Episode 23: The Fourth Wall

Episode 23’s cover: Graham Norton holding up a piece of fan art.

Flourish and Elizabeth take on the fourth wall—not the metaphorical wall between the audience and the actors on a stage, but the one erected BY fans to separate them (and their fanworks) from creators. After a crash course on the history of the fannish fourth wall, they discuss famous fan/creator clashes, from the Phelps twins confronted with Weasleycest to Benedict Cumberbatch writing het fanfic about Sherlock. And they consider whether any creator can cross the fourth wall successfully—and whether, in the age of social media, there’s any way the fourth wall won’t get broken.


Show Notes

As always, our intro music is “Awel,” by Stefsax, used under a CC-BY license.

The poster for  A Cock and Bull Story , featuring Steve Coogan in a wig.
The actors who play the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter series holding up signs that read “TWINCEST IS WRONG” and “TWINS AGAINST TWINCEST.”
An animated gif from  Game of Thrones : Jamie tells Cersei, “I’ll kill the whole bloody lot of them until you and I are the only people left in the world.”
  • Elizabeth loves @doctorwho! In the same vein Flourish loves @nbchannibal (pour one out).

  • Yeah, you can definitely buy an official Team Edward bag clip if you really want to. (What’s a bag clip? We honestly do not know.)

  • We see u trolling, BBCThree twitter.

The BBC3 twitter tweets: “If anyone’s wondering, we are GREAT at sign language #Sherlock” The accompanying image is of one hand making a hole and another poking a finger in it - the universal sign for sex.


[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Minkel: Hi Flourish!

FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!

ELM: This is Episode 23, entitled simply “The Fourth Wall.”

FK: And we’re going to get to exactly what we mean by the fourth wall in a second but first—

ELM: It’s not the one you think! Unless you are thinking of the right one. [laughs] It’s the one that fans talk about, it’s not the one that’s like House of Cards. That’ll make more sense in a minute.

FK: [laughing] OK, but first we wanted to talk about last week’s episode—

ELM: Two weeks ago! Last fortnight’s episode.

FK: Last fortnight’s episode.

ELM: Which was our double episode, double super-long episode on race and fandom. With our 10 contributors.

FK: Yes, and we wanted to say thank you to the contributors because we got a really incredibly generous happy excited response from people, and if you are joining us today because you heard that episode, welcome!

ELM: Hopefully you still like us when it’s just the two of us! Which is what it’s gonna be this time. This is a just-the-two-of-us episode, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell.

FK: Yes. But the thing we didn’t get in response to the episode was, like, long comment emails or metas particularly.

ELM: For context, it’s been a week since we put out the first one, so maybe we will still get some. Not that anyone needs to send us stuff, but the reason that we wanted to bring it up is we’ve gotten comments from people in the past about other episodes and people were a few episodes or even a few months behind and they would say things like, “It’s probably too late to comment, because I’m so behind.” And this applies for everything, but especially for our last episode since it’s so big and there was so much to digest. And maybe offer people’s own experiences, if they were echoed in the episode. It’s never too late to write to us. And we actually have a back queue of some comments from older episodes that we need to respond to and publish, so it’s like a blanket amnesty for anyone who wants to talk about older stuff.

FK: Right. I think one time it might be too late is when we have a giant fight and never wanna talk to each other again or think about Fansplaining ever again, then it would be too late.

ELM: Or…well, no I won’t say that.

FK: What, if an asteroid crashed into the earth?

ELM: I was gonna kind of create some sort of scenario where our longstanding love triangle with your husband comes to fruition.

FK: [laughs] And we run away to Tahiti?

ELM: I don’t know, maybe there would be like a duel and one of us would wind up in jail… 

FK: Aww, that would be simultaneously romantic and terrible!

ELM: So just romantic then! It’s true, it’s true.

FK: [laughs] But the material point is send us any comments if you have them, we’d love to have them, and sorry to everyone we haven’t responded to yet, we're thinking about you. And we will be talking about you soon!

ELM: Yes. And thanks to everybody who came on for the “Race and Fandom” episode. We love all of you and hope to have you all back on soon to talk about all sorts of other things.

FK: Indeed.

ELM: All right, so shall we get to it?

FK: Yeah, because the fourth wall. It’s a thing in theater, and it’s a different thing in fandom.

ELM: OK. So I did some very serious deep research, I went to the Wikipedia page [laughs] for “fourth wall,’ and I went to the Fanlore page for “fourth wall.” I know. Can you believe it?

FK: I…I almost can’t.

ELM: So because I did all the heavy duty research, maybe I should read the traditional definition of “fourth wall.”

FK: All right, like the beginning of any good essay: a definition. [ELM laughs] Not that I’ve ever had to grade any final papers before.

ELM: Are you subtweeting your former students?

FK: Only the ones who use definitions as the opening to their papers.

ELM: Wait wait wait, is this a common rhetorical strategy?

FK: Yes, and I hate it and it needs to burn.

ELM: At MIT, you’re telling me.

FK: Yes.

ELM: That people open with a definition.

FK: Yes.

ELM: OK. To be fair, I’m sure that I have opened an article with a definition. There are times when it serves a purpose.

FK: But probably not in your Introduction to Media Studies course.

ELM: I’ve never taken one of those.

FK: You could take it from me.

ELM: Flourish, could you be my tutor? [both laugh]

FK: I’ll be your tutor!

ELM: All right teacher, let me read you the start of my essay, which is plagiarized from Wikipedia.

FK: Sock it to me.

ELM: The fourth wall is the imaginary quote-unquote “wall” at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theater through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play. Then there’s a bunch said about French people, Molière and Diderot and André Antoine. So 19th century naturalist French theater is where the term originated.

FK: It’s fancy.

ELM: Yeah, right? France. Let’s see. The restrictions of the fourth wall were challenged in 20th century theater, speaking directly to, otherwise acknowledging or doing something to the audience through this imaginary wall, or in film, television and video games through a camera, is known as breaking the fourth wall, as it is a penetr—[snorts] penetration, sorry I’m a child, of the boundary normally set up or assumed by works of fiction. This is considered a metafictional technique in literature and video games; it occurs when a character acknowledges the reader or player. OK.

FK: So it’s like when in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off he starts talking to you in the shower.

ELM: Right. So if theater is predicated on a suspension of disbelief that what is happening on the stage is only happening on the stage and is a fictional world unto itself, it’s acknowledging…it’s like breaking that disbelief by acknowledging what’s actually happening. Right?

FK: Right.

ELM: I mean the same thing with the camera or, this is actually where the novel started if you have read a lot of 18th century fiction. This was a massively popular, like, the stupid like, not stupid, it’s very important I’m sure, but “I found these letters.” No, that’s kind of the opposite.

FK: It is kind of the opposite. You’re thinking of Tristram Shandy.

ELM: [laughs] I am thinking about that!

FK: Tristram Shandy is like Captain Fourth-Wall-Breaking.

ELM: Which is funny, because it's a foundational novel for English literature.

FK: Yeah. He just decided not to write a chapter, so… 

ELM: Did you just say “cyanoptered a chapter”?

FK: No, like, for instance, there’s a moment where he [Tristram Shandy] is just like “I’m not writing this fuckin’ chapter.” And there’s no chapter! Because he’s writing the novel.

ELM: Right.

FK: And he gets to decide.

ELM: Flourish, I haven’t read Tristram Shandy. Just putting it out there.

FK: Aw, it’s really good! And then there was a good movie made of it starring Gillian Anderson, AKA my boo.

ELM: Starring Steve Coogan. I’ve seen the movie. I thought it was good!

FK: Gillian Anderson was the most important thing in that movie shut up.

ELM: That’s funny because I don’t remember her being in it at all.

FK: [bursts into laughter] Yeah, it was a very small part!

ELM: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, that’s all I remember. Where they all wore wigs.

FK: Yeah it’s a very small part but any time Gillian Anderson is in anything I redefine it mentally as starring her.

ELM: That’s sweet.

FK: OK. But we should talk about the fan definition of the fourth wall.

ELM: OK. So in a way, like, they’re coming from the same place. They’re starting with the presumption—it’s not a presumption. They’re starting with the fact that there is a divide between performer and audience. Right?

FK: Right. Except that in the fan version of breaking the fourth wall, “performer” is much more broadly construed. So like, the performer isn’t just the characters in a TV show or a band when they’re onstage, it’s also the band when they get offstage and like walk around and live their life, or the actors when they’re not in the TV show and you can break the fourth wall by doing something that makes it clear that these people’s lives are a performance.

ELM: Right, so. The way that I encountered the fourth wall in—these are transformative fandoms we’re talking about, fanfiction, fanart, vidding, things where fans create things about source material, right? So the way I had initially encountered it was a kind of fan-erected fourth wall. So if theater is predicated on the idea of this division existing, this was more about fans creating a division unspoken or otherwise to protect themselves and their activities around their objects of fandom. Does that make sense?

FK: Yeah, and I think that that's true, that while in theater and literature and art the fourth wall is something that is sort of erected or created by the story-world and can only be broken from the story-world side, in fandom it goes both ways. So fans erect the fourth wall in order to prevent them from getting sued for writing fanfiction, although that’s very unlikely these days, but historically people thought it was much more likely. So they just say “We’re never going to come in contact with you guys, we don’t want you to know about our activities.” And in that case a fan can break the fourth wall by showing their fanfiction to the writers of the TV show or whatever.

ELM: Sure. I mean, from my perspective and I don’t know if you disagree, I feel like it’s—obviously there’s been some historical element of protecting oneself from legal action. But it’s more like spiritual and emotional. It’s like protecting your, I don’t want the people who are writing the source material I’m writing fanfiction about or doing any fan activity about, to see what I’m doing, because it’s like, they might mock me. Frankly they probably will if the past few years in the media have been an indicator. And also it’s mine, it’s not for them, it’s for me. So the fourth wall is protecting me from their scrutiny.

FK: Right, and I think that’s one of the reasons it gets really complicated, because not everybody has the same feelings about it, right. Some people feel like “Why wouldn’t I show my fanart of Kirk and Spock having sex to William Shatner?”

ELM: Totally.

FK: Either because they don’t like William Shatner and want him to feel uncomfortable, or because they genuinely don’t know why he would feel uncomfortable—

ELM: Right. All right. So do you think those are good definitions? Do you think that makes sense to anyone who’s not really familiar with these terms?

FK: I hope so. If people aren’t familiar they should definitely write us if they’re still not figuring it out by the end of the episode.

ELM: Yeah. I will say that the Wikipedia page for the traditional fourth wall spelled it all out, as you can tell from my dramatic reading. The Fanlore page where we looked up the fandom definition of the fourth wall was more a compendium—how do you say that word, com-penjum? com-pen-di-um?

FK: I think you can say it either way.

ELM: OK, great. I love how I’m asking you for pronunciation advice. This is very ironic.

FK: Yeah, I’m the worst. I’m not the person to ask for pronunciation.

ELM: Meredith—Meredith—

FK: Pro-nounce-ee-ation…Le-vine? [ELM laughs] No. Le-veen.

ELM: Accurate!

FK: I don’t know. I don’t know how to say any words.

ELM: No, you got it! Meredith Le-vine.

FK: I just psych myself out now because I don’t, I really don’t want to get people’s names wrong.

ELM: That’s good, that’s good. You’re very polite.

FK: [laughing] Yeah, but I’m still a failure!

ELM: Anyway. Compendium. The Fanlore article about the fourth wall and the fan definition of the fourth wall, it’s mostly a big list of links to either fan written meta or, I was pleased and surprised to see two articles I have written made the list, one was my greatest hit which was about Benedict Cumberbatch and the other was one of my first articles for the New Statesman, which actually was interesting to see there because I’m not sure if you ever read this. It was called, we titled it “Mutually Assured Destruction,” and then the subtitle was about fan-creator interaction.

And I remember some criticism I got on it—I just saw it, and I never even talked to her about this. This was before I was friends online with Lori Morimoto, I saw her talking about it. And I was like “Oh!” She was talking about how there were some parts of the article she liked but she inherently thought the idea of—so do you know the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction as a historical concept?

FK: Yes.

ELM: So for anyone who doesn’t know this was the motto of the Cold War, basically. It was…I don’t know, is Mexican standoff a problematic term that we shouldn’t use?

FK: I don’t know.

ELM: Me neither.

FK: I don’t know its origins so I can’t… 

ELM: Me neither. So like a standoff. The kind of, what the Cold War actually was. Do you think that’s a good way to describe it…?

FK: The basic idea of it was that everybody in the Cold War has a lot of nuclear weapons so that if one person launches nuclear weapons then everybody else does too and everybody dies. So no one will ever start a nuclear war because otherwise we’d all die.

ELM: Mutually assured destruction. Yes. So that was the way I had framed the shaky boundaries of the fourth wall as they’re evolving. And she pointed out, which I thought was a good critique, that there is an inherent imbalance of power in these interactions. It’s not like the US and Russia. So I think that’s a pretty important thing that we should talk about as we talk about the fourth wall. The actors and the audience acknowledging each other is one thing; the object of fandom and the fans acknowledging each other can be a very different thing. And frankly can be a very potentially harmful thing to the fans. And possibly to the creators as well, though you probably know I have less sympathy in that realm.

FK: I do.

ELM: [laughs] Maybe you have more because you’re on the inside.

FK: I don’t know about that.

ELM: OK, we’ll find out!

FK: All right.

ELM: Great.

FK: So should we take a break and then talk a little bit about the history of the fourth wall?

ELM: Yes please!

FK: All right!

[Interstitial music]

FK: All right, so we’re back and we're going to talk a little bit about some of the history of the fourth wall in fandom.


FK: Which I think is kind of the history of people breaking the fourth wall in fandom.

ELM: Well, sure. That makes sense, right?

FK: Yeah, I think so. It’s tough because it’s never been as solid as people have thought.

ELM: Well sure. That’s kind of a generalization, right?

FK: Right, but there’s always been boundary crossings and moments. The first fanvid was created with clips from the cutting room floor of Star Trek which were obtained because people knew folks in the production.

ELM: Yeah. I think that’s true. On an individual level. But I think on a whole it’s pretty safe to say that mainstream awareness and mainstream within the content creator awareness, particularly among actors, I think writers historically have had more knowledge of this because fanfiction was directly stepping on their turf, but I get the sense that actors on a whole for a lot of them this is pretty new.

FK: Yeah I think that’s true, although I think there's always been moments where those boundaries have been crossed.

ELM: Well OK how about this then: it’s not necessarily, it’s like Star Trek. It depends on the type of source material. Now every actor, so many things have fandoms, it’s not just—not to say this wasn’t true in the past, but yeah. I’m not surprised Star Trek people, with direct fan interaction all the time, going to cons, very vibrant fanbase for a very long time, but the fact that everyone in the MCU or the X-men actors being shown erotic fanart by Graham Norton every fifteen seconds, that feels new.

FK: Yeah. I think that there’s a good point which is that fandom in general has become more visible and more things have fandoms, so, right. If you’re Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner you can’t help but know the fans, and know what they’re doing a little bit because you go to cons, people keep shoving it in your face, of course—

ELM: I’ve seen GalaxyQuest, so I know how it works.

FK: [laughs] 100%. But on the other hand at that time you could probably immure yourself away from it if you were, I don’t know.

ELM: I feel like the narrative around fans in past decades has been “Oh, these weirdos.” Whereas now, I think it’s harder and harder for them to dismiss because fans are seen as money-making, valuable audience members and stuff like that. That’s a very cynical read, but.

FK: Yeah, that is a cynical read but I think it’s partially a correct one.

ELM: Yesss.

FK: I do think there’s also lots of examples, so for instance during Babylon 5 everybody knew that the creator was posting on the major forums. Through the entire run of the show, there they were. Which is in that classic science fiction fan-creator space where there’s a little bit more flow.

ELM: Buffy as well. So similar time period, and similar genre show made by people who had a lot of history in genre stuff.

FK: Right, and I think there’s also, if you’re looking at bands, groupies are not the right thing because they’re not—it's not the same, but I do think there’s a fan interaction that’s happening there that’s not really covered by the fourth wall.


FK: But that isn’t to say it’s not a real thing or an important thing, it’s just to say there’s always been a tension around this.

ELM: Definitely with bands, for sure.

FK: Right.

ELM: Bands of men and young female fans.

FK: Right. Because when there’s a crossing the fourth wall with women it’s almost always perceived probably by both parties as creepy stalking. It usually is.

ELM: Oh, yeah, I mean I was even thinking about just—if you ever watch any videos of Mick Jagger in the 60s talking about the female fans or whatever, it’s very very conscious.

FK: Right.

ELM: They have a very good sense of what’s going on.

FK: Completely. So there’s always been these tensions.

ELM: Yes yes

FK: We talked a little bit about Kirk and Spock, we talked a little bit about J. Michael Strazyncski—

ELM: Is that the Babylon 5 person?

FK: Yes, he’s the Babylon 5 guy and he’s also an executive producer, he was co-creator on Sense8 and he executive produces Game of Thrones, so this is a more relevant thing than I had even thought.

ELM: Gotcha. That’s complicated, too. This is part of the mutually assured destruction thing. I don’t know, I think of Buffy. Do you want them, the writers, in your message boards? They were coming in there and asking, kind of putting out feelers to see how things went down amongst fans. And should that be happening?

FK: Right, and I think different people have very very different takes on that, which is… 

ELM: Do we have different takes? Because I say no.

FK: I’m not saying you and I have different takes, I’m saying that—

ELM: I wanna know! No!

FK: I’m saying there are a lot of people who have different takes.

ELM: I wanna know your take.

FK: I have a very case-by-case-basis take.

ELM: I want broad generalizations and black-and-white thinking.

FK: I don’t have those things to offer you.

ELM: Ohhh.

FK: OK, look. I think when someone comes into a fan space, it is sometimes really bad, especially if they come in and ignore the norms of the community, ignore people saying, like, that they feel uncomfortable with it, and there's a power difference that is never gonna get erased, so it’s, I think it’s often a bad idea because it’s very rare that someone has enough time and brain space and energy and ability to try and deal with that power differential. But I don’t think it’s impossible and I also think there’s no hope that that will just not happen, because I think that it’s natural that somebody would be interested in what folks are saying about them. Would read the comments.

ELM: Sure.

FK: Especially if they’re the creator of a show and people are creating fanworks that they love and they think are beautiful, they may find other fanworks they don’t like but there’s a temptation there that I think, especially with the internet, it’s not human not to give in.

ELM: Well, I mean, we’ve already discussed how you can teach yourself to not Google yourself. 

FK: [laughs] And I think it’s usually a good idea! But I don’t have a lot of hope for it.

ELM: I don’t know, there’s plenty of—I mean one of my favorite writers, Hanya Yanigihara, I just heard her on the radio and the interviewer, clearly his researcher had found every controversial, critical review of her novel and was kind of parroting “some people say” back to her and she was like, “I don’t read my reviews!” Done with that. So it was like, “Yes yes, I love you so much!” That’s not to say, obviously I don’t think that writers should be unwilling to take critique, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to wound dwell in what people are saying about your work and the things they’re creating around your work.

FK: Yeah, but I think you’re thinking about this from a very writerly perspective.

ELM: Oh, of course I am! [laughs]

FK: If you’re a celebrity, and you have a social media account, I think generally speaking people find it good to interact with fans, find that that helps fans stay engaged with them and also find it fun to do that, also people should be able to have social media accounts I think in general particularly if they had them before they were celebrities. Should you not be able to take part in the life that most people take part of on the internet?

ELM: Sure, but this is hard though because fans definitely privilege the opinions of the actors in their shows, the creators of their shows, the writers of their favorite books.

FK: Yes.

ELM: There’s no way any celebrity that's well known, that has a lot of followers, is going to be able to give equal weight to the opinions or contributions of every fan, particularly if fans are coming in and saying “What do you think of my ship,” “What do you think of my fanwork,” you know, “Do you like this drawing I did of you,” just look at everyone who tweets at J. K. Rowling, “Is my perspective represented in your work?” This kind of thing. So…I think that’s really hard.

FK: So do you think in response J. K. Rowling should never tweet to any fan?

ELM: She should just block all of them.

FK: Which effectively means any person.

ELM: [laughs] No, no, but I think—she started it so we’re done, it’s too late for her now. She’s already started randomly mentioning things she never mentioned in the books. Don’t send me down this road of complaints, but it’s like…doing all sorts of things that would have been really nice to have mentioned in the books. So she’s opened that can of worms, she can’t close it again.

FK: To be fair, that drives me nuts too.

ELM: Right, I think it drives a lot of people nuts.

FK: But I do think there’s another aspect of this, which is separate from the—if you’re a writer and you’re looking at your reviews or not, that’s one thing. But if we’re talking about a celebrity with a career that is based on how much the public adore them and how much attention they get, right? It’s—

ELM: How is that different from a writer? It’s not about your critical reviews; if you’re at a certain level critical reviews or Goodreads or Amazon rankings will affect your book sales, but…it’s about how the public adores your writing, not necessarily you.

FK: That’s the thing. It’s not you necessarily, but I think for many celebrities it is you.

ELM: But this is really messy because a lot of this is about the characters these celebrities play. It’s not about them!

FK: Sometimes it’s about the characters, and sometimes it’s about them, or a construct of them.

ELM: That’s true.

FK: I certainly love a construct of Gillian Anderson, who is certainly not the real Gillian Anderson, and it’s one of the reasons why I don’t ever want to break the fourth wall with her.

ELM: You will never tweet at Gillian Anderson “Do you think Scully believes this [thing in my headcanon]”?

FK: I might… 


FK: She answers questions. She did a Tumblr question and answer. I might do that. But I don’t want to meet her.

ELM: Yeah, I saw she was on Tumblr. What was it? Chewie’s—

FK: Chewiesgirlfriend.

ELM: Chewiesgirlfriend! [laughing]

FK: She loves Chewbacca!

ELM: That’s really cute. Um.

FK: But structural reasons, sometimes it’s not even a single…I think it’s actually less messy when it's a single person, because then it's just interpersonal relationships, right.

ELM: Yeah, I mean, thinking back to our episode on the Powers That Be, what a nightmare things get when it’s a whole group of people creating a work and then…yes.

FK: Exactly. Because then you get to situations like should the Teen Wolf Tumblr account be reblogging fanart? Should they be interacting with anybody who has any ship opinions ever? And that’s on the one hand, you know, we can say it’s a good idea or a bad idea but it’s going to be driven by corporate policy and corporate ideas and whether or not you’re going to achieve the goals that are set for you.

ELM: Right. You know I have some feelings about this, right?

FK: [laughs] I know you have some feelings about this.

ELM: I don’t want to oversell fanworks and I think I often do and I think I like to talk a big talk about how transgressive they are and how important their transgression is, as we obviously saw from our last episode they are not nearly as universally transgressive as we like to think they are—specifically referring to our fantastic, I say fantastic because Rukmini was fantastic, not us. Talking about how we push the envelope with queer depictions but don’t do it with race. But I’m thinking about, so we have this list of historical examples that we haven’t really touched on, but I’m thinking about the Weasley twin thing, and it kind of helps me illustrate a broader point. So can we think about this for a second?

FK: OK, let’s talk about it! Would you like me to talk about what happened?

ELM: You’re the one who angered the Phelps twins.

FK: I had nothing to do with this.

ELM: [genuinely surprised] Wait, really? I thought you did!

FK: You thought that I gave the Phelps twins a sign that said—you thought that I broke the fourth wall to talk to the Phelps twins?!

ELM: No, but that they found knowledge of your twincest shipping!

FK: Not of me personally!

ELM: Oh, so just you as a twincest shipper. Oh. So the Phelps twins—what are their names? Jamie and Oliver or something?

FK: Yes—

ELM: Is that true!?

FK: Yes.

ELM: Oh, I’m such a good Harry Potter fan.

FK: So James and Oliver Phelps are the twins who play the Weasley twins in the Harry Potter movies and there was an incident where somebody came up to them at a signing and told them about the existence of twincest fanfiction, which resulted in an immortal picture in which they wrote on a sign “Twins against twincest, twincest is wrong.”

ELM: Everyone knows—people can figure out what twincest is, right?

FK: I think that it’s obvious.

ELM: Just checking!

FK: Obviously this is one of the most hilarious pictures ever created, in a certain sense, but it’s also one of the worst pictures ever created and immediately makes my gut twist and sink.

ELM: Because you’re a twincest shipper.

FK: I am not a twincest shipper. The fact that I once wrote an eternal poem generator that generates eternal twincest poems does not make me a twincest shipper.

ELM: All right. So. The reason that I wanted to bring this up is that I think it’s a pretty complicated example of how messy this whole topic is. Do we care, think about another—the Wincest ship, which is the two brothers on Supernatural, which was the most popular ship until a third man arrived on the scene. Right?

FK: Right.

ELM: If you tell them about—and they all know about it now, naturally, because Supernatural is the fandom that is the most aware of its fans, with its massive con scene every four days, it seems like. Their opinions on Wincest, on brother incest fanfiction, are one thing, they are not brothers. Right?

FK: Yeah.

ELM: I feel like I’m all over the place trying to say this. Here’s what I see: there’s always this huge backlash amongst male celebrities about slash when people show them erotic fanworks, mostly fanart but also fanfiction, we’ve talked about this before, this is what my angry Cumberbatch article is about, and there’s always this massive “no homo” where they’re like, “Ugh!” It often comes off that way. And it’s like, why do you care so much if people depict you in a gay relationship with your co-star?

FK: Right, it's not like you haven’t been in sex scenes fake sexing up ladies all the time, so how is this that different.

ELM: Right! And you know, the official moment when Cumberbatch and I broke up was after he had flipped out about the gay fanfiction from Sherlock, he essentially wrote a self-insert het sex scene in that Elle article. Do you remember this?

FK: I do.

ELM: About how he would sex a lady! It was…it was—sorry. How Sherlock would sex a lady.

FK: It was weird and skeevy in a variety of ways.

ELM: It was like “Oh, you need to read some fic, bro.” Honestly.

FK: I mean Sherlock can sex a lady if Sherlock wants to sex a lady, but I don’t think that Benedict Cumberbatch—

ELM: He’s not a very good fic writer.

FK: —needs to decide or write that fic that I want to read.

ELM: Right. So this is clearly, it’s not about the idea of this example, and I feel like I talk about this too much, but this is such an illustrative example. It’s not about imagining Cumberbatch’s face and body in a sexual position. It’s about imagining him in a sexual position with Martin Freeman or John Watson. Because he doesn’t mind it when it’s a lady. So that feels like…that feels like a no homo, right?

Twincest is more complicated to me. It feels like two twins can say, “That’s upsetting to me. We’re twins!” Right?

FK: Right.

ELM: But I also don't think that…I’m one of these people who is going to sit here and say, you can write about whatever you want as long as you tag it. And I know that’s complicated and I know we just had a big episode about whether you can really say that, talking about it with regards to race, and it’s a really complicated topic. But for the most part that’s where I often come down, especially when we have this—there’s always big flare-ups about underage stuff and noncon and dubcon. And I tend to err on the side of “As long as everything is very well tagged fiction shouldn’t be censored.”

FK: I agree with that, but I also think that to some degree, when you write something and you put it up publicly particularly, you are accepting that some people may not like it. So I think that you can write absolutely anything that you want and people should, and I think there can be very transgressive stories including the twincest generator that I wrote. That hopefully have some artistic merit—I don’t know whether mine does, but somebody’s does, I’m sure. But you have to accept that there are going to be people that think that’s gross and wrong and will think you are gross and wrong for it. Particularly if you put it up in a space where folks can easily find it.

And this is one of the things that I think has been so challenging about social media in particular, and one of the reasons I think our discussion of the fourth wall has changed. In the past, when people had fanfiction archives that were more separate…you know, the Archive of our Own is its own thing. You have, I often talk about the well-organized Pride and Prejudice archive situation. And that’s really locked down. You have to use a password, it’s a whole thing. Those things can’t be easily crawled by, you know, I use a social media listening software—

FK & ELM, together: For [your/my] job.

FK: And it pulls in everything that everybody says on Tumblr! I have seen way more porn for way more things that I never wanted to see in my life. When you put something up on Tumblr, it gets pulled in by the social media listening software that people are using. It’s there, it’s public, and they may not wanna see it but it gets served to them anyway, at least if it’s the social media person. And I don’t think it’s wrong for them to try and track the tag for Supernatural or for whatever else it is, or to even search on keywords, because they’re trying to find out what the audience response is. And I think we want that to some degree! We want to know, if people are mad at them for doing something, they should know.

ELM: Well, really though?

FK: Well, when on Game of Thrones they rewrote a scene to have Jaime rape Cersei, yeah! I wanted them to know I was mad!

ELM: OK, but do you want them to read your fanfiction that you write as a critique of that writing decision?

FK: I think some people do and some people don’t, and I think whether you do or you don’t, if you put it on Tumblr and you use keywords it’s going to get caught up. Because there’s no way to separate that out unless you choose to put it on a site where it can’t be easily crawled.

ELM: Sure.

FK: I don’t know what to say, you know what I mean?

ELM: I don’t wanna jump the gun here because we didn’t actually get to the end of the twincest point.

FK: OK, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to derail you.

ELM: No, no, no! I just feel like—OK. Going back to the twincest thing though.

FK: [laughing] Speaking of twincest, by the way, Cersei and Jaime, also an instance of twincest.

ELM: Wow, maybe we should retitle this episode “Twincest.”

FK: Or let’s not and say we didn’t.

ELM: [laughing] So, OK. Here’s the thing. The problem is that when I start to think about this in this way, when I say the Weasley twin boys Jamie and Oliver are allowed to be offended, then I get into a really slippery slope. And that’s the problem. To be fair, most fanworks are not as transgressive pushing back breaking all the boundaries of storytelling blah blah blah. But I don’t like creator sanctioned spaces where the most vanilla stuff is what gets, you know, with canon ships or whatever, are the only things that get acknowledged.

FK: I don’t like that either, and I don’t like it for a reason that might be different than yours.

ELM: Hook me up.

FK: In my experience, when there are creator-sanctioned spaces, they have always been an attempt to make a buck off of fandom in a way that feels really co-opting to me. I’m not saying this is universally true and there may be times in the future where there’s a better deal for fans, in which case, I’m all about figuring this out and taking it case by case, as you know. No black-or-white thinking here. But for instance, when we first started seeing fanfiction archives being created on show websites, this started happening I think in the early 2000s, that was because people noticed that fanfiction website got traffic and they wanted traffic to the site in order to get more hits on the site, serve more ads, you know, so forth. On the one hand, OK, they’re allowed to do that. But on the other hand it feels a little bit like “Hey, why don’t you take your community over there,” which is doing great, you're enjoying your freedom of speech, “and come over here into this area where you’re going to know we’re going to be watching everything you do, we can censor you if we want to, and we’re gonna make a buck off you for it.”

ELM: I think this is right in line with where I am at too, actually. This isn’t that much of a disagreement.

FK: Yeah, I just don't think that—I think there’s a big difference between somebody using social media listening software to hear things that people are already putting on platforms like Tumblr or Twitter or whatever, there’s a big difference between that and creating a website to try and create a walled garden for people to come into.

ELM: But I think what you’re describing is an older web thing that has fallen out of fashion from a broader web perspective of the way that brands are online and engaging with their potential customers now. Generating good feelings about your brand is your mission, it’s not getting people into your space in the same way, you know what I mean?

FK: Yeah, I think that that’s true.

ELM: The Denny’s Tumblr is not asking you to hang out on the Denny’s Tumblr page. They’re asking to be a cool thing on your dash so you think of Denny’s.

FK: Right, I agree with that, but in that case I don’t know how it’s possible to preserve a fourth wall. It’s not like Tumblr is a space that was always just for fans.

ELM: It’s still not!

FK: It’s not like Twitter is a space that was always just for fans. Exactly! So it’s not like by moving into these social media spaces, it’s not like people are coming into a fanfiction archive which has always been walled off and being like “Hey guys we’re here.” In fact, most of the people who interact with the Twitter or Tumblr for shows or for celebrities are not part of transformative fandom.

ELM: Right, but I follow the Doctor Who Tumblr, they’re mostly reblogging fanart or cosplay.

FK: Right.

ELM: Are they interacting with Doctor Who or is Doctor Who interacting with them?

FK: I think that just reblogging a piece of fanart or cosplay is… 

ELM: I don’t know, it just feels…the Doctor Who Tumblr I really like. And it just feels very, I think we’re past Web 2.0 right now. It feels very of the moment in that just like the Denny’s Tumblr, it’s a nice thing on your dash, general good vibes about Doctor Who, they don’t reblog meta, they don’t reblog wank, they don’t reblog fanfiction.

FK: Do they reblog explicitly shipping fanart?

ELM: No, no. But Doctor Who's a weird example because it’s a children’s show and obviously there are some adult ships, but it’s not the same as like Teen Wolf or Sherlock.

FK: But I think what you’re effectively saying is that they’re in the space, they see what people are doing but they refuse to take sides, which I think is a smart way to be. I don’t think that anybody can avoid seeing those things, but you can avoid responding to them or reacting to them unless you’re really sure that you wanna go there. Like, I don’t think that anybody—I’ll say this right now. I think the only reason why any Twitter or Tumblr or anything like that should acknowledge a ship, is if there is genuinely a ship war where it is not clear which way it’s going to go and literally not even the writers know and the writers haven’t decided.

ELM: When does that happen though?

FK: I don’t know that it ever does! The only other way that you should acknowledge it is if the ship is going to actually be endgame. Or if you manage to absolutely equally reblog every ship which is impossible.

ELM: Yeah but shipping is—shows and movies, just like Team, what are their names, Team Gale and Team Peeta. Team Edward and Team Jacob. Right? Those are all their names, are all those the right names?

FK: I believe so.

ELM: Yes. Team Cap and Team Iron Man. You know? They are, that is now par for the course in the way that stuff is marketed, right? And that’s really complicated, because a team is gonna win.

FK: I think there’s some differences in some of these. I think that in two of the cases, in the Hunger Games case and in the Twilight case, the teams were referred to only—the books had been finished when the team label came up. So it’s not like there was a surprise which team won. If you wanted to know, you can go and read the books. And you can say, “I’m Team Jacob,” even though I know that he doesn’t get together with Bella because I like Jacob better. And that’s a counterfactual thing, it's fine.

ELM: I mean they’re classic love triangles.

FK: Exactly. They’re classic love triangles! And I think classic love triangles are one thing, they’re actually a little bit easier, because one team is gonna win but you know it’s a love triangle and you know what’s gonna happen at the end. One or the other person is gonna get picked. Everybody’s along for that ride. Where I think people aren’t along for it is where you don’t have a classic love triangle setup. If you’re reblogging things about, I don’t know, about Sherlock and Watson getting together on Elementary, which as far as I know they haven’t been doing, but if suddenly they started reblogging a lot of Joanlock stuff, and people got excited about it, and they were never really gonna give you that…that would feel skeevy to me.

ELM: Right, I mean, to take another Sherlock Holmes adaptation, that definitely, parts of the BBC’s social media do that with Johnlock.

FK: Right. In this case it’s not queerbaiting, but—well, it is for Johnlock potentially but I mean it’s not always queerbaiting in these cases, it’s not for Joanlock. But it is baiting. It is saying “Hey get really excited, we’re dangling the tantalizing fruit over your head—but you can’t have it.”

ELM: Right. But this is, now that Hollywood has discovered shipping this seems like something that happens all the time. There’s a lot of winking and nudging at Comic-Con.

FK: Yeah, and I find it pretty universally gross—

ELM: Good me too.

FK: —if you’re winking and nudging in a way that’s, I mean, I think you can wink and nudge a little bit and it can be fun, but there’s a line that gets crossed.

ELM: Yeah, definitely.

FK: And I think it’s not always obvious to everybody involved when that happens. So I think it’s to be fair to the powers that be I think it can be hard to know when you’ve crossed that line.

ELM: Well, this might be a good way to segue into our last topic where we talk about is it possible to do it right.

FK: All right, should we take a little break?

ELM: Yeah, let’s take one more break!

[Interstitial music]

FK: OK, the question on the table is: has anybody ever crossed the fourth wall in a good way.

ELM: OK, can I go first?

FK: Yes.

ELM: My initial response to this, when we discussed it earlier, was “No, never.” I was gonna play the role of the person—not playing the role, it was just me being myself—I am the person who is all “Fuck canon, don't look at us, leave us alone, stupid creators.”

FK: Right, and then my initial reaction to that was “Oh, I guess you hate me, because that’s my entire job.”

ELM: Right. That’s still true.

FK: That you hate me? Oh no!

ELM: I did think about it a little more and here’s the way that I think the breakdown of the fourth wall is positive. The argument has been made, and I agree with this, that J. K. Rowling—maybe not giving her blessing and kudosing every fic on the internet, not that that was a thing back in the day. But she kind of gave her tacit approval. You know, she wasn’t like “I wanna read it,” but she was like “sure.”

FK: Right. From the very beginning she always did that.

ELM: And that is huge. And that's not something, just in the way that honestly I don’t want to overstate that or the importance of the Harry Potter fandom, but I think that it’s undeniable that one of the most massive fandoms particularly online, ever, her kind of blanket—so that’s a breakdown of the fourth wall. She’s saying fanfiction exists, fanart exists, fine, go for it. Don’t send it to me or whatever—I don’t know if she said that. But I think that’s the one way it can be good, if by sanctioning it you give space for it.


ELM: That’s it though. No other way.

FK: OK, well, obviously my take on this is that it’s inevitable and I would rather explain things to people than have someone who knows nothing about transformative fandom explain them. Which is also justification for my entire job and life. So you know, that’s the thing.

ELM: OK, I don’t know how much you're allowed to talk about your job here, but as I understand it, part of your job is explaining fandom to people in Hollywood who otherwise wouldn’t understand it.

FK: Yeah. To sort of break it down, most of the time people in Hollywood have very basic ideas about demographics, so they say all women who are white and between the ages of 18-34 are gonna like this thing.

ELM: Which thing? That’s me!

FK: I don’t know. Whatever thing.

ELM: Unreal. Coming back in two weeks.

FK: Um, right. And then all—whatever it is, you’re gonna love Adele, maybe. Adele’s older than that, never mind.

ELM: Now I’m disappointed. I don’t love Adele.

FK: Everybody loves—

ELM: She’s fine, I don’t dislike her.

FK: Yeah, I don’t love Adele either. So people have these very surface ideas about it and then that causes a big problem because this is not actually a good way of predicting who will like what, so they start getting into this idea of “OK, we’re gonna learn more about our audiences, we have social media listening tools, we have the ability to get big data about what people are doing and thinking, and we’re gonna learn more about them.” Then as they learn more about them—which I think is a good thing actually because nobody wants that thing that was made for the average person, OK, somebody does, but it’s not anybody I know, right?

ELM: Right.

FK: They start running into fandom. They start interacting with fandom. Because now they’re deeply involved on social media, going back and forth. Now they’re looking for data. And one of the ways they can find out what people are thinking are what they’re saying on the internet, so let’s look at what people say on the internet because it’s an easy way to find out what at least some people think, and then “Oh God, here is this incredibly explicit tentacle fanart—”

ELM: I knew you were gonna go there.

FK: “What do I do,” so then that becomes a whole thing, like, “Well, if people are doing this let’s have the ship war, let’s encourage it.” Is this a good strategy? Well, it certainly gets us a lot of hits, it gets us a lot of followers and it gets us a lot of people excited for a moment about the show, so that seems good. “Oh no wait, it blew up in my face.” Right? So my job is basically advising people on audiences and advising them on strategy how not to have a ship war blow up in their face. But also larger things, like if you look at what people are saying on social media about what your brand is, what your story is, what your music is, whatever it is, how much of that is accurate and good advice? How much of it is people blowing off steam and they probably want something else that they don’t know yet? Point being, yes, a lot of my job is explaining fandom. And by the way, not just transformative fandom.

ELM: Right. It seems like that’s a lot of your job, is not transformative fandom.

FK: Right. Often I’m working on non-transformative fandom and what I do is I try to go and immerse myself and be as empathetic as I possibly can be to non-transformative fandoms. And learn what they’re into and what they’re doing, and try and from that perspective advocate for those fans.

ELM: That's interesting to me just to think about because I have a lot of trouble with that. This podcast has been an exercise—we’ve barely, we’ve done some non-transformative stuff but not enough and I think we should do more. But most of my journalism has been about transformative fandom, just because historically it’s been a pretty underrepresented thing in the media. But also partly because it’s me and I get it, so I admire that you work to try to understand, to wrap your head around why people are doing other stuff.

FK: Right. I think that’s—well first of all I’m not sure I always succeed, I hope I do.

ELM: Just take the compliment. Go.

FK: I’ll take the compliment. But I think that’s part of maybe why I’m a little more empathetic to and why I think it’s possible to have good interactions across the fourth wall. So for example, not that he’s perfect, but I think that Orlando Jones did a very good job in a lot of ways starting with Sleepy Hollow talking to people across the fourth wall. Largely because when he got interested in this, I think it was the first time he had been involved in a show that had a major fan presence, and he approached it from a perspective of listening and responding to people, not from a perspective of “I’m gonna come in and tell you what to think.”

ELM: Sure.

FK: I think that that actually worked pretty well.

ELM: Well, while he was on the show.

FK: Obviously.

ELM: That’s not anything in his control obviously.

FK: No.

ELM: I don’t want to disparage Orlando Jones; I do think he’s great. I just think he also is in a complicated position. What I was gonna say is transformative fans and non-transformative fans often want different things from their content creators.

FK: Yes.

ELM: Sometimes they overlap. Sometimes it doesn’t. And so I think part of the trouble here too is I have to wonder if people who are talking to the creators, to the actors, to the writers are mostly not transformative fans. Do you know?

FK: I think the majority of fans are not transformative fans and therefore yes. I think the majority of people who want to Tweet with an actor or whatever—I think the majority of those are not doing transformative fanworks. But I do think they tend to do things like, people will make compilation vids not fanvids. Or draw fanart, I think is an area—

ELM: So that’s not transformative then?

FK: Well, I think it is transformative, but it’s different than fanfiction.

ELM: So it’s literally just fanfiction is in a weird category by itself.

FK: No, because there’s also fanvidding and fan films which can be critique. What I’m saying is I think the majority of people are not using transformative works to critique the source text particularly who want to interact.

ELM: I guess this maybe is a little off topic from Orlando Jones, one thing that’s interesting and kind of complicated about him is the fact that he also was coming into the transformative space, very heavily engaging with a lot of acafans who write about transformative fanfiction in particular. So that’s interesting, if the main discourse on Twitter between the actors on Sleepy Hollow and the fans is not related to that scene, you know what I mean?

FK: Well, he was also very—and still is, as far as I’ve seen—very interested in understanding critiques and not shutting them down. I think that Orlando genuinely came into that space wanting to know what different people thought and came to listen to different opinions. And I think most people don’t come into a space like that, and that’s what I think worked well about it.

ELM: OK, so we’re giving him a thumbs up. I’ve talked about him in these articles I’ve written about this topic. Like, you appreciate what he’s done and what he’s willing to do and how open minded he is and how he’s willing to try things, possibly fail. I don’t think you can ask that of your average actor, particularly when we start to talk about these super fancy A-list, like, the guys in the MCU. I don’t know how… 

FK: Yes. I agree with you on that, and I think it also has to do with volume.

ELM: Yeah.

FK: I think it is completely unmanageable for anyone to have the kind of attention that a movie star has turned on them. Like a big big big movie star, a Robert Downey Jr. style movie star. And I think it’s impossible for a person in that position to pay equal attention to people or listen to critique or whatever without getting completely overwhelmed by the amount of it. So I think in that case you’re right, maybe not breaking the fourth wall is the best idea. Just don’t engage.

ELM: So then this brings me to my very favorite topic, which is it’s not necessarily about them going looking for it, it’s people in the media shoving things in their faces. I’m not talking about, like, Tom Brokaw. He’s not in the media anymore. You know what I mean. I’m talking about people who do this for laughs, for entertainment, like Graham Norton.

FK: Looking right at you Graham Norton, you asshole. Sorry Graham Norton, you’re probably very nice in other ways, but in this particular way you, my friend, are a jerk.

ELM: That’s the thing, I don’t think—I think he’d be a fun person to be friends with but your mean friend who’d make fun of everyone at the bar.

FK: I don’t know! Maybe someday we'll find out.

ELM: Let’s write a Graham Norton RPF and then we can read it to his face. But so, yeah. Or like the people—the people at Comic-Con, I think this is chilling out a little but there’s people from websites I’ve never heard of and they don’t know anything about fan culture and somehow they’ve been sent to San Diego, and this is a default question for them. What do you think of the fanart, what do you think of that weird fanfiction they write about you. It’s mostly about their characters, too. Frustrates me a great deal!

FK: Yeah, and I think that that’s bad, but I think it’s bad because of the power imbalance more than anything. It’s bad because it’s basically punching down.

ELM: I knew we’d come back around to the power imbalance.

FK: Right! I think that it’s fine to lift things up, you may have problems if you reblog all one ship and then that’s never gonna happen in canon, I think that’s a problem. But I think the thing everyone can agree is fans have less power in this situation, particularly when it’s someone in the media being “Ha ha, let’s all make fun of them.”

ELM: Right. We agree on that one. [both laugh] I mean, I can’t imagine any listeners of this podcast would disagree with this part. Maybe not! I mean, OK, so this was the topic of my greatest hit article, and I definitely got a lot of pushback on that from people who said Cumberbatch has the right to be uncomfortable about this, he has the right to vocalize that. You don’t have the right to write stories about his character. That kind of thing.

FK: Well, he has the right to vocalize that he’s uncomfortable, but I don’t think he has the right to be mean to people and I do think it’s mean to read stories in that way.

ELM: Well, I mean, he didn’t—they didn’t. This was a different incident. When they were forced to read Sherlock fanfiction that was about a year prior.

FK: But you see what I’m saying, there’s a difference between saying you’re uncomfortable—anybody can feel any way they want. And there’s a difference between that and being mean about it.

ELM: Right. It’s hard. This is the thing, I really just wish—I said it then and this is two years later and I’m still saying it—you know, people ask them about it, I wish that they’d just be like, “I’m sorry, I don’t really know much about it.” Even if they said “Makes me a little uncomfortable, but it’s not really meant for me and I don’t really understand the culture so I don’t want to talk about it.”

FK: Right. Just any change of subject.

ELM: Yeah. Still mad.

FK: This gets back to the point of if you’re not prepared to take it on in a full way, which I think almost nobody is particularly when you get to a huge volume of responses, maybe just don’t do it.

ELM: Right, I think that is our lesson for creators and actors.

FK: Not that you can’t look at it but you definitely shouldn’t talk about it if you’re not ready to fully commit in every respect. And that is—

ELM: But this seems to be the theme of this whole thing. And if you do complain about it I'm gonna yell at you and call you a middle-aged man in my article even though you’re 38 at the time.

FK: And you can’t get mad at me about that. Also 38 is definitely middle aged. If he lived for twice that age, then he would be—

ELM: Oh come on! My mother was like “How could you.

FK: It’s in the middle of your life span! That is middle aged.

ELM: Oh my God, don’t tell me about this. You’re almost 30, Flourish!

FK: I’m married to somebody who’s in his 40s! He’s middle aged. He’s gonna get mad at me for saying it but it’s true. On the downhill slope.

ELM: To echo what we were talking about earlier, though, if you put it on the internet it is on the internet and that’s undeniable and no celebrity’s gonna read my fanfiction as it stands right now, right?

FK: Right.

ELM: It is on my computer and I’ve emailed it to a few people and that’s the only way it’s gonna stay safe and there’s really nothing we can do about that. So I guess both sides need to be prepared for the consequences of seeing each other over the fourth wall.

FK: If you wanna be a little bit more secure you can make like Pride and Prejudice fandom and put up a password-protect. You can put things up on Archive of our Own so people have to log in. It’s not perfect, but it creates another barrier and makes it clear that you didn’t want this to be truly public.

ELM: I remember when we talked to Destination Toast about people who were locking—it wasn’t locking their fic, but it was making it only accessible to people with an Archive of our Own account. If this is something that you're worried about, I think this is a pretty good solution, because it’s a very light barrier. You’re just saying “This is for fanfiction readers, people who read fanfiction regularly.”

FK: Right, and if somebody decides to go in there and create an account and look through it, they had to do a lot of things. It didn’t just turn up in their Tumblr feed or their Twitter thing or somebody didn’t just email it to them.

ELM: Some random Google. So that is a safeguard that we have. I don’t know. It’s such a tricky, mm. It’s just gonna get worse, isn’t it?

FK: That’s why I do what I do. It’s because if it's gonna get worse then we might as well embrace it.

ELM: OK great. That’s a really cheerful note to end on.

FK: [laughs] OK, well, we should talk a little bit about next time, because in fact somebody who I think is going to have a lot of interesting stuff to follow on from this episode. We’re gonna be talking to Kevin Fanning.

ELM: Kfan!

FK: Who if you do not know him is a fanfiction writer who’s not really from fanfiction at all, like an alien who dropped in from outer space and started writing fanfiction, that is very popular, about Kim Kardashian’s mobile game.

ELM: Kim Kardashian’s Hollywood.

FK: And he’s a popular author on Wattpad and he has a completely divorced from the history of fanfiction fandom view of what he and the rest of us are doing, and I think it’ll be really interesting to hear about it.

ELM: So I have not read his massive Kim Kardashian game fic, but I have read some of his other Kim Kardashian works, including “31 Questions for Kim Kardashian,” I believe it is. Have you read this?

FK: Yes I have.

ELM: OK. We’re gonna put this in the show notes so you can get a primer. This is right when the game came out and someone at Bustle wrote this very snarky “Does Kim Kardashian even know what a video game is?” and he just gave the most matter-of-fact. He just went “Yes she does, she is a professional business woman.” [laughs] He answered all the questions one-by-one, which were like snarky rhetorical questions half of which made no sense. I actually listened to this last night on a whim—oh, Kevin had written about how the Angry Birds movie is Trump propaganda, and so then I was looking around his Medium. We should link to all of these so you can get a primer. But I’m excited to talk to him because he has an interesting perspective on this, which kind of helps me refocus my own broader view on the whole fanfiction scene.

FK: Well, I’m looking forward to it!

ELM: Me too. Before we go, one last thing, we haven’t asked in a few episodes, but if anyone is interested in leaving us a review or at least a rating on iTunes… 

FK: Makes all the difference!

ELM: We’ve mentioned it before and we’ve gotten the nicest reviews, to the point where they almost make me cry, so if you haven’t said nice things to us and you have any interest in doing it you could genuinely push me over the edge into the land of tears if you had an interest in that.

FK: I’m not sure that I would cry but I’ll be very grateful.

ELM: Flourish has a heart of stone.

FK: Well, me and my heart of stone will talk to you next time, Elizabeth.

ELM: Yes, that’s true.

FK: All right. Bye!

ELM: Bye, Flourish.

[Outro music]

FK: [over the music] 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.