know?
ELM: Yeah. We literally saw and died. Yeah, that was really…I mean it’s also funny to think about too, just because, so much of fan—I don’t know if, Flourish, you feel this way, but I feel like so much of my early fannish time—like, even now, probably—yeah, you don’t know everything. Obviously you know the source material as you go into it, but the number of things you learn, the references you pick up, you know, that’s part of it too. It’s not like everyone knows every single thing that’s gonna be within the sphere of their fandom life before, you know what I mean?
FK: And even more so the further back you go. Like, the longer—like, when you think about like, in the earlier days of the internet when there was, like, no Google, you know?
FK: Or like, right? And then you’re looking around, like, “What is this thing? What does this word mean?”
ELM: OK, so we have to wrap up, but I want to ask in closing what’s obviously the obvious question: what’s next. You guys are gonna work on other stuff, but in terms of this play or maybe any projects related to fanfiction stuff or fandom stuff…I’m just curious.
LH: The next thing we’re doing is, like, what we’re calling a “Slash”-adjacent project. As we continue to develop “Slash,” we are doing this series of three films for Dis.art, and they are really more interested in, like, the academic, the popification-of-academic-discourse part of the play, I think. So we’re doing, we’re redoing the Paglia-Sontag fight. And then we’re also doing a scene where Mark Fisher, aka k-punk, who was like a fabulous cultural critic and theorist, is in Hell giving a lecture about Russian Doll, and then has an interaction—maybe a romance—with Mark E. Smith from The Fall. So we’re doing like these, these “Slash”-adjacent, kind of returning to our older form with the smaller pieces—we’re doing those three films and kind of, like, exploring what that format…but that’s, like, the next thing.
And then something, like, we have been talking about a lot is we had this project that didn’t really work where we tried to very quickly, and under crazy circumstances, we tried to bang out a Wizard of Oz/Wicked musical, like a post-Wicked, post-Oz musical.
LH: Shockingly, we didn’t get that together, like, within three weeks. [laughter] But I think we’ve been talking about doing that.
EA: We have been talking, and maybe even dreaming.
FK: Was that related to the fashion thing at MOMA? Is that correct?
LH: Yes. Yes.
FK: OK, right. There’s a, there’s a fashion—what do you even call them? Are they a label? They’re not a label, are they?
LH: They’re a label! It’s a fashion collective label.
FK: It is a label.
LH: Called Vaquera, and we did a project with them. They ended up just doing something much simpler that made a lot more sense for them, but we were trying to, like, use the opportunity to write and stage and direct and star in an original musical which was based on Oz stuff. And Oz is one of the things that I would say that Emily and I both have a completely un-voyeuristic, like, lived experience, obsessive fandom in the world of Oz. Which I forgot about because I don’t think of that, that just feels, that’s so ingrained in my life.
FK: Vaquera drops the word “fanfiction” in reference to their fashion stuff.
FK: And at first I was like, “Oh, I’m not sure about ‘Slash’ because I’m not sure about how Vaquera uses that,” and now I’m like, “Well, maybe Vaquera’s OK because they worked with you guys.” [laughs]
LH: Well, it’s interesting cause they actually were calling themselves a—they were calling themselves, like, “fashion fanfiction” before they worked with us.
FK: Yeah no I know, because I watched, I was like “What is this?”
LH: They’re people who have these sincere lived experiences with their own fan cultures, and think it’s cool to use that kind of language in their, like, branding. So it’s tricky, because it’s like, they are using it—they are totally cashing in on, like, a growing trend, which is using like in-speak, I don’t know what you call it, but you know, an inner-world language… Like they did, their promotion for their latest show—which I was in—but their latest show was, they used not the personality types but the lawful good, chaotic evil… What do you call it?
FK: Um, the um, God. Now I’m blanking.
ELM: Can we discuss Flourish’s company Chaotic Good and how you don’t know the term for this? Flourish!
LH: But yeah, they used that system to do their—
FK: You know when you’re listing every word that’s related to it but you’re like “It’s not…”
ELM: Is it not “alignment”?
LH: It’s “alignment”!
FK: Alignment! I was like, “it’s not ‘orientation’...”
ELM: I thought we went over that one already!
ELM: Yeah. Not “orientation,” no.
FK: [laughing] That’s all I could think of, was “orientation.”
ELM: No, no.
LH: I understand wariness kind of entering our “Slash” world because I’m totally aware of the trendiness of some of—especially of the language. It comes up more in the language than the actual—
FK: Than the actual thing, right? Yeah.
LH: But there’s, like, a lot of people in fashion and entertainment and comedy and stuff are throwing around the word “cosplay” a lot.
LH: Ubiquitous. It’s ubiquitous.
LH: Like, a lot. And like, “shipping,” and “OTP,” and that’s become very kind of hip slang.
FK: Yeah, yeah.
LH: Which is bizarre, but also logical.
ELM: Yeah, this is something we talk about…we talk about it a lot too because it’s like, well, at what point does it really not…we’re gonna sit here and be, we don’t wanna be those nerd boys and be like “Well that’s not what it was—that’s not what it is!” You know. Like, at what point does language evolve? So. But it’s also, I think, you just wanna be protective of this thing in the sense of—I don’t want someone using fanfiction, people do use it for mockery. There are these podcasts that read it just to mock it, and you know. So it’s that kind of thing, so you’ll always be wary of that, so.
But I don’t think anyone—I feel like I wanna clarify, I don’t want it to seem like we came to this play assuming that you were gonna be like, that we were gonna be mad at you or whatever, because I don’t think anyone—also, who are we the arbiters of whether…cause now we’re back to the insider-outsider thing again. There’s so many ways in, and like, you know? Even if you don’t think of yourself as “in,” you are in, or there is no in. You know? Yeah.
FK: OK, but but now I wanna know, because I wanna know what you’re doing with the play next. Because you just talked about other projects.
LH: Oh yes, the play next. So we’re doing a reading of it and then we’re gonna do a performance of it at Bard College, right? Is that true?
EA: Knock knock, ding ding? Yes. In late July.
LH: And then there’s other rumors, but we’re not sure what the next confirmed thing is. We’re looking to do a run. We’re looking to do another longer run. But in the meantime we’re doing one-off performances in different spaces.
ELM: OK, awesome.
EA: Oh yeah, and possibly a few workshop performance of other “Slash”-adjacent theater projects like this Oz performance maybe.
LH: Awesome, yes.
EA: We may be able to, like, slip you a few tips for the outro.
ELM: Yeah, please, please do and we will share that information, absolutely. And the more things that come along, we will definitely share them with the audience. I want more people to be able to see this.
FK: Yeah, for sure.
EA: Me too. Obviously like it’s pretty easy to tell when people are using, like, fanfiction language when it’s not in good faith. But like, if our play could be like any kind of like gateway to—gateway to Wikipedia or gateway to the Archive or whatever. There was a 19-year-old that told Leah and I that they saw the play and looked up, like, Trotsky, Leon Trotsky on Wikipedia because they were like “that’s such a funny character!” And then was like “oh…this is, like, way different than how you guys were depicting him in the play!” [all laugh]
LH: It was like, “Wait, Leon Trotsky’s not Italian?”
EA: “This Trotsky guy did some pretty cool stuff!”
FK: The fandom thing where you read the fanfic and then you watch the show and you’re like “That is not the character that was in that fanfic.”
LH: Oh, and I wanted to say—I will say a good friend of mine, because of “Slash,” recently started watching Star Trek: The Original Series for the first time. And she was like, “I love it but it’s not nearly as sexy as you guys made it out to be.” [FK laughs] And I was like, “Have you seen the episode ‘Amok Time’?” and she was like “No,” and I was like “OK, let’s talk after you see that.” [FK continuously laughing] She was like, “I was expecting it to be on with Kirk and Spock!” And I was like “Um, it is, but just watch more.”
ELM: That’s really funny.
FK: [dying] Yup.
ELM: That’s great.
FK: It has been such a pleasure having you two on. I am thrilled, I am excited, I hope to follow all of your future things, and have many reasons to have you on in the future.
ELM: There’s that dog energy back again.
FK: The dog energy came back!
ELM: That’s really good.
FK: OK, OK, I’m like the one dog and you’re all cats. [all laughing]
EA: A Slytherin cat.
ELM: Thank you so much for coming on, you guys. You were fantastic.
EA: Oh, thank you so much! I’m so happy we met you. You were the best audience, ever, that we ever had for “Slash.”
EA: I feel confident speaking for Leah and myself.
LH: Best audience ever.
ELM: So proud! OK. Thanks guys.
LH: Thank you so much.
FK: Ahh! You know, I find it incredibly delightful when you see something and you’re like, “Can we be friends with you?” And then you’re like, “YES! You guys are great!” And then we have a wonderful conversation, and like, this is so great—it’s just this incredibly satisfying thing to see a piece of art that’s great and then discover the people behind it are also great.
ELM: Are you just describing your immediate reaction after the play, where you like, marched up to them and you were like, “Hi!”
FK: “We’re friends now!” Big dog energy.
ELM: [laughs] Oh, top dog! That’s you. Yeah, that’s right.
FK: I’m definitely—I’m like Beethoven. In that movie. That’s me.
ELM: One of my favorite parts of the conversation, and actually something that we talked about a little bit with them off the air, too, is these ideas of sincerity. And I mention the off-the-air conversation because one of the things that they didn’t say, but they said with us later, was we were kind of framing it as this sincerity that sort of—we were talking about the formative, seeing the Sailor Moon character singing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, right—as the opposite of camp.
FK: Yeah, yeah!
ELM: Which is funny because if you have a Twitter then you may have seen the sea of discourse during the Met Gala, the “camp” theme, about what camp was, and I found it so insufferable that night because my feed was literally someone going “Perfect! Textbook camp” about someone’s look, and the next person would be like, “This person doesn’t even know the meaning of camp!” And I was like, well, clearly one of you does not know what it is and I don’t wanna do this any more.
FK: I too found it incredibly exhausting [ELM laughs] and yeah. I refused to engage also. Except to say Harry Styles can wear whatever he wants at all times.
ELM: He was one of the chairs and I think it would have been nice if he didn’t try to frame that as camp.
FK: Yeah, I mean…
ELM: He can wear whatever he wants, but he was one of the two chairs of the event and he went on this speech about how wearing, like, a flowy blouse was like, redefining gender or whatever, and it was like…
FK: No, I’m not, I’m not defending anything that he did. [ELM laughs] All I’m saying is he can choose to wear whatever he wants. And that’s part of why I’m absenting myself from the conversation. Because I just don’t wish to engage in it! I don’t want to!
ELM: Anyway. Anyway! The formal construction of camp, and you can argue about—I saw many different opinions about this definition even in itself, as something about, it’s deliberate, it’s knowing, it’s ironic. It’s this kind of heightened irony. And it announces itself. And this sort of idea of fandom is something that’s so, so, so deeply opposite. And I don’t think this is always true, but I do think there’s—I’m now haunted by this Sailor Moon singing “My Way,” the Frank Sinatra version of “My Way.”
You know? Like, this is going to—that kind of idea is going to stick with me, something so unselfconscious and incongruous and sincere. And it’s a conversation that—I don’t know, it reminds me a lot of our conversation with Stephanie Burt, too. Like, because it kind of situates a lot of what we do within these broader conversations about art, which I think we don’t talk about very often, because I think we’re so often talking about, like, business, and you know…whatever, I love talking about that, right? But this kind of removes it from it and really talks about…I don’t know, this kind of, this is more of a formal, like a formalist conversation. You know what I mean?
FK: I agree, and you know, I do—and I wanna have more of it because I also wanted to push back on, not on everything, but it’s also…when I think about this cosplay thing, I also think about some experiences I’ve had with cosplayers that are like, it’s like—you see almost, like, a sandwich of sincerity, where there’s some irony in the middle, but it’s totally… Like, the thing I came back with after this “My Way” thing, I was like, “Oh yes. Like Snape singing ‘Don’t You Forget About Me,’” which is like, deeply sincere and then also deeply campy, intentionally.
FK: He is being intentionally ironic, but also deeply sincere on both sides, right?
ELM: But for you personally it was mostly erotic.
FK: Oh! Well, sincere and erotic, yeah, absolutely.
ELM: [laughing] Ironically erotic!
FK: But that’s part of what I mean, right? It can be, like—one of the interesting things is when it can be both. And there are a lot of other cosplayers in Harry—I mean, I’m sure it’s the case in other fandoms, but I’ve hung out with more Harry Potter cosplayers for whom there’s a similar thing, right?
ELM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
FK: When someone who’s literally changed their name to Draco Malfoy, they’re that sincere, is hanging out in a pool and talking about how much they like narwhals, and then, like, cosplaying in seriousness also at the pool? You’re like, “You’re being ironic intentionally and you’re also being sincere and I don’t even know at this point where it is,” like…
ELM: And I think sometimes some people don’t…maybe it’s hard to pinpoint that for yourself when you’re doing a bunch of things at once, you know.
FK: Yeah! How do you know in the moment, even?
ELM: Right, right. So I just think some of this is really hard to, like, parse. I don’t know. I hope that the conversation kind of got at some of that, like, sort of positioning. Because I feel like on the surface, you know, I tweeted about it, and I’m just like, “I’m talking about sincerity,” and I think people were interpreting that in very wholesome good faith, like, “Yeah! The great thing about fandom is people are sincere!” And it’s like, “Yeah, but that’s not exactly what I think we’re saying here.” You know? It’s not just about good-natured, earnest, stepping forward into the world with your love of a thing and not feeling like you have to, like, couch it in irony. I think there’s—this is taking it a level beyond that.
FK: Yeah. Because you can also be doing things that are camp in a way that is not ironic and refusing to love something.
FK: That’s not the two sides of the coin here.
ELM: Right, right, exactly. You can—yeah. You can have that sincere love and still, like, approach it in a very campy way. Right? I think that’s a ton of fandom, too, right? You know? Some of the stuff I love in fanfiction, when it gets really meta and self-referential…do you like meta fanfiction? Where it’s like, the characters are like, in fandom?
ELM: Yeah, actually, the second I said that I thought of a great example and then I thought about all the bad ones. And I was like…you know what I mean? One is good.
FK: But you could also say, whatever, in stan culture, right? “Run me over with a truck.” Like, where does that come in? Like, I feel like there’s some relationship, I don’t know.
ELM: Stone cold sincerity.
FK: [laughs] You know what I’m saying? There’s a lot going on.
ELM: But that kind of thing. Did you read that piece last week?
FK: I did, it was good!
ELM: Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker, absolutely. We should put it in the show notes. It’s really well done. And there’s something in that too, the sort of, like, all emotions kind of getting criss-crossed. I was listening to…was it “Radiolab”?...recently, about the expression, people talking about animals that are so cute they just wanna squeeze their faces off. Yeah. Like, that kind of thing. You’re like “I love it so much I wanna squish its head off!” And you’re like “What is that thing that you just said? Like…” [laughs]
FK: Apparently it’s a common…
ELM: “You wanna murder the puppy? That’s not kind!” And so they were talking about the kind of, the way that gets kind of, the symbols get kind of jumbled up in your brain and you genuinely can feel that way. You can feel like “you’re so cute, I wanna pop your head off.” You know? [laughing] I’ll find that segment too, because it was actually very interesting to listen to.
FK: Yeah, when you say that I’m scared because I really believe it. That you would do it.
ELM: SO cute. Poppin’ that head right off. [both laugh] Yeah! Yeah.
FK: All right. Well, I think that we should, maybe we should even try and bring some of this thinking to our next…I don’t know. I’m, I’m interested in bringing some of this thinking to Comic-Con, obviously. We talk about business at Comic-Con a lot, obviously, but I’m sort of curious at, what would it be like if I approached it from a, just…I don’t know! Just from a different angle. I don’t know what angle yet. I don’t know how this would relate entirely. But…
ELM: Flourish, Flourish, you can do whatever you want, I’m gonna tell you that I literally cannot change my stance on Comic-Con. And I would describe that as 1000% sincere irony.
ELM: This is so dumb, I love it. Right? That’s how I would describe, right? You understand my distinction here?
FK: I do, I do.
ELM: It’s why I’ve been to the Olive Garden in Times Square. It’s why I went to Eurodisney.
FK: You know, we should go to the Bubba Gump in Times Square, that’s a place we should go.
ELM: I’m a vegetarian so I’m not gonna waste my time.
FK: Do you think there’s nothing vegetarian there? I guess there’s not. Bubba Gump really is dedicated to fried shrimp.
ELM: I’m gonna say this. In 2009 there was a really nice Bubba Gump Shrimp Company plastic cup that someone had clearly gotten as a novelty cup at the restaurant. I loved it so much for a big ol’ glass of seltzer that I wound up stealing it when I moved out. I don’t even think the original owner lived there any more. And it was my favorite cup for 10 years and every time anyone looked at it they were like, “Oh you—do you like that restaurant?” And I had to explain I had never been there. And then your husband used it to make, like, a muddled sugary cocktail and literally ruined it. [FK laughs] So that’s our connection, you and me, to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
FK: Maybe I can get you a new one somehow…?
ELM: I will say, to his credit, probably the chemicals had long since been leaching out into my water, and…
FK: So actually he saved you is what you’re saying.
ELM: He saved my life.
FK: Great. Last-minute turn.
ELM: I am gonna tell you this: it was because he was not using sugar, he was using some kind of sugar substitute, and it genuinely…
FK: Oh, it was a terrible idea. I don’t, I don’t support the plan of using that stuff. That stuff is gross, so like, anyway.
ELM: Some real insight here into our big nights that we have. The three of us. Where he brings the ingredients for cocktails to my house.
FK: Well, great.
FK: I think that we should probably be done with this episode now. [laughs] We should do our wrapping-up business.
ELM: All right. I’m gonna take on the wrapping-up business this week.
FK: All yours.
ELM: I’m the darker-haired one.
FK: I guess you are? Yeah, you are.
ELM: You have, you have blue orbs, though.
FK: They’re green.
ELM: Oh, I’m sorry. Blue-green orbs like the sea.
FK: There we go. I’ll accept that.
ELM: You smell like, what’s it called? Petrichor.
FK: Do I? [both laugh] Then you must smell like…old leather?
ELM: Yeah, and cinnamon.
FK: And cinnamon.
ELM: And a fall afternoon.
FK: Great. Does that mean I have to be like the Weasley green grass person? I guess so.
ELM: I guess. I got super masc scent. That’s cool. Awesome! [laughing] All right. Me. It’s all me now.
ELM: Fansplaining is fiscally supported by our patrons on Patreon. That’s patreon.com/fansplaining. If you have any cash, we say it every time but we’ll say it again, maybe your financial circumstances have changed: as little as $1 a month helps us make this podcast, you know, take the time to transcribe and pay other people to write articles, which is something we have not had in a while but we’re hoping to have soon. We’re hoping to record another special episode between now and Comic-Con, so that’s $3-and-up Patrons, and we should have our summer Tiny Zine probably getting ready to go soon.
FK: Yeah, once—as soon as you write it! [laughs]
ELM: That’s right! It’s on me, it’s on me. That’s fine. I’m gonna have some free time in July. Get excited. So that’s Patreon. If you don’t have the cash, no worries at all, we also really appreciate it when people leave reviews and ratings on iTunes and other places where people find podcasts. Also sharing our transcripts with people, sharing the episodes in general, just passing the word around your various fan communities, so we can reach more people! Do you wanna take over?
FK: No, you said you were doing it!
FK: You take on the responsibility, you gotta see it through to the end. I feel like I’m my mother giving me a talk about something in childhood, I don’t know what.
ELM: Am I getting an insight into your upbringing right now?
FK: Yeah, you are. Go for it. Keep on.
ELM: That’s cool.
FK: Go on.
ELM: And also! We’d love to hear from you. Even though you, most of you haven’t seen this play, I would love to hear your thoughts about this conversation. I’m saying “I,” but I think Flourish would as well.
FK: It can be a “we.”
ELM: Yeah, we. We. [laughs] So, you can write to us at fansplaining at gmail.com, you can leave us an ask on Tumblr, that’s also fansplaining.tumblr.com, you can tweet at us, message us on Instagram, neither of those things are great channels for substantial comments. Or on Facebook. All three of those places are fansplaining. Or you can leave a voicemail at our number, 1-401-526-FANS. I don’t actually know what the last four numbers are, do you know?
FK: I don’t either.
ELM: All right, whatever. FANS!
FK: Whatever, FANS.
ELM: FANS. And, uh, you can leave a voicemail! And just let us know if you wanna remain anonymous in any of those messages and we will not share any information about who’s sending it to us. And we will ideally read or play your comment on the air.
FK: All right.
ELM: Did I do it?
FK: I think you did it.
ELM: [sighs] That’s exhausting. Next time we’re gonna trade off.
FK: OK! Next time don’t say “I’m doing it!”
ELM: I’ll say “We’re doing it!” We’re doing it.
FK: There we go.
ELM: Next time.
FK: It’s a collaborative effort. Like everything.
ELM: Like Betty and Veronica.
FK: Like Betty and Veronica. Which of us is—am I Betty?
ELM: Yeah, I’m obviously Veronica.
FK: You’re obviously Veronica and I’m obviously Betty.
ELM: You set yourself right up for that. We could take every couple—like obviously you’re Paul and I’m— [laughing] And I’m John! I don’t even know if that one’s true.
FK: [laughing] You’re Sherlock and I’m John, I guess? Uh…
ELM: You know that one’s true. 100%.
FK: You’re Draco and I’m Harry.
ELM: Wait, I’m Draco?!
FK: I think you’re Draco. Am I Draco? I’m not Draco.
ELM: No, obviously you’re Hermione.
FK: Am I Hermione? I’m not sure I’m Hermione.
FK: Uh, OK, maybe I’m Hermione. But in Draco and Harry…
ELM: I don’t know if either of us are Draco TBH.
FK: You’re way more than I am though. This is not about who is who. I’m not extremely like John Watson and you’re not extremely like Sherlock. But we know that you’re more like Sherlock and I’m more like John.
ELM: All right, I’ll take it. I’ll be Draco. That’s fine. Fine.
FK: I’m glad we had this talk.
ELM: OK, bye Harry.
FK: [laughs] Bye…Draco… [both laughing]
FK & ELM: Thank you to all of our Patreon subscribers, and especially Amelia Harvey, Anne Jamison, Bluella, boxish, Bradlea Raga-Barone, Bryan Shields, Christine Hoxmeier, Christopher Dwyer, Clare Mulligan, Clare Muston, Cynsa Bonorris, Desiree Longoria, Fabrisse, Diana Williams, Dr. Mary C. Crowell, earlgreytea68, Felar, froggy, Georgie Carroll, Goodwin, heidi tandy, Helena, Javier Grillo-Marxuaach, Jay Bushman, Jennifer Brady, Jennifer Doherty, Jennifer Lackey, Jennifer McKernan—that’s a Jennifer streak—Josh Stenger, Jules Chatelain, Julianna, JungleJelly, Katherine Lynn, Kathleen Parham, Lucas Medeiros, Maria Temming, Meghan McCusker, Menlo Steve, Michael Andersen, Molly Kernan, Sara, Secret Fandom Stories, sekrit, Stephanie Burt, StHoltzmann, Tablesaw Tablesawsen, Tara Stuart, veritasera, Willa, and in honor of One Direction and Captain James McGraw Flint-Hamilton. [ELM laughs]
Our intro music is “Awel,” by Stefsax. Our interstitial music is by Lee Rosevere. Both are used under a Creative Commons BY license. Check the show notes for more details.
The opinions expressed in this podcast are not our clients’ or our employers’ or anyone’s except our own.