Episode 57: Nerf Herder
Elizabeth and Flourish start things off with the Fansplaining Patreon Pledge Drive before they talk to Parry Gripp, the lead singer of the band that wrote and performed the Buffy The Vampire Slayer theme song. They discuss the evolution of nerd culture, how music gets into television shows, and different types of band fandoms. Elizabeth and Flourish later discuss Joss Whedon and fans’ reactions and moral obligations when the creator of their favorite thing turns out to not be a very good person.
[00:00:00] As always, our introduction is “Awel,” by Stefsax.
[00:03:36] You can listen to Carter Burwell’s appearance on Studio 360 here!
[00:05:26] If you are motivated to take part in our pledge drive (and you SHOULD BE), send us your support on our Patreon page!
[00:07:27] If you’re a Patron, you can listen to our Cursed Child special episode here!
[00:09:56] The tiny zines are genuinely the cutest.
[00:11:57] In case you want to learn more about Dr. Alan Chartock of WAMC, his Wikipedia page “has issues” but it is still kind of delightful.
[00:16:15] Interstitial music: “I’m The Droid (You’re Looking For)” by Nerf Herder
[00:42:22] Interstitial music: “Doctor Who” by Nerf Herder
[00:45:16] The title of the blog post we’re referring to is “Joss Whedon Is a ‘Hypocrite Preaching Feminist Ideals,’ Ex-Wife Kai Cole Says,” which says about everything.
[00:45:57] Whedonesque’s goodbye post.
[00:54:07] Ronan Farrow actually wrote about the Woody Allen situation in the Hollywood Reporter. His sister Dylan wrote the article in the New York Times.
[01:02:57] Elizabeth’s article in the Storythings “What I Learned” series, “5 Things I Learned Studying Fandom.”
[01:08:39] Outro music: “Gary and the Princess” by Nerf Herder.
Flourish Klink: Hi Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: Episode 57, “Nerf Herder.”
FK: NERF HERDER.
ELM: So, Nerf Herder is the band that played the theme song for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, beloved television show. I was gonna say “cult television show,” but I feel like that’s dumb at this point.
FK: Yeah, people will say that, but I think at this point that is a little silly.
ELM: Right? You know, it’s like, it’s like people saying Star Wars fans are weird outsiders, or something.
FK: Right. Speaking of which, of course, the title is a Star Wars joke, because they are nerds separate from the fact that they also did the thing for Buffy. It’s not just like, “Oh they’re associated with Buffy,” it’s “here are some people who really love a thing.”
ELM: All right, so now that we’ve clarified that, Nerf Herder is this band, and they are still together, so we were tweeting about Nerf Herder and they found us.
FK: The magic of Twitter, when people randomly show up because you were talking about them! Sometimes that’s not good, but in this case it was good!
ELM: Yeah, right? I feel like that sets a bad precedent. [laughs] They found us and we wanted to talk to them, so we are going to be joined by Parry Gripp, who is the guitarist and singer.
FK: We’re gonna talk about, like…they’re in sort of a weird position, because they were nerds and no one understood what the name of their band was, and then they got involved in this cult TV show, and as nerddom has kind of become cool...
ELM: [laughing] You just called it a cult TV show! We literally just said not to do it!
FK: [laughing] I did, I can’t help it! It’s like, you know, you sometimes just say things. The word “Buffy,” in your mind, associated with it, from reading a million bad takes, is “cult TV show.”
ELM: I know, you know my Buffy book, my Buffy sentiment album that I made in 1999, I have cutouts of every…the TV Guide episode guide, where they’d give “This episode was four out of five stakes!” How is it cult if they would devote page upon page of it, of TV Guide, to a show? That’s the question.
FK: Well, in any case, point being…
ELM: I’m just saying!
FK: You would say that this successful television show, which he and his band are now associated with, puts him in a slightly different, him and the whole band, in a slightly different relationship to sort of being fans and having fans—and also having fans of Buffy that now are sort of interested in them. And so we’re gonna talk about that a bunch. And also just about the process of what that was like, cause I’m sort of interested to find out. I actually, I really don’t, it’s still opaque to me how people choose music for TV shows, despite having worked on many TV shows.
ELM: It’s opaque to you, really?
FK: Yeah, it just appears! Suddenly there’s music and I’m like, “Where’d this come from? Oh, here it is!” I even had to work with the music people who arranged, who put together all the music, and I still couldn’t figure out how they picked who it was.
FK: They just sent me a list of all the music and I was like “Great, this is what we’re using,” you know?
ELM: I feel like this is a part of the process that you need to get more involved in.
FK: Finding music for TV shows?
ELM: No, at least just understanding how it works! The way that movies are scored is actually very interesting. There was recently a composer that I like a lot, Carter Burwell, kind of broke it down on Studio 360, which is a show from WNYC. It was actually a very interesting segment, and he was talking about at what stage he gets it and works with the director…but scoring movies is different than choosing TV…
ELM: TV’s…songs? Obviously scoring movies is way more interesting. [laughs]
FK: Yeah, well, they’re very different processes. But it’s also funny because it’s sort of related to…you’re totally right that it’s very interesting, and it’s also related to when you watch a movie at an early stage and it has all temp music, and it makes a huge difference, and if you’re not prepared for it it can really mess up your perceptions of whether the movie is good or bad or what it’s gonna be. Because the music has such a huge impact in it.
ELM: Yeah, they were talking about a famous example was the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was Strauss, it was from the 19th century. And that was the temp music and Kubrick was like “leave it.” And the composer was like, “What?” Actually, I think the composer didn’t find out his stuff didn’t get used until the movie was done. And he was like “Excuse me?” It’s so funny. And now millions of people don’t realize that was actually a piece that, you know, a real piece [all laugh] that existed beforehand.
FK: Beforehand, yeah. Well, anyway, I’m really looking forward to talking about that stuff with him, and also maybe I’ll go…no, I really am not gonna go ask everybody I know about how this works, I’m just gonna find out from this conversation.
ELM: OK! [laughs] All right, great.
FK: I just want to be realistic about my life.
ELM: OK, all right, yeah! No, set manageable goals, that’s good.
FK: But before we do that, we should talk about the pledge drive that we’ve been talking about a little bit, because it is upon us.
ELM: We’ve been talking about it a lot, many times, but in an insubstantial way. We’ve been teasing at this for like three months.
FK: Right. So a little over a year ago we started running a Patreon for this podcast and it’s been good. We’ve had so much support, it’s been incredibly gratifying to have people helping us out. However, as you may guess, if you look at what our current level of Patreon support is, it does not even come close to helping us break even on what we spend on this podcast in terms of money, in terms of time, in terms of everything else. Hence, pledge drive.
ELM: Also, I feel like we’ve been talking about how we hit a plateau in terms of support. We are getting new patrons, I am so grateful every time anyone…we get these emails and I’m like “yay!” But people’s circumstances change, so we had a bunch of $10-a-month people who have dropped out or dropped down—and that’s totally understandable, and I’m so grateful when someone drops down but they don’t cancel.
FK: Oh, it’s so nice.
ELM: Even if it drops down to a dollar or whatever, it’s a signal to me anyway…it’s saying “I still…” I don’t know, there’s something about it where I’m like “You totally could have just canceled that and pocketed those $12 a year, but I really appreciate that you wanted to signal that you’re still here for us.”
FK: Right. I completely agree. And so in order to run this pledge drive, we’re doing a bunch of stuff, and the first thing is obviously today we’re talking with Nerf Herder, we’re going to be releasing a special episode in which we watch Buffy together…or separately, and then talk about it, really, but you know what I mean.
ELM: Which we’ve already recorded, and it was fascinating. And as usual for a special episode, it turned into a weird referendum on human nature and morality.
FK: It was actually a really really good, it was a super interesting conversation and I think even if someone did not watch Buffy they would enjoy it, because we talk about the experience of getting into fandoms at different points…I think it was actually maybe the best special episode we’ve recorded so far.
ELM: Woah. That sets the bar pretty high.
FK: Well no, I mean, we were more angry on the episode about The Cursed Child, but I think this one had more meat to it beyond just being angry.
ELM: I think we were pretty articulate on the Cursed Child episode.
FK: OK, maybe. Maybe.
ELM: I’m just saying. I had to listen to that one later cause we were making show notes for it, a couple months later, and I was in IKEA listening to it and I was like, “Aww, our points are pretty cogent!”
FK: [laughs] Considering how enraged we were!
ELM: Yeah no, it really was a clarifying rage! It was like, “This is the worst thing that ever happened and I can speak about it at length.” [FK laughs] It wasn’t wordless “Oh this thing I can’t,” so yes. I was reminded of all of this, because on September 1st I happened to tweet that I was mad that people were…that it felt like we were collectively celebrating A, the epilogue, and B, Cursed Child, which I described as an abomination, and a lot of people liked the Tweet but then some people were yelling at me and I was like “I don’t know what to tell you,” obviously… One guy wrote “Speak for yourself.” I was like, “I literally, I am!” [FK howls] It’s my Twitter! I don’t understand. Yes, I am speaking for myself.
FK: I don’t know what makes people say things like that on Twitter, but sometimes I say them, so I don’t know what makes me say them either. Anyway.
ELM: If you disagree with someone, then you should say “I disagree with you!” [FK laughs] “My opinion differs from yours.”
FK: OK OK. But I think we should talk a little bit, actually, we should say—for those of you who don’t know Patreon, what happens is there are these levels of support, so you can support us at $1-a-month and you get one of our special episodes, you could support us at $2-a-month and you get access to our episodes early, and it goes all the way up to $10-a-month, and at $10-a-month you get a tiny zine quarterly.
ELM: Woah Flourish. There’s not that many levels. Let’s just say what they are. $3-a-month, you get access to all special episodes, including the next one.
ELM: Actually, you know what, what if we changed $1-a-month so they got access to this one? Feels weird to just give access to one episode from a year ago.
FK: That’s true! OK, why don’t we make this one also $1-a-month…
ELM: That’s the new $1-a-month.
FK: That’s the new $1-a-month access, if you sign up now.
ELM: And if you sign up for $3-a-month, you get every special episode. $5-a-month, you get your name in the credits, if you so choose, or you can dedicate your spot to such luminaries as the band One Direction or Captain James Flint.
FK: [laughs] Of Black Sails.
ELM: Who has never done anything wrong.
FK: Wow, that’s a high bar.
ELM: That’s what, that’s the running joke. He’s done a lot of things wrong. But he’s never done anything wrong.
FK: OK. [laughing] And then as I was mentioning at $10-a-month you get a quarterly tiny zine, which we are caught up on sending out to people, and if you sign up for $10-a-month support, then you will receive the summer tiny zine because it is the end of summer. It is. It’s still the end of summer, God damn it.
ELM: OK, I think…is Friday the 22nd?
FK: I believe Friday the 22nd is the cutoff for receiving that tiny zine.
ELM: So ironically, the cutoff is the first day of fall.
FK: Yes. That’s not ironic. That’s accurate.
ELM: It’s ironic because it's in fall! If you sign up in fall you’ll get the summer…it’s fine.
FK: Point, point is, you still have the opportunity to—if you sign up for a $10 Patreon support thing right now…
ELM: Act now!
FK: You will instantly, basically, get mailed to you an amazing tiny zine which also has a bunch of stuff including a poem by a, I would say extremely well known poet, which I’m excited about, and also a drabble, which I’ve been informed is not actually a drabble cause it’s not exactly 100 words…
ELM: Oh my God, are we gonna have this argument again?
FK: Well, I don’t know whether we need to or not.
ELM: You were Team Drabble-is-100-Words-Even and nothing else. And I was Team Drabble-is-a-Short-Thing.
FK: I have been worn down. But the author feels strongly that drabble is 100 words exactly.
ELM: Ah. A purist.
FK: A purist.
ELM: A drabble purist.
ELM: Yeah, otherwise we don’t have a term for like, flash fiction. Just saying.
FK: In any case, it’s gonna be a super cute tiny zine. And also, a never-before-seen illustration from Maia Kobabe! That’s the other thing that’s gonna be in it.
ELM: Our favorite illustrator.
FK: Our favorite illustrator.
ELM: So if you have been considering pledging, this is actually the time to do it, I feel like since it’s a pledge drive we should do something more exciting. I listen to NPR a lot.
FK: I’m planning on tweeting incessantly for the next week about this, so we’re gonna annoy everyone.
ELM: We could do what, so my home station, for my hometown WAMC, is very much a cult of personality. We’ve discussed him in the past, Dr. Alan Chartock.
FK: Yes, in fact I think last time, when we started the Patreon, you said that you were going to annoy people the way he annoys people or something?
ELM: He has a number of tactics. One of them is, he’ll just get on there and he’ll go “Pleeeeeeease, pleeeeease,” till you’re like “Oh my God, make it stop.” Another thing he does is this beautiful guilt trip, ultimatum kind of guilt trip, where he’ll be like, it’ll be the middle of Car Talk or something. That’s a dated reference. In the middle of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! And he’ll be like, “All right, this is the time slot for Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me!, and if people don’t pledge right now I’ll assume they want me to take it off the air.” [laughs] I know! And it’s like, I understand…there’s a more positive way to frame that, which would be like “Show your love of this particular show.”
FK: But no, he went negative.
ELM: He’s like, “I will remove it.” Which I don’t know if he still does this. This was like 10 years ago. That wouldn’t really matter at this point. You could just listen to it on your phone, right.
FK: Are you gonna threaten to remove Fansplaining? Is this what you’re working up to?
ELM: I mean…no. So I can’t use this as the model then. [FK laughs] I don’t know.
FK: I guess not. I do think we actually have done a pretty good job of guilting people and offering the carrot of the tiny zines and special episodes, et cetera. We’ve provided both the carrot and the stick.
ELM: Yes. OK. And I think that’s enough. Apologies for talking about the Patreon, but like…you know, we always do a kinda perfunctory thing at the end, and this is actually the time when we’re gonna focus on it for a bit and remind people that this is a thing.
FK: Yeah, and we really need it because we spend…I think it’s pretty hard to express to someone who has not made a podcast before how much time it takes up, especially doing things like producing transcripts and all this stuff. So it’s really important.
ELM: Oh and the Medium! We completely forgot about that. So we also run this Medium, and we’ve had a few guest pieces, one from Anne Jamison last year that was about Trump and political RPF, and I actually just reread it cause someone was talking about Trump RPF, and I was like, here’s actually a super smart piece that I think kinda got buried cause we put it out just a few days before the election. I think people were kind of like…
FK: Yeah, I cannot.
ELM: It definitely holds up, though, so we should share it in the show notes if people didn’t catch it the first time around. It’s interesting. And then we had a piece this spring from Allyson Gross, who was writing about boy band YA, and we’re going to have a piece that’s actually gonna come out next week by Caroline Crampton, used to be my editor at The New Statesman, is a great writer and a fan as well. She’s written about WIPs.
FK: Works in progress.
ELM: Have you ever heard anyone say “WIP” [said “whip”]?
FK: I think “whip.”
ELM: Like “rip,” you think “whip”? I don’t think so.
FK: WIPs, WIPs!
ELM: Cause she had the experience of always hating WIPs and getting burned by them and then being the burner herself.
ELM: So she, I know that she talked to a whole bunch of people and she got people’s opinions and their experiences and stuff, and so I think this is gonna be a great piece. We were able to commission stuff like that because of this Patreon, we can’t ask people to write for free. Or draw stuff for free, or transcribe our episodes for free. This is really just kinda paying it forward.
FK: Yep indeed!
ELM: So, end sales pitch.
FK: With that done, do you think that we should go right ahead and call up Parry and start the Nerf Herder party?
ELM: Yes! Yes.
FK: Nerf herding party! I don’t even know what nerfs are. Someone who loves Star Wars more than me is undoubtedly going to tell me in three, two, one…
ELM: What is the context of the line?
FK: Princess Leia calls Han a “scruffy nerf herder” semi-flirtatiously.
ELM: So do we think there's actually a creature called the nerf that gets herded?
FK: I think there is. I feel certain that there is. There must be.
ELM: You’ve read all these Extended Universe books and you don’t know this.
FK: I really don’t.
ELM: It’s shocking to me. To me a “nerf” will always be the squishy items that I think were most popular in the 90s.
FK: The thing that there’s a, in Karate Kid III there’s an extended commercial for Nerf where Mr. Miyagi shoots them at Hilary Swank for like, 20 minutes.
ELM: But okay, Nerfs aren’t just Nerf guns, there’s also all sorts of balls that were Nerf…it was the squishy.
FK: That’s true.
ELM: You know?
FK: Yeah, I do know.
ELM: OK, I’m glad we sorted that out.
FK: OK, let’s go herd some nerfs!
ELM: [laughs] OK.
FK: All right, I think it’s time to welcome Parry Gripp of Nerf Herder to the podcast! Hi, Parry!
Parry Gripp: Hi, thank you for having me on here!
ELM: Thank you for coming! I can’t believe how this all worked out, after we casually tweeted about our experience seeing you and then…
PG: Oh, you guys saw us?
ELM: And then here you are, you found us. Wait, you know this whole story right?
PG: I don’t know any story at all, actually.
FK: OK, so when we first started this podcast, we were on a panel together at San Diego Comic-Con.
ELM: But we didn’t know each other, actually, Flourish…
FK: We had never met before.
ELM: Flourish told me later that she resented me.
FK: It’s true, I resented you.
ELM: Just for context.
FK: So we were on the panel together, and at the end of the panel we were like, “Wow, that panel was not everything we wanted it to be, we should start a podcast!” Or rather, I said that, and Elizabeth was like “Uh-huh, yeah, whatever, right, person I just met.”
ELM: “Yeah, sure.”
FK: But then later that weekend we both know Lev Grossman, the author, and he was really excited to go see your show, and we both wanted to hang out with him, so we were like “Sure, whatever, we’ll trek across San Diego…”
ELM: It was far! It was as far as you could go, you know.
FK: But Elizabeth’s a big Buffy fan! So we were like “OK,” and on this trek the podcast was cemented.
ELM: It’s true. And then we went and his reaction was very charming, cause he was like…I don’t know, you know when a grown man has a crisis over something fannish?
PG: Oh yeah, I do that all the time.
ELM: [laughing] Not to say that grown men can’t! Obviously. I shouldn’t make this gendered. A grown person! But it was great. I really enjoyed your show. So that was that.
PG: It was really not a good Nerf Herder show, I’m sorry about that. That was like a legendary show for me as having a bad time. [laughs]
ELM: Oh my God!
FK: Oh no!
PG: Yeah, we didn’t have a good show. I mean it was fun seeing everyone there but it was, I remember after that show I thought, “Ugh, man, that was really hard.” And I was really bummed Lev was at that show cause I’m a fan of Lev’s, right? I was really excited he was there!
ELM: [wails] Oh no!
FK: Oh my God, but you have to understand, his reaction was incredibly pure, he had a great time, as far as we could tell anyway! He seemed to be having a great time.
PG: Oh man.
ELM: Does that redeem it?
PG: Thanks for accompanying him. [all laugh]
ELM: Does that redeem it even slightly?
PG: That helps. That helps a little. [ELM laughs] That eases it.
ELM: OK. That’s our origin story of this podcast. We made it about us now.
FK: We need your origin story also!
PG: It came around, it involved Lev Grossman and a Nerf Herder show, that’s really cool!
ELM: And then the Marriott pool bar, that was the end of that. So.
FK: That's true. And Lev’s twin. It was a whole evening.
ELM: OK. So yeah, I wanna know your origin story. Cause I know you guys…have you always described…your name is fannish, you guys are obviously fan people to start, right?
PG: Sure, yeah, we were really big Star Wars fans, and when our band started we were just goofing around. We still, everything we’ve ever done was just goofing around. But you have to have a name and we were trying to think of a name. We couldn’t think of one. Steve, our drummer, was watching Star Wars and was like, or Empire Strikes Back, “OH! Nerf Herder.” He heard the thing. And we all loved it because we loved Star Wars and it sort of…we had kind of given up on trying to be really cool. [all laugh] I don’t know what a cool name is. But anyway, we had kind of given up on that, so it made for a great name.
It’s funny when we started, it was so long ago, it was 20 years ago, so you didn’t have all this nerd culture that was out in the open. If you were really into Star Wars you kinda kept that to yourself. So it’s really changed a lot since we’ve been around.
ELM: Did you feel like, when you gave yourself the name, did you worry that that would limit your opportunities? If it was a signal? I guess you would probably think a lot of people wouldn’t understand the reference. But I feel like people could start a band now with a very nerdy or fannish name and explicitly hope to capitalize on that, or have that be a signal to an audience.
PG: Yeah, we didn’t…a lot of people didn’t know it. A lot of people thought it was just a funny band name. And we weren’t serious. We weren’t trying, I mean, we didn’t think we would get a record deal and have a theme song to a TV show or anything. We were just playing around in Santa Barbara trying to, you know, have something to do. So it was really not a name. [all laugh] If you had said “Hey your band is gonna get, you’re gonna be on a major label and you’ll be on MTV and you’ll have a theme song to this famous TV show,” we probably would have put a little more effort into this naming thing. [all laugh]
ELM: That’s incredible.
PG: But as it turned out it worked out fine.
ELM: Wait, but you guys formed 20 years ago, so that means that…or was it more than 20 years ago?
PG: It was more than 20 years ago. We got together 1994.
ELM: OK. I was gonna say, that was very sudden success then if it was 20 years ago.
PG: Yeah, and it was actually really quick. We were just goofing around, and I think the Buffy theme we probably recorded at the end of 1996 or something like that, which is a couple years.
FK: Still, that’s pretty quick. You’d already done an album, you were successful in that respect and so forth, and then the Buffy theme came along and that wasn’t a song you already had? You came up with it?
PG: No, it wasn’t…we weren’t successful at that point really. We had, like I said, we were goofing around in our small town and our friend who lived here was in a bigger band called Lagwagon, and he wanted to start a record label, and he’s like, “Oh, these guys are just sitting around, I’ll make a little record with them.” So the record hadn’t, we actually weren’t signed to a major label when the Buffy thing happened. It just so happened that a friend of this guy who made our record handed it off to another friend, and the record somehow made its way to the people who were making the Buffy show.
And this was when we were on a, no one knew who we are. It just happened that the record got to these people and they became fans on the set and would come to see us. Like, early on we’d be playing…you know, we’d play at the Viper Room or something in L.A., and half the people there would be the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That was kind of how it went.
ELM: That’s incredible. But there was no context. That was before the show started, right?
PG: Yeah. The show hadn’t started, and we were on tour with Weezer after we had been signed to this major label, and when the show started we didn’t even know…we had recorded this thing for them, but we thought “Oh, maybe they won’t use it,” or something. So we’re talking to someone back home and they’re like, “Hey, did you know you guys are on this show?” [laughter] We didn’t really know it had gone through. But yeah, it was really really strange. And it’s lucky, because this is such a great show. You could’ve been on a terrible show. But it was just luck.
FK: It’s true, don’t you ever wonder how much it must suck if you’re so excited, you get to do the theme song of some show, and then the show is awful and you’re like “Oh…and I did the theme song for…oh.”
PG: We’ve had that stuff happen. Not on a theme song, but you’re involved in something that you think is gonna be really big and then it isn’t. But you know, you just try to do stuff…I mean, Buffy is probably the coolest thing we’ve ever been involved with, so.
ELM: You were on it at one point too, right?
PG: Yeah, we were on it, we were on the third-to-last episode. They had us on really quickly. I think we’re on for like a third of a second or something. But you can see us if you pause the thing! You can see it!
FK: Wait, isn’t there a joke about “This is the band that plays for the apocalypse”?
PG: Yes, there is a joke about it! [all laugh] It was nice that they had us on there. At that point the show was big, they probably could have had like, you know, Led Zeppelin on there or something. [all laugh]
ELM: I feel like that would have been surprising at the Bronze. If Led Zeppelin showed up. But.
PG: Yeah, probably. But. [laughs]
FK: It’s been working for David Lynch with Twin Peaks, right? Suddenly Nine Inch Nails is playing in Twin Peaks, what?
ELM: Wait, the actual Nine Inch Nails, the band?
FK: Yeah, the actual Nine Inch Nails!
ELM: Is on the screen?
FK: Is on the screen. For an entire song.
PG: They’re probably on much longer than we were. We were just, boom, you barely see us.
FK: It was actually a little indulgent, I have to say.
ELM: That was the thing in the early…I had the soundtrack, I was a Buffy fan, I was 14 in 1999 when I became a Buffy fan, for context. So I had the soundtrack, and I really liked how…I think a lot of the people on the soundtrack performed as themselves on stage, right?
PG: I think that’s true, that’s where the soundtrack came from.
ELM: And I think that’s interesting, it’s not that common for a television show to incorporate the soundtrack that way I guess.
PG: No, I think that was kinda different. Most shows, they don’t even have a stage with bands on it, so it was cool that they did that.
ELM: There’s that too. Yeah. Maybe a few. I was, you know, I was a teenager, so I was connected to all that too. But anyway. So obviously everything changed with this, right? Did you find people found you through Buffy, or did it not change? You’re shaking your head.
PG: Kinda, later on…it took awhile for the show to become successful, and sort of by the…it took a few years to really, I mean, it started out. And it was actually, it was pretty popular in the United States but it was much more popular in Europe and in the U.K., in England it was a huge thing. So we would play in England and a lot of the people at the shows would be Buffy fans. And it wasn’t that way in the United States.
ELM: I wonder why. Do you have any sense of why?
PG: I think it might have been the show, or the channel that it was shown on, the BBC or something, somehow it got promoted over there more? People loved it over there. I think that Doctor Who, the reboot of Doctor Who, was really inspired by Buffy.
ELM: I remember they were gonna have a spinoff just for Giles, which would have been the only show I ever cared about, but that didn’t go anywhere, which is very upsetting to me.
PG: There’s still time!
ELM: I feel like he’s moved on.
FK: Wait, I wanna step back just a moment, cause I think this is really interesting, the question of…earlier you mentioned that you guys had been fans, and that you named the band and people didn’t get the reference, and also it just was a different relationship. What has it been like—I’m sure that your relationship to nerdy culture, since Buffy has become so important to a lot of nerd culture, right, has that shaped the way that you’ve been a fan and a nerd and so forth? Can you…I’m just thinking about how much this has changed, and you’ve sort of got a spot in it.
PG: Yeah, I see what you’re saying…I don’t feel so much like I have a spot in it, but. I definitely feel…
FK: [laughs] We’re here like “OH MY GOD, NERF HERDER” and you’re like “I don’t know, guys…”
PG: I don’t know…I just feel like, it’s weird though. You’re a fan of something, you’re kind of protective of it too. So when all of a sudden it’s not your own special thing, you get a little…like, “Oh.” Now everyone’s watching, you know, Star Wars or something. Obviously it was already really popular, but…I don’t know. I guess there’s some feeling that, it’s cool that I get…I feel like it’s neat that I get to go to Comic-Con and do that as a job, that’s fun.
ELM: Yeah, I mean, I feel like you could see…obviously it would be a very different situation. But there’s tons of fans who don’t want anything to do with this world. But if you’re already coming from it, if you’re already a fan…I can see people being disdainful that their…you see this all the time when you, like, boy bands get in trouble for this. Or young-man bands, maybe not like One Direction, I’m sure Flourish could think of examples. Where they’ll be kind of resentful that people are coming in because they’re fannish. You know what I mean?
PG: Oh, sure, I get what you mean.
ELM: I feel like that was a very weirdly worded question.
FK: Let me try and see. So you were drawing a comparison between if you have a band of young men and people show up because they’re a lot of teen girls and they’re fannish, that's maybe not the audience they initially envisioned, and people resent that sometimes…
FK: Or similarly if you go to Europe and everyone is just like, “Buffy! Buffy Buffy!” And you’re like “But we have a band, guys!”
ELM: Right, or “This is not for…” There definitely are bands who have had this reaction, or if, especially young female fans find you through television shows, you know, I could see a band being like “Oh no no no we’re serious musicians, we don’t wanna be famous for that.” But it seems like that’s not how you guys feel, which is good. [laughs]
PG: I can hear what you're saying. And no female fans ever found us. But… [riotous laughter] I think that something about fans, occasionally there’ll be a fan and you’re like “Does this person like our music or even listen to it, or is there some other thing that they’re…that has attracted them to whatever this thing is?” So, and I’ve noticed that not so much about us, but with other fan things. You’ll talk to someone who maybe appears to be a superfan of something, but maybe they don’t know anything about it, maybe they just like the shirt or something like that. But it’s interesting. Once you become a fan you sort of adopt whatever it is as your…I don’t know how to describe this. As your team that you're rooting for or something like that, know what I mean?
ELM: Sure, sure.
FK: I guess one thing I’m still interested in is, Nerf Herder has kept going for a long time past, obviously, what both Elizabeth and I know about, past Buffy stuff, what have you…I guess the question is partially what have you been up to but also how has, have you kept doing different kinds of fan-related things? Nerd-related things? Have you just done other stuff and then come back to Comic Cons like “here we are at a comic con!” Or is it all one piece? Are these two separate parts of the band or are they together forever?
PG: That’s a good question! So when we started out, we were a band called Nerf Herder, but we played punk shows, and we were more part of this other rock band type of thing, touring, that kind of stuff. So the nerd, comic con and all this culture—that came up after, sort of after the fact. It wasn’t until pretty recently that we thought “Hey, we could play at comic cons!” People started asking, “Hey, do you guys wanna play at this thing, or do you wanna…” It never, it just wasn’t something that occurred to us. And it wasn’t as big a thing, I mean, back then it was a much smaller thing that sort of didn’t get connected to us. We were more like a band that would play in a club as opposed to at a convention center with people dressed like characters and stuff like that.
I mean that’s really recent, and as far as Nerf Herder, we started out, we did the…in a very quick time we did the Buffy theme, we had made records and we toured, probably about four or five years we did that, then we just took a break. It was our job and now it’s just a hobby, a thing we do for fun. And it is fun. It’s fun to…I love putting on a Ghostbusters costume and playing, it’s fun. So that’s about it. We exist, the reason we're around now is because we are all friends and it’s something fun for us to do.
FK: That’s cool. That sort of reminds me a little bit of, this is maybe gonna be a little weird, but it reminds me a little of how I feel about Harry Potter fandom, being very involved in it for a long time and it actually almost being my job, in the sense of spending so much time and organizing, I organized conventions and things, and now when I do return to sort of Harry Potter things it feels a little bit like… “Hey, reunion, have some fun,” and then I go back home. You know? To other things. I don’t know that Elizabeth feels this way about Harry Potter fandom.
ELM: No but also that was a funny…a funny analogy, cause it wasn’t actually your job, and you were a teenager.
FK: Yeah, but it felt a lot like my job. I definitely put in enough hours that it could have been if I were getting paid for it! [laughs] I don’t know, it’s not the same thing, but the reunion element, I guess, is what I’m thinking about.
ELM: Yeah. I don’t know.
FK: Or the stakes were higher? I mean, obviously it wasn’t my job, it wasn’t a thing the same way as it was for you, but the stakes felt really high then, and it sounds like maybe the stakes feel less high now for you guys.
PG: Oh yeah. There’s no stakes at all. [ELM laughs] It’s just something fun to do.
ELM: That's awesome though. How often…I just feel like, bands break up and then sometimes they get back together, and you probably are relying on the fans that you had before. Right?
PG: Sure. Yeah.
ELM: Who are excited to see you back.
PG: It’s mostly a nostalgia thing for people.
ELM: Whereas I feel like one interesting thing about the position you guys are in is that you are also pulling in…I mean, maybe you don’t feel like you see this in the audience, but if Buffy fans are really into seeing you guys, that’s a totally different pool of people. That’s also something that constantly always develops in a way that maybe band fandoms don’t, as often, because they tend to kind of rise up when bands are active and touring and doing shows, right. But it’s easier for people to get into a TV show when it’s been off the air for 15 years or whatever and still be just as fannish and still be at Comic-Con and see you guys on the schedule and be like “The band that did the Buffy theme song? Oh my God, I gotta go!”
PG: Yeah, that’s true. People keep watching the show so it keeps gaining new fans.
ELM: I don’t know, do your audience…do you have young people in your audience? Youths?
PG: I think some young people show up. It's hard to tell. I mean, we should issue a questionnaire! [all laugh]
ELM: Just scan the audience, we don’t need exact ages and demographic information! Ha. But. That’s funny. I don’t know, it’s interesting. I guess I don’t, I’ve never been in a…Flourish is in a band fandom right now so maybe she could talk more about that. It’s also different because Flourish is in One Direction fandom and I feel like that’s often pushed by the force of their personalities. Even when they break up, as opposed to being into a band, where the band is the thing, it’s like you’re into the unit, not the, you know. Obviously some bands have personalities, that stand out… [FK laughs] You know what I mean?
FK: That… [laughing] OK.
ELM: What, do you disagree with what I’m saying?
FK: I think that there are people who are into bands for the music alone that the band is playing, and then that can easily shade into being interested in the individual personalities of people, because it wouldn’t be the same without the same lineup. Thinking about people who feel very strongly when a band’s lineup changes and so forth. And then there are people who care about the interactions between band members, which I think is definitely really important in One Direction fandom. There’s a lot of people who care about all of them together, right, that’s why the internet nearly…you could hear the scream when Zayn left the band. A thousand Directioners cried out and were silent. [laughter] Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
FK: Yeah, but I think those two things aren’t as separate as you made it sound. But it seemed a little bit also like this maybe is different today, as opposed to when Nerf Herder was getting up off the ground, because of the amount of social media and the internet and so forth, right? With Nerf Herder it sounds like, you had a physical record that got handed from person to person.
FK: And made it to the people at Buffy. And they maybe knew you eventually cause they went to a show, but it’s not like they were like “Oh yeah, there’s Parry and there’s Steve, and they have these social media things, and we can follow them and find out about them as people without them knowing us, and build a whole construction around this!”
PG: Yeah. That’s really changed. And you’re right: they just got a record and CD, and they probably didn’t know how many people were in the band or anything. That’s changed a lot. And social media kind of feeds fandom, right? When I was a kid, you would have a…you could have your favorite band and you might not even know what they looked like, because there was no way to see a picture of them! It was a record and it had weird artwork on it and you were like “Wow, wonder who’s in this band!” You just wouldn’t know. You couldn't look on the internet cause there wasn’t that. So the internet really has changed the way fans—and also as a fan now you can kind of interact with people who you’re fans of or whatever it is, but back then you couldn’t. You couldn’t do that at all. So. I think maybe the internet has really made fandom…expanded its powers or something like that, so it’s more popular, I don’t know.
FK: I mean, fandom enabled it, so that we could tweet about Nerf Herder and suddenly—aha, here you are!
ELM: Yeah, right?
FK: Appearing on the podcast! [laughs]
PG: In the old days you’d have to send a telegram or something. [all laugh]
ELM: It’s funny though, I do feel like it probably depends on the genre or subgenre, but when I think about…yeah, it’s true, you might not have known your favorite rock band in the 70s or 80s, who was in the band, but I still feel like there are bands now that are not personality. You think of them as a band, they have this sound, they might change their drummer and you might be like “Well, that did alter it,” but the band is the unit, not the individuals. You know what I mean.
PG: Yeah, I know what you mean.
ELM: I think with rock in particular, I shouldn’t have brought up One Direction because that was a weird, those are apples and oranges, too, right?
FK: A little bit.
ELM: Yeah, sorry. I mean, that’s pop music, also, it’s always been very personality driven. Right?
PG: Yeah, that’s true.
ELM: And in a genre with so many solo artists you would always know who the artist is cause that’s the point! And probably a picture of them on the cover and not some weird artwork.
FK: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean I still am not sure entirely that that’s always the case, but I mean, I think…
ELM: You think I’m speaking in blanket sweeping statements? It’s nuanced and complicated.
FK: OK. Thank you.
ELM: That’s what I have to say.
FK: I appreciate that it’s nuanced and complicated, we are in agreement now. [laughter] OK so, we are currently—Elizabeth and I are recording from New York right now, and we understand that you are gonna be in New York soon, and you’re gonna be playing a show related to New York Comic Con, is that right?
PG: That is true! Thank you for bringing it up.
ELM: That was a very leading question.
PG: We’re gonna be playing at the Bell House on October 5th, kind of late, I think the show starts at 10 or 10:30 or something, but it’ll be great. We’re gonna play the Buffy song like a hundred million times [all laugh] and then we’ll play some other songs too. But mostly we’ll do that.
FK: You mentioned Ghostbuster costumes earlier. Are there gonna be Ghostbuster costumes?
PG: We’re not gonna wear Ghostbuster costumes, but we have in the past [all laugh] but we’re not gonna wear ’em this time. They’re kinda bulky and they’re too tight in weird places and stuff. So we don’t, that was a one-time or two-time thing.
ELM: [laughs] A two-time thing. OK. Is playing the Buffy theme song, which you did when we saw you, over and over again, is that like, it’s kind of a gag too, right? Because it’s like, “Oh my God, you’re doing it again and again.” Does the audience react, or is it just like…
PG: It’s kind of a gag, but people like it too?
PG: If they came to hear it, you’re like, “Gosh, someone came all this way to hear this 30-second song,” or however long it is, so… and it;s fun too. I don’t have to sing, so I can just kick back and play guitar. [laughter] It’s actually nice for me, so. Yeah. I mean, I would just play that over and over again. Cause it is kinda fun to play. It’s hard on Steve though, the drummer, it’s kind of fast so he has to really be in good shape for that.
ELM: That's funny. OK, I’m gonna go. Like, I am 100%. Flourish, will you come with me?
FK: Yeah, I want to, but I’m in Boston and I’m gonna be doing an event, I’m helping out at an event that night.
ELM: All right, I’m gonna guess that event is not as good as this event. [laughter]
FK: I can’t say anything because it’s an event run by my friends! So I can’t!
ELM: Do they listen to this podcast? Then they’re not really your friends. You can say whatever you want.
FK: [laughter] Oh my God.
PG: We’re your friends now! What about us? I thought we were friends!
ELM: Yeah, come on! I’m gonna listen to this so you have to come. C’mon!
PG: Don’t worry, neither of you really…it’s so late. I would be too tired. I wouldn’t stay up that late if I didn’t have to play at it, so.
ELM: OK, that is the least rock ’n’ roll attitude you could have possibly had. “I would be in bed if I didn'=;t have to be on this stage.”
PG: Yeah I’ll probably be lying down during the show, just sleeping.
FK: Well, I really wish I could make it to the gig, but it has been a pleasure having you on the podcast. It’s awesome, and Elizabeth will have to report back.
ELM: Yeah no, I’m so excited, I can’t wait to see you!
PG: Thank you so much for having me on here, I really appreciate it, it’s been very nice talking to you, and whoever can make it to the show, if you make it, that’d be great! And it would be great to see you.
ELM: I will be there. I’m gonna, every time you start the Buffy song, and I assume you’re gonna do it 100 times, I’m gonna laugh and be thrilled every time.
PG: At least 100.
ELM: At least 100! That’s so exciting! [laughing] OK I will see you there. I can’t wait.
FK: All right. Bye.
PG: Thank you, bye! I’m waving goodbye!
FK: Bye! [out on laughter]
FK: So, was meeting your favorite band everything that you imagined it would be, Elizabeth?
ELM: Um. When did I say they were my… I… [FK laughs] You really put me on the spot there! I don’t think I said that! Now I feel like I’m insulting them!
FK: No, but you did say that you listened to the Buffy theme a million times when you were a teenager, so I just…
ELM: No no no, I said I listened to the Buffy soundtrack. I didn’t specifically put that song on repeat, I don’t know if that was even a choice on my CD player. But I did listen to the soundtrack over and over again. It was great. Had that picture of Buffy and Angel was kind of in shadow, you know, Buffy’s looking with her kind of head thrown back…
FK: You know I actually don’t know that picture. I’m sure that I would recognize it if you showed it to me, but I can’t just think of it off the top of my head, because I was not as into Buffy as you at any point.
ELM: No, it’s cause you were a Johnny-come-lately who was a Spuffy shipper.
FK: You know, I actually don’t want to bring up Buffy ship wars at this point in this conversation. I think that we could both live long and happy lives without entering into that particular hell.
ELM: Of course, we already did that in the special episode.
FK: We did do that in the special episode. So you’ll have to go watch it, listen to it, you know! Whatever you do.
ELM: For the record, I am neither a Buffy/Spike shipper nor a Buffy/Angel shipper.
FK: I know you just love stirring up shit.
ELM: Or an Angel/Spike shipper. As you suggested in the episode. [FK laughs] Which does not seem like a good ship to me, I’m not gonna lie.
FK: Well, I didn’t say that I thought it was healthy. Anyway.
ELM: I mean all ships are fine! I’m not, when I say it’s not a good ship I don’t mean it in like an anti way, you know, like Tumblr antis or whatever, I just mean like, “Ugh, no, please no, bad ship.” [FK laughing] Who cares about that ship! Thousands and thousands of people.
So one thing that we didn’t talk about in the special episode that we meant to, and didn’t get around to because we were too busy talking about your amorality, as we do in all special episodes, was…
FK: What can I say?
ELM: Was Joss Whedon.
FK: Yeah, we didn’t, and I mean, if you are…I assume that unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Joss Whedon was accused of a variety of shady behavior by his ex-wife in a widely circulated article pretty recently, which a lot of people felt like…
ELM: A month ago maybe?
FK: Yeah. And there were a lot of people who had a lot of takes on it, I heard people in the entertainment industry being like “Oh my goodness this has caused Joss Whedon’s fans to turn against him,” and then other people saying like “Joss Whedon’s fans have been turning against him for a long time because did you see that Wonder Woman script,” et cetera. There were a lot of takes on it.
ELM: Or Age of Ultron.
FK: Or before that Dollhouse, that was when I really first saw people begin to push back hard on some of the things that Joss Whedon does. But…
ELM: And notably, what site was that that shut down?
FK: Long-running fansite, very long-running fansite shut down in the wake of this article.
ELM: Which is interesting, because in the question of like—separating a creator from their works and their behaviors is a constant running question. As far as I understand, I didn’t know anything about it, but they subscribed to auteur theory, sort of read on his works, right. So it’s impossible to separate. They chose to center him in the way they talked about his works.
FK: Absolutely. I mean, they were a Joss Whedon fansite that talked about his works and therefore had a bunch of other stuff in there, but they specifically were there because they liked him. Obviously I have no special insight into anything that he’s been accused of, beyond that I generally believe women when they say people are being dicks to them in a sexual way.
FK: It is interesting seeing different people’s reactions to this. Because some people that I know have been like “Well whatever, I still like the things he made that I like,” and other people have been like “They’re all ruined for me.”
ELM: Right, so this is interesting, I don’t know. The only thing that I was ever really into was Buffy, I didn’t like Angel very much, and one thing that’s always struck me as interesting prior to this about people talking about Buffy—that I've noticed as an adult—it’s that people are talking about Joss Whedon all the time and I was like, “Literally never thought about this guy.” People saying he was some great feminist, and I was like, “I also didn’t think about that.” It’s not just…maybe, there are definitely things that I’ve watched where I haven’t thought about the creators at all. And obviously they’re the authors of the text, but I don’t know, it’s tricky.
FK: Yeah, I think that…I know that there are some people who paid attention, especially in Buffy, to sort of who was writing each episode and what take they had on things, this was a big deal and still is in X-files fandom—because X-files can be so uneven, and a lot of X-files fans don't like Chris Carter’s take on the characters, even though he was the creator, they feel like he should step back and let people who, you know, understand the characters in ways that they like better write them. I have found that interesting, the idea that Joss Whedon is an auteur, when he’s had so many projects going on at the same time. I felt occasionally like, “Well, he can’t be responsible for everything in an auteur way.” He’s not Stanley Kubrick sitting there being like, “Move that little elephant figurine two inches to the left or I’ll fire all of you.” You know? [laughs]
ELM: Is that what Kubrick was like? I like how he came up again in this conversation.
FK: Yes. He famously wrote all of his scripts based, generally based on books. He wrote a script and then he shot exactly what was in the script in exactly the way he wanted to.
ELM: All right.
FK: No change. Made Tom Cruise do like 40 takes till Tom Cruise was literally weeping and having a mental breakdown at one point.
ELM: What movie is this?
FK: Eyes Wide Shut.
ELM: Oh. I never saw that.
FK: I really like it; many people don’t really like it. So. You know. It’s controversial. It’s a movie about death!
ELM: OK. I’m not gonna watch it cause I don’t wanna watch Tom Cruise. Is that OK?
FK: Totally fine.
ELM: I don’t wanna see his face.
FK: He is good in it. Nicole Kidman’s in it, though, she’s great!
ELM: I don’t have any great love for her either, so.
FK: Aw, OK, well.
ELMb I’m sorry.
FK: Anyway, point being…
ELM: I don’t dislike her.
FK: I do think it’s funny, though, because I think there’s this, there’s the elevated fanboy sort of argument, right? Which people have with lots of creators, J.J. Abrams, whatever, anybody who is identified as an elevated fanboy. And I wonder how much that ties into some of the surprise I’ve seen people have at the way people have taken this.
ELM: Well, I think Joss Whedon is different because I do think, and I don’t know how much of this is his own making or how much of this is his fans’ making, but the big difference would be the idea that he is some great feminist. And I add some great in front of it in a somewhat facetious tone, because I think the label of “feminist filmmaker” unless you are like… All right, if you’re a female filmmaker and you’re like, “The feminist lens is my critical lens and this is my mission, blah blah blah,” or whatever, even if not… I also have, I take issue with the kind of, we use the word “feminist” in a lot of different ways and they don’t always mean the same thing, right. So like, coming from a critical theory background, feminism is a lens through which to analyze a text, as opposed to just kind of, I think, fairly lazy pop-culture tendency to say, “slap a label on.” This is feminist! This is not feminist! Is wearing lipstick feminist? Right, like, these are the most basic-ass takes on what actually is a critical discourse, right.
FK: Right. And I mean, I think that’s also pretty complicated when you bring specifically Buffy into it, not anything else, because if you…the traditional story about the beginning of Buffy, about being like “What if the blonde girl who screams and dies fought back,” well…then you see why people immediately say that, but it’s more complex than just being like “Yes, this story, and therefore…”
ELM: Buffy is so much more interesting if you think of it as, not as…“is this feminist or not feminist?” Which I think everything is more interesting if you do it this way. Instead of asking that and saying, like, “I’m going to read this text which centers a female protagonist and several other female characters, and the men, read it from that angle too. I’m going to analyze this from a feminist lens.” Then it becomes infinitely more interesting than saying, “Well, she’s, this blonde girl cares about fashion, is that feminist? But she’s strong and she fights, is that feminist? She cried in this one episode, is that feminist?” Which I literally see people having these conversations, and I’m like, “Why are we doing it this way?” Am I being unfair? Do you know what I mean?
FK: I don’t think you are. You’re actually bringing up points…the other night I had a long conversation with someone about is Twin Peaks misogynist. Is David Lynch misogynist? And at the end of it I was like, the conclusion I came to was I actually don’t think that it's as simple as saying “Oh yes, this large and long work is either feminist or misogynist.” That’s not…you’re not gonna come to a useful thing out of that. There are parts of it that I’m like, “Oh really?” And there’s parts of it that are amazing, and everything is composed of all of these different parts.
ELM: Right, yeah, totally.
FK: I recently rewatched the worst Star Trek episode, in my opinion, of all time, “Turnabout Intruder,” which is also the one that is most interesting in a lot of ways for gender, because Kirk and his ex bodyswap. And then she goes murderous and freaky because she really wants to take over his life and be a dude.
ELM: All right.
FK: It’s got a lot of problems in it, but I watched it!
ELM: That sounds problematic.
FK: Oh, it’s super! But then I watched it and I was like, “Wow, there's a lot of things going on here,” and it’s like…only one level is the level of “Wow this is problematic.” There are so many other things that are also happening in this text.
ELM: Well right, and part of it is in the context of the time, and I feel like this is maybe easier for me to do, or this is the reason I’m coming at it, because I literally spent all my undergrad studying the British empire. So yeah, it’s very easy to say “Yeah, that was racist,” because it was. But it is, it also is, these are texts that exist, this is history that happened. And so if you then approach it from…it’s like, the question of “Is it X or Y?” is so basic. Right.
FK: Right. And also, doesn’t totally account for all the feelings you may have encountering the text. One of the things about “Turnabout Intruder” is it has this very fine-boned Julianne-Moore-lookin’ actress who is playing Captain Kirk for a bunch of it! And watching her be, admittedly a disempowered and people don't believe that she’s Captain Kirk, but she is Captain Kirk, and she’s being called hysterical, and trying to be like, “No.” There’s all these elements in it that I find really interesting and powerful, as well as the “Holy shit this is a trash fire.” And also, William Shatner is in it, and William Shatner has lots of opinions that I don’t agree with! So it’s all…
ELM: Your fave is super problematic! OK, let’s bring it back to that though, because it’s what we started talking about, Joss Whedon. I don’t know, this is a big question, and this is the fandom question, when you find out…it’s not when you find out, though. It’s like, when you have confirmed and very straightforward way just the same as…who was it that wrote the op ed about Woody Allen three or four years ago? Someone in his family.
FK: Oh, yes.
ELM: Was it Ronan, Ronan Farrow?
FK: I think so.
ELM: It was a Farrow.
FK: I think it was Ronan.
ELM: Do you remember this? It was in the Times.
FK: I do remember it.
ELM: And it was this big thing, and it was like, oh, you know.
FK: Everyone had to, at that point suddenly it was the question again: now that we have this thing…
ELM: The perpetual Woody Allen…
FK: How DO you feel about Annie Hall?
ELM: Right, and it’s just like…I don’t know. I hesitate. I think that we, there’s a spectrum. I’d be more on the end of yeah, if someone is an abuser, I think that I would rather…or has super problematic and offensive views and is not repentant or not trying to learn but just is like “I’m a racist!” They wouldn’t say it like that, but you know what I mean, they just keep saying racist things and they don’t apologize for it, I lean towards the side of just—I don’t want that, I don’t want that person's work in my life. Right? I’ve never really been in the position of finding out that my fave was super problematic and not being willing to let them go. I guess I would say. I was really into Gary Oldman for a long time, I don’t know if you know this, I watched his entire back catalog.
FK: I did not know this, this is unplumbed depths.
ELM: Yeah, I was really…so you know, the honest truth is that Sirius Black introduced me. And I didn’t even think he was well cast. I know why they cast him, they wanted to fake people out because he was famous for playing villains and for the six people who were watching the movie who hadn’t read the book, the whole point of, spoiler, Prisoner of Azkaban is that Sirius Black is not the bad guy. Right? And I think that he actually brought, I think he kind of did get typecast for a long while, but he’s interesting when he plays a good-guy role, right? I think he’s interesting in the Batman movies.
ELM: So I’m not gonna say it was some fancy movie that brought me to him, it was definitely Harry Potter, but I watched his entire back catalog, which—some of it was really good and some of it was really abysmal. He made that movie where he plays a little person?
FK: I did not know about that.
ELM: It’s called Tiptoes, so fuckin’ offensive.
FK: I am now going to erase it from my mind. I didn’t need to know about that. Sorry, people who worked on Tiptoes, I’m just gonna forget and it’s better for all of us that I forget it.
ELM: Anyway, Gary Oldman, over the years he would lean into territory where I’d be like…“Oh.” Is this kinda like, you know, he’s kinda conservative, but he wouldn’t say explicitly offensive stuff. Then he gave this interview to Playboy in… 2012, I wanna say? And it was just like, it was, oh, so cringe-y. It was like, you know how conservative actors do this, where you’re like “You can’t say anything these days.”
ELM: And then they, you know. So he did that. But then he gave…
FK: Then he said the thing that he couldn’t say these days and you were like “OH HO.”
ELM: And if memory serves, maybe I’ll fact check this afterwards, he was like “Because it’s true, y’know!” Like: “You can’t say these things about the Jews, but why not, because they’re true!” And I was like… [intake of breath] That’s, you just laid it all out there, right. And then I was like, “I don’t want to engage with you anymore.” And it wasn’t hard for me to give him up, and I don’t know if it would have been harder if…I mean, I wasn’t really, I was interested in his work, but was I in his fandom? You know what I mean?
FK: But you don’t feel that way about Joss, even though…you don’t feel like Joss Whedon and Buffy are so intertwined for you that that’s a problem.
ELM: For me he has nothing to do with it. He has nothing to do with my experience of watching it. I’m not a fan of his other works, I haven’t seen it, you know?
FK: I wonder if this is harder with actors, people whose face you see, right? I wonder if it’s harder for people to…I mean, if Joss Whedon had a lot to do with Buffy, although, but you don’t see him and you don’t have to think about him, you can think of it as a separate work. Whereas if he were one of the actors in it, you could be like “Wow, that guy’s face right there.”
ELM: That’s how I feel about Cumberbatch. I’m so mad at him.
FK: This is really interesting, this is really interesting.
ELM: I’ll never not be mad at him. Do you find this to be true for you?
FK: I guess for me…yes and no? I think that I find, I find that people’s views or whatever, things that they’ve done, et cetera, can turn me off of their later projects, and also I can feel like I don’t wanna work with that person, you know, if I’ve heard very bad things about a person maybe I would choose to, maybe I would rather not be in a situation where I have to work with them? But if I’ve loved something that they’ve made in the past, I think that’s a much harder thing to unpick for me, you know?
ELM: Even though they were that person the whole time.
FK: Even though they were that person the whole time.
ELM: That’s hard.
FK: Because I don’t think that…unless I can see in the work, unless I’m like “Oh, I was ignoring these things in the work,” if I looked back at a piece of work and I was like “Wow, I can see all of these bad things about this person in it, all of these negative attitudes, all of these whatever, and now I can only see those things in it. But before I was ignoring it.” But then I think that’s how I would feel…
ELM: This is funny…
FK But often that isn’t the case for me. Often I look back and say “I didn’t see that in the work and I don’t see it now, so.”
ELM: This is funny though, because we were literally just saying maybe it’s actors, because you see their faces. But actors, you watch an old Johnny Depp movie and you think “Oh, that man’s clearly a domestic abuser”? He’s an actor! Some of these actors are just dumb, blank canvases, right?
FK: I’m not saying that personally I have that feeling about actors, either. I’m just saying that, to me the difference is that if I look back at a work and I say the associations with the negative thing this person did or said or whatever are too strong for me to overcome it, then of course I’m not interested in it. But a lot of times that’s not true, because a lot of times whatever they did or said has nothing to do with this piece. Like you were saying with Joss, right. If you don’t see any of the things that he’s been accused of doing in the work, then why would you feel negatively about it, particularly?
ELM: Well, I mean sure…
FK: You might not wanna give him more money for a new thing, but…
ELM: I don't think Buffy was without its problems! I think if you watch it critically, I'm sure that if I had to watch it now and I said “I am going to watch this very critically,” as opposed to like…we talk about it in the Special Episode, I became a Buffy fan when it came on the air when I was 14, Season Three was where it was at for me, and starting around Season Five I was not pleased with where it was going and I stopped watching. And then I came back to it maybe in 2010. So I was in my mid-20s. And I watched the whole thing from start to finish. And the later episodes were interesting in that context. But I wasn’t sitting there thinking, obviously I always watch things with a relatively critical eye, but I wasn’t like, about to write a paper about them and, you know, deconstructing…if you asked me to I certainly could…I don’t think it’s an unproblematic work, I think it’s an interesting work. Do I see reflections of the specific accusations against him? I have no idea. Do I even, is that a question I need to be worried? Is that a question I need to ask?
FK: I don’t know if you do or not, I don’t know! I don’t have moral feelings about this, you know, I don’t think that people have to feel one way or the other about pieces of art made by people.
ELM: Right. I mean, like, Woody Allen, it’s so easy. Oh, you’re what, 40 and—how old’s he in Manhattan, and how old is the actress? Like 17, right?
FK: I don’t know. I mean I’m sure you're right.
ELM: It’s clear he likes that age gap. I think that Woody Allen is always there in the text. I mean, he’s a director and he’s a writer of a lot of these films. It’s hard for me to forget about him.
FK: Right, so you’re essentially agreeing with me and saying that there’s a difference between when you can forget about the person and when they’re in it for you, when they’re immanent in it for you.
ELM: Right, but I’m saying, is it problematic to forget about the person? Is it bad for me to watch Buffy and to not think about Joss Whedon?
FK: Well, I mean, I think that…I don’t have an answer to that. I think that…
ELM: Alternately, just because a lot of people have a kind of auteur view of the show, even though there was a room full of writers—including some very well-known TV writers.
FK: Oh, very well-known.
ELM: So that’s a little weird to me to think about. Right. So it’s this one in particular, kind of catches me off guard. So many people view it as his text.
FK: But there’s a lot of people…
ELM: But perhaps it wasn’t even, so I’m not gonna sit here and be like “Well, I’m fine with it because those women are fine,” that’s dumb, I don’t want to invalidate anyone’s read on it, you know…
FK: Yeah. Well, I don’t think we’re likely to come up with a solution to this, but I will say that it’s been interesting talking about it because…
ELM: You always say “We’re not gonna solve this.” We never said we have to solve it, Flourish!
FK: I don’t know, sometimes I feel like you really wanna solve it! Sometimes I feel like you’re talking about it cause you wanna solve it, and I’m like, “I don’t know! I have no answers!” [laughing]
ELM: How many episodes do we need to do before you will stop assuming that I wanna solve it?
FK: I don’t know, you sound like it every time! [laughing] I love this fight. I love this fight.
ELM: I don’t know how to orate without sounding to you like I’m trying to draw conclusions.
FK: I don’t know how you would orate in that way either. We’re just gonna have to live with it.
ELM: Sorry I cut you off. What were you saying?
FK: I do think that I would love to hear from our listeners about this, because I think it’s an interesting case where it touches on a lot of questions people who are not in fandom have about…you wrote about this in your recent article about things you learned from fandom, right? That fandom is about being critical as well as being in love with something.
ELM: Nice slick plug for my recent article!
FK: Yeah, but it’s true! This is something that often—
ELM: PAUSE. We’re pluggin’ the article. You’re just gonna keep talking! I wrote a piece for Storythings, the company I work for, which is doing a series for Medium called Five Things I Learned. And they asked me to write five things I learned about fandom. So instead I wrote five things that I taught other people about fandom, which I think, it’s fine. It is what it is.
FK: It is what it is.
ELM: But yeah, I…what did I learn from fandom? Everything! That’s too big. I can’t do that. So it’s like, things I learned…I learned…things I learned to center when I talk to strangers about writing about fandom. So it’s like, fandom is critical space. Fandom isn’t good or bad, it just is. A lot of themes we talk about on here. So we’ll put a link in the show notes. It’s for members only, but you get a few free reads.
FK: If you’re a member of Medium.
ELM: If you’re not a member of Medium you get a few free…
FK: Ooh that’s what I mean, sorry sorry, words.
ELM: Anyway, continue.
FK: Anyway I just, all I’m saying is I think this is something that's really in a lot of people’s minds who are not part of fandom and who look from the outside. “Why is this? What happens when fans, when fans are critical of a creator, turn on one…” So I think yeah, please.
ELM: There’s another angle that we didn’t get to, and I wonder, I was just thinking of people’s responses, and that is, there’s not just two ways. There’s not just “accept it but still like the thing,” or “disavow the person and say I can’t engage with this any more.” The third way is to try to make excuses for the creator, the actor, the writer, whatever, which I saw a bunch of this, people being like “Oh, well, aren’t we all problematic,” or, I’ve seen people try to defend Johnny Depp, “Who knows what their situation is, blah blah blah,” this instinct…whereas both of our instincts are to believe women in areas of accusation. There also is in a lot of people the instinct to defend your fave.
FK: I mean, I also don't want to make it sound like…I have no idea if any of the things in that are true or not. But I, generally speaking, make the assumption that, I just don’t wanna assume they’re not, either. Right? [awkward laughing]
ELM: I think we can go on the record saying that us as individuals and our policy generally, is to believe women.
FK: All I’m trying to say is I’m not trying to make a specific statement about any one person’s situations, because I don’t know, but on the other hand, yeah, I agree, there’s also a knee-jerk instinct to be like “Any bad thing that could be said, no matter how substantiated, must be wrong, because I love this person.”
ELM: Yeah, and that’s a huge portion of people do this. It’s undeniable. Stan twitter, for example, which is the whole…so that is, there’s definitely an element of this too. So in the interest of expressing the different ways that people approach this, it’s worth mentioning.
FK: Well, I would love to hear from, actually I would love to hear from somebody who feels like they have that instinct in particular or that they’ve done that themselves. I’m sure I have, I’ll have to go think of when I’ve done it. I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been cases where I’ve done things like that.
ELM: Yeah, and also folding in the ideas of…what you wrote about last year when you were talking about you feeling a knee-jerk defensiveness of something that you criticize within fandom, and then I wonder if there’s some of that too.
FK: Yeah, that’s true.
ELM: What if you were a super big Joss Whedon fan and then people who just know his work but aren’t fans of him are saying, “No, disavow this man!” and you’re like “But you don’t even know,” but you may have meanwhile been tearing him apart within the fandom, so.
FK: Yeah, it’s really complex.
ELM: Yeah it is.
FK: OK, listeners, if you have thoughts on this topic, it’s obviously a huge one, please please please send them to us, we’ll talk about them next time. Cause I think that we’re almost running out of time, actually.
ELM: Yes we are.
FK: But we would love to. We sort of haven’t had as much listener e-mail, so come on guys! E-mail! This is part of the pledge drive! If you can’t pledge us a dollar then send us some e-mail and give us your thoughts! Because that also means a lot. It’s an incredibly helpful thing.
ELM: Wow, we’re having an e-mail pledge drive? Can you imagine? If you read all the e-mails that you have to answer in your day, and now we’re begging for e-mails.
FK: Well, in any case!
ELM: It’s true, I like these e-mails a lot better than the normal e-mails I get, which are like “did you do this thing?” Right?
FK: Send us an ask on Tumblr, fansplaining.com or fansplaining.tumblr.com, tweet at us, we’re also fansplaining on Twitter, the email address is email@example.com, and if you go to fansplaining.com you can even find a phone number that you can call us at. And you should.
ELM: Yes, yes! Please do.
FK: All right.
ELM: All right, well, I’m gonna go to England.
FK: All right, enjoy England, and I’m gonna stay here in the United States.
ELM: Enjoy that.
FK: All right.
ELM: I have to come back to it. [laughing]
FK: Goodbye, Elizabeth!
ELM: OK, bye Flourish!
[Outro music, thank-yous and disclaimers]