Episode 11: Muggles v No-Maj
While in England, Elizabeth interviews Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz of SRSLY, the New Statesman’s pop culture podcast; Flourish, back in New York, adds her responses. Topics covered include what the job of a magazine editor really entails, the difficulties of being a fan and a journalist, Britpicking, whether Tumblr is an American space, and how time zones affect our fannish experiences.
[00:02:17] 1D’s first music video. Compare with the above.
[00:03:38] Go listen to Elizabeth on Srsly!
[00:05:27] Interstitial music is “A short bit of Springtime Funky Jazz (The bass solo)” by Fool’s Chaos, used under a CC BY 3.0 license.
Here, have a Downton Abbey gif!
[00:14:32] Elizabeth’s Year in Reading for the Millions (with offending comment).
[00:16:07] Thomas Hardy the portrait painter is from Derbyshire, but the author of Far From The Madding Crowd is not. Maybe the commenter was mixed up in his Thomas Hardies?
[00:23:41] The intersitial music is “A short bit of Springtime Funky Jazz (The bass solo)” by Fool’s Chaos, used under a CC BY 3.0 license.
[00:31:38] Lori Morimoto!
[00:41:29] Elizabeth on being temporally displaced!
[00:43:31] Elizabeth comes out as a fangirl!
[01:03:13] Outro is “A short bit of Springtime Funky Jazz (The bass solo)” by Fool’s Chaos, used under a CC BY 3.0 license.
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining episode… 11?
ELM: 11! It’s called “Muggles v No-Maj.”
FK: UGH, NO-MAJ!
ELM: No… maj? No-maj. No-MAJ [changing the emphasis]. I think it’s supposed to be in New York, right? No-MAJ!
ELM: Yeah, that’s good, you’re learning, you’re learning!
FK: It just makes me think of “vaj” every time, I’m sorry to say.
ELM: In case you don’t know what we’re referring to, “no-maj” as has been revealed recently is the American word for “Muggle.” Which is like patently offensive. That’s, that’s, I can’t get over it. I’m not over it.
FK: I don’t know if I hate it so much—
ELM: Not over it!
FK: —because I feel like maybe it’s terrible 1920s slang?
ELM: All right, if it’s 1920s slang I don’t hate it so much, I still hate it if it’s just because Americans are incompetent and can’t say Muggle. Why are you taking this away from us, guys? Anyway, the point is, the reason this is the title of the episode—this title was suggested by a writer at the New Statesman, Anna Leszkiewicz, who is one half of the Srsly podcast that we’ve done a crossover with this episode. Srsly podcast is Anna and Caroline Crampton, who’s my editor at the New Statesman, and they have a pop culture podcast called Srsly that I love, which you’ve been listening to, right, Flourish?
FK: Yeah, I have, and everybody who is listening to this podcast should definitely listen to that one, because it is fabulous.
ELM: Yeah, and it’s about pop culture, so it’s critical reviews and great discussions—I don’t know if anyone read, Anna had this piece that was very widely shared on the internet this year called “The Mansplaining of Taylor Swift”? Did you happen to read this, Flourish?
FK: I read it, I also—I read it. I read it.
ELM: It was really good! It was also the kind of piece where you’re just like, “thank you,” because I was getting really angry with the rest of the press at large, you know? So.
FK: Yeah. There’s also been coming out of their talented pens an incredibly great article about Harry Styles’s fashion choices, which made me go back and watch One Direction’s first music video, and I almost threw my computer at a wall because in it Harry is wearing khakis and that’s just so wrong!
ELM: I’m sorry!
FK: Oh, it hurt my heart, the way “no-maj” hurts your heart Harry wearing khakis hurts mine!
ELM: Anyway, so what we didn’t mention is that I’m recording this from England right now, where I’ve been for the last week.
ELM: Greetings from—
FK: Home of real magic!
ELM: Home of Muggles! We’re doing this a little differently this week. Last week I went into the New Statesman offices and recorded with these ladies and we were hoping to call into Flourish—but it didn’t work out because of a technical issue, so I just talked to them and the way we’re mixing it up this week is that Flourish is going to listen to our conversation and she’s going to give us some reactions afterwards. So hopefully she doesn’t hate it, IDK.
FK: I don’t know, I don’t know. It will be really hard to listen to an entire podcast that I’m not in. I love my own voice so much.
ELM: This confirms everything I thought.
FK: What? You know it’s true, I know it’s true, we all know it’s true. I love me.
ELM: [laughs] Anyway, anyway, I had a really lovely chat with them, and actually shameless self promotion I also went on Srsly, the episode that came out this week, and talked some more about Carry On and Fangirl and Rainbow Rowell, my fave topic obviously.
FK: I can’t wait to listen to this!
ELM: Your voice is not on that one either, so you’re probably not going to listen to it.
FK: Oh, come on!
ELM: I’m kidding! Anyway, I’m delighted to be in England and I had a really wonderful time talking to them about fandom and media and also some transcultural fandom stuff, UK vs US, and spoiler alert: they were way nicer about America than I thought anyone has the right to be. So I hope you enjoy it, Flourish.
FK: But if they were mean about the US I feel like your latent patriotism would come to the fore and you’d be like, “no one says that ‘bout my country but me!”
ELM: Hm, maybe.
FK: No, I would do that, but maybe I’m projecting onto you.
ELM: I do wax poetic about the egalitarianism of the dirty, disgusting, always-late trains on the subway. Because we have one flat fee for the whole system, and here it’s tiers and it’s astronomically expensive. And so whenever anyone starts to trash the subway when I’m here, I’m like “How dare you! That’s what makes it a land of equal opportunity!”
FK: Pizza rat. Pizza rat makes it a land of equal opportunity.
ELM: Pizza rat pays the same $2.75 as everyone else!
FK: Well, I look forward to listening to it!
ELM: And one thing I should say before we roll the tape—which is a phrase I just said from the past—having listened to it myself, I know that I failed to properly introduce them just because if you haven’t listened to Srsly you may not know the difference between their voices. So Anna is the one who speaks for the first extended segment, she’s the one who’s into One Direction. And Caroline goes second and I won’t reveal what her current fandom is because that’s a big reveal.
FK: I can’t wait!
ELM: OK, so a little strange flying solo, but here I am in the offices of the New Statesman, joined by Caroline and Anna. Hi guys!
Anna Leszkiewicz: Hi!
Caroline Crampton: Hello! It’s so nice to be here in my own office.
ELM: Thank you for having me in your new office! It’s an incredibly charming street. We usually start by asking people about their fannish histories and the one thing that I’d be really curious about is as you talk about it you’re both journalists, you both write about pop culture and fan stuff, obviously you write about other things too, and I’m wondering—obviously I have a very selfish vested interest in knowing this, cause this is what I do too—but what has that been like for you, being fans and journalists, and how has that intersected?
AL: So, I have been someone who’s into lots of different fandoms, and I haven’t written about them all—some of them I’m still a little embarrassed by, which I know is not what we’re all about on these podcasts…
ELM: Like which one?
AL: So I was really into a British comedy called The Mighty Boosh which you might know, which I loved and now if I watch it back I’m like “Oh God, this makes me really uncomfortable and I don’t like it anymore.” But I guess that’s part of being a fan: sometimes it’s that, “Oh, I’m not actually a fan of that anymore.” So I wouldn’t ever really write about that. One thing that I have written about a lot as a journalist is One Direction, and I’m a massive One Direction fan. And that’s been kind of weird, because sometimes I just want to talk to other fans and I feel like I have to be like, “Also I’m a journalist, and I might one day write down what you said just now, but maybe not who you were.” People don’t always love that when you’re like “Oh yeah, I’m a fan, but I also write about the boys in the band,” because it makes people edgy to think—
ELM: Who are these people, are you talking about other fans?
AL: Yeah, other fans. So if I’m like, say I’m queueing up outside a One Direction concert and I’m chatting to all the fans, sometimes they’re like “You ask a lot of questions!” and I’m like “Yeah, I’m also a journalist!” and they’re like “OK, what do you write about the boys?” They don’t always love that. So that can be where it becomes a little bit like, nerve-wracking, but most of the time it’s just really, really fun because I get to write about the things that I really love, oh, and it’s so great! So like writing about Harry Styles’s outfit at the Music Awards and such—what a great thing to be able to do! I love to be doing that. So, brilliant.
CC: I think… I’ve been less open about it than you have?
AL: Yeah, really went straight in there, didn’t I?
CC: You know what I mean? So I kind of am at that stage now where I mostly don’t write about my own personal interests, here in pop culture. And then, every so often, I will blurt out a massive long screed about something and a lot of people will be like, “Oh wow, so you’re like… really really into that…” and I’ll be like, “Yes. I’m going to be quiet again for six months.” I feel like both Anna and Elizabeth have a much better balance of relationship with this, where you regularly write about these things and you regularly walk this line between being a fan and also being someone who writes about it, whereas I’m very much like pretending that nothing’s happening—then I’ll write a mega-essay about something and then I’ll be like, mm, it’s fine…
AL: But maybe if something’s fun for you you don’t always want to make it work?
CC: No, that is a major thing I have actually—so for instance, Elizabeth and I, we haven’t actually talked about this yet—I think I like Downton Abbey again!
ELM: Oh my God, really?
ELM: Well, did it suddenly get good again?
ELM: Cause I haven’t watched it since last year.
CC: No, it hasn’t at all. But it’s ending, and I’ve massively got into the fandom again, and it’s been really, really amazing the last three months. But—and I had this idea when the final series first started, that I wanted to write something about my kind of love-then-hate-then-love-again for Downton Abbey—
AL: I would love to read that!
CC: I think I’ve decided I’m not going to—
ELM: Why not?
CC: On the basis of it’s too hard! I don’t know what I think about it!
AL: Maybe write it to know, and then you don’t have to publish it?
CC: Yeah, maybe. But yeah, that’s a good example of something where yeah, you’re right, I almost like it too much at the moment. I wouldn’t feel like I could get any distance from it.
AL: Yeah, and sometimes I’ve been asked to write stuff and I’ve been like, “Look, I’m probably just not going to write about that one.” Like, I don’t really know how to write about this because I care about it too much, so I’m just going to like skirt around this issue. And that can feel, that can sometimes be embarrassing, especially when someone’s asking you to write a piece about One Direction and you’re like “Sorry, I’m actually too invested in this band to write that for you!” But you have to kind of say it or lie. Either way.
ELM: One thing I was gonna say, hearing you talk about this, Caroline, is I think maybe you’re not, I don’t want to say not giving yourself enough credit? But you have a different role here, not just as a writer but the fact that you are commissioning editor. And I think even if you’re not super open about it, you definitely have hired the types of people who—you kind of managed to very quietly orchestrate, get the fannish perspective into the cultural coverage of this magazine. Do you disagree?
CC: No, I guess that’s fair! It’s not so much a conscious thing of wanting it there as thinking why shouldn’t it be there, if that makes sense. So I wouldn’t have ever went in to interview someone for a role and be like, “Are you a fan of anything? Do you know what these three acronyms are or you can’t work here” or anything as extreme as that—
ELM: Oh no!
CC: But I just don’t really have time for anyone who writes about pop culture that doesn’t include this, if you know what I mean.
ELM: Yeah! I just sometimes—I write for other people, and I don’t know, I get this sense that they’re thinking “Ugh, this nerd writing about this stuff.” You know? And people are now interested in it because it gets clicks and—
CC: It’s making money.
ELM: So they’re like “I guess I have to…” You know, I just get that vibe sometimes. I don’t want to malign anyone else I’ve written for, so…
AL: For context, me and Caroline work at a fairly serious man political magazine. And Caroline edits the website and for example yesterday we had a piece on the website about Star Wars, and why the prequels are actually really really good. And perhaps Caroline, if you weren’t doing this job someone else might not have commissioned that and had that on the front page of the website that day.
CC: Yeah, so I guess that’s actually a really good example. So, Star Wars is obviously coming really soon, massive big deal, so our magazine film critic is also really into the internet and he blogs loads and he’s really great to work with. He is going to do the on-the-day review of the piece, so all of his thoughts will be in there. But he’s not particularly a Star Wars fan, he sees it very much as a critic.
So I also wanted the piece that gives the feelings of someone who’s been in the Star Wars fandom for so long and now there’s a sequel and how do you feel? And our colleague John has a really good friend who’s massively into Star Wars and is a really good writer, and he had mentioned that he had this idea that actually there’s a collective misremembering going on about the prequels, and that actually Roger Ebert thought they were really great, and they were critically well-reviewed,and they made lots of money not just in the first weekend but continued—so in what sense are we saying they’re bad? So he wrote that piece and it’s very very detailed and really positive and lovely, so yeah, maybe if I didn’t personally want to read that so much, if I didn’t care about that perspective, I would just have gone with Ryan’s review. I wouldn’t have wanted both.
So maybe that’s the thing. I always feel like—you have to have confidence in this, as an editor. And sometimes I struggle with that having the confidence part. But you just have to have the things you want to read, and trust that other people feel the same… But we didn’t talk much about, so Anna talked a bit about One Direction and The Mighty Boosh, but I feel like we should also mention some other stuff that we have also been into. Because I don’t want people to go away with the idea that I only like Downton Abbey.
AL: Do you think we should, is there a Detectorist fandom? Can we begin one?
CC: I haven’t found one yet.
AL: We could begin one! We could begin that.
CC: We could be the Detectorist fandom!
AL: You should all watch Detectorist, listeners of this podcast, absolutely.
ELM: Is it available in America?
AL: I don’t know. Probably not. I don’t know if it’s even available here anymore.
CC: It’s available in Britain on YouTube, a bit dodgily! It’s a BBC sitcom about people who go metal detecting and it’s just the loveliest thing, it’s really cute.
AL: But we’re quite into—we’ve both been enjoying Downton Abbey on and off, but we’re into Harry Potter, we’re into…
CC: We’re quite into Harry Potter.
AL: Yeah, we’re really into Harry Potter.
CC: As you’ve probably been gathering, I’m a serial lurker, so I never really posted anything, but I was really into Buffy for like three or four years.
ELM: Excellent. Me too. So one thing that has been really interesting to me in the past few years is… Maybe I have more of a focus on this because I only really write about fandom at this point, did you happen to see, when I wrote about books recently, the comment I got?
CC: Was this your year in reading?
ELM: Did you read it?
CC: Because I read the piece, but I didn’t read the comment, because I don’t read comments.
AL: What was the comment?
ELM: Oh, wait. Should I read it aloud?
CC: So I loved your year in reading, and I loved it even more when I got to the end and I was like “I’m in this! You’re mentioning me! I’m the friend you’re gonna go to Derbyshire with!”
AL: Oh my God, I need to read this, I haven’t read it.
ELM: So, I have this site that I write for, one of them is called The Millions…
AL: Yeah, I love The Millions! I’ve read some of your other stuff on there.
ELM: Oh good! Thank you. Uh, I mean, for reading it. You didn’t say you liked it.
AL: I did, very much.
ELM: But so every year in December all the staff writers and some famous writers who are guest contributors talk about what they’ve read in the year? It’s actually really nice for an end-of-year thing, cause it’s not tied to publication date. So I made this list and it had Katie Coyle, do you guys know her? Vivian Apple.
CC: Vivian Apple.
ELM: Which was amazing—I had to say I was friends with her. I felt a little bit bad. Like, “my friends’ books! Sorry.” Um, Katie Coyle, Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, just a bunch of other ones, all by women, just coincidentally—so you know, it went up and I was like “oh, no one’s going to read this,” and then I was at a party on Saturday night and I got the first comment. And I was so sad. OK. And this is not unusual for comments on these, but. So his name is Robert, and at midnight on Saturday he wrote, “Lovely writing and terrible books. What a wasted year. You didn’t reread Hardy? You didn’t try a significant work of nonfiction? Where is poetry? Where is significance? As beautifully as you yourself write, this is not good. It’s a terrible path for someone else, anyone else, to follow.”
AL: Wow, that’s so arrogant and stupid!
CC: Also, oddly specific! You didn’t reread Hardy!
ELM: Hardy! Hardy?!
CC: As if no year in which you haven’t reread Hardy could be worth anything!
AL: Also, like, reread Hardy? He’s saying that rereading a serious man author—although Hardy is not, like…
CC: He’s not that serious!
AL: And he’s not even that man-author-y!
ELM: Well, I said I was—
AL: As though that’s better than reading something new!
ELM: I said I was going to reread Pride and Prejudice because we were going to Derbyshire. So maybe that’s what he was referring to? I don’t know. I’m trying to dissect this comment now.
CC: Maybe we’re giving him too much credit and he’s just like, “There are not enough serious man books in here. Shame on you.”
ELM: Or literally any.
CC: So that comment actually speaks a lot to why Anna and I started doing the podcast that we do at the New Statesman, which is called Srsly—exactly this kind of dichotomy between what is considered to be serious and what is not considered to be serious, and us thinking that this is bullshit, and that all things you can take as seriously and invest as much time as you want, or not if you don’t want to. So if you don’t want to read Hardy with your year, then you really don’t have to! Or if you want to read Hardy in a light-hearted skimming way and then toss the book in the bin? Also OK! And if you would much rather spend your time reading books about Narnia and really getting invested in that, also fine. So hence why, so the title was both about us taking everything seriously, but also it was meant to be a bit of a piss-take about people who think there is a difference between stuff that is serious and stuff that isn’t.
AL: Also, it’s funny, because you can just tell from him being like, “Where’s the nonfiction here?” If you put Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl or I Love Dick on there, that would not count in his idea of like—
ELM: “Significant work of nonfiction.” What makes it significant?
AL: What does significant mean? It means, like, basically, about a war. No, it is really funny, because also the whole point of these things is for you to say, “These are my personal books of the year,” and for then someone to come along and say “There’s no significance here,” it’s like, the only significance that matters here is significance to me, that’s why I’ve been commissioned to write this article! It’s very weird logic.
ELM: I feel bad, I feel like I’ve done a lot of yelling at Robert this week, it’s all right. So, this brings an interesting question, I guess, about starting a podcast. Have you gotten a response, have you gotten, it’s not just men, there’s some serious ladies of the kind you’re describing too…
CC: We actually haven’t, really.
AL: We once got a comment that we were not, we were too youth-focused.
CC: Oh yeah, that was from a lady. Basically saying that we were, it wasn’t all about teen girls. And we had a similar reaction, we were like, well, not, it, I mean all of culture, isn’t about teen girls, but this is our corner of it and we’ll do what we want!
AL: But it was also quite interesting in another sense. Because in one sense I kind of felt like she was basically saying, Oh, you’re maybe playing into the stereotype that we’re trying to push back against, which is that maybe the teen girl stuff isn’t as good or whatever. But I feel like maybe she was saying yeah, old people or older people or people who aren’t teenagers really enjoy pop culture too. And maybe that is a stereotype, that we think pop culture means youth, when actually most people—it’s like the idea that everyone writing fanfiction is fourteen, which we know is not true, there are 25-year-olds, 35-year-olds, 45-year-olds writing fanfiction, and maybe that’s a stereotype we should try and divorce ourselves from.
CC: Yeah, it was interesting that that email, so we read a bit of it out on the podcast and asked other people for their thoughts, and it set off a little bit of traffic in our inbox. Mostly the responders to her were all saying, “I just don’t get this at all.” Because the following episode, coincidentally, we had planned to do the film 45 Years, which stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay and is about a 45 year wedding anniversary. And then we also talked about a Judi Dench sitcom from the 90s about two older people who fall in love. So there was quite a lot of people being like, “I just don’t understand what this woman is talking about, you’ve just done all this…”
AL: That was maybe unfair of us!
CC: And we didn’t do it on purpose, it was just how the schedule worked! So maybe she had a valid point, but we had never had any intention of making that distinction ourselves.
AL: Yeah, but it was just an interesting conversation to be having. It was good to get the email. But we had lots of men emailing us when we first started. I think maybe because our first listeners were people who came over from the main New Statesman podcast that we also sometimes speak on and I was producing and editing. And then as it’s gone on and on and on, our listeners have just become more and more overwhelmingly women, especially younger women. So.
CC: And we do occasionally get people asking us if we want to review their stuff, who clearly haven’t listened to the podcast, and that kind of makes me laugh. So the most recent one was someone who emailed us asking if we wanted to go to a screening about a film, a documentary about austerity in Greece and the debt crisis. And I think—
AL: Which is a very New Statesman thing!
CC: I think they saw New Statesman and just was like, “Yeah, these gals will be into this!” And like, you haven’t listened to our podcast, have you? No.
AL: So yes and no. Our listeners are often extremely nice.
CC: Overwhelmingly nice. Both in the sense of there’s many of them and I get overwhelmed by it, because they are so nice! And I feel bad because all the podcasts I listen to, I don’t email in the host to say nice things. I should be, because it’s beautiful.
AL: And they give us recommendations for stuff! And we actually do then go watch or listen to whatever. It’s really fun.
ELM: It’s always just, I’ve loved it the few times there’s been some man walks in, like there’s some guy who watched Inside Out, I don’t know, he could be any age, I just like to imagine an old man—
CC: He went to see it twice, he liked it so much! He went to see it again!
AL: Yeah, that was so lovely! These kind of listeners, it’s just like “Aww, thanks guys.”
ELM: So one thing that I was saying in the last episode, when I was introducing the segment that was going to be coming next, is I was saying that one thing I really love is that it’s a pop culture podcast—or a culture podcast. It doesn’t even seem all that pop culture sometimes, whatever that designation is. But I kind of love that you sort of—the fan stuff is just, to bring this back to fandom and fandom podcast, the fan stuff is just kind of in there by default, and maybe that is actually kind of what we were talking about when we were starting?
CC: I think that is definitely our feeling. So we’re never gonna do a segment on fandom.
ELM: Well, you did, you talked about the Cumberbatch thing—
CC: But that was particularly the Cumberbatch thing. We’re never gonna be like, “What is fanfiction? Start at the beginning!” Because it’s just in everything.
AL: Yeah, I forgot that we did that [the Cumberbatch episode]! That was funny. But we did.
CC: I guess cause I’d been to see the Cumberbatch Hamlet—
AL: Oh yeah, that’s why.
CC: —so we talked about the play and then also about the fan reaction to it. But that’s the only time I think we’ve ever analyzed a fandom.
AL: But sometimes it does come into it, like we did a Harry Potter special…
CC: And we have talked about Downton Abbey, in which I had to restrain myself constantly from being like, “...but in fanfiction that doesn’t happen!”
AL: Yeah, and also we do talk about our lives on it quite a lot. So then it’s like, “Hey, did you buy Harry Potter play tickets this weekend?” And then we end up getting into the whole fandom thing. So.
ELM: Did you?
AL: Oh, yeah!
CC: She did, I didn’t! I was away, and I’m so angry.
AL: I bought two pairs, spent all my money on two pairs of Harry Potter tickets and I’m going on opening night. And I can’t wait.
ELM: Are you going to give the pair…
AL: Well, yeah, we’re more than happy to do that, we just have to organize it!
ELM: So, you guys have talked about this on Srsly but this is a different podcast, you know about the kerfuffle around it being a play, like the next installment of Harry Potter being a play—
CC: As opposed to a book?
ELM: Yeah, the conversation is like, here, especially—there’s a lot of Americans who seem very mad that it’s going to be a play in London, which I—
[All speaking over each other, inaudible]
ELM: —which brings us to our transcultural questions, but there’s some fantitlement there, of like, “How dare this not be in New York?” Like, shut up, it’s a British book!
AL: I think we would have been so angry if it hadn’t been in London!
CC: I just think that everything we know about J.K. Rowling, like the way she insisted on a British cast for the films even though they were made by a big American studio—she was never not going to do it like this, I think.
ELM: So that brings up kind of the main thing that I wanted to talk to you guys about, for context I guess, I was living here last year and I was writing for you, and I was an American—
AL: And remain an American!
ELM: It’s true, it just keeps on happening to me! In a fandom that was a British show, but obviously a transcultural fandom, a cross-cultural—living here, writing about fan things for a British magazine, as an American, about British shows, watching American fans… so…
AL: Is this Sherlock?
ELM: It’s Sherlock, yeah. And prior to that my fandom was Torchwood, and prior to that it was Harry Potter. So it’s always been, I haven’t always been here and that’s been happening, but.
AL: Sure, sure.
ELM: The longer I’ve lived here the more frustrated I get about this stuff. Not just people regularly ordering takeout that people don’t do here, but I always get angry, you know, when people don’t Britpick… I don’t know if you guys have read in any fandoms where it’s a lot of American writing about British people?
CC: A bit, but my biggest experience of this has been the other way round. So in the Downton Abbey fandom, you get this adorable thing where—this is highly anecdotal, but I’d say it’s about fifty–fifty British/American. And all the Americans in it are so anxious about getting the British things right, which is not something I’ve ever seen before.
ELM: Oh yeah, no, I mean, that was huge in Harry Potter. Britpicking is like a thing.
CC: They all want to have, like, a British beta, and they all want glossaries of what is Marmite and stuff, and I find it so adorable. So some people I see in their fics that they asterisk all the words and put at the bottom what it all means. And it’s, it’s stuff like—
ELM: Things like Marmite?
AL: Is Marmite even a Downton Abbey era product?
CC: I just made that up. You know what I mean. Sometimes—
AL: It could be!
CC: It might be a modern AU! Sometimes it’s nouns, like actual products, but sometimes it gets really involved, so like explaining the secondary school system, or why would a 16-year-old be wearing a school uniform, or you know what I mean. Anything and everything. So I really like those conversations, I like that people are interested. I’m less happy when people aren’t interested, and kind of just bulldoze through with their…
ELM: So what do you mean by that?
CC: I mean if you read a, say, we’ve been talking about Downton Abbey so I’ll use that as an example, if you read a period Downton Abbey fic and the author has explicitly said “This is a period fic, this is canon era,” and has included a load of stuff that just didn’t exist in Yorkshire in 1920, might have existed in New York in 1920, and hasn’t bothered to even think about it. You see what I mean? So where the explicit intention is to try and be as like canon and chronological era as possible, and hasn’t considered that maybe not everything that they learned about in school in that period in their country—so that’s what I mean.
ELM: I mean, would you say, when I talk about transcultural fandom things, is that the first thing that comes to mind for you? Or…
CC: Oh, no, no, that’s—
ELM: That’s just one specific example.
CC: That’s just one specific example.
ELM: So then I’d be curious to know, I mean, obviously, and Anna, you’re, you’d say 1D is your main fandom?
AL: Yeah, I guess maybe at the moment, but Harry Potter really always has been massive for me. Weirdly the first thing I think about when I think about transcultural fandom stuff is The Golden Compass versus The Northern Lights—
CC: Or The Sorcerer’s Stone versus The Philosopher’s Stone?
AL: And really—I just remember being 12 and being SO annoyed by that.
ELM: Wait, go back, is The Northern Lights—
AL: It’s His Dark Materials—
CC: It’s the first book of His Dark Materials. It’s what it’s called here.
AL: Oh, you didn’t know! Because The Golden Compass is, it’s not even, like, oh, we’re just gonna change the word philosopher to sorcerer. “The golden compass” is just not a phrase that ever appears in that series. So, no, it’s called the alethiometer! And I don’t think she’s ever like “it looked like a golden compass.” I don’t think that ever appears in it. It’s called an alethiometer. I just remember being 12 and being like, it infuriates me that we’re going to patronize Americans by being like, oh, they’re too stupid to call this book The Northern Lights. That’s a joke! They’re smart enough!
CC: The changing of British things for no reason for the so-called American market is just nonsense. The other thing this reminds me of is the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice film. Have you seen the American ending of it? Have you seen the British ending?
ELM: I didn’t know there were different versions.
CC: The American version ends with this totally sappy not-in-the-book scene of like—
ELM: Where they’re in the field?
ELM: Yeah, what else happens in the movie?
CC: No, no, no, that’s in the British version, but I don’t know if it ever made it into theaters, but they made an American ending of them kissing and, like—
ELM: Yeah, they kiss at the end of the movie.
CC: But they don’t—
AL: Are they in bed, or something? They’re like—
CC: They’re like outside on a balcony and he’s, so I don’t know if it ever was released—
ELM: Oh, there’s no balcony. They’re in like a field and it’s—
ELM: And it’s very pretty.
CC: No, that’s the same version, but—
ELM: Oh wait, no I know what you’re talking about! Yeah—
CC: Where he’s like, “My pearl!” and it’s so awful.
ELM: Yeah, it’s really bad! I’ve blocked that part out actually. I think of the ending as, like, the field part.
CC: So is that in the version you saw?
ELM: Yeah, he takes her hand and he kisses it and he’s like, “Mrs. Darcy!”
CC: That’s not in the British version!
AL: That’s so funny! It’s also like “Americans who probably would never understand Austen,” and you’re like, no, actually, I’m pretty sure it’s a massive part of their culture.
CC: And ditto I remember, so when I was at university a friend and I wrote a stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and we did a lot of reading about Emma Thompson’s process for writing the 1995 screenplay for the film and stuff—
AL: And if anyone loves that film you’ve got to go and get her director’s book that she did about it!
CC: I think she says in that book, so they filmed this and it’s not in the DVD version but it’s on the deleted scenes, they had to film this awful scene where she and Hugh Grant’s character go for a walk and then kiss. Apparently she managed to get it taken out of the final edit of the film, and she thought she’d successfully killed the idea that Americans would only come and see the film if there was a kiss in it, and then they apparently for the American poster for the film they photoshopped it so it looked like he was lying down with his head in her lap in a meadow? And she was like “No, but that—that’s never happened—no, no, no!” So that kind of thing has always infuriated me.
AL: Maybe if it’s Marianne’s part of the poster, sure, but!
CC: And it was fiction! It wasn’t even a scene they’d shot, it was made on the computer.
ELM: That’s ridiculous.
CC: So I guess—and I’m very aware we’re talking about Britain vs. America, but…
ELM: That’s kind of how I framed it. I mean…
CC: But just like, I know when I came to visit you earlier this year and we went to Lori’s lecture in Princeton—
ELM: That’s Lori Morimoto, who we mention every week on the podcast.
CC: But who was great, and I learned so much just from that lecture about East vs. West, and China and Japan and Korea digesting American and British things, and whilst I’m super interested in that I just don’t have any experience in it. So.
ELM: And this is actually one thing I observed at the Fan Studies Network conference, so you know how at an academic conference they come in clusters, like it’ll be three… Um, often they’ll have sessions, so there’ll be three somewhat related speakers, they’ll be clustered, then there’ll be a break.
So she was in one that was generally about transcultural stuff, and she gave a version of what we saw when you were in the US, and there was someone else who gave a presentation about doujinshi, which are the Japanese fanfiction that’s sold and a huge thing, and it’s fascinating because I didn’t know anything about this and I write about fanfiction. It’s only Western fanfiction. And it was all Asia vs. the West, and East Asia vs. America and the UK, basically. And afterwards I remember I was having lunch with some Italians I knew who were there, and it strikes me that, what about them? What about these Europeans using Anglo-American—having to speak within our conversation, you know what I mean? Or I read a really interesting piece about what it means to be an African fangirl, and she was like, “We’re completely invisible and we have to adjust our cultural context.”
CC: So I have German friends who are in my choir, and I was talking to one of them recently on this subject, and she’s German, she moved here two years ago for work, and we were singing, we were working on a piece that was in German, she was helping me with my pronunciation. And we were talking about German language tics and stuff. And she was saying, “Have you ever heard how much a German person in conversation will say ‘genau’?” And I was like, “Yeah, all the time, what does that mean?” And she was like, “Well, it means ‘exactly,’ or ‘as that is,’ or ‘enough.’” It’s really weirdly ungrammatical in German; the reason German people use it in conversation all the time is because in German subtitles on American sitcoms, whenever the word “exactly” is use, they turn it to “genau.” So it just, it’s got into the speech patterns of anyone who grew up watching American sitcoms.
ELM: That’s really interesting.
CC: So, like, she said, “I got it from Friends.” Just think of all the times they say “Exactly!” In the German subtitles they’re going “Genau!”
ELM: That kind of reminds me, I studied abroad here ten years ago. And I would talk to my English friends and I’d be like, “I always thought you guys were going to use this term or this term.” And they were like, “No, that’s old.” And the way they always framed it was, we watch a lot of American TV, so we just kind of pick it up. And I felt like a jerk, like a cultural imperialist.
AL: Like telling them that their American was wrong.
ELM: No, no, but also I had a lot of presumptions and I was mad that they didn’t like tea and stuff.
AL: I don’t like black tea.
ELM: You’re super weird.
AL: Yeah, apparently. But I do think that there are ways that that’s been good. Obviously, like, “America is not the world” is something that we do talk about sometimes in the office. But the idea, to use this term very loosely which I know is annoying, the idea of diversity—I think there’s a lot of pressure on English stuff because of American fanfiction that queers the canon or changes stuff up, to think about that more. So for example—I’m not sure I can say this because I don’t remember where I heard it, but I’m gonna say it anyway—I’ve heard a rumor that they’re thinking of casting someone who’s Black to play Hermione in this play.
AL: Yep. But I’ve just heard that somewhere, it might not be true.
ELM: I hope that’s true. Let’s just—
AL: But I don’t think that would happen if it wasn’t for all of the people, I think a lot of them are in the States, because it’s a bigger issue in the States—
CC: And it’s just a bigger demographic in the States as well.
AL: Exactly. Who are like, “Oh, well, when I read the books I obviously imagined Hermione was Black, I just thought that the whole way through, why wouldn’t you? Her skin color is referenced as being very brown in that one thing,” you’ve written about this before, I think. So things like that are a way in which although yes, I agree the Americanization of everything can be bad, it also can introduce really interesting elements—often from people who aren’t involved in the boardrooms making the Harry Potter films or whatever it happens to be. Wherever people can come up through the fandom from the sidelines, that’s where things can get really really interesting, and America’s helped that in some ways.
CC: So, the kind of America-is-not-the-world thing, we use the title of that Morrissey song in this office to mean the kind of American domination of the English language internet. Which can be a really good thing for the reason Anna’s just said, and can also be a bit of a bad thing where assumptions go unchecked, the assumption being that America is the world where actually no, we’re British, we’re Australian, we’re South African, we use the same language as you and broadly the same Internet, but we feel differently, have different words, different everything.
My favorite example—I quote this all the time, so I apologize if anyone’s heard me say this before—is not actually a fan one, but it’s to do with our colleague Helen Lewis, who got asked a while ago to be on a panel at The Guardian UK about Germaine Greer. It was, like, an anniversary of The Female Eunuch or something like that, so they put together a whole panel of people to talk about what’s good about it, what’s bad about it, et cetera. And coincidentally one of the people on this panel was American, but she was very qualified to talk about Germaine Greer, so I don’t think they even gave it any thought. And this person, her whole contribution was about how terrible it is that The Female Eunuch doesn’t have more about abortion rights in it, and every British person who then read that was like, “But that’s because abortion was already legal in Britain before it was published.” Of course she—that fight was not over, but essentially won, so of course she was writing about the pay gap and other sexism and all this kind of stuff. And it’s like, you should know that, if you’re gonna write you should know the cultural context from which the British book and the—well, she’s Australian, but you know, the author came from for the British publication, and that’s I think the bad side of it.
ELM: Did you guys see this thing where I think it was Vanity Fair, they were writing about Idris Elba becoming James Bond and they made this change?
CC: You told me about this, yeah.
ELM: So they were writing about how he could become the first Black Bond, and they changed it to “African-American Bond.” And I understand that part of it is that I think there’s, the term Black is a much more loaded term in the US than here, because there’s not really an alternate term here. Anyway, the point is they changed it to African-American, and it’s just so—ugh, can you not? Like, can you think about the rest of the world for three seconds. I don’t know.
AL: Yeah, that term does not apply. I don’t know really, if I, I just think there are lots of subtle differences and sometimes they can be really good and sometimes they can be maybe dismissive of—and I’m sure I’m really dismissive of things that have come up through other fandoms from other countries influences on fandoms that I see as Western, I’m sure in a lot of cases will be really influenced by things from wherever and I just won’t know. And that’s bad.
ELM: Yeah, this is funny because you guys are being way more positive about America than I assumed you would be, I don’t know why.
CC: I think generally because of its sheer volume if nothing else like Anna says American fans can be a real force for change. Like the example you gave about the play is a really good one, I think. But just stuff like our podcast. We got a shout-out from an American podcast and suddenly we have more American listeners than British listeners, because there are just more Americans.
ELM: How do you, do you have stats?
ELM: OK, I gotcha. Sorry guys, I listen to it from America too, so.
CC: You know what I mean? So that’s really great, and it’s getting some attention because of all these American people who were listening to it, and that’s awesome. So, I know a lot of people who do those sort of podcasts or write that sort of fan culture-y blog whatever—the point at which it starts to become visible is when America finds it.
ELM: So, maybe stepping aside from the media itself, what about more organic spaces? What about Tumblr? Do you feel there’s the same sort of overarching American oppression happening? Maybe not Tumblr, but…
CC: I don’t know about oppression! I do think of Tumblr as an American space.
AL: I was a big lurker on Tumblr and not a big poster and I almost felt quite out of the loop, a bit like not clued up enough to post and maybe that had something to do with… I don’t know, though! Because a lot of stuff that I was into when I was in my real Tumbling phase was British stuff, like The Mighty Boosh or whatever. But I always felt a bit like maybe this space isn’t quite for me. I don’t know.
ELM: But you don’t feel like that now?
AL: Well, no, now I’m just not very good at Tumblr. I’m not good enough at Tumblr. Like how Caroline is like, “This is how you gif search!” and I’m like “Thanks, Caroline.” But no, I’m more on Twitter these days, also things like One Direction are quite famously a Twitter-based fandom than a Tumblr-based one.
ELM: But Twitter is one that gets very locationally specific.
AL & CC: Yeah.
AL: You create your own bubble obviously. Which you do do to a certain extent with Tumblr, but it feels a little bit more open, doesn’t it? I don’t know why.
ELM: I think, I mean for me, I’ve written about this for you actually, it’s Twitter’s so time based…
AL: And if you step away from it for five minutes…
ELM: Yeah, and I wrote this article… The second thing I wrote for Caroline ever was about how I felt temporally displaced on Twitter. I’ve been back here and it’s like a ghost town on my Twitter feed in the morning. And I’m like oh, I forgot that I just got readjusted… I have I think more British followers than the average American and vice versa, but still.
AL: But even I notice that, that like when I’m going to bed I’m like, “Oh, I could stay on Twitter for two more hours.” Because it feels like everyone’s on it, and actually—
ELM: You could stay on it later than that! We’re gonna be on it till midnight East Coast at least, you know!
AL: And often we’re saying “Have America woken up yet?”
CC: Sometimes if we put a piece up on the New Statesman website that is getting read a lot in America, you can just see the massive jump when America wakes up. It’s really weird.
ELM: We wake up and we just read articles. That’s all we do, actually.
AL: It’s like having an insomniac in your house or something. It’s like, “Oh, where’s Dave? Come on Dave, wake up! I want to talk to you about this!” And then finally Dave emerges and you’re like, “We’ve been talking about this for four hours now, Dave! Get involved, our Prime Minister fucked a pig!”
CC: Or not!
ELM: He didn’t do it?
CC: I just don’t want you to get sued.
ELM: We’re Americans, we don’t have these laws.
AL: No one cares.
ELM: No, we don’t have the libel and slander laws that you guys do. We do have them…
CC: But you’re recording this here, so I feel like…
ELM: Oh no, oh no! I don’t wanna get sued. Don’t worry, I think we’re fine.
I guess kind of shifting gears somewhat back a little bit, one thing I’d love to talk to you guys about before we wrap up is I think about the future of… When I started writing about fan stuff it was maybe three or four years ago, and the landscape is completely different now. And I think it’s going to be completely different in the future. So I kind of want to talk to you guys about that a little bit. One way to start would be to say, I don’t know if either of you had to do this, but I basically had to write a coming out as a fan article, and I worried about—that no one would want to hire me to write in the future. And that’s something if I did that now I would never worry, because I can see there’s so much. And I don’t know if this is something that you guys experienced as you came into it, or if you see that the climate has really shifted about when people know that’s a part of your professional life or your personal life, you know what I mean?
CC: I have actually deliberately not done that, partially because I don’t want to necessarily, and partly also because I feel like that’s making it too easy for people, and by people I mean haters. So I quite often, I will periodically tell off some male journalists on Twitter for using the word “hysterical” about female fans or something. And it’s more effective because I don’t have a big badge on my face saying I’m a fan, you know what I mean?
ELM: What, are you saying I can’t yell at these guys?
CC: No, no, you can and you absolutely should, but because I haven’t done the badge of honor “I’m a fan too, but also an editor” article, I feel like they forget some of the time and therefore when I turn up and say “No, you can’t say that,” they see me doing that in my serious journalist persona and therefore it carries more weight for them because they’re douchebags. So I didn’t want to have that label, because it’s more surprising to people and that can be helpful sometimes. Cause people forget that about me sometimes.
ELM: I’ve never forgotten it.
CC: But that’s cause you’re my friend! And also I really really enjoy it, for instance, Jane Merritt, who was the political editor of the Independent on Sundays, a big-time newspaper journalist, she’s really awesome on Twitter. And we talk quite a lot about Downton Abbey on Twitter, and because of her being a political journalist and me working at a political magazine, we have a lot of mutual followers who follow us for the politics, and then suddenly they get this splurge of, like, thoughts about Lord Grantham, and we will sometimes visibly lose followers during these exchanges. And I really enjoy that, that these people are suddenly being confronted with the idea that we are whole people with other interests and lives, and they just can’t handle that. So that’s why I find it, I would never put it in my bio or anything like that, because I like to confront people with it and make them uncomfortable, because it shouldn’t make them uncomfortable and they should get over it.
ELM: There’s so much plotting going on in your approaches to these people. That’s great.
CC: Yeah, I don’t sleep very well. I have to think about something. [all laugh]
AL: I don’t know, now you’re saying that I wonder how it would be different if I wasn’t someone who quite visibly would tweet about Harry Styles seven times a day.
CC: But that’s fine! I don’t mean that, I mean, like, not having written your coming-out as a One Direction fan article and having it as your pinned tweet. That’s the difference I mean.
ELM: But you have written, I’ve seen you wrote articles—
AL: Yeah I did, but I feel like it’s always been… I did a thing at uni, I entered the student paper there, and then I finished doing that, and I finished my finals, and then I had six weeks there and I didn’t know what to do, and my boyfriend persuaded me to take all these thoughts I had about boy bands and teen movies and stuff and turn them into a zine with some of my other people I knew from the student paper, and I did that, and I loved doing it so much, and I was like “I can write! This is OK, I’m allowed to write about this stuff.” So before that I was trying to do think pieces or reporting and stuff and that was fine, but I was like “Oh, I can actually write about stuff that I really care about. And be good at it.”
So I just started doing that and now I wonder how it would be different if I hadn’t, because so much of the stuff I get asked to write—especially, like, TV reviews or music reviews or “I heard Zayn’s leaving One Direction, could you write a piece for us about it,” so much of that is related to me being like, “Oh, actually I’m going to write about this.” And I wonder if I’d been like… Actually would it have been harder or would it have been easier to carve out… I’ve only been a proper, actual person paid to write as a job for like two weeks, so I’m still fairly new to it all…
ELM: Wait, wait, what do you mean?
AL: Well, I was the assistant here, the editorial assistant.
ELM: What are you now?
AL: Now I’m, like, a pop culture writer here.
ELM: That’s exciting!
AL: It is exciting! But I’m a bit like, I wouldn’t have got this job without doing that, but maybe I would have got a different one, but I don’t know what that would be.
ELM: But you’re happy with what you’re writing about?
AL: I love it, I love it! But I just wonder whether… I think basically what I’m trying to say is, a lot of the negative connotations of being someone who writes about fandom are unseen, because it’s probably in either the commissions you’re not getting, or—
CC: It’s in the self-censorship as well.
AL: All that kind of stuff. I’m probably not seeing it, but I feel pretty happy and good with how it’s gone.
CC: This is, I promise not to harp on about Downton Abbey, but I feel like this is part of the reason why I got back into it in this most recent series was because I had a real kind of epiphany about men and football Twitter, where I was like, so all of the serious men journalists I follow on the weekends just become boys who tweet like, “YAY GOAL! #Arsenal” and there are no negative consequences for them for doing this. No one thinks they’re bad at their jobs or not serious people or anything. So therefore there is no difference between that and me going like, “YAY MR CARSON! #DowntonAbbey.”
ELM: Caroline, there’s a pretty big difference.
CC: Mine is better?
ELM: You’re a woman, so you maybe should not be so passionate about something.
CC: So you see what I mean. So that’s why I’ve hardened into this view that I’m going to do whatever I want and you can all fuck off.
ELM: That’s great.
CC: But it happened through the prism of Downton Abbey.
ELM: I didn’t realize that your Downton Abbey love is strong.
CC: You’ve been away a year!
ELM: You guys talked about Downton Abbey a couple episodes ago and you linked to—though I don’t think you actually talked about my piece, but you linked to it—
CC: I think that got cut out, but we did talk about it a bit.
ELM: I reread that and I was like, I agree with everything I said SO HARD. I forgot I had written it and anything I said, and I was like “Oh, me, I agree with you!” Sometimes I read my old stuff and I’m like—I made a face of disgust just now. No one can see me except you guys.
Yeah, no, it’s funny. I think Anna and I are in similar boats, hearing you talk about this stuff. Before I started getting paid to write, I wrote a lot of articles for free for NewYorker.com, maybe like 80 articles for free for NewYorker.com—that’s fine!—and I remember I wrote, it was the week that the last Harry Potter movie was coming out, and I went to see the Harry Potter Experience. Which is not worth the money. And I was like, I just wanna write about this! This is the most important thing to me for the last ten years of my life. And I just did not feel comfortable being really explicit. And you go back and read it and you can see, I’m just—
AL: Trying to skirt around the fact that you’re, like, I LOVE IT, I LOVE IT SO MUCH!
ELM: But maybe it’s just fine, and maybe you don’t need to be like “FYI here’s a paragraph about how I’m a fan of this,” you know? I think it’s pretty clear…
AL: It depends on what the piece you want to write is, doesn’t it.
ELM: It’s just the fact that I didn’t feel comfortable. And I thought, I definitely think that is very gendered because it’s like, I wanna read serious man books, you’re talking about my Year in Reading… Two years ago I didn’t read, three years ago I hadn’t read a single book by a woman that year.
AL: Yeah, and I’m sure there are serious political editors out there who have written novels about football in their spare time, and they’re still taken very seriously. And maybe if I went out there and wrote a public book about Downton Abbey or Downton Abbey fanfiction or whatever it wouldn’t necessarily have the same…
ELM: I can’t wait to buy this book.
AL: It should be Caroline’s book!
CC: Work in progress, coming 2016.
AL: That would be such a backstab if I was like “By the way, my Downton Abbey fanfiction is getting published.” [all laugh]
CC: But I think I would be 10% annoyed and 90% just really excited.
ELM: Yeah, that’d be really exciting.
AL: That’s the mark of a true fan. Oh yeah.
ELM: So I think we’re probably out of time, but I just wanted to thank you guys so much for letting me come here.
AL: Oh my God, thanks for having us!
CC: It’s been so nice!
ELM: And you’re making me, Caroline, want to watch Downton Abbey.
CC: It should happen…
ELM: Do you want to watch it in Derbyshire?
CC: I don’t know though. Cause, it might—
ELM: Oh, if I don’t like it?
CC: If you don’t like it I might be really sad!
AL: You might have to take separate walks!
ELM: I won’t watch it then. Don’t worry about it! I brought my Pride and Prejudice, so I’m going to reread that. And Robert can deal with that. Robert the commenter, in case we’ve forgotten from the beginning. Anyway, OK, thank you guys so much, and I hope to come back to your country and…
AL: Thanks, guys!
FK: All right, we’re back!
ELM: Well, you’re joining us!
FK: [laughs] Uh, is that how time works?
ELM: It’s a kind of wibbly wobbly timey wimey thing… I am in England, so I feel like I’m allowed to say that right now?
FK: You’re totally allowed to say that right now. You’re allowed to say that at any time.
ELM: So I’ve done a lot of talking…
FK: Yeah, you sure have!
ELM: What do you have to say for yourself?
FK: OK, well, I guess I have, there are sort of three big things I was thinking about within this.
FK: The first one was actually it was really cool for me to listen to you guys talk and I think it was actually good that I wasn’t there in some sense, because—
ELM: That’s how I felt too.
FK: [laughs] Oh, shut up. Or maybe, I don’t know, maybe it would have been better with me there. Because the first thing I noticed was, especially in the first part, was how little I know about what an editor actually does.
ELM: Oh good, I’m glad we could illuminate this for you.
FK: No, I still don’t know that I know fully! But it was one of those things where I actually don’t understand how—obviously I know what a writer does and I know what an editor of a book does, but I don’t know what an editor of a magazine does, like I don’t know their full scope of what they do, so there was a lot of discussion about how Caroline could influence what was in the magazine and how her role was shaping the atmosphere and all of this and I felt, I guess I knew that? But it’s not forefront of my mind because I don’t work in that industry, and so…
ELM: Well, I think a lot of people don’t think about this, but also, I mean, you just mentioned an editor of a book, and I think that maybe you don’t fully know what the editor of a book does, either. I mean, they’re not, there’s commissioning editors at magazines and newspapers and there are acquiring editors, doing the same thing, saying “These are the kind of ideas we want to publish,” it’s the same thing.
FK: Yeah, absolutely, and the other thing it reminded me of actually was trying to explain what I do in the entertainment industry to people who are not in the entertainment industry, and realizing how much there’s stuff that people don’t know about that too. So realizing that, oh wow, actually I am just as ignorant about that as many people are about the entertainment industry, and that’s not exactly… I mean, I think most people know that there is a thing that is a producer but they don’t necessarily know what a producer does specifically or what the kinds of producers are, and I think that probably I have the same perspective on being a magazine editor or a website editor. I have some general idea that’s probably not totally wrong, but I’m sure I don’t know the nuances. And therefore I can’t think very well about that, I can’t understand the impact that different people and their roles have, and sometimes I can misunderstand it, I’m sure. The same way as people misunderstand who has the power to make different kinds of decisions about their favorite TV show or movie. Which is fine, it’s not the job of a fan to know everything about everything, but it’s—
ELM: I don’t know, this is actually, I’ve noticed this a lot in fandom arguments in the last few years, what you’re talking about right now. And people say things like, you know, in Sherlock people talk about Mofftiss, which is a shorthand for The Powers That Be—even the term “The Powers That Be,” people just throw this around! “The Powers That Be have decided this,” and you’re like, well what do you mean? Do you mean one guy who writes the scripts, or do you mean a bunch of suits in a room, or? And it’s different for different shows, I think people assume everything is really similar for this stuff.
FK: Yeah, and it’s not at all, it’s completely different. Yeah. It’s super variable in ways that I think it’s hard to know from the outside. Because people who work in those positions, I think, and I think I can say this, most people don’t really want to be the one, like, if I make some decision or if a person makes some decision, and everybody hates it, well… it’s a little nicer to be behind “Powers That Be,” it’s nicer to have a figurehead of somebody, and sometimes I think that’s the writer. It seems like maybe that’s a role that writers play in magazine writing, to some degree.
ELM: I think it depends on the context.
ELM: Yeah, I don’t know.
FK: I mean, your name is on it, you’re out there, right? You wrote the words, you put them out there, you sort of have to take, you know…
ELM: Sure, sure.
FK: You take responsibility for them, even though the reality of why you wrote that piece might be because somebody told you to go write it and you didn’t care, or somebody made you take a different perspective because that’s what they wanted and you fought back against it but in the end this is how it came out, and it was a compromise, right? But you can’t exactly turn around and… I don’t know. This is how it would be for TV, right.
ELM: This is a dramatic struggle I’m having right now!
FK: Well, no! This is how it feels on TV, you know? I’m sure, for directors or whoever’s getting the praise or blame for some decision.
ELM: Well, OK, so that’s one point, and I think the ladies will be pleased to hear that they illuminated the often overlooked profession of editing…
FK: Yeah, that was great! So the second thing that came up for me a lot was the conversation was so specifically about transcultural fandom between the US and the UK, and it made me think of all the other ways we could talk about transcultural fandom, and it got me really excited for a million future Fansplainings to come.
ELM: Oh, great!
FK: Where we’re able to talk to people from Brazil and Japan and Russia and France and Germany and Italy and South Africa and everywhere else, right—
ELM: Is this like a quiz to see how many countries you can name?
FK: I was just trying to think of places that I know people have written and talked about fandom!
FK: Yeah, and so the last thing that I was thinking about a lot while you guys were talking was the sort of temporal displacement, like, partially I was thinking about it because we’ve been suffering from a little bit of temporal displacement trying to record this episode.
FK: But I thought it was really interesting talking about how when the United States is online it’s like there’s boom, there’s all this discussion, and then there’s periods of time that are quieter in fandom. It got me thinking of how what time zone you’re on must really affect your understanding of fandom, even separately from what country you’re from or what country you’re living in or…
Obviously those things are related to your time zone, but you know, separate from language issues or anything else, just when other people for you to talk to are online and what part of your day that falls into has a huge impact I’m sure on individual experiences of fandom. When I was first in fandom one of my closest friends lived in Switzerland and I was in California, which worked out really well only because we were both in school, so she would stay up late and I would wake up early and then I would go to school and she would go to sleep, and we had this weird, you know, almost flipped schedule of when we would talk to each other, but if we hadn’t had that coincidence of the way that worked, I’m not sure we’d have been such good friends, because we wouldn’t have been online at the same time.
ELM: That’s kind of the opposite of temporal displacement, though, because you could say we both live in New York so we’re both online at the same time… I brought it up because, partly because I wrote a whole article about this… It’s interesting because I lived in England in 2005 and there wasn’t very much social media at all, you know, I just joined Facebook, no Twitter, and Twitter’s the extra time based one, and also very limited contact, no smartphones so no contact. Very limited email, very few opportunities to even call anyone from home because it was so expensive, it made me feel very isolated.
But when I was living here over the last few years… I don’t know, I felt I could see everyone, I just felt disconnected, you know? And I wasn’t sure what was worse, what made me feel more distant from… Oh my God, and it was so annoying, this man left this comment that was like “Maybe you should go to the pub and make some new friends.”
ELM: Like, fuck you, I did that too, bro! Can I not be sad that I’m missing all my friends’ conversations?
FK: Yeah, totally!
ELM: This is another way to communicate.
FK: Yeah, and it makes me think also—I guess this isn’t so much of a big deal anymore but it is a little bit, growing up in California we always had TV later—
ELM: Yeah, did things get spoiled for you?
FK: —than everybody on the East Coast, shit got spoiled, and also, I mean it was fine, but it was torture to wait those extra hours… Especially at a time where there was instant messaging but there was no video streaming for you to watch and obviously you were watching something on FOX, you couldn’t watch that live on the internet, so watching the X-files and knowing that I had friends who’d been watching it three hours earlier who were on IM with me at the time, talking about how great it was. That was the worst torture in the universe.
So that was interesting to me because I guess time displacement hasn’t been a big deal for me for a long time, living in the United States but then having moved to the East Coast, and also the move towards binge-watching TV as opposed to, like, appointment TV as much, or TV that I can stream at the same time everywhere—so it was interesting to think about that and realize that it’s actually something that still shapes many people’s experiences of fandom, just not mine right now.
ELM: Yeah, for sure.
FK: Yeah, so those were my three major points, I think, other than saying I really enjoyed listening to it, I really was sad that I was not there with you.
ELM: Yeah, we missed you!
FK: I’m looking forward to next time when we’re going to be talking about the year in review!
ELM: Yeah! Next week is going to be very exciting, obviously this is the time of year when we write a lot of best-of lists. You know, we haven’t exactly figured out what the parameters of this are yet, but we kind of wanted to do this with fandom and fan culture in general. It’s obviously been kind of a tumultuous few years.
FK: So we were talking about each of us bringing three or five points to talk about from this last year—
ELM: For some reason Flourish doesn’t want to say four, this is what she wrote earlier.
FK: I don’t want to say four! Four is a weird number to bring.
ELM: Three or five points.
FK: [laughs] We’ll have a decision by next time. We’ll find out! We’ll keep you on tenterhooks about knowing how many points we’ll each bring to the table about things that have happened in fandom, I don’t know. General stuff.
ELM: Look, it’s gonna be good. I know we’re not really selling it now but it’s gonna be nice. Don’t worry.
FK: I was never worried and so I hope our listeners aren’t either.
ELM: OK, good. Well, next time I talk to you will be after Christmas, so have a wonderful holiday, Flourish!
FK: And you too, Elizabeth!
ELM: All right, bye!
FK: The opinions expressed in this podcast are not those of Stratus Media Ventures, Chimera Media Group, Chaotic Good, or our clients, or our employers, or anyone’s except our own.