Episode 45: Tall Princess
Flourish and Elizabeth interview Teresa Nguyen, who went from novice seamstress to cosplay master in less than four years. Topics covered include screen-accuracy vs. interpretation, “professional cosplayers,” and the experience of going to a con in costume. They also discuss the Fansplaining Definitions Survey and play a pair of voicemails from a listener who shares her experiences in North African fandom and some thoughts on the current state of Riverdale fandom discussion.
[00:00:14] As always, our intro music is “Awel,” by Stefsax!
[00:02:59] If you for some reason don’t know about the Fanfiction Definitions Survey, go take it! Right now! It’s here!
[00:05:35] In case you somehow missed the Tropes Survey, go read about the results here!
[00:09:12] (singing) SUPPORT US ON PATREON (stops singing)
[00:12:54] The interstitial music, as is often the case, is by Jahzzar.
[00:16:49] Elizabeth and Flourish have not figured out pics of their Christmas stockings. They’ll add ‘em as they can.
[00:17:35] OMG aren’t they adorable?!
[00:25:03] “I Like Big Butts (Bustles?)”
[00:30:11] This blog post puts ‘em on blast. And it was all over this amazing Cinderella dress:
[00:42:02] There are so many of these stories, we can’t pick. But here’s one serious one from the Mary Sue: https://www.themarysue.com/comic-book-artist-slams-cosplay-again/
[00:46:12] OK, we stand corrected: it looks like Audrina Patridge once did some legit Mystique makeup action. (But most of these are hilarious/terrible.)
[00:48:26] THAT GOWN THOUGH:
[00:51:40] The interstitial music is Jahzzar, again!
[00:57:43] We interviewed Britta Lundin, Riverdale writer, in Episode 43, “A Fangirl Goes To Hollywood”!
[01:05:57] Call us & leave a message at 1-401-526-3267.
[01:07:05] And, the outro music is also Jahzzar. (Thanks, dude!)
Flourish Klink: Hi Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is Episode 45, “Tall Princess.” Who is not a princess, but actually a person who cosplays often as a princess.
FK: She is actually tall though.
ELM: I didn’t say she wasn’t tall!
FK: That’s true! OK, so this is our first episode where we’re going to be talking mostly about cosplay, and Tall Princess is also known as Teresa Nguyen, and she is a cosplayer from Texas who makes amazing giant gowns.
ELM: Awesome. As you know, I do not cosplay.
FK: I do know this.
ELM: And have no intention to cosplay ever. So I have a lot of questions.
FK: Awesome! I enjoy wearing costumes but I’m way too lazy to make anything, so I too have a lot of questions, like “how do you have the patience to do that?”
ELM: Wait, but you knit things!
FK: It’s different.
FK: Totally different.
ELM: Why don’t you cosplay as something that’s wholly knitted?
FK: I’ve actually thought about that myself, and that’s one of the reasons why I made those Weasley sweaters.
ELM: Which I’m wearing right now.
FK: It'=’s really cute. If I do say so myself.
ELM: Did you see that Mrs. Weasley responded to us?
FK: Yes! Mrs. Weasley is a bot who responds anytime someone says that they’re wearing a Weasley sweater.
ELM: Wait, she’s amazing!
FK: She is amazing! I don'’t know that she’s a bot. She might be a person.
ELM: The Twitter account literally looks like if Mrs. Weasley set up a Twitter account.
FK: She’s so darling.
ELM: Mm-hmm! And on the birthday of her sons, one of whom is deceased, she tweeted at us.
FK: I know.
FK: Like she was going on Twitter to make herself feel better a little bit.
ELM: STOP! Oh, so sad!
FK: OK OK OK, but before we talk to Teresa or go on further about Weasley sweaters we should talk a little bit about the survey that we’re currently running.
FK: Because we should do that. That’s a thing we should do.
ELM: OK, so, I didn’t have anything to do with this survey, let’s put that right up in front. So if you think it’s great, you can tell Flourish it’s great. And if you think it’s terrible it’s completely her fault.
FK: [laughing] Thanks, I guess? We had some beta readers and stuff too, it wasn’t just born out of my mind like Athena from Zeus or something.
ELM: Wow. That was a reference.
FK: Sure was.
ELM: Is that fanfiction?
FK: [squawks] OK OK OK! So the purpose of this survey is to ask as many people as we possibly can about their personal definitions of “fanfic.” So the word “fanfic,” right. What is fanfiction? So there’s a bunch of different things within it, like making up a definition based on multiple choice saying “this thing is an aspect of fanfiction,” or “it’s not,” and also just writing out what your definition is in your own words, and also we have a bunch of examples and you can say whether you think they’re fanfiction or not or maybe they are.
ELM: For example…
FK: For example, uh, Fifty Shades of Grey or “Master of the Universe,” which is the…
ELM: I like how you just went for the most controversial one.
FK: Well, you know. It’s a question! Right?
ELM: Somehow this turned into ridiculousness over the weekend.
FK: Yeah, I’m not entirely sure how it happened but a bunch of Twilight people found a tweet we had made where we said, truthfully, that right now people are neck and neck saying Fifty Shades of Grey is fanfiction or it isn’t. And they interpreted this as people not knowing the origins of Fifty Shades of Grey, which I guess if you saw that in total isolation and assumed the worst about anybody doing a survey about this…which I guess is fair because people make fun of Twilight fans a lot…then you could think that. But actually since the next question is “what about ‘Master of the Universe’” which is the story that Fifty Shades is based on, we’re pretty sure that those 50% of people who don’t think it counts as fanfiction are saying that from an educated place of knowing that there’s a complex relationship there. So.
FK: And you might have either opinion, dear listener!
ELM: Right…it’s funny, I find that now when we do these surveys, because they generate a lot of attention, a lot of people come into our space with no context and assume that we know nothing, which is strange.
FK: Yeah. It is a bit weird.
ELM: If I saw someone doing a fandom survey, I in fact have done this, I will click on their profile and I’ll say “Oh they’re a researcher,” or “Oh, these people look like they don’t know what they're talking about.” And if they don’t, it’s not like they run a fandom podcast and have produced dozens of episodes and I’m like “They don’t know what they’re talkin’ about just from lookin’ at them!” You know? It’s like “Oh, it’s some magazine or something, or someone who spells fanfiction ‘fan space fiction.’” [FK laughs] You know? So…so I don’t know. It’s just weird that that’s a reaction that we got. On the previous survey as well! Where people were just like, “Do these people even know what they’re talking about?” It’s like, we spent all this time of making a list of more than 100 tropes, some of which are pretty specific and you probably only knew if you were reading fanfiction 20 years ago! I don't know. I think it’s a weird reaction of people on the internet in general.
FK: Yeah definitely. I’d say it’s been an interesting experience as the survey gets disassociated from this podcast, not that it ever can be cause it’s a thing that we're doing, but people who don’t know about the podcast see this survey…it definitely gets into this universe of people who see it and make a snap judgment, right. Like, there was somebody who was like “You’re only asking this question because it’s controversial, for the clicks.”
ELM: For the clicks! It was “the clicks and the lols,” I believe, they said.
FK: Right, as though we were going to laugh at people about this! Just, OK, I guess if you feel that way, then I don’t know what I can say to make you not think that, because…
ELM: Nothing. I tried to engage with that person and then I gave up.
FK: Yeah, so I mean, whatever. The internet is full of people who don’t look at things. But if you’re listening to this, you’ve obviously followed things back to the podcast! Or you’re a longtime podcast listener! So that’s cool, we’re talking in a safe space right here.
ELM: I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus who has come to us through a survey, I think the surveys are great for expanding our reach, and I’m very excited if you’ve come to us via a survey.
FK: It’s just a slightly mixed bag, we’re discovering.
ELM: I think most of the people who I’m complaining about are not people who stick around for the podcast.
FK: Yeah, right?
ELM: “This seems dumb!” and it’s like, “OK great, thank you for your opinion.” [laughing]
FK: To be fair, we’ve also got a lot of people who have been incredibly lovely.
ELM: I know, I’m complaining about the…it’s like a 1:100 ratio. A hundred people going “this was so thought provoking and fascinating!” and then one person being like “you’re doin’ it for the click and the laughs!” and like… [sighs]
FK: And then you have to focus on the one person who’s a jerk! But OK. We do have over 2,700 people who’ve taken it so far as of this recording.
FK: It’ll be more by the time it airs. And, that’s pretty good! And so we just want everybody who’s listening to the podcast, please share that survey as widely as you can, including to people who don’t read much fanfic.
ELM: Or any fanfic! As long as you think someone could…because what I would be curious to know is, if people who are outside of fandom, I’m asking some of my friends in the book world who don’t, aren’t fannish, in that way, to share it, I wonder if that would mean that people would draw stricter boundaries on fanfiction…you know. I’m not gonna go too much into my own perspective until we actually talk about the results, but I actually have stricter boundaries than I think a lot of my fellow fans do and that's partly because I’ve looped back around so many times that I’m… [FK laughing] You know what I mean?
ELM: Whereas opposed to, like, I think…based on conversations with literary people, I didn’t even make the air quotes but they were there in my words, would be more likely to say, “Oh, that’s...no! Of course the Aeneid is not fanfiction!” Right? Whereas I would be like, “Well, it’s not, because I understand why you’re getting there,” and then take it a step further, and a step further after that…
FK: You’ve literally gone around 50 times…I think there’s a lot of people who’ve taken this survey who are like, so I started off and I thought I knew what this meant, but by the time I got to the end, I realized I have no idea! All of my definition is totally self contradictory! And that is a good thing. So if you were that person, you didn’t finish the survey because of it…please go back and finish!
ELM: Oh, you can tell if someone abandoned the survey?
FK: Yeah you can, you can tell when people do it.
ELM: All right. Yeah! Come back! C’mon back!
FK: C’mon back guys!
ELM: It’s anonymous! You can do whatever you want!
FK: OK OK.
ELM: So before we call Teresa, we should just say that the survey is partly brought to you by our Patreon support.
FK: That’s true!
ELM: We usually save this for the end, but because this is directly something that we couldn’t do the survey if we didn’t have Patreon support, so…and we actually just got a couple new pledges that put us above one of our markers! Which is really exciting.
ELM: But, we want more. Because we’re greedy. And because we want to pay people more! You probably listened to our last episode, so you know that I published a piece about Mary Sues on our Medium. We have a couple guest pieces coming up in the next few months, and we’re paying ’em! We would love more financial support so we could publish more regularly. Is more regularly a word?
FK: More regularly is a thing.
ELM: More frequently is probably the actual correct way we wanna say it, right.
FK: I think that we should also say that right now we do all of the editing and audio, everything, to do with this podcast, and we do a pretty intensive job, it’s Elizabeth who does the pretty intensive job, let’s be clear, it’s not me. Any time this sounds good it’s because Elizabeth has made it sound good. And so one of the big things…
ELM: But if it sounds bad it’s because Flourish did something wrong.
FK: Yeah. We can totally…if it’s good it’s Elizabeth, and if it’s bad it’s me.
FK: [laughing] So point being, though, that as we get up to, as we’ve reached higher levels of support from people, that really helps us out because it means that we may be able to get some help doing that when it’s a bad, you know, when it’s a hard week, whatever and really making it easier for us. Because we’ve definitely had some times when it’s been very strenuous to produce all the things we’re doing. So it means a lot to us, both in terms of being able to pay contributors and also in terms of us being able to make this happen at all.
ELM: Not just paying contributors, but we are the contributors to the Medium too. The next piece is gonna be by you.
FK: Yeah, that’s true.
ELM: About that terrible space between the words “fan” and “fiction”! Amongst other things. So, you know, if we can get help doing some of the grunt work, then that gives us more time to do more things examining more angles of fandom in different media spaces!
FK: Indeed it does.
ELM: Yeah! So, patreon.com/fansplaining if you have a couple extra dollars a month lying around. And, if you are a $3-a-month or more patron, you will have seen yesterday our newest special episode, our patrons-only episode, which if you are not a patron, it’s called “Fanfiction Book Club #1,” because we’re hoping to do more than one. I feel like Guardians of the Galaxy.
FK: That’s okay, they have good music.
ELM: Volume One.
FK: Yeah, Volume One.
ELM: So we talked about one of my favorite stories ever, it’s called “The Pure and Simple Truth” by Lettered, it’s a Harry/Draco post-war story. It’s 65k and almost all of that is just conversations. Which sounds like it…that’s hard to pull off, I would say.
ELM: And that's one of the things I think that makes it impressive, is that they manage to do more exploration of the post-war ramifications for these characters through just conversation alone with almost no internal narrative, which is, like, I don’t know. That’s bonkers. So we talk about it, and we talk about fanfiction.
ELM: So if you ever wanted to hear us actually discuss fanfiction, this is a chance! We kind of dodge around it a lot, like the episode we did about recs with Gav, but we’ve never talked explicitly about a story at length. So this is that!
FK: So this is that!
ELM: So if you’re interested, Patreon!
FK: All right, all right. Having invited everybody to go give us cash, shall we go call Teresa?
FK: All right.
FK: All right, I think it's time to welcome Teresa Nguyen, the Tall Princess, to Fansplaining! Welcome!
TN: Hello! Thank you! I’m so glad to be here!
ELM: Thanks so much for coming on as our first cosplayer! …I mean, our first, that’s your title. I’m assuming our other guests have cosplayed, some of them at least.
TN: I’m guessing more than some, probably.
ELM: Probably. So you’re gonna have to explain all the cosplaying things to me, because despite currently wearing a Weasley sweater that Flourish made, I am not a cosplayer.
FK: OK, so traditionally the first thing that we ask our guests is to talk about their fannish backstory, like how they became the nerd that they are today, got into fandom, things they’re into…all that good stuff! So, you know. Not that that’s a small question!
TN: Yeah, well, I think fandom probably goes a long ways back! It goes a long ways back for me, I think probably for everybody who’s into fandom. I found myself obsessing about certain things that I loved from an early age, back in elementary school. I read just tons of books, the Tolkien books, sci-fi, later on I loved the Stephen King books and it became, I just had to read it as soon as it came out, kind of stuff…different musicals, and just entire albums from certain bands, just things that I became very, very passionate about that I just, I loved!
I wasn’t really dressing up a lot back then. I didn’t, of course, sew. When I was little, my mom used to make my clothes for me, but I only just started sewing about three years ago, actually. So.
ELM: What?! That’s ridiculous! How is that possible? Cause I’ve seen pictures of the dresses you’ve made. I don’t think that’s possible.
TN: Well, when I say [laughs] when I say obsess about something, I mean it! I guess I can blame my dad from a very young age he would never let me do anything unless I did it thoroughly, 1000%. He was kind of the all-or-nothing kind of guy, either you do it or you don’t do it at all! And if you do it you’d better give it every single fiber of your being to make it the best. So. I kind of feel that way about sewing. When I first started, I was terrible. Awful.
ELM: It’s unbelievable!
TN: I started off making my daughter little dresses and they were horrible. They were all asymmetrical and thank goodness she was only four, so she didn’t care, but…
ELM: It’s fashionable! I watch Project Runway. [all laugh] Structured asymmetry seems to be very popular!
TN: Yeah, I got to experiment a lot making little dresses for her. So I got better at it really fast though because I felt like I just had to keep going until I did it right, and then it just became this sort of…I couldn’t stop. I would be up late hours going “I’m gonna get this right!” There was a lot of that.
ELM: So, Flourish knows this, but you don’t, that I’m descended from a long line of garment workers and my mother is very, very good at sewing and she sewed…oh, Flourish, did you ever see the stockings?
ELM: Oh my God. She made these, our stockings are incredible.
FK: Elizabeth, are our families the same thing? Because my mother also makes our Christmas stockings and it was a big deal, it’s a big deal.
ELM: These are like…
FK: Yours are probably better.
ELM: I’m not saying they're better but I’m guessing it’s not the same. I’ll just show you a picture. That’s fine. Anyway, she did a ton of sewing.
FK: Put a picture in the show notes!
ELM: If she doesn’t mind I'll put it up. She’s done a ton of sewing, she’s incredibly skilled, but she never…she would make me a costume when I was little, and she would never make a costume for herself. So I guess my question is, you were sewing stuff for your daughter, when did you start sewing stuff for yourself? When did you start wanting to wear costumes too?
TN: Pretty soon after. Right around the time I started sewing was when Frozen came out, so of course I had a four-year-old daughter, Frozen came out, she became obsessed. [laughing] Every little kid was obsessed! I love the movie too, I’m a huge Disney fan, so.
ELM: I still haven’t seen it. Should I see it?
TN: You should see it just because of the phenomenon. Even my husband watched it which is interesting.
ELM: I don’t have any children, so this just didn’t happen for me.
TN: My daughter, like most young girls her age, became obsessed with it and wanted an Elsa costume, and an Anna costume, and just every costume I could make from the show. So I started making, trying to make, her a costume and she wanted me to dress up with her too. Kind of, “I can be Elsa and you can be Anna!” At first she didn’t want to let me be Elsa at all, but then she had her four-year-old logic: “Well, Mommy, you’re taller and I’m shorter and Elsa’s older, so you should be Elsa.” So I ended up just kind of making costumes for both for us. They weren’t really all that great, the first ones I made, but I made them multiple times and they got better! [laughs]
ELM: But see, this is what I’m trying to figure out! My mom, if I said to my mom “Let’s wear matching costumes,” she’d be like, “Yeah, right.”
TN: Yeah, well, I’ll admit there was one…I went to a con before this whole Frozen thing happened, and it was a Worldcon, so it was Lone Star Con 3 that was in San Antonio, and this was I think in 2013? I think was when it was here. This was the first con I ever went to, and a friend of mine who’s from Chicago and has been to a lot of the big cons convinced me to go,because it was a sci-fi writers’ con mainly and I read a lot of sci-fi. So I was like, “Well, I’m in,” because there was some writers that I loved there, the guy…Brandon Sanderson who finished the Wheel of Time series for Robert Jordan was there, and that’s one of my all time favorite series, so I was like, “Yeah. We have to go.” And also George R.R. Martin was there and this was after the first season of Game of Thrones, so that was of course huge. And they were gonna have the Hugo Awards and Game of Thrones was nominated, so.
ELM: Wait wait, they had their first season only four years ago? Aren’t they on like Season 100 right now? [all laugh] Do they do more than one season a year?
TN: Maybe it was Season Two? It could have been Season Two. It was the one with the Blackwater? That was the one that won the Hugo award, I remember. It could have been Season Two.
ELM: Don’t ask me, I’ve seen three episodes, I’m terrible.
TN: [laughs] It was pretty early on. Yeah, you know what, I think it was Season Two. But anyway, the first time I had cosplayed was there. And I didn’t make my costume. I helped with it a little bit, my friend Brenda from Chicago, she made…she’s been sewing for years. And I had this terrible wig that I wore for Daenerys that was probably from Target or China or both, or something. But it was passable, I know it was passable because people didn’t run away from me, they actually wanted pictures with me! And it was a pretty neat experience. She told me, “We’ve gotta dress up. Everyone at these WorldCons really get into it, and everyone’s gonna be dressed up.” And then we got there and almost nobody was dressed up!
ELM: OH NO. WAIT THAT’S REALLY AWKWARD.
TN: Awkward a little bit, yeah, but at the same time people really were excited when they saw us, fans and we also got to meet George R.R. Martin and we just…we stayed downtown and we did the whole shebang, we went to all the afterparties and the Hugo awards and it was a great experience. There was nothing negative that came from my cosplaying. It was all positive. We even went to the masquerade and we thought, “We can’t enter the masquerade because we’re total newbies at this and our costumes are probably horrible in comparison.” But actually they were pretty good! And a lot of people went dressed to the masquerade and that was really fun, and there were some good acts. We had a great time. So that started my wanting to dress up, that whole thing.
FK: So you kind of went from zero to attending a con in cosplay! Not “I went to a con and I saw the cosplayers,” you were just like “This is what I do!”
TN: To be fair I come from a background of theater and music, which I’ve been doing from a young age, I’m a high school orchestra director and I’ve conducted musicals and done Summerstock and been in, I mean, I was in theme park shows…I’ve done theater for a long time. So for me it wasn’t a big deal to get dressed up. I don’t care that much what people think if they’re gonna be haters, so I’ll dismiss them real quick if they’re gonna be like that. [laughs] So it was fine, and it was fun.
ELM: So as someone who knows nothing about cosplayers or how they think about what they do, maybe you can only speak from your own experience, but one thing I’m curious about is…it probably varies from person to person, but are you more interested in being as accurate as possible? Are you interested in kind of embodying a character and kinda roleplaying, essentially? Or is it a mix? Or…
TN: For me it’s a little bit of a mix. I’m not as interested in roleplay as some cosplayers are. Some cosplayers are very into it, they’re in character all the time. Depending on what I dress up as, if I’m dressing as a Disney princess, I feel like I need to be in character, because I’m going to be talking to a lot of little kids and they’re expecting it and you don’t want to crush their dreams! So, you know. If I’m dressing as a Disney princess and I’m talking to a little kid, I am a Disney princess. [laughs]
ELM: You’re like “Fuck off, I’m tired.”
TN: Yeah, that’s not happening! But if I’m talking to adults then I’m just me. But I think a lot of people who are cosplayers are passionate about it and they actually love to make believe they’re that character. They just, that’s something that is fulfilling to them. I think that’s great. The creativity, it’s actually endless, the different combinations of creativity that you can do. For me, personally, I just like making the costume because I’m a nerd about sewing, number one, but I feel some connection to that character personally. But I don’t necessarily wanna be that character. I just want to honor it and kind of pay homage to this fantastic thing that has brought me joy. But when I’m on stage, I’ll try to do some portrayal of the character. I feel like the fans expect it and that it’s kind of up to me to provide that.
A lot of people will go out on stage and just stand there, turn, stand there, turn, OK, look at my costume, and I feel like that’s just a little bit…I don’t wanna say “lame,” because their costumes are definitely not lame, but I feel like stage presence means a lot and that the people in the audience would love to see just a little bit, even if it’s just a shadow of that character that they love that, you know, doing just a little bit of acting up there means a lot to the fans.
ELM: Cause it’s not like a fashion show. It’s not like…it’s a costume contest, right, it’s cosplay, right. So that’s actually an intentional thing.
TN: Exactly. And even when I’ve, I’ve entered some historical costuming contests which were not based on any certain character, but I felt like there should be some element whether clever or funny or something that relates to the time period. And that people connect with that. There’s that whole time period where women wore these giant bustles, making their rear ends look huge. So a cosplayer goes out there and she comes out to some era, period music, classical music, and then it breaks into “Baby Got Back,” things like that are…those are entertaining as hell, I mean! That’s fun! So things like that I think are great. [all laugh]
FK: I love that! That brings me to, I guess I'm curious about, I know that you’ve done a bunch of costume contests and things, and this is something where for cosplay and fanart that happens at cons, there’s contests and so on, and I guess there’s not as much with fanfiction which is more both my and Elizabeth's area of nerdery. So I guess I’m curious about the costume contest experience, what that’s like. I know that you tangled with, tangled with is maybe the wrong term although I guess it could be a Frozen joke or a Disney—
TN: A Disney joke! [laughs]
FK: A Disney joke, I should say. A Disney joke, God, words. [all laugh] I know that you had some attention because a con was not giving prize money or something like that, I don’t know. Just, what is the costume contest thing like, I guess, is the…
ELM: Also tell us that anecdote in particular, I would also like to hear about this.
TN: Yeah, all right! I'll start with just the costume experience. Costume contest experience. It’s different. It depends on the con. Sometimes it’s just a…there are no monetary prizes, sometimes they give little fandom prizes, like you’ll win a collector’s figurine or something that’s donated by the artists’ alley, those are neat prizes. Prizes are cool and I love one of a kind things, that’s…I love art. So those things for me are worth a lot sentimentally. But sometimes they offer cash prize money, which—of course cash is nice too! I won a 3D printer at the last…
TN: At San Japan, that was the big prize. There was some cash but there was also a 3D printer, so that was really…
ELM: Are you using it?
TN: I’ve used it a couple of times! But I’m not real proficient yet. There’s a learning curve involved.
FK: That’s so cool!
ELM: I’m weirdly excited. I worked for Makerbot, so now I’m just like “How did you use it? I need to know all the details!” But this is completely off-topic, so.
TN: [laughing] No, I’ve made a tiara, I made an Elsa tiara actually. It all started with Elsa, I guess, so.
ELM: So good!
TN: My daughter really wanted it.
FK: That’s so on-brand for you!
TN: I know! But I made it. It’s a small one. I think I can make a lot of jewelry and little, just little things you can’t buy. The possibilities are endless. So that was a really neat prize. A lot of cosplay contests are, the cosplayers enter not because they wanna win something monetary, they just want to show off their costume that they’ve worked so hard on. I mean, it’s…there’s not many areas that you could go and just wear this costume! Where people are gonna understand you.
ELM: And be thrilled and be like, can I please take your picture? You can’t just do that on the street.
TN: You can’t just show up places in your costume and think people are gonna appreciate it.
TN: A con is just the perfect place and cosplay contests, the people show up to those things and they are packed. And they wanna see the costumes. It’s a mutual thing. 90% of people who enter those things, they’re there to see the costumes, even the cosplayers. My most rewarding experience is being backstage for hours, just talking to the other entries. Because they’re so amazing! I learned so much about different techniques and what amazes me is the body armor. Just what they go through to make this, they use Worbla and sometimes craft foam and they paint it and it just…it looks like legit armor! I just can’t get over it. So.
ELM: That’s incredible.
TN: Yeah. And then the poor judges that have to judge this thing, they’ve got a princess dress and then this body armor. How are you supposed to compare those two things? They’re both amazing!
ELM: How do they? How do you pick? It seems so…
TN: That remains a mystery to me! Honestly, I’ve done enough contests now that I’d actually, I would love to be a judge. I would love to do that, just because, well, I mean, I’ve been in a judge situation for music a lot, so I’m not a stranger to the experience, but I would just love to see the process and how they go about deciding who wins these things, because every time that I’ve won, I’ve honestly been really shocked. Because there were so many other good entries, I just…I, you know, it boggles my mind.
ELM: OK, so tell us about the time you won and then they stiffed you!
TN: OK. Well, this was Comicpalooza and it’s been resolved.
TN: It was a long, long process to get it resolved. This was the first cosplay contest that I think I entered. It may have been one more before that, but it wasn’t one for any prizes. But this one was the first one that I actually said “I’m making this dress for this contest and I’m gonna enter it and be really serious about it.” OK. So this was the first time I made the Cinderella dress. I entered it and I won second place for craftsmanship, which was I think a $400 prize, and the first place was I think $800. Anyway, there were several places, there were first, second, third, plus honorable mentions, and everybody had some sort of prize, whether it was money or a collectible or something. Anyway, nobody got their prize.
I was told at the end of the show to give my information and I would be contacted. So when no one contacted me, of course I contacted them, they were very nice, “Oh yeah, we’ve just had some turnover and we’re gonna get you your prize money.” OK, so I’d wait and wait and wait. Rinse and repeat about, I don’t know, about three months, let’s see. It was, I can’t remember exactly when I got paid. It was several months, though. I started getting progressively more upset as I would send a message, an email or I’d contact them on Facebook, every single way they could be contacted I did it. And sometimes I would just get no response and then every once in a while I’d get a response, “Oh yeah, we’re really sorry, we’re gonna get right on that.” And that’s just kinda how it went!
And I finally decided, look, I’m gonna start a blog and I am going to write a post about how we’ve been treated. And bottom line, you said there was prize money, I have screenshots of that from your website, which by the way they took down—they took down the prize page and everything. It just disappeared.
TN: Luckily I’m internet savvy enough to go back and find that stuff, because once it’s on the internet it’s never truly gone. And I teach high school, so if I’m not savvy one of my students is savvy, so. [laughs] So I went and found the cash page and I copied it and I sent it to them and I’m like, “Look, I have proof that you said you were gonna pay.” And no response! And so finally I wrote this long blog post which I admit, it was maybe a little bit raw, I just kind of spilled out my feelings there, because I was really angry. And I tried, I just tried to say what I felt and bottom line, “Hey, you guys need to pay us. You said you would and you need to.” And then I sent it to them before I published it and said, “This is what I’m gonna publish, so either pay or I’m gonna publish it,” and they…no response. So I published it. And it went viral. Lots of people shared it and shared it, just tens of thousands of shares.
ELM: That’s awesome.
TN: And I got a lot of responses from other cosplayers, professional cosplayers even, who were like “this is awful,” and this is a very high profile con. Comicpalooza is huge, a Houston con. So then the Houston press contacted me and they did an article and an interview and after that happened it was pretty much, they paid. They paid everyone. And I was talking to all the other, I had to do a little research and find all the other entrants to the contest and I’m like, “Did you get your money? Did you get your…let me know when you get your money,” and they all did, so finally! Finally they paid up. But boy, that really left a sour taste in my mouth. That whole experience.
FK: It sounds like it was some combination of things, but…it’s interesting whenever you get fans and people who are maybe not professional con managers, particularly, combined with everything else…it sounds like it was kind of a toxic mix.
TN: Yeah. I think, I mean, I got… [laughs] It’s amazing when I came out with that blog post I got a lot of messages from people who worked for that con telling me all kinds of things from behind the scenes. Things that I didn’t necessarily even need to know, that weren’t completely related to my problem! [all laugh] And I was just kinda like, “OK! That’s nice. But I’m just gonna focus on my problem here.” [laughing] But they were, it kind of all added up to “OK, there may have been some crap going down that was not necessarily kosher,” and maybe some of this stuff actually happened, but the bottom line is, are they gonna make this right? And that’s what I care about. And they made it right! Eventually. It took a long time. But I do give them credit for making it right. And I really hope that this whole experience will, has improved their quality of cosplay contest, and that this will just never happen again. And if that’s, I mean I’ve not entered since then, but if that happens then I’ll consider it a win.
ELM: Yeah. Wait, you said something during that story that interested me, which was you said “professional cosplayer.”
ELM: What is “professional cosplayer”?
TN: That’s a good question. Because I…I’ve struggled with that myself. That term. “Professional cosplayer.” I guess I consider myself a cosplayer but when I was first called a “cosplayer” I was like “What? I’m just a girl making some costumes!” You know. “What is this?”
ELM: Everyone’s gatekeeping themselves! Flourish was doing this earlier. “I don’t cosplay, I only do this and this and this and this but I’m not real!”
TN: No, well, I think I just didn’t know, I had not heard the term before when I first started doing this.
ELM: Oh, OK, Flourish is the only one gatekeeping herself.
TN: No no. I fully admit to my cosplaying now. I fully admit. I wouldn’t call myself a professional cosplayer, though, I think that’s a whole other level. The professional cosplayers are the ones who get invited to these cons. They do this for money, that’s what I consider…a professional, when you say “professional” it means you’re getting paid. I don’t think you can just make stuff and say “Hey, I’m a professional cosplayer.” I don’t care if you have a bunch of followers on social media, if nobody is paying you you’re not professional. That’s kind of how I feel just from my other real job where I’m a musician, anybody can call themselves a musician, but you’re not a professional unless somebody’s payin’ you. [laughs]
FK: So there are people who are getting paid to go to cons, just to attend and grace the con with their presence.
TN: That’s correct. And they are advertised, like, “X cosplayer will be at this convention!” And they have followers who come just because that cosplayer’s gonna be there. And a lot of them are really, I mean, most of them are really dedicated to their craft and the costumes they make are amazing. Somebody’s gonna pay them for that, more…do it! Go!
ELM: So, do you see the…is there a tension? Compared to other kinds of fan creativity, you get this mostly in fanfiction—we’ve talked a lot about fanfiction versus fanart because fanartists increasingly do commissions and are paid for their work. Whereas if you so much as mention monetary compensation in a lot of fanfiction circles it goes very poorly. Is there a tension with…you know, your average non-professional cosplayer, is there resentment or discourse around people who…do people say things like “Oh, you should only be doing this for the love of, the love of fandom and the character and your love of costumes, it shouldn’t be a job”?
TN: No, no, I don’t…I don’t think there's tension because of that. And if there is, I think that’s a little bit sour grapes. You know what I mean?
ELM: You could say the same for some of the conversations that go on in fanfiction spaces [all laugh] but…
TN: I just think if you do something and it’s so amazing that somebody wants to pay you for it, well, awesome. You know? And just because everybody can’t do that thing, well, hello! Welcome to capitalism, number one! But I mean, that’s creativity. You find your niche and you do it. And if you’re doing it just for you, great. That’s me. I’m just doing it because I wanna do it. If somebody pays me for it, am I gonna say “No no no, don’t pay me because I’m doing it for the sake of art”? That’s probably not gonna happen, because heck yeah, if you wanna pay me, I will do this for money! Yeah! But if not, I’m OK doing it for myself too. And there’s a sort of freedom to not being paid, also. Once you start getting paid, then here come the rules.
TN: “You gotta do this, and this, and here are the restrictions,” and I don’t like that, so…there goes your freedom in some sense. So it’s a double edged sword. But I don’t know, a lot of the professional cosplayers get a bad rap because a lot of them expose a lot of skin and that rubs people the wrong way, some people. But it does, you know, it does attract a lot of people too. So it just depends on the overall goals of who hired them and what they wanna achieve, and screen accuracy. Sometimes they’re going for screen accuracy and it’s accurate. [laughs]
FK: I was gonna say, right, people are…are people going to really complain when you’re dressing up as Lara Croft and you’re wearing tiny tiny shorts and a tiny T-shirt. Well, that is actually what she wears, so if you’re gonna say that that’s someone just looking for attention, maybe you should look at why video game characters are designed that way.
TN: Exactly, exactly. I’m just pretty much against any kind of calling-out if it’s gonna involve just hating on someone. I just think it’s not productive, number one. But you’re right. If you don’t know that character, which I certainly…there are plenty of characters at the cons I go to where I’m like “I don’t know who that is, but that is a really well-made costume.” I’ve approached people and I’ve been like “You look really good, because look at your seam lines, and this is…how did you make this…” and I just get nerded out and I have no idea who they are! [all laugh]
ELM: That’s funny.
FK: That’s interesting actually because it sort of relates to, again, we love relating things across different types of fan creativity, but sometimes people will be like “How is it possible that anybody could read fanfiction about something they’ve never seen the original of?” and it’s like, well, I don’t know, I mean…if the writing’s really good and it’s a self contained story…it sounds like it’s a similar thing. You’re just like “I’m just here for the sewing,” for how cool it is, how well-done it is.
ELM: As opposed to me walkin’ around a con where I’m like, “I don’t know who any of these characters are!” And I’m not commenting on their seam lines because I don’t know what I’m looking at. I’m just like, “who are all of you.” [all laugh] “I don’t belong here.”
FK: What is a seam line?!
ELM: Amongst all these people! That’s me at a con. Feeling aggrieved. Aggrieved? Is that the word? I think so.
FK: I’ve seen you at cons, Elizabeth, you have a better time than that.
ELM: No, that’s how I felt at New York Comic Con. I was just like “I hate everyone in this room.” It wasn’t the cosplayers’ fault. It was everyone else’s fault. [all laugh]
FK: “I hate everyone except the cosplayers.”
ELM: Yeah, at least they put some time into it. Everyone else was just walkin’ around at the giant Spencer’s Gifts that it was. We already did this comparison on the show, I can repeat it, right?
FK: [laughing] Of course you can repeat it, I’m just interested in…you have so many feelings right now. And they’re kinda old feelings too! You still have feelings!
ELM: It’s not about my feelings, don’t worry. But going back to what you were just saying, Teresa, I feel like it brings up something that I feel is…one of the complications of cosplaying is the discourse around it is so gendered, right. And I think there’s a sense that cosplay is now front and center at a lot of cons, and I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about this. There seems to be a backlash, especially it’s like “people just care about these girls in these skimpy outfits,” you know, and there’s a kind of fake-geek-girling discourse involved in that. I’m wondering if you have any feelings about that. Also as someone who seems to cosplay fairly feminine characters, right. You’re wearing gowns, you’re not…you know, dressing up as Batman.
TN: No [laughs] Not yet! No. [all laugh] Yeah, I’ve noticed there’s been a little bit of animosity I guess from the comic book writers, or people who create the original art that is a written art, especially, you know, they feel like they’re not getting as much exposure and they blame some of that on the fact that they’re just way overshadowed by these cosplayers, because…I mean, face it: cosplay is something that you can’t ignore. You walk into a con and there’s, here’s a Cinderella dress that takes up 10 square feet of the floor and then there’s this guy dressed as the giant monster from BioShock with a drill that articulates, how are you gonna ignore that? There’s just so much, it’s like, so much eye candy with the cosplay thing.
And yeah, there are girls dressed skimpy. That actually is nothing new. I mean, hello. That’s been around for decades. Hundreds of years. Centuries. I mean, it’s like, everybody knows that sex sells and it gets attention. And if you’re gonna dress like that, you're gonna get attention, because either you look good, or you look different, or you know, it’s just a spectacle. So if you’re gonna dress as anything, you’re a spectacle at a con. [laughs] You go there and you’re gonna get looked at and people are gonna take pictures with you. If you have a book that you’ve written, and it’s over there at a booth, closed or even if it’s just on display, it is not gonna compete. So it’s hard, I guess it’s hard to compare, number one, but it’s just two totally different things. And I think the people who write those books, that are complaining, if they had fans who cosplayed from their books, they would not complain about that. You know? Because then they would be getting more business.
So…I think, I don’t know. I think a little bit, they need to get over themselves a little bit. [laughs] And maybe promote a little better? I’m quite sure that if they asked someone, a cosplayer, to read their stuff and cosplay from it, that that could happen rather easily. Hey, I’d be down for that. I love reading new stuff, I read stuff all the time! I would love to read someone's book and get inspired and make a costume. That would be super fun for me.
ELM: Even after they’ve insulted all cosplayers! You’re still willing!
TN: I’d do that! I’d do that because that’s the kind of person I am. Some other people may not, but I would love to prove ’em wrong. I’m just like that sometimes.
FK: [laughing] You’re gonna be the aggressively bigger person.
ELM: Here I am cosplaying your stupid character!
TN: Yeah! Let me bring some people to your booth, now shut the hell up. [all laugh]
ELM: I have to wonder, too, I feel like cosplay, I get the sense at cons that it probably brings…it seems like crowds are only getting bigger and bigger at cons and there probably are a lot of new fans who are coming who are excited to see cosplay, and they’re not coming to meet a comic book artist. And it’s like, you know, maybe be excited that there’s just more people in the door? The odds are that a few of them are gonna trickle on over to something that they never would have, they never would have set foot in that space if they hadn’t been like “Oh that’s really neat, I would love to see people dressed up as characters I like.”
TN: That’s absolutely true, absolutely true. It’s a statistics game, and when you’ve got 20,000 people coming to this con to see costumes, they’re absolutely gonna walk through the Artists’ Alley and see other stuff. I’ve just on purpose picked a day to not dress up so I can walk through the exhibits and actually see stuff. Because if you’re dressed up you don’t see anything.
ELM: You’re constantly getting stopped and asked for a picture.
TN: You’re constantly taking pictures. So I purposefully go in my civilian clothes at least one day just so I can check out all the stuff, and I end up buying a lot of stuff at those things! And I think most people do, so…statistically it's a good, it’s a good card to play.
FK: So it was really funny hearing that because it’s like, the opposite of…it’s not the opposite of anything. But at cons a lot of times you’ll have the celebrity guests will bring a all-covering cosplay that they wear, so that they can walk around and people still stop them to take pictures but they don’t know that they’re taking photos with celebrities, so it’s less stressful, cause they can be like “sorry, not now.” [all laugh]
ELM: That’s really funny! Well, some of them are like, you see them after and you’re like “no one would want their picture with you.”
FK: Sometimes they’ll choose purposely bad cosplay.
ELM: Like a bad mask.
FK: Just that covers them.
ELM: It’s a way to blend in to this crowd, is a really bad cosplay.
TN: Oh, that’s funny.
FK: But it helps them be not seen and noticed and, if you get a really bad cosplay that totally covers you up…
TN: That’s awesome. [laughs]
FK: So next time you see somebody just walking around who you’re like, “They aren’t entering the masquerade and that also looks like they just got it from a costume house, and it covers their face,” who knows!
ELM: Oh my God Flourish, the odds of that person being a celebrity are so slim.
FK: Yeah, well. [all laugh]
ELM: I dare you at Comic-Con this year.
FK: I don’t know, at things like Comic-Con I don’t think it is.
ELM: No, there are so many people in costume! There are hundreds of thousands of people. You think that…
FK: Yeah, OK.
ELM: And, so many of those celebrities do not stick around.
FK: But how many of them are in costumes that completely cover their face entirely? That are also things you can rent at a costume shop?
ELM: I challenge you at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to go around to everyone wearing a bad face covering mask [TN laughing] and go “WHO ARE YOU? WHO ARE YOU?”
FK: [through laughter] I am not going to do that because I have dignity.
ELM: “What network are you on?? Are you in a movie???”
FK: The answer is always “The CW.” That’s always the answer.
TN: I LOVE THE CW.
FK: OK, OK, OK. I think that we should head towards wrapping up, but before we go, Teresa, we want to make sure that we have links to all of your favorite costumes and to your social media and everything in our show notes. So, could you talk us through your favorite/best/the costumes you want people to know you’ve done? And your Instagram and stuff?
TN: OK! My preferred platform, social media platform, is Instagram, and I’m @tdrollo on Instagram, and I also have a Facebook, Tall Princess, I have quite a bit of followers there, and I usually post a lot of progress pics on those two things, so. On Twitter I’m @violastrepitoso, and I have done, let’s see, my favorite costumes so far are…well, my most difficult was the Outlander gown, the wedding gown from Outlander Season One from the wedding. I just absolutely loved making that gown, though it took me about a year. I did all the hand embroidery and I had never hand embroidered anything, so it started off as like, “I’m gonna hand embroider this leaf,” and then I’m like, “UGH. I MADE A BLOB. LET ME THROW IT AWAY.”
FK: And then you had to hand embroider 200 other leaves!
TN: There are over 100 leaves on the gown I embroidered, which—I think there were more on the original but that was all I could do. And I finally after like 10 leaves I was like “Oh, it looks like a leaf! Finally!” But yeah. That gown was really probably my best achievement, just…it’s a historical gown too, and I’ve gotten really into historical costuming, so I do a lot of historical costumes from certain time periods, and in the future I’m planning another Outlander gown, got all the fabric for that, so…
FK: [gasps] Which one which one which one?
TN: I have the fabric to do Claire’s…I hate to call it…her “night with the King” gown, let’s just say that [all laugh]. Her green court gown that she wore when she had to bribe the King to let Jamie out of prison, we’ll just leave it at that. I have the fabric to make that gown. And I’m planning, probably some more Disney, Disney gowns…my daughter is wanting, definitely wanting to do more Disney, love Disney. And let’s see, gosh, I don’t know! I’m just gonna see what inspires me.
ELM: Now that I told you to be Batman, obviously you’re gonna be Batman next. [all laugh]
TN: Maybe Catwoman, I don’t know.
ELM: Batgirl? There’s gonna be the new Batgirl movie.
FK: [gasps] Yeah!
ELM: Flourish wants to be Batgirl. That got you really excited.
TN: I don't know. I have never sewn with that pleather stuff, we’ll see. Plus I’d have to work out, ugh.
FK: I was thinking how cute it would be if Elena was Batgirl and you were Catwoman.
TN: Ugh, see? That would be cute! And then, when you dress up in cosplay, let me tell you this, and you have a kid with you, you don’t have to feel so awkward cause you’re just cute when you’re matching with your kid. The cuteness factor’s up, like, yeah.
ELM: Do you feel awkward when you're by yourself? Cosplaying? Or…
TN: No…well, I think when I first went, I didn’t know what to expect and I was just like “Oh God, people may be like ‘look at this 40-year-old woman dressed up.’” But then I was like “Eh, who cares, life’s too short.”
ELM: OK good.
TN: But the thought does cross your mind! You’re like “OK, here I am walking across Commerce Street in my Elsa gown, all right.” [laughs]
ELM: It seems like it takes a ton of confidence, so it’s very impressive!
TN: Well, yeah, and believe me, people are way more positive than they are negative when you dress up. It just…it just is. So if you’re on the fence about it, and you do it, you’re gonna see. You’re gonna see that people are just, they’re better than you think, which is an amazing feeling.
ELM: That’s great.
FK: Well that sounds like the most cheerful and positive possible note to end on.
ELM: I was gonna say, very cheerful!
FK: Thank you so much for coming on, you’ve been a great first representative of the cosplay community.
TN: Thank you thank you, I’ve enjoyed this!
ELM: Thanks so much, bye!
ELM: Cosplay’s so cheerful!
FK: It is! It makes me feel like, I don’t know. It makes me feel really excited for the upcoming con season. You know?
ELM: No! I still am not gonna cosplay.
FK: I didn’t say you had to cosplay, but I’m looking forward to seeing more cosplay. I’m looking forward to being in cosplay-adjacent situations.
ELM: OK, that’s very…that’s a charming takeaway.
FK: It’s now I feel!
ELM: Yeah, it’s charming!
FK: [laughs] OK, so I think we have a couple of voicemails to listen to.
ELM: We do in fact, we have two from the same listener, Sarah. I was gonna just stitch them together but they’re actually two very different comments and it makes more sense to just play them both now as opposed to saving one for next week, right?
FK: OK, let’s play the first one then, how’s that?
ELM: Should we discuss them after we play each of them?
FK: Let’s discuss each of them separately. So we’ll play the first one, discuss, and then we’ll play the second one and talk about it.
ELM: Perfect, let’s play the first one.
Sarah: Hello, this is Sarah, I really love your guys’ podcast and I think maybe I guess at this point… three podcasts ago? You were talking about fandom culture in different places, and how even in the UK versus the US it’s drastically different and how people even really get into fandom from separate places, and I just thought that was really interesting topic, and I have some, I don’t want to say expertise but I have some knowledge on that.
I’m Moroccan and I kind of have immersed myself in the North, West African communities in general, especially online. Whenever we would go to Morocco, especially when I was a kid in early 2000s, there would be this obsession with Dragon Ball Z and that type of anime that would get dubbed, actually, on certain Moroccan channels, in the specific dialect. Or kids would have this Saudi Arabian channel via satellite and it dubbed a lot of anime into [?], the general Arabic dialect that Saudis and a lot of Arabic countries learn. So during that time a lot of manga kind of comics were being created in Morocco and I know for a fact in Algeria and Tunisia too, and that’s kind of where a lot of kids and specifically I know this person I know online, he's Tunisian and he talks about remembering seeing the manga when he was growing up in Tunisia. And I think that’s where a lot of people have started out with certain fandoms, just specifically with anime.
I remember being a kid and there would be this gum that you get from the little stores, and a part of the gum would be there’d be this sticker and you’d peel off the sticker and there’d be this little folder and you’d put all the stickers in the folder, and if you collected all the stickers from the gum it would make a picture and you could turn that picture in and send it in for a bicycle or something like that. So. I thought that I would share what I know about non-Western, I guess, fandom of sorts!
FK: I am really excited to hear about the Moroccan fan experience and I want more voicemails like this please.
ELM: Yes, please call in anytime! This is actually, it’s interesting because I don’t know, I think we talked about it briefly on the podcast but it was definitely on our Tumblr, someone left us an ask after the anime episode saying, “Why did you keep saying ‘American fandom,’ we say ‘western’ and ‘non-western’ fandom,” or whatever, western fandom and anime fandom. And we were like, “No, we meant that intentionally, she was speaking from a very specific—Lauren, our guest, about how anime came to American fans.” Western is a pretty complicated construction that would certainly leave out North Africa, too, right? So it’s just like, then what about all the parts of the world that don’t even fall into this weird dichotomy that we often tend to create when we talk about Japanese and Korean media versus Anglo-American media. This massive East–West thing is like, OK, but all the other countries…
FK: For sure. For sure. And I think that that also brings up that obviously as a podcast in general we tend to be pretty American focused but we try to at least be mindful of it, and to…you know, to bring in people from different places and so I don’t know. I would love to be able to do an episode about North African fandom, or not even that, about North African—a North African fan or something cool that’s happening there or a specific thing, you know? Cause we don’t do episodes about, like, you know, “fandom in California!” or something, right, so why would we do an episode that was just about “fandom in Morocco!”
ELM: Thank God we don't do an episode about “fandom in California.”
FK: Right, that would be ridiculous! Not to mention that that's a state as opposed to an entire country like Morocco.
ELM: Possibly soon to be its own country.
FK: It could be, it could be. I guess if I said Texas that would be more legit. California once was its own country! Anyway. So yeah, it was wonderful to get that voicemail.
ELM: Incredibly interesting, so thank you so much. And let’s play the second one!
FK: All right, let’s play it!
Sarah: So, I really loved your guys’ interview with the Riverdale writer, that was really informative, but it was kind of a step out of my bubble when I heard your introduction about how you were gonna be talking about two of the biggest discourse points, and I was expecting to hear you talk about the Miss Grundy stuff or maybe the Chuck stuff, and instead the fact that you brought up the Jughead and Beronica stuff a little bit blindsided me, because personally in my circles those issues have already kind of been resolved, in a way, especially with people looking back at the Archie comics and looking how Jughead was portrayed before the newest series and how he could also be read as gay and how the way he was portrayed wasn’t the best. And also with the Miss Grundy stuff and whether or not that was being handled very well, and I just feel like personally in my own circles the Beronica stuff was done with after, I don’t know who said it on Twitter, it may have been the writers, who said Beronica wasn’t happening, so then I felt like they kind of washed their hands of that discourse topic because it wasn’t really baiting because it wasn’t going to happen, it was a different issue entirely. It was kind of weird for me to be like, flashback to January or possibly even sooner when I feel like the discussions in my own personal circle have moved past that. Again, love the podcast. Bye!
ELM: OK, first for clarification Sarah left two voicemails—well, first she left three but she left two about this topic. And one was more compact than the other so we used the compact one. But what she doesn’t really say in the more compact one is that one of the points of discourse that we didn’t touch on was about a black character, who is oversexualized on the show.
ELM: And so I just wanted to clarify that, that that was part of it too, that that was not something we talked about. And I have seen people talking about this, but not to the degree that I’ve seen people talking about the bad queer rep angles. That’s not to say obviously those conversations aren’t happening either. So…
FK: Yeah. She also mentioned the oversexualization in general of teen shows and the fact that Miss Grundy is, spoiler alert for the very first episode, sleepin’ with Archie and stuff, and…
ELM: That’s actually, for people who are not in fandom but are TV critics, that’s the thing I see people talk the most about.
FK: Yeah. I agree with that. I think it was interesting to me hearing her because I feel like my, and maybe this is just a case of our different filter bubbles, because I feel like my list of people who talk about Riverdale including people who are still really into it includes people who are still mad about ace erasure and people who really want Beronica to happen.
FK: Witness me, I really want Beronica to happen, I know. [ELM laughs] But, you know, so maybe that's a, maybe it’s a filter bubble thing or maybe if you’re in the mainstream of Riverdale fandom, I don’t know, maybe it feels like those issues are gone because people have left the mainstream of Riverdale fandom if they really care about them.
ELM: Yeah, although I think if you were to look at…I guess it depends. Fandom exists in a lot of different spaces with a lot of different conversations, but I’ll look at Britta's replies, and that’s…obviously a lot of the fans have found her, it’s not just you and me and other people that she’s friends with being like “Hey!” You know? [all laugh] And you have people, you know, shouting ship names at her. And there’s that tweet, did you see me retweet this and I said I would write a dissertation on it?
FK: Yes yes yes I did see it.
ELM: It was the actress who plays Betty, the blond one? I’m terrible. “The blond one.”
ELM: The blond one. And [laughs] it was like, a dialogue, and it was like “Fans: ‘Make Beronica canon please!’” and then it was like “Us:” and it was a gif of her and the woman who plays Veronica, and it was the most inscrutable…I have no idea what look they were giving each other. You can interpret it a thousand different ways. And in the comments…
FK: If you're that actress I guess that that’s a way to have your cake and eat it too, given that she also doesn’t know, genuinely doesn’t know, I’m sure, at this point, what’s gonna happen.
ELM: Right, and it’s like, there’s so many ways you can read that. You can read that as some of the most blatant queerbaiting in the history of man, and this is the complicated thing of…when your paratext is interpreted as text, maybe? Is that a pretentious way to say it? But you know.
FK: We’ll go with it anyway.
ELM: If you have the actors talking about their opinions about this, or you know, in a lot of the ace discourse about the show people are taking Cole Sprouse’s not-so-enlightened…he started out saying things that seemed good, and then they kinda devolved, I found, when I was reading his commentary on the matter. But taking that as a part of the text of the show. Which is complicated and it’s a complicated thing if you study social media. So.
FK: Yeah. For sure.
ELM: But anyway, in the replies to this tweet, which were myriad and varied, there was a lot of “yay Bughead,” which is the world’s worst ship name, now trademarked! Or they tried to get a trademark, which that’s another can of worms. And then lots of people saying “no more ace erasure” and then a lot of people saying “BERONICA PLEASE,” that’s how I would characterize those tweets. So definitely it’s on the minds of some fans, probably not others.
FK: Yeah. For sure. And same as far as diversity in casting and who gets oversexualized or sexualized at all, depending on…you know. I mean everybody in Riverdale is sexualized, so.
ELM: I think that it’s a failure of an intersectional conversation that if there’s discourse around a character of color being oversexualized and there’s discourse about, I guess they’re not all white, but the queer sexualities of white characters, and if these conversational streams aren’t crossing, and that’s…bad. And complicated.
FK: Yeah, for sure. For sure.
ELM: But that being said, just because your filter bubble isn’t talking about something doesn’t mean that it’s solved, and I think that would go for any of these issues.
FK: Right, totally.
ELM: Just because I don’t really know anyone talking about Miss Grundy doesn’t mean that’s not a point of discourse. You know. And maybe if Sarah doesn’t know anyone in her circle talking about ace erasure it doesn’t mean that people aren’t still actively upset about that. Or not watching the show because of it. So.
FK: Yeah, so I guess a useful reminder that, yeah, that filter bubble is a powerful thing.
ELM: Why do we say filter bubbles, it just makes me think of Trump.
FK: Let’s not think of Trump.
ELM: There was a point on this podcast like three months ago where I was like “We'll never be able to have a podcast without me referencing Donald Trump 100,000 times,” and somehow this has faded away to the point where it makes me kind of anxious. I’m like, “Am I not paying attention enough anymore? Just talkin’ about Riverdale!”
FK: [laughs] Well, we’re now officially paying attention because we’ve mentioned it, so now all I’m gonna be able to think about is that, so thank you for that…
ELM: I’m really, he’s trapped in your head now.
FK: [sighs] Well. Now I don’t wanna talk to you any more Elizabeth.
ELM: Wait, what?
FK: Now I don’t wanna talk to you, cause all I’m gonna do is think about Trump.
ELM: You’re gonna associate me with Trump?!
FK: Yeah, maybe right now I do! I’m thinking about Trump right now.
ELM: I’m gonna associate YOU with Trump!
FK: [bursts into laughter] We’re just gonna poison all of this, PODCAST CANCELED!
ELM: [laughs] No, it’s really not canceled. We have that survey to analyze, you can’t cancel the podcast.
FK: We have a survey to analyze!
ELM: Sarah, thank you so much for calling us, please call us again.
FK: Yes! Everyone should call in.
ELM: The number! We’re not based in Rhode Island for everyone who keeps asking us, it just happens to be a Rhode Island area code, I don’t know why you did this Flourish, is 1-401-526-3267. That’s 1-401-526-FANS.
FK: And that explains why I did the Rhode Island area code, because we could only get FANS if we were in Rhode Island.
ELM: Okay. That’s fine. Rhode Island, that’s an all right state.
FK: Yep, they have a more efficient Mafia than Massachusetts does.
ELM: Why do you always have to make it about that.
FK: Because you go into Rhode Island and suddenly there are fewer potholes.
FK: It's true!
ELM: My people have contributed more to this country than the Mafia, but you wouldn’t know it talkin’ to you.
FK: [laughing] All right. Well, if you are still talking to me and I am still talking to you, next time, then I guess I’ll talk to you later Elizabeth.
ELM: Oh my God, so threatening! All right. Fine. Bye Flourish!
[Outro music, thank yous, and disclaimers]