Episode 2: GeekyCon & Meredith Levine
In this episode, Elizabeth visits GeekyCon and sees the Harry Potter theme park for the first time; Elizabeth & Flourish field a listener question from Tahariels; and we have a conversation with Meredith Levine, intrepid fanthropologist. Topics covered include LeakyCat, finding community in fandom, stars reading fanfic, and the intersections between fandom, consumerism, and commerce.
[00:00:00] If you want to know more about Fansplaining, we have a nifty About page, which includes bios of your fabulous co-hosts and more! Oh, and our intro music is “Awel,” by stefsax, used under a CC BY 2.5 license.
[00:03:55] Flourish sees Hogwarts for the first time. Approximately the most unflattering picture ever. You see how we sacrifice our dignity for our listeners.
[00:06:30] LeakyCat’s Facebook page!
[00:16:25] The song is “Diagon Alley” by Tonks & the Aurors, used with permission.
[00:18:23] Tahariels, thank you!
[00:21:50] “Why it doesn’t matter what Benedict Cumberbatch thinks of Sherlock fanfiction,” by Elizabeth Minkel, 17 October 2014.
[00:26:05] The relevant interview with Amanda Abbington.
[00:24:55] The infamous “Twins Against Twincest” photo:
[00:29:04] The song is “Owl Post” by Tonks & the Aurors, used with permission.
[00:32:20] Flourish was thinking of NuttyMadam’s Twilight series react videos.
[00:34:44] Team StarKid!
[00:41:05] The panel Meredith hosted at VidCon was “Community Driven Platforms: Fandom and Fan Strategy.” Unfortunately, the event page is gone.
[00:44:10] Not linking anything about the dread GG; if you want to know why, Google is your friend.
[00:46:15] Midwest FurFest suffered a chlorine gas attack in December 2014—yes, an actual case of domestic terrorism perpetrated on fandom.
[00:53:05] Sea lioning (a definition).
[00:55:35] The outro song is “Welcome to Hogwarts” by Tonks & the Aurors, used with permission, and they don’t have an official music video for it… so go buy the song, then watch this fanvid featuring it, by hptwilighter! And, meanwhile, extra thanks to Mallory Vance, who connected us with Tonks & the Aurors!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hello, Flourish!
Flourish Klink: Hey, Elizabeth! You’re in Florida right now.
ELM: I am in Florida. Orlando, Florida!
FK: And this is the second episode of Fansplaining.
ELM: Welcome! Thanks for coming back... or thanks for coming for the first time. I am recording live from Orlando, Florida, from the Hyatt Regency. Shout-out to Emily and Sam from Wattpad for letting me... sit in their room... before I have to go to the airport! [laughs]
FK: And in case anybody has missed this, you’re there for GeekyCon.
ELM: Oh yeah. They would not know this because we did not say this yet, but yes! I’m here for GeekyCon, which just wrapped up. I just came from the Closing Ceremony about an hour ago, and yeah, it’s been an exciting many days of con.
FK: Meanwhile, I’ve been moldering back here in New York.
ELM: I’m gonna say, because we can see each other right now, that I’m very impressed that not only am I wearing a Harry Potter shirt—and I’m at a con—you are also wearing a Harry Potter shirt, and you’re just sitting in your apartment. So...
FK: It’s true, it’s true. It says “Hogwarts Lifting Team.” It’s my gym shirt.
ELM: Was that a cue for me to say what mine says? “Remus & Sirius 5ever”??
ELM: 5ever, which I got from the bargain bin at the HP Alliance. Thanks, guys! I bought all your shirts. Since I am at a convention as we speak, we should probably... talk about it!
FK: Yeah! A little later in the episode we’re gonna have our first guest of this podcast ever, Meredith Levine—but for now, let’s talk Geeky!
ELM: This is the first year of GeekyCon, which used to be known as LeakyCon. I believe it’s, what, a six year old convention?
FK: Yeah, it’s been around for a long while.
ELM: You’ve been before...
ELM: Back in the day.
ELM: But you haven’t been in years...
FK: ...I haven’t been in two years.
ELM: That’s like 1000 years in con years. [laughter] It’s totally different, you wouldn’t recognize it.
FK: So I hear. I hear.
ELM: [laughs] No, I actually have no idea how different it is. It’s been a great experience. It’s been a very different con from ones I’ve experienced in the past. I’m learning that everything is different in this realm. As you may know from last week—or from my previous writings—I am a former lurker, so I’m new to IRL fan interaction. Which is why I bought four shirts [laughter] that have fan things on them.
FK: She didn’t have her con wardrobe yet. She’s building up her con wardrobe.
ELM: Can I wear these shirts, like, out, like... at home...?
FK: Yeah, you can wear the shirts out on the town, but for people who have never been to a con, many of us con veterans have clothing that we only bring out for con. So for instance I have several hats that I wear at cons only. And a cape.
ELM: I’m never gonna wear a hat at a con—like, I can’t wear hats.
FK: I don’t believe you, because I’m going to put one of my hats on your head, and you’re gonna say, “I feel like a witch in this hat.”
ELM: It’s not gonna fit!
FK: Oh, it will—
ELM: —I have a large head…
FK: It’s a hatpin hat! You put your hair up in a bun and you put a hatpin through it, and it stays on your head that way.
ELM: We’ll see. We’ll see. I’ll do it with you if we go to Harry Potter land at some point.
FK: So she, for the first time, went to the Harry Potter park, and I have actually never been to the Diagon Alley addition.
ELM: Let me tell you! OK. Wait, do you want to tell them what happened the first time you went to the Harry Potter park?
FK: [laughs] OK. So, for context, when I first went to the Harry Potter parks, I went right after they opened, and I, at that point, had been sort of out of Harry Potter fandom a little bit. You know, I was still helping out with the conventions, but I sort of thought that I was over it, that I was never gonna recapture the magic. And my friends, fortunately, knew that this was a dirty lie. So they took me to the park, and they brought a camera when I saw Hogwarts for the first time, and I burst into tears like a little baby.
FK: So I told Elizabeth that she had to do this. I keep telling everybody who goes to the park for the first time. Because you think that you’re too cool for it, but—
ELM: I... I didn’t think that.
FK: No. That’s because you’re a better person than I am.
ELM: No, I was just so excited. OK, so, we went to the other half first, because they’re in two different Universal parks, and you take the Hogwarts Express between them?
FK: Mmm hmmm.
ELM: And so we went to the, ostensibly the London part, and it’s super weird because you’re like walking through Universal’s version of New York City [laughter] which is baffling, have you been to it?
ELM: It’s hilarious. So were just like, “What’s going on?” And all of a sudden we were in San Francisco, and so it was like a strange version of Epcot, only with cities, and then all of a sudden we were in London, which is very weird to me because that’s where I just moved back from. And there’s these strange, eerily accurate but slightly off representations of King’s Cross and the Leicester Square tube and this... kind of Islington-looking Grimmauld Place, little bit of residential area. And so you walk through the Leicester Square tube station, you just walk around the corner, and then you are in Diagon Alley, and we turned that corner and I literally did a full 360, like an involuntary spin [laughter] of shock. I was just like, “oh I can’t!” Oh my God, I can’t get over....
FK: There’s some serious fangirl freaking out happening.
ELM: I can’t! I can’t!
FK: I’m looking at her, we’re actually on video right now and when she says I can’t—
ELM: I literally can’t.
FK: —there’s some gestures.
ELM: I can’t even. It was so good. I took a picture of everything. I got a picture on Sirius’s bike. I don’t know if you know that I’m particularly invested in Sirius.
FK: Like I am in Snape.
ELM: You’re invested in Snape?
FK: I’m very invested in Snape.
ELM: Oh my God, are you offended that I’m invested in Sirius?
FK: No, I’m not.
ELM: I think they’re nuanced characters and they both have their flaws and their positives.
FK: [laughs] I agree with that statement.
ELM: [laughs] Oh, thank God, we don’t have to cancel this podcast. OK, so, I’ve got some audio for you, just a couple of tracks. Yesterday I took a recorder out on the convention floor. So the second person that you’re gonna hear is a volunteer named Aria.
But first I’ve got an exclusive interview with the unofficial, maybe official mascot of GeekyCon. His real name is Symie. He’s a service cat. But he is colloquially known as LeakyCat. And yes, that is me and everyone I know cooing over him. And rightly so. Are you ready?
FK: All right—go for it!
[First prerecorded interview begins]
LeakyCat’s Spokesperson: I will speak for LeakyCat.
ELM: Can you speak for LeakyCat? About his experiences?
LeakyCat’s Spokesperson: What would you like LeakyCat to say?
ELM: What’s his experience like here?
LeakyCat’s Spokesperson: He loves it. He loved going to Universal Studios. He loved the train ride [enormous number of women cooing]. He loved watching the owls fly by on the screen. He was like, “Bird!” He’s like, “Bird!”
ELM: That’s amazing.
LeakyCat’s Spokesperson We walked around Hogsmeade, and we walked around Diagon Alley after they closed down the park, and he walked just like he was a rock star. He was like, “I own this place. This is my place.”
ELM: He’s your familiar!
LeakyCat’s Spokesperson: Yeah.
ELM: He’s like Crookshanks!
LeakyCat’s Spokesperson: He’s like a... we figured out he was a teacher at Hogwarts who was an animagus, and he went to the library and he found some kids studying the dark—you know, the Restricted Area? With some dark magic books. And he accidentally got hit with one of their spells. So he became permanently an animagus, as a cat. [All women present coo] So he was no longer a teacher, so he decided to become a service animal instead.
ELM: That’s a beautiful story.
LeakyCat’s Spokesperson: That’s what his chocolate frog card says, anyway.
ELM: Oh my gosh. I mean, it’s not the worst thing in the world to get stuck as a cat? I mean, it’s maybe the dream, I don’t know?
LeakyCat’s Spokesperson: He’s an animagus, in there. Can’t come out. Permanently an animagus.
[Second prerecorded interview begins]
Aria: My name is Aria.
ELM: And is this your first time volunteering?
Aria: It is.
ELM: OK. But you’ve come to LeakyCon before?
Aria: Yes. I came to LeakyCon in 2012 and 2014, and I didn’t go in 2013 because I didn’t have the money.
ELM: Was that across the country, then, that year, right?
Aria: Yeah, yeah, it was like across the country for me.
ELM: Is this your first year volunteering?
ELM: Why did you decide to become a volunteer?
Aria: Just because I wanted to get more experience out of the con, and I figured there would be little breaks... and plus, they said that they needed people and I’m like, the kind of person who likes to step up when there’s a void.
ELM: That’s awesome. And has it been an OK experience so far?
Aria: It’s been pretty fun! I’ve gotten to meet a bunch of new people and yesterday I was volunteering at a signing, so I got to see a lot of different cosplays—and I got to interact with people and make sure that they knew where they were going.
ELM: That’s great. What does fandom...what’s the purpose of it in your life? What’s the value of it for you? Or is that too hard a question?
Aria: I think the value of fandom in my life is… Basically, it’s allowed me to connect with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Like, I have some really close friends that I’ve met through fandom. I’m pretty sure that since one of them lives here in Florida, another one lives in New Jersey, another one lives in Chicago, and so it’s like, I probably wouldn’t have met these people had it not been for the fact that we have fandoms in common.
ELM: So Leaky or Geeky in particular? Is there anything about this community that you’re really into?
Aria: Yeah. It’s definitely very open. There’s a lot more room to be social than there is in normal life. And you already have that thing in common with everyone. So you can kind of walk up to someone and know that you at least have that bond of, “You’re here, so you must be a fan,” and be able to connect with them on that level, and have that connection already built. It leads to this really cool community.
[End prerecorded interviews]
ELM: So, obviously my favorite of all that audio is about LeakyCat having been a Hogwarts professor. But my second favorite is talking about especially younger people coming to this space, and feeling like, when they’re at home, they’re kind of the weird person, and in this space, everyone is weird at once. And I think—I know that it’s awesome when you’re an adult and you go to a con and you’re there, and you’re like, “Everyone’s being strange now.” But I think this is something that is incredibly valuable when you are in high school. Or you’re in college. Especially high school.
FK: When you’re trying to find your identity.
ELM: Yeah. And it’s something that I definitely found, very quietly and secretly, online when I was in high school. This was very valuable to me. And I know we’ve had different experiences. But I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I had gone IRL. I mean, you were young and you were doing it, so maybe you can imagine it.
FK: Well, I think actually for me the hardest part was that I was friends with people who were much older than I was, and when I was in person with them, it was a bit different, because all of a sudden they were faced with the fact that I was really only 16. You know?
ELM: Yeah, and they were like... 30?
FK: It was easy—yeah—it was easy to pretend that we were all the same age online, but it was harder to, you know....
FK: To keep that up when I was showing up at a con with my mom in tow.
ELM: Well, one thing that I thought that was really, really interesting about GeekyCon, because this is maybe my fifth or sixth con in the last two years, and they’ve all been wildly different, you know, from San Diego Comic-Con to last year, to Nine Worlds, which was the exact opposite of the spectrum—it was the most organic thing I’ve ever been to and it was amazing.
There were a ton of very…not teenagers, like younger than teenagers, maybe pre-teens, at GeekyCon, and their parents. And I’ve never—these parents were amazing. I was in multiple panels where they asked questions, because a lot of the people that I saw in the last few days, as guests, were people who came from YouTube or Vine or—you know, they came up in an organic way. There was one quote that I’m going to use in my article, I think it was Marie Lu, she talked about how she used to draw Harry Potter fanart. The quote was something like, “This was me once.” These are fans, they’re still fans, and they’ve risen to the point where they can have fans of their own. Which can cause some tensions too, and a weird dynamic, but I think it’s also really inspiring.
And to bring it back to the idea of these parents, I heard questions like, “What advice do you have for my daughter? She’s going to go to college soon, she needs to pick a major. If she wants to have this kind of success and this sort of career, she’s creative—” This fictional parent is so engaged! It maybe wasn’t exactly like this. But it was very much, like, “I love my child’s passion. Love them enough to bring them here, to shell out a couple hundred bucks—for myself, too. I don’t even know about any of this stuff but I love that he or she loves it.” You know? And that’s incredible.
FK: I think that’s really cool. I think that it sort of goes back to some of what we were talking about last time, where we were talking about fandom being prized for the skills it can give, or for the career you can have, and I think that probably there’s some of that—but it sounds like there was also just a lot of, “Hey, this is something my kid really loves, so why not let them love it?”
ELM: Well, hopefully this was inspiring to parents, and for younger people, too, because there was a whole track about being a full-time geek. And so they had people from all sorts of jobs. I was hanging out with my friends from Tumblr, Amanda and Rachel, and they both were interviewed where they talked about how—you know, one of them does books, the other one is the Meme Librarian, and they both love these things so much that now it’s their job, for Tumblr, and these were jobs that didn’t exist five, ten years ago.
FK: Right. Well, and I think that especially when you’re a teenager—from an adult point of view, I think it’s easier to look at it and say—and this goes back to that monetizing fandom thing, but it’s easier to look at it and say, “Oh, it’s frustrating that the things that we love are only judged based on our ability to make money, and to be better workers, and so forth.” But when you’re a teenager and you’re looking for something that is an acceptable identity to people around you, and for yourself, that you can also really like and enjoy, that’s tough, right?
FK: I mean, when I was in high school, my mom—my mom loves to tell this story—she always talks about how the other parents would give her shit for letting me spend all of this time on the internet.
ELM: Did the other parents know that you were, like, hard-coding erotica stories?
FK: They didn’t know anything about it. They didn’t see it as—they saw it as just my mom letting me waste my time. And so actually it wasn’t even like I cared, like, I didn’t give a shit. I gave zero fucks about that. But my mom felt it really hard. She got hardcore judged by other parents for letting me go to fan cons and letting me “mess around on the internet.” And I know that she’s very much enjoyed running into some of those parents again later and being like, “My daughter is so successful.”
ELM: They can suck it! Yeah! Screw those parents! Wherever you are. In Sacramento. Sacramento?
FK: [laughs] I mean, I can’t blame them. They didn’t know. They didn’t have any context to put it in. But I do think it’s nice. Like, I hope that other parents don’t have that kind of pushback against them.
ELM: I can blame them, as a defender of—like, as someone who studies the internet. That’s an attitude that was probably more prevalent when we were teens than it is like 10-plus years later. Because we’re old... we’re not old.
FK: Well, not much. I mean, a lot of people talk about this when they talk about pearl-clutching millennial things. But I do think it’s true that people see a possibility of success via the internet that just wasn’t in the cultural conversation, when we were younger.
FK: So it sounds like GeekyCon has been super fun!
ELM: [laughs] Yeah! I had a great time...spinning in the Harry Potter park. No, they were wonderful. I went to a wonderful Harry and the Potters show, my second Harry and the Potters show.
FK: Yeah! Harry and the Potters!
ELM: Yeah, so that was really enjoyable, though my phone did go flying out of my pocket of my Hogwarts track jacket that I bought at Hot Topic in 2002 and it broke further [laughter]. It was already broken, and now it’s comically broken.
FK: Let’s all pour one out for Elizabeth’s phone.
ELM: By the time this airs, my coverage will have been published in my column in the New Statesman, so if you are interested in, like, a deeper analysis with words, because I’m more thoughtful with those than verbal... words... [laughter]
FK: I think what she’s trying to say is, she’ll be able to think about it and you should read her column.
ELM: You can read my column, which has many other articles about other topics, if you’re interested.
FK: So, before we get on to Meredith, we should say that we’ve been so pleased with the reception to the first episode!
ELM: Yeah! Thank you so much for everyone who listened to our first episode, liked us on Facebook, or followed us on Twitter and Tumblr.
FK: Yeah, and we’ve been listening to your comments on what we can do better, and working on a bunch of stuff. We’re going to try and get on Stitcher soon. The download option on Soundcloud will allow you to download a super high-resolution .wav file, but if you want to download a less large file of these—
ELM: —a smaller file. [laughter]
FK: We can use words here. A smaller file! There’s a smaller MP3 that will be available on our Tumblr. So just check that for your constrained bandwidth downloading pleasure.
ELM: So, we did get our first response. [Flourish claps] Thank you! Let’s see...
FK: We’re so happy. Why don’t I read it, and then, Elizabeth, you can have the first take.
ELM: All right. I’m ready. And just so you know, this came in in three different asks from Tumblr user....
FK: Tahariels… Tahariels, I hope that we’re saying that name right. I’m thinking of it as a Lord of the Rings thing? In which case it probably should be Ta-har-ee-ells.
ELM: But was we know, Flourish can’t pronounce any names. I was correct. It’s Meredith Le-vine, not Meredith Le-veen.
FK: Oh God.
FK: The shame covers me. I even went to college with her sister [laughter] and I didn’t figure it out for four long years. So in any case! For what it’s worth, Tahariels was super persistent. She split her ask over three asks because of the limited... the limited... word count....
ELM: Character count, yeah.
FK: So if anybody has a long comment again you can definitely, like, ask us something through a text post. We are following the “fansplaining” tag on Tumblr. Or even audio record yourself. And if you do that, and we can manage it, we’ll put your actual voice on the podcast instead of reading your ask.
ELM: But not if you want to be really mean. Then you’re not allowed to do any of these things.
FK: Don’t be mean.
ELM: Constructive criticism only please.
FK: We do like constructive criticism.
ELM: Concrit is accepted! Just like the fanfiction of old, concrit is accepted.
FK: Yeah, it’s true, we go old school. Concrit only, no flames. OK. So Tahariels says,
“I just listened to episode one today and it was really interesting, thanks for sharing! I had some thoughts on the issue of monetizing fandom—I actually don’t have a problem with this where it’s respectful, because it means I get more of things I love that are tailored to my interests, which is great given how often women and women’s interests are sidelined by companies and creators. However what I really don’t like is when media uses fandom as a ‘hot, current topic’ and then mocks fans.
“What I’m thinking of specifically is when non-fans do ‘dramatic readings’ to shame writers—for instance, Caitlin Moran’s infamous live reading of Sherlock fic in front of the cast and creators, when her audience were patently uncomfortable and unhappy with her attitude. Or Graham Norton reading Cherik or RPS fanfic to James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender on his show, because they way they do it is deliberately targeted at making fans look crazy or weird, which is awful and hurtful to fans who have invested a lot of time, effort, and love into creating things that were never intended for that audience.
“They don’t mock and humiliate fans of other media, e.g. sports or music. But somehow fangirls are fair game, and it makes it hard to be open about fandom when it is still ridiculed. I think this is a big factor in why many fans want to stay in the shadows, because the celebrated success of Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t outweigh the risk of being shamed for fandom.”
So what’s your take, Elizabeth?
ELM: Oh my God, I have so many things to say! But I mean, this is like basically, this entire ask, which was beautifully stated, is like my entire schtick. I’ve written, like, seventeen articles where this is the message. I was at the premiere of the third series of Sherlock. I think we actually talked about this when we recorded the last episode, but I don’t think it made it into the final audio.
FK: It didn’t, because we thought that maybe we were gonna do a fourth wall episode—which we might still do, by the way.
ELM: Then I can talk about this again! So I was at the premiere at the BFI of the third series of Sherlock, so I watched this happen in real time, and it was traumatizing for me, partly because the audience was uncomfortable—but it was unclear why. I think a lot of the people in the… I got the feeling that some people in the audience were uncomfortable because they were, like, uncomfortable with the fanfiction, right?
They weren’t ashamed the way I was ashamed, where I was like, “No, don’t do this! Oh, why?” It was just bad all around. And then I wrote this article that actually got a lot of traction last October, after Benedict Cumberbatch made some disparaging comments about fanfiction writers and fangirls in an interview with Out magazine. And the article was called something like, “Why it doesn’t matter what Benedict Cumberbatch thinks of fanfiction,” but basically—
FK: I certainly don’t care!
ELM: Yep! Nope! Don’t give a damn. But...
FK: But the fact that—we don’t have to care, right? I’m not actually worried that anybody is going to ridicule me for it. I’m long past that. But I think that for other people, Tahariels is right. It’s a huge—
ELM: Oh yeah. So when I wrote this article, and I was just like, “Screw this guy.” He has the right to feel uncomfortable if people write fanfiction about him. That’s within anyone’s right. Just say, “I don’t really want to talk about it.” And mostly I placed the blame on the media, though I learned later that he actually brought it up, which made me feel awkward afterwards, because I was like, “Journalists, stop asking these guys!” And then the editor tweeted at some people—in a rude way—and said, “He brought it up.”
And it’s like—clearly it’s bothering him. But! It was very interesting to see the response, because I was flooded with responses from fangirls and fanfiction readers who said, just, “Thank you so much. I was feeling so ashamed after he said those things about me.” You know? And it’s just like, well, yeah, if you and I feel like we’re not going to feel ashamed anymore, I think that’s why we can go on things or write things and be like, “Screw that guy!” And then the more people say it, the more people say it publicly, the better everyone’s going to feel. Hopefully.
FK: Yeah. I think that… I mean I think it’s a complex issue because it’s not just about how people should talk about this in the media, it’s also about sort of the way that stars interact with their fans and what their responsibilities are to their fans? And I think that that’s a complex issue.
So, as you know, I’m friends with Orlando Jones, and he’s had a lot of conversations with people about this. Because he does read fanfic about himself, or his character at least, and I think if somebody wrote RPF I'm sure he would read that too—he’s not an easily scare-off-able dude. And people have gotten really mad at him for this, and his attitude is, “Look, I mean, it's on the internet, it's not locked.”
FK: I’m gonna—don’t you vanity Google yourself? Yes, I vanity Google myself.
ELM: Wait, wait, vanity—oh, “vanity Google,” you were saying.
FK: Vanity Google.
ELM: No, no. I think most journalists I know have taught themselves not to do this. It’s not a good idea.
FK: Well anyway, I vanity Google because I’m a terrible person.
ELM: No! I just don't want to see someone being... someone saying something awful about me. I'm not interested in that.
FK: I like to self-flagellate.
ELM: Yeah, that’s weird for you [laughter]. I'm sorry.
FK: Anyway, the point being though: I think there is a complex thing, because I can’t blame a star for being curious. Actually, I can’t.
FK: But I do think that there’s a question of them, like—OK, they have feelings, how much is it their responsibility to behave in certain ways for their fans? Or in other ways...
ELM: This is a longer conversation that I think we’ll definitely get into with the fourth wall stuff. Like, saying “they objectify me.” It's like, well, that's the deal with the devil if you are a celebrity. If you’re an actor. “People look at pictures of me—and I don’t like it!” You know? It’s like, this is your job! You know? I don’t know.
FK: Yeah, absolutely. But at the same time I’m sure that’…there’s the famous picture in Harry Potter fandom—which I don’t think is famous anymore—but somebody brought Fred and George twincest fanfic to the guys who play Fred and George in the movies, and there’s a picture of them holding up signs that say, “Twins against twincest.” “Twincest is wrong!” And I have a lot of sympathy for them, you know what I mean? On the one hand, like, yes, sure, they signed up to be objectified to some degree, but they also signed up to be in a children’s movie—
ELM: Well, they’re also like—
FK: —when they were children themselves, and they’re bit parts, and they're actually twins.
ELM: But yeah, they’re actually twins. That's kind of a different example, right? I'm just talking about one man or one woman or one non-binary person… not that I know of any famous actors in Hollywood who are non-binary, but—
FK: Isn't Tilda Swinton? Anyway.
ELM: I don't know if she has identified that way. But...
FK: I mean, Miley Cyrus has.
ELM: Oh really? I didn’t know that!
FK: Yeah! She has.
ELM: Oh, no way! Was that recent?
FK: She identifies as non-binary. Yup.
ELM: That’s fascinating.
FK: Yeah. I thought it was really cool of her.
ELM: Yeah! That is super cool, Miley! So all right, yeah, any individual, you’re signing up as an individual to have your physical presence...I don’t want to bring up a lot of Sherlock examples, but there was also another one where Amanda Abbington—who plays Mary Morstan and she’s also Martin Freeman’s real-life partner—and she caused a bit of a stir when she went on the record in the British press saying she thought that fan art was disgusting. I don’t know, she didn't use that word, but she was disparaging it and was saying, “My children could see that.” And then people started pulling up all the sex scenes that he’s done in movies. Your image is your job, if you’re an actor. That’s a major part of it, is your physical countenance. And you don’t really get to control it.
FK: Yeah, I think this is a complex question, though, because it’s also... it’s not actually something that necessarily The Powers That Be can control. So for instance, I know that some of the Teen Wolf actors have gotten in trouble for some of this stuff, right? They’ve said things about fanfic. Nobody at that show wants to say anything negative about fanfic, but actors are individuals who go into interviews and say things. You know?
FK: And so it’s their perspective. I think this comes back to also the question of: are The Powers That Be a monolith or not? And something that I notice in fandom is that it's really easy for us to think about everybody who’s involved in a show as either all being on the same team, or even just being, like, united under one person, like the showrunner. It’s easier, mentally, to keep that in mind than it is to think, “oh, there are literally 400 people working on this show, and they all have different agendas and different desires and different needs.” But it’s wrong, and sometimes it results in some real misconceptions on the fans’ side.
ELM: Yeah. It’s like with book fandoms because you do have a lot fewer hands involved.
FK: Right. With a book fandom pretty much there’s an author and there is an editor and—
ELM: There’s an editor, yeah. And there’ll be publicists. Obviously the way that Bloomsbury and Scholastic chose to present Harry Potter obviously affects the way that we read it and interpret it.
FK: But the writer can always, like… she’s the person who created the story. She can talk about it—like when Diana Gabaldon says something about fanfic, it's definitely Diana Gabaldon saying it.
ELM: Right, right.
FK: Whereas if one of the actors on the show says something about fanfic, that doesn’t mean that Ron Moore feels that way, necessarily. It just means that the actor did, but at the same time if I hear that, I think, “Oh God, Ron Moore!” You know?
ELM: Right, right, yeah.
FK: Why don’t you keep a better hold on your actors? Why don’t you make them be nicer? Not that they’ve ever done that. I don't think that they have.
FK: In fact, I think that they're some of the nicest people about talking to fans and playing with their completely obsessive fanbase. And I say that nicely. I would climb Jamie like a tree [laughter].
ELM: Do you feel like we answered Tahariels’s question fully?
FK: I hope that we answered Tahariels’s—
ELM: —oh, it's not really a question! Sorry, it's a comment.
FK: I hope that we responded to Tahariels’s comment fully, but what I think we should say is: we do hope to basically do a whole episode about the fourth wall at some point, and we’ll probably get more into this then. We’ll see what happens with that episode, who we have on as guests, what we’re doing. But I think that we're gonna come up with something cool, so stay tuned for more discussion of this issue.
ELM: All right! And now I’m excited to welcome our very first guest to Fansplaining: Meredith Levine. Hi, Meredith!
ML: Hi! It’s great to be here!
FK: We’re so happy to have you!
ELM: Yeah, thanks for coming on, thanks for being first.
ML: Always the guinea pig, I suppose! [general laughter]
ELM: So, Meredith is a fanthropologist, and I think we should start by asking you what that means exactly.
ML: So, my background is in research. I have a master’s from UCLA in media studies, and what I did there is I emphasized cultures of media production and consumption, and the intersection of cultures of media production and consumption. So what that means I do in the business world is, I take a look at fan community behavior and fanworks, and it just so happens that right now I’m using some pretty cool social listening software—
ELM: What does that mean? Social listening?
ML: The company I work for can track the video level of videos on YouTube, so what that means, I can find fandom and consumerist subculture, which is where I’m spending a lot of my time right now, is in consumer subcultures—
FK: So like beauty vlogging?
ML: So like beauty vlogging, or unboxings, or tech and travel, those kinds of cultures where people are passionate about what they’re doing, but it’s not necessarily passionate about a specific media text.
ELM: Go back, can you tell me, I mean, I know nothing about, I’m a YouTube novice What, are unboxings when people get something new, and they like, show their reaction—they just open a thing, and is it any…what are they unboxing? Like a package from their mom?
ML: So beauty vloggers will do this with things they get in the mail, so there’s a whole culture in the beauty community of international beauty swapping, which means that you have a penpal in another country with access to a whole lot of different makeup that you can’t get, and beauty people will buy a bunch of stuff and mail it to their penpal and open it on camera; sneakerheads will open shoes on camera; a lot of it’s tech. So a lot of it’s the newest phone or gaming console or computer or…
FK: And they critique the packaging, right? Like, I’ve seen some unboxing of Apple products and they’re like “oh, this doesn’t quite look as nice as Apple normally does...”
ELM: That’s incredible.
ML: Yeah, and so it’s not necessarily the functionality of the products so much as a first impression of the entire process of opening. It’s a lot like vicariously experiencing Christmas.
FK: Or like, is it like—one of my favorite YouTube videos, and I mean this in a completely non-judgmental way, is the girl who was watching the Twilight trailers and freaking out about them, is it like—it’s like a vicarious experience of that?
ML: Yeah, although that’s a whole other genre of react videos…
FK: But some of the pleasures might be similar?
ML: Exactly. Yeah, it’s a similar pleasure sensor of vicarious experience, although I guess cinematically—if you can call it that—there are a lot of different genre conventions and a lot of different native genres to the YouTube platform that you wouldn’t necessarily see in other places. So while vidding has a grand tradition in VCRs and still exists on YouTube, the platform is home to a lot more native genres of video.
FK: I mean, you’re talking about consumerist subcultures like beauty and so forth, which seem like they’re about buying things. I think fandom often likes to think of itself as non-consumerist in some way. How do you see those things connected?
ML: I see a lot of similar behavioral patterns, and in the way that beauty has developed their own fandom—so beauty gurus have their own fandom, and because beauty gurus are creating media I’m comfortable enough calling what is around them fandom, because it’s people who are fans of a person and the media that they create. So fans of beauty gurus aren’t necessarily fans of beauty. I think that there’s probably a fairly strong correlation, but it’s not necessarily the case, and so I think the intersection happens because of the internet and because of the ability for fans to create media.
ELM: That’s really interesting. I wonder if it’s analogous to also… yesterday Flourish and I were recording just as I was about to leave GeekyCon, and we were talking about—I don’t think we talked about it on the recording, but we were talking about how interesting it was that so many of the fans who were there were there for, do you know Team StarKid? Do you know the StarKids? Yeah, and people who had created… like, it wasn’t about Harry Potter—it was about Harry Potter, but they were there to see people who were—
FK: People who had created things about Harry Potter.
ELM: Yeah, on YouTube, you know, or the Wizard Rock community, that kinda thing, right? And so it’s a step removed from the source, which is the text.
ML: Right. I think that canon is increasingly less important in fandom. I mean, I think the canon is important, but I think that these steps of removal are a different feedback loop than used to be possible.
FK: So that’s really interesting, because I think that a lot of people think that canon is more important than it used to be—
ELM: I agree with that.
FK: —in fanfic fandom anyway, right? Because people think, like, oh, Destiel is gonna happen, and in the past, no one would ever have, that just wouldn’t have been a thing.
ELM: And if it doesn’t happen, then it’s queerbaiting. That’s a huge conversation going on right now.
ML: Yeah, I guess I’m so far removed from fanfiction as a primary mode of fandom—because I’m so in a very different world of behavior rather than single point of origin fanworks. And what I really mean, I guess, by “canon is a little less important,” is that there’s the incredible loop of production and consumption, so that producers are consumers are producers are consumers are producers are consumers. And so at any point along that trail someone can join in the fandom. So someone can be, can know StarKid, and become part of the fandom that way, even if they weren’t necessarily deep into Harry Potter before that.
FK: So that’s really interesting, we were talking last time about what you brought to the conversation at SDCC: the idea that there’s not just one fandom, there are multiple fandoms, and that’s hard to see from within. Sounds like this is a prime example of how that can be.
ML: Yeah. I mean, I think fanfiction, fanfiction is one of the dominant forms of, it’s massive, it’s a massive community, there are lots of people writing it, there are tons of people reading it, but it’s only one aspect of fanwork, and it’s an incredibly literary one. And so I spend a lot more time thinking about, I guess, video? And thinking about real world events, and thinking about a way… more, I guess, business-minded process, of when do people get sucked in and what is compelling and how does that translate? How can you move the same group of people from one place to another place to another place? And trying to figure out how people actually communicate and build these webs that are fandom, where in theory you would have, say, Harry Potter at the center of it.
But that might not necessarily always be the case for everyone, because for some people, StarKid will be at the center of it, for some people it will be GeekyCon, or for some people it will be literary culture more broadly, or for some people it will be cosplay or theme parks—because there are just so many rabbit holes at this point.
FK: OK, so one of the reasons that we wanted you to come on this podcast in the beginning was because you’ve said some stuff about believing that fandom is innately commercial. That people who think fandom is anti-consumerist are just wrong. Do you think that’s true across every one of those multiple fandoms?
ML: I really strongly disagree with anti-consumerist fandom. Because it’s missing a whole part of the production cycle that is absolutely necessary for people to understand in order to actually get canon. And in order to actually get fanworks!
ELM: Well, wait, hold on, we’re just talking about new works that are coming out right now—what if I’m in the Jane Austen fandom?
ML: Right, I still think economics are a huge portion of that. Because you’re still gonna have to, there’s still this cycle of economics that is at play in the background that I think is important to acknowledge. Like, part of book culture are books. But what happens when the economics of books change to the point where—what if Jane Austen fandom exists solely on e-reader? That would be a very different cultural experience.
FK: Right, or without the BBC Pride and Prejudice would Jane Austen fandom really exist at all on the internet? Like, I think, probably? But in a very different form. Because let’s be honest, most of it is thinking about how hot Colin Firth is.
ML: Yeah, so, I feel like the—there’s this whole economic—
FK: Telling it like it is!
ML: Yeah, but it’s economics! It’s, like, casting the right actor at the right time, getting enough funding for a project because you’re proving that an audience already exists, there’s this whole culture of production that the culture of consumption has a hard time coming to terms with. About the economics of getting these things produced. And I think that that’s one of those things where, if I could talk to fandom, there are a lot of expectations in fandom that don’t meet up with the realities of production.
ML: So there are these cycles at work on the production side of these texts that are absolutely integral to the way I think that fandom behaves, but I think that thinking that fandom is non-commercial is an oversight in the entire process.
FK: I mean, do you think that on YouTube, where you lately are focusing more—is that a closer loop, because you have people who are producing and consuming? Like, somebody creates a beauty video for YouTube, you might not understand all of the way that that gets funded, but you at least have some sense of what that is?
ML: Yeah, so, a lot of this has…there is this question in the ecosystem right now of, “well, what do you think of branded videos?” What do you think when you know someone you love is making something that’s funded by a brand? Is that selling out, is that paying the bills? Where does this commercial backing of the production of content that you love, where does that fit? And for a lot of audiences, it’s—“as long as it doesn’t suck. It’s fine, we understand that the people we love to watch need to pay their bills, and it just so happens that this is the route to pay their bills.”
FK: So, when you do your work, is it mostly fandoms you’re already in, or do you have broader studies?
ML: I take these forays. Part of what I love to do is go experience a culture of other people who love something that I know nothing about. And it’s this almost voyeuristic attitude towards fandom, but it helps establish pattern recognition, it helps establish what behaviors actually compose fandom. Because I hosted a panel at VidCon where we asked the question “well, how do you define fandom, and should you?”
I think that it could be, in theory, definable by a series of behaviors. Like, there are all the possible range of behaviors that fans exist in, and some of them will mainstream, some of them won’t—and I think this is another thing that is a really huge issue in fandom, is the issue of mainstreaming, and whether mainstreaming is actually good for fandom. What happens when suddenly it’s cool to be a superfan of something?
ELM: I think it’s interesting that you would host a panel like that, because I feel like I get some pushback from—I’ve gotten people tweeting me like “why you trying to define fandom?” like, “no one can define it and you shouldn’t be the one,” and you know...
ML: Oh, someone can define it...
ELM: Well, that’s what I’m gonna—
ML: Someone will, and it should be someone from the inside! It should be someone who knows, as opposed to getting this—
ELM: Some random.
ML: This, as opposed to getting a Power That…Is.
ELM: [laughter] But, OK,
ML: Defining fandom…
ELM: So, like everyone on your panel, I’m presuming if you were expert enough to be on a panel at VidCon, asking this question, they’re probably gonna say “Yes. Fandom can be defined.”
ML: They all said no.
ELM: What?! Really? How so?
ML: Basically, not necessarily that it shouldn’t, just that it isn’t. Because there’s such a diverse group of behaviors, it’s something that exists in the abstract, and it’s kind of a feeling, and it’s one of those, fandom’s got—this was gonna be a sound bite, but I don’t know if I should say it now, but it came out of my head, so I might as well say it—
ELM: Say it!
ML: It’s a little like pornography! You know it when you see it!
FK: I mean, I think that’s true. I feel that way about fandom.
ML: But even still, there are obscenity laws that will define it, even if it’s not individual instances of what is pornography—there is a, like, if the general population feels X Y or Z about it, it’s obscene, and it falls under obscenity laws. Even that is moderately definable. I think that the more that fandom gets scrutinized abstractly by outsiders, the more that it mainstreams, there’s this rallying against defining, against having like a unified “yes, we can point this out as a fandom.” Because I think what it means is that fandom would get less special. I think that there would be more things that necessarily would have to be included in fandom, as fandoms, and people would feel less special about it.
And I think that that’s, I feel like when you see the mainstreaming of a subculture, all of us will probably decry what’s happening in gaming as it’s mainstreaming—and how, like, sexist tendencies are coming out in gaming, and how there’s this hardcore fan culture ish in gaming that is making gaming get this negative reputation because of it being sexist and misogynist and, like, a terrible place to be, when that’s not the case all the time.
FK: So what you’re saying is, they’re trying to retrench and control the term “gamer,” and “gaming,” and now we’re gonna get a bunch of hate mail from Gamergate because of this, I said the words—
ELM: Don’t say it!
FK: Ahh! They’re gonna appear! I said the words!
So they’re retrenching, and they want to keep that to themselves and not have it be mainstreamed, and you see some of that same tendency—although hopefully without the misogyny—in fandom?
ML: Yeah. I think that when cultures that are mainstreaming decry it, “No, no, no, this can’t happen, this is terrible, this is everything bad that could ever possibly happen to our universe, is mainstreaming, because we all found our people here, we all found our identity here, and what happens to our identity,” and suddenly we’re all in these existential crises because God forbid what we like becomes normal. God forbid people who are used to having to work hard to find their people, have to work less hard to find their people. I think that it’s coming from a place of fear.
ELM: So, I feel like a lot of capital in fandom either comes from knowledge acquisition or maybe experience acquisition. Whether it’s in IRL, or if it’s in fanfiction it’s writing and reading. So there are two ways of looking at it, is when it’s mainstreamed—and I think Gamergate is a great example—oh my God, I said it again, I’m sorry! Uh, you know, it’s, it’s about—
FK: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary—!
ELM: [laughter] It’s about, so I feel like we’re gonna use the word “gatekeeping” like a thousand times on every single podcast, but I think it’s important, it’s about lowering those gates, or opening the gates. But if you spend all this time acquiring this knowledge, or gathering this experience, I think it is really hard to say “Yeah, doors are open now, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing this and everyone thinks you’re a weirdo, you’re not anymore.” Like, I think that’s a really hard thing to ask someone.
ML: At the same time, it’s gonna happen anyway. Like, this is the thing…
ML: It’s an inevitability. I don’t think that there’s anything that a fandom can do to protect themself from mainstream invasion.
ELM: What about the furries?
ML: I think that it’s probably a matter of time, just because it exists in such a taboo place, before it mainstreams.
FK: I think that being a furry is way more accepted than it used to be.
ELM: They got gassed last year, didn’t they? Or whatever it was they were?
FK: They did legitimately get actually attacked with—
ELM: Chemical, chemical weapons—
FK: But, what I’m saying is, people understand, like, not all furries are into it for yiffing, like,
FK: People understand, yeah, #notallfurries!
ELM: Sorry, I do [inaudible] with furries.
ML: And it comes to an understanding of diversity within fandom. As you broaden out fandom, and open up these gates, and as, I mean, if we’re using an invading army analogy, if fandom is being invaded—with that comes an acknowledgment of a diversity of fandom. And so it’s almost like the way that the internet has changed media: you wind up with a lot more of it and a lot more niches. You might wind up with a process where your fandom used to identify as Harry Potter fandom, but that was a monolithic fandom to begin with, and so it just becomes more honest about the niches within the Harry Potter fandom.
ML: And you see it at ComicCon with, like, a cosplay track, with a comic book , and with the business track, and with a fandom track.
ML: There is that meta-track of fandom at SDCC panels. Part of the rallying cry against San Diego Comic-Con is that it’s too mainstream, and it’s too big, and it doesn’t have a singular identity—and I’m OK with that, I think that’s a little the point.
ELM: I really enjoyed the random panels that I went to that weren’t—
ELM: I didn’t wait in any giant lines, yeah! It was great to have that diversity of choice within that space.
FK: I do feel a little bad for the people, I mean, it used to be actually a comic book convention,and I do feel a little bad for the people who are like “let’s go to the Eisners!” and no one knows what the Eisners are anymore—it’s the Oscars of the comic book world! This is important! But nobody there cares. I feel bad for that. They should have, I think that the feeling is also about, like, having their own space, and if a space gets invaded and yet you can’t carve out your own…
ML: Yeah, but isn’t that a function of, isn’t that a function of fandom, though, not of like—like, that’s a function of either not migrating, when migration might be necessary…
FK: Right, it’s true. “My parents are on Facebook: fuck that forever.”
ML: Yeah! Like, young people are really good at fleeing platforms and finding their own space, and maybe it’s just so entrenched, like, the question—I mean, part of that might be a very ageist thought. Like, maybe they’re just so entrenched in it that migration sounds like a pain in the ass.
ELM: Now wait, are we supposed to be feeling sorry for the like the old guys who founded Comic-Con? I don’t, I don’t, what are we doing right now?
FK: I was feeling sorry for them! They’re—
ML: I don’t feel sorry… [all speaking over each other]
ELM: I don’t, I don’t feel sorry for them either!
ML: I don’t feel sorry at all!
ELM: And remember was it last year, two years ago where that—it wasn’t San , but it was some older comic book artists, who were like, “all these stupid women coming in with their, like, sexy cosplay takin’ away from my comic books,” there’s like—like—I don’t know!
ML: Excuse me, your comic book artists sketched those sexy cosplays, and if you’re not willing to see, like, that female—
FK: You guys are taking this in a different direction than I was saying it, though. I mean, I wasn’t referring to them being sexist.
ELM: Flourish, you’re an old man.
FK: I’m not an old man! I’m the opposite of an old man, and I hate the, like, “Twilight ruined Comic-Con” schtick, I don’t like that, but on the other hand I also recognize that this is—it’s something that has radically shifted, and no longer feels like home to some people.
FK: And you know, I may or may not like all of the things that some of those people say, but there’s also plenty of great people who work in comics who are at Comic-Con who are not sexist old men—
FK: —for whom Comic-Con is no longer a comic convention, but it used to be.
ML: Right, and I’m sure there are also other things in that fandom that we just don’t participate in, because it doesn’t intersect with ours.
ML: If San Diego Comic-Con is one of the mothership cons, there are still other places like GeekyCon, or VidCon, or GenCon, or more local comic conventions, or, you know, there’s a diversity of events, and I feel like just because you have a mothership doesn’t mean that it’s an—it’s not representative at all of any of the fandoms that are present.
FK: That’s true.
ELM: Yeah, absolutely.
ML: Like, it’s just a smattering of the people who could get their shit together well enough to show up!
FK: [laughter] That’s so true. San Diego Comic-Con…
ELM: New slogan!
FK: ...for people who could get their shit together enough to show up!
ELM: They’re gonna snap that one right up. They’re gonna pay you to license that one.
I realize this is a really hard question to answer, and I hate it when people ask me this, but I’m gonna do it to you now. Where do you see, what do you see yourself doing, what you’re doing in five years from now, a decade from now, where do you see this developing?
ML: Oh, God, I see more people like me being employed doing what I’m doing five years from now. Absolutely.
ELM: You see people being employed by media organizations…
ELM: Or independent…?
ML: And by brands, and by anybody who has large financial stakes in niche communities at scale, which is I guess how I corporately define my job. Which basically means: how do you fandom, and how do you speak fandom, and how do you diversify your language to speak to multiple fandoms, so that you can get fandom on board with your thing that you’re making that requires lots of people to participate in order for you to be economically viable.
ELM: So it sounds like, I think, some people worry that the more people like you who are working for corporations some more, the more it’s like, “yeah, sellin’ out to the man,” but I think you have a positive spin on it: the more people like you who are working within these structures the better, because it’s people who get it and are gonna help them move towards getting it.
ML: I think so. I think that that’s true, and I guess I kinda have to believe that that’s true, because that’s the position I put myself in. The hard part once you’re in it is to make those personal economic decisions about what to do if and when things aren’t squarely aligned with fandom and with audiences. When things are a little less kosher, what choices do you make?
I think that that’s gonna, that’s gonna be the hard part. The hard part is, what personal economic choices do you make for every fan, when you’re not on board with what’s happening to your fandom. I think that Gamergate is an example of that. I think that saying “oh, well we’re not gamers, and our fandom wasn’t predicated on, like, white male hegemony recluseness, so our fandom this won’t, our fandom won’t do this when our fandom gets invaded and mainstreamed,” and I think that that’s something we’re gonna have to encounter in the next five years—
FK: Sea lioning: it could happen to you.
FK: And you could be the sea lion.
ML: It could happen to Harry Potter fandom, it could happen to all of these other fandoms, this mainstream invasion, and how we react to that is something we need to make very conscientious choices about, because it could just as easily be us. It could just as easily be us in—I’m using air quotes here—in “fandom,” feminine fandom, who get invaded and react really defensively and really mean-spiritedly. We could do that. I don’t think that’s outside of our range of emotions and actions. So—
FK: Just because there’s a power of sexism behind Gamergate doesn’t mean that women, even coming from the more subject position, can’t be complete assholes.
ML: Right. Like, that’s my big concern.
FK: We can do that!
[All speaking at once, inaudible, for awhile.]
ML: ...if and when our fandoms get invaded. And I think that they are, and I think that we will, and I think that without this conscientious observation of fandoms that aren’t ours and how they’ve mainstreamed—we need to make those choices and talk to people in our fandom about those choices and have those conversations of what will happen. Because I think it will happen. I think it will happen and I think it could be a major turning point for how fandoms behave in the next five years, absolutely.
FK: Thank you so much, Meredith!
ELM: Thank you so much for coming on, being our first guest!
ML: Thank you for having me!
ELM: All right! This has been episode two of Fansplaining! Next week, join us for an episode about Wattpad.
FK: What is the deal with Wattpad?
ELM: I don’t know, I guess we’re gonna find out!
In the meantime, Meredith has some potentially controversial views on fandom, and so do we. If you agree or disagree or generally have any opinions about what we’ve covered today, contact us.
FK: We’re fansplaining on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. And by the way, we’re still waiting for that Tale of Two Cities fanfic.
ELM: Specifically me. I’m waiting for that.
ELM: Thanks again to Meredith and to Tahariels for her question, and extra special thanks to Tonks and the Aurors for providing us some of our interstitial music. Check them out at tonksandtheaurors.com or follow them @TonksNTheAurors on Twitter, that’s Tonks N The Aurors with the letter N. See you next time!
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.