Episode 108: #TheOAIsReal
In Episode 108, Flourish and Elizabeth interview Claire Kiechel, a playwright and a writer on The OA, a Netflix TV show that was recently cancelled—and the subject of a passionate fan campaign to bring it back. They discuss fandom conspiracy theories, the impact of violent stories on our emotional lives, why Hollywood is shunning original story ideas, and, most importantly, how BBA is THE BEST.
[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel” by stefsax, used under a CC-BY 3.0 license. The cover photo is by Matt Barton, @machupapii on Instagram. If you need a photographer, maybe consider booking him! Here are some more photographs he took of the New York OA fan gathering, including The Movements:
[00:01:06] You can find Claire Kiechel on Twitter at @clairekiechel. Her website is ClaireKiechel.com.
[00:04:36] To get a sense of The Movements, here’s a video of people doing them in a flashmob outside Trump Tower:
We are not going to link to any of the people being cruel about The Movements, because we don’t need to give them more eyeballs.
[00:07:51] We talked about fan campaigns previously in Episode 94, “Save Our Show (It’s A Metaphor).”
[00:14:52] The episode Claire had a credit on is 2x06, “Mirror Mirror.”
[00:33:55] We previously discussed the issue of ARGs and conspiracy theories in Episode 54, “Is This The Real Life? Is This Just ARG?”
[00:36:08] Brit Marling’s Instagram post is really long and heartfelt!
[00:42:08] “Water tour” is a term for taking a lot of general meetings in a row.
[00:48:35] Claire actually means “The Switchblade Sisters.”
[00:50:23] The Vulture interview Claire did with Rachel Handler is called “The #SavetheOA Movement is About More Than a TV Show.”
[01:11:16] Donate to our Patreon, get an adorable pin! (Have we said it enough times yet?)
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is Episode #108, all one word, doin’ it like the hashtag, “#TheOAIsReal.”
FK: The OA is real! Not to be confused with one of our earliest episodes, “Larry Is Real.” Very different, like, tone of the “is real” part.
ELM: Not necessarily.
FK: Uh, OK. Well, we’ll, we’ll talk about that some, I think.
ELM: All right! You wanna talk about realness.
FK: Yeah. Real—what? What is the real? [laughs] No, we’re gonna have your friend on the podcast!
ELM: [laughs] Yes! That’s a funny way to describe, I mean, we are, we are friends, we go way back. Claire Kiechel, but she’s also one of the writers of The OA, the subject of this episode, and also, I think, one of the most interesting like things to look at in, in fan culture and you know, the general spheres that we, uh, like, that this podcast is concerned with, you know? The entertainment industry and social media and…
FK: OH! The OA is one of the most interesting things, not Claire! I mean, Claire is also very interesting.
ELM: Claire! Fascinating.
FK: The way that you constructed that sentence…
ELM: I’m sorry.
FK: I was just envisioning like…
ELM: It went on a journey.
FK: …Claire in a zoo.
ELM: Claire, she was one of the writers on the second season of The OA and I think we should talk a little bit about The OA to give people some grounding if they are unfamiliar with what’s been going on before we call her up.
FK: Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. So if you haven’t seen The OA, it’s sort of a… I guess I would describe it as, it’s sort of sci-fi I guess? But, uh, but kinda dreamy sci-fi, you know what I mean? Sort of psychological sci-fi. And the idea is that there’s this, you know, very strange person who can possibly travel between different dimensions or timelines of themselves. I mean, that’s sort of, that’s who the OA is. And they’ve gained this through a variety of both improbable and inexplicable near-death experiences.
ELM: I mean, specifically I think it’s OK to spoil a little bit, because I think that the—like, I think a lot of people will have seen it who are listening to this.
FK: All right, all right, all right.
ELM: I also think we may wind up in spoiler territory as the conversation goes on, but.
FK: Yeah, we might.
ELM: She has a near-death experience when she’s a child, and then she is essentially abducted and kept by—this is the, “she” is Brit Marling.
ELM: Is the star. The creator and the star of the show. She’s a, she’s an indie filmmaker. I haven’t seen any of her other work, actually, and I want to after watching this. But she is kidnapped by—
FK: Yeah, I haven’t, you know it’s funny—yeah.
ELM: We should do that! But she’s kidnapped by Jason Isaacs, who is trying to study these people who have had near-death experiences, and that’s where she learns about the ability to travel dimensions. Or does she?! That’s the question in the first season. She tells the story to a group of kind of…misfits? I guess? Aw.
ELM: I mean, they’re so, like—they’re so, they’re so, I love them. I have such affection for these, for these boys.
FK: Yeah, they’re mostly high school boys and there’s like one high school teacher who’s a sad sack.
ELM: You’re so mean to BBA, the greatest character on the show. And on all shows.
FK: She’s a sad sack! I love her, but like…
ELM: Phyllis from The Office.
FK: The reason she’s great is she’s so sad—yeah, she’s Phyllis from the office!
FK: This is the thing that people have seen that I haven’t ever seen, so.
ELM: OK. [laughs] So strange that you haven’t even seen one episode. Anyway, the whole, you know.
FK: Just consumed it via gifset.
ELM: The whole question is, for them, is whether she is talking about something true or if she is delusional. And so the, the show plays with this kind of…and even in the second season, plays with this kind of…
ELM: Are we to take this at face value? Or are we—
ELM: Is there some sort of scientific, psychological, physiological explanation for why…
ELM: …people are interpreting these events this way. That’s, if you’ve seen the second season, like, all the stuff with the house, when you find out about the spring and everything, you know? Like…
FK: And it’s a lot more…in the second season it’s a lot more like “OK, yes, she really is hopping dimensions, probably.”
FK: But there’s still a lot of questions.
ELM: I think it leaves the question open. So I think if you haven’t seen it we’ve kind of given a whole bunch of it away. But one of the most important things, I think, to talk about is The Movements, which is…interpretive dance.
FK: It is the way that you move between dimensions.
ELM: Five people have to do it, and they stand in a circle and they do what I would describe personally, when I watch it, I feel like I am watching simultaneously something that’s deeply emotionally moving, when I’m fully like within the heads of the characters.
ELM: Simultaneously, I often, somehow at the same exact time I feel like I’m watching actors in an acting class being asked to do something so absurd that it’s embarrassing and they are fully committing and I’m so impressed with their commitment. Do you know what I’m talking about?
FK: I think that’s how it’s supposed—but then I think that’s how it’s supposed to be, right? This is what The Movements are supposed to be, they’re so ridiculous.
ELM: But like it’s just something about it—
FK: And yet ridiculous things can be incredibly moving.
ELM: I mean like it’s also sort of like, have you ever taken an acting class or an improv class and they just ask you to do something totally absurd and the whole point of it is just to get over your, your shame and you’re like “Ugh, am I gonna have to.”
ELM: And there’s something so powerful about watching humans just be like, “I’m gonna do this, and I’m like 1000% committed.”
FK: Especially, like, high schoolers, right?
ELM: I don’t know, Jason Isaacs doing it I feel like. It’s… [laughs]
ELM: It’s like…
ELM: These are professionals just goin’ for it! And these movements, after the first season and now again, as fans engage with it, they’re recording videos of themselves doing it and—it seems to provoke an extremely, like, extreme aggro reactions from people being like, “I hate this. I want to murder these people.” Right? And like…
FK: Yeah, yeah.
ELM: In a way that I can’t think of…maybe a little bit of the same kind of vibe that you might get from people who are like, really furious with young, like, teens and like, girls in particular about, like, liking Harry Potter or whatever. You know? This kind of like—
ELM: “I wish someone would kill you, because you are showing an emotion right now.” That kind of…
FK: Only, only, only—yeah, only I think even worse. Because it’s—
FK: It’s like the way that people who really hate, it’s, as though people who really hate actual interpretive dance or actual, like, theater performances…
FK: …would feel if they were forced to do it, except not in the context of the theater.
ELM: Right, right.
FK: It’s like all of those bad feelings seem to get, like, brought out and, so. We’re gonna talk about this more with Claire.
ELM: Yeah, we definitely should talk about it with her, but I feel like we really need to give that context just in case—I feel like you can listen to this conversation if you haven’t seen the show, but I think The Movements, understanding what The Movements are.
So, all this to say, I think this show is incredible. I only just got around to watching it to talk to Claire after Netflix cancelled it a few weeks ago. And now I’m furious that they’ve cancelled it because it’s, I think genuinely good, you’ve already felt this way.
ELM: Critics felt this way. Very high, like, positive critical response. And the fans of the show, who as far as I can tell weren’t a very unified or a loud fandom before, like, obviously it had a lot of fans, individually, but maybe not…
ELM: A quote-unquote “big fandom,” are petitioning, as fans often do these days, to either get Netflix to revive it—because they’ve mapped out the, another three seasons to come to a natural conclusion for this show—they being the showrunners, not the fans. Or, to get Netflix to release the showrunners from their contract to allow them to take the show to another network.
And they’re doing things that are standard, you know—not standard, but they’re doing things that other shows have done, like they bought a billboard in Times Square, right? Which, you told me that Shadowhunters fans had done that, right?
ELM: For the Freeform show.
FK: Yep, they did.
ELM: But they’re also, there is a person—I don’t know if this will still be going on by the time this comes out—but they are doing a hunger strike outside of Netflix’s offices in LA. And there’s been a lot of media coverage about her, some of it critical, some of it very, I think very kind.
ELM: And she—we can share some of that in the show notes. But she’s, I think that’s very complicated. She’s also, in interviews with her she’s even saying she’s not even that huge a fan of it, she’s kind of using it as a—as the thing to peg her broader, you know, her broader protests about the lack of support for mental health and the lack of support for art and things like that.
FK: She feels like it’s sort of thematic, right? Like it’s connected thematically to her larger concerns.
ELM: Right. The subject of the show, not necessarily just being a huge fan. I don’t wanna say “just” because I don’t wanna diminish that but you know what I mean?
FK: Yeah, totally.
ELM: So, one of the reasons we wanted to talk to Claire is because this is a really interesting save our show campaign, and Claire’s been very vocally involved in this. But we also got to talking about this when we saw that there was a conspiracy theory that it wasn’t actually canceled.
FK: Yeah, and that was really kind of…I found that very concerning, because having, especially like having seen that show there’s a lot of things that, you know, sort of maybe break the fourth wall—in the theater sense, not the fandom sense—and you know, that suggest ARGs are a part of this and so on, and I definitely, thinking about other shows in the past, like Sherlock for instance, where fans have developed a theory that it wasn’t really canceled…
ELM: For instance.
FK: …or something wasn’t really happening…it can get scary and bad! And so when I first heard this, I was like “Oh no, because this is—if any show was gonna come up with that, it would be this one.”
FK: And I’ve been really pleased, since that initially started happening, with the way that everyone has handled it—both fans and you know the writers and Claire, and it feels like sort of the danger zone [laughs] has passed, if you know what I mean. The part where I was like, “What are people,” like, “are people really misled about this?” But that was a scary thing, hearing about that actually. I really don’t, I don’t know. That’s like a scary trend in fan reactions to things, is, is the immediate jump to conspiracy theory.
ELM: Yeah. And I mean, I—not to, you know, not to say that this, the fans of this show are particularly unique or special, but I do want to give them credit in a way that I think that sometimes some others that we’ve seen along this, uh, hasn’t worked out so well, so quickly. You know? The people involved in making this show were pretty firm, and the tone totally pivoted. Relatively, you know. Within I’d say the course of a couple of weeks…
FK: A couple days!
ELM: Absolutely. We started talking about doing this show a few weeks ago and from the time that we started the conversation has shifted so much. You know?
ELM: And I think that that’s something, we could talk about this more after we talk to Claire, but like, there is something interesting to observe in all of this about watching the way fandom reacts when it’s not oppositional. Like, they are not yelling at the creatives of the show, they’re yelling at the network. And so when the creatives of the show tell them, “Guys,” they’re like, “Gotcha.” You know? Like, and then they pivot, right?
FK: Yeah, totally.
ELM: And that’s really interesting. That’s not always gonna be the case, and so I think that’s one of the things that we’re seeing. But I—I don’t know. We should, we should probably just talk to Claire about this as one of the people on the creator side of this fan–creator situation!
FK: All right, let’s do it.
FK: OK, it’s time to welcome Claire to the podcast! Hi, Claire!
Claire Kiechel: Hi, guys!
ELM: Thank you so much for coming on. I’m very excited. As you know, I’m also very mad.
ELM: That I can’t watch the conclusion of this story.
CK: Oh my God, please. I love that you’re now joining the Save The OA tribe with the rest of us!
ELM: Yeah, this is how you’re gonna get a, like, mass, critical mass.
CK: Just do a lot of podcasts. [laughs]
ELM: Come on every podcast, and then every podcast host will have to listen to it, and then tweet angrily about it, and that’s gonna change it. Cause there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts.
CK: I mean, honestly I feel like—someone was talking to me about, like, a Christian podcaster who’s like, really into The OA and he’s thinking about doing a podcast so I mean, I guess this is a good—it’s a good business plan!
ELM: [laughs] That’s two! Good! We got it!
FK: Save The OA, one podcast at a time.
CK: Yeah! I mean…
ELM: That’ll be your role! [laughing]
CK: You know, media, it’s a whole new world, I mean, blog posts help, too, who knows!
ELM: OK, wait. We actually need to get into the details of this. First, like, it’d be good to actually know who you are as opposed to just a writer from The OA. Can you give us a little bit of a background for yourself? Cause like, you’re not mostly a TV writer, right?
CK: Uh, Elizabeth. Well, we go way back. So I think you know a lot about my, my trials and travails through this last decade. Um…
CK: [laughs] But, uh, yeah. No, I’ve been a playwright for about 10 years in New York, and the last two-and-a-half, three years I’ve been doing television, sort of in—mostly in L.A. and then have been coming back and forth from L.A. and New York doing some theater as well. And then I’ve just started doing some film. But The OA was my first job, so yeah! That was how I got started in television.
ELM: I don’t wanna get too, too deep into it, but I am really curious about what that transition was like for you, because it seems like it’s a very different medium and a different creative process and, you know, all of that stuff.
CK: Yeah, I mean, I really got spoiled. [laughs] I think I, I, you know, I thought that The OA really was what television was, but…basically what happened was after Trump got elected, 2016, I sort of decided that I wanted to do something else besides just talking to, like, audiences of 100 white rich people in New York. And so I, I decided that I was gonna go and try to get into more television. So I proceeded to go to L.A., I got managers, I had about 45 general meetings in a couple weeks, and one of them was with an amazing woman who worked at Plan B, which produces The OA, and I had just seen The OA and was so obsessed with it, the first part, Part One, as they call seasons. So it was the first season. We had a great conversation and yeah, a month later she got me a Skype interview, I was back in New York and I had a Skype interview with Brit and Zal and, um, was on a plane like two weeks later.
ELM: I mean, that’s incredible.
CK: Yeah, it was pretty crazy. [laughs] Not everyone gets to do that.
FK: I’m super interested though in—so we’ve had some other people on the podcast who’ve written for TV before, and it seems like every writer’s room is different. And one of the things I was really wondering as I watched this season of The OA and saw what episode you had a writing credit on, I was like, how does that work for this writers’ room?
Because I think a lot of times, you know, fans outside the writers’ room—or even people who are just, like, wondering what TV is like—they hear about, like, one form of a writers’ room and they think that that’s what it’s always like, right? Like “Oh yes, this writers’ room is run by a,” you know, “a tight-fisted visionary and everything, every script gets rewritten by him—” usually it’s a him. “But in the end—” you know, or, alternately, “We all just sort of loosey-goosey!” You know? So, like, what was it like? What was your experience?
CK: Yeah. Well, it’s so true, I mean, every writers’ room is really very very different and has a very different style and, you know, even I would say, I think before I worked on television I didn’t even know—the episode that has your name on it isn’t necessarily the episode that you have written for. You know? Often people will have an episode that they did most of the writing for, and that’s not the episode that they have their credit on. So even that gets a little bit, is funny to be on the inside of.
But yeah, The OA was an incredible experience, and I didn’t realize how kind of crazy it was until I, I went to more traditional television. But it was a very communal experience, it was—it felt a lot like an art project, it felt like, it was very non-hierarchical. They didn’t use a lot of, you know, it’s funny cause I always think about, like, TV is, like, based in the ’80s. All the, like, terms that they use are all these old guys, these white men in rooms in the ’80s, that were, like, making up television terms, and you know, that’s where you get, like—they call it like “gangbanging a script.” Right? Like, if…
CK: If you write—if you write a script together, all together, that’s called, “let’s just gang this out. Let’s just gangbang this out.” Or you know, it’s a lot of sports metaphors and sports analogies of, you know, like, “let’s pitch.” “Let’s break.” “Let’s,” you know. It’s a very violent language. And it’s interesting to me because I never, I never really did any of that in The OA. We didn’t use any of that language that, you know, they come from very much—Brit and Zal, Batmanglij and Brit Marling, both come from sort of film background. So they weren’t coming from a television space.
A lot of times you’re kind of like, pitching and you’re winning a pitch, it’s like, who gets to have their pitch in the show? And it’s very competitive in that way. And this never felt like that at all, we were sort of like, trying to uncover the story. It wasn’t about who had the coolest idea or who even had the idea. It was more just like, the story is trying to tell us something, and our job is basically archaeologists trying to, like, dig around the bones of this story that we sort of like feel is present but aren’t sure quite how to get there.
And it was a lot of reading, a lot of mythology, a lot of fiction, I mean, it’s—it was also a room that felt kind of like a book group or a writers’ group, and much more intimate in a lot of other ways that I also didn’t realize was unusual until I got to other rooms.
ELM: Wait, was it like, was it like our writers’ group that we used to have? Did you just drink all the time?
CK: Less wine. [all laugh] Definitely less wine.
FK: That’s interesting because I feel like a lot of times one of the challenges people have when they, like, are watching TV or thinking about, like, how to think about TV, is to, to sort of try and pick like, “Oh, this happened because of this person. This happened because of that person.” And a lot of things in the traditional TV setup…I guess sort of maybe make that a little more explicable? Make it more like you can say, like, “Oh yeah, that episode was written by so-and-so,” and even if it’s not totally true that they wrote it, people will like, develop, you know, ideas that—“Oh, this writer writes things this way and this one writes ’em that way.” But it feels like The OA kinda resists that.
CK: Totally, and I think that’s true with some—I mean, there’s definitely some episodes of, like, Buffy or X-Files that you can say, “That feels like this identity of this writer.”
CK: And it’s sort of like, everyone has their sort of voice. And that sort of just depends on, you know, I think that was often more common when you had a 22-episode season.
FK: [laughs] Yeah!
CK: Right? I think, we’re just gonna—
FK: “We just have to send someone off to do it.”
CK: You have a lot more freedom, almost, because people are like, “OK, yeah, just get this done, and come in and we need to finish this and…” You trust people to sort of, like, have your voice, but those also are like, you can kind of do stories-of-the-week or things can be a little bit more removed. Whereas I think now, especially with these eight to ten episode seasons, you’re really looking for a much more consistent voice across the board.
ELM: Wait, but the one that you have a writing credit on! Did you write most of that?
CK: Yeah! So, well, we actually did get a lot of freedom. I mean, I would say that I, you know, I wrote that with my friend and colleague Dom Orlando. We did outlines where we would get the stories, but we didn’t break dialogue in the room. My last room we really broke almost every line of dialogue.
ELM: What does that mean, for someone who does not [laughs] write for television?
CK: So every room is different, as I said, but The OA, we probably only had, you know, maybe six hours, five to six hours a day of room time, and then we would go home and we would have homework every night where we would write scenes, we would brainstorm prompts. There was a lot of stuff that you did by yourself. And you would never really do dialogue in the room.
A lot of rooms, especially comedy rooms, every line of dialogue is really like—you come and, like, sort of like pitch dialogue. So pitching just means that you say it out loud. And usually in a writers’ room that means someone will say, like, “Here’s the bad idea…” right? Cause that’s the trick of all TV writers. [ELM laughs] You sort of like, have to pretend, like, “Here’s just my stupid idea, before I can get out my good one.” And so yeah. So in other writers’ rooms often you’ll, you’ll actually go through and not only have the lines of action and sort of like the arc of the scene, but you’ll also literally have a bunch of people saying like, “Is this line better? Is this line better?” Like, “what’s this line?” And The OA was not, was not that at all.
So for Episode Six, which Dom and I wrote together—and that was really lucky, because I was a staff writer, it was my first job, which means that as a staff writer you’re not guaranteed an episode at all. You basically like, they can decide whether to give it to you or not. I was luckily given one to write with, to co-write, and yeah, it was—Dom and I just basically split it up, and so he wrote the first half and I wrote the second half. And then we like, switched and gave each other notes and stuff.
ELM: OK, cause I just wanna say—Flourish can vouch for me—my message to Flourish after watching that was “Cool, Claire wrote, I don’t know how this worked but Claire wrote by far the most upsetting episode.” [CK laughs] Like, emotionally like, it was like punch you in the face, repeatedly.
ELM: Even the tender, happy moments punched me in the face!
CK: Yeah, well—
ELM: So thank you.
CK: You’re welcome.
ELM: For hurting me so much. Yeah.
CK: It was really hard—I mean I think the Jesse scene, doing the…I don’t wanna spoiler, but the big moment that happens with Jesse at the tents, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write. Of my, like—
ELM: I can’t imagine.
CK: My keyboard was just, like, filled with tears just after that, and Steve doing The Movements, and—it was great, though, I think, to have that freedom. And Dom was one of the only writers who was in the room that had also been in the room the first season, so he had a really good sense of what the boys sounded like. Angie was definitely, definitely his creation, which is always so funny. Cause I love Angie and I think that’s—that’s just the type of woman Dom loves. [laughs]
FK: All right, so we were both emotionally wrecked by the season, and we—I think I speak for both of us when I say that we’re really mad that it’s not coming back.
ELM: Yeah, no, hold on! I, I’m even mad that you’re coming on this podcast, cause I might not have watched it—even though we’re friends and I shoulda watched it, cause I’m terrible.
ELM: But sometimes I don’t engage with— [laughing]
CK: Jeez, jeez!
ELM: I came to your last play! I in fact had a premium seat!
CK: That’s true, that’s true!
ELM: Yeah, all right. So I’m just saying, if I hadn’t had to watch this, I wouldn’t be so mad! I’m so mad!
CK: What, I’m curious—
ELM: Cause they cancelled it.
CK: I’m curious why you were avoiding it. Did you think you were just, not gonna be your style of storytelling?
ELM: Oh wow. No. I just am bad at watching television. Like, I’m sorry. [laughs]
CK: No no I’m not trying to get an apology! I’m just trying to figure out how—like, cause I think part of it is also like, it’s not, you know, trying to figure out, like—you know, Netflix doesn’t do a lot of marketing for—
CK: You know, their shows, unless it’s sort of Stranger Things, and so it’s been interesting to me just to even see, like, who is drawn into The OA after it’s been cancelled. Like, there’s all these people that are sort of popping up that are now saying “Oh, I heard about it! I love it.”
CK: But it’s sort of interesting to me, just thinking, was it not on their, you know, genre list? Or did it just not show up in their, in their queue? I, or like, what—what would have been exciting for you?
ELM: Yeah yeah. I think for me personally I genuinely don’t watch very much television, I think Flourish can attest to that. And I definitely, I don’t choose things based on anything Netflix recommends. I in fact did not realize they had so much. I mean, I knew—we’ve talked about it, but when you watch it on the Apple TV, they don’t really—it’s so, you guys, I don’t know how you guys watch Netflix, but their UX varies so wildly depending on what device or—
FK: It does.
ELM: Yeah. I hadn’t, the people saying “Oh, it starts—this show started autoplaying for me!” And I was like “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.” Cause it doesn’t do that on my TV!
ELM: But then it did it when I was using a hotel Roku.
CK: Mm, yeah.
ELM: And I was like “Holy shit! Everyone’s having a very different experience than I am,” you know?
CK: Right, Right.
ELM: I don’t know. That’s one thing. I have some feelings about this from an audience perspective, like an audience development perspective, but—it was, don’t take me as a marker of anything, just because I watched one—
CK: No, no!
FK: OK, so like, I—I did see it initially because someone at my office was like “You have to watch this first season, it’s a thing and it’s amazing!” And then I watched it and I loved it. And then the second season came around and I knew that you had been working on it, but because I don’t—I’m not part of like the Netflix—I mean I have a Netflix, but it’s not like my ecosystem in the same way as it is for some people. You know, like, it’s not like, I don’t open up the Netflix app and go “What will I watch today?”
CK: You call it “the Netflix” so I can tell.
ELM: The old Netflix.
FK: The Netflix. Ye olde Netflixe.
ELM: Aunt Flourish.
FK: Ye olde Netflixe. [cracking up] Yeah, so I just don’t—I said “the Netflix ecosystem,” by the way, that was not “the Netflix.”
ELM: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
FK: Anyway, I was like “Oh yeah, that is a thing that’s going” and then I was like “ah, so I should watch it!”
CK: Oh yeah!
FK: And then I found out it was cancelled later and I was like, “Oh, now I feel like an asshole for not watching it in time!” [laughs]
CK: I guess for me I’m just thinking more about, like, the binge model in general. Like, I guess I’m like—
CK: Are binge models actually useful for things, for shows that aren’t, you know, must-watch TV? You know? Stranger Things on July 4th.
ELM: Yeah, I think this would have benefited, this show in particular would have benefited a great deal from an episodic release.
CK: Absolutely, absolutely.
FK: Yeah, cause I definitely—I definitely felt like…
CK: And I think that a lot of story structures actually just don’t, really are not like, harnessed by the binge record, or the binge model, you know? Especially—you know, you just realize, like, every episode that you have weekly, all of a sudden you’re getting a bunch of PR. So it’s new PR every week as opposed to binge model, which you’re like, “well, I never have to talk about it with my friends.”
ELM: Right, exactly.
FK: Yeah, so like, I mean, I know I’ve mentioned this a million times on the podcast but I worked on a very early show that was released binge-wise, East Los High, it was like the first Hulu Original basically. It was striking how the community didn’t—I mean, the community did form cause it was like a hybrid model, but seeing later binge shows, like, it’s a really tough sell to get people coming back in a community sort of oriented way. Fandoms just don’t develop the same way. I mean, maybe they do develop, but like, it’s a very different—you know, I mean, like, whatever, like Stranger Things, it shows up, everyone watches it and then it goes away. It doesn’t feel like there’s the same sort of continuous Stranger Things fandom that you might expect there to be.
ELM: There is, but I think that—for Stranger Things there is, definitely. And they’re in the, like, the ships on Tumblr, the, like…
ELM: Things people are talking about all throughout the year, in between seasons, but I do think that’s a pure scale thing. It’s because so many people.
FK: Mm, yeah yeah yeah.
ELM: Watch it. That you can still have a relatively decent-sized fandom.
FK: No, I mean, I guess that’s what I mean, that I would expect something as big as Stranger Things to be even larger than it is, right? It’s not that it doesn’t exist, it’s that, like, it is so big in those moments when it comes out, everyone watches it in the world.
FK: And then you’re like…where’d y’all go?
CK: Well maybe it’s also almost like—because everyone watches it, it doesn’t have that same kind of niche or cult value that you have, you know, you want, you don’t need to organize yourself online to sort of talk about people who’ve seen it. You can just talk about it with basically everyone. And people don’t really have theories about it. I’m not sure.
I mean, it’s interesting to think about, because I think The OA, the cancellation of The OA has actually brought people out of the woodwork and started like, created a huge community that they never would have before, because I’ve realized that—it’s a show that a lot of people watched and felt like were just—was just made for them. So that they were like, “It was my little secret show.” Some people I think were more eager to share it with other people. But it didn’t have that same kind of—it kind of felt like a little secret that a lot of people had, and I think a lot of people are really surprised at how many people actually loved this show, after the cancellation, who would never have known that if it hadn’t happened.
ELM: That’s really interesting to think about this kind of idea, the fandom wouldn’t actually form around…people wouldn’t feel compelled to seek out other fans while it was happening, or while it was still a thing in the world. But it was that actual impetus of, you know. That’s, that’s very interesting to think about. I mean, and in a little bit of a like—I don’t wanna draw too many parallels because I think that, like, politics and, and pop culture comparisons can be very lazy. But like… [FK laughing] There is some element of…
ELM: Post-Trump election, a unifying element, you know. I say as someone who was trying to campaign for Hillary beforehand. But there’s definitely something unifying in the, like, the negativity. And not necessarily—you know what I mean? Like…
ELM: We’re all gonna gather together because we’re trying to—you know what I mean? In a way that we hadn’t prior to.
CK: Right, right. Which makes sense, cause it’s like the narrative of the resistance, right? We have those narratives in our culture already, so it’s like we can slot into them pretty quickly. Like, “OK, yeah, we’re all—now we’re part of the resistance of this dominant culture.” And I think that that’s sort of similar to what has happened to The OA, is that all of a sudden, we didn’t know—I don’t think anyone knew that we were in danger of being cancelled. So it wasn’t something you had to fight for in the same way that politics…I don’t think a lot of people knew that [laughs] that Hillary was gonna lose. And so now people are a lot more political because of that loss.
ELM: Sure, sure.
FK: To get off the politics metaphor though, I think it’s also interesting, the idea that The OA is something sort of private. I guess that that was my feeling when I watched the first season, I was like “I don’t know that I need to talk to anybody about this, because I don’t know what someone else’s perspective on this is going to bring me. I don’t—” I mean there were some people who had questions, for me it was like the mystery was, was the thing. In fact, I was saying to Elizabeth that when the second season there’s a little more sci-fi sort of explanation, I was like “Oh, I like this too—but it’s definitely like a different direction than I had…” like when I watched the first season it was a single thing, I was like “Oh, this is a mystery that I’ll never unpick. And that’s OK.” And I kind of wonder whether maybe that’s part of the, um, challenge, is that—you know, when you’re given something that feels like a little sort of puzzle box that is just for you to experience and that’s about reflecting your own self back to you in certain ways…
FK: What are you gonna gain from, I can say, I know what I gain from arguing about Game of Thrones theories. But what am I—do I gain something arguing about whether BBA is really a sad sack or whether she’s actually secretly a badass? Like, I don’t, I don’t—
ELM: Why would that be what you argued about, you monster?!
FK: I don’t know, I was just trying to think of something to argue about.
ELM: BBA is the greatest of all the characters. Man. Jesus Christ.
FK: But that’s the point, right? Like…why would you argue about that?
CK: I mean, I think there’s a huge community that likes to solve the puzzle together. So they are, you know, there is a—and that developed, especially after the first season I think of just, “Let’s figure out what this puzzle is, and let’s figure out, let’s deconstruct theories and let’s,” you know, “let’s test things and let’s read every book and every mythology and every,” you know, “music reference, let’s break it all down.” And there’s always gonna be people like that, and I think The OA actually really rewards people who wanna do that work.
But I think you’re right in that, that the majority of our viewers are people that actually are more interested in how it makes them feel and reflect about themselves. I mean, I think it’s really designed as sort of a spiritual tool, or sort of like a journey that you kind of have to go on, and kind of have to consider your own beliefs and tenets, and like—why do The Movements, you know, make me feel uncomfortable?
CK: What is my reaction to this? And then, um, you know, why—do I believe her? Like, what is this story? How do I, how do I fit myself into this narrative? So I do think that, I think it’s like—it’s the kind of show that you tell your couple best friends, that you’re like “I think you might really like this.” But it’s not the show that you’re gonna proclaim from the rooftops and be like, “Oh my God, let’s talk about Daenerys,” you know, “getting her period on a dragon,” that’s just not—
FK: [laughs] Is this what you were thinking about when you were watching Game of Thrones, what happens if you get your period on a dragon?
ELM: It’s good to think about though, it’s important.
CK: I just thought that that, I just felt like that was the end of the season, where—
FK: Are the scales absorbent?
ELM: Do they, do they address that? I haven’t seen Game of Thrones. Do they address that in the show? This is important to me.
CK: No, no, but I just felt like at the end Daenerys is a combination of hangry and PMSy where she’s like “I’m going to destroy everything with my dragon.”
FK: [laughing] “I am on a dragon. And I am hangry and PMSing.”
ELM: I am so sorry that you did not write on that show, Claire. You would have taken it in a different direction.
FK: That is a better explanation than what they gave. Anyway.
CK: Hey, I, I love Game of Thrones, I really do. It’s just that I, I didn’t—they just needed more development for that particular storyline.
FK: Yeah, they did, they did, they did. No I mean I—yeah, I guess this is interesting though, because one of the things we were talking about before watching Season Two, and while we were watching everything going on, was sort of that solving-the-show component. And we’ve talked about this in several previous episodes, like, the idea of like, is a show a thing you can solve? Because there were people who were at the end of the show convinced that there was, like, an ARG and that the show being cancelled was a trick.
FK: And that like they were gonna solve this, and…this seemed [laughs] familiar in bad ways to us. And we were really worried about it.
CK: For The OA, you’re talking about.
FK: The idea of like an ARG and like the show not really being cancelled, like—that strikes major chords in anyone who’s studied fandom, right? It can be a scary thing as well as an “Oh wow you’re all so passionate” bit.
CK: Yeah, I also think that there’s a meta-narrative in the show itself that is like, you have to…the way that the second season ends goes into sort of, breaks the fourth wall. You know, the path that we’re following the boys and BBA and Angie down is that they have to figure out, they’re in one dimension where the OA has been killed, and everybody thinks they’re the weirdos that like did a bunch of movements and dance at a school shooting, everyone thinks they’re just nuts and like maybe have started a cult. And they have to decide, like, what are they willing to believe in and how far are they willing to go? And what are they willing to give up?
And so I think part of also the reason that the OA community has just been so galvanized is because we do feel like the boys. Like, they do feel—the fandom does feel like the tribe. It’s like, it’s actually like, weirdly everything in the narrative that has, like, been put into place of like, the OA will be called “Brit Marling” and she won’t remember. She’ll know that she was the OA, but she won’t remember the truth of it. Like, feels very, like, part of something that The OA would do, which is why I think there’s an extra layer to that conspiracy theory.
ELM: Do you, do you—I’m just, I’ve been very curious to, just observing you interacting on Twitter even with the conspiracy theory stuff itself, like, do you worry about…I don’t wanna put you in a position of like policing anyone’s fan reaction or audience reaction or whatever. But it is hard when I feel like, I just have a really hard time with conspiracy theories. Especially in fandom, right? You know? I think that it’s hard when people…you have a mix of people and some people are like “Well, it’s all, I know it’s not real, it’s all in good fun,” and it’s like, well, you are in the same conversation as some people who actually may not have those boundaries that you have, you know? Do you, do you worry at all about that when you’re thinking about the fans?
CK: I think I’ve always been very upfront in that, like, it’s not a conspiracy theory, we have been cancelled. You know, I think Brit and Zal have always been very upfront about that and I think finally the fandom does believe that after Brit just put something on Instagram, and it feels to me that the fandom now is sort of understanding. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to help and still, like, fight for—against cancellation and show Netflix what the show means to them, but it also, the good thing is that I don’t think that they’re thinking that we’re, as creators, being very manipulative. Right? Which I think would just create a lot of hostility. I wouldn’t want to be tricked like that. Maybe some people would. [laughs]
ELM: It would be so many levels if you, we were all pretending? Like, that would be too many. That would be a hard fiction for you all to maintain I feel like, too, you know? Pretending to be upset about it?
CK: Well, I would have to not know about it, right?
FK: Well this is all conspiracy theories, right? Do you think the U.S. government is actually smart enough to hide aliens? I for one do not.
FK: I don’t believe it.
CK: Probably not.
FK: Some idiot by now would have spilled the beans.
CK: Well, are you talking about Area 51? Is that what you’re talking about?
FK: Literally any alien! Whatever, Project Blue Book, any of the alien conspiracy theories. Like, no. And obviously a writers’ room is not going to be able to keep that secret either.
CK: Well, I think, I think, I mean—honestly I think it’s interesting. I think it’s all, like, displaced, you know? Our whole, the whole thing about like “Let’s go storm Area 51,” it’s like, why would we want to have this conspiracy theory about like, breaking aliens out of government jails? You know? Oh, maybe because…[FK laughs] well actually, that is really going on! With immigrants. And like, actually, that’s a funny way to deal with the very real paralysis that most people feel like in this country.
There is something to be said about The OA cancellation in that, like, everything right now feels like shit. Like, this dimension is crumbling with pettiness and hate and greed and we’ve entered the wrong timeline in which Boris Johnson and bedbugs are taking over! [all laugh]
ELM: That bedbug is gonna call your manager. Yeah.
CK: Yeah, bedbug is gonna—Bretbug is gonna say hi.
FK: [laughing] Bretbug!!
CK: But we’re in the wrong timeline! And so like I think—and we feel so powerless to resist and to, like, communicate in any kind of real way. And Netflix also feels like a really big institution, and the forces of capitalism that we have no control over. But it feels a little bit more manageable I think for a lot of these people.
And you asked about, like, the boundaries of fandom, and I think, you know, the thing that I’ve been really careful is just: I think everyone, a lot of OA fans are a vulnerable population, you know? I think all of us have something in common, that we’ve all been bullied before or all been called crazy before or have been on the fringes of society or have been called “losers” or “outcasts” and some of us are disabled and some of us just don’t have, aren’t used to having any kind of community, or are very antisocial or very alone. And that’s why this show meant so much to them.
And I think, you know, we are as a country—and I do think that, you know, Emperial Young, who is doing the hunger strike, she talks all about that, as like, you know, what’s the importance of mental health in our country? And how does entertainment and art sometimes take the place of actual resources and real health needs? And you know, mental health needs that we all benefit from, in certain kinds of stories? And I do think that there is a therapeutic element to The OA, which is also why people are so drawn to it. The kind of letters that I’ve been getting the last couple weeks have been, like, really extraordinary and not something I’ve ever experienced about any of my art. It’s kind of beyond my understanding even.
ELM: It’s so interesting to think about, like, where we started this conversation with you saying why—part of the reason you wanted to shift to television. And it’s, it’s like…the scale at which you can reach people, especially people like, thinking about, is like so much more amplified and much more vulnerable people than the average, you know, artsy New York theater crowd probably. Not to say that that doesn’t have people who have various…
ELM: …marginalizations within it, but you know what I mean.
ELM: To get that scale, it has to be made by something like Netflix, you know?
ELM: And Netflix, this does not align with Netflix’s actual business goals or feelings. You know? And like, I think it’s been interesting, you talking about this in the press, or on Twitter, as, you know, talking about kind of hints of sort of…I don’t know. Like, artistic socialism, a little bit in a sense, of like, you know what I mean? It’s not only the things that create profit that should be supported, but like, if it doesn’t bring in profit but it brings social value, shouldn’t there be a mix of that within the models of these companies?
FK: I don’t mean to be too, like, congratulatory or something like this, but it has been interesting to watch because when some of the conspiracy theories started going around—not knowing how the OA writers’ room was gonna handle it—I was like, super anxious, because I feel like a lot of times when those things happen people don’t talk about what’s really going on because they feel constrained, because they feel like, “Well, for business reasons I can’t talk about this. I can’t say yes or no, I can’t say anything, I can’t step in, I can’t do anything to, like, connect with people as human beings, because,” you know, whatever. There’s a million reasons, right, why you wouldn’t directly talk to your fans about something. To “your fans,” to the fans of the show you work on.
But then over time—like over the past couple of weeks—it has been really clear, I think, that the conversations that all of the writers on The OA have been having and the fact that, like, Brit made a statement on Instagram and, and just all of the various, like, Twitter interactions, all of this, have really made a difference for a lot of people. And I think that’s interesting too because I think that there’s a lot of other shows that that wouldn’t have happened on in this situation.
CK: It’s been interesting even for me about my own journey, and maybe it’s just like how important this show was to me and opening me up. And I mean, and making me think about other things and making me think about different ways of like, work? And getting out of individualism more towards a collectivism model.
Like, I think—I think it was after it got cancelled, I mean, I had spent two, two-and-a-half weeks in Hollywood right before it got cancelled. And I was doing meetings for my next job, and like, doing a lot of, a lot of, you know, water touring of Hollywood. So I was getting a real lay of the land of like, what Hollywood is thinking about right now and like, sort of what people are scared of, and like, realizing that everyone is really defensive right now in terms of, like, what kind of stories they’re promoting and funding and want to do and the sort of, like, fear of original stories. Basically, like, the spec market is completely dead, everything needs to be based on a short story or a podcast or a novel or a remake of a movie, because the only way that you can get any kind of funding or backers behind it or your—if you’re an executive your boss behind it, is to have some sort of sense of like, here’s the IP—that means intellectual property—here’s the thing that brings value to something.
So I was just realizing, like, it’s so hard to do what The OA did, which is create an original mythology that is not based on anything else and is created for a Netflix screen. Like, it’s very much created for, you know, someone watching their computer. It’s not made for a movie screen. It’s made for someone, like, watching their movie, their screen, in bed, at night, and Zal is like, really aware of that. So like, all this kind of like—you, you see the technology of like, how someone, you know, enters something on a Google search or you see the way that their phones work, or you see the way that like, how it’s lit is all sort of designed for that really personal experience. Like a little, story told to you by candlelight.
I’ve never been on Twitter very much. You know, I have not been very active on Twitter. Like, I—people keep telling me, like, “Oh, Claire! Get on Twitter!” And I’m like “What a waste of time!”
FK: [laughs] Too late now!
CK: Well, it’s been interesting. The last three weeks is just like, I’m like, “Oh, I love Twitter!” I figured it out! I mean, I don’t know if I’m very good at it, and I’m sure people are very annoyed at me talking so much about The OA, but I just had this moment that I was like, if this is the thing I believe in, then I actually—I have to, this show and, like, working on this show, and the narrative of this show has ensured that I have to, like, be my best self and be able to like, treat everyone else like a human that deserves just as much personhood as I do. And like, having to like, sort of live by that ideal was a very scary thing! But I like, I had to like, go on to Reddit and write that letter, because I—I felt like I was in mourning for the show, and I couldn’t imagine all these people that were in mourning for that show. And I felt like I needed to make sure we all had a community that we could mourn together, if that makes sense.
ELM: It does make…! You’re like, making us very sad right now! [laughing]
FK: I was a little, I was genuinely worried that one or all three of us were gonna burst into tears just then! [all laughing] And so now I’m laughing, so it sounds like a joke but it’s not a joke, I was watching and I was like, “Which of us is gonna cry first?!”
CK: I mean, I, it’s weird! It’s so vulnerable to, like, actually care about art, but I really believe that, like, narrative is really radical. And I think part of the reason too was like, when it got canceled, I had just seen on like Saturday I’d gone into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Tarantino, and I had come out, and the El Paso shooter had, like, killed 20 people. And then the next day Dayton killed five people, and then the next day the show was canceled. And it felt to me very connected, all of these things. The way that we give empathy to certain kinds of individuals in our culture, and the way that narratives are structured, and the way that…so many of these movies that are even good, quote-unquote “good” movies, are still based on angry white men who are sort of dissatisfied by the system, being made into heroes who might operate with misogyny and racism underneath them, like…or have killed his wife, like Brad Pitt’s character.
ELM: Oh, great.
CK: And it’s operating, like, it’s—it’s using narrative propaganda, right? Like, narrative propaganda to make you root for that person. And like, that seems very similar to what’s happening with the sort of disillusioned shooters who are going around thinking that they’re the heroes and, you know, stockpiling weapons. All these movies teach you is, like, who is allowed to be the bad guy and who is allowed to be the good guy. And I think that The OA is a feminine, queer narrative that doesn’t have, like, clear good or bad guys. Like, there’s just no such thing of that in our show. And it’s not about an individual hero’s journey. So, it felt like Hollywood is very dumb sometimes, in the way that they wanna pretend that they have no effect on the outside culture.
And it’s not even all American culture, it’s a worldwide, imported culture that we actually have a responsibility for. And the OA fans are, you know, the people who did the billboard in Times Square on Monday was animated by designers in the Czech Republic, France, America, and Brazil, which is like—Brazil is our largest fandom. So it’s a very international audience that feels that this narrative is important to them, and it—that feels, um, also kind of radical to me, that like, they—maybe, I don’t know. I don’t know.
I’m not trying to get too philosophical, but I do think that like, we just aren’t allowed to like, have other kinds of stories, and like, violence always must be met with violence and very clear-cut and very satisfying. And ultimately those are not the kinds of things that will, like, ever let us defeat anything like climate change. [laughs]
FK: Honestly, you’re touching on some stuff that—I don’t know, lately I’ve been feeling a lot like, for so long fandom in my mind has been associated with, like, reading against the culture. Well, the culture only gives us X thing, so we’re gonna read against it and we’re gonna write something else into this story. But recently I’ve been feeling…“against fandom” is the wrong way to put it, because I’m not against fandom, but I’ve been feeling like a very, you know…I guess repulsed by the idea of, of having to, having to carve out my space in those things. You know? Having to read against things.
Not that I don’t do it all the time, you know, but like…and this simultaneous with feeling seduced by some of those stories, right, like, obviously. Like, I love… [laughs] I’m a Reylo, guys! Like, I am fully seduced, right?
FK: But it’s a weird tension between, like, the stuff that you sort of are culturally conditioned to like and the things that you maybe also are drawn to and then, like, well, “Oh, but I’m reading into it, so that’s OK.” It’s a very strange place right now I think for, for the thinking fan. You know? [laughs] The thinking consumer of pop culture, I should say.
CK: Right. “The Scissor Sisters,” you know that podcast “The Scissor Sisters”?
FK: The band…
ELM: The band, we both nodded like “The Scissor Sisters, of course!”
CK: It’s a podcast that talks about, like, horror movies and reading feminist narratives into horror movies.
CK: But also this, she posted something about how it’s also really—you have to, like, stretch so far, you know?
CK: You have to read so far into it. And I think part of the reason that women and queer people and non-binary people and trans people are just like, we’re much better at reading things. Like, we’re actually like so much better [laughter] at reading narratives because we have so much more practice of, like, extending our empathy and like, having to like, find the nooks and crevices in the cultural narrative that we don’t get, that don’t get carved out for us. But it’s exhausting! But you are very good at it!
I mean, I think the weird thing about The OA is, like, so many people who are in the fandom have never been part of a fandom before. Like, it’s, I don’t think I know what a fandom—I think your definition of a fandom and my definition of a fandom are probably very different things. Because my definition of a fandom is like, a very unique weird OA fandom. [laughs] Which is not—
ELM: That’s really funny.
CK: Which is not toxic, which like, which really literally goes around and says like, “OK guys, don’t feed the trolls on Twitter.” Like, “If someone hates the show, just treat them all like Steve before he met the OA.” Like, that’s their sort of mantra.
CK: Is like, they’re like— [laughs] They’re like, “Give them love,” like, “You need to, if someone tries to stab you with a pencil just give them a hug,” you know? They’re like, practicing real gentleness in this way that I think—when I see, like, how much people ganged up on Marc Maron for not liking Marvel movies, I’m like, “That’s not how most fandoms operate.” [laughs]
ELM: Yeah, absolutely! OK, but I—I have another thing that I wanted to ask you about, which is related to the fans, somewhat what we’re talking about. I was really interested in the article that came out, I think today possibly, about the people doing The Movements in New York. And the, the journalist taking a video of them?
CK: Mm-hmm, yeah.
ELM: Is that what happened? And then people were being dicks in the comments to the people doing The Movements, and you asked the journalist to take it down. In a very protective way. And I thought that was very very interesting. Because [CK laughs] it was like, emotionally moving, and I wanna know more about, like, your decision to—you know, like, why you did that, but it was also, contrasting it with some—not necessarily creators, not necessarily writers, making media, but thinking more about how often with fan–creator interaction we talk about, like, “all publicity is good publicity” kind of stuff. And social media teams kind of stoking fan reactions and you could easily say, like, oh, from the perspective of someone coming from the creator’s side of The OA, like, “Love to get the views racked up on this thing so more people can see these people doing this thing so they know that they love our,” you know what I mean? And that was the opposite, and maybe you’ve made a bad business decision, but you’ve made a good protective moral decision.
FK: A human decision.
ELM: A good human decision.
CK: Yeah, I mean, I’m a daughter of a journalist. So part of me was like “Ugh, am I breaking some boundary that I should not be breaking to do this?” You know? But The Movements are very goofy if you don’t know context for them. Right? Like, if—and especially if there’s no music, I think people can, like, just read them as sort of, you know, they make people feel weird. And like, that’s—it’s sort of why in the second season I think that like, The Movements, you know, once you see them as robots you realize, like, “Oh, this is a technological way of programming the universe,” that The Movements as dance are just the primitive way of doing that. Right?
But until you sort of see the sort of more A.I. robot version of it, you really don’t, it really—it really, like, hits people in a wrong way. Which is I think why a lot of people hated the first, the end of the first season, because of that. Because The Movements, in response to violence, like, it just—it’s a very feminine queer thing, to like, be able to use dance as a, as a, as a way to protest nihilism.
FK: Well, and—I mean and also like, interpretive dance is just like a, like…
CK: It’s a meme in our culture, right.
FK: You would say it as a punchline.
CK: It’s a very—yes exactly.
FK: Right? Like “Oh yeah, we’re gonna stop a school shooting through interpretive dance!” Like, thanks, dick.
CK: Right, right right.
FK: That’s totally what this is about, you asshole. But anyway.
CK: And, yeah. But I think what was interesting to me—so I had a bunch of, you know, these OA fans that reached out to me and a lot of them are, you know, vulnerable, and sensitive, and some of them are, you know, so brave and bold and able to, like, deal with that kind of stuff. But I had a couple of them that were like, “I’m gonna leave Twitter, a lot of my people that I love are being mean about this,” like, this is something—“here are these, like, liberal heroes of mine that are making fun of this on a radio show.” You know? Like, and the comments were just, like, so cruel! It was like, you know, I mean, I—I—I screenshotted some of them, just cause it was like, so, “Bring police brutality now.” You know? Like, “Who are these incredible losers that would ever do this?” You know?
And I, I think a lot of that is just the reaction of like, people can’t really conceive of willing to look ridiculous for something that you believe in. Right? Which is what The OA asks you to do. Like, it is—you have to be sort of OK with that. So I asked Rachel because I saw that she, her followers maybe were, were taking that movie, that little snippet, out of context. And it wasn’t even just the comments on her page, but they were using that, her little video, as like a meme to like, spread throughout the internet and to like, make a lot of very very cruel jokes about these people that had, like, practiced doing these movements for, you know, a while, and like, were just trying to like, you know, be a fuckin’ human being.
So that’s why I asked her to do it, and she was really nice enough to, to, to take it down. And then I think, you know, it was nice to also have her article where she could kind of contextualize what it means to people. Cause if people don’t have that context, then they might not know why they have such a violent reaction towards that.
ELM: Mm. It’s so—it’s so dumb though. Because it’s like, people look like, actually I don’t think The Movements—movements are fascinating to me. Like, in terms of the reaction they provoke in everyone. Right? Even people who love it. But people go to sports games and look like fools, right? And no one is ever like, you know? And I don’t say “police brutality now” when you’re, like, doing the sports version of The Movements! Which is—all of your emotion, all of your feelings. And you know, in, in ways that are practiced together. Right?
CK: Exactly! Exactly. And it’s just a testament, it’s like, it’s a way of coming together joyfully and like, a lot of those people had come from Philadelphia, and from New Jersey, and then flew from, you know, the middle of the country, someone came from Idaho, like, they came to just do that, to see the billboard and to do those movements together. And that feels to me, like, so optimistic! And amazing! Like, I really was—I was touched by that.
And I, I do think that it is partly—partly it’s, it’s just a vocabulary thing. And it’s just like, our, the kind of narratives that we expect is that you… [sighs] We don’t have a system of you know film and television in this country that allows there to be different kinds of endings. That allow there to be ambiguity. That allow there to be a feminine ending as opposed to one that, like, you know. I mean I’m fascinated by this in terms—there’s a music video—do you know the music video “Pumped Up Kicks,” do you know that song?
ELM: I don’t.
CK: [singing] “All the other kids with their pumped up kicks, they’re gonna run, better run…”
ELM: Oh, that song! That’s the name of that song.
CK: And do you know what that song’s about?
CK: No, it’s about a school shooting, right? So it’s about—
FK: Yeah, like, that’s literally what the lyric is, everyone sings, “they better outrun my gun.” Like, it’s about all of these schoolkids.
ELM: I thought it was a metaphor!
CK: It’s about stealing his dad’s six-shooter and going to the cafeteria and killing all the kids that have, like, nicer sneakers than him. “And all the other kids with the pumped up kicks better run, better run, better outrun my gun.” Like, “faster than the bullets.” Right? So I had never known what that song was about either. Like, I—and I remember singing that song and being like “Oh, what a fun song!” Like, my restaurant that I used to work at, like, played that song all the time.
So there is a, currently a music video for this song by Foster the People, someone made this music video two years ago and it’s the last scene of the first season of The OA. With that song underneath. So it’s the music video and it’s now, the boys in the cafeteria, the shooter coming in, and they do these movements in the middle of the music video about the school shooting. And like 42,000,000 people have watched this, you know music video, and they think it’s the official music video, so they’re always very confused, like, “Why is Phyllis from The Office in this music video?”
ELM: Oh my God.
CK: But I’m fascinated by this because this is like the little testament, for me, in just like a social experiment of like—you get all ranges. Like, people who are like “What the fuck are those movements?” You know? And then other people who are like, “Oh, I really wanted him to, once those kids started dancing, I really wanted the school shooter to mow them all down.” Right? Or, “I really wanted the kid in the middle to just beat the ass of the school shooter,” or you know.
And then you also have these comments that are like, “Wow, that made me feel so weird!” Like, “I’m really scared of going to school every day, and like, this actually gave me hope!” Or like, “Wait, what’s the story?” Or like, “I feel like, I wanna learn this, this,” you know, [laughs] “these movements.” So you have all ranges of reactions and this little microcosm that has nothing to do with the show in general, but like, is a way of examining, like, why…just that reaction of like, what it hits in you and what kind of place you are probably that day or in your life that you’re willing to be like, this is either a sign of incredible hope and optimism in the face of, like, terrifying violence, and like, a real situation that’s going on every day in this country, that kids are really scared of, or it’s something that, like, should be lambasted and like, met with other violence. You know? So I don’t know. I think, I think The Movements are fascinating to me too.
ELM: So, this is a good wrapping-up point. I guess you, you’re not like a fortune-teller, you have no idea what’s gonna happen.
CK: Well, I mean, I—honestly I just have to say, like, I’ve been so impressed by like the amount of organization that these people have. I mean, I hope that no one was offended by me. I saw Rachel quoted me as saying, like, “my OA kids.”
CK: And I was like “Oh no!” Cause, you know, many of these people are full-grown adults that are older than I am. But I do feel that, you know, BBA’s always like “My boys!” [all laugh]
FK: You were BBA…
ELM: This is so relatable. It’s incredible.
CK: They really, no, they really honestly though, like, I can’t believe all the stuff that they’ve done. I, I can’t believe that they, like, fundraised a billboard and did the flash—did The Movements in two different places, and then also protested outside of Netflix, and like, all this stuff that they’re actually campaigning and that amount of organization that they’ve been able to have, like, through like different platforms on like Discord and all these other things that I don’t even know what they are. It’s kind of incredible. At the same time like using their money to, like, you know, donate to the Amazon rainforest and, like, human trafficking organizations, which I’m—I just am like, it honestly gives me hope, whatever happens with The OA, like, whether it gets uncanceled or not, that like, I really believe that these people can do whatever they put their mind to next. That like, I, I do feel like—if there’s a way to, like, keep the faith of a group, that they’ll be able to, like, continue that on into other ways.
Cause it feels like—that’s kind of what we need, right? Like, we need to have that feeling where like, we don’t all just feel in our separate glass cages. And that we’re like actually open.
ELM: Brought it all back!
CK: Talking through it! Yeah. Exactly.
ELM: Well, you made all three of us cry again, so that’s cool, congratulations.
CK: That’s fine. I’ve had like so many, I’m currently obsessed with this woman who runs one of the Instagram groups, and she’s like a Brazilian ex-nun who is like, I honestly, I call her “the priestess of the OA.” She’s just incredible. And she’s just like, a genius at all of this. And like, she also understands the show on such like a deep mythic level. So I feel like I’m just happy also that I got to, like, make friends. Like, I’ve never been part of a fandom. I feel like I’ve always been jealous of Elizabeth, of, of the way that you are able to, like, operate in those, like, fan spaces.
And like, it’s weird that I am now like, I, you know…I’m a writer but I think like, I’m also really like a fan. Because I came to the show as a fan first. I saw it as a fan before I even started to write on it.
FK: Well, that’s like one of the nicest endorsements of a fandom that I think I’ve ever heard from…
ELM: Genuinely. I’m so glad you were able to come on.
CK: Thank you so much for having me!
CK: This was so great!
ELM: Yeah well when The OA gets uncanceled you can come back…
CK: I think it will! I’m actually very positive.
ELM: Really? Like, not on Netflix.
CK: I know that Netflix has been bothered because I overheard them at one of the flashmobs being, like, they’ve been talking—some of the employees were like “Oh my God, this has been crazy how long it’s going on for!” So, I know that they’re listening. [laughs]
FK: All right, well, we’ll keep our fingers and toes crossed.
ELM: All of the crossing.
FK: We’re so glad you came on and we will expect you back on in the future for other things, or for more OA.
ELM: Yeah, hopefully more OA.
CK: Well, hopefully both of those things, but sounds great. Wonderful. Save the OA! Talk to you guys later.
FK: I feel like Claire is such a pure soul, and everyone involved with The OA is such a pure soul, and I just feel like…I don’t know. Good and also sad. That not everything is so pure.
ELM: Yeah! I mean, that’s how I feel as well! [FK laughing] Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, I—sometimes in this conversation I felt like it’s, it’s made me think a little bit too about over the weekend, this past weekend before this episode came out, there was a lot of discussion about the new Joker film.
ELM: And about original stories versus…
ELM: …stories loosely within franchises, and one thing I find very tedious about this annoyingly is, like, it’s also gonna get wrapped up in the details of the Joker in particular, and like, I was saying [laughs] to people, I kind of wish we could go back to talking about Logan! Which has a different, like…a different ethos, you know?
FK: Yeah, there’s so much—yeah.
ELM: But a similar sort of… And, you know, the question of like, in the review, I believe it was David Ehrlich’s review that was something like, you know, “Is this what it’s gonna be now? There’s gonna be no space for original cinema, loosely connected,” you know, “just use the names from some big-budget IP, and that’s how you’re allowed to make these stories.”
It’s interesting talking to Claire, because I know Claire, as she even said in the episode, has this real, real hunger to get original stories out there. I don’t necessarily, I think because I come from a transformative fandom background I don’t think that that’s the only place you can tell stories like that, but I also…
ELM: I do think there’s a stifling, I acknowledge there’s a stifling element when you can’t, when you look at something like this show, like The OA, and it is a truly original idea coming out of nowhere, and the lack of interest in that from, you know, the fact that Netflix isn’t concerned with continuing that. You know what I mean? I don’t know, it’s a tricky conversation.
FK: Yeah, well, I think it’s also tough too, because at the same time as people are decrying this, I mean, separate from—as you were saying, like, the Joker and that film in particular have a lot of baggage that come with them.
ELM: Like their message of it, get that out of there.
FK: Yeah, I mean, the people who are decrying this turn, I have to say, are also probably the people who would like to see…could we have better superhero films? [laughs]
ELM: Sure. Sure, sure.
FK: Could we have better things, right? Like, so it’s tough, because on the one hand yeah, it really sucks. You will get zero, you know, zero complaint from me that, that you have to have an IP attached to things in order to get it made. On the other hand, like, can we be happy with like—
ELM: You’ll get zero complaint, you’ll get zero complaint from you?
FK: You’ll get zero complaint—you’ll get zero opposition from me, it’s true it sucks that—
ELM: Oh, OK. To that statement. I thought you meant when Hollywood says to you…
ELM: “…it has to be attached to IP,” you’d give them zero, zero complaint.
FK: Zero complaint? No no no.
ELM: I mean it is ironic that you specifically work on franchises, but yes, continue.
ELM: You’re also a viewer who likes to see a variety of things!
ELM: And a reader and all of this. Yeah.
FK: Yeah, like, as a person who likes sometimes to see a superhero thing, I wish more superhero things were good! And I think that they—they could be better if they explored more sort of tonal levels and more places and, you know, all this! Right? Not to say that I necessarily want to see a relentlessly grimdark Joker movie, but like, Logan was great.
FK: So, you know. I mean, it’s a—it’s, it’s a bit of an odd thing. Some of these reactions, in my opinion. I mean, I don’t know what to say about that, but. But, yeah! Like, back to The OA though, I mean, I—I would certainly agree that, like, this is separate also from either, neither Logan nor the Joker movie are exactly not about violence, you know?
ELM: Sure, right.
FK: Or about different approaches to violence. You know?
ELM: Well, I mean, it’s just, it’s funny that all these examples are, you know, these grimdark violent, arty…what about, what if Brit Marling made, you know, made an X-Men movie or whatever?
FK: That’s it. That’s our pitch. Brit Marling makes an X-Men movie. Ideal.
ELM: Claire can write on it.
FK: Give her Dark—give her—yeah! Give her Dark Phoenix and see what happens to that story! [ELM cackling] All right.
ELM: Oh man, with interpretive dance! [laughing]
FK: Give. Brit Marling. Dark Phoenix.
ELM: Get Fassbender back to do some interpretive dance, it’s all I want. He would commit 100%.
FK: With lots of butt—the butt would be clenched.
ELM: He would clench as he committed, but he would commit 110% and you know it.
FK: I do! He, he always—that’s what, that is the savior of this. They commit. Anyway.
ELM: Good, good! All right, well, you work in Hollywood, you make that happen thank you.
FK: I’ll work on it.
ELM: Anyway, I—I’m so glad that we got to talk to Claire. I was, it was a good bit of like, maybe not closure necessarily for me, but it was like, somewhat cathartic to actually hear someone talking, like, someone who was working at it talking about these themes with such passion in a way that I don’t know…I don’t know, I don’t know if we always get to hear that. Because I think a lot of writers are working on projects that they think are fun stories, but not necessarily like philosophically so weighty, you know what I mean? Which is fine.
FK: I agree completely.
ELM: There’s lots of space for all of that, but it’s nice to listen to that, you know?
FK: Definitely. Definitely. Yeah!
ELM: Anyway, I hope The OA gets to make more OA.
FK: I hope that too.
ELM: Cool, great. Now I’m sad again. And, bring back The Hour.
FK: Bring back what?
ELM: Bring back The Hour! Bring back The Hour! The last thing I was this upset about getting canceled.
FK: Oh, I don’t know about this!
ELM: Flourish. What?
FK: I don’t!
ELM: You don’t know about The Hour?
ELM: Have you heard of The Hour?
FK: No, I have no idea what you’re talking about right now at all!
ELM: We’re gonna get so many angry letters.
FK: I just, I don’t know!
ELM: The most famous—not the most famous. The Hour was a television show on the BBC from maybe 2010ish, 2013ish, starring Ben Whishaw and Romola Garai, and…
FK: Two fine actors.
ELM: Damian Lewis? Who’s the guy from The Wire who’s British, Irish?
FK: Uh, yeah. I know who you’re—I can think of his face but not—
ELM: Not Damian Lewis, he’s on Billions. You know who I’m talking about, whatever, the actor from The Wire who’s Irish. Anyway, and some other British character actors that I really love, Peter Capaldi’s in it, anyway, it was billed as, like, the BBC’s answer to Mad Men because it was like, while Mad Men was on and it was set at—
FK: Was that the one, was that the one where people, like, cursed extravagantly? No.
ELM: No! It was set in the BBC [laughing] at BBC News in the 1950s and it was exquisitely shot and Ben Whishaw, Ben Whishaw—such a good actor! As you know! He’s just an extraordinary actor! And this floppy little body and hair, the whole time, and I think statute of limitations is up: it ended on the like, I think it was the third season? Ended on a cliffhanger, where you didn’t know if he was gonna live or die, he’s like, lying bloodied and bruised on the ground, and then they canceled the show.
FK: Oh, that sucks! I’m sorry to all the people who watched that show. [laughs]
ELM: And it has a lot of fans! And like people talk about it on Twitter all the time! I hadn’t been so mad since they canceled The Hour! Give us The Hour! Give us The Hour!
FK: You know a lot of people who are in the U.K. and I don’t! I know a lot of people who are American.
ELM: These are Americans too! These are people—all countries, Flourish, are united by their anger at The Hour getting canceled on a major cliffhanger so Ben Whishaw could go be Paddington, Paddingtons One and Two. Which to be fair is a really good use of his time.
FK: OK OK OK. This has been a delightful, you know, discussion of a thing that I didn’t know about.
ELM: That I’ve spoiled for everyone.
FK: I think we should bring it back, because I think that there’s some actual business that we need to talk about before we go.
ELM: OK. So you’re gonna go watch The Hour.
FK: So, I’m gonna go watch The Hour, and while I go watch The Hour I will continue to finalize the details for these pins.
ELM: All right.
FK: That we’re making.
ELM: No no, even better than you watching The Hour, Flourish is currently watching Black Sails and let me tell you why that’s important.
ELM: Flourish has finally seen the light. No, you know what’s gonna happen when you finish? Our Patrons are gonna get a special episode about Black Sails.
FK: Will get a special episode about Black Sails, that’s true.
ELM: I’m just tryin’ to connect it to the Patreon. I’m tryin’ to connect it.
FK: All right, all right, we will finally—so OK. We are supported by Patreon. Step one. [ELM laughing] You all can give us money to help us make this podcast, which is really really helpful, because we do everything ourselves and it’s a lot of work and it’s hard and we also pay people to do things like write articles for us, which is great. So. You should give us some money. [ELM laughs] If you can and are willing.
ELM: If you can and you would like to! Yes. As little as $1 a month.
FK: When you give us some money, you can get a lot of great rewards, from things like getting to hear the episodes 24 hours in advance, all the way to things like a bunch of special episodes on topics such as Black Sails, some fanfic…
ELM: Maybe The Hour! Maybe when you’ve watched The Hour!
FK: I—I’m not prepared to say that I will watch The Hour but maybe I will and maybe we’ll do a special episode on it.
ELM: I spoiled it for you.
FK: And then we just announced that in honor of our anniversary of being a podcast, we are creating these little fan pins of our logo. Enamel pins. They’re gonna be really cute. We’re still finalizing the details on those, but everyone who pledges $5 a month or more will get one. And this is also a reminder, if you do pledge that, put your shipping address in your Patreon so that we can send it to you.
ELM: And this includes anyone who pledges currently at the $1, $2, $3 a month. We’ve gotten a lot of people since we mentioned this in the last episode bumping up their pledge by a couple dollars. Like, maybe—
ELM: Maybe you’re a Patron and we really appreciate it and your financial circumstances have changed a little bit, you have a couple more dollars a month, DO IT! You get a pin! Everyone loves pins!
FK: Right. So. We’ll keep you updated on that. They are coming, we have figured out what we’re doing and we’re just finalizing the details and then they’ll be getting produced! So that’s great.
If you do not want to give money to our Patreon, you can still support us! By rating us and reviewing us on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, and also by telling people about us. It’s really really helpful, especially if, you know, you know some folks who maybe wouldn’t normally come across our podcast, like, word of mouth is helpful and gets more people to listen and that’s really good for us. So, so stick out your neck a little bit if you’re willing, that would be lovely.
ELM: Finally, if you wanna get in touch with us directly, especially if you have thoughts about this episode, you can contact us at a variety of places, fansplaining at gmail.com is the very best way to send us words. Our phone number—am I gonna remember it? Do I know it by now?
FK: I don’t know.
ELM: That’s right! You can call that number, it’s a voicemail, we don’t, we’re not gonna pick up the phone. Even if we knew how. And…[laughs] I just don’t answer the phone anymore. And you can leave us a voicemail. You can totally stay anonymous in either of these places, if you write us and you want us to not, you know, use any, your name or anything like that. Absolutely let us know.
Alternately if you have something short to say or you just wanna follow us and see what other people are saying in the conversation, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, we are fansplaining in all of those places, and you can communicate with us in all of those places.
FK: All right! Well, I think that’s about it!
ELM: That is. I’m gonna go think about—now I’ve got two shows that I’m sad about to think about.
FK: Well, I’m gonna go think about pirates.
ELM: Oh! A show to be happy about! Because it was allowed to end in its own time.
FK: All right, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed, save The OA.
ELM: Yes please.
FK: Because we want it to come back.
ELM: Yes please.
FK: All right. [laughs]
FK: Bye Elizabeth.
ELM: Bye Flourish!
ELM: Fansplaining is brought to you by all of our patrons, especially the following people and especially everyone who’s pledged $5 or bumped up their pledge since we announced this cool pin. So if you wanna get on this list…still pluggin’ it.
FK: Woo hoo! OK.
ELM: The list is as follows…
ELM & FK: Amelia Harvey, Anne Jamison, Bluella, Boxish, Bradlea Raga-Barone, Bryan Shields, Chelsee Bergen, Christine Hoxmeier, Christopher Dwyer, Clare Muston, Desiree Longoria, Diana Williams, Dr. Mary C. Crowell, Earlgreytea68, Fabrisse, Felar, Froggy, Georgie Carroll, Goodwin, Gwen O’Brien, Heart of the Sunrise, Heidi Tandy, Helena, Jackie C., Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Jay Bushman, Jennifer Brady, Jennifer Doherty, Jennifer Lackey, Jennifer McKernan, Josh Stenger, Jules Chatelain, Julianna, JungleJelly, Katherine Lynn, Kathleen Parham, Kitty, Kristen P., Lizzy Johnstone, Lucas Medeiros, Maria Temming, Menlo Steve, Meredith Rose, Michael Andersen, Mark Williams, Matt Hills, Meghan McCusker, Molly Kernan, Naomi Jacobs, Nozlee, Poppy Carpenter, Sam Markham, Sara, Secret Fandom Stories, Sekrit, Stephanie Burt, StHoltzmann, Tara Stuart, Veritasera, Willa, and in honor of One Direction and Francis Crawford of Lymond and Sevigny and Captain Flint.
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.
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