Episode 18: Slash: The Movie
This episode of Fansplaining is a little different: due to a technical problem, we weren’t able to use our guest’s audio, so we’ve made a transcript of the conversation (below), and the episode is a conversation ABOUT the conversation.
Flourish and Elizabeth talked to Clay Liford, the director of SLASH: The Movie, a film about teen sexuality and fanfiction. Slash recently premiered at SXSW to positive critical reviews—and a good deal of controversy within fandom. Topics covered include the controversy and its criticisms, reverence versus accuracy, and the trouble with media that has to represent a whole subculture. Plus Flourish promises to write Elizabeth a story called “Panty Raid at Slytherin House.”
The Rabbits Hole is online! Look at that fanfiction.net realness.
The emoticon that Flourish did was this: 🏃🏾 maybe? Not sure.
This and the next musical interlude are both “Shoe Glaze” by Jesse Spillane.
If you don’t know Georgette Heyer, RUN DON’T WALK and pick some of her Regencies up!
FLOURISH LOVES THE GIANT SQUID. Here is a One Direction fanfic that features the Giant Squid too. TWO GREAT TASTES etc.
Slash the Movie the Zine! Seriously, check it out: it’s good.
Our outro music is “Salvador Darling” by Osiris Saline.
Transcript: A Conversation With Clay Liford
Flourish Klink: All right, for our first segment we’d like to welcome Clay Liford to the podcast, the writer and director of the movie Slash, which just premiered at South By Southwest, right?
Clay Liford: Thanks so much for having me!
Elizabeth Minkel: Thanks so much for coming on!
FK: So why don’t you, just to get us started why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, Clay, um, your background, how you came to this project…?
CL: I’m a filmmaker, I’ve been making movies for a number of years now, and when I was kinda looking for a subject for my fourth feature, I mostly make comedies and they’ve played the independent circuit, festival circuit, and then they’re on Netflix and that type things, but when I was looking for a subject I knew I wanted to make a comedy, a little more of a personal comedy.
And so I was kind of thinking about stuff, my high school experience and feeling, you know, like I was into stuff that nobody else was into, but I was thinking about it because you know when I was in high school, you know, I was considered a dork or I was ostracized because I was into Star Trek but now, frat boys watch Star Trek now, so it's not what it used to be. So I was kind of looking for a metaphor, something that gave me a feeling that I felt at the time that was still kind of, you know, a little bit more modern, and I can remember being a con kid and going to conventions and there was always the 18-up room, the place, you know, it was not for kids and that always made me fascinated by that.
You know, as I got older I kind of fell off the radar for a little while, but you know, never truly leaving fandom, and just being the huge sci-fi/fantasy nerd that I am, yeah, it made sense, it just dawned on me that this is a great community, that a lot of people don’t understand.
FK: Right. So was it—it sounds like it was sort of a YA movie that then found fan, fanfic in particular as, like, the thing that it needed to express itself rather than being a movie about fanfic that then found a YA plot.
CL: Right, exactly. And I would even, I’m not sure I’d classify it as YA only because I feel like a lot of YA that’s written in that kind of, within the high school world genre it tends to be a little more reductive and not as honest. So hopefully the one perspective of this being from a person who survived and not wanting to talk down to kids, you know, that was one of the important points. But you know, there’s some really smart YA out there too, it’s just I think sometimes it can be a little reductive emotionally.
FK: For sure, for sure.
FK: So it’s interesting that you were into Star Trek, that you went to cons and so on.
FK: What was your con circuit? What were you into?
CL: I mean, I just did the generals, you know, being a Dallas kid there was Dallas Comic-Con for years and years and years and sometimes we’d go to Houston if I could convince my parents to take me—it’s hard when you don’t have your own wheels as a kid.
FK: [laughs] Totally. I feel that. I was also a non-car-kid, so.
ELM: Flourish is a very, Flourish is the youngest con-goer I know of, right?
FK: I wouldn’t say I was the youngest con-goer. I was the youngest—
ELM: You were like twelve years—!
FK: I was the youngest person on a concom, maybe.
ELM: You were the youngest person running a con, that’s what I mean.
ELM: Yeah, cause you see little kids there. But I’m new to the IRL scene, so.
FK: Yeah, she doesn’t like cons. It's sorta weird.
CL: Ha! Well, you know, crowds are, crowds are not always the best.
ELM: I like crowds! Just—well, this isn’t about me, but.
FK: It’s all about you, Elizabeth.
FK: This is an ongoing, ah, thing for us. The con—
ELM: Our points of tension.
FK: Our points of tension. Anyway.
CL: Well, what I loved about cons when I was a kid—and it doesn’t feel this way so much anymore, was the idea of being able to go, you know, to the old hotel and rummage through musty bins of zines and comics, now it’s just promotional pieces for Warner Brothers or whoever else needs to sell a movie. So actually that was kind of, you know, when we were even recreating the con in the movie it was a choice to kind of split the difference between what I don’t like about a modern con mixed with the kind of more romantic vibe of what I grew up with.
FK: Yeah, for sure. Some of those cons still exist—the last con I went to was Boskone, and Boskone is definitely not commercialized in any way, shape or form, so they’re out there!
CL: Yeah, that’s closer to my interests, yeah. I think having been at Comic-Con multiple years in a row from 2005 on, just every year was getting worse and worse, to the point you couldn’t even move, like, just massive wall of humanity.
FK: For sure. So it’s interesting, it sounds like this is really rooted in stuff that you did when you were younger, but it also sounds like, that’s a far cry from the way that people are now and the way that fanfic culture exists now.
FK: That was something that we noticed throughout the movie, was there were all these different points that seemed right in different ways but maybe in different time periods, so how do you go about trying to figure out how to split that difference? I mean you were just saying that you were splitting a difference between the past and the present at, like, big comic-cons, but. How’d you try to unpick that?
CL: Well, you know, I think I started with the—because you know, it’s a story about two characters trying to figure themselves out, and so everything had to tie back to that. So everything took second, everything was secondary to that, so every time the scenario needed to explore that in a more classical sense the way a con was run, that could fit that a little bit better…you know, this is my long winded way of saying to let the narrative shape, the needs of the narrative, shaped the direction we would push the con scenes.
FK: Right. So if there was something, whether or not something—you would make a decision about whether to, um, whether to use something that felt like it was from the 90s or felt like it was from today based on what would make most sense for the narrative of the characters rather than, like, trying to documentary—
CL: Right, right. We’re in no way, shape or form a documentary and it’s not the type of thing that I would ever even want to express or pretend to be. You know, it was, I feel like we got enough of the pieces right and we definitely, we were at panels at different comic-cons that were specifically slash panels, and yeah, it’s, they’re boxed in these hotel rooms in these conventions and they’re a much smaller swath than would go to, like, an Iron Man panel or whatever, but yeah, I think you know, it really came down to narratively: how do you externalize things that are so internal. When you do a movie about writers in general it's very very difficult to show an externalization of that, so the only drama we had was where we go into the third act where we go into the comic-con.
But you have to have kind of that narrative thrust, and having, like, a live reading for example, having that thing there allowed it to externalize a lot of the internal issues that a lot of the characters were having.
FK: Right. So whether or not there would really be a live reading like that with a limited scope of people or so forth—
FK: —those feelings are real and that’s why you chose to make it a live reading with you know, a limited number of spots, you need the narrative tension. Is that right?
CL: Yeah, it’s totally true, but weirdly even after I made that decision it was weirdly enforced by the fact that when we were at Comicpalooza there was literally the exact same size room with a reading with limited participants.
CL: We like literally, like, it worked out perfectly, it just happened to be—it was like a brightly lit room so our dramatic reduction was, like, turning down the lights so we had a spotlight.
FK: Yeah! Right, it was interesting, I noticed that you shot at Comicpalooza, one of my friends was at Comicpalooza and had said something about “Oh, there’s a movie shooting here.”
CL: Yeah, that was last summer!
FK: Yeah, she’s a costumer, she—
CL: Oh cool.
CL: Yeah, we have a lot of cosplay people involved in a movie, and actually some of them graduated up and made some of the real—you know, the “movie-quality costumes” were done by a couple of cosplayers in conjunction with our wardrobe team.
ELM: That’s cool!
FK: That’s interesting, the “graduated up” thing, because that was one tension that I think that we felt in the movie—I don’t want to speak for you, Elizabeth. But it certainly was a tension I felt in the movie, because obviously sometimes people talk about fandom as something they’re doing to practice for real world things, but a lot of people don’t feel that—
FK: And it seemed like in the movie there were characters who expressed each viewpoint. Um, I don’t know, I mean—I felt like the ending was very ambiguous, do you feel like Neil graduates at some point, or—
ELM: I’m going to pause you for a second. Are we going to assume the listener is not going to ever watch it and we’re just gonna…?
FK: Oh, you’re right. That’s not a good idea. We shouldn’t talk about the ending.
ELM: I say this as a professional critic!
FK: You say this as a professional critic, you can tell that I’m not a professional critic and you’re just here to rein me in! Scratch that whole question, cause I don’t think we can talk about it now.
CL: No worries!
ELM: I do want to kind of shift it towards talking about fanfiction, though, because—
ELM: Yeah, cause, obviously the third act is in a physical space but the entire movie is ostensibly about fanfiction, right?
CL: Yeah, well, I feel like that that is…I don't know if it’s about it, it’s definitely the narrative centerpiece of it though.
ELM: Sure. It would be in the strapline, you know.
CL: Yeah, sure.
FK: The Variety article explains what fanfiction is in the first paragraphs, so I think that's fair enough.
CL: Yeah, sure.
ELM: So I mean, do you wanna—
CL: It’s the driver.
ELM: Do you wanna—
CL: Sorry. Go ahead.
ELM: No, you go ahead.
CL: It’s the narrative drive, this is what pushes the story forward.
ELM: Right. So Flourish, I'm looking at—so we have a list of questions. Do you want to, sorry to be uh—
FK: You can drive. Drive this next question, Elizabeth.
ELM: No no wait, um, which question am I driving? That’s what I’m curious.
FK: I don’t know, you got off my groove! I was grooving!
ELM: OK, go ahead, you can keep grooving, we can cut it out.
CL: Say this to me in any order you want.
FK: This actually goes back to the last, when we were talking a moment ago you were talking about the scriptwriting process.
FK: On our last episode of this podcast we talked a bunch about TV scriptwriting and how many people are involved in it and so on, is it the same for feature writing? Was there a collaboration process of writing this script for you with notes and so forth or did you pretty much go and, and do it on your own?
CL: Typically with features and with this one in particular it's like one person, unless it’s a big studio film or it’s like you have to hire people for rewrites over and over. In this case it’s me as the writer. But I don’t write scripts in a vacuum. The way I work is, and this started off as a short so it had a life prior to this, but when I decided I wanted to make a feature after the short performed well I found out audience reactions, I talked to a lot of people, wanted to live with those characters longer, my process was I went by myself to get it down on paper and get my first draft and that took about like a month.
And then after, obviously I did a lot of work in my head, and then my next step typically is I have a couple first readers who I really trust who I get notes from who are typically from the filmmaking world and I go and get notes from them and get through a second draft, and coming from comedy world I like to test things. And even the script. So what I would do is I would always hire local actors because nothing better than to hear your words spoken by actors. And we’d do table reads and the first one we’d have mostly for trusted friends, but then I’d go do some more notes, and I’d do another one where I’d have an audience of like thirty to sixty people that I don’t really know and who have no reason to protect my feelings.
And I use that, you know, it’s really important for a lot of reasons, to see if there’s any narrative holes, also to see you know if the jokes are landing. It’s a comedy, you want the jokes to land. But in this case a third time, one third thing was to have some input about the world. So we’ve had people at different readings who’ve had, who are not huge on the internet necessarily but they are people what have, that are involved with fandom. And you know, making sure that there’s at least some of that that’s involved. So yes, I wrote the script but I don’t write scripts in a vacuum.
FK: Yeah, totally. You know, I think one of the things we were wondering was that there are so many subcultures within fandom—Elizabeth, you had a lot to say on this.
ELM: That was what just struck me about what you just said, when you say “people from fandom” were they people from fanfiction? Cause it’s, it’s very interesting—
CL: Yes, very specifically yes.
ELM: So people who are on the, the internet fanfiction world.
CL: Yeah, exactly.
ELM: Yeah, cause it’s very interesting... speaking from my perspective as someone who hadn’t had any participation in any other kind of fandom but fanfiction for about fifteen years until about three years ago when I became a fandom journalist—
FK: And had to go to cons.
ELM: And had to go to cons…no, it’s fine. I like drinking. [all laugh] It’s been very very interesting kind of seeing that clash of how people like to put everyone under a big tent but oftentimes they don’t, people aren’t actually talking the same language.
ELM: So, so that was one thing that I'm wondering as you’re talking about this, is basically, you know, the perceptions of the fanfiction world, they—
CL: It runs the gamut.
ELM: Yeah, sure, I mean, right? Do you feel, like, I don’t want to sound attack-y, but do you feel like it was a fair representation of the fanfiction world?
CL: Yeah, I mean, here’s the thing. I feel, like if anything…do I feel like people are gonna watch this movie and immediately afterwards want to start writing fanfiction? Not necessarily. But I think at the very least people are gonna understand why the characters do what they do and I don’t feel like in a judgey way either. Look, I’m gonna get details wrong. It’s gonna happen. The difference between, the only difference between the fan community and a doctor watching ER or a cop watching The Wire is the fact that the doctor and the cop isn’t gonna be on the internet afterwards and talk about it because they’re doctors and cops. But my brother’s a cop—
ELM: Yeah, my dad doesn’t watch Law and Order. He can’t.
CL: You know, we are talking about a very specific thing and we had to form…we made our own websites, it’s a B.S. website, but it is…it's abstracted enough that in a 90-minute film I’m not having to explain what One Direction fiction is, I’m not having to explain different…it’s hard to be especially because we’re kind of, from a narrative film standpoint, not being a documentary, we’re one of the very first films about this subject.
ELM: Possibly the first feature film that I know of.
CL: Possibly the first.
FK: We don’t, we don’t know of any others.
ELM: Clearly we didn’t detailedly research this.
FK: Other than GalaxyQuest and so forth.
ELM: But about fanfiction.
CL: Yeah, and there are—I’ve read scripts that are definitely more faithful as far as the actual nuts and bolts of operation within the community, but I feel like those are deeper tracks, you know? And for us it was about, how do we get what we feel is a very positive message to as many people as we can. And so you know we kind of have a foot in both worlds, so it’s a difficult way to have to walk that way. When you want to, like, I genuinely want people within the fan community, within fanfic to at least see that we're trying to do something that’s positive. We’re not gonna get all the details right, but that’s not from a lack of knowledge, those are from shorthand, those are from abstractions. It’s not, it’s not me not knowing what I’m talking about, it’s having to take abstractions to tell a story that’s going to be accessible to people beyond that community, cause that’s who we’re trying to reach.
I mean you guys, the sex positive stuff that’s in there, you guys know that stuff. [all laugh] I’m preaching to the choir there. This is for people, on the one hand it’s for, I want to make a coming-of-age story for kids who don’t have a story like this. They have no representation. And that was first and foremost, and that takes front stage for me over the idea of slash fandom, you know. But secondly it was to kind of expose people in a non-judgey way to something that I think has a lot of social, political value.
FK: So I just want to poke a little bit about that because it seems to me that you’ve come under fire from some fans, not all fans—
CL: Yeah, sure, a few.
ELM: Certain journalists.
FK: —for the representation of women and especially in slash, and obviously Julia’s a great character and one of the things that we—
ELM: Can I just say that before Flourish and I called you we talked for like 10 minutes about how much we liked Julia, by the way.
CL: Oh, great.
FK: We love her!
CL: She’s the best. Hannah’s incredible—
ELM: [speaking over each other] The actress is incredible—
FK: [speaking over] —well cast—
FK: But beyond her I think a lot of people reacted to Ronnie, played by Missi Pyle, as being sort of an over the top villain compared to Denis, and particularly because she’s positioned as an editor, a very powerful editor who can make judgments on people’s work, which doesn’t feel like it really represents the fanfiction world, I don’t think.
FK: I mean, most of the time when people are in fanfiction, I think there’s very little critique on most sites, actually.
ELM: Oh, yeah, there’s none.
CL: Yeah, it’s one of the coolest things about it is how—that's one of the things that attracted me to it and I talked about this in Q&As, how the community is so positive and uplifting to writers who are saying things that they don't feel like they can necessarily say in regular, in regular fiction. Um, no, absolutely. I, you know, there’s again, a movie has to serve many masters, and in this case we are to some degree a comedy and we could also be looked at as a driftless comedy, because of the fact that there’s no—all the characters are so relatively even handed that there wasn’t really a villain in the piece. We had to have an obstacle, just narratively. And then to some degree despite Neil being his own obstacle, without being too spoilery, literally the worst thing done by anyone in the entire movie is Neil himself, and he has to live up to it.
Ronnie is a not pleasant person, but she's not evil—in fact, she’s probably the voice of reason when it comes to their own policies and to do with the line, again, not to be too spoilery, but where Denis almost…but I see her as not necessarily a villain, definitely a less pleasant person, but she’s definitely doing what she thinks is right.
CL: But, yeah. I mean, that was never, she’s not meant to represent anyone specifically in the community, she’s there for a narrative purpose and, you know, to deliver some more comedy as well. Cause there’s that fine line between, like, I think it’s important, it wouldn’t be a comedy if you weren’t making jokes, but I think it’s looking at the nature of where the jokes are coming from and hopefully it’s apparent that we’re not making jokes at the expense of anyone.
FK: Yeah, I have to admit that I was very—I felt very cringey during the fanfiction reading scene because it was so bad, you know what I mean?
FK: I’ve never read—well, OK, I’ve read fanfic that was that bad, but I’ve never heard someone read fanfic at a con that was that bad.
CL: Well, you know—
FK: You know what I mean.
ELM: You mean as presenting their own work—because there have been a lot of controversies over the past couple years because there have been live readings, you know, often hosted by men, frankly—
ELM: [sheepishly] Not all men! Who, you know—
FK: [laughing] Don’t hashtag that, Elizabeth, we know how you feel about men.
FK: The lesbian separatist colony on the moon, that’s you.
ELM: Yeah, but I’m trying to remember what con that was at that caused a huge stir last year…?
CL: I remember this, I remember this, yeah, I was reading about it—
ELM: And they canceled it!
CL: Yeah yeah!
ELM: It was somewhere in the west! And I can look up the details and we can put them in the show notes. Um, they were going to be reading it in a mocking way, you know. And that’s my entire experience, like, seeing fanfiction read at a convention is meant for mockery or joke, or—and I’ve seen it done at conventions but it’s meant to be a joke. So yeah, that’s, it was just a little hard to have that knowledge and that experience and then to see that, you know?
CL: Sure. I think the biggest problem was, like, and we’ve even with Neil’s writing too we tried different versions of it, and people—that’s not the place to have really beautiful writing, in a weird way. It works better and it still gets across getting the medicine down if there is some humor in those moments. There is so much great writing that I've read in my research but, you know, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease I think in this particular situation and for us to be able to even—it’s a delicate line because we want to be funny and we want to use things that are jokes and that work but that are definitely not the thing that you said where it’s not, like, it’s not self-commentary and it’s not…hopefully it’s not, by the time that that comes so late in the film hopefully you see that we are in the camp with those characters and we’re in it with them and there’s no, like, so. I feel like if we opened the movie with that joke it would be very different than essentially closing the movie with that joke, because I really hope that by the time we reach that point in the movie that we see it’s kind of laughing-with and not laughing-at, I don’t know if that's the right way of saying that.
CL: I don’t know whether I’m making sense at all…
ELM: You’re definitely making sense. Flourish, you’re making a very thinky face, so if you wanna jump in, you’re welcome to.
FK: You know, to be honest I don’t know if this is worth having on here, I just kept thinking about GalaxyQuest as I was watching the movie.
FK: And I kept thinking about how GalaxyQuest actually flips that, right, where it starts off with us mocking the fans, basically, or feeling mockery towards them, and by the end we’re on their side in a certain way, and I think that was maybe—I don’t know how well that, I totally hear what you’re saying, but for me I don't know how well it worked, because at first I had a lot of sympathy with them and then they sort of traveled to this location, in the con, and everybody was desperately pathetic. You know? And it was like “Oh no! I went to find my people and my people are all nerds.” Like…sad. [laughs]
ELM: But like—
CL: For me—go ahead.
ELM: I shouldn’t say this—no, but haven’t you gone to a con where everyone is a total nerd, Flourish?
CL: Well, to me—
ELM: No, but like, in a great way! [FK laughs] I don’t know.
FK: OK, maybe you’re right.
ELM: Sometimes it felt like there was a dissonance between what was being said about fanfiction writers and what we were seeing, so it was like “We’re all weirdos and we love this,” and you could tell that the point of view of the movie—I’m about to say “narrator,” because I’m a book critic—was one of sympathy and positivity for fanfiction, but then when we saw it in practice that felt like it was contradicting it a little bit. Not always, but in that moment, the one we’re discussing, that’s how I felt.
CL: Partially, that’s partially my inability to write good fiction!
ELM: This isn’t a writing workshop, I feel bad! I don’t want to… [laughs]
CL: It’s totally fine! We tried to hit it from both angles. We genuinely tried to make the pieces from Neil and Julia not sound goofy. They still sounded like they were from teenagers, but there were no overt jokes in there, and I feel like it would have—to be a comedy, to live in this world, it would have been completely, there’s just no way we can do it and still…because I think you get to that point and just, everything is too reverent and nothing, everything is too reverent to the point that you can’t laugh about it; it’s gonna come off as schmaltzy. We’re already riding the line, it’s the most sentimental movie I’ve ever made. By far and away, I don’t know what that says about me. But I think you have to ride that schmaltz line too. If everything was too congratulatory within the community…
Because I hear a lot of comments, you know, people going “Oh, this should have been made from inside the community,” and to some degree I agree with that because the worst thing that could happen would be I made the Adam Sandler movie of this. Right?
ELM: That would be bad. Wow. [all laugh]
CL: Where it’s like, “Look at these people!” I can’t do an Adam Sandler voice. [laughter] You know what I mean? The worst thing I could do would be pointing fingers and laughing because that’s not even how I feel at all, but you know, it—that does nobody any good. But I feel like there’s also the problem, you flip that, where it’s so insider and so reverent that no one else can connect to it and for some people it would reinforce the way they feel about that, not having any knowledge about it. Like, it’s weird, there is a balance.
It’s funny though because I have so many friends that have done this with their own movies who are my really good friends, Andrew and Katie did this movie called Zero Charisma that played South By Southwest a couple years ago, and we’re all D&D nerds, we have a D&D group together and I thought it was super reverent but they just got attacked hard by the community, like, hard, and that’s way more…it’s just difficult. Because whenever you get anybody’s specific world, especially if it’s a group where they’re on the internet, you’ve got, you know, there’s no way to make everyone happy in that regard. So we just made a decision early on to try to represent it the best way possible.
The gender split—I’ve seen misrepresentations of it on the internet, we were literally 50-50.
ELM: That’s actually—
CL: Straight down the middle.
ELM: That’s actually something I wanted to talk about and Flourish, I think you did too. You started to, but we didn’t really get there.
FK: And I do want to note that we can only go about 10 or 15 more minutes because otherwise we’re gonna have—
FK: We’re at the 30-minute mark right now and I don’t want to have too much to edit down. But go on, because we have time.
ELM: The problem is, and I would love to hear your response to this, fanfiction is not a 50-50 split. It's—
ELM: I personally know, I can count the number of cis men I know in the fanfiction world on both my hands. And so, so that’s really hard. And I will say personally and I think Flourish agrees that we don’t have any problem with the fact that the protagonist is a boy.
FK: In fact, we saw that and at first we were like “Eh?” [doubtfully] and then we were like “Eh!” [interestedly].
ELM: His individual storyline, I thought, I really liked, we both really liked—we’re already giving away the review. We really liked Michael Ian Black’s, we thought that was very sensitively handled too so that was great. Like, that was a really good storyline, I liked that a lot. It was just—I don’t know. I guess, how do I phrase this. Flourish…?
FK: OK, let me try to step in and phrase this for you. It was definitely 50-50 representation and we were very careful to think about that, because we’d seen some of those, you know, critiques as well, but because the actual community is mostly women and because I’m sure you’ve seen people say “Oh yeah, when people see a room that’s 50-50 women and men, most people think it’s dominated by women,” but that’s not actually true, it felt a little weird for it to be right 50-50 because women weren'’t more represented even then. So was that a directorial decision you made to have it be right down the line?
CL: No. We knew—I knew from very early on the gender division, that is not something that was discovered after the fact or anything. Really part of what it came to was just the amount of speaking roles; originally there was one more speaking female role but it got condensed. It was just so split and there was not enough time, so we combined two characters for Beth, who was one of the other readers. But we ah, we did casting for an extras casting call to get people out for the live read and we were going for predominantly female, but that’s just—we are a low-budget movie and kind of you get what you get. When you have to fill a room with 60 to 80 people you have to ask 500 just to get the 60, and you can’t turn anyone away. We were literally pulling people off the street and putting them in that room.
ELM: That’s interesting.
CL: So that was unfortunately—I can show you our casting, we primarily [inaudible] women in the room.
ELM: Taking aside—that is interesting and actually it hearkens back to our last episode which was basically me saying to Flourish “TV and movies, I don’t understand how they work at all!” and half of it was Flourish being like “Most narrative decisions”—not most—”a lot of narrative decisions are made by the limitations of the budget or the actors!” or whatever and I was just like “All right, fine.”
FK: [inaudible] …remember that we can’t just, like, write things and have them be real.
ELM: Yeah, just…! Anyway anyway, not just what was depicted on screen, but how it was talked about, slash in particular…and I’m a slash reader and writer, Flourish is not, she’s a het reader and writer mostly…fistpump for het is what you just did. Het power!
FK: Het representation! (laughing) …OK sorry.
ELM: I don’t want to get overly picky and I don’t want to say “This detail is wrong, this detail is wrong, this detail is wrong.” But like, it’s so female dominated, so much of exactly what slash is in particular has to do with the way that women are reconstructing and reconfiguring stories and sharing them with each other in communities. You know, you can have a male protagonist in this world is very very interesting, but like…I don’t know I don't want to get nitpicky, but it just felt like women—so many gay men. Because I think that’s the presumption of slash…
FK: And it’s funny because that’s a huge problem in the slash community! That gay men are excluded—
ELM: It’s a huge problem!
FK: Then there’s a lot of gay men in the slash community in it [the movie] and it’s like “Wait, that’s not right!” and then it’s like “Wait, uh…”
ELM: Right, and we just had a gay male artist on, a couple episodes ago, who’s now doing work around this, and we were talking with him about whether he feels like it’s appropriative culture and like, yeah, it’s a huge conversation that we have. It’s just…I feel like I’m not being very articulate in my desires to be diplomatic.
CL: No, I feel like I know what you’re—you can say anything you want.
ELM: No, no!
CL: I feel like I know where you’re going. Like in a good way.
ELM: It’s just tricky, and it’s like…the one thing that really, it’s like the fact that there was never a mention of the word “shipping” or “pairing.”
FK: Yeah, that was weird. I have to say that was weird.
ELM: Or any of the desires, they’re such predominantly female desires that lead to fanfiction, and lead to these communities, like, communities built around ships. And—
CL: Yeah. There’s actually a part of that that got cut out.
ELM: Why did you cut out the shipping?! How come?!
CL: It was, when you cut, when it references something else that gets cut out earlier it’s a domino effect.
ELM: Yeah. Oh no.
CL: There was actually a thing about shipping at that second dinner scene that got cut out.
ELM: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. That’s just interesting. It’s so central. It’s—it’s actually very nice to—I feel like I’m giving a monologue now, but it’s nice to talk to you to hear, I kind of feel like I have a flipped perspective, you know what I mean?
CL: For me it’s like, you know, it's tough because again, so much, you have 90 minutes, so much of what you have to do is abstraction. I’ve heard some comments, there’s some very specific, I mean, I read what people say so I know what's going on.
FK: No, don’t google yourself! That way lies madness!
CL: I know. It’s terrible. I see that, one thing people are saying is what we’re doing isn’t inaccurate but is very 2002? Was some of it? I was like look that may be the case, but there’s never been a film about this, so we have to start somewhere and, like, to jump so far ahead where people are like “This shoulda been on Wattpad!” and I’m like, “How am I gonna explain that?” You know.
ELM: But you might not have to explain it, because Wattpad has like forty million users and most of them are teens! I don’t know, if this movie is for teens, they’re already there, they’re already using it, they’re already sorting out their sexuality via Wattpad.
CL: True enough. Yeah. But weirdly that’s been the, that’s been our strongest, the people who respond to this movie the best are teenagers, teenage girls in particular. We’ve had such a great, like, we’ve done demographic type test screenings and it’s always played really well but for younger audiences, it’s been amazing. We get—cause again, if I had to make sacrifices the order of my concerns were to make sure that I was telling an accurate story for teens who may be feeling a certain way and never have had it be like this. Uh, and you know, sometimes you have to cut, and…
FK: So basically you want to do right by the fanfiction community in general—
FK: —but your number one demographic is, it’s a teen story for teens, and that was really where your focus was gonna be on that YA story. I know you don’t like the term YA. Uh, but.
ELM: Just say teens, Flourish.
FK: I’ll say it again fifty times: teens, teens, teens.
CL: Yes, to some degree. I, it’s not kind of throw out the baby with the bathwater. I’m not saying “Whatever happens, happens” about the other stuff. But I’m like, again, it was about getting the universality right, and getting the inclusiveness of it right. That’s, whether or not the con is exactly the way we run a con versus are we, where are we siding narratively, who’s, where are we putting our emphasis and who we care about. Those are all important things to me. And it’s important to be evenhanded, not to be jerks but also not to be too reverent either.
ELM: Sure, sure.
CL: Because I think you lose ability to communicate on a universal level if people think you’re just paying fanservice to something.
ELM: It’s interesting hearing you talk about it because—what we really need is more works of fiction about fanfiction, to be honest.
CL: Absolutely, yeah, totally.
ELM: And I appreciate that you talk about this like it’s first and you’ve gotta start somewhere. It’s funny cause I, as you're talking I’m thinking a lot about Fangirl, the YA novel.
CL: I read it, I sure did!
ELM: It’s interesting because why we need more is because it shouldn’t be like “Well, in Fangirl she does this and you do this,” and, cause I love Rainbow and I think it’s a wonderful book, but I think that she…there were things in there that didn’t ring true to me either.
FK: Or to me or to many people. Like, lots of people have different—
ELM: For sure.
CL: This is one of those things that you can not win. There’s literally no way, like it goes back to that cop-doc thing. I interrupted you, I’m sorry.
ELM: No no no, I’m just trying to think about whether the fanfiction itself is depicted in a reverent way there. I don’t know. It’s interesting.
FK: Well, it certainly is when she writes, um, I don’t think that we get a huge…well, the writing’s better. But she’s a fiction writer and she’s supposed to be writing a story that’s like…and she’s a little older than…
ELM: [laughs] Little bit!
CL: I am the same age as my characters.
FK: No no, I mean the character who’s writing the story is a little older, the character in Fangirl.
ELM: Cath, yeah.
FK: She’s in college and two or three years actually make a huge difference—
CL: Oh yeah.
FK: At least in my writing life, I don’t know about yours.
FK: But I think this actually, maybe this, maybe you’re asking a version of what I’m asking.
ELM: I can’t wait to find out.
FK: What I was gonna say is that I think we should ask just one more question, and I think this is related to sort of the last question on the list that we put together, which is about sort of, this being the first…if this is the first movie to really feature fanfiction writers in the way that Fangirl maybe wasn’t the first book to feature fanfiction but certainly was the first really widely—
ELM: I think, yeah.
FK: I don’t know, I only know about movies and not about whether Fangirl is.
ELM: I’m pretty sure that Fangirl was the first mainstream work.
FK: It’s like, that’s a really big responsibility to have and that’s one that you can’t avoid. Is it just like, more speech is good? Is it that, do you think that this paves the way for somebody to do another project that’s more about a specific fanfic subculture, or do you think that…?
CL: If we do well, we definitely definitely make it easier for people. In Hollywood and in Indiewood no one wants to be the first. It’s very difficult to be the first. No one wants to be that. Everyone wants there to be something that pre-existed that did well. So if we do well I think it opens up a ton of doors. I can think of a couple projects off the top of my head that are done by great writers who are filmmakers who are much more nuts and bolts reverent, and I think those will easily have a better life.
I think, you know, if you start thinking too much about these things and you start being worried too much about these things you'll never make anything. So I, though I worry about these things I worry about them only to a point because I would never leave the house! I would never leave the house if I was worried about every one of these details. And I probably concern myself more than I should. Um, I mean, it is important to me, the whole thing with the community I know that—it’s like, when we make these films it’s like a lot of times we make films about a community without the intent to include that community at all because that's not your general audience, that’s not the people who are buying tickets or who are streaming it or whatever. But at the same time, it’s—I, I feel like you know, hopefully people see the message itself is very positive and want to propagate that.
Because I do think that us doing well, us being well received, and we are being generally well received so far, by the community that actually signs the checks to make those movies, that it’s going to do nothing other than make it easier for the next person. And once that door is open the opening will get larger each time, and I think it’s going to be—and maybe to some degree this is going to sound pretentious and I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but maybe this is the gateway film. For people who don’t really understand the subject. I do honestly believe that it will get easier to get other films about fandom made.
ELM: We definitely have seen that, I’m a book critic so that’s what I know well and I saw Rainbow talking, two years ago now, that two years prior she had said she wanted to write a book about fanfiction and her agent said “Don’t say that word in this office.” This was around Fifty Shades of Grey and everybody was really touchy about it and they thought it was all sex and everything. And obviously it was a bestseller. And I know of—I think I know of four YA fanfiction novels coming out this year, one of them is by a good friend of mine. So publishing works the same way in that a success opens a door. So.
CL: No one wants to be that—
ELM: Four more teen, not YA—
CL: I think you’re gonna see it in general because as coming-of-age movies are made by younger filmmakers who now themselves are coming of filmmaking age, typically when you make a coming-of-age movie you’re talking about your youth. So they’re gonna be more and more internet based, or more and more coming of age movies where the internet’s a character in the movie and with that comes a lot of the subcultures that are attached very intrinsically to the internet. Cause even when I was a kid, there was no internet and all the slash fiction all the fandom was in the mimeographed zine world, which is part of what I did honestly want to explore honestly. Because there’s something very romantic about that to me. I still am very much obsessed with that, the idea of the self published world.
FK: Yeah, I’ve got a couple back here.
CL: I have—if I turn this computer around you’ll see a shelf of it! So it really comes down to, maybe I sacrificed a bit of modernity to be able to, ah, kind of live in a bit of a romantic time with my characters. I don’t know. It's funny because these decisions you make, when you’re making a film you don’t think people are gonna notice them, and then they do and you’re like “Oh my God, they’re really paying attention!”
ELM: Fans really pay attention! That’s, that's one of the hallmarks of fans.
FK: OK, well, I think that we should probably finish up because otherwise we’ll have—I think we could keep talking for a long time.
ELM: Oh gosh, we’re at 45 minutes.
FK: We’re at 47—
FK: You’re going to have to edit this, Elizabeth.
ELM: Yeah, we’re gonna have to trim this down cause we like to keep it around an hour, so.
CL: Yeah yeah yeah.
FK: Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
CL: Thank you guys for having me, I really appreciate it. It’s really nice to talk to you now that the film is out and all the—or at least to some degree out, cause I feel like a lot of this determines if people watch it within the community and I would love for more people to within the community to see it.
FK: How can people get their hands on it, how can people see it if they weren’t able to be at South By Southwest?
CL: We’re about to do a lot more festivals, then pretty soon I think we’re getting close to have a release to announce, so slashthemovie.com is the easiest to go, but also @slashthemovie on Twitter. We’ll have updates out. I feel like we’re pretty easy to find.
FK: And you’re figuring out distribution, so watch those spaces.
ELM: Well thank you so much, you’ve been wonderful. Thanks so much for talking with us.
CL: Thank you guys, thanks so much!
FK: Thank you!
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: Episode 18.
FK: 18, 2.0.
ELM: Yes. Yes.
FK: And the reason it’s 2.0 is this episode was originally supposed to be an interview with Clay Liford, who is the writer and director of Slash: the Movie, which we think is the first feature film about fanfiction.
ELM: Yes. We can’t think of any others, so if somehow one managed to escape our attention, you should probably let us know.
FK: Right. But unfortunately his track, the track where we were interviewing him, had the worst static in the history of static and we don’t really know why.
ELM: Apocalyptic level static. Yeah, it was a shame, we have no idea why. There’s no excuses.
FK: And I tried to fix it and I just made him sound like a Terminator.
ELM: So it was either hurt everyone’s ears, make him sound scary and impossible to understand when his voice reached a lower register, or Option 3, which we decided on. So we have transcribed the conversation.
FK: Yep, and if you are interested in that, which you should be because you should be interested in hearing what we talked about with him, we're gonna be referring to it a bunch in this episode, then you should pause us and go read that transcript, because it’s available and it’s linked on Tumblr and SoundCloud, et cetera.
ELM: Just because it just feels like—we’re going to get to the controversy in a few minutes, but a lot of people know about this movie but you know we really wanted to talk to him directly and let him talk about some of the things that he was being called out on.
ELM: You know, directly. So I’m so grateful that he talked to us, he’s very thoughtful and I thought it was a good conversation.
FK: Yeah, it was wonderful.
ELM: Sorry that we can’t get to hear it [laughs] so.
FK: So let’s back up and talk about first the movie and then the controversy around the movie. The movie started off as a short film which got a really good response and so Clay launched a Kickstarter around it to make it into a feature. And then it came out as a feature, it premiered at SXSW this year, but it doesn’t have distribution yet, or at least it hasn’t been announced. So unfortunately the only way you can see it is if you’re at a festival where it’s playing or if like us you got sent a screener copy so you could talk about it sensibly. So unfortunately we can’t tell you how to go see it yet. But as a result of that we should probably at least summarize the high points of the movie and the characters.
ELM: Yeah. Without too many spoilers, right? Assuming people are going to see it?
FK: Yeah, we won’t spoil the ending for you. We’ll do a bunch of it but not the ending, how’s that.
ELM: All right, so yeah, I guess if you want to know literally nothing, you should like, mute us for the next couple minutes. Right?
FK: Yeah, sounds right.
FK: So Slash is about a teenaged boy named Neil who writes slash fanfic about a fictional science fiction novel series, I guess, novel and movie series.
FK: Right. He writes slash fanfic about this in his notebook without knowing anything about, like, wider slash culture, and one day his notebook gets stolen and passed around the school and everybody laughs at him, except this one girl named Julia who reads it and is like “Oh yeah.”
ELM: [as if responding to a sermon] That’s right. That’s right.
FK: So she reaches out to him and introduces him to the miracle of fanfiction culture online, and he starts hanging out with her and her kind of dirtbag friends, which is great.
ELM: A+ dirtbags.
FK: They are great dirtbags. They are very much like many of my friends in high school. And then she sort of friendly-bullies him into posting his fanfic online and also attending this convention with her.
ELM: Where the fanfic forum, which is a 18+ adult all-erotic smut—
ELM: It looks like fanfiction.net early days, sort of like what do you call it—
FK: Actually still current days, for that matter.
ELM: I don’t look at that. I know you’re reading that fic on there!
FK: Yeah. The site’s called The Rabbit Hole and it looks like fanfiction.net, so it’s like a multi-universe 18+—
ELM: That’s the word I was looking for! I kept thinking “multi-ship” over and over again. Multi-fandom.
ELM: Yeah. But it’s like a very old school feeling.
ELM: And they’re hosting a private room and private events that are like 18+.
FK: Yes, at this, at this convention. And one of the private events is going to be a live fic reading. And both Julia and Neil want to take part in the live fic reading, there’s some sexual tension going on between Julia and Neil, but there’s also some sexual tension going on between Neil and this much older man who he’s met online who’s also a fanfic writer. And obviously Neil is kind of questioning his sexuality and trying to figure it out. They go to the convention, and Neil gets the spot to read at the live reading, which can only have a certain number of authors reading at it—
ELM: That’s not too much of a spoiler? I feel like it's fine, right?
FK: It’s fine.
ELM: We already told people to stop listening if they didn’t want to know.
FK: We did. Sorry, guys, if you didn’t wanna know that. Anyhow, so Julia wanted it, and she’s, like, sad, but she’s trying to be nice because her friend got it and that’s cool. Obviously a lot of things happen at the convention and the live reading happens, shit goes down, but the important thing to know is that the older man Denis has a—it’s really delicately handled, the relationship between Neil, who’s much younger and has been lying about his age, and Denis who is much older and who’s been flirting with this person he doesn’t know is a kid, and they have to meet in person.
And also there’s another character named Ronnie who is—she’s called the “editor” of the fanfic website The Rabbit’s Hole, but I think they maybe mean webmistress or admin or something? Um…
ELM: I think they mean editor!
ELM: It doesn’t matter if it’s something that exists in the real world, because I think that was what was meant.
ELM: Cause the site is spoken of actually like a publication, you know, saying, talking about the base of the website and what the work is for, like who it’s for, that kind of thing.
FK: Right, right. So anyhow she’s the editor and not to use a term that’s offensive but she is kind of portrayed as a stone cold bitch. Um…
ELM: Flourish, don’t say bitch.
FK: You know, sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. She’s definitely portrayed as a bitch!
ELM: [laughs] There’s a moment—this isn’t too much of a spoiler—there was a moment actually where Julia calls this woman an asshole not to her face, and I was really pleased that Julia said asshole—
FK: Because Julia is a better person than me.
ELM: Yeah, I am trying actively to not say bitch!
FK: Good on you! Anyhow—
ELM: [gales of laughter] You literally just made the—you know the emoji, the emoticon of the guy like running? Do you know that one? The one where he’s like—
ELM: We’ll put that one in the show notes. That was literally you just now. Shufflin’ off. Shufflin’ off to Buffalo.
FK: Anyhow. Point is Ronnie is sort of the major female fanfic writer. I mean, we see a couple of female fanfic writers and some male ones as well but she's portrayed very negatively, she’s an obstacle. Anyway, so I think that’s what you need to know about the movie…
ELM: Oh, and I think maybe it’s worth saying too that interspersed are some reenactments—not reenactments. Visual representations of Neil’s fanfiction.
FK: Right. So we see Vanguard—
ELM: There’s, like, an orgy on a spaceship.
FK: And there’s a—
ELM: The Heavy Betty is the name of the spaceship, I believe.
FK: Yeah, and there’s like a, there's like a sort of hatesex moment? A sort of sex pollen meets hatesex fic at the beginning.
ELM: Oh yeah, there’s sex pollen.
FK: Anyway, they’re reenacted by some delightful actors.
ELM: Yes. It’s not a framing device in the sense of like—we’ll be talking about Fangirl invariably as we talk about this.
FK: Yeah we can’t avoid it.
ELM: But the same sort of thing where they interspersed—
FK: —the fanfic.
ELM: I think that that seems like the thing that you would do if you were writing a work of fiction about people writing fiction. Maybe not? I don’t know.
FK: Yeah it seems, it seems fairly standard to me.
ELM: Yeah yeah.
FK: Anyhow, that’s the movie and then there's been some controversy surrounding the movie recently.
ELM: Yeah, so if you've heard about this in the last few weeks, it’s probably because of the work of Aja Romano, who’s a journalist not with the Daily Dot, now with Vox!
FK: Full disclosure, Aja is both of our friend, so keep that in mind, I guess.
ELM: Yeah. I mean it’s—we should say that, it’s definitely worth saying. And Aja, I already told you this but I promise you can come on the podcast at some point.
ELM: Someday. [laughs] Um, anyway so Aja saw in her capacity as the Daily Dot fandom reporter saw and reviewed Slash at South by Southwest. But before her review came out, she launched a tweetstorm.
FK: A Twitter tornado, one might say. It was truly—
ELM: And then she screenshotted it and put it on Tumblr and so that’s how I know that a lot of people have seen this because last time I checked it had thousands of notes.
ELM: And was reblogged by some people who are like, big in fanfiction. So if you have heard about it that’s probably why.
ELM: I’ve seen a fair number of people saying like, “What you’re saying upsets me but I would like to see it myself.” I think that’s a pretty healthy attitude to take, like we agree with a lot of what she said, but I’m also very glad that I was able to see it for myself.
FK: Yeah, for sure. I think we can probably talk about some of the main points that we’ve seen people talk about, the critiques being: One, that it’s a movie about slash fandom that is literally from a male perspective following a male character around, a lot of people took exception to that.
Two, that there was not enough representation of women in the movie—Aja says that there’s only one female character, that’s not strictly true, there’s a bunch of them actually and some of them are pretty great, but it is true that there’s sort of exact 50-50 representation of men and women especially in the fanfic scenes, and fanfiction writing is actually predominantly female, so that feels a bit weird—
ELM: Those are the main points.
FK: Those were sort of the main points of critique, which we’re going to engage in our review.
ELM: Yeah, in our review! So maybe we should take a break right now and then let’s actually have that review.
FK: Woo! All right, see you on the flip side.
ELM: K, bye.
FK: Now it is time for Part Two.
ELM: I love it when you say “Now it is time for.”
FK: I like to say now it is time for. Sometimes it is time for a thing.
ELM: Now it is time to say now it is time for. I’m Flourish Klink!
FK: Now it is time to say now it is time for our review.
ELM: [laughs] So I guess we’ll begin—if you've already read our conversation with Clay, some of this may go over ground that you’ve just encountered. That was an un-eloquent way to state that. But if you haven’t read it, maybe this will help a little. I think the starting point—you wanted to start by talking about how he views the film.
FK: So when we interviewed him, Clay said some really interesting stuff about how this movie came to be. Um, he said, and I quote, “I was thinking about stuff, my high school experience, and I was into stuff that nobody else was into, but I was thinking about it because when I was in high school I was considered a dork or ostracized because I was into Star Trek, but now frat boys watch Star Trek so it’s not what it used to be. So I was kind of looking for a metaphor, something that gave me a feeling I felt at the time that was still kind of a bit more modern. And I can remember being a con kid going to conventions and there was always the 18+ room, the place that was not for kids, and that always made me fascinated.” And so he talks a little, he talked a little about how his primary reason for making the film was that he wanted to make a teen film that spoke to some of his experiences as a teen, but then he realized that he needed to modernize it and that’s how he found fanfiction as sort of a nerd activity to pin the film to.
ELM: Right. So that’s interesting. But I think that if you’ve, if you’ve read our transcript—and I think Flourish will remember this—it was very funny for me reading it because I didn't say anything for like 10 minutes, and then I’m like, “But fanfiction.” Right? Because it was a little frustrating listening to this. I felt like a lot of things about fanfiction were just wrong. And I don’t mean details, I mean big-picture ethos feelings, you know, how you feel when you write and read it or are in a community about it, so hearing him say all this kind of made everything click for me because I was like “Oh, this wasn’t about fanfiction at all, fanfiction was an easy substitute for, like, the weirdo thing.” You know what I mean?
FK: Completely. I think this is exactly what's going to be so hard to critique about it because although there’s obviously lots of little details that are right or wrong—and some big details that are right or wrong—they all add up to a feeling, at least for me, that is very different than the feeling I get when I read or write fanfic, and I think most people who are deeply involved in the fanfiction community would agree. But when you actually go down to each detail, it’s like “Well, I can see why you would pick that or not.” So—but then when you think of it like—how do I phrase this more eloquently?
ELM: It’s true though, and going back and looking at the transcript, or listening to it again, it often feels like that. You know, it made me feel like I was being extra picky, because I was like, “Well, what about X detail?” “Well, that was because…”
ELM: “…of this,” you know.
FK: So for example, Clay talked about how he wanted to have primarily women but he had to put out a call for extras and it ended up being about 50% women and 50% men in the sort of rooms, in the con scenes with fanfic. And individually that’s like, yeah totally, this happens. But then there’s also moments where the characters refer to the “Harry/Draco genre,” as opposed to the ship, right?
ELM: Oh, my genre.
FK: And this is the kind of thing where you’re like, taken individually you understand maybe they don’t want to use the term “ship” because that’s—I mean, I think this would be a foolish idea, but I can understand the thinking that that’s terminology that a person might not know.
ELM: [doubtful noise] Oh, that they wouldn’t know.
FK: I mean, I don’t know that I agree, but I see the thinking behind it, right? And then similarly, like, well, we wanted to focus almost 100% on smut and not refer to any other kind of fanfic, OK we need to simplify it, that’s fine. And then we need to you know, we’re gonna talk about curtainfic and we happened to get that wrong, you know, the definition of it and who it’s written for.
ELM: Yeah, can we just talk about this for a second? Cause I don’t want to get too much into the weeds but that was literally the one—that took my breath away when I was watching it. I was like, no.
FK: OK, so tell us, tell us about what the curtainfic piece was.
ELM: So this is the thing, it comes at a moment where basically except for Julia, we’ve heard a lot of men talk about fanfiction for awhile. Which, and a lot of, um, the older male characters—they’re like my age or a little older, they’re not elderly men, are gay men or queer men, they don’t explicitly state their sexuality. So that was disorienting enough as it is, and as I said to—I don’t know what your experience has been like, Flourish, but I said I can count the number of cis men I know in fandom, in fanfiction fandom, on like my hands.
FK: I don’t know, I think I’ve probably known a little bit more, but they’re certainly far outnumbered. Um, it’s not that there aren’t men—
ELM: Your toes?
FK: Yeah yeah, I think I would go into my toes. But they’re definitely outnumbered.
ELM: I don’t think that this is news to anyone who’s listening to this podcast, but for context there’s that study that gets cited so often, the one with the 10,000 respondents that says more people replied as genderqueer than male, of the respondents. Of the fanfiction readers and writers. Whether that’s a self-selecting group, the AO3 crowd as opposed to Lord only knows what the other crowds are.
FK: In any case I don’t think it’s outrageous to say that particularly the kinds of stories that are being sort of talked about in this movie in real life tend to be talked about by women. And we’ve heard from a lot of men at this point in the story.
ELM: Yes. And so then Denis, the older character who the protagonist has been talking to online, they’ve just met and they’ve sat down in the back room at the con and he says, “You know what, I just learned about curtainfic, this new thing—or I just learned about this thing called curtainfic.” And he’s like, “What is it?” And he says—oh, I feel like I should just pull it up now so I could directly quote it. He explicitly says, he says, “Oh, it’s for older gays”—meaning older gay men—“post-sex”—I’m trying to remember what the line is. Basically it’s just suggesting that curtainsex, uh, haha, curtainsex, that's different. [FK sniggers] Curtainfic is written by gay men for gay men post-sex—
FK: Specifically older post-sex gay men.
ELM: Post-sex! I don’t know. Which is so fucking ironic after the conversation we had with Owen a couple episodes ago.
FK: Yeah, but we had a conversation with Owen if you recall who did the One Direction art show, and he was saying that to him the thing that was so transgressive about One Direction slash was that it’s so domestic and there’s a lot of curtainfic and a lot of babyfic and it’s—
ELM: No but that was his init—so basically I wanted to talk to a man about slash. Right?
ELM: And that was his initial thing was that this was the starting point where you’re like “Oh that’s kind of offensive, this is so heteronormative, and you’re just erasing queer male culture,” but he of course in his thoughtful way kind of wanted to keep flipping it around and looking for the subversion in that, and you know frankly curtainfic is complicated and could be the subject of an entire episode…
FK: But it’s definitely not by post-sex gay men for post-sex gay men. That is definitely not what it is.
ELM: I would feel comfortable saying it’s by women for women, with some exceptions.
ELM: But it’s predominantly by women for women.
FK: Anyhow, but apart from that one clunker which was a BIG clunker, I think most of—there’s all these little choices that add up to, “Oh, we did this to make it more accessible, we did that to make it more accessible,” and there’s lots of things that we’re willing to, that I think people are generally willing to accept sort of being smoothed over or not, like, we don’t need to be totally accurate about everything, but it felt like the changes added up to a more male-centric and more male perspective and also just not reflecting sort of the deep ethos of fanfiction culture, right?
ELM: Yeah so that was—if we’re talking about—should we talk about the…So this is the thing, right? I could talk all day about the little things that I thought were wrong, but when I’m talking about these little things, I’m talking about the big things that they represent, right? And so it was, it was a little hard because he was talking about “Well, you can’t be too reverent about it.” And I don’t think accuracy equals reverence—reverence? Reverence. Is that the word?
ELM: [laughing] Not reverency. I don’t think accuracy necessarily equals reverence, I think you can simultaneously make fun of fanfiction while still getting it completely 100% right. I mean, I do that.
ELM: Right? You do that. You see it on Tumblr all the time, right? Cause—
FK: Yeah! Well more to the point, even people from outside of a culture, it’s not impossible to get everything right and also speak to an audience that doesn't know all the details and also be irreverent. So for example, right, like, the romance novels of Georgette Heyer. You would not say that she is, I don’t think that anyone would say that she is wholeheartedly accepting of everything as great that happens in Regency England. But she is meticulously researched. And her audience, even in the 50s when she was writing most of them, was not familiar with it. There was no genre of Regency romance. But people read it and enjoyed it and liked it, right? So it’s not impossible, it’s just difficult, and you can’t be lazy if you want to do that. You have to really know your subject deeply.
ELM: Right. Well I mean, this is something he brought up that is cop shows aren’t accurate, doctor shows aren’t accurate. And of course we’re gonna be touchy about it because it’s our thing and doctors and lawyers and cops, they’re touchy about those shows. I think that sometimes they are, I was saying that my dad won’t watch Law and Order, he’s a lawyer.
ELM: …I don’t think he’s touchy. Hi Dad! (laughing) But you know, like…
FK: But there’s good reason for people to be touchy about some shows! For instance, a cop show that completely valorizes cops under every circumstance, there’s good reason to be touchy about that if you’re a cop or if you’re a person who’s been arrested, because that has actual impact on the way we view cops.
FK: Similarly, you were telling me about how you had gotten really into ER and wanted to be a doctor.
FK: And then you were…
ELM: Yeah, when we talked about this before! And I remember that when I tried to become a doctor, while being in the ER fandom, I started reading books about medicine, and I found out that when they do the chest paddle thing, which they do like literally every episode of ER, that works like 10% of the time or something—it works like 100% of the time on ER! Because they can’t have the person just die immediately, they need them to be around for the rest of the episode, you know?
ELM: And so, and it like blew my mind. I was like WHAT?!
FK: And this actually, this actually relates to something that we talked about with Clay. So Clay talked a lot with, we talked a lot about the character of Ronnie, as I said before she’s the one I referred to as a “stone cold bitch,” and Elizabeth took exception to that, but what he said about Ronnie was that we had to have an obstacle just narratively. Despite Neil being his own obstacle we had to have an obstacle just narratively. And then he said, uh, Ronnie is not meant to represent anyone in the community specifically, she’s meant to serve a narrative purpose and to deliver some more comedy as well.
I understand why he put her in, but I don’t think that it was necessary to create a character like Ronnie in order to create more narrative tension, um, someone to be an obstacle, someone to be mean. And I think it’s important because Ronnie is an editor, and fanfiction, one of the most notable things about it, something that Clay says is one of the things he likes about it, is that fanfiction doesn’t have editors. Right? There aren’t gatekeepers in that way.
ELM: Editors in the sense of gatekeeping, like a commissioning editor, if we’re gonna go right into the weeds of the different kinds of editors, right?
ELM: Like, there used to be moderators…?
FK: And sometimes—and there's reccers, recs lists, and there’s admins of sites, but there’s not commissioning editors who think about, like, who is the target audience for this website.
ELM: Yeah! And it’s just like, these aren't details. I mean, they are details…
FK: Right, because, because this is one of the—
FK: Because this is one of the central things about fanfiction as a subculture and one of the ways in which fanfiction challenges, like, the greater culture. It challenges people who write to, quote, audiences or to commissioned people—not that that’s always bad, but fanfiction’s existence and the way it’s written is an alternate paradigm to that, right?
ELM: Yeah, you know what Flourish, you’re reminding me of…not three hours ago you Gchatted me and said that you wanted to start writing Snape/Hermione fic again and then you said “Who would read it?”
FK: Yeah, but that’s not because of, like, a target audience thing. If I wanted to write, if I wanted to write that and find a target audience I guess, I don’t know. But that’s internal. It’s not because there’s like a commissioning editor being like “We aren’t accepting Snape/Hermione anymore because nobody likes Snape anymore."
ELM: [suppressing laughter] Because that genre’s played out. So. Uh, I just wanted to put that in the public record, that Flourish is going to start writing Harry Potter fanfiction again.
FK: I did not, I did not promise that.
ELM: I am writing a Harry/Draco story as we speak. Literally as we’re talking, I’m just taking notes.
FK: Anyway, but you know what I’m saying, right, about the fact that—and this is something also that you mentioned to me in an earlier conversation, um, Clay said that he didn’t think that anybody was gonna come off of Slash The Movie and want to write fanfiction.
ELM: Yeah yeah yeah.
FK: But people read—and this is a terrible comparison to make, but people read Fangirl and at the end of reading Fangirl want to read fanfiction, right.
ELM: And I think I said that in our conversation, directly with him, right?
FK: I don’t know, I don’t remember if you said that directly to him.
ELM: I think I did, yeah. Because, or maybe I…God, it’s all muddled together cause we\’ve had this conversation so many times. Uh, you know, like, I definitely…because I encounter people in the YA book world and stuff who say “I didn’t even know that was a thing” after they read Fangirl. “Where can I find some of this stuff?” I don't think that—there are other problems in Fangirl, but it was being written from the…I know for a fact that the book was written by a person who loves fanfiction, you know? And I could write you a novel about fanfiction right now and it wouldn’t be all hearts and rainbows, and there could be evil people within the fanfiction community, you know.
FK: We have all met some.
ELM: But there’s an underlying understanding and respect for the ideas of it that, you know, just born out of something that she really loved, right?
FK: Right. And I think that’s one of the things that's so tough is that I really want to be harsh on Slash and I want to critique it strongly but I also don’t think that it was intentionally awful, you know? It’s clear that Clay really likes Neil and likes Julia and wants them to be happy and wants to portray fanfiction not in a negative light, but I don’t think that he succeeds.
ELM: Yeah, that’s the thing. It didn’t set out to make it a joke.
FK: Or it set out to make it a joke but only a friendly joke, but then the friendly joke was more mean than they thought.
ELM: All right, that’s fair. It feels like he wanted to be really fair and sympathetic to fans, and like, fanfiction got caught in the crosshairs. But invariably when that happens you’re not really being fair to fans, because it’s supposed to be about fanfiction fans, you know?
FK: Right. Completely.
ELM: I don’t know. Why don’t we take a break right now and we’ll just keep talking about this.
FK: All right. Comin’ back at you in a few.
FK: Alright so we’re back and I think that we’ve been talking about aspects of this movie that we weren’t fans of for a little while so let's talk about the things that we loved in the movie because there were several.
ELM: Uh, yes. Where should we start?
FK: Uh, Julia.
ELM: I love her face.
FK: Cause she’s the best!
ELM: I’m just not over her face. I can’t get over it.
FK: Her face is great but she also like, she wasn’t exactly a girl that I wanted to be but I was like “I know that girl and maybe I’ve been her on accident sometimes, and I love her for it.”
ELM: Like when you wrote a poem about being sexually assaulted with a gas nozzle?
FK: Uh, in order to irritate some teachers, yeah.
ELM: Yeah, do you know Flourish, did I ever tell you about the time that I tried to pass out condoms in my high school English class to make a point?
FK: You were such a troll, weren't you?
ELM: It was to make a point! It was during my very political phase. [FK laughs] Uh, this has been cut out of multiple episodes due to length, but I did a year-long research project on the literature of AIDS, this was my senior year, and so during my presentation I wanted to hand out condoms in a kind of point-making way. And I was told I had to go to the principal, who was like Central Casting principal. Can you imagine Principal Snyder on Buffy but, like, rounder and more like “Humph! Ho!” Can you imagine this man?
ELM: And he was like “Absolutely not, you cannot hand out condoms.” So I handed out empty condom wrappers.
FK: (gasps) Oh! You little troll!
ELM: I know! To make a point!
FK: You were such a troll!
ELM: I was trying to make a point!
FK: Yeah. Well, so—
ELM: That’s along the same lines as Julia, Julia reads this poem and it was supposed to be like a—it was supposed to be like a true story, right?
ELM: And she writes this fabrication about how a stranger comes up to her while she’s pumping gas and like tries to, you know, presses it against her, and the teacher cuts her off.
ELM: Just like “No. No thank you.”
FK: Yeah. It’s a total troll—but also she’s a fan of this fantasy series and she talks a lot about the female-centric, like, magical aspects of it, and I was like, “This is Harry Potter fandom for me circa 2002 when we were all learning about, like, ‘real magick,’” and like—
ELM: See, the thing is, you weren’t in Buffy.
FK: No, I wasn’t, but I’m sure that it was like—I mean because it was text in Buffy, it wasn’t subtext.
ELM: That was what magic was in Buffy, was like touchy-feely lesbian Wicca, right?
ELM: Feel the powers—
FK: Spelled with a “ck.”
ELM: Yes! Magick with a ck. Yeah, and so when I got to Harry Potter I was just “No. This is what I prefer.” Like… [laughing] Oh yes, wands. Mm. Yes.
FK: Anyhow, you see what I’m saying, yeah?
ELM: [still laughing] Yeah!
FK: So like Julia, she’s very sex-positive, and she’s like “Fuck ’em all write your porn!” I was like Oh, she’s a Tumblr kid! She’s like me if I had been on Tumblr at that point. So I loved that.
ELM: One thing I really really liked about her and the portrayal of—cause I think that there’s a lot of things in the movie that I think they get muddled in terms of age, I think they are partly a function of the way Clay originated it thinking about his adolescence and then trying to make it now.
ELM: So some of that gets muddled, but at the heart of it the two teenagers do feel very teen.
FK: Really really well.
ELM: And one thing with Julia that I thought was really really good was there’s a scene where she, she just kinda rolls up and somehow invites herself to dinner with his family. It felt very relatable to me because she’s like, you know, using all these words about these progressive, like, women’s studies, feminism, all this stuff, but you can kind of see her confidence slightly cracking as she—do you remember this part?
FK: Yeah, totally.
ELM: And that felt very real where you’re like “Oh I have all these concepts, I’m so learned,” and then you’re like “Wait oh no I’m 16, these adults are asking me questions, this is not gonna work.” [FK laughs] And that felt super relatable too.
FK: Completely. I think all of the aspects of the movie that dealt specifically with teenagerhood were like really great, like for instance Denis, the older character who is hitting on Neil and then when Neil comes to the convention they have to confront the fact that Neil is younger than Denis had thought he would be and that it’s a really awkward situation for both of them as a result, that felt really realistic to me as somebody who was a convention teenager, you know? And I know that Clay was a con teen too and so maybe this is part of it. It just was really sensibly handled, when that plot point first began to come up I was like “Oh shit.”
FK: Like “Oh shit,” I was so scared. In fact I think I IMed you, Elizabeth, and was like “Nooooo!” [ELM laughs] But then it turned out great! So I felt like, you know, that was magical actually, kind of.
ELM: No, no, I felt that aspect was really great. And that’s the thing, too, it’s like, I know this is supposed to be the positivity segment, but I think that we can simultaneously say that the success of these elements are part of why the failures of the fanfiction elements kind of sting a little more. Because I know that there was so much potential for it all to be successful.
ELM: With a little more understanding of, you know. So.
FK: It’s like a, you know, a swing and a miss. It’s like “Oh man, come on!” You got it!
ELM: And it’s fine if it’s all erotic fic, there’s a nuanced portrayal of sexuality and sexual confusion outside of the fanfiction realm, which is just like a blunt dick joke after it, you know what I mean? Or the titles, like “Panty Raid at Slytherin” is a title of—
FK: I don’t mind the titles so much because “Panty Raid at Slytherin House” is totally something I would have written, but in the movie—
ELM: As crack though, as crack.
FK: Well right though, exactly. That’s one of the things. So Clay talked a bunch about you know, we sort of came at him a little bit about how it was really awkward for both of us to sit through the scene of the live reading. So there is a scene of live reading of fanfic and in it there’s a couple of fanfics read and they’re both really bad fanfic. And Clay’s response to that was basically that, um, he had tried different, quote, “With Neil's writing we tried different versions of it and that’s not the place to have really beautiful writing in a weird way. It works better and it still gets across if there is some humor in those moments. There’s so much great writing I’ve read in my research but it’s a delicate line because we want to be funny.” I felt a little bit like, but you could read funny fic! Like there’s humor fic where it feels like the person who’s reading it…
FK: You could even have the entire, the entire thing be humorous fic that’s intended to be funny, right? Like, let’s have Hogwarts and the Giant Squid.
ELM: You’re always going to bring up the Giant Squid.
FK: I love it when the Giant Squid gets a porn. I love the tentacles. Giant Squid porn, it’s my thing.
ELM: [sniggering] Can you explain this to me?
FK: Um, seeing Japanese art when I was young and impressionable?
FK: Anyhow my point being though, right, there’s lots of funny fanfic out there and so it was—
ELM: I think, we were going to bring this up and now it seems like a fine time to talk about it, that you sent me that short film, the “Fan Friction” film?
ELM: Um, cause I think that’s a really successful example of… So basically we’re gonna share the link, cause we need to share this, who made, what show was it?
FK: I think it’s RocketJump.
ELM: Is it an Amazon or Hulu or something like that?
FK: It’s a YouTube channel.
ELM: Ok. Did I just sound like an ancient person?
ELM: “Is it a Hulu?”
FK: Yeah, it’s, it’s by RocketJump and it’s a clip, it’s on Hulu actually, now it’s a Hulu Original, but RocketJump started on YouTube, and there’s this segment that we’re gonna link to—
ELM: Hey, I wasn’t far off!
FK: —called “Fan Friction.” You were not far off!
ELM: It was a Hulu!
FK: [laughing] It was a Hulu!
ELM: Um, so, yeah so it’s, basically it’s two girls trying to co-write a fic together and one of them only wants to write action scenes and the other one only wants to write almost cracktastic sex scenes.
FK: Right, one of them is very serious about it and the other one is like “…and then they fucked!”
ELM: [laughs] So they’re acting it out and it’s really funny—
FK: And it’s also a completely cracktastic fic.
ELM: Oh it is, it was Sherlock and Dracula, right?
FK: It’s Sherlock and Dracula in the Star Wars universe having a Jedi battle. It is a ridiculous fic.
ELM: And it’s hilarious! And I don’t watch it and go “Hmph, my Sherlock stories are very serious, how dare you do this,” you know? It was really funny.
ELM: And it’s very knowing, and it just was a very good example of, like, a funny fic that works.
FK: But part of the way it works is the two characters who are writing it are, one of them really wants to write a serious fic about this and the other one is like cracktastic, and together they come to this place of “All right, this is silly, let’s write a funny fic, where they also get it on a lot.”
ELM: Yeah! Which sounds ideal.
FK: Which sounds like fanfic, right?
FK: It’s true that, like, I would probably, I’ve written some cracktastic fics that probably shouldn’t have been serious than were—
ELM: Good, shall we go through your back catalog now?
FK: No, but I’m just saying that I think many of us have had, like, cracktastic ideas that people would be like, and taken them seriously, but then, like, there can be a conversation about that.
ELM: Yeah, totally.
FK: This is part of what made me think about this specifically is that one of the fics in the reading is about Dumbledore and Gandalf, I guess?
FK: It’s Dumbledore and Gandalf having a wizard battle with their “wands.”
ELM: You should see, Flourish is raising her eyebrows in a way that…do you know when you put a little, like a Gchat smiley face, do you know how he raises his eyebrows in an exaggerated way?
ELM: Yeah, that’s you.
FK: That’s my intention. That’s what that face is supposed to be.
ELM: Yeah, yeah. Wand on wand action, I believe, as referenced earlier in the film.
FK: It’s not like we haven’t made a million jokes about this, but we—it clunks in there, you know?
ELM: She seems so sad while she’s reading it.
FK: And serious and awkward and scared instead of being like, “And then Dumbledore whipped out his looooong ebony wand…”
ELM: 13-and-a-half inches, not pliable! [laughing]
FK: Very spr—Right? Like…
ELM: Very springy!
FK: Very springy! [laughing] “Meanwhile, Gandalf watched, cradling his enormous staff.”
ELM: Oh my God.
FK: How can we—we can’t even do this! So anyway, it’s like, just, it’s one of the, it’s a tonal thing which is so tough because a lot of the #teen content was so tonally spot on and then to have the fanfic content feel like—
FK: You know.
ELM: “Panty Raid at Slytherin.”
FK: OK, but I kinda wanna write that fic a little bit.
ELM: Yeah, I would read that right now.
FK: [laughing] Maybe that will be my grand entrance back into Harry Potter fic. Thanks Clay! Thanks Clay!
ELM: “Panty Raid at Slytherin,” I dare you. I bet you money. I will pay you money.
FK: I’ll write it.
ELM: I’ll buy you a drink if you write it.
FK: But actually this also connects up with the other thing which is the transmedia around Slash.
ELM: You’re talking—
FK: Which is interesting.
ELM: Which hasn’t been shared very widely.
FK: Right. So Clay and his team reached out to a bunch of fanfiction authors and so forth and put together, like, a zine about what is slash and created this whole little website which is kinda hard to find through the main SlashTheMovie.com but if you poke around a little bit you can find it, and it’s a really great zine and it quotes a lot of really great people who are very active in the community over the course of like, years, you know?
FK: And it’s really accurate and great, and so that’s another thing that's hard is that clearly like, obviously the choices in this movie were not coming from a place of ignorance.
ELM: Or malice or mockery.
FK: Or malice. They were maybe bad choices in some cases but they weren’t coming from a place of, “Haha, I am a cartoon,” you know, “villainous dude who's just…” You know? Like, that’s not what it was.
ELM: Not at all, not at all. I’m glad we agree on that.
FK: Anyway, I think that people should go and look at the transmedia and feel good about it, because—
ELM: Yeah yeah yeah I agree.
FK: Because it’s pretty great.
ELM: So I think the final great element was the very end of our conversation, it seemed like the takeaway was that if this film succeeds it will open the door to other films.
ELM: Because part of the problem here is that it’s the first.
ELM: Right? And I think we can be very very grateful that in the book world Fangirl was the first. You know? For any problems you might have with it, and I've seen very varied critiques but I have seen plenty of critiques, it’s a joyful book.
ELM: That makes people want to write fanfiction, you know?
FK: Right, and it wasn’t my experience of fanfiction by far, but like—
ELM: Not at all.
FK: And there were some things in it that kind of squicked me a little bit almost, but I still liked it and felt like it was somebody's experience of fanfic, you know.
ELM: You don’t like Starbucks, is that what it was?
FK: No, that was not what it was.
ELM: Wait what was it, I want to know.
FK: I felt like there was an undertone in it of, like, fanfiction as—
FK: It wasn’t throughout, but fanfiction as a childish thing that was like a way of escaping, whereas for me fanfiction was, it was definitely a way of escaping but it was kind of the opposite, right, like for me fanfiction was the thing that enabled me to become an adult and not be constantly escaping into, like, fantasy worlds. So like, you know, it’s not wrong, I know many of people who have that fanfiction as escape story, but it wasn’t my story, so every once in awhile I’d be like “Oh! But like…”
ELM: Yeah. I, one thing that I think is a shame about Fangirl is I know in her like, in the notes at the end I remember there was a Q&A bit and she was like “Oh, I never meant, I didn’t mean to suggest that she would stop writing fanfiction just because she started writing her own.”
ELM: I don’t think that’s actually in the text, and so you can’t…
FK: Yeah, and I definitely read it that way.
ELM: Me too.
FK: Anyway, but my point is that, that Fangirl was great and I still had critiques of it because it wasn’t representing my fandom experience, and there’s a lot of pressure on the first thing, and like, I think that Clay gave it his best shot, in some ways he seriously missed, in some ways he did well, uh, but it was always gonna be so much pressure and even if he’d done perfectly—which he didn’t—he still would’ve had, like, I think Fangirl is about as close to perfect a representation as I could have hoped for in the YA world, but I still had, like, problems with it. Deep, emotional responses to it. So the only solution to that is more books with different perspectives and different takes on what this is. More movies.
ELM: Right, because no one book can, or film or anything can represent an experience obviously.
FK: Right, and I think that there are definitely people who have an experience of fanfiction that is very significant to them that is male dominated, particularly in video game spaces. I mean I’m not saying that that’s what most fanfiction people have, but I think that it is an experience. And I think that there are people who get into it and just read sort of the porny bits and I think there are people who get into it and never read the porny bits and all of these different things and these are all real.
ELM: Sure. I just—I didn’t get this from Fangirl either. I want a fictional portrayal of fanfiction that talks about the communal elements in a way, from a place of understanding.
ELM: Cause I don’t think that Fangirl had that either.
FK: Yeah. I also think that it’s one of the hardest things to portray. So I don’t know how I’d do it.
ELM: Someone can do it. There’s all these good writers out there. How about all these fanfiction writers, Flourish?
FK: I believe, I believe that somebody can do it! I just don’t know who. Yet. Maybe it’s you, dear listener!
ELM: Yeah, go ahead guys, write us a novel!
FK: Fix all our problems.
ELM: Mm-hmm! Yeah, I don’t know. I just felt like, I guess it’s just because I feel like I spend a lot of time thinking about what is this thing that I like so much, what is this thing that I have this desire to do. And I don’t think that either of these works of fiction come at it from that angle or give any answers.
FK: Yeah, that makes sense to me. I agree, it doesn’t really explain why.
ELM: At all.
FK: And I feel like “why” is really—maybe that’s partially because why is so different for different people? I know that you and I have different whys at different times.
ELM: Yeah but like, you talk about your why and I’m like, “That’s not me, but I totally understand what you’re saying.”
FK: Right. Completely. Whereas with this it’s just sort of like, here is this thing which is given that these people are doing. I mean I guess that in Slash it’s a little bit implied that Clay [sic—she means Neil] is doing this, that his why is about questioning his own sexuality.
ELM: But I don’t, but you don’t see any of that in practice.
FK: Yeah you do, he’s like lusting after—he lusts after the theater kid.
ELM: No no no, you don’t see that—you see that in practice in fanfiction. You see a lot of that in his personal life, he’s got the theater kid that—there’s a boy in theater that he thinks, that you can tell he’s interested in and thinks is mutual and then, well, I won’t spoil it.
FK: But how do you not see that, I mean his fanfic is about…OK, I guess, right, because the fanfic is only about sex whereas the…
ELM: And even like, it just feels like a, it’s sex in a way that feels like a porn, like when you watch porn that’s made for men, right.
ELM: And they’re like “Pizza delivery!” Badow-badow. And you’re like, “What?!” And that’s the way it felt! [laughing] You know? And that’s not, just because I don’t prefer to read explicit fic, I have read plenty of it, you know, even PWP there’s literally never “Well, Harry and Draco just arrived in this room together and then…” There’s always, there’s always banter or foreplay or something.
FK: Completely. I get what you’re saying.
ELM: You know?
FK: And I think that has partially to do with something we talked about before with Clay talking about having tried different tones for the fic, but it played better with audiences when it was really broad and kind of poorly written, but…
ELM: But I also—
FK: Kind of undermines the—
ELM: I just think that if you have not used fanfiction to explore sexuality, if you do not use it for sexual pleasure, any of these elements, if you do not use the sex and romance elements of fanfiction on a personal level for whatever, I think that it’s pretty hard for—I encounter this when I say people talk to me all the time and they’re like, “Well, I don’t understand shipping, I don’t understand X, Y and Z.” I think it’s hard for people to wrap their heads, to put themselves in that perspective. And so that’s kind of what it felt like.
FK: Right, right. Yeah, I agree with you there. I think that what this all comes down to is that if I were gonna review Slash I would say, well, which movie am I reviewing? Am I reviewing the movie that’s about fanfiction? Because if so, that movie gets a bad review. But am I reviewing the movie that’s about a teenage questioning sexuality love story, kind of? Cause that gets a good review.
ELM: I agree.
FK: And that’s really frustrating. Because I would love to, you know I think everybody should, I think people in fandom should definitely see the movie for themselves and make up their own minds and I think that also like, the teen love story parts show so much promise, I look forward to watching another movie that Clay makes, just maybe not one that’s about fandom.
ELM: Agreed. Unless it was about, I would love to watch Clay’s experience as a con kid several decades ago in that space!
FK: Yeah that would actually be great!
ELM: I would love that.
FK: If the movie was actually about, like a period piece that was actually about that.
ELM: Yeah you know this is the thing, and the very end of the interview he’s talking about how as more people come of age and make coming of age movies about the time when they came of age you’ll see more and more depictions of internet culture and whatever, but I would love to see that now. People from fandom who are maybe a decade older than us.
ELM: And talking about that experience. My experience and your experience being teenagers in the 90s online in these spaces will be different from someone who’s 10 years younger than us, too.
FK: Yeah because for us it’s all about the internet and maybe for Clay or for people who are a bit older than us it’s not about the internet and for people who are younger than us it’s about Wattpad and Tumblr and so forth.
ELM: Not even that, I feel like speaking as someone who studies the internet—should I make a wanking gesture right now as I say those words out loud? [FK laughs] But I mean, the internet was so philosophically different, it was so architecturally different when we were coming online than it would be for someone even five years later.
FK: Yeah, completely.
ELM: And even someone 15 years later.
FK: Right. Which, which leads to a completely different understanding of what it is and emotional engagement with it and, yeah.
ELM: And classic get-off-our-lawn as things change.
FK: Get off our lawn! All right. So our review is thumbs up on teen movie, thumbs down on fan portrayal, but definitely you should go see it and decide for yourself?
ELM: Yes. I 100% agree with that, we are like Siskel and Ebert.
FK: With our thumbs.
ELM: I guess they didn’t really do it that way, right? They didn’t really split the difference.
FK: Well, y’know, whatever. I mean, we can do it that way though. So hopefully—
FK: So hopefully our take on this has been helpful to anybody who hasn’t gotten a chance to see the movie and has heard some of the controversy and wanted to dig a little deeper into what it really was or you know more perspectives on it.
FK: Hopefully it will also get pretty wide distribution both so that everybody can see it and also so that the next bajillion movies that are made about fandom can represent a bajillion different perspectives. And all succeed.
ELM: Some women.
FK: Next step: movie about fandom focused on lady.
ELM: That would be ideal. I’d like that.
FK: But we liked but we liked Neil also as a character.
ELM: Not all men, Flourish.
FK: Hashtag not all men.
ELM: Not all boys who like fanfiction.
FK: And I think maybe we should leave it at that.
ELM: So yeah, we should thank you again to Clay for talking to us—
FK: Yeah for actually being kind of brave to come into the lions’ den and talk with, uh, talk with the community that has been I know yelling about the movie a little bit. Um, and next time we’re going to be having Ludi Price as our guest.
ELM: Who is an aca-fan in, I think, information science.
ELM: To talk about platforms, which is something that both of us are weirdly interested in.
FK: And excited to talk about, because it’s not something that gets a lot of air time, but fans do awesome stuff with platforms.
ELM: And information architecture!
ELM: Yeah organization! That’s right.
ELM: Yes, tune in for that, which will be back to the regular schedule, so you’ll have a shorter wait for that, it’ll be about a week and a half as opposed to two weeks.
ELM: So, anyway, seems like that’s it!
FK: Talk to you later, Elizabeth.
ELM: OK bye Flourish!
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.