Episode 32: Nerds For Her
Elizabeth and Flourish talk to Paul DeGeorge, half of Harry and the Potters and the creator of the #NerdsForHer, a campaign to get fandom excited about Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. Topics discussed include the idea of “political fandom,” Hillary’s bad narrative, John Travolta and Emma Thompson in Primary Colors, and whether fanfiction can help foster enthusiasm for the only reasonable candidate. (Who is Hillary Clinton. Fansplaining endorses Hillary Clinton. Seriously.)
[00:01:24] FANSPLAINING ENDORSES HILLARY! Right at the top. Good job us.
[00:02:31] Examples of fanfic for previous elections? We leave you with the “Political RPF - US 21st c.” tag at the Archive of our Own.
[00:04:37] Madeleine Albright on her famous brooches, if you don’t know.
[00:05:50] Elizabeth’s article: “From Nate Silver to #Milifans: welcome to the age of political fandom.”
[00:10:54] 🤔 That’s Flourish right now.
[00:11:30] “Witch Please,” the Harry Potter podcast! Go listen and enjoy.
[00:16:17] “Voldemort Can’t Stop The Rock,” by Harry & the Potters. Hooray!
[00:17:20] Harry & the Potters! (Specifically, Paul DeGeorge, one of the two Harries.) Go buy their music (we promise it is amazing!)
[00:20:15] The Harry Potter Alliance! If you don’t know them yet, then you haven’t been paying very much attention to this podcast. But, you should especially go check out their Wrock the Vote campaign.
[00:24:18] Nerds for Her! You can also contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have ideas.
[00:29:55] Clearly Paul did a fine job picking the right color for the Star Wars Rebel Alliance logo.
[00:31:01] The Grey Lady reports on Hillary’s passion for UFOs: “Hillary Clinton Gives UFO Buffs Hope She Will Open The X-Files”
[00:32:04] Hillary’s hot sauce in her bag… yeah, she’s got the receipts.
[00:35:32] Yes, Hillary really wrote “A note on the Toast” as the last article there. ;_;
[00:36:22] Hillary on Humans of New York! For all Humans of New York’s problems, she was very good.
[00:38:46] We were gonna link to a clip from the Parks & Rec episode Elizabeth is talking about here (it’s called “The Flu” and it’s in Season 3) but none of the videos are any good. DAMN YOU, YOUTUBE, AND YOUR COPYRIGHT TAKEDOWN BOTS.
[00:51:35] Here is a picture of Hillary as The Bride by Marcos A. Rivera, presented without comment.
[00:52:08] Gazomg’s amazing Star Trek photomanip of HIllary:
Also relevant to this conversation, Trek Against Trump.
[00:54:57] “Cornelius Fudge is an Ass” by Harry & the Potters
[00:59:26] We aren’t going to publish the results of our tiny survey here because it’s TOO SMALL and you will be MISLED. Don’t look at it! Wait for the big one!
[01:01:16] The more comprehensive survey! GO TAKE IT NOW! It’s going to be taken down the Sunday after this episode aired!!
[01:05:57] Patreon.com/fansplaining! Go give us money. (We mean, if you want to.)
[01:06:45] “Dumbledore’s Army” by Harry & the Potters
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish.
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for and about fandom!
ELM: Episode 32, “Nerds For Her.”
ELM: Oh, that's the enthusiasm I was looking for!
FK: I’m enthusiastic about this! I’m feeling down about the American election right now and I’m ready for some enthusiasm.
ELM: So we are going to be talking to Paul DeGeorge who you may know as one of the Harry Potters in Harry and the Potters, seminal—is that the right word?
FK: I think we can call it seminal.
ELM: Wrock, W, R, O, C, K, wizard rock band that he has done with his younger brother Joe for more than a decade.
FK: Yeah, since 2002.
ELM: And he has worked on political campaigns but he is doing this one right now called “Nerds For Her” which is, he’ll tell you all about it but it's about boosting the enthusiasm and the fannish enthusiasm for Hillary.
FK: Which I think this can serve as our official endorsement, I guess, by having him on, that Fansplaining as a podcast, do we endorse Hillary Clinton?
ELM: I don’t know, it’s a toss-up. Let's, you know, like... [FK laughs] Sometimes when I think about it I am like, these are like two equal candidates! So maybe I should just weigh them equally you know, like…no. Obviously, obviously we endorse Hillary. And I think we both actually…because of our age perhaps, fall more towards the pro-Hillary rather than the, like, there was a hashtag that came out right after she clinched the nomination that was like #IGuessImWithHer.
FK: Yeah that’s not us. I was with her all the way.
ELM: Yeah that’s fine and that’s fine and that’s great, you’re on the side, cool, but we’re actually unironically like “Yes.”
ELM: So before we talk to Paul, I think we should talk a little bit about politics and fandom. This is something that I’ve written about, I’m sure you have feelings about it, and I think that kind of, the kind of meh, or the vote against Donald Trump, kind of underlies some of the gaps I’m seeing in this campaign compared to other candidates and other elections that I've looked at from a fannish lens.
FK: Yeah completely. It's funny actually, I was just thinking about how—I think we’ve talked about it before—there’s unusually little fanfic about this election? That may sound weird, but I feel like I haven’t seen almost any whereas for previous elections it felt like there were all sorts of sometimes satirical, sometimes serious, but there was all sorts of fanfic. There was a lot about John Edwards, weirdly, I feel like.
ELM: Well, he’s a philanderer with nice hair.
FK: I don’t think they knew he was a philanderer at the time.
ELM: You could see it in his eyes.
FK: [laughs] Elizabeth knows how to spot ’em.
ELM: Mm-hmm. I think the simple answer might be that there’s a female candidate, honestly, and not a wacky one like Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann or something, but a deeply competent, not very funny.
FK: Yeah. Except as much as you think about Hillary texting.
ELM: What are you gonna do with that?
FK: I don’t know.
ELM: What happened to Texts from Hillary? I remember Hillary was kind of a cool icon for a little while while she was doing her texts from Hillary.
ELM: If anyone doesn’t remember this, it was because the press kept photographing her looking at her phone—
ELM: Texting. So people started captioning them as hilarious texts. And she got into it and then she embraced the meme.
FK: Her campaign also uses memes better than any presidential campaign I’ve ever seen. I feel like they’re pretty on top of it.
ELM: They’re so on point on Twitter, the “Delete your account” tweet.
FK: The pinned—if you guys didn't see this she pinned a tweet to Donald Trump saying “Delete your account.”
ELM: He said something stupid and then she immediately said “Delete your account.”
FK: And then she pinned it because he always says something stupid! [ELM laughs]
ELM: There was another one I remember when Bernie endorsed her during the convention, Donald Trump said something, his account said something stupid and Bernie’s account retweeted it and wrote “Never tweet.” which is also one of my favorite Twitter memes. So.
FK: Yeah. But anyway, it is funny because I feel like Hillary used to be sort of, I mean, she was never gonna be hip-young-candidate, but she used to be sort of cool-mom at least. And that’s really fallen off.
ELM: Yeah yeah. I think that there’s a kind of, Madeleine Albright has turned off some people in her second wave feminism anger thing that happened, but I think there’s some of that feeling about her, that people are like, or Ruth Bader Ginsberg. They’re like “Woah, look at this awesome lady! With her brooches! Solving—”
FK: That send messages! A message on my brooch about how I secretly fuckin’ hate you!
ELM: Right, and there’s this kind of older female statesman give no fucks kind of, Ruth Bader Ginsburg going like “Yeah, I think there should be nine female justices.” Just done with your bullshit, right? All the Supreme Court ladies, I just feel like they’re just like “I don’t care. I don’t have time for this.”
FK: But the problem is Hillary has to care, has to have time for it, because she’s a presidential candidate, so that sort of takes away the give no fucks, she has to give a fuck.
ELM: Well I also don’t think that the straight white man in the middle of America is sitting here going “Ruth Bader Ginsburg she’s so cool.” And I don't think he was saying Texts from Hillary were so cool. It’s just us women around age 30 in New York City can be like “Fuck yeah RBG!” [FK laughs] So…
FK: That’s so true.
ELM: So. I wrote about this last year, I wrote about political fandom, do you remember the Milifandom?
FK: I remember you wrote something about it, but I don’t really remember it that well, so you should remind both me and our listeners.
ELM: Recap, recap! So this seems like a million years ago, all British people will remember this, last year’s general election 2015 in May, it turned out to be a bloodbath, Labour was destroyed in that election, but people didn’t think it was gonna be that close based on the completely faulty polls. And a couple weeks before the election a bunch of teenage girls started saying they were fans of Ed Miliband and giving him, like, who was the leader of Labour at the time, who’s this kind of like… How do I describe Ed? He’s just kinda nerdy and awkward and not that old, but just nerdy. Nothing cool about Ed. [FK snickers] And not even, not like Tim Kaine awesome Dad—
FK: Captain Dad Joke. Dad-Joke Kaine.
ELM: No just like the awkward guy at your office, you know. So these girls were like—and they were like teens! They were like 16, 17, a lot of them were saying “I’m not even old enough to vote, but I care about these issues.” They were giving him the full fandom treatment. They were putting flower crowns on his head and stuff like that, you know. And like…heart eye emojis and stuff, and saying “I’m in Milifandom.”
FK: Can we flower crown Hillary?
ELM: Yeah! Oh, we totally should. Let’s do it. So the press caught on to this and they were just like, most of it was a little, was pretty snide. “These dumb teenage girls,” it was unclear whether it was ironic and I think for some people it was a little, and it was very much—it was as if, imagine you were watching a high school show and there’s some sort of, oh, that episode of Buffy, “Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered,” where a love spell backfires and suddenly every woman in the school is chasing Xander. [FK laughs] Like that kind of thing, right? Imagine less attractive than Xander, depending how you feel about him.
FK: Ugh, that’s hard to imagine.
ELM: It’s like the school nerd all of a sudden all of these girls are like “Ooo!” And everyone’s like, this is absurd. Anyway, so I read about this and I was also, a parallel sort of, the Nate Silvers of the world in a way kind of resemble male dominated fandom in terms of—very invested in data organization, stats, and that gets treated very seriously, so think of that brand of wonkishness as male fandom and think of the emotional affect, which I find this is something that's been interesting to observe in the last year coming from the American election. And also, still observing British politics and seeing how the Brexit vote and a lot of the stuff that’s happened that’s been very emotional. And it’s people’s emotional reactions to these candidates or these ideas just kind of on a gut level. Which can resemble fandom, or even be fandom for certain candidates or certain ideas, and it's like, well, you're back in the what is fandom question at that point.
FK: Completely, and people will tell you that Bernie Sanders is a wonk, and Hillary Clinton is a wonk too, actually!
ELM: 100% wonk.
FK: People don’t identify her that way as much, but they're beginning to more, but Bernie—it was always about how—
ELM: OK, define “wonk” for people who do not…
FK: Someone who knows everything about policy and numbers and everything to do with these very detailed plans, and they’re like “Yes, I’m going to be able to tell you exactly what happened, all the laws, I can quote them, I understand all the data, and I’m just gonna be like…”
ELM: People don’t think of Hillary—that's absurd. Hillary is literally, I was just describing her the other day, I’m rewatching Parks and Rec. It's the beginning of the third season and the government was shut down, and they’re turning the government back on basically, and Leslie’s like, “Well I just put all my ideas in these binders” and then there's like 30 binders in a row that all say LESLIE KNOPE’S IDEAS color coded and stuff, and that’s not an exaggeration. That’s the way I think of Hillary.
FK: I agree, but if you think back to the beginning of the primary season, that is what people felt about Bernie, which is ironic, because a lot of his ideas weren’t highly formed, weren’t fully sorted out. Certainly more than Donald Trump’s or a lot of other people’s, but they were nowhere near as wonky as Hillary’s. But I feel like that’s the image people have of him.
ELM: Yeah, I guess I would say it felt like Bernie had a lot of ideas, but there weren’t a lot of details. I think there have been more details, have come over time. But the criticism of him would be that a lot of them are awesome ideas and I support all those ideas, it’s just they’re not politically feasible.
ELM: And that’s where the policy bit comes in cause, well, how do you get from Point A to—
FK: Completely, completely.
ELM: Point Z times infinity, which is where we have an equal society that’s not garbage like we have right now.
FK: Right, right. I think what I’m trying to say though is we can find wonkishness appealing in a male character, but is it very appealing in a female character? I don’t think so.
ELM: Well, people…just think about Hermione and think about, OK, here’s a question for you Flourish…
FK: You can’t see my face but I’m making this very mmm, thinky face.
ELM: It’s like you’re the emoji, you’re the thinky emoji. You know him, right? Yeah, that’s right! With his fingers on his chin. So think about how you felt about Hermione when you were young and reading the books. Tell me how you felt about her. Did you find her annoying?
FK: Basically never.
FK: Cause I felt like she was like me.
ELM: That’s interesting, so I get this a lot from female contemporaries. I never really thought about her, because obviously I was thinking about Sirius and Remus, you know, dying in each other’s arms.
ELM: But I find this interesting because I think that…I was listening to ”Witch Please,” the Harry Potter podcast with the Canadian academics, and I’ve listened to a couple of episodes, but in the very first episode they’re talking about Harry as an unreliable narrator. They’re talking about Harry’s perceptions of Slytherins, and they’re like “Well, Harry’s a pretty unreliable narrator.” They were in the first book and they’re like “Well, just look at the way he talks about Hermione in the first book. The two of them are just like, ‘Ugh, she’s the worst.’”
FK: As the Tumblr meme has it, is Hermione black? Is she trans? Is she actually a cross-dressing male person? Who knows? Certainly not Harry.
ELM: Not just him being ignorant, but he actually vilifies her. He’s like “this girl is so fucking annoying,” you know. And the same exact things that he finds annoying about her are the things that he finds invaluable about her only a few books later. The point was brought up because people are like “Oh, Slytherin, the evil house,” but you’re like no, maybe this is just dumb basic boys. “Well, they seem evil, and I don’t like that Draco Malfoy, so…” [FK laughs] That’s my Harry impersonation for you. So it’s interesting because I feel like that’s the knee-jerk. I think it’s interesting that you would immediately identify with her, because I think the knee-jerk response is to be like, this is so—this woman is so annoying.
FK: I think that partially has to do with whether you’re the person who’s that annoying. I don’t know. I’m sure that you were the same as me where you would get assigned a group project when you were younger, and you would be paired with a couple of people who in your eyes were not nearly as committed to finishing this group project and having it be good as you were, and you would be like, “Let’s get this done.”
ELM: Yeah, but I don’t think in a very Hermione way. I’m not a good student. A good student in the sense that I’m not a very dutiful student. This is why I identify with Sirius Black! I barely ever take notes, I only do it half-assedly, I never study for tests, this sounds really douchey but it’s true.
FK: I don’t feel like I was that dutiful a student either but when it came to group projects, that could really motivate me. I was like, “Get your asses in line. We’re gonna just fuckin’ finish this and be done with it.”
ELM: Well, it depends on if you’re being graded as a group or as individuals.
FK: Yeah. And if you’re being graded as a group… “Excuse me, I’m just gonna do this and deal with it.”
ELM: I don’t think it’s that! I never found it that hard, it’s just that…
FK: We’re way down a rabbit hole now.
ELM: Really rabbit hole. Yeah, I never…there’s nothing, I never relate to Hermione in any way. This is the point of rhetoric right now that’s going on where talking about Americans don’t like the person who sits in the front of the class and raises her hand, right?
ELM: And not only does Donald Trump sit in the back of the class, and there’s that great article about it: not only does Donald Trump sit at the back, he’s throwing spitballs at the girl in the front raising her hand. I think this is often gendered, you know. The teacher’s pet is always some eager girl.
ELM: I don’t know.
FK: Yeah, or a feminized boy.
ELM: Like a nerdy boy who’s not, you know, cool. Never some cool jock like Harry Potter.
ELM: Yeah I definitely think that, I wonder, there’s definitely a lot of sexism going on in the way we’re talking about this as these objects of fandom. You know, Bernie…I remember watching I think it was a Samantha Bee segment, and she talked to these Bernie supporters, and it was at the point where he couldn’t win anymore. She was trying to get them to face facts and they were all just like “Nope.” And there was this one woman who looked to be about our age who had a Bernie tattoo. It looked a little bit like the Gregory’s Coffee icon. It was a little top of an old man’s head with some glasses.
FK: Yeah, I know the Bernie.
ELM: It was just a common tattoo and I was like—I can’t imagine getting a tattoo of a politician! I can’t imagine getting a tattoo but like…I just don’t, I can’t…
FK: As a tattooed person I can’t imagine getting a tattoo of a politician.
ELM: I can’t imagine connecting to a politician in that way. But I also can’t imagine anyone wanting to get a tattoo of Hillary, a cartoon version of Hillary's head. Even though her head’s just as appealing as Bernie’s head, they’re both older people. [FK laughs] Older white people with heads. She has, I think, nicer hair. She combs it anyway. Anyway, I have a lot of feelings.
FK: I do too, but I think maybe we should share some of our feelings with Paul?
ELM: Yeah! So let’s talk to him, let’s get him to solve the problem. And to assuage—is that the word?
FK: I don’t know if it’s “ass-wahge” or “ass-wayge.”
ELM: “Ass-wahge”! Assuage our fears.
FK: I don’t know! Why are you asking me to pronounce anything, Elizabeth Minkel?
ELM: That's really true, Meredith Levine. [FK laughs] OK, let’s call Paul and let’s talk about Hillary.
FK: Let's do it!
ELM: All right, so let’s welcome Paul onto the podcast!
FK: Hey Paul!
Paul DeGeorge: Hey, great to be here!
ELM: Thanks so much for coming on!
PD: Thanks for having me!
ELM: OK, before we start talking about Nerds For Her I think we should talk a little bit about your background because I’m sure a lot of our listeners are familiar with Harry and the Potters and the Harry Potter Alliance, so maybe you could talk a little bit about your journey.
PD: Yeah, so those are my two big fandom contributions I guess. 2002, that’s 14 years ago, I started a band with my brother called Harry and the Potters, and we just thought it would be cool if Harry Potter had his own punk rock band. And so we wrote a bunch of stupid songs and started playing them in backyards and libraries and people were really into that idea. And so then we got a lot more serious about it, I guess.
ELM: Wait wait—were you guys the first wizard rock band?
PD: Basically. We were definitely the first band, a few people had written songs before us but we were the first to go full concept.
FK: Yeah, there was the Switchblade Kittens, played Nimbus, but they were a band that happened to have Harry Potter songs. Not a Harry Potter band.
ELM: Gotcha. OK, all right, awesome.
FK: [laughing] As you can tell by the name “The Switchblade Kittens.” There were a lot of, like, pop-ish punk things going on at that time, I feel like punk really sort of embraced that.
PD: Yeah! Well, I just thought this is a part of Harry Potter’s character that’s not being explored anywhere, you know? And I was like, Harry Potter needs to…the original concept for the band was actually that Harry was the front person, like Henry Rollins style, this sort of Black Flag hardcore band, and Ron and Hermione were behind him and Hagrid on drums. So Ron, I don’t remember who played guitar and bass, Ron or Hermione. I don’t remember. But that was the original concept. [FK laughs] When it came down to actually executing the band, it was me and my younger brother and neither of us could pull off Ron or Hermione or Hagrid, so we just…the concept of the band is two Harry Potters from different points in time. [ELM & FK laugh] Performing together on stage.
FK: Hence they’re all Potters. All. Both.
PD: I should say, we get asked now hey what’s next for the band, and our new response to that is we’re actually recruiting an Albus Severus to kind of take over the front person duties, and just be like “Hey, these are songs my dad wrote a long time ago.” And then we'll just play the songs behind him and Albus Severus can sing them.
ELM: So you want Albus Severus, you don’t want James Sirius? Even though he seems a little more fun, let’s be honest.
PD: Um, OK, well, I haven’t been part of that discussion yet. [all laugh]
FK: Elizabeth has some major opinions about this.
ELM: I don’t know, I just think that the play didn’t really develop all the children characters very well.
FK: [laughing] OK OK OK OK OK! So! After Harry and the Potters…
PD: Moving on!
FK: What’d you do next?
PD: Well, a few years into the band, we got approached by a gentleman named Andrew Slack, who had this idea of using Harry Potter as sort of a gateway into activism. And his idea was to create an organization called the Harry Potter Alliance. And that instantly resonated with me, because I was seeing how important it was to kind of connect Harry Potter fans to different aspects of the books in different ways. At the time we’re in the mid-2000s, right, and we were writing songs that were kind of pointing the finger at the Bush administration to start getting political. We were writing songs like “Cornelius Fudge is an Ass” with really direct parallels to the Bush administration [ELM laughs] and we would talk about that from the stage. And I think that when Andrew came to us with the idea for the Harry Potter Alliance, we were like yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
We just kind of helped him, we were essentially the first PR arm of the Harry Potter Alliance where we were signal boosting bulletins on MySpace and we were basically recruiting members for them way back in 2005. It’s really, for me, one of my—it’s one of the things that makes me most proud is the sort of role I’ve played in helping to create that. Because now, 11 years in, we have just far bigger successes and bigger impacts, because of all the people who have contributed over those 11 years. It’s great. I’m so proud of everybody involved in that.
ELM: That’s awesome.
PD: And I think it’s a cool and amazing innovative thing within fandom, you know. I just haven’t seen anything like that replicated in other fandoms and certainly not of that magnitude. There’s been other sort of fan activist type activities, but nothing that’s been as long term and coherent.
FK: Right, and the Harry Potter Alliance has spread out past just Harry Potter and so have you, right?
PD: Yeah, so part of the thing we noticed about six or seven years ago was that Harry Potter fans were starting to get involved in other fandoms, obviously. They have other passions and as Harry Potter content slowed, they just started looking elsewhere. So we kind of started to identify the fandoms that people were most invested in, and started to talk to them about those fandoms as well. One of the really cool things Harry Potter Alliance has going on right now is their Fandom Forward project, which is creating these great educational resources for people who are looking to talk about social justice issues within other emerging fandoms like Steven Universe or Welcome to Night Vale or something like that. So those are some really cool projects that are going on right now.
And me personally? Yeah, Harry Potter’s still my number one. I’m still getting up in the morning and I flew to Philadelphia last week to play in a planetarium as part of a Harry Potter…it was a “Wizard School Night.” They were so nervous about the copyright stuff, but I was like “Guys, you can chill out on this.” [ELM laughs] Our band name is Harry and the Potters and we did that 14 years ago! So. Anyway. That was the HPA is this sort of nonpartisan side of my work, and…
ELM: All right, so you wanna talk partisan! Should we do it?
PD: I think we should probably do it. I don’t wanna get too bogged down in the backstory here. But.
ELM: Look, I wanted to hear all about Harry and the Potters cause Flourish knows this but you probably don’t, last year at GeekyCon I was dancing so enthusiastically at your show that my cell phone flew out of the pocket of my Harry Potter Hot Topic track jacket and so like half an hour later I went to reach for it, I was like “Where’s my phone?” It was halfway across the room and the screen was shattered. So that was your fault. It cost me $100.
PD: Oh, my fault! Well I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t have any insurance policy that covers that sort of property damage…
ELM: It’s OK. If it had been a boring show it wouldn’t have happened, so I guess it’s a roundabout compliment. So. [FK laughs]
PD: Yeah, that is a bummer.
ELM: [laughing] It’s OK! I got it fixed. OK. So let’s talk about the issue at hand.
ELM: Nerds For Her.
PD: Gettin’ partisan. Nerds For Her! I guess the quick backstory on this is in 2008 I started to experiment with partisan politics and fandom and I made some designs that were basically Wizards For Obama designs, and Gryffindors For Obama, just trying to capture where people were identifying. I was looking at Obama’s merchandise and not feeling like any of it was resonating with me, and felt like they were playing to certain constituencies and communities that I didn’t feel represented by. If you cruise to Hillary’s merchandise site, it’s like, Teachers For Hillary, or Labor For Hillary, or these other different very traditional constituencies, and I didn’t see that reflected in the communities I was a part of which is this great Harry Potter fan community. So I made a few little designs and put them up for sale on a print on demand site and sold a handful. It wasn’t anything major but I did see people putting up the little icons, that was like Ravenclaws For Obama.
So rolling into the 2012 election I tried to expand on that and to expand it to new fandoms and created a Nerds For Obama website, and a bunch of different designs. Still have the wizard stuff, but also was hitting some other different fandoms, like Nerdfighters, I had a few Doctor Who designs, Time Lords For Obama, just have a merchandise store and people were buying all sorts of the fandom swag I was making. One of my favorite things was selling a lot of merchandise to the campaign itself, where I kept getting orders from Obama offices in New Hampshire and Chicago…
PD: Yeah! I would always send them a whole stack of stickers, being like, just hand ’em out in the office, thanks for the work you’re doing.
ELM: Wait, were they ordering them so the workers in the offices could have them? Or was it like for their constituents?
PD: It was because they were fans!
ELM: That’s awesome.
PD: It was because the people working for the campaign were fans and I was making…I felt like I was making stuff that was resonating. It was cool to be making stuff that was resonating even inside the campaign.
ELM: For sure. Wait. So the money for these was going to the campaign? Is that how it works after you cover costs, or…?
PD: I didn’t have a PAC or anything. So I did end up [laughs] one of my favorite things is I ended up donating so much money that I was, I entered the high roller donation tier [all laugh] so now I get mail that’s like, “Hey, do you wanna donate $4000 to Hillary Clinton?” and I'm like “What?! What makes you think I have $4000?”
ELM: That’s in—
FK: Yeah, they think it because—
PD: I’m in that tier now!
ELM: Do you get invited to like dinners? Like, $2700 a plate or whatever?
PD: I did get to, I got to meet Barney Frank!
PD: Yeah, I’m from Massachusetts and I think Barney Frank—was he the first openly gay House member?
FK: I think so.
PD: I live in Lawrence, Kansas now, but he was doing just a fundraising cocktail party or something at some high-roller’s house in Kansas City and I got invited to it because I’d given so much money, so I was like “OK, cool, I’m gonna go meet Barney Frank, that’s great.” [all laugh] I was definitely the youngest and poorest-dressed person there, though. But I did bring a bunch of the Nerds For Obama merchandise and was just giving it out to people. I don’t think they got it, but.
ELM: That’s awesome. At some fancy politician…
FK: What a great story!
ELM: That’s really good.
FK: OK, so what are you doing for Hillary, this campaign? Cause…
FK: Clearly where we’re going.
PD: This is the most important thing. The most important part. Yes, so, I kinda kept thinking about what can I do in this campaign, what should I do, and I finally just started working at it, just to see sort of what would happen. As we’re talking now I haven’t launched it yet, but it will be launched by the time it comes out, which is NerdsForHer.com, and that’s the name of the campaign this year, Nerds For Her. Cause I really like that branding, that the Hillary campaign has, that I’m With Her. I feel like that’s one of the more inspiring slogans, catchphrases, I like “catchphrase” better than “slogan.”
So it’s Nerds For Her and I spent about a month working on different designs that were connecting fandoms to sort of Hillary’s graphic identity and branding, she was a little harder to work with than Obama from a design perspective, he had a really nice open logo and she’s got an H with an arrow. Which is, uh, a little bit more challenging, but it was also really fun to be working on these designs and I was trying to just design for a lot of the larger and more active contemporary fandoms that we’re looking at in this election cycle, so Star Wars, Harry Potter obviously, what else do we have up there? Hamilton, I felt like the most effective designs I was creating were ones that kind of spoke to the different fandoms in unique ways. I think one of my favorite ones is the Steven Universe design I did which is the big old yellow star on that hot pink kind of shirt, or red…red shirt? I don’t know. I’m color blind, which is definitely a challenge when you’re…
ELM: Wait really? You made all those things color blind?!
PD: Thanks. It sounds like such an accomplishment when you say it that way.
ELM: I don’t know! Are you super color blind, or…?
PD: It’s more like when I was designing the Star Wars logo, the Star Wars design has the Rebel crest on it, and the Rebel crest is orange, right? And it’s on grey. And when I picked the orange I picked more of a red. And I sent it to a friend and she’s like, “Did you want this to be orange?” And I was like, “Yeah. Could you send me back a color that’s orange?” [laughs] “No problem.”
ELM: All your designs look great from a color perspective I’d say, so.
FK: They do.
PD: Great! Oh, that’s a relief. That’s a real relief. You have any favorites there?
ELM: Well, I’m very interested in the Wizards For Her shirt. Flourish, I know there was one that you liked?
FK: Yeah, I really liked the Star Wars one.
PD: Oh, cool!
FK: Yeah, More Heroines! But you mentioned that you were gonna think about the possibility of the X-files, which is, I mean, not as major as some of these but has a lot of old fans, and also has recently come back into public consciousness. That would be awesome.
PD: Well, and the reason we brought up X-files is cause we were talking about Hillary’s passion for UFOs.
ELM: Right! Exactly. So is there any more appropriate fandom.
FK: No there is not.
PD: Yeah, it’s true. And that’s part of the fun of this campaign, is I want it to sort of connect Hillary to the fandoms in ways that feel really true, and authentic to what the fan experience is, or what the dialogues are happening, and honestly X-files maybe makes more sense than any one at the moment given Hillary’s passion for UFOs and…
ELM: Popularity in the 90s?
PD: Freaky monster world?
FK: I actually also think that Hillary and Scully have a lot in common in a lot of ways, you know that Scully wouldn’t…I’m not sure whether or not Hillary is exactly a fan of anything, but Scully wouldn’t be either. That doesn’t really matter. I mean, maybe a little bit, but…
ELM: Hillary is a fan of UFOs, Flourish. I don’t…what are you talking about. She genuinely likes UFOs. She’s also a fan of hot peppers.
FK: Oh, I knew that! I knew that.
ELM: And I’m sure she likes other stuff. But those are two things I know.
PD: Those are two things Hillary definitely likes.
FK: You guys saw the hot sauce in her bag thing, of course.
ELM: What do you mean, the hot sauce in her bag thing?
FK: Where someone asked her right after Lemonade came out, they were doing the thing that women’s magazines do where they’re like “What’s in your purse,” and she was listing all the things in her purse and she said “hot sauce,” and they were like “Ooh pandering, pandering, pandering!” And then the internet was like…
ELM: For clarification to the black community.
FK: Exactly, to the black community, and then the internet was like, “Guys, Hillary Clinton is on record as far back as she’s ever been in the public eye talking about how much she loves hot sauce, she keeps like 50 hot sauces in her office, she’s done this since 1994…”
ELM: She grew hot peppers in the White House garden or whatever, pictures of her lovingly touching the peppers [laughs] it’s like, oh!
FK: And then someone pointed out this is the most emblematic thing of Hillary Clinton forever is that she’s actually been doing it since 40 years ago, but nobody noticed and now when she mentions it she’s accused of pandering. About anything.
ELM: All right, to be fair—and I’m on Team Hillary here so I'm not trying to throw her under the bus—it was also the most emblematic because she made it worse, because I don’t know if you saw this, but she was on a black radio show and they were like “Come on, isn’t that pandering?” and she was like “Is it working?” And it’s like “HILLARY NO NO NO NO NO don’t,” like—
FK: Don’t make that joke!
ELM: Be like “No! No! I like hot sauce!” Don’t be like, “Ha ha ha, pandering is so funny.” You know. So to be fair…
FK: But oh man, that makes me feel so bad for her. I’m like…oh God, that’s about…you can’t make that joke, Hillary. That’s not a joke you can make.
ELM: OK, so she’s our problematic fave. So this is a thing though, and Paul, you and I were talking about this the other day when you told me about the campaign, the enthusiasm gap, the idea that people are voting against Donald Trump rather than for Hillary, seems to be one of the problems at hand, right?
PD: Yeah, definitely. I see it in my own friends circle, and I feel like when I look back at the 2012 campaign, it was a completely different campaign when you looked at how people under 40 were approaching it and what they were talking about and in relation to the candidates, and there was… there’s always been, Obama’s a cool candidate. He’s easy to get behind. And when he does pander to fan constituencies, it’s not read as pandering, it’s read as “Oh, Obama likes what I like, that’s cool!” versus Hillary which is like, “Oh, she’s just pandering.”
PD: It’s just like, Obama’s better at pandering! Cause Obama doesn’t have time to watch Star Trek. Come on! The dude just loves reading Lincoln biographies! [all laugh] That’s his jam!
ELM: In his mom jeans, you know.
PD: Which is fine! Which is fine. I honestly would rather the president be reading history and educating themselves on policy than watching Star Trek. You know? Take a break and watch some Star Trek, but I don’t want you to have that really amazing fan knowledge that only comes with dedicating a significant part of your life to watching Star Trek. Because then you might not know what to do when it comes to [all laugh] you know foreign policy in the Middle East or something.
ELM: I mean come on. You could get a lot of good knowledge out of Star Trek, right?
PD: No, I totally agree, I think it’s one of the best places to go for diplomatic relations, but all the same.
FK: I think this is definitely a really good point that you make, I think about the letter that Hillary wrote for The Toast, right? The last thing on The Toast was a letter from Hillary Clinton. And the initial reaction that everybody had, myself included, was “Is this what being pandered to feels like? I love it! Pander to me more!” Except why should that be your first reaction? Actually that’s one of the things I think it’s most likely that Hillary Clinton had someone send her a Toast article and she laughed at it. That seems like a legitimate thing you would send to your mom, or you know, like…that’s so funny. Why do we automatically assume, instantaneously, that this is purely pandering? It is, maybe, but like, eh?
ELM: Because people have never been able to treat her as a human for the entire time, you know I thought that that Humans Of New York—I don't know if everyone saw it, conversation with her, though I have my troubles with HONY in general, but I thought this was really well done, where she was talking about the barriers she’s had to put up over the years. And I think we also as a collective society, I don’t know, makes me sad. So I was talking about this with Paul the other day and everything I said was like, “Yeah it sucks and sexism. And everything’s terrible.”
PD: Well, I think about that every day as I’ve been working on this, which is that Hillary’s been a public figure, a national public figure, for 25 years. How has a sexist and patriarchal society shaped my view of her? At a very base level. I think it’s played a huge, huge role, and she doesn’t get the same fair look that other candidates get. She’s looked at under a completely different lens. And that’s something I think a lot of people sort of need to reconcile and examine, which is, she’s been treated really poorly in the media, and unfairly. And all of that is coming to a head right now, because she’s running for President. And it’s tough to get beyond that. It’s tough to know in 25 years of history, what’s real and what's not. It’s all added up to just a cultural perception of Hillary as something.
ELM: Well, I mean, I’m pretty sure she didn’t murder that dude and bury him in the White House lawn.
PD: [laughing] Yeah!
ELM: I can say that!
FK: It’s also tough because sometimes there's things that are real issues, but that are inextricable from the sexism. Things like, Hillary Clinton can be secretive, and that's true. I think that’s absolutely true, I think she would rather not tell people that she has pneumonia, or would rather just not have those things be out there. And I think that it’s a valid complaint to feel like “Oh, I wish that, I would like a president to be transparent about certain things, I’d like all this,” but you also can’t either divide that from sexism in the sense of how much do we ask other people to be transparent who are not her, and you can’t divide it from sexism in that how much have our actions, and by
“our” I mean sort of the world, the press, everything, how much has the way people treat her led her to be this way. And I find that really tough. It’s frustrating, because it’s like, the two things can’t be separated from each other.
ELM: Well, I just rewatched the episode of Parks and Rec where Leslie is really sick in the hospital, do you guys remember this episode? And she steals everyone’s flu medication, she takes like six doses so she can go to her press conference, and she’s just like, she’s just completely whacked out on this medication. They’re like “No no you can’t talk in front of people!” And the second she stands on the podium, she morphs into normal Leslie, and then the second she finishes, she’s just saying completely ridiculous words again. So it’s like that! She really wants to get out there and give those speeches. Make her binders.
PD: It is like that, it is like that. One of the things I was struggling with was I wasn’t cheerful about this election, you know. It’s a hard election to watch for a wide variety of reasons, but I did start to feel a lot better about it when I started working on it. When I started feeling like “OK, I can play a role here in this election.” And I can have a voice and I can use my talents. I basically was thinking, “What is the thing that I am most capable of doing between now and the election that would maybe have the biggest impact?” My history is for the past 10 years is really organizing inside of fan spaces, so that's why I went this route. I want that to be a place where people can feel like it’s an opportunity to be positive and to make positive contributions to this campaign. And that’s kinda my goal here, is to maybe give fans more of a way to engage with the campaign.
And let me just say, this is not a part of Hillary’s campaign. I’m an individual just working for a candidate I believe in, and for a cause I believe in. It’s not a Super PAC, it’s not part of Hillary’s campaign, you know? It’s just a guy. Just a guy.
ELM: Who wants to stop the apocalypse. [FK laughs]
PD: And that puts the real sort of epic fan spin on it!
ELM: I mean absolutely! You gotta stop Voldemort.
PD: Just Dumbledore’s Army here.
FK: It does feel a little bit like if Donald Trump is elected then the murder festival begins.
ELM: Thank you. That’s cheerful.
PD: [laughing] The murder festival! All right.
FK: I don’t know! I don't know what’s gonna happen!
PD: That’s…a legitimate concern.
ELM: I think there’s gonna be a murder festival either way. We’re just a garbage country.
FK: Wow, thanks for taking it into “we can’t help anything.”
ELM: …terrible racists…IT’S FINE, IT’S FINE, THAT’S FINE.
FK: So on that note… [laughs] So you felt better after you started actively working for Hillary. And I get the impression that you want other people to do the same thing and you’re trying to organize other people into doing the same thing.
PD: Yeah! That’s the goal here. I think fans represent a large untapped wellspring of enthusiasm and a significant voting bloc, honestly. I think that there’s a lot of power that fans have that maybe they don’t realize, but certain people within fandom play the roles of influencers—and that can come in many, many different shapes and forms, fan artists can create captivating imagery that really resonates with people and changes how people feel about things, you know? I keep coming back to these representations of Hermione as black, and just thinking about how that's very rapidly shaped fan culture and people's attitudes over the last couple of years. To the point where we’ve got a black Hermione for real! You know? There’s real impact from just simple things.
Basically, I think there’s a lot that fans can do with regard to this election, and I don’t want them to feel disempowered, I want them to feel empowered to do things and make change here. So yeah. Open call! Open call here for fan activists to rally round Hillary. And I have some ideas, I’m sure you guys have ideas. You’re fan experts! What have you seen that’s effective in this sphere over the past few years? What changes people’s attitudes, what changes their hearts and minds?
ELM: Hm. Well, I think writing—
PD: Doing a little recon.
ELM: —like an inflammatory Tumblr post that calls people out and makes people angry and creates a wankstorm is definitely the way to change hearts and minds. [all laugh] That’s sarcasm. That was sarcasm. It’s the opposite of the way.
FK: So I’m gonna be a little bit inflammatory here and I’m gonna say that one of the things that people have trouble with is the way that they think about Hillary Clinton as a person. Telling a story about her, what story do you tell yourself about her? How do you understand her as a person? There’s something very real person fiction about the way that candidates get constituted in people’s minds; just look at Southside With You, the Obama movie that’s all about Barack and Michelle’s first date. Right?
ELM: I would love to see a movie about the early courtship of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
FK: That would be hilarious.
ELM: Those pictures, they rocked my world. Can we get that movie into production?
PD: We got five weeks till the election!
ELM: Do we have time to make that happen?! I would like to see this regardless. Did you guys see Primary Colors?
FK: I read the book, too!
ELM: Paul, you should watch Primary Colors, because that’s actually…I’m 31, I have a vague sense of Hillary as this kind of…I don’t use the word “bitch,” but I had this 90s media conception of her just through osmosis. My parents never had any strong feelings about her as far as I know. And I remember watching Primary Colors probably like 10 years ago, and Emma Thompson plays the Hillary Clinton figure, and…
ELM: I remember always thinking too, when Monica Lewinsky, when that was going down I was like in eighth grade, and I was just…I didn’t have any sympathy for Hillary then.
ELM: I was a 13-year-old, so I don’t even know what I was thinking about, but I wasn’t…and I remember—
FK: She was not on the radar, yeah.
ELM: And when I should have been thinking a lot about both Monica and Hillary and not giving—who cares about Bill, he’s awful. I was like “HE’S JUST CHARMING.” But watching Primary Colors and watching, Flourish you feel the same way? That Emma Thompson really really humanized her and made me understand her position.
FK: I actually think people should watch Primary Colors, maybe that’s part of this, is that people should watch or read Primary Colors cause yeah, it humanizes her, it doesn’t try to make her like—she’s not nobler than anybody, but humanizing, yeah.
ELM: You see her disappointment with who he is and her disappointment in what their relationship is, and you see her closing herself off. Very visibly. Because as public, we never actually get to see that. We don’t get to see her. She’s already closed by the time we see her. So. But that is like real person fiction, right?
FK: And that’s something that fanfic is so good about! Is looking at anybody who’s closed off or who we don’t get to see behind it. In fanfic we want to find out what’s going on with them, right? But for whatever reason, most people I feel like don’t look at Hillary past that closed-offed-ness. They don’t think or empathize past that, and I think that that’s something that as fans we can be really good at.
PD: Yeah, absolutely! Is it Henry Jenkins who says something to the effect of “fandom and fanworks can connect some of the missing dots,” or things like that, when it comes to stories? I mean, with Hillary, she’s got a bad narrative. That everybody, that’s the narrative everybody knows. And there’s a whole number of reasons for that, some of them are her own fault. But a lot of them are society’s, and I think that fans can think more creatively about how can we correct that narrative? And give Hillary more of a fair shake? You know? And I think there are ways to do that. I don’t know what they are, but I believe there are ways to do that.
ELM: You came here for guidance and all we offer you is you should watch a movie starring John Travolta. So… [FK laughs] It’s fine.
FK: Or you can read the book if you don’t wanna look at John Travolta's face! You can read the book but…
ELM: I think that he's a great Bill. I think he does a great job. That movie just haunts me.
FK: He’s actually great casting for Bill Clinton.
ELM: I would watch it again right now. Kathy Bates?!
FK: We should! We should watch it again.
ELM: We should, we should!
PD: All right, homework for everybody!
ELM: That’s right. OK, so aside from watching Primary Colors what can people actually do? What are the inroads to what you’re doing now, aside from buying all your t-shirts, which I’m gonna do?
PD: OK, well, I appreciate that, it would be great for me to make back [laughing] the many many thousands of dollars I spent creating Hillary swag, hoping that there’s a market for it! But, um, it’s fine if that ends up being my donation to her campaign. I’ll get over it. But yeah, I mean, I do want to help people who think they can contribute, and I wanna open up ways for people to maybe contribute and so there’s a couple things that have kinda been around in my mind about where fans can help.
One of them, for instance, is a project of a Super PAC who got in touch with me because they knew I was organizing fans, it’s called the Not Who We Are, and they’re all about getting open letters from different unconventional communities of people to say “Donald Trump does not represent our values as a community.”
So they’re having people write these open letters, and they’re gonna take those open letters and really signal boost them. They’re gonna spend money on Facebook to circulate them and hopefully get them shared into the mainstream, because it’s somewhat of a novelty when you can say "”Harry Potter fans say that Donald Trump is not their guy!” or "”Marvel fans say Donald Trump doesn’t represent our values!” And so they think they can get a lot of attention in the mainstream with some of these, and I guess if any fans are interested in writing letters for their own fandoms, we’re definitely looking to get some more of these letters written from different fandoms. I've already tapped a couple people to do, like, Harry Potter and Star Wars and Elizabeth, maybe you’re even writing one? We’ll talk about that offline.
ELM: That’s right. That’s right. Pan-fandom, I think. We talk a lot on this podcast and with a lot of transformative fans about, we obviously all have our problems and biases and the discourse continues, but I think on a whole people in fanfiction, fanart, that community are pretty liberal, and are pretty interested in progressive change.
FK: If not before, it certainly goes back to Star Trek, right? The IDIC. Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combination. Being a Vulcan ideal. Right? I hope it’s Vulcan because if it’s not I’m gonna be real embarrassed in about two minutes.
ELM: You just started so impressively nerdy, and then you walked it back so fast that I’m really disappointed. Just own it.
FK: Just a second! I’m confirming it. Yes, thank you! It is the basis of Vulcan philosophy. Thank God. [all laugh]
PD: That's not an error you wanna make, right? On a podcast of fansplaining.
FK: It’s really not an error I wanna make.
ELM: Shameful. So open letters. Hopefully by the time this airs I’ll have written one.
PD: That’s great. Beyond that, so one of the things I did was created all this branding, I wanna make it available to people who don’t wanna spend 20 bucks on a t-shirt or buttons or stickers, so there are all the graphics are online, so if you wanna just switch out your Facebook banner or profile pic or whatever, there’s graphics you can grab and use for free. I kind of equate them to our social media yard signs, essentially. That’s our digital yard. Most of us don’t own homes, right? We live in apartment buildings. We can’t afford homes, because of a whole lot of reasons. But yeah, that’s our digital real estate, so…leverage that for the candidate you believe will not destroy our republic! And let’s see, what else. [all laugh]
I guess there’s a couple other places, I don’t know, there’s a few conventions coming up if anybody wants to street team at those conventions and help get buttons and stickers into visible spaces, let me know. I’ll send a box of merch your way. If anybody wants to donate money so I can create boxes of merch to give away, I’ll also take those donations [laughs]. You can email me at nerdsforher@gmail or just pauldegeorge@gmail. Either one. I also, I just want fans to think creatively about what they can do, like what can the fanfiction community do to help push the selection towards Hillary? What can fan artists do? I wanna recruit fan artists to make captivating imagery that will resonate with people.
FK: [gasps] Can we please draw Hillary in every fandom? I want positive images of her!
ELM: As the commander on an Enterprise starship?
FK: Can we have her in, like, a Jaeger?
ELM: What’s a Jaeger?
FK: Drift compatible. You know. Um.
ELM: OH! You mean Pacific Rim.
FK: The giant mechs. Pacific Rim.
PD: That's the stuff we need! On the starship Enterprise, that’s easy! You've seen that image of Hillary in her suits that make her look like a Federation officer, essentially?
ELM: Yes, yes!
PD: Ahh, I love that one so much! That’s maybe my favorite imagery. Nerdy imagery.
ELM: Hillary with Force Awakens-era General Leia, I would like to see. [FK gasps] Yeah. I’m just giving some prompts.
FK: Just spitballing.
ELM: Our favorite artist Maia drew fanart of us, and that made me have better feelings about us and our narrative [FK laughs] so I’m just saying if any fan artist wants to go there…
PD: Yes! We’re recruiting!
ELM: OK! So, everyone has their mission, we need to make this happen, fans are really loud and love organizing, so I think we should just commit to this.
FK: Let’s do it.
PD: Yeah! Let’s do it! Hashtag activists too, we want them! But yeah, if anybody, honestly I’m so wide open to creative ideas, and if anybody wants to email me nerdsforher@gmail, and we can talk about them and I’ll work with people to help them make their ideas reality, whatever I can do, I’m basically full time on this for the next six weeks. You know? For all I can do to make sure that we...[laughs] oh God. Yeah.
ELM: Don’t even, don’t say it. Don’t say it.
PD: I can’t fathom it. It’s unfathomable. It’s unfathomable. This is a real Dumbledore’s Army moment here. This is a Dumbledore’s Army moment here, guys, where there’s no alternative. The entire Wizarding World has to come together right now to fight Voldemort. And it doesn’t matter, yeah, maybe you don't agree 100% with the strategies, but—
ELM: Of Harry.
PD: You have to get over that.
ELM: Harry's a complicated figure. No one’s perfect.
FK: He is. He’s a jock…
PD: Nobody’s perfect.
ELM: He’s a sportsball-loving trust fund cop who married his high school sweetheart. Not gonna let that one go.
FK: But we can deal with that.
PD: I know.
FK: For the sake of beating Voldemort.
PD: Yeah, we talked about that a couple days ago, Elizabeth, and that’s really stuck with me, and I’ve been thinking about that [ELM laughs] and about my role as a Harry Potter. A professional Harry Potter impersonator.
ELM: Yeah, are you impersonating the ultimate establishment figure?
FK: Do you get to write that on your tax forms?
ELM: Professional Harry Potter impersonator?
PD: Yeah, um, that’s not exactly a legitimate USA tax code. They don’t have a category for that specifically. [all laugh] But.
ELM: Awesome. OK. Thank you so much for coming on and thank you for doing this, honestly, I just feel like…just opening the door for enthusiasm, I think, is really positive. A force for good, you know? Just letting people get excited about this.
PD: Thanks. It’s helped me, you know, on a personal level, so…I hope that other people will feel that same way when they see stuff or start to get involved. So thanks for having me on.
FK: We’re really excited to support you and it was wonderful to have you.
ELM: Good luck!
PD: Thank you.
FK: It was so great getting to talk to Paul and it was so sweet of him to let us use Harry and the Potters songs for all of our interstitial music.
ELM: Absolutely, thank you so much. Do you feel comforted?
FK: I don’t know if I feel entirely comforted, I’m still scared of this election, but I do feel like I have been informed of a new retail opportunity that I will be taking advantage of and I also feel like I came to some clarity about how to sort of adjust my—at least my own thinking about Hillary and what her narrative is and feel more positively.
ELM: Just watching Primary Colors.
FK: Yeah, basically.
ELM: I really—that’s all it took for me. Well, it’s funny to think about, because in the 2008 election I was very pro-Obama and I remember being mad at her, like, “Why are you doing this?”
FK: I nearly shanked my own mother, my mom listens to this, I’m sorry mom, but—
FK: She was super pro-Hillary and we had some fights, man.
ELM: I don’t know, maybe this is just now we’re the old people.
FK: Oh, maybe.
ELM: It’s fine, it doesn’t matter, it’s Hillary versus apocalyptic clowns—
FK: Lord Voldemort.
ELM: No, Voldemort is better than Donald Trump.
FK: [makes doubtful noises] Yeah, what villain is bad enough.
ELM: I don’t know. So upsetting. No, I genuinely feel like I really like the idea of—you feel very powerless, right? And especially, I’ve never lived in a state where I felt like my vote counted a lot. Obviously all of us have to vote for the liberal candidate together for it to count, but I don’t know. I have—should I talk about them? I have racist relatives I see on Facebook who I don’t, I’m not gonna call them up and be like “Let me explain to you why you should,” you know, because it’s useless, right. I’ve seen their rhetoric, they’ve swallowed it hook line and sinker, so I feel like—what can I do? All my friends are voting for the same person as me.
FK: So I’m not sure that I was the one who convinced them, but most of my Republican relatives are voting for the Libertarian candidate, so I'm pretty pleased about that.
ELM: The people I'm thinking about in particular are like, legit, they’re pro-Trump. They’re those people.
FK: Mm. That’s hard.
ELM: So it’s like, they love what he's selling. They’re not like “Oh, I guess that guy.” They're like—
FK: Admittedly I have a couple of people who I have muted on Facebook so hard that I actually don’t know who they support in this election.
ELM: All right. So, maybe we can help with these people? But I don’t know. It’s just hard to feel proactive. Obviously we could go fly to Ohio and knock on some doors, but…this is all so more accessible with my limited resources.
FK: Well, there’s a get out the vote aspect of it too. I know that sometimes in the past, especially for local elections, I have not voted. I’ve hit all the presidential ones, but in local elections sometimes it’s like “Ehhhh.” You know? Ehh.
ELM: Yeah, I don’t actually vote in local elections.
FK: Right, even though that’s where policy is really made.
ELM: In my neighborhood?
FK: Yeah! In your neighborhood!
ELM: Only policy in my neighborhood is hummus and working fireplaces.
FK: [laughs] Yeah…
ELM: Pro-hummus, pro-working fireplaces.
FK: All right, well anyway, that is something that we can do so let this serve as a reminder to everybody that they ought to be voting, if nothing else. Who is in the United States. And if you’re not in the United States, tell your friends to register to vote and to vote.
ELM: Yes please! OK, so we’d love to know your politics thoughts, I mean, within reason. If you like Donald Trump I don’t really wanna hear from you. Is that bad? [FK snickers] You can do whatever you want, but don’t. He’s racist.
FK: OK, but we should talk about some other stuff too for the podcast. We have more business on the plate, in addition to politics.
ELM: So putting politics aside, God help us all, over the next month and a bit, things that aren’t terrifying…
FK: Well, things that are a little terrifying: fanfiction tropes!
ELM: You find that terrifying?
FK: Not the way Donald Trump is, but…
ELM: What do you find terrifying about fanfiction tropes?
FK: There are so many. So many.
ELM: So here’s the context. Before our last episode, where we talked to Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, my newsletter partner, about fanfiction recs, to drum up some interest, Flourish asked on our various social media platforms what people’s favorite and least favorite tropes were.
FK: And we got a response which was great, lots of people said things, but not that many people in the grand scheme of things.
ELM: Maybe 70 people, I think you said?
FK: Yeah, there were a lot of responses actually when I went and counted them all up.
ELM: But you know, with the limits of one tweet or a couple tweets and a couple Tumblr posts, and it was actually very very easy to see influencers influencing.
FK: Yeah, because somebody would say “I love amnesia!” and then like 15 people would be like “me too!” Yeah, they follow you because you all like amnesia!
ELM: I was demoralized because I felt like everyone was all “I love fluff and I hate angst and miscommunication,” everyone hated miscommunication. And then—
FK: But actually, what’s ironic is that not many people said they loved fluff.
ELM: They didn’t say they loved fluff, they just said they didn’t like angst.
ELM: On Twitter. This is on Twitter.
FK: Yeah yeah yeah.
ELM: So then when it went to Tumblr and certain people on Tumblr reblogged it, and people were like “DARK THINGS,” and it was like “OK. It’s just one crowd that you were in before.”
FK: Right. Yeah. So that had its limitations, and we made it into a pretty professional looking—if you glance at it out of the corner of your eye—but not actually very professional pie chart? [laughs] And then that was being received by a lot of people as being maybe more unbiased and valuable than it is.
ELM: Oh my God. Some of these responses are like, “Oh my God! I must be doing the wrong thing.” OK, first of all, really, do what you wanna do. Right?
FK: Right. But also…
ELM: If your fave is not the most, everyone else's fave, you’re not doing anything wrong. Right?
ELM: Fanfiction is supposed to be what you want.
FK: But in addition, even if you did feel that way, even if you do feel the need to fit in with the crowd, this was a crowd of like 70 people who were completely selected out of folks who already are connected in some way to Fansplaining. It just…don’t trust it. So what we wanna do is make one that you can trust!
ELM: Yes. Yes.
FK: So we have put together a much more comprehensive survey and we are promoting it in a much wider way and a more serious and devoted way, reaching out to people to share it, et cetera, and you should take it! You should fill it out and tell us what tropes you like, dislike, feel meh about…and which ones you don’t know what the hell they are!
ELM: Right. They’re a mix of tropes and I guess we call them tropes and themes, because “trope,” I think of things like “fake relationship,” which was the clear winner of our survey, our small survey, or like “one hotel room left,” or [FK giggles] what are some ones that are real tropey?
FK: One hotel room left is pretty goddamn tropey.
ELM: It’s stuff like that that I think is really tropey. Or like…
FK: Sex pollen?
ELM: Or your hands are stuck together or something, you’re in handcuffs or something.
FK: But then also things about, I’m thinking about all of the really tropey relationships where you’ve got somebody who needs to be protected, woobification…
ELM: Hurt/comfort. Or everyone knows they’re dating but them, that’s very tropey too.
FK: OH! Yeah!
ELM: So, there’s that and then we also have a big list of popular AUs, like high school AU and, you know. All those things that I don’t like personally.
FK: Coffee shop AU. Historical AUs of various sorts, although we actually lump them all together cause otherwise it would be literally the longest survey you’ve ever taken.
ELM: Well, I only like historical AU set in 1933, not in 1932, Flourish.
FK: God dammit! [both laugh]
ELM: So, and then there’s themes, so it’s like, not just however you want to define trope. You could say the whole thing is themes or common things that you see in fanfiction.
FK: Right, so “what do you like in fanfic” is the point.
ELM: And we didn’t go deep into the kink side of things because I think that can start to turn into a different survey essentially, where it’s about kink?
FK: Yeah, totally. It was hard to know when to draw a line, to be like, well, BDSM is not a trope…
ELM: And not necessarily a kink either! It’s often a lifestyle.
FK: Right, and OK, do we want to include particular sexual acts? Eh. I don’t know.
ELM: So we steered clear of that, we didn’t include things that were specifically identity-based, because those are just about people’s lives, they're not necessarily a fanfiction theme.
FK: So we didn’t include things like a story in which a character transitions, because that’s not really a trope so much…
ELM: Or, I don’t think—
FK: Or even a theme. Anyway, whatever, you can—there’s also a spot where you can tell us what you think about the survey, so you should go and fill it out.
ELM: We’re open to feedback.
FK: Give us feedback!
ELM: We just wanted to explain some of our thinking and how we came up with the list.
FK: And you should definitely take it because if you don’t take it, and then the things that you hate turn out to be the things that everybody else loves, you’ll be kicking yourself.
ELM: That’s true. And one last thing: I know and we have a note about this, but people will be like, “Well, I only like coffee shop AUs when it’s in the Teen Wolf fandom,” or something. And it’s like, OK. We can’t do anything with that very specific data. Or even more they’ll be like, “I only like coffeeshop AU if blank writes it,” one person.
FK: And we know and respect that people have those preferences!
ELM: You just gotta go for it. You gotta go I like it, I don’t like it, I don’t care.
FK: Right. Because otherwise we’re never gonna be able to get a data set that we can actually present to you in any kind of form that you can understand. It’ll just be a bunch of different very specific preferences which is great, you should have them, but not better for the larger data set.
ELM: And don’t overthink it. Before we had “love and hate” but it’s like. no. Thumbs up, thumbs down, thumbs in between, you know? So.
FK: Eh, eh, eh.
ELM: Flourish that was useless. [FK laughs] She just made the thumbs up, middle and down and only I could see that.
FK: And another thing that we should mention while we’re talking about this is, just obviously all of this takes a huge amount of time to do. I can’t express to you how much I’ve pissed off my family and foregone other work options in order to put this survey together, and I know that Elizabeth has done the same thing, so as always, if you wanna support the work that we’re doing, you should consider giving to our Patreon.
ELM: And if you didn’t hear our previous episode, we should mention that our cover was our first commission by Maia Kobabe, who is our favorite artist. And so we used some of the Patreon money that’s been coming in for that. We’re also able to pay our friend Sam to pick up transcription duties, which frees up Flourish who’s been typing away with one finger at a time all these years. [both laugh]
FK: But no, more or less that’s realistically why we’re able to do this tropes survey, because Sam was able to transcribe this past episode and that gave me more time to think about how to engage people and talk about tropes and do all this cool stuff. So it’s a direct result of our Patreon and thank you to everyone who’s donated and let’s keep it coming in!
ELM: All right, so if you are interested and you haven’t donated, it’s patreon.com/fansplaining, and you can check out there’s different, you can pledge as little as $1-a-month, there’s different reward levels, if you do I think it’s $3-a-month you get access to special episodes that we do occasionally, $2 you get early access—which we finally have working now properly, so thank you for your patience on that, so you get the episode a full day early, and if you have $10-a-month to spare, you get a tiny zine.
FK: Yeah! And the first round of tiny zines will be coming out in a couple of months. So that's pretty exciting! You know you want one!
ELM: So tiny!
FK: So cute! OK. I think that’s it! Do we have anything else to talk about?
ELM: Go Hillary!
FK: Go Hillary!
ELM: Like, really, crossing my fingers. You’re gonna go write that fanfiction, I’m gonna go write that open letter.
FK: All right.
FK: I’ll talk to you later, Elizabeth.
ELM: OK, bye Flourish!
FK & ELM: This episode of Fansplaining is brought to you by Elliot Byrom, Christopher Dwyer, MCF, Chloe-Leonna Steele, Clare Muston, Christian Gossett, Menlo Steve, AR, Katherine Lynn, Clare Mulligan, Heidi Tandy, Megan C., Maria Temming, Anne Jamison, Jay Bushman, Lucas Medeiros, Bradlea Raga-Barone, Jules Chatelain, Jenna Hale, Georgina, and in honor of Jacob Sanders and One Direction. Thank you again to Harry & the Potters, Joe and Paul DeGeorge, for providing this music for the podcast.
FK: The opinions expressed in this podcast are not those of Chimera Media Group, Chaotic Good, or our clients, or employers, or anyone’s except our own.