Episode 28: Happy Anniversary #1
In our anniversary episode of Fansplaining, Episode 28, we’re welcoming back all the guests that made our first year great…
And we’re announcing that WE’VE STARTED A PATREON!
WE’RE LAUNCHING A PATREON! How can you not want to give us money? (OK, there are many good reasons. But. Look at the video below! How cute is it!)
Yes, Elizabeth actually did get a concussion while filming this video. Everyone feels very bad. But the person who feels worst is Elizabeth, because she has ongoing headaches and things. :(
Peter Thiel is famous because he is involved in the Gawker vs. Hulk Hogan lawsuit. Well, he’s actually famous for lots of other reasons mostly involving massive wealth and so on, but the reason it’s topical to joke about him being evil is that.
Go look at Flourish’s most recently-knit Weasley sweater!
Dr. Alan S. Chartock (whose name still sounds like it belongs to a Vulcan):
A majestic capybara who would NEVER say “pleeeeeeeease”:
This break (in fact, all our music this episode!) is by Paul Tyan.
The stats @destinationtoast posted are online here!
Leslie Combemale was on last week, Episode 27: Fanart Insights!
Betsy Rosenblatt was on Episode 4: Buncha Lawyers!
Strictly speaking, we guess Wikia didn’t entirely rebrand as “Fandom,” they launched a new subsite called Fandom. Whatever.
Ludi Price was on Episode 19: Cataloging Fandom!
The pop culture academic article: “Erasing the Pop Culture Academic, One Click At A Time.”
Caroline Crampton & Anna Leskiewicz were on Episode 11, “Muggle vs. No-Maj”
Clay Liford was in Episode 18: Slash: The Movie.
Roz was in Episode 22B: Race and Fandom Part 2!
Evan Hayles Gledhill was in Episode 10: Fangirling Through Time!
Ebony Elizabeth Thomas was in Episode 7: The Dark Fantastic!
Alanna Bennett’s article about black Hermione is on Buzzfeed.
@ninemoons42 was in Episode 22A: Race and Fandom Part 1, as was Rukmini Pande.
Casey Fiesler was in Episode 14: Death and the Fangirl.
Thank you for sticking with these long show notes and GO DONATE TO OUR PATREON not that we’re begging or anything ;)
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth…
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining! The podcast by, for and about fandom!
ELM: Happy anniversary!
FK: Happy anniversary! That’s the name of the episode. “Happy Anniversary!”
ELM: Wait, no, we should probably call it “Anniversary #1” or something cause we’re probably gonna have, like, more than one anniversary, right?
FK: That’s the plan! “Happy Anniversary #1.” That’s the name of this episode.
ELM: [laughs] This is our anniversary episode! Even though actually our anniversary was like a month ago.
FK: Eh, details.
ELM: It just felt like the right time. Those other times didn’t feel like the right time.
FK: This was the right time!
ELM: Yeah, totally.
FK: Cause it’s after we came back from Comic-Con, so it’s emotionally the right time.
ELM: OK, so we were trying to figure out what to do with the anniversary episode, and then we thought why not just ask everyone who’s already been on the podcast to come back on.
FK: We keep saying we want people who’ve been on the podcast before to come back, and we do want them to come back in a more substantial way also, but…
ELM: For anyone who has participated, this isn’t it! [laughs] We didn’t mean, like, come back for two minutes. We would like you to come back for a whole episode.
FK: No, but it’s clearly gonna take us a little while cause there’s so many great people to have on, so. We might as well have sort of a roundup.
ELM: Yes. So what we did was we reached out to everyone who had been on, and said could you either record a couple minutes or write us a few paragraphs talking about what you think has changed in fandom, whatever that means to you, in the last year. Whether it’s on a broad level from your perspective in your industry, or on a personal level, though most people I think gave us—mostly it was on a broader level, I would say.
ELM: [laughs] So, we’ll get to that, but first, but first—
FK: We have a big announcement to make!
ELM: Wow, you just wouldn’t let me have it.
FK: No! You just talked the whole time about what this was.
ELM: Fine. Go ahead. You can say the big announcement.
FK: We have a big announcement to make, which is that we are launching a Patreon. Yeah! So, OK. What do we have to say about launching a Patreon, Elizabeth?
ELM: I think we should…you would think that after we spent two hours recording a video explaining it we would have a better spiel down.
FK: But we don’t.
ELM: Two hours in which I possibly got a concussion, so.
FK: It was the worst. She hit her head on a pole. It was so bad.
ELM: Like, no joke, I think—
FK: It doesn’t look very athletic—
FK: It doesn’t look very athletic, and yet...
ELM: The video?
FK: The video.
ELM: Athletics are not the only way to get a concussion and I’m not being facetious, it’s possible that I actually have one. Flourish was very unkind after it happened and now she feels bad, so.
FK: It didn’t look like anything!
ELM: It actually did look like something, but.
FK: It was dark because we had to close all the windows in order to…anyway.
ELM: Excuses for your unfeeling heart, that’s fine. Anyway! So yes, we recorded a Patreon video. Patreon is, if you’re unfamiliar with it but I think a lot of fandom people are cause it’s become pretty standard across a lot of fan spaces, or crowdfunding, rather. But it’s like Kickstarter except sustained.
FK: Right. So it wouldn’t have made a lot of sense for us to run a Kickstarter for this podcast because we want to continue doing the podcast, like, ad infinitum.
ELM: Actually, isn’t that against the rules for Kickstarter? You can’t raise for something that’s ongoing?
FK: Yeah. I think it is, I think it against the rules for Kickstarter for people to have an ongoing project. That’s why people have to have things like “We’re going to shoot five episodes of Star Trek Continues” or whatever.
ELM: Or “We’ll make you a watch.”
FK: That you’ll never receive. I got screwed on a Kickstarter watch.
ELM: Oh really? A watch in particular?
FK: A watch in particular.
ELM: Was it one of those, like, Silicon Valley, we want to track your every—
ELM: OK, cause I would be worried if that’s what you actually wanted.
FK: You know for a fact that’s not what I want. I made you talk about Linus Torvalds recently. Do you really think I want to be tracked?
ELM: I’m glad, when it comes down to it—
FK: That I know how to say “Linus Torvalds”? Because that’s the one name I know how to say.
ELM: On the grand spectrum of people connected to tech, you are on the good end of the spectrum. [FK laughs] You’re not on the Peter Thiel end of the—you’re on the opposite end from the Peter Thiel end of the spectrum.
FK: We’ve had conversations about this before.
ELM: We’ve talked about Peter Thiel on this podcast?
FK: Not Peter Thiel. Not on this podcast.
ELM: Good, I just wanna shout out to Peter. Hey, bro.
FK: Bro, you’re evil, bro.
ELM: Anyway anyway, Patreon!
FK: OK, so the point of our Pat-treon, or Pay-treon as I like to say, because patrons are patrons and not…pat-trons…
ELM: Patronage [said “pat-tronage”]?
FK: Eh! It’s an ongoing debate. This is one where I think I’m probably not actually wrong.
ELM: I don’t think either of us are wrong.
FK: Yeah! That’s the first time you’ve ever said that neither of us were wrong! Usually you’re so black and white, Elizabeth.
ELM: Today with my concussion everyone is right.
FK: The reason we need to do a Patreon is because it’s really hard to keep this podcast running. We do all of the jobs, and we love doing them, but most of them are things we need help on and they’re things that people should be compensated for. Things like audio editing and transcribing.
ELM: We wanna commission fanartists to do cover art.
FK: And pay musicians to do our—
ELM: I was gonna say, do we want that?
FK: Well, we want to—
ELM: We wanna pay general fan creators to do things related to this.
FK: We wanna pay fan creators to provide art, music, and generally be awesome and be involved in the podcast, but right now we have zero dollars so we can’t do that.
ELM: And, and, the thing that I am the most excited about is that last week and if you didn’t see it you should definitely go check it out right now, we launched a publication on Medium.
FK: And you can see it if you go to medium.com/fansplaining.
ELM: If you don’t use Medium, it’s kind of a mix between a blogging platform and a social network, it’s connected to Twitter because it was made by the founders of Twitter, and it is just a nice clean place to publish writing, so we’re thinking there’s a lot of writing that I want to do, that Flourish wants to do related to this podcast. And I know a bunch of people who want to write about fan stuff and would like a place to put it, so we’re gonna put out regular stuff from us and guest contributors, but—
FK: —we wanna pay the guest contributors…
ELM: We’d actually like to pay ourselves as well! We’d like to pay everyone writing content.
FK: So this is why we would like to have the Patreon because we would love it if we were able to rally support and be able to support other fan creators and also be able to continue making this at a high level, improve our quality, be able to spend more time, just generally make things more awesome.
ELM: So, if you are interested in supporting this, there’s a bunch of different levels you can pledge at, from what is hopefully affordable to most people, $1 a month. All the way up to like $18,000 a month. [laughs] Is it like $400? Is that the top?
ELM: Some ridiculous amount!
FK: OK, context: we decided that we wanted to have something that was a ridiculous amount in case somebody wanted to give us a ridiculous amount of money, so we said “OK, well if someone gives us $400 a month I will knit them a Weasley sweater.” Like hand knit a Weasley sweater.
ELM: So if you are wealthy and you love this podcast…
FK: And you want a hand-knit sweater!
ELM: No they’re so cute, they’re like way cuter than anything that you can buy in the Warner Brothers shop.
FK: They’re definitely cuter than that. And they’re also definitely worth more than $400, so it’s a deal. [laughs]
ELM: $400 a month, Flourish.
FK: It is $400 a month. But anyway it’s probably the cheapest you can get a hand-knit Weasley sweater.
ELM: For the most part, it’s a lot more affordable, $1, $2, $3 a month. I think $10 a month you're gonna get a quarterly tiny zine?
ELM: With hopefully some writing and art from the Fansplaining community.
FK: And at only $2 a month, you get early access to Fansplaining episodes, 24 hours early!
ELM: Do you feel—now I feel like we’ve ventured into, it’s not even NPR territory, it’s like, this is reminding me of PBS pledge drives when I was a child.
FK: Oh God, let’s not do that.
ELM: Do you remember?
FK: Let’s, let’s cut ourselves off. I do remember.
ELM: Do you get that vibe from this?
FK: Didn’t we have a conversation once about getting a Ghostwriter pen in one of those pledge drives?
ELM: Yes! I convinced my parents, cause you had to pledge at a certain moment to get a specific prize. Which they don’t make you do anymore. Now, I pledge to WNYC, and I click, “I want that Radiolab bag.” But then you had to call in at the exact moment and be like “Radiolab, I want it.” Well, not that, because it was like 1994. But yeah.
FK: I’m so proud of you for getting that Ghostwriter pen and I think this is a sign that we should stop.
ELM: Talking about—
FK: —Patreon, and get on to the actual episode.
ELM: Well, no! If you’re listening to this right when it comes out, which is in the beginning of August 2016, and you have any interest in The Cursed Child, and hearing about our feelings about it—
FK: [snickers] And boy do we have feelings!
ELM: Can we recommend signing up for the Patreon ASAP, because everyone who signs up is gonna get access to a special episode that we recorded about those feelings.
FK: All of them.
ELM: And in fact we can’t stop talking about it. And so…
FK: It’s actually becoming a problem with us wanting to record episodes about other things, and we’re like “But wait!”
ELM: So, you’ll have special access. Even though the pledges won’t kick in till the first of next month, we’ll give you access to that ASAP.
FK: Yeah. We will!
ELM: OK. So pledge drive over, thank you to everyone who is potentially going to pledge. Pledging is the wrong word! I got myself on the wrong road.
FK: I like to think about it as “pledging” because it seems like we’re classy and NPR-adjacent which we’re totally not.
ELM: I already told Flourish about this but I should tell all of you, so my home public radio station, WAMC, if you’re in that listening area, you’re familiar with Dr. Alan Shartok, the head of the station, and he is—I told you this, Flourish, didn’t I? [laughing] You’re making this face!
FK: [laughing] I just love the name “Shartok.”
ELM: Dr. Alan Shartok! What are you talking about?
FK: It sounds like a Star Trek character.
ELM: So he has a variety of tactics. But my favorite is when he wants people to pledge, sometimes he’ll just go “pleeeeeeeeease.” [laughs] “Pleeeeeeeeeeease.” So. Go ahead, Flourish, go ahead.
FK: I can’t bring myself to do that. [ELM laughs] I have more dignity than Dr. Alan Shartok. I think he’s the first person I’ve ever found who I have more dignity than. He’s literally the first person I’ve ever had more dignity than. You found it.
ELM: Have you ever raised millions of dollars for quality public broadcasting?
FK: No. Because I have dignity.
ELM: [snorts] You’re not gonna get those pledges! That’s all there is to it. I don’t have dignity.
FK: I’m like the majestic capybara.
FK: I’m being silent like a majestic capybara.
ELM: Yeah. Capybaras don’t make sustainable digital media products.
FK: [laughs] So don’t be like a capybara, help us make a sustainable digital media product…? Anyway let’s move on.
ELM: No no no, let’s not move on, let’s actually take a quick break and then we will go to our once and future guests.
ELM: OK, and we are back.
FK: We’re back!
ELM: So you very helpfully broke our contributions down into some categories.
FK: That’s true.
ELM: So the first one, trends in what fandoms are popular.
FK: Et cetera.
ELM: That’s not the most elegantly worded way to say that, not gonna lie.
FK: You know, it wasn’t really intended to be anything but notes for us. [ELM laughs] You just made it public and all.
ELM: I’m sorry!
FK: I don’t know what to say about this! It might not be highly produced or anything, but.
ELM: [through laughter] Fandom trends!
FK: OK. So the first person we have in this category was, as you might guess, Destination Toast!
ELM: Master of Trends!
FK: Master of treeeeeeeends.
ELM: So Toasty has been on two episodes, she had one of her own and then she came on to talk about Star Wars stats, and the one of her own, if you’re not familiar with her work, it’s just all sorts of metrics around different fanfiction sites mostly. But also examines other stuff. So.
FK: So, she came up with a bunch of stats for us! Delightful, delightful data.
ELM: I don’t know, this is one of the failings of audio here. How are we gonna talk about this?
FK: Well, one thing we can say is that we’re gonna be posting them.
ELM: Yeah, so maybe you should check them out. This is a weird one to start with. Do you have any observations? So she tracks the biggest fandoms in AO3 this year, and nothing on this list surprised me.
FK: I was interested a little bit in the fandoms that have the biggest changes on the Archive of our Own. So at the beginning of the year versus the end. Undertale came out of absolutely nowhere.
ELM: I don’t know what that is.
FK: I don’t either! The other thing is that BTS—“Bahng-tan” Boys or “Bang-tan” boys? I don’t know. I’m not familiar with this one at all, probably because I don’t know about transcultural fandom.
ELM: Are you familiar with that BTS is a K-pop band?
FK: I was not familiar with that. This explains so much to me.
ELM: I guess I have learned something in the process of doing my newsletter, The Rec Center.
FK: Thanks for that.
ELM: We had a BTS list some time ago.
FK: Oh my God, then I guess I did know about it at some time, but it went right in one ear and out the other.
ELM: Yeah, they’re the I think the biggest K-pop fandom. So seems like that’s interesting to see they’re on the rise.
FK: Not just on the rise, but grew more than 100% compared to their previous production. The only other fandom like that was Star Wars. And Undertale of course, which came from nowhere.
ELM: I’m seeing big drops in SPN and Teen Wolf, what’s going on, guys?
FK: Yeah well there’s also a big drop in One Direction, which is not surprising given that there’s not…One Direction.
ELM: New canon.
FK: I don't know, we’ll see what happens when Dunkirk comes out. Anyway.
FK: So there’s the shapes of fandoms over the year, and then there’s a case study on Hamilton, which is interesting.
ELM: Yeah so this is interesting actually!
FK: I thought it was interesting to find out that actually Hamilton had more fanworks in the past month than Doctor Who, Hetalia or Star Trek! That’s pretty wild for me.
ELM: Well, there’s no new canon for Doctor Who right now. Doctor Who’s in a big hiatus. I also don't have a sense of, I shouldn’t talk off the cuff because I have literally no idea what is going on in the Doctor Who fanfiction space right now.
FK: But there’s a new Star Trek movie this month. Literally a new Star Trek movie just came out.
ELM: Yeah, that’s interesting! So maybe these numbers would change if we did this in a few weeks, too.
FK: Yeah. That’s true. Maybe there hasn’t been enough time since the movie.
ELM: OK. So there’s a whole bunch of other slides which are interesting, a variety of things comparing rises in femslash and dudeslash, changes in warnings, that’s interesting, I would love to dig deeper into that…
FK: And ratings…the problem is, Toasty, we love you, but this is material for an entire episode!
ELM: I know, why are you doing this to us? It’s just too interesting.
FK: We both love it and hate it!
ELM: Check out these stats, I’m sure that she’s going to post them and we’ll reblog them and link to them, but it’s really interesting to see. And as always the stats just tell part of the story, so it’s really interesting to check them out and think about how they match on with things that you’re observing that are more qualitative than quantitative.
FK: And actually the other person who talked about what trends and fandoms are popular was Leslie Combemale, who has a totally different perspective coming from the art end of things.
ELM: She was our most recent guest and actually we’re gonna hold off till next week but we’ve had a couple of responses about fanart…
FK: And we’re really really looking forward to getting into those next week!
ELM: Yes. So. Next episode.
FK: Right. Next episode does not come out next week. Why do I always do that?
ELM: I have no idea. So let’s roll Leslie’s tape.
Leslie Combemale: Hi, I’m Leslie Combemale, I just was on Fansplaining about fanart and official art of all different sorts, and for me what has been really big change in the fandom in the past year is the reinvigoration of both the Pokémon through Pokémon GO fandom and the Harry Potter fandom for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And I think this is really exciting because both of those fandoms and the subjects have gotten a huge amount of press.
To me any kind of fandom that gets a lot of really positive, really powerful press is good for all fandoms and all subjects, all passions, in the world of fandom. For me that’s a really exciting thing to see, and since we represent the official art of Harry Potter, and John Alban who did ET and Blade Runner and Frankenstein and a bunch of other movie posters actually did art for the Pokémon movies, and it’s so funny because we thought “Who’s ever going to buy anything Pokémon?” because it’s been years since people have been really interested in it. But there you go! That’s what happens. Things circle back around. And I think Star Trek is the same. Things circle back around. This is the 50th anniversary. And you see that, you see things selling out that have to do with Star Trek at Comic-Con because there’s this passion around the fact that it’s the 50th anniversary, the embracing of that kind of anniversary. So that’s exciting to see.
ELM: I love the idea that people are gonna be really interested in Pokémon art based on this game.
FK: I’m interested in Pokémon art based on this game! Actually it’s funny because Amanda Brennan also mentioned Pokémon. She just wrote in a little bit to us saying that she felt that fandom has broadened, people aren’t as afraid to be fans or show off their fannishness—I’m quoting by the way. Quote: “At times it can be more joyful and more community building. Especially with ‘Pokémon GO’ I am constantly meeting people in my neighborhood and bonding over our favorite pokémon.”
ELM: Which is really funny. I remember right when it came out and I was doing the newsletter with Gav, she was like “Pokémon stuff!” And I was like “Eh, is that fandom?” and she was like, “I think everything about it is fandom.” I was like, “All right that’s fair.” But it’s funny because it’s a different sort of experience, right?
FK: Well, I think usually people don’t—often video game people don’t use the term “fan” for themselves, right? They call themselves gamers. Talk about it that way.
ELM: Well, the Dragon Age people, that’s a video game, right?
FK: Dragon Age is a video game that has fanfiction writers, yes.
ELM: So there’s intersection more. I think there’s some games where there’s an intersection. Obviously being into Pokémon means you’re—it’s just something that’s so broad and so popular, and I think there are a lot of people who are really really into “Pokémon GO” who wouldn’t say “I am a fan of Pokémon.” So maybe it comes down to the self-definition thing again.
FK: I don’t know, maybe that’s gonna change. Anyway I definitely would go for some awesome Pokémon art, so.
ELM: [snorts] Awesome.
FK: I would, I really would! OK. So the next category, as described in my notes that I didn’t expect anybody to see but now we’re apparently using, is “News from the land of legal eagles.” So Betsy Rosenblatt, who was one of the people we had on in an early episode where we talked to lawyers, in fact that episode was called “Buncha Lawyers,” had some updates about things that have happened in the law this year.
Betsy Rosenblatt: What’s changed in fandom in the past year? Well, you know I’m all about the law, so my thoughts are about changes in the law. One of the biggest developments may not be a change per se and it isn’t in fandom specifically but it’s about the law that relates to fandom in the US, and it happened just after I was on the show in September 2015. And that’s the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Lenz vs. Universal, known as the “dancing baby case.” The big quote from that case is, quote, “Fair use is not just excused by the law, it is wholly authorized by the law.” That’s what we’ve always believed, based on the language of the law and statute itself, but now a court has said it out loud, leaving no room for doubt.
The court in that case also ruled that before issuing a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a copyright owner has to consider whether what they’d be taking down is a fair use. The case doesn’t go as far as I’d have liked, you can read more about it on the OTW legal page, but it was a big win for the principle that fair use is an affirmative right, which is good for fans.
Also, a smaller development but it’s specifically for fandom in the most literal way possible: the OTW successfully petitioned the US Patent and Trademark Offices’ trademark trial and appeal board to cancel trademark registration of the word “fandom” for entertainment services. So that’s a success in our effort to combat commercial appropriation of fandom and fan culture. Thanks, thanks to Fansplaining, and congratulations on an excellent year!
ELM: So that's super interesting because on the way to San Diego Comic-Con, one of our friends sat near someone from fandom.com, which is the rebrand of Wikia, which I had not heard about. So I wonder how that’s gonna go down.
FK: Yeah. Good luck to them on getting that trademark.
ELM: I have some feelings about Wikia calling themselves “Fandom,” but that’s fine.
FK: I mean, it’s—that’s a thing. I’m really glad that the OTW is in our corner making sure that you can’t just call yourself “fandom” and trademark that.
ELM: Right, and sue anyone who uses the word “fandom.”
FK: That would be horrible. Thank you, Organization for Transformative Works, for saving us from this.
ELM: Seriously. Wait, do you remember when Facebook tried to trademark the word “book”?
FK: Yes, I remember that.
ELM: How did that go down, did you know?
FK: Well, they didn’t get to!
ELM: [laughs] It’s just incredible what some people are like, “Well, sure why not?”
FK: Well, you may as well try, right?
ELM: OK. You know I'm really into the law right now because of my Harry/Draco story, but this is not a part of the law that I’m into, that you may as well try to trademark something.
FK: I’m not saying I would say that you may as well try, but I’m saying that that’s the opinion.
ELM: It’s like bad lawyer jokes! Lawyer jokes about “Well you may as well sue.” “I fell on the ground, I’ll sue you.” That kind of thing. That makes me think of the 90s. I don’t know why I’m bringing that up. Doesn’t that feel very 90s?
FK: That feels very 90s.
ELM: All right—
FK: People were very concerned about lawyers then.
ELM: About suing! About people suing McDonald’s for hot coffee, that kind of thing. Feels very 90s to me. Anyway that’s completely off topic and not related to fandom in any way.
FK: All right, well why don’t we listen to our next person, which is Ludi Price, who is an information science scholar and who we had on in an episode…
ELM: I believe it was Episode 19.
FK: 19! Look at you.
ELM: I do work on these episodes pretty hard.
FK: I just—I don’t.
ELM: [laughs] That’s false. Yeah it was called “Cataloging Fandom” and it was talking about library and information science and the way that fans sort their information and how that connects to the way information science professionals think about sorting their information.
FK: Yeah that was a wonderful episode! All right, let’s listen to what Ludi has to say.
Ludi Price: Hi guys, Ludi here. And congratulations on reaching your first anniversary! So the question of what’s changed in fandom over the past year, hm, tough question, but I think there’s three things that really stuck out with me. First is the idea of transcultural fandom I guess, how fans behave in other cultures, other countries. Because there’s been such a focus on Western fandom and being Western fans and that’s slowed everything up, and I think that’s really great to get other perspectives, just to be open-minded about how other fans do things.
Second, is this idea of history of fandom, historicization of fandom. Fandom isn’t just this thing that happened in the 1960s or 70s or 80s, it’s really great that some academics are looking into the beginnings of fandom in the 1880s or 1890s, things like that. And I find that kind of stuff kind of fascinating because I love history, I really think it’s great to look at our roots.
And lastly I think fan studies as an academic discipline is looking out at other areas, other fields, on fans and fandom, and that’s really nice. How religion relates to fandom. How fandom relates to other parts of our culture or cultures, and I think that’s really great as well because that gives room for other perspectives—particularly from my perspective, which is library and information science. So yeah, that’s some of the things that I think are growing fandom now, and I think it’s a really exciting time to be a fan and to be a fan scholar! So thanks!
ELM: Ok, great!
FK: So I’m really interested in this because I haven’t really been keeping up with acafandom, so I don’t know if I’ve ever said this on the podcast, I was a Religion major, and at the time there was lots of discussion, I was always getting into discussions with people about how religion related to fandoms, and I haven’t kept up with scholarship about that or anything linking those two things, so Ludi is making me think that maybe I need to get on it and see what people have been writing and doing in that area.
ELM: If you want, I pay attention to acafandom, I can give you regular updates.
FK: Please do!
ELM: Today and yesterday a lot of acafans were mad—
FK: [laughing] How is that different from every other day?
ELM: There was an article that was written about a month ago about pop culture scholarship saying that, did you happen to see this? By pop culture academics being frustrated with pop culture journalists. But it was ironic, because they quoted that man who wrote that bad mansplain-y article about fanfiction, [FK gasps] and he was mad that people wrote bad mansplain-y articles about Wonder Woman. [FK laughs] So I have some friends—
FK: So it’s a world of madness.
ELM: Super ironic. So I have some friends who are acafans and pop culture scholars who agreed with this article, but it’s complicated. It’s hard because I think sometimes academic scholarship isn’t as accessible as sometimes academics think it is. But it got picked up yesterday and a bunch of journalists I know were sharing it in a mocking way so I’ve been seeing both sides because my timeline is very mixed. So. A positive has been today I saw some people sharing some really interesting work by pop culture and fan academics. So I think that’s always positive, to have another reason to share some of that stuff. Maybe I’ll pop some of that in the show notes.
FK: That would be great. We should definitely include that. In the meantime we should take another break because after this we need to get into a bunch of people talking about the mainstreaming of fandom, which is a huge topic, it turns out, this year. So let’s take a break before we get to that.
ELM: All right, mainstreaming of fandom. My…I was gonna say “favorite topic” but I sort of have a love/hate relationship with this at this point. IDK about you.
FK: Yeah pretty much. Let’s get it kicked off with your bros, Caroline and Anna.
ELM: I don’t know if they would appreciate being called “bros.”
FK: Sorry guys, I’m calling you bros.
FK: Bros! I’m American.
ELM: [laughs] In fact they are ladies, Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, who are journalists and editors at The New Statesman where I write about fan culture. Caroline was my editor till like a month ago, she got promoted! Congratulations Caroline.
FK: Congrats! They were on an episode we had called “Muggles v No-Maj.” [pronounced “no-mage”]
ELM: I think it’s “no-madge” now, actually.
FK: Oh, well, I’m still mad at it either way.
ELM: Yeah and also, can I just say that “No-Maj” in case anyone hasn’t heard is the American word for “Muggle” according to the Potter complex and I heard [laughs] at Comic-Con I saw the Warner Brothers presentation and they used “No-Maj” without breaking a sweat, they just said the word, and it hurt me to the depths of my soul.
FK: I’m sorry.
ELM: David Yates sayin’ “No-Maj.” [audibly shudders] But they did give me a wand! Warner Brothers gave me a wand, so that’s really all I care about.
FK: [sighs] Let’s roll Caroline and Anna.
ELM: [laughs] You wanna let everyone know why you’re mad?
FK: [wails] Because I didn’t get a wand! I left early!
ELM: Flourish literally left 10 minutes before the wand.
FK: Ohhhh. OK. OK. OK.
ELM: I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Anyway, Caroline and Anna, great journalists, let’s roll their clip!
Caroline Crampton: Hi, I’m Caroline!
Anna Leszkiewicz: And I’m Anna.
CC: And we are the “SRSLY” podcast!
AL: And we’d like to wish Fansplaining a very happy first birthday!
CC: So Anna, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in fandom in the last year do you think?
AL: I think rather than a change what we’ve noticed the most has been a mainstreaming of a lot of fandom narratives?
CC: Yeah I totally agree with that.
AL: So things that you would just never have seen before on big, mainstream journalism websites like in the UK the Telegraph or the Guardian engaging with responses from fandom communities, whether that’s the whiny man-baby complaining of the Ghostbusters-hardcore-hate-the-gender-swapped-version people, or whether it’s like “These are all the moments in Star Wars that are quite Finn/Poe slashy.”
CC: Yeah, totally! So it’s not so much that I think fandom has changed in the way it responds to stuff, but just I am now aware that the mainstream media sees it as a topic to write about.
AL: Yeah and it's a tone thing as well. So even reporting on Channing Tatum takes on this very enthusiastic fangirly sort of tone, and it’s kind of bleeding into a lot of pop culture coverage, from what I can tell. My own included.
CC: I think it is a good thing overall, even if it’s done from motives of wanting to appeal to a market where there’s a lot of traffic rather than wanting to do the right thing.
AL: It’s fanbaity, isn't it, a little bit.
CC: It is fanbaity, but it is fanbaity in a way that isn’t totally egregious.
AL: Yeah, I agree, and I think sometimes you can see direct links between reporting on this kind of stuff and good stuff happening. So I’m thinking particularly of black Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. There was a big fan movement for Hermione as black, BuzzFeed did a huge long post on it as did other places, and then a black Hermione was cast. I think those things are not unrelated.
CC: Yeah, the recognition in the wider media that that was just a thing people thought, then it went really big. Yeah that’s totally true.
AL: So happy birthday again, Fansplaining, and we can’t wait to hear everyone else’s thoughts on this too!
CC: Woo hoo!
FK: So there’s so many people who had such great things to say about this topic, although I know that you were particularly interested in what they had to say about, like, regular journalism incorporating a fannish point of view?
ELM: I think that’s interesting because I guess my perspective is different because I’m not an editor—although I guess I am positioning myself as one with this Medium publication, though that’s explicitly about fandom, it’s not like I want pop culture from a fannish perspective. It’s complicated. I’m not 100% into what's going on right now and I was curious to see that they were.
FK: About people writing movie reviews and interviews with actors and things from a “fannish perspective” or with a fan spin?
ELM: It’s complicated, and I think they were honest about—it is true that I think we’re seeing a shift where it’s not as much pandering, it’s not just pandering to a fan perspective.
ELM: But I think it’s hard too because I think fandom is really big and complicated and one thing, I’ve discussed this with Caroline a fair amount in the last year, this media shift is starting to make me feel a little bit left behind. I think I’ve talked about this with you as well in terms of, like, sometimes I feel like the mainstream fannish, “fannish” perspective that’s coming out, it kind of replicates what we already had. It makes me feel like, “Oh, I’m still in this weirdo corner.” It seems like all of a sudden being a fan is cool, but it’s kind of a cool-girl way to be a fan. Does that make sense?
FK: It does. So the type of fannishness that’s getting celebrated is not the way you do fandom. And that’s weird.
ELM: Yeah, that’s sort of how I feel about it. I don’t know. I don’t think that’s true overall. But it sort of just makes me feel like, I don’t feel much different than five years ago when it was like “You’re all weirdos.” And now it’s like, “Everyone’s a fan! Oh, but, ew, not like that.” You know?
FK: Yeah. That’s tough. Well. I can’t fix it for you.
ELM: Thanks a lot.
FK: I’m sorry. I don’t have a Band-Aid.
ELM: It’s a plaster. That was from a British clip.
FK: [laughs] “Band-Aid” is the No-Maj of plaster.
ELM: [laughs] Thank you. We have a lot of these so let’s not linger. The next one is Kevin Fanning, Kfan.
ELM: Who is the author of the Wattpad fanfiction hits about Kim Kardashian’s mobile game.
FK: He is. And he came on and had a great episode with us. So let’s hear what he has to say about the mainstreaming of fandom.
Kevin Fanning: Hi gang. OK. This is Kfan. What’s changed in fandom in the past year. I guess to me it felt like in the past year it felt like this was the year when fandom really ceased to become a separate entity from the object that the fandom worships. Like for the longest time fandom was completely separate, right, it was outside the walls, totally completely walled off separate from whatever it was that we were obsessed about, whatever it was that we loved. We were sort of like the proletariat huddled in little shantytowns outside the walls of the things that we loved. And in the past few years there’s been questions, there’s been hints that maybe we are, maybe the creators are acknowledging us. Maybe they’re at least aware of what's happening, maybe they’re not reading everything that we post online but they’re aware of what we do and there’s hints that they’re influenced by our opinions and the things that we care about and the things that we like and dislike about the show.
And then in the past year it’s almost like that wall really finally broke, that wall came down or the fandom zombies finally built a pile big enough to climb over it and the fandom sort of are in the city now, they’re a part of the thing itself, thinking about things like the way that criticism of The 100, stuff in their plotlines led to actual apologies from the showrunner. Or the way Lin-Manuel Miranda legitimized and fostered the Hamilstans and build this fandom into a movement really to the point where Hillary Clinton referenced it in her speech at the DNC. That’s the fandom doing that, you know, that’s not just the thing itself.
So now you look at pop culture and you look at the things in our culture whether it’s Fury Road or Star Wars or the Avengers movies, no one’s just a fan of the Avengers movies anymore, to be a fan means you have really strong opinions about Cap and Bucky and now it seems like now that being part of a fandom is, you’re not an outsider anymore, you’re just part of the thing. You’re mainstream and you’re widely acknowledged and to be a fan is just to be part of the thing. So I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next few months, years, whatever as the identity of fandoms start to lose their outsider status. As fandoms are more and more legitimized and catered to by entertainment properties and the money comes in, the money that Elizabeth is scared about.
So that’s what I think is going on, that’s what I think has been interesting about the last year, sort of the crossover of fandoms into mainstream acceptance. I think it’s an interesting time! We’ll see what happens. Thanks! Bye!
FK: So did you hate everything he had to say about money?
ELM: No! Money's fine.
FK: You’re changing your tune now that we have a Patreon, Minkel!
ELM: [laughs] No even then, I feel like during our conversation with Kevin, you know, I’m the one who brought up branded content being OK.
FK: That’s true.
ELM: So yeah, I also love Kevin’s approach, I think everyone at Wattpad does this—maybe not everyone at Wattpad; people we know—it’s not a suggestion that everyone needs to do this; it’s just putting that on the table and making space for that in addition. Though the worry is that if it’s, if it then becomes “Why aren’t you doing it,” which some of our guests have discussed this, actually.
FK: I think so. But I can’t think of who.
ELM: You remember this though? I think someone was talking about this.
ELM: Yeah, we’re bad hosts. Anyway.
FK: So why don’t we, since we’re in the land of fandom men, why don’t we hear from another dude? Clay Liford sent us, he didn’t send us audio but he sent us some written text that I guess I can read?
FK: OK. Clay says, “It’s hard to say from where I’m sitting specifically what changed about fandom in the last year in any sort of definitive sense, but I can certainly tell you what feels different. Having spent the last four years exploring fandom through making movies related to it, it’s crazy that there’s been a shift of such a significant degree that it affects the interpretation of scripted material I wrote as recently as 2013.
“Much of fandom takes place in the shadows. I don’t say this in any derogatory sense, and I’m not meaning to infer that the participants are in some sort of hiding, it’s just always existed outside the mainstream while managing to maintain a tenuous relationship with it. There’s been a push not necessarily universally accepted internally or externally to bring fandom out into the light. Blame Twitter, blame any social media really, where creators have direct interaction with fans or hell, don’t blame anyone. In my humble opinion, it’s all really cool. Fans having their voices heard and respected in the sense that they’ve changed the narrative outcome of major properties? In a free market society, this can be a really strong thing. Something that lets the gatekeepers know their audience is paying attention and not willing to accept phoned-in work can only lead, natural selection style, to a place of greater work. Eventually.
“Naturally the flip-side argument, one I’ve heard quite a bit as a creator, is that writers and directors and showrunners aren’t short order cooks, just there to give you what you think you want. Wish fulfillment and strong narrative storytelling don’t really go hand in hand. There must be a balance. This new, actively involved fan community isn’t going away. I see this as a good thing. There are growing pains to be sure; we’ll see more battle lines drawn in the coming years. But I feel that ultimately all these conversations are extremely healthy.
“Look, as a creator I want people to connect with my work. If I wanted to exist in a vacuum, I’d be Henry Darger. I’d write a million pages of prose in my tiny apartment’s closet, only to be found after my lonely death. But that’s not me, and it’s not 99% of creators. We need fans. They are literally our creative life blood. I’m genuinely excited about this door that has been open, never again to close. Growing pains are just that; they go away once the body is bigger and stronger and balanced. And I think strong fans interacting with strong creators leads only to stronger, far stronger creative works of fiction.”
ELM: That was really great!
FK: It was really sweet to hear somebody who I know has been criticized a bunch by fandom being like “Yeah! Go you guys!”
ELM: So positive!
FK: I know! Heartwarming.
ELM: It’s interesting, and I love the idea and concept. How it works in practice I think is the problem that we’re…but it’s good to know because I don’t think that every creator is on board with it conceptually either.
FK: And I think the metaphor of growing pains is good! Growing pains suck, but eventually it works out, right? Hopefully that’s true.
FK: So we had another person also mention the concept of, I hate to say it, but fan entitlement. Shall we hear from Roz, who was one of the contributors to our “Race and Fandom” episodes?
ELM: Also, contributed to, I’m never going to forget, the person who’s never read Harry Potter.
ELM: And told us what it was like to read Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On not having read Harry Potter.
FK: That was delightful. OK, let’s hear from Roz.
Roz: Hi Flourish and Elizabeth, thanks for letting me come back in. This is Roz. I wanted to talk a little bit about fan entitlement. I was just at Comic-Con but I wasn’t in the con proper and I kind of heard about this specific conversation a little bit in a Nerd HQ panel. I went to listen to Joss Whedon and Joss Whedon talked a little bit about how he disconnected from Twitter, he disconnected from fans in a way. And I think in our age of social media and what I’ve watched in fandom over the last 10 years, it used to be that the creators were this, and the Powers That Be, were this separate entity, really high up, didn’t interact with us as fans on a regular basis. And now with Twitter in the last five, six years, you as a fan can interact with your show creator much more easily.
And while it’s good in some ways, it’s also really bad because you get the, you the creator or you the fan feel like you have way more connection to your creator than I think we actually do. I think we need to sometimes maybe leave our creators as an independent being and we don’t really need to pester them with “Hey, can you do this? Can you fulfill my shipping needs? Can you make this thing less problematic or more problematic to fit my specific interests?” And I think it was articulated very well in an LA Times article that I will send you as well about this sort of fan entitlement and what we fans think we can do now in the age of Twitter or more direct access because showrunners are popping on Tumblr, showrunners and even actors used to be way more distant and now we feel we have a much more up close and personal connection to them. That’s kind of where I feel like fandom has gone in a year—well, it’s not really a year, it’s more like 10 years. Thanks! Bye.
ELM: Very interesting and I’m not going to sit here and argue with Roz’s pre-recorded statement [FK laughs] cause that’s not really fair. But I actually did write an article lambasting the one that she mentions. I’m pretty sure the one she’s talking about in the LA Times.
FK: So we’ll link that.
ELM: [laughs] Well, it’s interesting too to think, to talk about Joss Whedon and talk about the 10 year time frame that she talks about. Because 15 years ago in Buffy Joss Whedon and the rest of the people making Buffy were in fan spaces on the internet. So the question is what has changed? Definitely volume, definitely medium in the way these different platforms foster different kinds of communication.
FK: Yeah, I think there's something…I don’t wanna speculate too much but I think there is something about the way different platforms encourage you to think about people as humans with personalities and presences, and I don’t think that’s tied to being anonymous or using your real name. I think that you can be completely anonymous and feel like the people you’re talking to are other human beings, and I think you can be talking to other people using their real names and not really understand them as humans.
ELM: Yeah, totally. So maybe that’s part of it. I still think that if Joss Whedon went into a message board that was active right now about something he’s actively working on…I mean, I shouldn’t. I’ve seen plenty of bad behavior in smaller spaces too. So maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know, it’s so complicated.
FK: We did have another person raising the issue of creators in fan spaces from the opposite end. Meredith Levine had some interesting stuff to say about this. Should we hear from her?
Meredith Levine: Hi, Flourish! Hi Elizabeth! It’s Meredith Levine chiming in. Congrats on a year of Fansplaining. You asked the question “What has changed in fandom in the past year from a broad perspective” and some of the things I’d like to weigh in on are the relationship between fans and brands. I really think this year is a year where brands have become way more aware and in tune with fans and fandom, and are starting to understand what it means to build a healthy relationship. I think that that is really different than in years past.
I also think that this year is a year where we might have to come to terms with how fan culture has previously been experienced. We’re starting to see a lot of creators and professional creators coming from positions of being a fan and now finding themselves in positions of power making works commercially. And I think part of the thing that I’m starting to see, especially with the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is this notion of things that are officially created feeling like fanfiction or feeling like fanworks, and the intersection of commerciality and fanworks.
And I think one of the things that is emerging this year is how do fans reconcile people who come out of fandom, especially in the entertainment industry, which is not exactly known for its diversity all the time, with the way that fans and fandom have functioned culturally. And I think that that is something that is worth thinking about over the next year. OK, thanks! Bye!
FK: So I thought that was great, the point that there have been people who have been in fan spaces, not just sort of the “I loved sci fi and now I’m a sci fi director,” but actually active in fan spaces in ways that are still accessible to us, like still have the same Twitter account, still engaged, and people who have gone from being “just” a fan to being a creator and making that transition.
ELM: Sure do you think that this is very new, though? The elevated fanboy is a long held trope in the comics world.
FK: I think that that is true. I think that it’s happening on a larger scale though.
ELM: OK. You just love this cause that’s you.
ELM: [laughs] That was a good collection of sounds.
FK: That was all the sounds I felt.
ELM: That was super interesting, and one thing I love about Meredith, we saw her at Comic-Con and as we were leaving she was like, she said something like “I really like everything you’re doing even though we often disagree” or something and she just tossed that in there, and that’s exactly how I feel too. I want Meredith to come back on so we can disagree in an enthusiastic way.
FK: Yeah! OK.
ELM: Why don’t, before we go to our last section, we take one more break?
FK: Tiny little break.
ELM: K, let’s do it.
FK: OK, we’re back! So before the break we were talking about the breakdown of the fourth wall and “fan entitlement,” whatever that means, and I think that segues really clearly into issues of social justice. We’ve got some really interesting written responses—
ELM: Wait, are you saying this is the SJW section?
FK: I didn’t use that term! I would never use that term!
ELM: [laughs] The SJ section?
FK: I might use that term but only in a reclaiming sort of way.
ELM: OK. It does connect very much because that’s one of the reasons I critiqued the LA Times article and there was a Guardian article as well, is because it really tried to downplay the social justice element of the fan–creator friction.
FK: Yeah for sure.
ELM: So yeah, this was definitely one of the major themes and I was so glad that so many people talked about it. So our first response is from Evan Hayles Gledhill, who was the guest for, I don’t wanna say, I don’t wanna play favorites but it was one of my faves.
ELM: The “Fangirling Through Time” episode, which was—
FK: Yeah, we talked about the history of fandom.
ELM: The history of fangirls mostly.
FK: So why don't you read what Evan had to say?
ELM: OK. So, point one: I think that the media fascination with fans that started a few years ago and has arguably led to some excellent opportunities for fans, scholars and journalists, has entered the inevitable tabloid backlash period. I think this is in part because of conflation in the minds of many of fans and fandom other cultural investment in a product within a consumer position. So GamerGate and Rancid Puppies, that’s their name right? [laughs] It’s Rabid Puppies.
FK: Rabid Puppies.
ELM: Close though. That’s OK, I’ll call them Rancid Puppies—models get brought to Ghostbusters whining based on a mild similarity of poor attitudes to women. But then marginalized voices in fandom doing pushback to hegemony in media are tarred with the same brush of entitlement to a product or space. Big difference between “We demand you exclude not-us” and “we demand to be included as us.”
Point two, I think the rifts in fandom’s perception of itself are becoming clearer. Some privileged fans used to being on the right side of the debate are getting defensive about being told to reassess their own attitudes to more marginal voices. When black fans tell you you’re whitewashing, you listen. You don’t pull a Moffatt! [laughs] Yeah. I’m editorializing here! My perception of fandom as more splintered is not just based on seeing problems where before I was unaware—because we all need reminders about intersections we don't live—but also seeing problems dealt with poorly.
I have found myself avoiding Tumblr because otherwise I yell like an old person, “DO YOU WANT A FLAME WAR? BECAUSE THAT’S HOW YOU GET A FLAME WAR.” As an older fan, it’s second-gen narratives to see the same fights. They were on the zines, then on the mailservs, then on the forums, replayed endlessly, because as a subculture we are terrible at keeping our own history, because aging out of fandom is still a thing. We need better cross-generational communication so us old guys don’t sound like patronizing veterans and listen to new developments, also so that new gen fans realize they could really get a lot out of listening to people with a bit more life experience and could get stuff changed often by educating older folks on stuff they might not be familiar with. Less sarcasm on all sides, perhaps.
FK: Less sarcasm. I like that.
ELM: That’s so good! Everything about that was so—oh, I love that. Evan, you’re great.
FK: Another person who talked about this issue was Samantha Pennington, from Wattpad, who we had on very early in the podcast.
ELM: Yeah I think like our third episode. Who we just saw at Comic-Con, who’s great!
FK: Aw Sam, you’re delightful! Let’s read it.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen fandom become increasingly more critical. Fans spoke up and spoke out about the need for representation and diversity in media. From social activism like #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, to backlash on The 100 ‘burying their gays,’ to criticism of J.K. Rowling’s racism and cultural appropriation on Pottermore, marginalized voices weren’t afraid to call out creators and hold them accountable.
“Fanfiction has always provided an avenue for exploration of gender, sexuality, or race that are often underrepresented or underserved. Fans engage in cultural analysis, as writers and readers alike can reimagine, rework, or fix the mainstream media they may find problematic or troubling, and deliver the representation that creators often fail to. Now the expectation is even greater. It’s 2016, after all. Social media has allowed fans to stay connected with creators, opening the lines of communication between them. Fans can pick and choose what media to consume and what they deem worthy of their attention. It’s easy to call it entitlement. There will always be bullies and trolls that take things too far.
“At the end of the day, though, fans are merely asking for a sense of social consciousness they feel they deserve. Fandom should ultimately foster a creative space for speculation and conversation between fans and creators (as long as it’s productive and respectful). Art shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. Fans should be able to engage with the creative work in a way that is meaningful to them, whether it be through fanfiction, community-driven discussion, or sometimes even radical candor.”
ELM: Radical candor.
FK: One of the things I liked about Sam’s response to this is it actually sort of put the onus on creators. She’s saying fans should be able to talk about things.
ELM: Yeah, I also loved that too. I feel like I went down this road of saying I love things and now I have to say I love everything. But. Everyone who contributed, especially I love this section in particular. Very thoughtful and smart about issues of representation and fans’ voices in that conversation and fans’ accountability, I think. I love to see that emphasis in all these answers. So why don’t we do Clio next? That’s a positive one on this front. Clio who is a fanfiction writer and reader who was on our “Race and Fandom” episode.
FK: Let’s hear Clio!
Clio: Hi, my name is Clio and what I’ve seen change in fandom in the last year is that I’ve seen people move from talking about representation in fandom to actually doing something about it. There are a lot of fests that are focused around characters of color, around women, around trans characters and disabled characters and lots of other characters that deviate from the sort of white cishet male norm in whatever way. I see this in femslash and also in slash fandoms and it’s such a great sign because even if lots of parts of larger fandom aren’t really responding to these things, you can have a community of people that really are supportive of doing something a little different with their fanworks.
ELM: Another positive one was Ebony, who was one of our early slate of guests, Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, who is at UPenn, right?
FK: Yes, she's at UPenn.
ELM: And she writes a lot about children’s literature in particular and race, and we also saw her at Comic-Con, we were on the same Harry Potter panel.
FK: It was so delightful to see Ebony!
ELM: Yeah it was great!
FK: Yeah, Ebony, it was great to meet you in person! So I will read this one:
“The biggest change in fandom since last year for me has been that Hermione is black in the stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. In a fantasy fandom landscape where all too often, women characters of color are nonexistent, silent extras, forgettable fodder, throwaway exotic encounters, or the occasional sidekick, the casting of Noma Dumezweni was a development beyond my wildest dreams. I could not have predicted it when we did our Fansplaining interview last fall. All credit must go to Alanna Bennett for her BuzzFeed article, along with countless fan artists who chose to racebend Hermione for many years on sites like DeviantArt and Tumblr. Talk about being lucky to be alive right now… now, my world would have been complete if one of the scenarios in Cursed Child had been a Harmony, Pumpkin Pie AU, but we’re not quite that lucky. Makes me wonder if Rowling now regrets that Hypable interview with Emma!
“On a more sober note, there was also the entire #MagicInNorthAmerica controversy, which made me sad. It tempered my excitement about black Hermione.” And she provided a link so we'll put that in the show notes. “Suffice it to say that I stand in solidarity with Native American and First Nations fans, authors, educators, scholars and activists who have questioned her worldbuilding. Rowling’s vocal support and defense of #BlackHermione made me very sad about her silence around #MagicInNorthAmerica.”
FK: Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t classify that maybe as much a happy one as a…oh! Two steps forward one step back!
ELM: I was only talking about the beginning! The beginning was so enthusiastic and then as I was reading it I was like “…wait, hold on.” Which is funny because those are the two biggest things that we had to talk about in the Potter fandom. I talked about magic in North America and she talked about black Hermione but since I was the first in the line of speakers, I thought I set a very negative tone. I was just like “Harry Potter is the most problematic thing.” And everyone else was like, “YAY!” So that’s fine. It’s true though!
FK: Can’t help it.
ELM: What are you gonna do? What are you gonna do? I’ll just be the negative person on the Comic-Con panel, that’s fine.
FK: No, I think it’s a really good point! Another person we had on, PJ Punla, who was in the “Race and Fandom” episode, also known as ninemoons42, just wrote us this very short but very to-the-point statement, saying: “Fandom’s made some improvements in acknowledging the existence of non-white, non-Western fans, but it needs to be a continuing process.” And I think that pretty much is what Ebony’s saying, right? Ebony’s focused on a very particular fandom and a particular set of things that are going on, but in general, two steps forward, one step back.
ELM: Yeah, for sure.
FK: We have to keep going.
ELM: OK, so we’re going to round out this section, our penultimate contributor is Rukmini Pande, who was also someone we interviewed in our “Race and Fandom” episodes. I appreciate this response so much, it gets right to the point and it’s one thing that as I’ve been saying I think all of these too about holding fandom accountable. And she definitely I think hammers that point home. So I’m excited to play this clip.
FK: All right, let’s hear it!
Rukmini Pande: Hi Flourish and Elizabeth! Congratulations on one year of Fansplaining and thank you for running a really interesting platform for fandom discussions. So you asked me what I think has changed in fandom in the last year, and that’s a difficult question for me, because while I think my fandom spaces haven’t really changed that much, my perspective on them has undergone quite a significant shift. I should be specific here that I’m talking about fanfiction fandoms or transformative fandoms spanning het, femslash, slash and gen.
I think the most basic aspect of my shift has been my view of canon versus fandom, and how canon creators are generally seen to be straight cis white men creating content for the same demographics. This is a great binary, because of course it puts transformative fandom—especially queer transformative fandom—in rather neat opposition to evil corporations and lets us feel very good about ourselves. But as canons are changing, I think it’s time we started disrupting that binary quite seriously.
This is not to let canon creators off the hook. It’s still very much a parade of cis white dudes named Chris, and sometimes cis white ladies, on our screens. But the fact remains that fanfiction fandom really likes all those dudes and all those ladies, and they like them because they’re white. I didn’t want to believe that for the longest time. For the longest time I believed that it was the canon that gave this preference, this consistent sidelining. But I can’t anymore. I keep going back to The Force Awakens as a kind of touchstone in these discussions, because it’s been one for me in many ways and made me rethink a lot of my very ingrained assumptions about what fandom is and what it does. To me it asked a very basic question: what happens when canon takes those archetypal roles, those roles fandom loves, and takes them away from cis white dudes and gives them to somebody else. Of course, as any visit to the fandom tag will tell you, will go out of its way to make those very cis white dudes the fandom juggernaut anyway.
I think it’s important as well to see this not as an exception but as a rule. As part of my research I went back to look at how these discussions had been had in the past, and it’s really very depressing that I could copy and paste a LiveJournal post about fandom’s racism from 2006 into a Tumblr post today and have it still be absolutely relevant without changing a word. I think this is partly because we refuse to see whiteness as a racialized identity with specific effects. Whiteness is so powerfully neutral that everything else becomes an exception. So of course Kylo Ren and Rey are a great pairing, because look at the canon. And conversely, of course Phil Coulson and Clint Barton are a great pairing, because who needs canon?
So yes, that’s what's changed for me: this knowledge. That no matter the fandom or pairing, fanfiction’s defining characteristic must be how it deals with this whiteness, queer or straight. I must admit it’s made fandom a little more lonely for me, but on the whole, a lot more honest. Thank you!
FK: All right, well, I feel like that is hard to hear but it's also truth-telling.
ELM: Definitely. Anyone who hasn’t listened to these, I feel like half of our guests here are from the “Race and Fandom” episodes, but that’s because we had like 150,000 guests. But if you somehow missed those two episodes, they are 22A and B I believe and they’re both like two hours long, and we interview four people and we have audio contributions from six more people. Everyone is so smart and so thoughtful.
I’m glad that people are, I know that people are still shying away from conversations about race in particular in fandom, I know that there’s still plenty of people in fandom who don’t want to hear it, I feel like I encountered this at the cons I went to this year. People were saying, “No, I don’t wanna think about that.” But I’m really really glad that there seems to be a definite movement of fans who are, A, fans of color who are not gonna let that stand, and also white fans who are not just covering their ears when this conversation starts. So I feel like that’s a really positive development. I’m not gonna sit here and say that I feel like great strides are being made, but I feel like people are taking steps.
FK: One thing that is giving me hope is that we’re actually talking about these things as opposed to just being quiet or not addressing them. I think one of the reasons that’s possible now more than ever is because of how much more open people can be about fandom. Which is something a lot of people we’ve interviewed have said, that fandom is becoming more accepted and more mainstream and more people can talk about it more publicly now.
ELM: That’s a really interesting way to tie everything back together actually, and it’s true and I think we even talked about that with Ebony. 15 years ago everyone was an avatar, most people kept their real identities secret, and I think that we can moan about the loss of anonymity—though I still think that you can achieve that if you want—but it’s true that as fandom mainstreams, as people—even though I’m disparaging of it, there’s definitely tradeoffs and there’s also benefits. Because if fannishness is a part of general identities, and if people are being very open about their identity and their background, the conversations right now on Twitter outside of fandom are so robust right now. I think the more overlap there is with fannish conversations, with the non-fannish conversations we’re having about the different facets of identity, then yeah. This is definitely a benefit of the mainstreaming of fandom. It’s all one big conversation about how everyone can do better.
FK: Right. So on that topic, the final clip we wanna play is from Casey Fiesler, who is one of our guests from the episode about fandom and grieving, and she is a professor, and she had some interesting things to say about the change in the professional reception of her work.
Casey Fiesler: I’m Casey Fiesler, and I’m a professor in Information Science at University of Colorado. There is something that I think has been a gradual and ongoing change, maybe, rather than just in this past year, but I've really seen it flourish lately. And it’s not exactly the mainstreaming of fandom or even tolerance and acceptability, which seems kind of tacit or even negative, but instead that fandom is being celebrated openly and proudly. Even in my professional and academic circles I’ve seen this change. Ten years ago when I first presented work about fandom, a professor openly referred to my study participants as “nutjobs.” But today, I’m totally comfortable and happy telling all my colleagues in my conference presentation that I have written fanfiction and my research about fandom is nearly always met positively and with both personal and professional interest from people. I think that we’re seeing in lots of contexts people being more comfortable talking about their fannish interests in all parts of their lives. I think this is great. Let your fan flag fly!
ELM: All right, that’s a really cheerful note to end on!
FK: It’s nice to think that there’s some movement forward in the world.
ELM: [laughs] No! It’s nice to end on! Just accept it! It’s nice!
FK: 2016 is a garbage year. I don’t know what to say.
ELM: [sighs] Oh don’t remind me. 2016…Flourish, talk about, I feel like all throughout this we’ve tossed in our feelings about these big fandom things. Tell me one thing that’s been the most important to you as a fan in the past year.
FK: Not talking about Cursed Child.
ELM: Really you’re not going to mention how you started writing One Direction fanfiction? Wow.
FK: [laughs] That’s true!
ELM: You wrote an entire novel length fic, apparently that means nothing to you. I thought this would be one of your most important—last calendar, we’re talking about from last summer to now.
FK: Yeah. OK. I was thinking in 2016.
ELM: No, this is our year anniversary!
FK: Yeah the biggest change for me in fandom is that I definitely got really obsessed with One Direction almost instantly and then wrote a novel about One Direction. And I’m actually gonna be reading the novel in New York at The Kitchen because I’m apparently trying to take on the New York avant-garde literary world with fanfiction.
ELM: When is this? When can we see it? I’m gonna be there!
FK: September 10th, I wanna say?
ELM: K, great day! I’ll be there!
FK: So and then that was a thing! And now I keep having conversations with people and they keep teasing me because I can’t stop bringing up Harry Styles. I’m like “Dunkirk! It’s gonna be the greatest movie ever made!” So that happened to me.
ELM: I can’t believe I know you better than you know yourself.
FK: [laughing] What about you? What was your greatest fandom moment Elizabeth?
ELM: Why don’t you guess mine?
FK: Falling back into your fandom?
ELM: Yeah that’s true.
FK: Aww. I found a new fandom and you got back into one you loved.
ELM: Yeah and I don’t know, it’s been kind of the saving grace of me feeling a little disheartened about some of the stuff I was writing about. Cause a year ago I was feeling very excited to write all the articles about this stuff, and now I’m feeling a little less excited, though I will say—can I plug my article on Medium about Cursed Child, it’s about fanfiction, and the patriarchy. I did enjoy writing that a great deal. So obviously I still get some pleasure out of this stuff. But, um, I’m really really grateful that I actually found a joy in being a fan again and being in fanfiction itself because I was feeling a little touch-and-go there for a little while.
FK: And God knows we need it in this political climate.
ELM: Yeah, I’d rather read about horrific politics in the Wizarding World than… [sighs]
FK: Horrific fake politics better than horrific real politics.
ELM: Don’t remind me. Who knows what’ll happen by the time this comes out.
FK: All right, well, God.
ELM: I’m sorry!
FK: That’s like 12 hours!
ELM: Anyway Flourish. I can’t believe that we actually did this for a whole year. I remember having our first Skype call after we got back from San Diego last year and you were terrifyingly businesslike and I was like “Oh my God she really wants to do this.”
FK: Hashtag biz!
ELM: Yeah! And now look at where we are.
FK: We have a Patreon! We’re maybe gonna actually be able to make this for a long time if people support us.
ELM: Just a dollar a month could make it last forever.
FK: [snorts] That sounds like a terrible song lyric. I think we should end on that.
ELM: [laughs] OK well happy anniversary, Flourish!
FK: Happy anniversary, Elizabeth!
FK: [over the music] The music this week is by Paul Tyan, and you can find it on SoundCloud. The opinions expressed in this podcast are not those of Chimera Media Group, Chaotic Good, or our clients, or our employers, or anyone’s except our own.