Episode 12: The Year In Fandom 2015
Elizabeth and Flourish count down their five top media fandom stories of 2015—and ask you to share your own. They also share personal fandom stories from 2015, and make a New Year’s resolution for the podcast next year. Topics covered include the Triple Crown, Ham4Ham, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (with only the very lightest of spoilers!), and the fact that you heard about Hermione’s casting in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” here first.
[00:06:35] Elizabeth’s article about fan/creator interaction: “Mutually Assured Destruction: the shifting dynamics between creators and fans,” in the New Statesman!
[00:08:29] If you don’t follow him, Lin-Manuel Miranda is @linmanuel on Tumblr and @lin_manuel on Twitter. Also, here’s all the Ham4Hams! And here is the Halloween Ham4Ham, in which Lin-Manuel explains “trash.”
[00:10:55] The interstitial music is the US Marine Band playing “Auld Lang Syne,” which is in the public domain. (Sensing a pattern?)
[00:16:42] If, like Elizabeth, you don’t know what an x-wing is, IT’S THIS. The one with the X-shaped wings. NOW YOU KNOW.
[00:18:07] Two things Elizabeth wrote about fanfic, Carry On, and Life and Death: “What is fanfiction, anyway?” and "Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On: meta-fanfiction, or simply a novel?”
[00:22:34] Michael Cunningham talking about his process.
[00:28:16] Elizabeth is not lazy in her coverage of 1D.
[00:31:16] George Lucas has not spoken out against gay people in Star Wars recently—though in 2009 BioWare claimed there weren’t any. Lucas’s comments are from the 80s, in the official Star Wars Fan Club.
Look at that gorgeous NO LONGER RACEBENT PER SE Hermione (above) by @batcii!
[00:32:57] Stephen Bush’s article, "Of course Hermione Granger is black - she always has been.”
[00:37:02] The interstitial music is “Auld Lang Syne Cha Cha Cha” by the Airmen of Note, which is in the public domain.
[00:42:43] Elizabeth’s new favorite Remus/Sirius story is “Annual Honesty,” by hauntologies aka tigrrmilk. Go read it!
[00:47:09] The outro music is “Auld Lang Syne Cha Cha Cha” by the Airmen of Note, which is in the public domain.
[00:48:08] Yes, that’s Flourish singing her little heart out. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hello, Flourish.
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining!
ELM: This is our twelfth episode, final episode of the year, New Year’s episode.
ELM: Yeah, that’s right! So we’re calling this one “The Year in Fandom 2015” on the presumption that there’s going to be a year in fandom 2016.
FK: There totally will.
ELM: Yeah! That’s some optimism.
ELM: Merry Christmas.
FK: So what we’re going to be doing is, we’re gonna be counting down our top five stories in media fandom—so we talked about this and we decided that since we’ve pretty much just covered media fandom so far this year we’re gonna do our top five stories in media fandom, and our New Year’s resolution is going to be to branch out in the coming year, especially into sports.
ELM: Go team!
FK: Go team!
ELM: Do you wanna know my top moment in sports fandom?
ELM: Do you know how I work at the racetrack?
FK: You take bets, right?
ELM: Yes, I am a pari-mutuel clerk at thoroughbred racetracks and I have been for 12 years, and this year I got to see American Pharoah win the Triple Crown. And I cried!
ELM: I cried at the racetrack, and not because someone was yelling at me, which is usually what happens!
FK: That is so lovely!
ELM: Yeah, it was really amazing. I’ve worked the Belmont Stakes for 12 years I guess, can I do math? Maybe it was my 11th year, and there have been many hopefuls. But it’s the first time since the late 70s, so.
FK: Wow, that’s amazing.
ELM: And then he came to Saratoga, which is my track, and he lost. Everyone was really sad. Everyone was so sad.
FK: That’s amazing too but in a different way.
ELM: No, it wasn’t amazing, it was sad!
FK: OK. But I think as we have talked about, though, you can talk more about your feelings about that after we’ve done our sort of general fandom stuff. Because then we’re gonna talk about personal fandom after we’ve talked about the five general—
ELM: I’m not actually into horse racing fandom. I just work in it. So don’t worry. But yeah, we’re gonna do our top five and then—because I was thinking about it, and you could kind of ask this question, same goes for all of these best-of lists. Journalists spend all of December doing their best-of lists, and sometimes it’s a task of what were the most important books this year, but sometimes it’s what were the most important books to me this year. And those things don’t necessarily line up. So we were thinking it would be really awesome if we could actually throw this question out to you guys as well, so we’ll make a post on Tumblr if you want to respond—big moments in fandom in general, or big moments just for you as a fan. We would love to hear them because we love when you guys respond.
FK: Yeah, I think the other thing is as we talked about before, right, everybody thinks that fandom is their own Tumblr, so to some degree I know that my perspective is shaped by my own Tumblr, we were just talking about how I had a lot of people—
ELM: [snorts] This is so funny to me.
FK: A little, yeah. So before we started this we were talking about how I had a lot of people when I left Star Wars and they knew I’d seen it texting me being like “I’m Ren/Rey trash now!” And you were like, “Does anybody ship Ren and Rey together?”
ELM: That’s ridiculous.
FK: And I was like “Yes, all my friends do. All my friends.”
ELM: And literally everyone on my dash—I literally just had a conversation with some fandom friends on Twitter cause they were frustrated with the default jumping right to Poe/Finn and pretending that Rey wasn’t even in the movie, when you know, frankly, Poe I felt like—as much as I love him—he wasn’t in the movie very much.
FK: No, he was not.
ELM: But that sound about right for a slash ship, you know, you get one minute of steamy glances and you’re like “Eh, I’m in!” You know, the second biggest ship in Sherlock, the two characters have had one second on screen together.
ELM: Yeah, and I remember when everyone who went to the preview were like “There’s a special gift to a certain ship!” And it’s like “Oh, you mean the characters are finally gonna be in the same room, with no dialogue, gesturing…” It’s Mystrade, by the way, Mycroft and Detective Inspector Lestrade.
FK: Oh my God.
ELM: It’s actually kind of a good ship! It’s one of those ships where it’s just like, you start nowhere.
FK: You just go with it.
ELM: It’s just two people. [laughs] Anyway, anyway!
FK: So is it—should we count down?
ELM: Yeah, let’s do it! So we’re gonna do it like a countdown, like…
FK: Five, four, three, two, one, Happy New Year!
ELM: I’m sorry you don’t have a visual, because that was actually pretty great. OK, so shall we start?
FK: Yeah, let’s count down!
ELM: You’re gonna do the first one, right?
FK: Yeah, I’m gonna do the first one.
ELM: Hit me, I’m ready!
FK: All right, I’m going to start the timer then! BOOM. Did it start? No. BOOM! Now it’s started! [ELM laughs] OK. The first topic that we had on the list was in general fan/creator interaction. We felt like this year was a year that had a lot of ups and a lot of downs in that arena. The first thing that we had talked about was Joss Whedon flouncing, after fifteen years of being the creator of a fandom that was, like, the most into it and most interactive, he took his toys and went home—in contrast to, like, Bryan Fuller and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who know all about everything in fandom, love all the ships, even endorse fan creativity that’s being sold for money, and they seem to be going strong. So, Elizabeth!
ELM: All right! That was a good you’re-on-the-spot gesture. So yeah, part of the reason I was glad we put this on the list was that I think we’re both pretty interested in this topic. Possibly have different perspectives because of our jobs. I don’t know. Do you disagree?
FK: No, I think we probably do, but I think it’s probably closer than—
ELM: Your average Joe?
FK: Yeah, we’re probably closer than your average Joe. Joe the Plumber.
ELM: Average Joe! Yeah, Joe the Plumber probably feels differently. But I wrote about this… It was last spring, so it was in 2014. So about a year and a half ago. I was writing about Supernatural, and I also talked about Dan Harmon, the creator of Community, who has pretty famous bad fan-creator interaction. And actually it’s really worth a listen, it’s a recording where he just talks about the relationship he has with fandoms, or his fandom at the time. And I remember thinking, you know, the whole thing is—this isn’t gonna work. So our problem is we need to re-adjust our expectations. We can’t expect these guys, especially when it’s these guys, and the fandom is these women, let’s just leave each other alone. But you know, Joss Whedon leaving… You’re familiar with the whole story, right?
FK: Yeah, there was all of this drama surrounding Age of Ultron. I shouldn’t say “drama” because that seems to minimize it. Different people had different perspectives on whether Black Widow’s storyline was sexist or not, and then in the midst of all that he left Twitter.
FK: That about right?
ELM: That is it. And you know, he talked to Buzzfeed shortly after that happened, he was saying that people were saying “You left Twitter because Feminist Frequency trashed Age of Ultron and your Black Widow storyline,” and he said in the article—I just reread it today to re-familiarize myself with this—that Anita Sarkeesian was like the first person to contact him when he left Twitter to say “Are you all right?” And he was like, “It was just too noisy and I needed a break.”
ELM: Which, you know, who knows? It’s not necessarily the negative end of the spectrum, it’s just kind of the end of the spectrum we’ve been seeing, whereas Lin-Manuel Miranda in particular has been miraculous to watch this year and the way that fandom was shaped and the way he’s interacting.
FK: Right, cause with Hamilton he’s constantly on Twitter, talking to people, talking about fanfics that he likes, posting fanart, and he does the Ham4Ham thing where he and some of the cast come out for people who are waiting for the ticket lottery—there’s a few tickets that people can get in a lottery every performance, and they come out and they do these skits which are then put on YouTube. And even some of them, he’s been like, “Hey, Hamilton trash!” Which, you know…
ELM: He’s so good! But I actually would love to know, cause I don’t know very much about Broadway shows these days since the last one I saw was, like… I was gonna say Cats but that’s not true, I saw some in high school, too… It just feels like an extra step. It feels like acknowledging that people are really passionate about this. It kind of reminds me of, someone was saying about the Star Wars concert during Comic-Con. They didn’t need to do that. You know, they didn’t have to do anything! This was the guaranteed ticket, and yet they did something. It was the most special thing that anyone did at the whole, you know?
FK: It is asking something of creators to interact with their fans, but if they’re going to get on Twitter and have an active Twitter presence and do that, I think it’s not actually asking that much for creators to be empathetic. And maybe this is a way in which we differ. When I interact with people in the media industry, I see a bunch of people who were fans, whether they were members of fandom or not. People who loved movies, who loved TV, who loved genre, and who have been lucky enough to be able to pursue making a career out of the thing that they loved. And so they ought to be able to remember, as human beings, they ought to be able to empathize with people. Even if they didn’t write fanfiction themselves, they ought to be able to empathize with people who do, and they ought to be able to be nice to them on Twitter in general. Particularly keeping in mind that power differential.
ELM: Well, but I guess maybe the contrary angle to that is… I don’t know, I just tried and failed to write an article about fantitlement recently, which… It’s on hiatus, I didn’t kill it. But maybe it is asking a lot, for, I don’t know…
FK: But they should be able to remember when they wanted something and they didn’t get it from the person who created the thing.
ELM: That’s hard, though! If you have thousands and thousands of people piling on you every day saying, “You didn’t do this exactly the way I wanted you to do it”?
FK: Of course it’s hard! But I think it’s part of the job.
ELM: Yeah, I know.
FK: OK, we have 14 seconds left, so.
ELM: Good job, Lin-Manuel Miranda!
FK: Good job! And Bryan Fuller too, who we didn’t actually talk about. But.
ELM: But good job to you as well!
FK: Good job to you too!
ELM: Are we ready for Topic Number Two? Sorry.
FK: I am ready for Topic Number Two!
ELM: Countdown Item Number Four?
FK: I am ready for Countdown Item Number Four! And I am now going to start the timer. BOOM!
ELM: So I saw Star Wars yesterday, 100,000 years after everyone else saw it—I’m sure you saw it, like, the day it came out—
FK: I actually didn’t. I was guarding my heart. I refused to get tickets on the day it came out because I thought, what if it’s bad?
ELM: When did you see it, the next day?
FK: Not until the day before Christmas!
ELM: Oh wow! Merry Christmas.
FK: But I don’t care about spoilers. It’s like a superpower.
ELM: Right, that’s one of your things. One thing that really struck me about it was that it felt less like the continuation of a franchise, like a new installment in a franchise the way Marvel movies do, it felt more like the revival of a show or the revival of a movie. So I guess this topic is, we saw a lot of announcements for big revivals, X-Files is the big one, we also have Twin Peaks coming back, Gilmore Girls coming back, Star Trek coming back…
FK: Yeah, there’s a new Star Trek series—I mean TV series, which is very different than movies.
ELM: I’m supposed to give you first crack, and I’m meandering along this question. Last year I feel like Veronica Mars set the tone for this conversation, but these are a bunch of big revivals, so I think that’s a story from this year.
FK: Absolutely. The thing for me that’s relevant about this is that the revivals that we’re seeing, they’re actually about the mainstreaming of fandom, the mainstreaming of the idea that you might be really into a series or a book or a story. People talking about that in a more public way, in a way that it’s normal for people to have. That those feelings are normal for everybody. Star Wars is the perfect example of this. Star Wars is something where there actually have been continuous shows in addition to the prequel movies that no one wants to admit happened. And books, and everything else. It has been continuous. It’s not a revival particularly; it’s been there all along. But this is the moment that people have been able to be like “YEAH!” you know?
FK: I think you went to see it with your family, I went to see it with my family…
FK: My dad, my father in law, my mother in law, my mom, my husband, all of his siblings…
ELM: That’s a lot of people!
FK: Just a lot of people! There were like 15 of us in the theater, right? And I think this is the case also with X-Files and with Twin Peaks, which, you know, Twin Peaks was a really weird show, but it had a large number of viewers. 8 million people watched every episode.
FK: That’s because it was in the days of network TV!
ELM: That’s funny. But everyone talks about it like it was some weird barely watched cult thing.
FK: But eight million people watched it when it was on the air every week, so it’s this thing where it’s coming back. And while before it was, I think, I mean I didn’t watch it when it was initially on the air—
ELM: Because you were like four.
FK: Yeah. I was like four. But people talk about it as though it was this incredible cult thing which no one else watched or no one else understood, and now everybody’s like “yeah! Twin Peaks! That was so influential!” Every showrunner talks about how Twin Peaks was an influence and all sorts of people are so excited for the reboot. So that’s I think the thing that’s really interesting, because it’s the mainstreaming of fandom and it leads us into this question of what happens when everybody’s a fan?
ELM: Yeah what does that mean? And that kinda ties into, bringing you back to Veronica Mars, a lot of the discourse around that was…it was a movie, right?
FK: Yes. And it was Kickstarted.
ELM: Yeah, the way it was funded was by fans themselves, and I remember people who didn’t like it said that it was fan service which is a term I take a lot of issue with. And there was this question. In publishing we have this separation of church and state, between editorial and ad, you know? And there’s this issue of, are the people who are making this movie the people who are going to be into… I don’t know, it was a weird discourse, you know what I mean?
FK: Completely! This is weird though because…I think this gets to a point of, well, what is trashy and what is not trashy? For instance, in romance novels most romance novelists read a lot of romance. And romance novels are clearly trashy books, and if there was such a thing as fan service in romance novels, they would all have it, right? Like, they’re all in these series…
ELM: Formulaic genre, right? If we can also make the same statement about, not all sci fi, but…you know what I mean.
FK: Yeah, but so, is there something wrong with that? Do we really want the Veronica Mars reboot to be something that’s, like, groundbreaking and not Veronica Mars, or do we really want it to be something that is definitely Veronica Mars?
ELM: Well, this is the same thing with romance or when people criticize fanfiction on a literary level saying that a lot of it is wish fulfillment. I don’t know, is there something anti-intellectual about being satisfied by the ending of a work of fiction?
FK: I think some people might say so—
FK: —and they are heartless and soulless. But I think that there’s another thing which is to say that it’s not true that these reboots don’t push things forward. So for instance, in Star Wars I waited forever to see it, and then I found myself crying buckets in the theater. I hadn’t even acknowledged how much I loved, how important Star Wars had been to me, and I didn’t even know it until I saw a woman piloting an X-wing. And I literally grabbed my husband and said “IT’S A LADY PILOTING AN X-WING!”
ELM: Wait, are the X-wings those planes towards the end?
FK: Yes. They have X wings.
ELM: I remember thinking when they showed all the pilots at first, because they didn’t show the woman till the second bit, I was like, why is it only men flying those planes? And then I was like, OK, good!
FK: Yeah! And when Rey picked up the lightsaber, I realized that as a kid—
ELM: Are these spoilers? Should we have given a spoiler alert?
FK: No. I think—no.
ELM: The fact that she holds a lightsaber is not a huge spoiler.
FK: Anyway, when she picks it up, because I was like, when I was a kid I was like “I’m a chick and chicks are never gonna get to pick up lightsabers.” And she got to pick up a lightsaber. So you know, I mean…
ELM: That’s really heartwarming.
FK: It moved forward, right? Maybe it’s not the best science fiction ever made, but God damn it, I got my lady with a lightsaber, so deal.
FK: All right, shall I start the timer for Number Three?
ELM: All right!
FK: OK, Countdown Number Three is the mainstreaming of fanfiction.
ELM: Mainstreaming, we love this word.
FK: We love this word! But it’s sort of relevant going on from Number Four, this year saw the publication of two major books that really brought fanfiction back into the cultural discourse in a new way: Carry On and Life and Death. And you wrote a ton of stuff about them, Elizabeth—
ELM: Yeah, kind of a lot!
FK: So I’m gonna throw the ball to you.
ELM: And I gave my mother Carry On for Christmas. I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that.
FK: Aw, I hope she likes it!
ELM: She’s in the other room! I hope she’s not listening.
FK: I hope she likes it!
ELM: Yes I have written a ton of stuff about this. You’ve probably heard us talk about it before. For anyone who hasn’t, the very short story about these books is: Life and Death is the first Twilight book with the genders swapped of the protagonists, just ostensibly a direct rewrite, you’ve read it, I haven’t—
FK: It’s pretty close to a direct rewrite. It’s very close.
ELM: And definitely a work that is, I get the sense, wholly of value in the context of them as a pair of works. I said that in literally the most awkward way possible. But you get what I’m saying, right?
FK: I mean I think that if you read it alone, that if it had been the first book written…
ELM: Who knows? Maybe I should just read that only!
ELM: That’s a good experiment, right? Can I borrow your copy?
FK: That’s a great experiment! You can borrow my copy. It’s a Kindle copy.
ELM: That’s fine. Maybe it’ll be different for that reason. And then Carry On is by Rainbow Rowell, and it’s basically she has a novel about fanfiction called Fangirl and it’s taking the characters from the fictional world within that book and writing a completely original novel that’s as much in conversation with Harry Potter as it is with anything else. These books came out on the same day, just by chance, and created a bit of a conversation about what fanfiction actually is, and since that too I just see more and more people trying to reference it when they talk about books, and just… You know, there are broad and narrow definitions of fanfiction, but it frustrates me a little because I don’t think a lot of these critics who haven’t read any fanfiction know what they’re talking about. They’re just saying “this is fanfiction,” trying to… Because it seems buzzwordy, is the sense I get.
FK: Yeah. I think critics, but also boosters of fanfic, right? Like, I just had an interesting conversation online with a guy who has been slowly learning about fanfiction, and he wanted to call the new Star Wars movie fanfiction.
ELM: No, no!
FK: And I told him not to and I told him why and he understood why, it was a good conversation, but it was definitely this thing where I realized this can be both a positive move where you’re trying to be like “yeah!” you know, and also a negative move.
ELM: It just frustrates me because it’s like, oh, everything is fanfiction. All books. Whatever. Like, Ugh. I don’t know. It tires me.
FK: You sound tired. You sound so tired. But I think one thing that is interesting to think about about this is: where is it gonna go in the next few years? Particularly when you start thinking about platforms like Wattpad that are really moving towards “Let’s file the serial numbers off fanfic wholesale.”
ELM: Or what interested me about Wattpad, on that front, is not necessarily that but young people—like, very young people or new fans coming in and writing there, writing alongside original stuff, having very blurry definitions of what’s what, it just changes the practice. And that’s what kind of sets me off about this topic, when people say “everything’s fanfiction.” It’s not necessarily about what the story is, like, oh, here’s shifting perspectives or whatever. It’s about how the story was created—the process by which it was created and consumed.
ELM: And that’s the part that people don’t know about.
FK: But at the same time that’s tough, because then you get to defining fanfic by community, and that doesn’t really work, because then what about the thing that you wrote and put in your dresser drawer?
ELM: I don’t think that process necessarily means community, if we wanna have this argument again…
FK: Oh, you’re separating—now I understand, you’re separating process and community—I thought you meant community and you mean process.
ELM: Yeah. I mean process. And that can be communal or non-communal, in my case it’s always been lurky communal, so I hear the conversation and I see it and then… I say my own piece, but only to myself.
FK: But at the same time, I think it’s hard when you say it’s the process—who’s to say about the process of many works? We don’t know the process behind the work. We only know the community in which it is received, and—
ELM: That’s tricky.
FK: So for instance, there’s this book I love which I think I’ve mentioned before, Di and I, which is real person fanfic about Princess Diana, and it’s a self insert by the author, and for a hot second it was a best seller in 1992. And I don’t know what his process was.
FK: I don’t know if he was being entirely ironic and humorous or whether there was also some level of fanfic-y self-insert-ness going on or both.
ELM: Well, then I guess maybe process in combination with intent? I think—you know anything about Michael Cunningham writing The Hours, which is like fanfiction three ways in one book—
FK: Yeah it is, so fun!
ELM: I think it was him, and he just wrote another book and he did the same thing where he was like, “Well, I was reading something and I just thought, ‘what’s the other perspective from this?’” And it’s just literally a fanfiction prompt. I know what his process is and it’s pretty much the same as mine: “Oh, I love this character, I want to do more with it.”
FK: So that’s fanfiction. The Hours counts as fanfiction.
ELM: But it’s also about context. So then for him it’s award winning literature and Meryl Streep in your movie. So I think next year I’m gonna be pretty curious to see how this shapes up. The last few years have been just really crazy strides in terms of fanfiction perception and what the narrative is, so.
FK: Yeah. And I think we’re gonna have a tipping point soon.
ELM: I don’t know what that’s gonna be.
FK: Neither do I. But it’ll be on our 2016 list I guess.
ELM: That’s right, that’s right! [both laugh]
ELM: OK, you ready?
ELM: Start the clock!
ELM: This one’s for you, Flourish: One Direction. I know we said—I said very firmly that we weren’t going to make a particular fandom a news item, but then I suggested this, so. Cause I rejected Star Wars as an individual topic, I was like “it’s a big movie, but it’s just one movie.”
FK: You sure did.
ELM: But One Direction! Not least because I think we’ve both had experiences around this. So I wrote, I think my biggest received piece of the year was about Zayn leaving One Direction, about people being jerks to all the girls who maybe had dramatic rhetoric but were genuinely sad, whatever! And then you happened to join the 1D fandom literally at the same exact moment that they decided to break up. So yeah. Tell us your feels! Also this was the year that you became a 1D fan.
FK: It was! I think I have a weird perspective on this because I was never a 1D fan with Zayn in the band, and I was never a 1D fan almost while they existed as a band! There was literally, like, it was the week that I became a 1D fan that they announced they were breaking up, so, it was my fault guys. I’m sorry. Uh…
ELM: Yeah. you’re a curse!
FK: One thing that’s been interesting to me about this is seeing how much One Direction has really infused the culture and how much it is almost a byword for female fandom. As much as Beliebers were four years ago.
ELM: I think much more than that, though.
FK: Yeah. Maybe so.
ELM: I think cause of social media.
FK: Yeah. and because they rule Twitter. Right? So 1D fans are very very, because they’re the rare Twitter-centric fandom, it’s a case where it’s really visible to media because a lot of people in media are on Twitter and that’s, like, a hub.
ELM: Don’t you think a lot of music fandom is on Twitter? I just feel like I see a lot more artists and I’ll look and they’ll have millions of followers…
FK: Yeah, there’s some that are on Instagram…
ELM: Yeah, that’s one I’m not on because a troll bot stole my account. Instagram, are you listening?
FK: Argh, Instagram! Anyway, so I think it is sort of a watchword and 1D has been this year in particular the example of the “bad fandom,” almost. It’s a fandom people have talked about like, the fans are in total symbiosis with the band, but the band doesn’t want to be together and wants to grow up, and the fans aren’t ready to let them grow up… but I don’t know, you know? I’m not going to be very eloquent on this. It’s too close to my heart.
ELM: Aw, I’m sorry! I mean, yeah. I guess it’s just a really interesting case study. Because they must be the biggest fandom in the world.
FK: I think so! And actually—all right. I found something to talk about with this.
FK: One of the things that is interesting with it is what gets covered, what people know about for 1D fandom and what people know about or talk about. So occasionally someone will talk about, people will talk about Larry Stylinson, but people don’t talk about for instance the vast number of, like, fanfics that involve One Direction kidnapping a Mary Sue and raping her.
ELM: I know about that, but is that just because…
FK: You know about that. But it’s not talked—there’s this incredible sexual and repressive, One Direction stands in for the entire libido of a teenage girl…
ELM: Well, I think that did get some coverage because After, the fanfiction from Wattpad by Anna Todd that was bought for six figures—I haven’t read it but I understand that it’s a little dubcon-y? For anyone who doesn’t read fanfiction or avoids this corner of fanfiction, that’s dubious consent.
FK: Yeah. But it’s barely scratching the surface. So it’s interesting because it’s a case where people will talk about One Direction fans as being extremely sexual or like as really being obsessed with the boys or whatever, but they won’t go there. And it’s there.
ELM: I feel like I have some of that, but also, I just feel like—who are these people? Is it journalists? Journalists are pretty lazy.
FK: [laughs] You heard it from a journalist! Journalists are lazy! Fans, forgive them because they’re lazy.
ELM: I mean not me, clearly. Or from last week, if anyone didn’t listen to our last episode with two very diligent, un-lazy pop culture journalists…
FK: [laughs] You’re just diggin’ that hole!
ELM: No, but I’m thinking about what good writing I’ve read about One Direction, and I’m thinking about Anna, Anna Leszkiewicz is…
FK: That’s absolutely true.
ELM: —writes really eloquently. So you know, so there is stuff like that, or I have seen interesting stuff on Buzzfeed. But that’s usually because it’s coming from people who are also fans, right? Like, she’s in the fandom. So it’s people who kind of know where to look and know what to look for. It’s not hard to see, right?
FK: And to be fair, I’m not sure that I would want journalists digging up… I mean, obviously I’m mentioning it on this podcast, I don’t think it’s a secret. But, like, would I love it to see an exposé article about all the dirty fanfic that young women are writing?
FK: Absolutely not! I don’t want that. But on the other hand it’s also… I don’t know, I have mixed feelings.
ELM: Do you feel like you’ve gotten any pushback for… Well, I guess you haven’t been super distraught because you just joined… I’m trying to tie this back to what I wrote about 1D earlier in the year.
FK: I was not distraught, however I have had several moments where I’ve mentioned One Direction and someone has openly scoffed, including in a business space.
ELM: Oh my God, I’m sorry! Now I’m kind of scoffing, but only at the thought of this.
FK: No, it was amazing. I was in a meeting and someone laughed at it and called them “Wrong Direction” and I was like, “Well actually, I’m in the fandom, and you’re gonna have to deal with that right now.” It worked, I just brazened my way through it, but it is interesting that it’s a super—in the eyes of the world, 1D is such a trashy fandom to be associated with.
ELM: Well, it’s because it is so, so gender imbalanced, I think. And the demographic skews so young. And if teenage girls like something, it is obviously garbage.
FK: Yeah. Well, deal with it, guys. And that was the buzzer.
FK: OK, the last, slash first—Number One in our countdown!
ELM: Biggest story of the fandom year!
FK: Biggest story of the year was—well, actually it’s a long thing we’ve written down. We’ve written down “Black Hermione / #diversifyagentcarter / Every Single Word,” which…
ELM: I wrote that down for reference!
FK: Which I’m just gonna go ahead and call, I don’t know what to call it! Diversity, race-blind casting…
ELM: Fan activism…
FK: Fan activism leading to changing stories? We could throw in Finn too? I don’t know.
ELM: I don’t think that fans were responsible for Finn being black.
FK: I dunno.
ELM: Is that true?
FK: I don’t think they are, but I don’t think it would have happened without all the general foment.
FK: Yeah, really. Just like there wouldn’t be gay people in Star Wars if fans hadn’t pushed back on that. Because at one time—
ELM: Wait, who’s gay in Star Wars?
FK: Nobody officially, but they have at least admitted that there are gay people in the Star Wars universe…
FK: Which is something that George Lucas had explicitly said “there are no gay people in the Star Wars universe.”
ELM: Oh my God, when did he say—did he say that in the year 1500? That’s ridiculous.
FK: He said that in a time when he was repressing slash fanzines and controlling what could be written in the Extended Universe.
ELM: No way.
FK: Anyway this is supposed to be your topic! Talk!
ELM: I think the biggest fandom story of the year is casting a Black actress as Hermione in the upcoming stage play which is called The Cursed Child which is set, I don’t know, what does it seem like, 20 years on from the seventh book or so? Or maybe less than that. It’s about Harry’s children. I’m assuming that’s one of the cursed children.
FK: I can only assume. J.K. Rowling didn’t email me the script, so.
ELM: Yeah so it was announced, like, two days before Christmas that they cast a British actress called Noma Dumezweni, I believe is how you pronounce it, who’s someone I remember from Doctor Who who I remember really liking in those brief appearances, as Hermione. Which is amazing! And we actually, we talked a little bit about this last time, because Anna—
FK: You heard it here first!
ELM: Anna had heard a rumor that this was gonna happen and actually was saying nice things about us, directly crediting American fans’ push for a non-white Hermione. And I don’t know if we talked about it during last week’s episode, but I think that this really hit the mainstream with this piece by Alanna Bennett in Buzzfeed, it was about “What a Racebent Hermione Means” I think was the title.
FK: Yeah. And it was an amazing piece.
ELM: Yeah so good! She wrote about being biracial and always identifying with Hermione, actually it was great because it was just as I was leaving England that this came out and I was in the New Statesman offices, and one of their reporters is Black and he wrote about how he had always assumed Hermione looked like him because he had frizzy hair and buck teeth—I mean me too, but you know! He wrote a great piece too, so we should link to that also. Which I know J.K. Rowling read and really liked, which is crazy. But it was great, because all these racists wrote in and they were just like, “How dare you?” And she was just like “All right, goodbye!” I don’t need you here! And all the actors were tweeting about “Oh no, you’ve lost the racist audience!” or whatever. So.
FK: Yeah. One of the things that has come up on this a little bit is that some people have pushed back on it saying, well, this is now—J.K. Rowling is a serial post-diversifier. Dumbledore’s gay—but we won’t say it in canon. Hermione can be Black—but it’s not really in canon, it’s not explicitly stated. But you know, one of the things that I think is interesting about this is, I don’t know what’s in J.K. Rowling’s head. But it seems to me like she may have developed her awareness and beliefs and opinions and viewpoints over time, right? I think it’s a good thing if she, when she was writing the books, wasn’t aware of the idea that her characters could be read as non-white, and then she’s encountering people who envision them that way and she’s going “Huh. Yeah, hey, why not?” I think that’s actually something to celebrate. I mean it would be better maybe if from the beginning she had had a more diverse Harry Potter universe, but…
ELM: It’s really interesting, you know, we’re going to talk a little more about our personal fandom stuff in a minute but, just the other day, I’ve been reading some of my old Remus/Sirius favorites and I was reading stuff from the early-to-mid-2000s, and the way that the characters talk about—cause it’s slash, so they’re talking about homosexuality, and it just feels, it feels like it’s 10 years old. You know? And it feels right for the time, and I’m thinking about it, and this would read so differently if it was being written right now. It’s not bigoted in any way, it just feels like, just to think about the extraordinary amount the general societal conversation has evolved over the last few decades, you know? And that’s even within the super liberal corners of fanfiction.
FK: You want a real trip, go read Star Trek fanfic—
ELM: From the seventies?
FK: Star Trek slash from the 70s. That is a headtrip! And it’s not, by the way, all fanfic written by straight women.
FK: It’s just that the 70s were a different time, man.
ELM: Right! Beyond Hermione though I also put on this list the #diversifyagentcarter campaign, which was a hashtag campaign when Agent Carter got renewed, cause it’s a pretty white show. I don’t know what’s gonna come of that, but it’s an example of people saying yeah, when you made this show—just like J.K. Rowling!—maybe you didn’t think about it. But we’re thinking about it and we want you to think about it now. Giving creators the space to say “I’m learning and I’m trying to make this better,” even if it wasn’t great from the start.
FK: I mean, one thing that you could say is particularly if as some people think is the case Poe Dameron ends up being the first officially gay Star Wars character, I don’t know that I believe that that’s gonna be the case, but if it is, the world’s most, like—I shouldn’t say the world’s worst franchise for this. But a franchise that has been notably not open in these ways has just come out with a movie that stars a Black guy, a woman, and possibly a gay man.
FK: Possibly, but look, two outta three ain’t bad! [both laugh]
ELM: Yeah, no, isn’t the world’s worst franchise probably James Bond? Didn’t what’s-his-name say, didn’t he have some line about “homosexuals can’t whistle”? What’s the famous fact that he wrote in the James Bond books?
FK: Even Daniel Craig is very frustrated with this. But it also has some very homoerotic scenes? I don’t know.
EK: No that’s manly, Flourish.
FK: [laughs] It’s so manly to get your balls whipped!
ELM: OK! So those are our top five! We would love to hear if you agree, disagree, would rank them in a different order, would put different things in entirely… So as we said, we’ll be posting on Tumblr if you guys wanna let us know. But also, I would be really curious to hear people’s personal stories, because I just loved loved loved the response we got to our fanfiction question.
FK: Yeah! So what was your personal top story in fandom this year? It doesn’t have to necessarily be something that was the top story for everybody in fandom, because as we mentioned many times in the past, as we’ve said many times in the past everybody thinks that fandom is just their Tumblr dashboard, so what’s on your Tumblr dashboard?
ELM: Or even just in your own… It is a personal thing! So if you wanna tell us what it’s meant to you or what’s the most important thing that’s happened to you in this year we’d love to hear it.
FK: Yeah. Completely. And some of us probably have fandom things that are not related to media fandom, like I know that one of my great fandom moments from this year was completely unrelated—I don’t think I even wrote anything about it on Tumblr.
ELM: What was it?
FK: I went to see the Klitschko-Jennings fight at Madison Square Garden. This was a heavyweight title boxing fight, and it was—
ELM: That’s right, I forgot you’re in the fighting fandom!
FK: It was amazing. OK, so hold on, hold on. Think about this. This is also—I loved Creed, it made me think about Rocky—so anyway OK. The fight is this, right. You’ve got Wladimir Klitschko, who is the current heavyweight champion, married to Hayden Panettiere, who’s very glamorous obviously, and his brother is a politician in Ukraine and in fact they want him to become president—his brother’s also a heavyweight champion by the way. A boxer-politician. So he’s in one corner.
And over here is Jennings, who is this guy from Philadelphia, who’s like, very young—well, he’s not actually very young, he got into boxing kinda late but he has a very short career, and no one thinks he can go the distance, no one believes that he’s gonna make it, right? And so he’s scrappy and they’re fighting in Madison Square Garden and there’s this huge Ukrainian population and also all these people who came up from Philadelphia, the house is packed, it’s amazing, and they fought, and Jennings lost but he went all rounds. He went all 12 rounds and it was beautiful, because he was so good and he lost but it was worthy, it was everything that I wanted in boxing, and it was this moment where it was like, I just saw a real—I just walked into that Rocky movie, I just had that happen in real life for me. It was so good.
ELM: You know, I fear that story’s gonna lose a lot with everyone can’t see your hand gestures. Because she was literally just going like, IN THIS CORNER! And then there was punching, oh.
FK: I highly recommend going to see boxing for anybody. Because you’re gonna get into it. You really will, if you actually get a chance to go and see really good boxing. I swear you will. I’m gonna make you love it!
ELM: I don’t think you will. Flourish, you’re not gonna sell this one to me. I don’t wanna see people fight!
FK: Well, there’s a fight coming up in Brooklyn that I’m gonna go to…
ELM: You can come over for dinner afterwards. Dude, so is that your fandom story for the year? Is that your biggest moment do you think?
FK: I had a lot of big moments, but I think that that’s the one that I haven’t already talked about on this podcast. And it’s relevant to our New Year’s resolution, which is to include more sports on the podcast!
ELM: Yeah, OK.
FK: What’s yours?
ELM: Well, not necessarily a moment, but I do think I have a little narrative. Which is, I don’t really think I’m in the fandom that I ostensibly say I am. Like, I complain about it a lot, but it actually doesn’t actually bring me any joy whatsoever—
FK: [laughs] oh no!
ELM: And, which is Sherlock, so this will come out two days before the new Sherlock—which is just a Christmas special, inexplicably set in Victorian times, like… I’m really not looking forward to this, you guys. I just gotta put that out there. And I don’t really wanna talk about it on Tumblr, because I have so many fandom friends, because that’s kind of when Tumblr happened for me: when Sherlock happened for me. It’s a weird space to be in, but I think partly it’s because the fandom is toxic, partly it’s because I find the creator toxic—you know Steven Moffat sends me flowers!
FK: You have not held back on that opinion in this podcast.
ELM: Everything they say sucks and I’m so tired of Cumberbatch! Ugh, Doctor Strange pictures today…anyway. But part of it I think too is that I chose to start writing about this stuff with Sherlock. So my experience of being a fan of this has been so different. And part of that is because being a fan is different right now than it was five years ago or ten years ago, something we talk about a lot. But the warm feelings that I have for the previous fandoms, they’re still there. And even though I felt a little let down by book seven of Harry Potter and series three and four of Torchwood, I still love…looking at pictures of those characters makes me happy, or reading stories, makes me happy, and I don’t feel that way about Sherlock.
So in the last two months or so I’ve actually kind of regressed in terms of my fandom evolution. I was reading some of my Torchwood faves and then a friend of mine from real life—well, from the internet, but then from real life—wrote a Remus/Sirius story a few weeks ago, and she posted it and I clicked on it because I was like “Well, I know her, and I haven’t read this in years.” And I had it open on my computer, and I was in Derbyshire last weekend, and I was looking for something to read and I was like, “Why don’t I just read this?” And it wasn’t, you know, there’s some fanfictions that are like, you know, there’s a plot idea, right?
FK: [laughs] Some fanfictions have plot!
ELM: Like what if this happened? Or here’s the plot, or here’s the scenario. And I think a lot of ships or fandoms have their different scenarios that people turn over, over and over again, in different milestones and eras. This was really holistic. This was a story about this ship and what the conversation about this ship has been, you know? It was just doing it, you know? And I was like, Oh my god I forgot! So now I’m working on a Remus/Sirius story. [FK applauds] And I’m reading a lot of them.
FK: Oh my God, I’m so happy for you!
ELM: And no one can take it away from me because she’s already done all her stupid things.
FK: There’s nothing else she can do.
ELM: She can’t hurt me anymore.
FK: She can’t hurt you anymore!
ELM: And there’s no, like, there’s no like enraging wank about this on Tumblr! I’m sure people still have opinions—
FK: Because it’s too old!
ELM: —so yeah, you don’t have to deal with that! So I’m very very happy right now with this.
FK: That’s magical. Congratulations. I feel for you the way you felt when I discovered 1D fandom.
ELM: Thank you! I felt jealous and happy of you. For you.
FK: And I feel the same!
ELM: Great. Well—you can go back to your old ships if you want to.
FK: I don’t know. Snape/Hermione is sort of a ship you can’t go back to.
ELM: How come?
FK: Because people on Tumblr are so horrible about Snape so constantly.
ELM: I’m sorry Flourish.
FK: He’s a character who a lot of young people who do not remember what Snape was like before we had books five, six and seven—
ELM: That’s interesting, actually.
FK: You can’t go home again.
ELM: You know, if I had them all at once, now, I would have an even worse opinion of Snape. I would have a less nuanced opinion of him.
ELM: But I had so much time to think about him. I had years to think about him.
ELM: Same with Malfoy. If I —and part of why I was so frustrated with six and seven, with seven, I was like “Oh. There’s nothing here at all.”
FK: This is a similar problem I had with Snape is I felt he was character assassinated.
ELM: And so creepy in the end!
FK: Right? Anyway, so this is really a problem. Other people who were in the fandom at the time can love Snape/Hermione, but young people who pick up the books are never gonna see it unless they’re really twisted. And I don’t want them to because that’s sad.
ELM: This brings us back to intent and practice and context.
ELM: It’s interesting.
ELM: I’m sorry.
FK: You can go home and it’s better, I can’t go home to Snape/Hermione.
ELM: It’s so lovely, it’s really wonderful.
FK: That’s not strictly true, actually, because I just got a Snape/Hermione fanfic alert. I have one author who’s still writing who’s still on alert. They just wrote a new fic! And I’m excited, because they’re like the one person!
ELM: Out there writing it for you! That’s good. I mean you can write it for yourself.
FK: Yea but it’s always depressing when you write something and then you get hate mail on Tumblr because people think that Snape is a total jerk.
ELM: I’m sorry, he’s just your problematic fave, that’s all.
FK: Problematic fave. Maybe that’s the term for 2015, that’s the word. 2015’s term: “Problematic fave.” We should probably wrap up, because we’re running out of time, so—
ELM: So I think this has been a good year! Thanks for suggesting that we start a podcast, Flourish.
FK: Thanks for being willing to do the podcast and spend all your life editing now and forever.
ELM: And thank you to everyone who’s been listening so far and everyone who’s commented. We’re gonna keep doing this! 2016!
FK: We are, so write in, tell us your favorite things from 2015, also the things you hated—
ELM: Let out all your feels!
FK: Just give us them!
ELM: [laughs] Say that again!
FK: Give them to us! One thing this podcast hasn’t helped me do is be more eloquent.
ELM: All right, all right, should we say goodbye?
FK: I think so, and you know what it’s time to say? HAPPY NEW YEAR, ELIZABETH! [noisemaker toots]
ELM: Happy New Year Flourish! [more noisemaker noises]
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.
[Flourish tunelessly sings “Auld Lang Syne”]