Episode 34: Five Tropes Fanfic Readers Love (And One They Hate)

Episode 34’s cover: a tag cloud from the Archive Of Our Own.

Flourish and Elizabeth devote most of the hour to further discussion of the Fansplaining Fic Preferences Survey, where more than 7,500 readers weighed on 144 fanfic tropes and themes. They talk about the purpose of the survey, the choices they made while designing it, some conclusions about the results, and incorporate reader feedback, from long-form responses to a list of tropes the original survey overlooked. They also share a preview of a special episode for Patreon supporters, about the 1998 film Primary Colors.


Show Notes

[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel” by Stefsax.


An animated gif of Hillary Clinton smiling and saying “Woo! Okay!”

[00:00:44] The Medium post in which we discuss the full results! And, the questions we asked! And, the full results!

[00:06:44] The actual results in question:

A bar graph illustrating that respondents said they read (in order from most to least): M/M, M/F, Gen, F/F, Poly Ships, and Ships With Nonbinary Characters.
Mulder and Krycek, from  The X-files,  Photoshopped to appear as two centaurs, complete with bows, arrows, long mane-like hair, and jewelry.

[00:18:07] Interstitial music: “Show Me (Instrumental)” by Josh Woodward

[00:25:00] People asked about a lot of things! Here’s the full list.

[00:28:56] The J2 (Jared Padalecki/Jensen Ackles) Notting Hill AU Flourish is talking about is Star Struck by Fayjay. And the Torchwood movie fic fest Elizabeth mentioned is Reel Torchwood!

[00:29:53] The Harry Potter political story Elizabeth is talking about is “We Are Young (I’ll Carry You Home Tonight)” by Femme (femmequixotic).

[00:30:42] If you really have to read about Draco Malfoy, cock critiquer, the story is “The Critiquer” by dysonrules. Yep.

[00:37:47] Interstitial music: still “Show Me (Instrumental)” by Josh Woodward

[00:39:57] The slow burn fic Flourish has read 50,000 times is The Student Prince by FayJay. It also has a really good podfic version

[00:42:13] The results in question:

A bar chart showing the types of fics respondents said “Yay!” to. In order from most to least: Fluff, Angst, PWP (Porn Without Plot), Crack, and Darkfic. The drop off is significant—about 1/3 the respondents said “Yay” to Darkfic as compared to the number that said “Yay” to Fluff.
The Guy Fawkes mask from  V for Vendetta  hanging ominously in a black void.


[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Minkel: Ooh, hi Flourish! Nice shimmy!

FK: What? The shimmy! The shimmy. Yeah shimmy.

ELM: It’s a Hillary shimmy.

FK: [laughing] Hillary shimmy. Welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for and about fandom. Episode…what episode is it?

ELM: 34, I believe.

FK: And what’s the title?

ELM: The title is…I came up with this title, I’m taking full credit.

FK: You should!

ELM: “Five Tropes Fanfic Readers Love (And One They Hate).” Which, you guys get the joke, right?

FK: [laughs] I had to explain to somebody on Facebook who really shoulda known better.

ELM: Really? Someone who knows fanfiction?

FK: They legitimately said “despite the Buzzfeed-style title” and I was like, “Ahh!” I made such a disappointed face. It's OK, it's OK, I still love you!

ELM: I, my jaw literally dropped that someone would think that’s a Buzzfeed title.

FK: I know.

ELM: Wow. So people already know this title, because it is the title that I came up with for your Medium post about the results of our fanfiction tropes survey.

FK: Although it was really kind of both of our Medium post, because the once you were done editing it, it was 100% better.

ELM: I had a lot of comments. It was a deep edit.

FK: A lot of the ideas in there are yours. So.

ELM: All the bad ones are yours though.

FK: That’s totally how it works, Elizabeth.

ELM: You know the part where you were like, apologizing for rape and shaming people who liked rape.

FK: Eeeh. Both at the same time! I managed to do both in one paragraph. You know, someone’s going to listen to this and think that this actually happened, Elizabeth.

ELM: Well to be fair, yesterday we got some feedback from I would say either ends of the unfortunately…maybe not unfortunately, but you may have seen some hint of this or a lot of hints of this on Tumblr, there’s another round of this discourse around whether AO3 should censor. So slightly worried about the fact that these results were coming out during that, right? Did you feel the same way?

FK: Yeah, I certainly felt wary. And lo and behold, we did get people from both ends of this argument assuming that we were on the other end of the argument, which was kinda funny.

ELM: Right. So like, some of the tropes we put in there…we put a blanket kind of content warning at the beginning because we didn’t see any way to, you can’t warn individually for the 144 tropes.

FK: Also I think that if you’re, it’s not like we were going deep in to any of them. It’s just, if it triggers you to see a trope and do you like it, dislike it, not care, not know what it is, if it’ll trigger you to see a trope in that respect, then you definitely shouldn’t have been taking this survey.

ELM: Well, I’m not sure how you could navigate something like AO3 either. Kind of the point of warnings is here it is, you know.

FK: Completely.

ELM: It’s different than a blacklist, where it will hide it for you, and even then…I have a lot of Tumblr, they’re not triggers, they’re just ships I don't wanna see on my dash [laughing] and sometimes it’s really gotten to a point where I don’t know what to do. Sometimes my dash, I have a small MacBook, right? So it's a pretty small screen. But I will open it up and it will only be blacklisted posts. You know how they look when they’re blacklisted? And it’s just like, what am I doing. There’s literally no content here because…so I don't know. Sorry to my mutuals. I may have to do something about this. [FK sniggers] I love you guys, that's why I didn’t unfollow you, I just blacklisted everything you post.

FK: Oh my God. OK. But maybe we should talk about what the survey was intended, like, obviously people take what you write or what research you do in whatever way they’re gonna take it, but maybe we should talk about our intentions in putting this survey together, because I think a lot of the conversation we’ve had related to that, right? Questions about what the survey could or couldn’t tell us, and questions about what we were or were not trying to understand about fandom with this survey.

ELM: OK. So one thing that we didn’t do is ask for any demographic information.

FK: Right. And we didn’t do that for a lot of reasons, we really struggled with the length of the survey.

ELM: Yeah. I think that one of the reasons why, and we got a lot of respondents, right? More than 7500. I think that if we had gone into a lengthy demographic section in the beginning, we would have had a lot fewer participants, and I think to get any substantive data we would have wanted to have a relatively…we don’t wanna just say “What’s your gender? What’s your age?” You know. “What country do you live in?” I guess I wouldn't say no to that information, but I wouldn’t want that to be used to make any substantive claims about the fanfiction reading audience or something, which I could easily see it being construed that way.

FK: Yeah. I think that one of the things about this survey is that it doesn’t answer a lot of questions, and hopefully it doesn’t answer enough questions that anyone looking at it won’t take it so seriously they think it’s the be-all and end-all of things. But there’s also the demographic stuff, like, the other thing, I don’t know about you, but when I answer a survey that has a lot of demographic information, especially anything that could get at like, I don’t know. Anything that feels personal. So sexuality or how much money you make, which is important if you wanna talk about class, right?…but is not entirely what class is either so that’s not helpful there, you know what I mean, not to mention that class means different things in different places, but anyway…

ELM: This is a good aside about class. Thank you. [laughs]

FK: Sorry. Anytime you get to anything that feels personal or touchy or whatever, that makes me feel more defensive and I really wanted…I think we both really wanted this survey to be something that people were honest on, that they said “yay” if they really were gonna read it. We both said “yay” to noncon because we will both read fics with noncon in them.

ELM: To be fair, we’re also publicly discussing that right now, so it’s not like…

FK: Yeah, OK. But that’s the only thing we’ve talked about about what we put. But I think it’s important to bring up!

ELM: I bet you said “yay” to incest because you’re a twincest shipper.

FK: I couldn’t not say that because I have written that, you know?

ELM: I feel like I probably said…did I? I can’t remember. I was like the first respondent so we actually could see my results.

FK: We totally could.

ELM: Also I feel like, I still feel like I skewed it because I took it pretty quickly and I just said I read male/male, when I read all of those things. But I literally just thought, “Yeah, I have mostly slash ships”" And then afterwards I was like, “Why did I do that?” But it was too late.

FK: You were one of those people! Who said they only read slash!

ELM: I know, but…when the numbers were smaller I was like “Oh no, I skewed it the wrong way.” But I’m sure I’m just one little drop in the…

FK: Thank God we got enough respondents that any one person’s foibles did not…

ELM: Drown me out! That’s fine!

FK: OK, but I think it's also important beyond that, we should also talk about how I think some people read this and they thought that we were…we actually got a really great comment about this from someone whose Tumblr is desireearmfeldt_madame. And they said that they realized that every trope we asked about, somebody’s written fic about, even the most “disliked” tropes because otherwise there wouldn’t be fic for people to dislike, you know what I mean? And that’s totally true, we didn’t just go through and think of “OK, what are all the possible kinds of themes that might appear in fiction.” We kind of limited ourselves—not kind of, we completely limited ourselves to tropes that are currently in use in fanfic in the spaces that we know about.

ELM: It wasn’t a survey of themes and ideas, it was a survey about tropes. You know?

FK: Well, we complicated that a little because we did have some themes.

ELM: I know, but it was mostly about tropes. It’s true! But the tropes, tropes by their—what’s the definition of trope? Here. I’m gonna read you a definition, Flourish.

FK: [laughs] It’s real good to know that you are…

ELM: This isn’t, I think that it was a really good critique but I’m also just kind of not sure it’s asking the right question. “Trope. A figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression, or a significant or current theme; a motif.” Oh! Example: she uses the Eucharist as a pictorial trope.

FK: That is…true… if you’re an art historian, maybe?

ELM: Very very similar to our examples of tropes, like “bodysharing.” [FK laughs] And mpreg. That’s fine.

FK: Well anyway, I’m not entirely sure that it was a critique, but I think it is a really good thing for people to keep in mind about, it you know what I mean?

ELM: For something to be a trope it has to be a common enough theme that most of us can recognize it and have a feeling about it. So there’s definitely stuff out there, and you know, I say this as someone who likes a lot of certain, maybe themes isn’t the right word…but definitely there are elements of professionally published fiction that I enjoy, that I can’t really find in most fanfiction. So maybe this isn’t a great example, because it’s not the same thing as “Oh, there’s no mpreg in this fancy novel!” or whatever, you know what I mean? But it’s true that if not enough of us know about it, then it’s not gonna be a trope.

FK: Absolutely. And I think the other thing about this, something also related, was there were a lot of people who wanted to share more about, they really want there to be a Likert scale, right? From one to five of “I really love this,” or “I really hate this,” or “I’ll read it sometimes if it happens to be by a good writer,” or whatever. And we totally appreciate that desire, obviously, that is at war with the idea that we’re gonna have a short survey that a lot of people can take and are willing to, right? And by the way, half the people said that the survey was too long and half of them said it was too short, [laughs] which means we probably got right in the middle, right?

ELM: I was thinking about a Likert scale. That’s just so I can clarify for my own, that’s like a one-through-five…

FK: Yeah, that kinda thing.

ELM: Very positive, positive, neutral.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Somewhat negative, very negative. You know, I think that in some way I do kind of, on the one hand I do wish we had done it that way in the sense of the fact that we got so many yays, I would be curious to know if we broke those yays down into “Oh my God yes, instantly, HIT IT,” you know, or just “Oh yeah, I’m OK with that, I happily read that,” and similarly, “Nah, I don’t really wanna read that.”

FK: What are the hard no’s?

ELM: “Never in the deepest pits of Hell would I read a story about—” I don't know. Centaurs, apparently. [laughs]

FK: Apparently!

ELM: Also, everyone saying what the fuck is centaurication—centaurification, I can’t even say it. There are fics out there about centaurs! And maybe…

FK: And they’re in multiple fandoms too, it’s not just a Harry Potter thing, there’s a Fanlore article about it that gives a bunch of different examples of apparently very popular fics in a bunch of different fandoms.

ELM: Yeah, and I think you mentioned that that’s one of them that maybe is an older thing. I don’t think that term necessarily is one that’s widely used right now. But as you said, I think you were saying this was your response to someone, it was understood enough to be hated. It’s not like people put it on the most-hated list because they didn’t get it. Right?

FK: Right. Because you could’ve said “I don’t know,” right?

ELM: But everyone figured out what it was, and they were like, “UGH! Fuck centaurs!” [FK laughs] So fine! People don’t like centaurs! I don’t know why! I’m not over it!

FK: As an aside, there’s a really famous piece of X-Files—this just came back into my consciousness because of the centaurification discussion—there's a really famous X-Files photo manip of David Duchovny and Nicholas Lea as centaurs, and famously they learned all about it in the 90s and apparently were totally chill with it and thought it was amazing.

ELM: So they like centaurification, so…

FK: They like centaurification.

ELM: Take a page out of David Duchovny’s book.

FK: Right. But this also relates to, a lot of people said things like “Some of these don’t apply to my fandom” or “some of these do,” we also took out a bunch of fandom specific things, like we didn’t ask about, I don’t know, this one’s also old, but lay-Spock stories from the 80s, that was a genre of Star Trek fanfic and we didn’t ask about that. Or, like, Muldertorture.

ELM: Those are very…I get that sometimes, and I think I asked people to stop doing this but maybe Gav told me to take it out, but I was getting all these—cause at the Rec Center, in case you don’t know, everyone knows about it now, right? I, my weekly fandom newsletter with Gavia Baker-Whitelaw. We have this submissions form where people can send in one-off recs that they really like, and I’ve gotten like 160 so far, which is fantastic. Got this giant spreadsheet. But I asked for people to list both content warnings and tropes, so I can go through and make—I did a list of slow burn stories, based on, you know.

And I’m taking people at their word here that the stories actually have slow burn, I don’t know why you would make this up, so FYI. I'm not reading these stories. I’ve already said it on this podcast so I’ll say it again. But a lot of people, not a lot of people, but some people were putting very fandom specific things in there, and it’s like, I don’t know what you’re talking about! I can—one of them was like, Bucharest, or something? I think it has something to do with…

FK: Bucharest, that’s totally!

ELM: Is it the MCU?

FK: Marvel, yeah.

ELM: I can put two and two together cause I’ve seen those movies, but you know…I don’t know.

FK: It doesn’t necessarily mean something to someone from outside the fandom, so.

ELM: Whereas a lot of the things are people coming at us and saying “this doesn't apply to my fandom.” Obviously, I kind of feel like saying “my fandom is set in the present day so present day AU doesn’t apply to me” is kind of like being like—all right, this is an extreme example. But it sort of feels to me like “Why isn’t there a straight pride parade.” Like, OK, we get it, you know? Is that an inflammatory example?

FK: [laughs] A really extreme example.

ELM: Couching that in the fact that I’m saying this is a very extreme example! But it's sort of, OK, sure! So then historical AUs for you, and for the Outlander fandom, present day AUs for them.

FK: And you can write “meh” or even “IDK” if you don’t know what that would mean for your fandom!

ELM: Also I don’t, maybe it’s because I have been deep in multiple fandoms, but it’s not that hard to wrap your head around the idea, “Would I like it if my historical characters were in the present day? Or would I be like ‘ugh’?” You know?

FK: Yeah, completely. Just a little bit of empathy.

ELM: So we got a comment being like, complaining about the way we categorized our AUs, being like “Coffee shop AU is part of present day AU,” but I think these are weird divisions that I think are logically false. Coffee shop AU could be set at any time. You know? A high school AU could be set at any time.

FK: Right, and in fandom people usually write “coffee shop AU” and you have some sense that that’s what’s important about that AU, right? You might also say “present day AU” if it’s important that they’re in a coffee shop in the present.

ELM: And the source material doesn’t take place in the present.

FK: And the source material is in the past.

ELM: Yeah. I actually don’t think that either one implies the other. I think that if it’s really both kinds of AU then you need to clarify that. So.

FK: Yeah, totally. And we did get some good comments about how those things work, right? You know what I mean?

ELM: Where are you going? Hook me up.

FK: There was one person who said that Hollywood/Porn Star/Reality TV/Modeling AU is not a good modeling of like types, right? So that those things didn’t feel alike to them. And I thought OK, we made some choices within those that—we actually argued about that one.

ELM: In fact, you’re the one who decided to put “porn star” in there, and I said “Really Flourish?” and you were like “Come on.”

FK: Well they said that should go with a, quote, “Hooker” or “Stripper AU,” which—by the way, somebody else pointed out to us that “prostitute” is a slur used to oppress sex workers and so on, and we actually know that but we picked it for clarity, because we thought most people would know the term “escort” or “prostitute” and might not recognize what a “Sex Worker AU” meant.

ELM: I think it’s worth apologizing if any term is offensive to anyone including that one.

FK: Right.

ELM: The fact of the matter is that most of the stories I see in the wild within this realm are labeled “rent boy AU,” which is another level, you know, of offensiveness. So. “Fandom is problematic” is the takeaway here. [laughs]

FK: But I think that the larger point, though, is obviously we made a lot of choices within that and we really appreciate that people had many good points about it, some of them we agree with, some of them we don’t, but suffice to say that if we ever run another survey, we’re gonna take all that feedback into account and we will have thought about it, we promise. We already did think about this, and we’re thinking about it more with your feedback. But we’re not gonna probably wanna go through all of it? Because there was a lot.

ELM: Well if we run another survey, I think we’re gonna ask different questions.

FK: That’s probably true.

ELM: I would love to run a demographic survey. I think that we will, as we’ve mentioned before, but I think we rely too heavily on a few surveys that are a few years older now. I think fandom is a very different place and I would love to be able to access Wattpad users. As we discussed last time and as you discussed in your piece, Wattpad is so proportionally underrepresented, and I think we talked about it and then it didn’t make it into the final cut, but I also feel like even the way we framed it was inherently…we weren’t speaking Wattpad’s language, you know? So.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: So it’s tricky. We’re all doing the same thing, but we’re doing different things…? You know? So. I don’t know.

FK: We’ll see what we can do if and when we run another survey, we’ll have a new approach to it I think. We learned a lot this time. And there is a lot more to learn. So.

ELM: For sure.

FK: Why don’t we take a break now, and then we can talk about—the one thing I think we should talk about is what people really wanted us to include on the survey that we didn't include.

ELM: Yes. I would love to see this list.

FK: OK. Let’s take a break and then we’ll talk about it.

ELM: Perfect.

[Interstitial music]

ELM: OK, we are back.

FK: And we are here with a very long list of tropes that people wanted to vote for that we didn’t feature.

ELM: I think that what is about to happen is I’m about to explain why they don’t deserve to be on the list. Is that, is that…?

FK: Well, first I think we should talk about how we struggled with the question of things that could be viewed as identities.

ELM: Yes.

FK: And the way that intersects with tropes.

ELM: Yes. We actually talked about this in the last episode and wound up having to cut it for length, so I'm glad we’re gonna have a chance to address it fully and I think there’s some overlap with themes and the idea of a theme in fiction and the difference between a theme and a trope. I do think some of the things we put on here were more themes than tropes and I think that I would be willing to say we drew some lines that I think were not particularly consistent.

FK: Yeah. That’s certainly true.

ELM: Is that a diplomatic way to put it?

FK: I think that’s fair.

ELM: Do we both agree on this? I know I felt very strongly about it, that stories about aspects of people’s identity were not tropes.

FK: And I have mixed feelings about that because I think that there’s weird, we drew that line in weird places. So we really didn’t want to talk, we didn't want to have sort of coming-out stories be a trope, we didn’t want to have transgender person—

ELM: That was a suggestion when we workshopped the list, was trans stories. Yeah. Which is like…

FK: Yeah, I mean…you were just making this amazing face, which is like “MEH.” Which is true, but we did include things like racebending as a trope, right? Which is a common enough thing in fandom that it has a trope name that people use. And so it sort of felt like we couldn’t leave it out, but at the same time, that’s a little bit…

ELM: And genderbending too.

FK: And genderbending. So I don't know that we were that consistent about it. But one thing that we did want is we didn’t want it to be a situation where we took anybody’s identity and was like, “look at this weird trope,” right?

ELM: Yeah, I just feel like putting trans narratives on the same list as “huddling for warmth” is weird! You know? But then, we also put, I don’t know. I don’t think of identity, stories about identity are not tropes and I think that’s a bad way to think about them.

FK: But at the same time, you—in the past when we’ve talked about slash as a narrative, there are tropes that appear in slash. You’ve told me there are so many tropes that appear in slash about, I mean, we had “discrimination including homophobia” as a theme that could appear in a story.

ELM: That’s true, we did have discrimination. I mean, and it’s true, and actually it’s interesting to see how times are very different than they were when I started reading slash in, like, 2001 in terms of the way, because the situation that you often have is a canonically by default presumed straight, you know, because that’s the majority of characters that we get to interact with, sadly. You definitely encounter plenty of stories where the author needs to explain why, in the books, Harry’s kind of lacklusterly dating these girls. He’s not very good at it. You know? You need to have some sort of explanation. The story I’m writing right now includes, I mean, it’s got some non-linear elements, so there are scenes where—when you encounter him he’s, you know, actually I haven’t decided whether he’s going to be bi or gay.

FK: But he’s queer.

ELM: I haven’t fully decided how he's gonna self-label, but he may just label as queer, right? So probably bi. But you need to explain why the Harry Potter you saw in the books only dated girls, even if it’s just “Yeah, and then I figured out I was into dudes too!” You know? But then often in slash, and I feel like I see it less and less as the years go on, this will be a major plot point. And now, I feel like it’s a lot easier for people to just be like, “I guess I’m bi!” You know?

I was discussing this with someone awhile back, they were saying that gay panic stories were—

FK: Yeah!

ELM: —were falling out of fashion, and I think that that’s complicated, because I think that to suggest that it’s as simple as just going “Shrug, I guess I’m bi!” is…that’s pretty hard because it’s not that easy for a lot of people, you know.

FK: And I think there is, as part of this I’ve been reading a lot of old stories that fall into these different stories that fall into these different spaces, just because I was like “Oh yeah this trope, what’s in there?” and I realize, the straight except for you thing, that was something that—just to get into the list a little bit already—a couple of people mentioned “straight except for you” being a trope.

ELM: Yeah.

FK: And I think that’s true.

ELM: Yeah, yeah.

FK: But it also feels, actually it feels weird to put that on there as a trope, but it’s definitely…I would even put that in the same category as like “huddling for warmth” in the sense that it’s something that some people particularly like in a story. It’s a piece of a story that people like that’s not really about nuance. …it could be about nuance, exploration of identity, but I don’t know that it is.

ELM: This is why it’s so thorny, and I like, yeah. Hmm.

FK: OK, well let's just say people have to forgive us for this and if we do another thing with tropes and themes we probably will have progressed along figuring it out but there may not be a single good way.

ELM: Yeah, I think that that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think, I’m about to say that I think that trans narratives are a trope. I would err on the other side of being like “some of this stuff”…you know, we could say “themes.” But “tropes” to me, I know maybe that’s a little bit linguistic hairsplitting, but tropes to me are like “coffee shop AU.”

FK: We did have tropes and themes as a, we tried to split the difference at one point.

ELM: You know, but we didn't do that much in terms of themes. Themes that I enjoy in fiction like class tensions, for example, you know I love class tensions.

FK: I do know you love class tensions.

ELM: [laughing] That wasn’t in there!

FK: And partially because of the length thing, right? Which is one of the things that tropes is good for, because then it has to be a named trope.

ELM: Yeah, or elements of literature that I love that I feel like if you told me that this story has blank, I’d be like [gasps] I love dramatic irony, I love the tension of the distance between the narrator and the protagonist…

FK: So let’s, let's talk about some of the things that people listed that weren’t on there. The number one thing that people requested I think actually by numbers was tentacles.

ELM: OK, that brings us to another thing! We said we weren't gonna talk about kinks.

FK: Yeah, that's true.

ELM: I think it’s just a whole other can of worms and yeah, any of these things can be your kink, but like…I don’t know. OK.

FK: Well some of them probably do raise up to the—I think that there are certain things that in some fandoms might be a trope, you know what I mean, in the sense of like…maybe there’s a character who’s always depicted as a sugar daddy or something, right?

ELM: Yeah, sugar daddies I don’t—OK, right here. We looked at this list, right?

FK: Mm-hmm.

ELM: The list of kinks on Fanlore.

FK: Yeah. So we had things like dom/sub, BDSM, I actually think we should have included BDSM alternate universes, because I think that that’s, you know, “Hello, now we are all in Gor.” Great. Shoot me, but great.

ELM: That’s tricky because that’s another one we left out because we considered the kink scene to be identity, which a lot of people in it do.

FK: Right, but at the same time there’s also this thing of, what would you…

ELM: Well, and BDSM AU seems like, kinda weird, like you don’t have a queer people AU…you know?

FK: It’s true, it’s true, it’s true! But at the same time, I think if I say BDSM AU I think “Oh, it’s like an alternate universe wherein there’s a society where everybody has BDSM stuff going on.” Like, where some people are the masters and some people are the slaves or whatever it is. Right?

ELM: Yeah.

FK: In a sexy way, not in a chattel slavery go-and-hoe-a-field way…this is a whole other can of worms! But point being though…

ELM: [dying with laughter] Flourish!

FK: I don’t know! It’s a can of worms! I don’t know what to say about that. Point being though, I don't know. It’s a thing. We also had, like, lactation, a bunch of people wanted lactation…

ELM: Is that a trope?

FK: I don’t think so? It’s definitely a kink.

ELM: Yeah, it’s a kink!

FK: It’s definitely a thing people seek out in fanfic.

ELM: But this wasn’t about kinks. If we had a list of kinks, it would be a very different list and it’s not the sort of survey that I’m particularly interested in running. Someone else can do it, you know?

FK: That’s true, but hurt/comfort kind of…

ELM: I know!

FK: …shades into this…

ELM: But hurt/comfort can exist without…I guess the question is can this trope exist in a story without explicit sex.

FK: Right. So, OK. So there were a bunch of different AUs that people wanted too, other than BDSM.

ELM: Do you want me to read the list?

FK: Yeah, read the list!

ELM: Dragon riding, bodyguards, musicals, superheroes, serial killers, romance novel—I don’t know what that means. Like you’re in a romance novel?

FK: Yeah, like—I think that the person actually left a long comment about this. They were like, “There are some stories that rewrite canon as though it were a romance novel.” Which is true, I’ve encountered this. It turns one of the two into basically romance novel hero and the whole story’s like a romance novel and that’s it.

ELM: Interesting. OK.

FK: I thought it was interesting that they considered that an alternate universe.

ELM: Sure.

FK: But I saw completely why they meant that, I was like, “Oh!”

ELM: I’ve read Regency AUs that are essentially that cause they’ll reconstruct the characters into a Jane Austen-esque kind of comedy of manners sort of situation. Is that a comedy of manners? I don’t know.

FK: Yeah yeah yeah, comedy of manners. In the Snape/Hermione fandom there was a lot of jokes about this, because a lot of people wrote them as though it were a romance novel, you know, a weird creepo-slash-I-don’t-know. Just a very weird romance novel. And then people wrote stories that were jokes about that, where Snape was a romance novelist in his secret life, it became a whole completely down-the-rabbit-hole thing.

ELM: That’s really good. Wait wait wait we gotta read the rest of the list. “Movie insert AU,” I also don’t know what that means.

FK: Taking the plot of a movie and inserting your characters into it. A different person mentioned this, and I think it’s also true.

ELM: I’ve read a ton of these but I wouldn’t have phrased it that way, I don’t know how I would have phrased it.

FK: Yeah, I just read one that was like a J-squared, Jared and Jensen, and it’s like they’re in Notting Hill except it’s set in Texas.

ELM: Sounds really good! There were a ton of good ones when I was in the Torchwood fandom because they had a fest around it and all the writers wrote really really great—anyway, I should go look up that site.

FK: Send me those please!

ELM: Yeah, sure, sure! OK. Steampunk AU, it-was-all-a-dream AU, ballet AU, obscure professions AU, activist/political AU. I started saying AU and I wasn’t doing it before. Space opera, androids, firefighters. Firefighters?

FK: Yeah, I’ve never seen a firefighter one, but maybe it’s a fandom I’m not in.

ELM: Yeah. So. This is interesting, so as you may know, one of my favorite things in the pairing that I’m currently reading and writing, in Harry/Draco, is political stories, and not just stories about, like, politics lowercase-p, like capital-P Politics, like I just recced one for The Rec Center where Harry and Draco are both working on an election campaign for Kingsley Shacklebolt's party. And she makes a whole, she turns the Wizengamot into a functioning Parliamentary body with two main parties and a third reform party, right?

And so all this…I don’t think of any of this as an AU. Right? So it’s just like—I don’t know, I guess maybe it depends on your pairing, because that’s a big thing with them, is they’ll be like what are their jobs? Because we don’t actually know what their jobs are, right. Draco’s a whatever. There’s one, people will put this in the summary too. They’ll say “job choices,” right? And one was Draco was a cock critiquer.

FK: …is that a job?

ELM: I don't know.

FK: Is that a job that a person could have? Cause that doesn’t…

ELM: I actually haven’t read this story, I just saw the summary and I was delighted. But it was like, cause they’re always like “Job: Harry, Auror; Draco, healer,” or something. But this was like, “Draco, cock critiquer”!

FK: A+ job choice there. A+ job choice.

ELM: But there’s fests around jobs and stuff. So I guess I don’t feel like things, I don’t know.

FK: There were definitely some of these where I was like “Oh yeah, ballet AU!” I’ve read a lot of ballet AUs in the One Direction universe, and I know they’re in other places as well. I know there’s some in Sherlock.

ELM: There's a lot in Sherlock, actually.

FK: So I was all, “We should definitely include that!” And then, well maybe next time if we’re gonna do this we should look at the list of tropes and alternate universes and see which are most popular, and then I thought “But then that doesn’t cover Wattpad…” So this is all a mess, right? Cause, I don’t know. I don’t know how to best choose these beyond what we did.

ELM: Yeah. Some of these I would have put on the list, but some of them I wouldn’t.

FK: I think that maybe we should talk about a couple of these more, and then we should probably publish the whole list of what people asked for, just so folks can see.

ELM: OK. So let’s see what jumps out at me that I think we missed. Second person POV.

FK: Yeah, we definitely should have had that in there.

ELM: In the space where we wrote about Imagines and you know, along with POV shifts. And I think this is a way that it’s so, so, so massive on Wattpad.

FK: Yeah, yeah.

ELM: And you actually wrote one, so you should feel ashamed.

FK: I did actually write one. Yeah, I just wasn’t thinking about it like that. But it is true and it’s also funny, because it’s something that I think in the past was popular on Fanfiction.net and people would always talk about it, argue about it, right. And so it’s not like it’s not—it’s not like it’s solely Wattpad, it’s something that’s existed in lots of spaces online.

ELM: Yeah, but I’m just saying that right now in this space, because it’s one of the dominant things that, you know.

FK: Yeah, completely. Oh, I thought one thing that we missed was stories where one character looks after the others in a paternal or maternal way. Because I realized that really is totally a trope. But I don’t know that there’s a simple way to phrase it, so I think that is why we missed it.

ELM: Mm, yeah. Is that on this list or you just thought of that?

FK: No, it’s on this list, because someone was like “Not daddy kink, but just like—” it comes up in One Direction a lot—

ELM: [at the same time] It says “papa or mama fic.”

FK: —people decide that Liam watches out for everyone, right?

ELM: Yeah, that’s interesting. Oh, this is one I do think we missed, is infidelity and cheating. A lot of people mentioned that.

FK: Yeah, that was really—that was a big one we missed.

ELM: And there’s one: reader x canon character, another thing that feels very Wattpad oriented.

FK: Yeah, although I've seen it on Tumblr and on fanfiction.net as well.

ELM: I guess when I say “Wattpad” I mean Tumblr as well, I don't know why you would know that I mean that but I don’t [FK laughs] I don’t separate—I’m not saying it’s isolated. I think there’s crossover between Wattpad and Tumblr and AO3 and Tumblr. Let’s see.

FK: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Badass” was actually a really good trope, I think.

ELM: I don’t know what that means. Does that just mean like a BAMF?

FK: It’s a fic where someone seems they’re totally shy and so on, or not good at fighting or whatever, and then they end up surprising everybody by being kick-ass.

ELM: Yeah, when I think BAMF, people will label their characters BAMF whatever—badass motherfucker, for everybody who doesn’t know.

FK: Yeah, I think maybe they’re related.

ELM: Right? You’re saying “Oh, well, in this story…”

FK: This person’s a total…

ELM: Yeah, watch them go! You’re not gonna believe it! If we phrased it “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Badass” I’m not sure people would know what that meant.

FK: Yeah, I think that’s something from TV Tropes or whatever, right? Which is another thing: we were not pulling these from TV Tropes but I think some people looked at it and went “Ah, TV Tropes!” Right? —Songfic. We didn’t include songfic and that seems like it was a big overlook.

ELM: Yeah, seriously. Original characters and Mary Sues, I think we should have included those.

FK: Yeah, I think so! I think that we, I think that it gets tough, though, because Mary Sue is a weirdly—one of the things we really were struggling with was making sure, trying to make sure, I don't know if we totally succeeded, but trying to make sure we weren’t judgmental about any of this, and it seems like Mary Sue is an automatic judgmental statement, right?

ELM: Wait till you read the essay I’m writing called “Mary Sue”!

FK: I mean, I have complex feelings about this too! But just calling a character a Mary Sue…

ELM: Yeah, I agree.

FK: Some people think “reclaim Mary Sue” and some people…

ELM: Just saying “original characters” then, I think solves it. A Mary Sue is inherently an OFC.

FK: Yes.

ELM: So…this is childhood friends to lovers specifically. That’s fascinating.

FK: Yeah, yeah.

ELM: Some on this list, it’s like, huh!

FK: Yeah. So there weren’t, it’s funny, there were also a lot of things that we did feature but that people didn’t read. Somebody said that they didn’t notice that we had included fluff as a trope you could vote for, and this was particularly surprising because you had to respond to everything.

ELM: I love, so Flourish made this list of things people wanted that we did feature and they didn’t read, and next to “fluff” she wrote in capital letters OH MY GOD.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Here’s the list of things, hang your head in shame people who don’t read: daemons. Is that how you say it?

FK: I say “demons” but I don’t remember how they say it in the movie.

ELM: That’s from His Dark Materials. 

FK: Yeah.

ELM: K. College AUs, kidfic, ABO/omegaverse—multiple people were like “Where is omegaverse?” It was right there. Main protagonist becomes evil?

FK: Well, we said corruption, but I think that that actually maybe was a good comment. I think maybe making the main character evil…it’s not purely a POV shift, right, you could POV shift to a bad guy and then have the main character be the evil person, because the bad guy is focalized, or you could have the main character become evil which is corruption fic, but I don’t know. I don’t know about that one. Maybe.

ELM: Let's see what else. Christmas fics, which are a holiday. Mpreg, threesomes—this was interesting, there was some confusion about polyamory and love triangles. Some people seemed to assume that love triangles meant polyamory? Is that…

FK: Yeah. People were like “you include love triangles but not polyamory.”

ELM: But polyamory was in the—

FK: —very first—

ELM: Right. And a love triangle is not, there’s a Venn diagram in which they can overlap, where your love triangle is resolved through polyamory, but.

FK: My favorite type!

ELM: But there’s a lot of love triangles in fiction where they are not all going to get together! That’s like a thing.

FK: [huffs] Which is a shame by the way and we should rewrite all of them to end in polyamory. But anyway.

ELM: There are, on Torchwood at one point there are like six different love triangles actively happening at once.

FK: Which is probably part of why I hear there’s a lot of Torchwood everybody-sleeps-with-each-other fic.

ELM: That’s basically canonical. They get stuck in like time loops and stuff, what are you gonna do.

FK: Yeah, what are you gonna do? You get bored. OK. I think we should take a break, maybe, and then I think we should talk about what we got out of all this.

ELM: All right. Let’s talk about what we learned, our hopes, and our dreams.

FK: How we grew.

ELM: Our fears.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: All of this. OK. Cool.

[Interstitial music]

ELM: OK Flourish what have you learned.

FK: Oh my God. [laughs] So before we started talking and she said “ready,” I was like “yeah,” because I thought I was ready to talk again, and I did not think that I was gonna have to list the things that we learned.

ELM: Yeah. What’s the most important thing that you learned? Wait. No, I’ll go first.

FK: OK. That’s better.

ELM: No, this is a really petty thing I learned, but [laughs] when we did our initial people just responding to our Tweet and Tumblr post, all these people said they hated miscommunication, and I was just like, [sighs]. Miscommunication I think is integral to so many stories, and I just get really annoyed when people are like “Oh, but if only they’d talk to each other!” That’s literally the point, that’s what humans are, wars are fought because of miscommunications, I know it makes people uncomfortable because you’re like “oh if only” but that’s the point, that’s the point. So I have a lot of strong feelings about this. And miscommunication did just fine in our big survey.

FK: Yes it did. Did you feel like, vindicated?

ELM: Yes! I felt vindicated. I think though like a lot of the tropes that people love kind of rest on miscommunication and yeah, the point is it’s supposed to make you feel [makes an “eeh” noise]. Like a fake-dating AU. Somewhere along the way one or both of them realize they have real feelings for each other, or maybe from the very beginning one of them did at least, right. And you can’t just, this is the whole point of slow burn.

FK: Oh my God. [moans]

ELM: I will agree, in my complaints about this on my journey—did you just fall over thinking about slow burns?

FK: I just fell over thinking about a specific slow burn fic that I listened to in podfic form while I was on my vacation which I went on last weekend and I spent the entire time being like [gasps with delight] and I’ve read it five times already so.

ELM: That’s really good. You should rec that story in the notes.


ELM: Someone when I was complaining about this pointed out that it is frustrating when—so I notice this a lot in fanfiction in particular, when it seems like it’s gonna get resolved and then there's some arbitrary miscommunication and it feels like a way to add six more chapters, right. And I’ve definitely seen this and you know, whatever, yeah, I’m not here to just say “make this better” because it’s fanfiction so that’s not really what it’s about. It’s hard because I think there’s a lot of them where it’s like, well yeah, if it’s not well written then it sucks, but like…you know.

FK: This made me think of in romance novels, people say they don’t like it when a heroine is just being stupid, right? When she’s just fundamentally being a nitwit and not using the sense that God gave her. And I was like “Yeah, I don't like that either—but at the same time there’s plenty of novels in which someone genuinely has a reason they can’t talk about their feelings.” Whatever it is. And it feels real. And if it’s well-written, then I can believe that because, I don’t know, your brother threw a flowerpot at you when you were six, that means you can never speak of flowerpots again and this leads to a major—I can believe anything if you write it well! And I think this was a problem with a lot of stuff in the tropes, that people were like “Well, usually it’s not well written, so I don’t like it, but when it is well written I do like it.” Yet that’s sort of what fiction’s like, right? People can ruin the thing I love most for me if it’s poorly written. Of course they can.

ELM: Absolutely. Happens on a regular basis.

FK: So the other thing that I felt like we really learned about this, there is definitely—it made it really clear to me what people were in fanfic for. And I really do feel like a lot of people who were in fanfic in this, they’re in it for happy endings, they’re in it not necessarily for no conflict, but they are in it for not just being tormented, you know what I mean? Not reading depressing stories like A Little Life.

ELM: I don’t think that's necessarily true, because I don’t think that the data showed that. Angst was not that far below fluff.

FK: Yeah but darkfic was the least loved, right, and to me angst is usually resolved happily, but darkfic is not.

ELM: I don’t know what would be considered darkfic, but I don’t think angst is resolved happily always, not at all.

FK: Yeah, that’s true, it’s not always.

ELM: And if you say the definition of darkfic is that it’s angst that doesn’t get resolved, then I think we are working with different definitions of both angst and darkfic.

FK: No, you’re right, you’re right that that’s not true, that sometimes angst doesn’t get resolved. I feel like usually if I read a fic that has angst in it I assume there’s going to be at least something of a happy ending, and sometimes there’s not and that’s OK. I don’t know.

ELM: I feel like I read plenty of stories without happy endings. We did get one comment that kind of, I don’t wanna throw some random person under the bus. I feel like I say “throwing people under the bus” a lot and I need to pick a new expression.

FK: You do say that a lot.

ELM: It’s really aggressive too. Just like, [makes throwing noise]. I don’t wanna call out. No, that has a different connotation. Whatever. This person said something like, “I assume all these are HEA. I need my stories to be HEA.” Do you remember this comment?

FK: Yeah yeah yeah, “happily ever after,” which is a term that gets used in romance a lot.

ELM: I was like, OK, sure, I think that most of these tropes could be in stories that have happily ever afters, but I think it’s weird to say, maybe that’s what they were saying.

FK: Yeah. Yeah.

ELM: But it’s also, like, it doesn’t even seem to be connected to the question of “do you like bedsharing?” “Yes, I’m presuming that means there’s going to be a happy ending.” Why? That’s just something else that you like.

FK: Yeah…I agree that the two things are kinda separate. If you only like bedsharing when there’s a happy ending, that’s OK, you still like bedsharing. There’s other things that, you know what I mean, I could like bedsharing and not like, I don’t know, noncon, and then I would not read a story that featured bedsharing and noncon. So.

ELM: It just felt like there was a logical gap going on with some of this. So I don’t, I’m not meaning to single out that person who’s just, it’s an interesting, I’ve seen a lot of discourse about this recently and I know that you said that, when we talked about this before we decided to do this study, you were saying that you felt like you ran in very different fandom circles, and that you knew a lot of people who liked darkfic and all this stuff, and then I remember as the results came in you were like “I’m starting to see what you’re frustrated with,” and I don’t wanna, I feel like I’m gonna get some kind of reputation for being like “Oh, this person wants all fanfiction to be dismal,” but I’m just trying to fight against the idea that it all has to be super happy and fluffy, and I think the survey results actually reveal that it’s not even close to all happy and fluffy.

FK: I agree with that but I do think that there was a lot of, even a stronger emphasis on ships than I expected there to be, and I knew that there would be a lot of emphasis on ships, and emphasis on your favorites getting together and all of that stuff, right? I was a little startled.

ELM: I was like, why are you—why were you startled by that? I feel like so much of fandom has become so reductive and so, so, so, so focused on ships.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: It’s not to say that it wasn’t 10 years ago, 15 years ago, but I think it’s much more so now. I think part of it too is this kind of, because of the social media spaces, there’s a lot of overlap with shipping culture that doesn’t have anything to do with fanfiction. Right? So obviously in shipping culture, that’s not about stories, but it’s just about shipping, right? You know what I mean? So it’s like, if people use the term “shipping” constantly and they’re like “I ship this and that”—

FK: Right, that’s true.

ELM: —what does that mean in your head? And they’re like, “It’s about the ship, it’s not about, it’s not about being interested in Draco Malfoy, exploring his character, and then exploring him in a relationship with Harry. It’s about Drarry.” I just said Drarry. Sorry.

FK: That’s very true, and I think that is something, even though we like to make fun of—I like to make fun of myself for the Snape/Hermione stuff, the fact remains that at the time that I was most into that ship, I read a lot of other stories that featured Snape and a lot of other stories that featured Hermione, and it did not—yes, OK, that was my main ship because I had a lot of people I liked in that ship, and did a lot of stuff, but it wasn’t a ship in the way that ships are ships today, you know what I mean? Or the way some people view shipping today where it’s exclusive. Maybe that’s just a personal thing, I don’t know.

But one thing that did come up, and you brought this up, was that in the list of tropes, a lot of them are really intertextual, which I thought was interesting, because I think that sort of belies the idea that these are just—it may all be about ships, but it’s not just about ships the way a romance novel is about a romance.

ELM: Right, well, obviously I zero in on this because I guess it’s one of the things I always really loved about fanfiction, but I never really thought in an academic or critical way about it until I read Anne Jamison’s book. And I’m sure you did think about this because you were doing media studies, you know, but I didn’t come to thinking about this stuff this way until within the last few years. I just enjoyed it. But one thing that in particular her sections really illuminated for me was about this intertextual game that was going on. Maybe I also zeroed in on it because it seems like the fancy-academic part of fanfiction, right. And obviously you can be fancy-academic talking about shipping or talking about romance. But this is the thing that I find the most interesting about fanfiction, the fact that these stories play, are essentially playing games, even if you don’t even think you’re playing a game. With each other, with the fandom or the ship, with the source material, with other source material.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: And a lot of these tropes don’t really exist without these intertextual relationships, and that’s really really interesting and I think kind of runs counter—which I think you wrote about—to the idea that you can just file off the serial numbers and sell it, change their names, sell it.

FK: Yeah, completely. It’s not Fifty Shades of Grey, that’s not how that works. And also, it doesn’t work outside of the tropes of, like, Fifty Shades of Grey works partially because the billionaire romance thing is much more of a romance novel trope than it is a fanfic trope. But a lot of these fanfic tropes don’t work outside of the context of other fanfic. Right? Or they do, but they’re weird. It doesn’t make sense in the same way. It’s very intertextual.

ELM: Just the sheer fact that we could have a list of 144 tropes and 7,500 people will mostly know what we’re talking about!

FK: And there’s more that we forgot! [laughs]

ELM: Yeah, we could have had twice as many! And the fact that these stories work together, so you know, if I’m engaging with tropes in something I’m reading or writing, I’m also thinking of a story that engages with the same tropes in a different fandom that I read 10 years ago, you know? And that’s really awesome. It’s like fanfiction has created this really cool literary web.

FK: Completely. It’s wonderful.

ELM: Yeah! No! It’s great! Fanfiction! What a great thing!

FK: [laughs] OK! This is the happiest possible note to end on.

ELM: Yes! I think it is a very positive note to end on. So one thing that we should have mentioned sooner is that we have a call for fanfiction, right now, for a list we’re making, and we’ve gotten some but we really want some more, so basically the way this came about was in the last episode you may have heard, I was like, complaining, throwing people under the bus, calling them out, for [laughs] saying “Well, I only like this with this one exception.” Or “I only like this in this one pairing,” or this one author, whatever. And that wasn’t a very useful critique, but a way to make that useful is to say “Well, here I say nay to this, or meh, but here’s the one fic where I say yay.” Right?

FK: Yep!

ELM: A lot of the stuff, it’s interesting, a lot of the stuff we’ve gotten is stuff that’s wound up on the “controversial” or “nay” list, people sending us incest or omegaverse or things that…I would be really curious if anyone, people definitely said no to some of the fluffier tropes.

FK: Yeah, what’s the fluff that you would—

ELM: We had one person who said she only reads fluff when she’s had a really bad day and she sent us a list of, I think it was Buffy fluff. That’s a hard one to say.

FK: Buffy fluff.

ELM: So there’s definitely people out there who said “no” or “meh” to some of the more lighthearted tropes.

FK: Right. So whatever trope it is that you don’t normally read, send us. Send us that!

ELM: If you make an exception.

FK: Yeah, whatever your favorite fic is in a trope that you would never normally read, send us that. And we’re gonna compile a list and then hopefully—

ELM: Share it!

FK: Get a lot of people to read stuff they don't normally read and see what's good and…yeah!

ELM: Right! So please send that in.

FK: OK and then the last note is, we have an email from Amelia, but we’re not gonna read it today because it’s not on topic. So Amelia, we’re really sorry, we’re gonna read your email next time.

ELM: And thank you so much for that I can’t wait to discuss it.

FK: Yes. We appreciate you very much. And we appreciate everybody who has responded, please keep sending us notes and things and we’ll keep talking about the results on our Tumblr and on Medium and Twitter.

ELM: OK, so different places to find us to contact us: fansplaining@gmail.com is our email address, some people have complained that they don't know where to find it but we do pretty clearly say.

FK: So fansplaining@gmail.com.

ELM: It’s just what you think it is. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook: fansplaining for all of those. Since we asked last week, we got several new reviews on iTunes [FK sighs] and they are the nicest things, I screenshotted one of them and sent it to Flourish and went [noise like a pterodactyl].

FK: Yeah, we—thank you so much.

ELM: I’ll leave it to you guys to guess which one I screenshotted. [laughs]

FK: OK. So that’s something you can do for free, but if you have like a dollar or two a month, then you should think about supporting us on Patreon.

ELM: OK OK hold up. Patreon. I feel like we haven’t talked about it at length in a few episodes. At length. I don’t know. That’s, that’s, we’re not gonna give you a lecture about it. [FK laughs] But I feel like when we launched it we explained it a bunch but we’ve only just kind of mentioned it in passing so, we have a little extra time, so should we just explain it one more time for any new listeners?

FK: Yeah, I think that’s a good idea, because we actually had somebody ask us about this on Tumblr just now! So.

ELM: Yeah, whether we get access to older episodes if you become a patron, and things like that. Older specials.

FK: Yeah! And the answer is yes!

ELM: Yes, you do!

FK: So we’ve recorded so far, we’ve had two special episodes, and if you become a patron at the $1 a month level, you say you’ll kick us $1 a month, which is not that much, then you get access to the first of those special episodes. If you kick in $3 a month, then you get access to all the special episodes that we have recorded, and you get access to future special episodes as well.

ELM: It’s not just about special episodes, being a patron. To say what Patreon is, it’s like a sustained Kickstarter basically, or it’s like making a sustaining pledge to your local public radio station, which I recently did. Yes. I did say that to get points.

FK: [laughs] Public radio points.

ELM: Can I just say I was really mad too because I chose the coffee cause I have like seven public radio tote bags, and they had special coffee, and then one day, two days later they did a special where they said at any pledge level in addition to the prize you choose you get the coffee.

FK: So are you gonna get double coffee?

ELM: No, because I had done it two days earlier. I was punished for being responsible and doing it on the early side. Thanks Obama. WNYC. Anyway. So it’s like that, so you can pledge like $1 a month, you can pledge—we have a bunch of people who have pledged $10 a month and you get different things at different levels. $2 a month you get access to the episodes on Tuesdays instead of Wednesdays.

FK: Yeah yeah yeah! The $10 a month thing I'm really excited about though because that’s tiny zine level of support.

ELM: OK, so you’re gonna get a tiny zine at least a couple times a year, and we are starting to put together the first tiny zine! So it’ll probably come around the holidays, or kinda, as a gift.

FK: I am so excited about the tiny zine!

ELM: [laughs] You have this look in your eye which I imagine you would also get if you were looking at dollhouse-sized food. [FK gasps] Yeah. Tiny things.

FK: Tiny things. Tiny things. A baby squirrel maybe?

ELM: Ohh! Reading a tiny zine!

FK: Ohhhh baby squirrel reading a tiny zine! It’s gonna be really good though. And also I love making zines and it’s gonna be amazing on every level.

ELM: OK so but then, basically you can choose to change your level of support at any time. We’ve had some people up their pledge, we’ve had some people down their pledge, financial circumstances obviously change, but it’s a really great way for us—as opposed to like raising money in one batch, it’s a really great way to see, the point of it is to make it a sustained thing, and this is the best way that we can kinda have a sense of, we have about $350 a month coming in right now. So it’s like, we can now, it’s not enough to commission a ton of art or writing, so that’s why we would love more, but it is enough to kind of ensure that—it’s a good start.

FK: Yeah. We have a cushion to get some support, to get occasional people helping out with different things, we’ve commissioned a little bit of art already and we’re able to save up to commission, I think we really want to commission some great writing.

ELM: And not pay people $25 per article.

FK: And not pay people $25 an article because we believe people should be paid for their work.

ELM: So yes. Patreon.com/fansplaining and actually, since we have a little bit of extra time this week, I’m wondering, maybe people are wondering what happens in special episodes. Really they’re just like normal episodes, but they’re, I don’t know. They’re kind of about things. So far we’ve only done two, I’m talking as if we have this great history of them. So the first one was about Cursed Child the play and my strong negative feelings and Flourish’s ambivalent and depressed feelings.

FK: I was so depressed!

ELM: It’s really, it's really something. But the one we released last week was about Primary Colors, if you listened to our “Nerds for Her” episode you heard us, the birth of this idea was we both felt a lot of feels the first time we saw Primary Colors, particularly for Susan Stanton, which is the Hillary Clinton figure, it’s the movie about the 1992 Democratic primary and about these characters who are supposed to be the Clintons. So we watched it and we continued to feel the feels.

FK: We did. We did. And we’re probably gonna keep doing this for future special episodes, right, they’re gonna be things that we watch together or read or whatever it is that we talk about.

ELM: Talking less about fandom and more being fannish, talking about cultural objects I think would be a way I’d frame it.

FK: We’d discussed having Murphy Brown next and then Twin Peaks.

ELM: Spoiler, we did talk about Murphy Brown next. Although I will say that last night I decided to rewatch what on Netflix was called the Roseanne Collection. Roseanne is so good. Maybe I should just make you watch Roseanne instead.

FK: I’ve watched Roseanne though.

ELM: I just wanna watch it and talk about it with someone.

FK: We could watch Roseanne and talk about it too. But we have to pick between Roseanne or Murphy Brown. There’s only so much 90s nostalgia we can do.

ELM: That’s all I wanna do!

FK: But you have to watch Twin Peaks at some point and I think you’re gonna love it, so…

ELM: OK, I’m in. We have a couple extra minutes. Should we play a really quick clip from the new special episode so people can see some of what we talk about?

FK: Let’s do it!

[Interstitial music]

ELM: Have we ever had a divorced president?

FK: I don't know.

ELM: We’ve had bachelors.

FK: We’ve had single presidents.

ELM: But that was back in the day.

FK: Yeah. And we had one wedding in the White House, I think.

ELM: Was that also back in the day?

FK: Yeah, I think it was Grover Cleveland.

ELM: That’s very back in the day.

FK: Maybe. And it was like, oh! And it was to his ward! She was like, he was like 49 and she was like 25 and he had raised her from a child.

ELM: So I bet you ship them as well.

FK: [collapses in laughter] Touché, Minkel. Touché.

ELM: Just saying.

FK: ANYWAY. I don’t know, I actually found the movie really hard to watch. To get off the Grover Cleveland topic. But really I cried a couple of times.

ELM: Me too.

FK: Because I felt so, I felt so strongly how much, not just how much the Susan character was trapped in a trap of her own making to some degree, but also how much of her choices, she had to be completely pragmatic in every way. If she couldn’t be the idealist that everybody wanted, that’s because that’s been burned out of her. Right? You really got the impression and the understanding that she has these incredibly high minded ideals, and that they have just been…they haven’t, the ideals aren’t gone, but her way of achieving them has become more and more hard-nosed and pragmatic and “we’re just gonna get this done.” Because she’s understood on every step of the way that the world will betray you. People are not gonna be there for you. Things are not gonna go as planned. And you just have to deal with it every single time. You just have to get the hell over yourself.

ELM: That’s true but wait, this is why you cried? I cried for different reasons. This movie made me cry multiple times.

FK: Why did you cry?

ELM: It made me feel really sad about America.

FK: Yeah…

ELM: It made me feel, I don’t know. So we talked about this a little bit before, but the scene in New Hampshire at the factory, do you remember this part?

FK: Yeah yeah yeah.

ELM: So this is about halfway in and the Portsmouth Democrats, I remember, this is the man she was forced to talk about fly fishing with, he’s—

FK: And he talks about fly fishing again!

ELM: Yeah! He's like, he introduces Jack Stanton as the husband of the best little fly fisher. Because she has to go fly fishing with him! [FK laughs] That's fine, I’m sure fly fishing is great, I don’t want to sound like an elitist like Susan Stanton.

FK: Sorry people who like fly fishing.

ELM: Yeah that's probably literally no one who listens to this. But who knows? I don’t wanna judge. I like weird shit. I work at a racetrack. So… [laughs] That’s my acknowledgment of old man activities. I also play cribbage. And so it’s during the primaries for the New Hampshire primary, interestingly Iowa doesn’t play any factor in this, I wonder, actually, if Iowa had less of a role in the national conversation 25 years ago than it did now. Cause they don’t mention it once. They’re very focused on the New Hampshire primary. Oh! And the New York primary! I love this. Also, can I just say what a delight it was to see my people in this film? I felt really represented by Governor Orlando Ozio, that’s Mario Cuomo, and his fuckwit of a son. So you know I’m related to the Cuomos, right?

FK: No.

ELM: Yeah. My mom's gonna get mad at me cause this isn’t officially confirmed, but we’re pretty sure we’re related to the Cuomos, so, which I feel great about Mario and less great about Andrew. That’s fine, that’s fine. I’m team DiBlasio in case you were asking. But anyway, that’s enough about me. [FK laughs] So they’re in New Hampshire and he’s giving a speech and he’s very charming, very Bill Clinton-esque, and he says something like “How many of you have found full time work since this factory closed?” and very few hands go up. And then he says “How many of you are just finding jobs that help you pay the rent and scrape by, not much more?” And that’s most of the hands.

And then he talks about their jobs aren’t gonna come back and the factory’s not gonna reopen and they all need to go back to school and the world is changing and it is literally word for word the rhetoric that we have right now. And it baffles me that we’re still having this conversation 25 years…there’s so many things in the movie where I was like, “Holy shit, that’s exactly what’s happening right now and I’m not sure why this feels so resonant.” And also to have seen this kind of promise of the early 90s and the promise of the Clinton era, and to see how some of that has fallen short, just as I think about the promise of Obama's presidency and to see…I think we are better off, I don’t want to be a pessimist, I think that life generally is better for a lot of people than it was 25 years ago, but it’s still, I don’t know. It’s just hard.

FK: Nothing is ever as good as you want it to be when you’re so excited, right.

ELM: Yeah. It’s also just like, I don’t know. I think that really inspiring politicians make me kinda sad. Rhetoric like that. Jeb Bartlett makes me kinda sad. Cause you want it to be…you want it to be this majestic thing. In a way it’s kind of, I appreciate British politics cause no one’s talking in grand sweeping tones, you know? They’re just like…this is the brass tacks of it. So.

FK: I find that depressing too.

ELM: Great. That’s cheerful. I’m sorry.

[Interstitial music]

ELM: All right, so, I don’t know if that sold you on it. But... [both laugh]

FK: But that’s what it's like! There you go!

ELM: You should see her “ta-dah” face.

FK: It’s like the pun husky face except more “ta-dah.”

ELM: Cause it doesn’t make me go “ohhhh” like the pun husky. I’m not saying that about the husky himself. Herself. Theyself.

FK: …theyself… [both laugh] Who knows the gender of the pun husky? Not I.

ELM: I’m saying the pun is what makes me go “ohhh.”


ELM: You got it.

FK: I got it.

ELM: So I think we’ve talked about all the things.

FK: All right. Uh…should we talk later Elizabeth?

ELM: You know the next time I talk to you will be after…I’m not even gonna say it.

FK: Don’t say it. We can’t.

ELM: After Guy Fawkes Day!

FK: There we go! It’s true! All right then. Happy Guy Fawkes Day, Elizabeth, and I’ll talk to you later!

ELM: You say that like it’s a joke but I really do wish you a happy Guy Fawkes Day.

FK: Shall we burn some effigies?

ELM: Absolute—no! It's fireworks.

FK: Is it? I thought you burned the Guy.

ELM: I have to say, I do miss living in the United Kingdom, but I don’t miss the fireworks month that begins in October and ends in November.

FK: Yeah fireworks month! Let's have a fireworks month! I love burning things! OK. [both laugh]

ELM: OK awesome. I will talk to you soon.

FK: Bye Elizabeth.

ELM: Bye!

[Interstitial music]

FK & ELM: Fansplaining is brought to you by a lot of Patreon supporters and particularly JungleJelly, Earlgreytea68, Lindsay Smith, Elliot Byrom, Christopher Dwyer, Chloe-Leonna Steele, Clare Muston, Christian Gossett, Menlo Steve, AR, Katherine Lynn, Clare Mulligan, Heidi Tandy, Megan C., an anonymous Patron, Maria Temming, Anne Jamison, Jay Bushman, Lucas Medeiros, Bradlea Raga-Barone, Jules Chatelain, Jenna Hale, Georgina, and in honor of One Direction! 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. This week’s Creative Commons licensed music is by Josh Woodward. Find him at Joshwoodward.com.