Episode 60: Orlando Jones
Elizabeth and Flourish have a wide-ranging chat with (you guessed it) Orlando Jones, of American Gods, Sleepy Hollow and those 7up commercials. Topics covered include the differing definitions of “fanboy” and “fangirl,” Orlando’s secret passion for R2D2/C3PO slash, race and racism in TV production, Rashomon’s applicability to fandom wank, and which Batman is the best Batman.
[00:32:38] Your Fave Is Problematic, if you don’t know it: @yourfaveisproblematic
(No, Orlando, come back! We love you.)
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for and about fandom!
ELM: So, this is Episode 60, very special episode, entitled “Orlando Jones.”
FK: Oh yeah.
ELM: [laughs] Uh, all right. That was a nice smooth opening.
FK: I was trying to be as smooth as Orlando, but I don’t know that anybody is as smooth as Orlando.
ELM: Uh, look, know thyself. [FK laughs] You’re not as smooth as Orlando, I already know this.
FK: OK, but some of our listeners might not know Orlando, we should probably talk about who he is.
ELM: OK, you are friends with him, so you tell me his entire backstory, go.
FK: Oh my God. Um, I’m not sure if I can go for his entire backstory, but he is an actor who’s pretty well known in some corners of fandom because he interacts with fans a lot and, you know, actually deals with fans in a human and understanding and learning what fandom is all about kind of a way. He’s a fan himself. He was on Sleepy Hollow, which is sort of how that…sort of interaction with the particular type of fandom I’m talking about came to be. And most recently he's been on American Gods. I think he has a new movie out that’s called Madiba that’s about South Africa. And I think that’s coming out very soon. But fandom, I don't think, knows him from that as much as from American Gods and Sleepy Hollow.
ELM: Gotcha. And I feel like he came into my, actually I feel like I knew of him prior to entering this fandomy space, but he definitely came into my sphere via the…his posting about he’s a fangirl and these very thoughtful—particularly for an actor. I say that like it’s the lowest bar. But you know what I mean? It was, for anyone it would have been good, but for an actor in particular it was particularly knowledgeable, I would say.
FK: Right. And then he also has this alter ego, Trollando, who sometimes just shows up and is, like, a friendly internet troll. Mostly friendly. [ELM laughs] So he’s pretty hip to the kids. Or something.
ELM: Oh, wow.
FK: [laughs] Should we just call him?
ELM: Yeah, we should just call him.
FK: All right, let's do it.
FK: OK, it's time to welcome Orlando to the podcast! Hello Orlando!
Orlando Jones: Hello hello, how is everybody?
ELM: I’m OK, how are you?
OJ: I'm pretty good I have to say! Doin’ a podcast with you, so I mean, how bad can it be? Flourish is drinking a beer, I see, well played.
FK: Uh, it’s not a beer.
OJ: What is that?
FK: It is a rum drink.
OJ: Oh, oh, I’m sorry, a rum drink, is that what they call it? [laughing]
FK: She is drinking a beer.
OJ: Well you know what, respect, respect.
FK: You know, it’s necessary when you're gonna talk about nothing for an hour…it’s not nothing, I know it’s not nothing, sorry.
OJ: Wow. You heard that, right?
ELM: Uh-huh. [FK laughing]
OJ: You all in your feelings already! Three ridiculous fangirls, we are 30 seconds in and we already in our feelings, the feels are already here! [all laugh]
FK: Don’t you know this entire podcast is me and Elizabeth arguing with each other for people’s pleasure?
OJ: It’s fantastic. Well then, I’m happy to join that party. What y’all gonna argue about today?
ELM: Yeah, what do you wanna fight about, let’s do it.
FK: Well the first thing, before we start fighting, Orlando, our traditional first question for people who come on this podcast is to find out about what kind of fan they are and how they got into being a fan.
OJ: Oh wow. OK.
FK: And I’m pretty sure you have a really good answer to that, so.
OJ: Sure, I always have stories about my notorious fangirling. What kind of fan I am? I don't know! I consider myself a 14-year-old fangirl. If that’s a category, that's my category. How I got into fandom, I…you know, I probably started with sports fandom because my dad’s a coach, and so I was always at games or we were on recruiting trips or whatnot, and you know, first of all, I thought Star Wars was literally the worst title for a movie I had ever heard. [laughter] And my mother was like, insistent that I go see this new movie called Star Wars and I was like, “I know you trippin’. I am not goin’ to see some wack Hollywood movie…” Like I was completely that snobby kid, I was like, “Uh-uh, that don’t even smell right, go away old lady.”
And my mother forced me to go, like, this is not even a joke. I will never forget this. We were at 291 Pleasantburg Drive in Greenville South Carolina, cinema four-plex, we walked in, it had velvet, those maroon-velvety kinda walls, and I was like, rubbing my hand on the walls like “Mom I hate this movie and I hope a thousand million trillion elephants come and trample you to death old lady,” like I was done. Literally the movie was over and I think I yelled at my mom like “I NEED A LIGHTSABER RIGHT NOW!” [laughing] I wanna be very clear, I STILL NEED A LIGHTSABER! RIGHT NOW, LIKE, RIGHT NOW, I don’t care about—I mean I love R2-D2 and C-3PO, I was like writing fanfiction about them cause they were my favorite characters, I was like “Man this British robot and the BP dude they got a thing goin’ on,” I was completely writing…
ELM: Oh, you shipped them!
OJ: OH I SHIPPED THEM HEAVY. I was writin’ slash, cause I assumed they were both male, I didn’t care! Nobody told me that was a problem!
ELM: They’re robots.
OJ: They’re robots! You know. Somebody wouldn’t just stick somebody’s…
FK: Well, people do address them as “he” and presumably C-3PO, being a protocol droid, would get really pissed off if they were being misgendered.
FK: If HE was being misgendered.
OJ: HE was being misgendered!
FK: As a protocol droid he’d be like “I’m sorry,” you know, “the use of the incorrect pronouns for a robot is inappropriate,” you know.
OJ: [in C-3PO voice] You cannot stick your floppy into my hard drive. [laughter]
FK: OK OK, but it seems like you, it seems like you came onto the scene as the 14-year-old fangirl that you are somewhat later than this because I’m pretty sure that in the 7 Up commercials you were not being like “AND BY THE WAY, R2-D2 and C-3PO!”
OJ: No, but here’s the thing, I've always been that way as me, but for years nobody was on the internet talking about this. I started going to cons when I was on Mad TV in 1996, 1997, so like…literally, there was no lineup at Comic-Con. [laughing] I see it now and I’m just, I laugh so hard because you could park across the street, there was no traffic, it was super simple, you could go to artists like—Sergio Aragonès took me to what is now considered artists’ alley and introduced me to comic book artists that later became legendary, like, I didn’t know anything about anything, so you know, there was definitely…I think that fangirling part that came in for MAD Magazine, cause I loved MAD Magazine, and then I was on MADtv so I kinda had that moment, but again, it was ’95-’96, and I was always the weird black nerd kid, so that wasn’t new to anybody [laughing] that’s the part that was super normal.
Yeah I guess a lot of years passed and then when Sleepy Hollow happened, you, know I had just launched my own graphic novel action-comedy on Machinima in 2012. I was all excited about that, and Sleepy Hollow happened and obviously all the attention went to there because of everybody involved in that, namely Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman and all that madness and Len Wiseman and what have you. And suddenly I was in social media having a conversation with a group of fangirls who I think were just like, “What is he doing here? And how does he know all of this?” You know? [laughing] I think it just threw people. People were completely like “What, what’s going on?” Which to me was hilarious because I’ve been poking around on AO3 for a really long time, so, there were elements…like I knew who Flourish was I remember when she was a kid, I remembered being like “GO GIRL GO,” like, you know.
FK: WHAT. [ELM laughing] This is literally the first time you have ever told me this!
OJ: RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE GIRL!! Hell on wheels in Sacramento…
FK: So you were hella stealth! You were hella stealth!
OJ: Oh completely! But then again, who would you talk to about it?
FK: No it’s true. because people talk all the time about how it’s weird and awkward in the industry to be out about this and it sounds like you were like “All right, it’s time.”
OJ: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s one of those things where honestly I just don’t think I fit the bill, so it never came up and nobody ever asked. I’m sure my friends knew, it’s not like we weren’t talking about stuff very regularly anyway, but that just wasn’t the forum, you know what I mean? And a bunch of black nerds talking about nerd stuff was not a conversation anybody was interested in having particularly in the mid 2000s and early ’90s, it was all about Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood and how hard you were and gangster rap, so the conversation was all about authenticity as it related to streetness, as it related to socioeconomics, and I’m from the Deep South, so what was I gonna say about growing up in Compton? [laughing] I’m like, “I drove through there once! It looked fine to me!”
So I really, you know, was excited to be able to talk about it, and so you know. In that process met Henry Jenkins and then subsequently realized that you and he knew each other which previously didn’t occur to me [laughter] and then next thing I know you were walking into his classroom and I was talking to his class and I was like “OH MAN. HEY!”
FK: Oh that’s right, that is when we first met!
OJ: That’s when we first met, absolutely, and it was your birthday!
FK: Yes, I remember that!
ELM: Oh my God.
FK: It’s true.
OJ: And I gave you a Sleepy Hollow t-shirt.
FK: You gave me a Sleepy Hollow shirt, which I still have!
OJ: Yes, and I made those, those were not from the studio! That was my incessant fangirling. I made those shirts.
FK: I know you made those shirts cause at the time you were like “I have this shirt for you and by the way I made sure that it was a shirt someone would actually want to wear and not a dumb cheap shirt that they would make for merchandise.”
OJ: That is correct. I picked out bamboo and organic cotton and made sure it was super soft!
OJ: I went all the way.
FK: It’s one of the best shirts that I own.
ELM: That’s lovely!
FK: It’s one of my favorite t-shirts!
OJ: Listen, I have more, I will send you both shirts, but uh…
ELM: Oh yeah, I’ll take a shirt!
FK: It’s kinda cool, it's a skull, it has Sleepy Hollow things in mirror writing, it’s really neat.
OJ: Everything in Season One, but what was for me fun was that you could look in the mirror and read it but you can’t read it without the mirror, because Abby was looking in the mirror whenever she saw Moloch. [FK dies laughing] So I thought it would be really cool to do a shirt in reverse print so…OK, this is the level of nerd-dom that nobody ever wants to talk about.
ELM: This is incredible, no, this is fantastic!
OJ: So that, I guess, 2013 was the time it got, you know, sort of vocal, and I’d always liked Supernatural but it’s not, again, it’s not a Hollywood show, it's not a show that people consider a quality show or anything like that, but what I most liked about the show were the fans. So I fell in love with the fandom, and then based on the fandom’s exuberant qualities I fell in love with the show, and then I tend to pick the ship that gets the most hate just cause I feel like that's [laughter] that’s the disenfranchised ship, so I’m like “THAT’S MY SHIP.” So I immediately went to Destiel because I was a Misha Collins fan, like so many other people, and really had to ship something, and you know, Castiel is lovely but shipping him with the… [laughter]
And also I really do think that as a member of a disenfranchised group, having grown up that way, I think there’s something to be said about how we band and stick together. And my own hypocrisy in that. I literally remember thinking “Oh man seems like something notorious is going on at Tiananmen Square, how horrible for those people,” you know, I kept feeling that way about various human rights abuses and then as black kids begin to die I was like “THIS MUST STOP, THIS IS RACIST!” and I’m like, “Yeah now that they're killing you it’s racist. Previously…you were awful cavalier about it.” So I tend to choose things that I think have, don’t wanna say like-minded situations, but that I can champion that are not my own, so slash became that along with 14-year-old fangirls so here I am.
ELM: So all right, I wanted to ask about the fangirl thing. So this is why you call yourself a fangirl?
OJ: Well I don’t, fanboys, the nomenclature means something, and I think fanboys there’s a coolness to them, right? And I think there is an exclusionary element to it a bit as well, and I don’t particularly agree with that element of what many guys mean when they say “I’m a fanboy.” And I…I prefer, I prefer rabid fan elements, I prefer all the squees and all the feels, and I prefer that as a way to fan. When I’m gonna fan something I wanna go all in, I’m not interested in being concerned about how other people might perceive me, and I think there’s just a huge part of the Hollywood thing, at a Hollywood party nobody’s dancing, everybody’s just mingling and chit-chatting around.
ELM: Oh really? Not even at the end of the night when everyone’s really drunk?
OJ: SOME people.
FK: It’s possible Elizabeth may have gone to some parties at Comic-Con with me and may have a slightly twisted idea about what a Hollywood party is.
OJ: Comic-Con is not a Hollywood party! [laughter]
ELM: I’m only basing it on parties in New York, I work in a different industry. Sometimes…
OJ: New York isn’t Hollywood, I’m talkin’ about…
ELM: No, I work in the media and I’m saying if you get people drunk enough there will be some dancing at a media party.
OJ: I agree, but I’m the dude that comes in to the party dancing. [laughter]
ELM: Too soon. Too soon.
OJ: And it needs to be LOUD. I don’t like it at polite conversational level. I want music LOUD, you know what I’m sayin’. I wanna have a good time. And I don't like the elements of it that aren’t about that. You know what I mean? And I don’t like the idea that you would shame somebody else because they’re having a good time about something that you didn’t appreciate about something. Like, what it got to do with you in the first place? I really identified greatly with the way 14-year-old fangirls behave, and how unabashed it is, and so that’s the group that I wanted, that I consider myself a part of. To this day. And so that’s why I, you know, I think of myself in that way and sort of shun the other ways, cause I don’t feel like that’s me.
ELM: Have you gotten any pushback from women? Saying “This is a female-dominated space”?
OJ: Of course, of course, I get nothing but pushback. Of course.
ELM: So how do you respond to that? I’m just curious.
OJ: I don’t think anybody else has the right to tell me how to fan. I just don’t think that’s, that’s not really what I signed up for here. [laughter]
FK: There was a fan roster, and you signed that fan roster and it said nothing about it.
OJ: It didn’t say nothin’ about that. Listen, of so many places in society where there is such division, you know, what I love about fandom is…flame wars can happen, of course, but we generally cling together because we love a thing. And that, there’s something to be said for that. And I think a key component in that is not telling other people how they should feel about something. It’s accepting that, hearing that, enjoying that, appreciating that it’s different than your own, sharing yours and what that collective group brings to the party is the party. But the idea that you have to do this, and you have to do this, like, what? No. That’s not…I need that church and that state to be separated. I can’t put them together. And I feel like that’s super, for me that’s a super important element of fandom.
FK: This makes me think about how important to a lot of people in fandom canon shipping is now, right? There’s so many people who… You mentioned Destiel, but also in all sorts of places, the idea that “my ship needs to be canon” is so important to a lot of fans, and separate from representation conversations, which I think are related but not the same thing as your individual ship becoming canon…
OJ: I agree, I agree.
FK: I’m just interested to know how you relate to that. Cause you hear about a lot of stuff you’re involved in a swell as everything else. And saying that everyone should be free to be into what they’re into…how does that play out when there’s only gonna be one canonical thing?
OJ: Look, for me, the way I hope it plays out is that I hope fans are able to have the tools to interpret the characters the way that excites them. I also think that it’s extremely important for creatives to understand that once you release the story, it’s not yours anymore. It now belongs to everyone. And this idea that the story is proprietary is, to me, crazy. I don’t like to put those parameters around it. I don’t think it’s about your ship becoming canon. At least that’s not why I ship Destiel. I don’t need it to become canon. I’m happy to read the fiction and enjoy myself, I don’t need that. I don’t need it to be homogenized, I don’t need it to be given back to me in certain terms, I don’t need any of that. What I need is for it to be what I want it to be and for the group of people who appreciate it the way I do. It’s for us, it ain’t for you.
And that goes for the creator. Cause it ain’t his or hers anymore anyway. So this idea that fans are supposed to be obedient, silent, show up when they’re supposed to because you told them to, is no longer the way entertainment is consumed. And either you can get on board with that or not get on board with that, but we have all watched too many shows that we love go down the tubes by thinking that way.
And for me, I understand also that because I sit on the other side and play the character, people imbue me with power that I don’t have. I’m interpreting that character myself, because…the guy isn’t, the guy or the girl isn’t moving my arms or my mouth, making me walk and talk, you know. I’m fillin’ in some area here! [laughing] That’s my job. And I always find it surprising that no one seems to notice that what my job ultimately is, I can make “fuck you” mean whatever I want you to mean. The words aren’t what the power is, the intention is the power. For me in fandom that’s a really important thing, the intention is the power, and I do think it’s important for fans to be seen, but I don't think it’s important that “being seen” means “recognizing their creative vision for the show.” It means listening to, appreciating their creative vision for the show, understanding where it’s coming from, that’s important, but telling them what it is and how they should think about it, I don’t really get those elements of it. You know.
And I think I’m lucky, because Brian Fuller is wonderful. American Gods is probably one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had, and I mean that as a fan. As a fan, to be able to have these conversations with both of my showrunners, and Neil Gaiman the creator, is unheard of. I’ve never…and to have them be so embracing of fandom, I’ve never seen this before. So I’m excited about the future of what that show holds, and I’m excited about the way they chose their writing staff in Season Two. They chose from the fans. I’ve never heard of this before. They literally hired people who were fans of the show, brought them in the writing room to apprentice, and they made sure to choose people that were, that represented the diversity argument that we’re talking about, because they said, “These are the people who represent the characters on the show, so we’re not choosing randomly, we’re choosing the voices we think we messed up in the show.”
FK: That’s really cool.
OJ: I’m sorry, I’ve never heard of that.
ELM: Yeah, I hadn’t heard of this.
OJ: Yeah. They hired a lot of the, some of the people who do the “Fan Brothers” podcast got hired for the show, and it’s not like they were looking to do that. They interviewed lots of people in and outside of the industry, opened the door to interview those guys, and said those guys had the freshest take on the things that they got wrong with Ricky Whittle’s character. And they felt like they didn’t do right by Shadow Moon, and they wanted to make sure that the room included voices that could help them correct that problem, and made sure to choose the voices that were the most vocal about what they got wrong. Again, that for me is euphoric. I’ve never heard of this before, but I think it’s represented in the work you’re seeing being done in the show and the cast on the show, but I also think it speaks directly to your question, which is this, is a group of creators that are not afraid to invite fans into the process and to help them be a productive part of the process rather than just shutting it down, saying it’s too difficult, moving on and writing what they want.
Because it really is about how we apprentice others as well, because that’s what the diversity fight is really about. Because how you bring someone in, apprentice them and help them realize their ability as their own storytellers, and hopefully they’ll pay that forward. And as a recipient of that at a very young age in Hollywood, that’s how I see fandom, cause I got in fandom as a fan and then became who I am. And that’s the way it happened for everybody, and everybody forgets that. We all started as fans, every one of us. And then we’ve found ourselves on the other side, but now that's not relevant anymore, cause we're on the other side, cause now there’s all this other bullshit. So I reject that.
ELM: So that’s really interesting and I’m curious, it feels like, I’m imagining creators in Hollywood in the center of a spectrum, and it sounds like the people making American Gods moved towards a kind of fan positive and a better learning and representation…that end of the, the good end of the spectrum. But what I see a lot [FK laughs] is also creators moving towards, if I’m imagining a physical space, moving to the other end of the spectrum.
ELM: And they get this pushback and they dig in and I think sometimes they get worse. And they go “I was…it’s a chilling effect! I’m afraid to create now that you called me transphobic!” I’m wondering how that looks from your perspective, because it seems like there’s more and more of that happening, this kind of…their reactionary tightening.
OJ: So, I’ll put some real life terms to it and try and have this discussion in a way that I previously did not have the discussion, because I feel I’m able to do that now that the show is no longer on the air. In my own experience I watched that happen with Sleepy Hollow. And I did not watch that happen because the creators are racist, that’s not what was going on. There is a machine at work, and there is a mindset that goes with that machine. And it’s very difficult for fans to understand that dynamic. Some do, some don’t, so I shouldn’t say it’s very difficult, some fans completely get it, some don’t.
But they moved to the other end of the spectrum because in their mind, you’re doing Sleepy Hollow, of course it’s gonna be the story of Ichabod Crane. Of course. It’s Sleepy Hollow. But that wasn’t why anybody was into that show. That was a component of it.
FK: Icky was only there to support Abby.
FK: He was there in order to let us have an excuse to look at Abby at all times.
OJ: That is correct. [ELM laughing] That’s correct.
FK: He was there to be her boy toy for her to enjoy and for all that, it was totally.
OJ: That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right. So all of the agency existed with Abby, not Ichabod. And the fact that she and her sister were both Witnesses, and the fact that suddenly the history of our country was being retold with women and people of color in positions of power wherein they were in no way shape or form even subservient to the machine, not the girlfriend, or the wife, at all. Like, that was a true break. Particularly when you were not seeing that type of representation in blockbusters and here it was, Asian, Latino, and female and male, far more representation than you see even on a Shonda Rhimes show. There were some important things going on there when you think about the number of people involved. Amandla Stenberg playing my daughter, but also playing a young lady in a wheelchair of color. Again, when you look at what the Ruderman Foundation is trying to do, and how people with disabilities are still treated as if they’re weird, no, that’s just their normal. I’ve got my normal, they’ve got their normal, what is this mindset.
So I say all this to say, but when you’re the studio and you’re the network and you think you’re making a procedural about Ichabod Crane based on the legend of Sleepy Hollow, you’re not listening to how your fan base is talking. Are they the most important IP? Yes. Do you have any tools to listen to them? No. Is there any part of your infrastructure that does that? No. So of course they reached the conclusions they reached. Of course they pushed to the outer edges, because it wasn’t gonna be the serialized show they wanted it to be, because the studio and the network didn’t want it to be that, they wanted it more to be like a procedural that ended and had a closed, wrapped-up story at the end of every week.
So all of these things were fighting one another as the companies looked to, shall we say, pay close attention to what their job is, their role is, and their function in the machine. So because of that, you saw real push to the edges. That’s one scenario that I can speak very clearly about and had experience with.
However, there are other scenarios where ego drives that exact same individual to that extreme, because they don’t wanna be told anything. They want to be able to make up stuff—and you can make up stuff, there’s nothing wrong with that. But you have to be willing to accept the consequences of what that is. And it is the rejection of the consequences that is the problem.
FK: It’s like if you're telling a little kid a bedtime story and they’re like “I don’t want a story about robots,” and you start telling a story about robots, they’re like “No no no, I don;t want a story about robots, I don’t care about robots, I’m sorry, I’m never going to bed now, I hate you and also welcome to your life for the next six hours.”
OJ: That’s exactly right. [ELM laughing]
FK: I mean it is not their fault! They told you exactly what they did and did not want this to have, and if you don't respond to that it is not…this actually sounds awful, cause it makes it sound like I think that fans are small children throwing a temper tantrum, which I actually don’t think.
OJ: No no not at all.
FK: But the storytelling idea, it could be an adult too. It could be anybody.
OJ: Yes! Look, there’s something awesome about…everybody on a stage loves it when somebody in the crowd yells “I LOVE YOU!! WE LOVE YOU!!” Right? [ELM laughing] And there’s a knee-jerk response, no matter who you are, they go “I LOVE YOU BACK!” And the internet makes you have to mean that. And if you don’t, you will soon be found out. [laughter] And that’s an important part of the metric of digital. Digital and many to many communication has thrust that metric in front of us. And for me, I get how complex the ecosystem is. But I also get how important it is to just try to do no harm and to put your energy there as opposed to all the other negative places you could find for your energy if you’re lookin’ for negative places to put stuff. And I just find that that’s a lot of what’s going on.
And hey, it’s unfortunate. It’s not the world it once was. I don’t know what to tell you. Be mad at technology all you want. But go sit down somewhere with that bullshit, that is really how I feel about it, because this is what it is, you know what I mean? To me, it’s, this is what it is: it’s like remember when they had traffic cameras in California and people were getting tickets in the mail? Right?
FK: Yes. Yes, I remember.
OJ: Right? OK. [laughter] And all the tickets were the same, you know, just somebody’s like “AH!” They had just caught you, cause you knew you were caught, like, damn, that was it.
ELM: Wait, there’s a picture of yourself?
OJ: Oh they send you a picture.
FK: OH yeah. So you have to sit there and look at your shame.
OJ: Yeah, exactly.
OJ: Even when you lie.
FK: You ran that red light, and here is a picture of you running that red light, just so you have to acknowledge to everyone that you ran it.
FK: And you coulda killed someone. You asshole. [laughs]
OJ: Pay your fine! Pay your fine. So I kinda feel like that’s what it is, right? Now those cameras have been removed because of the violation of rights that it is.
ELM: Oh, OK.
OJ: That’s why they’re gone now. That’s why they're no longer using that system, because somebody said “That’s not all you’re capturing with the camera there.”
OJ: And what are you doing with the other things that you’re capturing? How does that play itself out? That’s Big Brother in a very particular way. All right. I feel like that’s really what we’re looking at. You got caught on camera now, on Tweet, on post, in your previous press session, because often in the previous press session—as you know—people will say things that were brought up to them that were the idea of the interviewer and not the idea of the interviewee. Questions like, “Did you make the show multicultural this way on purpose? Like, did you do that? Because it’s really very, it’s done very well and I have to commend you on having done that!” “Yes, well, we didn't do it on purpose, we cast the right people for the job, but certainly that was important to us and we care about those things.” “So why did you whitewash it later on? If you cared about those things?” “Well I DO care about those things!” “Yeah, but YOU said…” [laughter]
There you are in the rub, right? I hope one day press gets a little bit more honest and so people can sort of say, “We got lucky here, this was great, I’m so glad the way it turned out, I wanna write towards that as much as possible, that really wasn’t our intention, it wasn’t our goal, but here we are and we’re excited about it and we’re gonna have challenges with maintaining that because of all of these other reasons.” That would be a more honest answer. And not “Yeah, we did it, we love it, we champion it,” and now we don’t understand what you mean by whitewashing.
FK: To some extent it seems like you’re talking about managing expectations, right? Like, when you stumbled into something and everybody is lauding you, but you didn’t intend to, you need to manage expectations, because you’re probably not gonna be able to keep this up forever.
OJ: Embrace it, yes, manage expectations, yes, but get on board! But what you’re not gonna do is tell people “Thank you, thank you so much, yes, I appreciate it and that was part of my idea,” and then renege on the very idea that was a part of your idea that you no longer can remember. And now you’re offended that they’re calling you accountable for your own idea? Go sit down.
FK: I believe there may be a Kermit sipping tea gif that’s about to come into the show notes here. [laughter]
OJ: Right, right?
FK: Oh, I wish I was video recording you doing that right now.
ELM: You both just drank the tiniest cups of tea.
FK: The tiniest!
ELM: So delightful!
OJ: Hey, I’m spillin’ tea all over the place, cause I don’t care. [laughter] But again, I really do think that that’s ego. And I’ve made that mistake. So I’m not pointing a finger at, saying I’m not guilty of that. I have been guilty of that before. I’ve made those mistakes. I’ve seen it that way before. I’ve been confused at being called and held accountable for my own words. You know. Which is why I submitted myself to Your Fave Is Problematic back in the day.
ELM: Oh wow. You sent yourself in?
OJ: Oh yeah, I sent me in!
ELM: Oh, that’s incredible.
OJ: Yeah, I was like, “Yeah, I’ll submit myself.” And they were like, “Uh, Orlando Jones just submitted himself…?” [laughter] And I thought it was funny! My favorite person to make fun of is me. My favorite person. It’s my favorite target, which is why I have no problem making fun of somebody else.
ELM: But all these people in Hollywood do not feel that way, you’d say. That’s ego.
OJ: Some do, some don’t, some people are just frankly uncomfortable with all that comes with fame. And really are struggling with that. I think we are seen often as these people who have all this power and influence, but in many cases it’s just people who are also artists who are very good at being somebody else and very bad at being themselves and are just scared and uncomfortable as anybody else is. And that’s a huge part of what I see happen, mostly with artists, and there’s no infrastructure around to help them manage the front-facing part of their business, and so that’s where I really am very sympathetic about it. I’m very comfortable with it. But it’s also taken me a while to get here.
FK: Yeah, everything that you’re saying is…it’s really making me think about how power is really relative. Right?
OJ: Very much so.
FK: So on the one hand, it’s completely true that actor X has more power than fangirl Y, but actor X still has so much less power than executive Z, you know.
FK: It can be really hard to negotiate those shoals because it’s easy to be simultaneously way more powerful than one person and also a complete pawn in comparison to another.
OJ: And absolutely no education about what they’ve been thrust into. And everybody melds it all together. If you’re on a show that’s on at 8 o’clock or 8:30, people consider kids to still be up on network and cable television, so there are limits to what you can do. There are limits to the authenticity you can reach. Simply because of the perception around that time slot and advertisers. Most actors don’t even know that. Television…
FK: Because why would they? The only point…
OJ: Exactly, why would they know that?
FK: They’re given the sheets, you know.
OJ: So because I started off as a writer, I know those things because I was a writer in the early days. And so I sat in those rooms and heard all of these very different conversations about standards and practices, about the advertisers, about the network, about what was going on in an entirely different world. It opened up my mind to understand that, people actually aren’t as…they’re not racist. I know it seems like what they’re doing is racist, but that’s not what it is. They might harbor their own sexist view, but in this particular case, that’s not what they’re doing. That’s not what they’re aimed at. And so sitting there for however many years allowed me to have a very clear perspective on it, so when I found myself on the other side of the camera, and I could now hear what the actors were saying about it I was like, “I can totally see how you can reach that conclusion, but that’s not what it is.”
The story I always tell is, I feel like on a daily basis my life is about a red ball on a table that rolls off and hits a chair and then shoots off the end of the chair and goes underneath the sofa. And there’s five people in the room, and one person saw the whole thing. And the other person never saw the ball on the table, only saw the ball when it hit the chair and shot underneath the sofa. And the other person’s colorblind so the ball’s not red, the ball’s grey. And one person was on their phone the whole time and is like “What ball, what are you talking about.” And everybody was there at ground zero and has a 100% authentic real point of view that is their own, but nobody can agree about what the hell happened in that room, because no one wants to share and open up the conversation so that everyone has a voice.
And to me that’s really what diversity is, it’s accepting a diversity of opinion by which to open up the conversation so that different people can see themselves, the beauty of Rashomon, as it were, as a film and as a storytelling device. But that’s important, when other characters illuminate a perspective about what they’re seeing that the main characters couldn’t possibly see. That’s great storytelling. And shutting those things down by which to tell us to follow a plotline is to ask us to diminish our own humanity. We are interested in those other nuanced elements! And they’re difficult to come about. But to shut them down is crazy.
Like, that’s, that’s where I get…I get just confused about…“I thought you were a storyteller. I thought that’s what this was,” and I understand in the machine storytelling as a business is important, and all of these metrics cloud everybody’s point of view, but I don’t believe I’m special. I do believe that if you just try to put yourself in that person’s seat for a while and really think it through from their perspective and ask questions and learn from them, you can come about a more well rounded conclusion about what the fuck is goin’ on. But if all you wanna do is be right then, I mean, handle your business. But you ain’t gonna be right, motherfucker, I mean… [laughter] You don’t give a fuck about nobody but yourself, how could you possibly be right about other people, you don’t care about them! You know. Emphasis upon this shit.
FK: I feel like Elizabeth is just sitting here with glee, feeling like you have…
ELM: IT’S SO GOOD. It’s so good.
FK: Right, right?
ELM: You’re really great at metaphors!
OJ: CAVEMEN DID NOT PAINT ON WALLS LIKE THEY WAS DECORATIN’, THEY WEREN’T IN THAT BUSINESS. [laughter] “Whaddaya think about this color red?” That's not what was goin’ on! You know? They weren’t hitting rocks against rocks trying to make marks and shit cause they thought that shit looked cool! They were communicating the human condition, leaving a blueprint behind for others, they were communicating! And that’s what for me, that’s what artistry is, and that’s what I love, that’s what I care about. So. All that other fuckery just, it’s just boring. It’s like, do better. Get better. Fuck.
ELM: We went from fangirls all the way to Rashomon. I’m very impressed.
FK: And cave painting! Don’t forget cave painting!
ELM: Cave painting. All the way. All the way. This is like the thirteenth time in the last two weeks someone’s referenced Rashomon, actuall,y and I don’t know what’s going on. Is there something happening right now?
OJ: Rashomon is magical!
ELM: I haven’t seen it, but…
ELM: Sorry guys.
OJ: LISTEN. OK. [laughter] Look up Stephen Colbert’s word of, not his word, but he’s attributed with it…truthiness? And watch Rashomon.
ELM: All right.
OJ: Truthiness is Rashomon.
ELM: I love unreliable narration. I love multiple points of view. I know I’m gonna like this, right?
FK: You know you’re gonna like this! It’s by an incredible director and it’s beautiful!
OJ: It is.
ELM: I haven’t seen Citizen Kane. I haven’t seen Casablanca. You guys. Flourish you look like you’re gonna die.
OJ: I get it, I get it.
ELM: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
FK: I really feel like my soul’s about to leave my body right now. [OJ laughing] I thought it was bad enough that you’d never seen Twin Peaks and now I’m discovering all these things about you that I’m just like… [gasps hugely]
ELM: Don’t worry.
OJ: Put your judgment away! Put your judgment away!
ELM: I’ve read all the books! Come on!
FK: It’s not a negative judgment…
ELM: I’m just saying!
FK: It’s an excitement that I’m gonna get to share these things with you for the first time.
OJ: You know what…
ELM: All right. Here’s what happens when you watch something that Flourish wants to quote unquote “share” with you: at the very end she turns to you and she’s like, “WELL? Well?” [laughter] And it’s like “OH GOD OH GOD.” I didn’t DISLIKE Twin Peaks but I couldn’t tell you I didn’t like it, I’m just saying.
FK: It’s possible this is also the major source of all arguments I ever have with my husband. Because I get to the end of a movie and he looks at me and he’s like, “If you liked it, we can’t have a conversation.” [laughter]
ELM: Oh no.
FK: “If you didn’t like it, we still might not be able to have a conversation because you might be trying to convince yourself that you liked it and then I have to wait for two days before you’re able to critique it.” [laughter]
OJ: That’s me with my wife.
FK: I know my limitations, OK.
OJ: She’s like “I really thought it was good!” And I’m like “WHAT. WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY.” [laughter]
FK: And then she’s like “I just need you to respect my feelings for a second and let me be HAPPY.”
OJ: That’s exactly right. And you know what I do, I shut up. And I don’t, lemme find something positive to say right now. [laughter]
ELM: That’s good!
FK: My husband has not yet achieved that level of awareness. Sorry honey.
OJ: I put myself to bed. “You know what Orlando, you can run your mouth and find out…there’ll be all kinds of problems later. Or you just shut your black ass up.” [laughter] “Find something positive to say and you come out of this OK.” Uh-huh. Uh-huh!
FK: It’s possible that Elizabeth and my husband and maybe you are more alike. Maybe the people I like are all similar.
OJ: The path of least resistance, yo.
ELM: I mean, if someone opens the door to me right after I see a movie and they’re like “I don’t think it was great” then I feel comfortable going in and being like “That was the worst thing I have ever seen,” right. But if they’re like “I like it,” I’m not gonna rain on their parade. I don’t wanna be a jerk!
OJ: I get it. Part of me like, “I wanna make it flood.” But I just don’t, you know. [laughter] Cause c’mon, that’s kinda fun. “Where’s all this water coming from?” It’s awesome. Please.
FK: And this is the part of the show where Trollando made an appearance.
OJ: Exactly right! That’s what I troll. That’s why I like trolling me so much. Because there are plenty of things, I get why people don’t like various things that I really like. I actually understand. I just don’t care. So I hope that people are like I am: I say what I want and they just don’t care. They like it and that’s their thing. But you know that’s my approach. Cause you can tell me you don’t like something I like and I don’t care at all what you think. If Ben Affleck is the best Batman for you, I’m like “Go take several seats. I want you to sit down, stand up, sit down again, stand up again. Siddown, now stand up one more time, now siddown. Now I want you to shut up. Stand up again, siddown. No.” Michael Keaton’s the best Batman [all laughing] if we’re talking about movies.
ELM: Yeah. That’s the correct opinion. [FK cackling]
OJ: OK. That’s what it is. All right. Now.
FK: I have no opinion, but I’m really looking forward, dear listeners, please send us all your hate mail about how you love any other Batman and we’ll see what happens.
ELM: No one’s gonna stand up for any of the other ones cause none of them are that good. Except for Michael Keaton.
OJ: Straight up.
FK: I think that the gauntlet has just been thrown, listeners. [laughing]
ELM: “George Clooney, so great,” no.
FK: I’ve just known enough people to know that there are people out there who don’t agree with you and I wanna see…
OJ: SHOUT OUT TO ADAM WEST, of course, but that’s not in the film, that’s not in the film, that’s not in film.
OJ: I’m talking about film Batman. We go animation, Keaton has to take a seat.
ELM: Yeah. Yeah.
OJ: Come on! So…
FK: I didn’t know you had this many opinions about Batman, Elizabeth. I'm learning new things about Elizabeth. I figured you must, Orlando, I just assumed.
OJ: I have opinions about everything.
ELM: Alongside watching Gargoyles, the greatest show ever made, I watched Batman: The Animated Series.
OJ: That is correct. Which is the best, if you’re gonna.
ELM: So good. I mean like, there are no gargoyles in it so it’s not the best show, but.
OJ: Understood. It’s pretty awesome. And over all, you can argue about that being the best Batman versus Adam West. OK. BUT. If we’re going to movie Batman… [laughter]
FK: Oh my God we cannot. We normally don’t do this, Orlando, you’re leading us down the garden path of talking about a particular fandom, ACK.
OJ: Listen listen listen, this is me making only one point: I love that people disagree, I love that people have their own opinions about that, and I do not believe that they should care about my opinion. I believe that they should care about and defend theirs. That’s what’s awesome about fandom, for me, because I like that back and forth and I like the fact that we can high five and keep moving because we both like Batman. That’s what I love about fans. That’s literally, if I can put my finger on the thing that makes me consistently run to it, that’s what it is. The thing where all of a sudden my thing has to shut your thing down, no. My thing just has to be stated like a crazy person, and your thing gets to be said like a crazy person, and that craziness is the craziness I enjoy. It’s what I don’t enjoy about politics. [laughter] Because the stakes are real in that world, in a way that in fandom the stakes are not quite as real. They are, yes, but the feels are overstated in terms things.
FK: It’s possible that there’s a big difference between who your favorite Batman is and whether or not you receive birth control.
FK: Or get shot or whether you are allowed to do a thing or whatever else you wanna bring up.
ELM: This is a thing. People usually say “Oh it’s not like politics,” obviously it’s not. But there are times when the consequences are real. People do get doxxed.
FK: We were also just talking about people getting trampled at One Direction concerts, which by the way…
FK: Has recently been an issue, right? There was a…I think it was the show in Atlanta actually where it was all General Admission and they did a really bad job of crowd control and people didn’t get in until really late and the concert had to be stopped multiple times because of crushing. It was bad.
ELM: Why would they do general admission at these things, I don’t understand.
FK: Apparently there is no venue of the size he was playing in Atlanta that’s not general admission.
ELM: Really. So like the seats don’t have numbers on them.
FK: There was a big pit, for people to be in. So there was some amount of seated areas, but every venue had a pit. And I don’t know why they thought that was a good idea! It’s not like they haven’t been watching One Direction fandom for years understanding how many people are really really really really really intense about this!
OJ: YES. Didn't people get trampled at like a Whitesnake concert in Rhode Island back in the day or something? This is not a new thing.
FK: That was before they used, now they use crowd control barriers that prevent it from getting as bad as at that concert, it’s not as bad…people died there.
FK: And people don’t die as often now.
OJ: Elvis had that same problem. As I recall. I mean, for me it’s…we have the technology to solve these types of problems. We just have to care enough to get it done and do it right, that’s the part that’s frustrating.
FK: This is interesting cause you saying that makes me think about, we had that problem at concerts where people got excited and did small actions that led to literal deaths of other people that were really bad. And that was solved through the technology of improving crowd control. I mean not totally solved, I’m sure it’s happened when things have not been set up correctly, but pretty much they figured out how to crowd control people into not accidentally doing that to each other.
FK: It makes me think about the internet and how we have not figured that out yet.
OJ: No, we haven’t, but for me it's care. They didn't really take care because all they were caring about was the money. That’s not to say that they were, I’m not claiming that it’s second-degree murder and…I can’t make that claim, I don’t know the details to speak intelligently about that at all. But these results always seem to be born out of not a lot of care for people who can get hurt. And that’s deeply unfortunate, it's horrible.
ELM: So are we drawing this metaphor to the internet, Flourish, you’re the one…I don’t know about your metaphors, Flourish.
FK: I’m not sure I’m as talented at metaphor as Orlando is.
ELM: You’re definitely not. I’m sorry. [laughter]
FK: Maybe it’s just that I'm not as charismatic…
OJ: Oh wow.
FK: So his metaphors may be no better than mine…
ELM: False, no.
FK: But he’s better at selling them?
OJ: Could be.
ELM: No, his metaphors are much better. It’s undeniable. [laughter] I’m sorry Flourish, you’re great at other things, you have a lot of talents.
OJ: Oh wow.
ELM: I’m just saying.
OJ: Wow. Wow.
FK: APPLY BANDAGE TO BURN.
OJ: This is a pit bull conversation, I’m a chihuahua, let me stay out of it.
FK: Orlando, if I ever own a chihuahua I will name it after you.
OJ: Please do. [barks]
ELM: Is this the moment where I tell Orlando that my cat is named Orlando?
FK: You’re right, if I did that we would each have a pet named Orlando!
ELM: You cannot copy me.
FK: I wouldn’t be! Your cat is named after the Virginia Woolf book.
ELM: As I’m sure Orlando, this Orlando, is as well.
OJ: No, no! [laughter]
ELM: All right, I took a shot there.
OJ: A reasonable conjecture, but I’m named after a baseball player, Orlando Cepeda.
ELM: No one has ever, OK. People will ask me if my cat is named after Orlando Bloom.
ELM: And the city of Orlando, both of which I think are absurd suggestions, because why would I name a cat after Orlando, Florida.
OJ: I gotta go with you on both of those.
OJ: I don’t understand. Or small white British dudes. And I like Orlando Bloom, but honestly, I don’t know if you’re like [British accent] “Orlando Bloom, my cat.”
ELM: My cat! I can’t imagine. So HE was named after Orlando Gibbons, 16th century composer.
ELM: There’s lots of Orlandos in the world.
OJ: He got a 16th century composer, I got a baseball player kept out of the Hall of Fame on hemp charges. [laughter]
FK: HEMP charges.
OJ: Seriously. It’s awesome. It’s completely amazing.
ELM: All right, time for you to get an Orlando. Not a chihuahua though. But if you named your dog Orlando, that would be incredible.
FK: I’m not sure I can promise this.
OJ: [laughing] You already reneged! That didn’t last 30 seconds.
FK: I, well, it just occurred to me that if I ever do get a dog then my husband will also own half the dog and probably have something to say about this decision.
ELM: Naming your dog after my cat and also this Orlando?
OJ: That’s right, also by the way, the fact that you still let your husband make decisions is very strange. I never heard of this sort of marriage, what’s going on? [laughter]
FK: Have you met my husband, Orlando? He’s kinda hard to steamroll.
ELM: He’s quite strong willed.
OJ: I have never met your husband, I don’t think.
FK: You’ve never met my husband?
OJ: I don’t think so. Maybe in passing once? But never…
FK: No, actually, that doesn’t, that doesn’t surprise me that much because he never meets anybody because he holes up. We’ll find a time for you to meet my husband.
OJ: I’d love to meet him.
FK: You’ll get into some kind of a delightful argument and it will be totally entertaining to see.
OJ: All right, looking forward to that.
FK: It’ll be fun for both of you, I promise.
ELM: Oh wow.
FK: It will be! It will be, it’ll be great.
OJ: By the way, the skepticism is like, rampant. It’s just wafting across the airwaves.
FK: Elizabeth feels this way because she and my husband are frenemies.
OJ: OH. Awesome.
ELM: We’re in a love triangle.
OJ: I got it. Is the sex good?
ELM: I don’t know, Flourish, is it? [FK squawks]
OJ: I mean you said “love triangle,” it seemed like the most obvious question, I’m sorry.
b: [wailing] My husband occasionally resents the fact that I record the podcast and it takes a long time and he has to leave the room—or the house, depending, cause we have small places—and then also our listeners ship us. So. That makes it a love triangle.
OJ: I get it.
OJ: I get it.
FK: And they also are exactly alike in many ways.
FK: And actually kind of love each other. Yes you are.
OJ: I can ship it. You know what, I have to say, having not met your husband, I think I’m gonna jump on that ship. I can see you two. That’s a ship.
ELM: That’s right. That's right.
OJ: That’s right! [laughter]
FK: Fucking Trollando strikes again!
OJ: I'm shipping that all day long, that’s a good ship right there. Look at you! You’re wearing white, she’s wearing cream, she’s got a pop of color on her shirt, you got a pop of color on the lips and on the face right now, come on, come on!
ELM: That’s right!
OJ: [singing] LET LOVE RULE! I’m just sayin’. [laughter] [singing again] Leeeeet loooooove…
ELM: Flourish, I am not cutting this out.
OJ: [still singing] …ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuule…
FK: I think we may be coming about to the end of this interview. [laughter]
OJ: [singing over them] YOU’VE GOT TO LET LOVE RULE! Leeeeeet loooooooove ruuuuuuuuuu—
FK: Orlando, we’re going to end this, and by the way, then we’re gonna make you sing this for our outro music. This is not a joke.
ELM: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
OJ: Done. Let’s go.
ELM: OK. We are actually running out of time, which is unfortunate, cause I have more questions.
FK: We are indeed out of time, but. It was delightful having you on, even if I am somewhat resentful of your decision to ship me and Elizabeth [laughing] instead of me and my husband who you have never met.
OJ: How can I ship you and your husband and I have never met him? It only makes sense that I would ship you and Elizabeth.
ELM: He hasn’t been introduced as a character.
OJ: Yes! I can’t ship a character that I haven’t even met yet, that doesn’t even make sense. Once we meet, I might change or add to my ship, I don’t know if I can change a ship, I don’t know if you can leave a ship once you’re in a ship, I don’t think that’s right.
ELM: Well… [FK laughing] People do…
OJ: Hold on.
FK: Oh my God, we are not entering into this new topic of conversation right now!
OJ: People, people, people do, but my fangirl credentials do not allow me to make such decision! [laughter]
ELM: That's good, I like that you’re loyal!
OJ: Absolutely all day long, till the wheels come off, till the wheels come off!
FK: [through laughter] Orlando, thank you so much for coming on.
OJ: Thank you guys. This is awesome.
FK: This has been delightful. Is there anything you’d like to shout out, anywhere you wanna send our listeners?
OJ: Uh, all I have to say to your listeners is: [singing] leeeeeeet loooooooove ruuuuuuuuuuuuule! [talking] You’re a good ship by the way. Deal with that. MWAH.
FK: GOODBYE. [laughter]
OJ: AAAAAND Trollando out. CHK.
FK: All right so what do you think? Did Orlando answer your questions about fangirling to your satisfaction?
ELM: Oh absolutely. Yeah! I definitely think that there are gonna be people who object to a cisgendered man using that term, but…
FK: Yeah. I feel like it is in the world of “I see why people might not like it,” but I also personally approve of it, and…this may be a case where everybody can agree or disagree or agree to disagree. But I thought Orlando had a really good reason, so.
ELM: It’s interesting too, because it makes me think about the nature of, I think we talked a little bit before about the pitfalls or what’s problematic about…“problematic.” About what’s problematic about using big umbrellas of male-dominated and female-dominated fandom and stuff. Because the idea of fangirling being a set of behaviors is interesting, and obviously it’s kind of tied into the dominant gender of the people involved. But that can be a little tricky and a little exclusionary and so, I don’t know. It’s kind of interesting that we’ve come on these terms and fallen into these kind of big buckets that maybe exclude a bit, or also don't do all the work that they should do, or are kind of messy categories.
FK: I agree completely and I think that using the term “fangirling” also kind of reinstantiates the problem a little bit. But on the other hand, you can’t get away from it, because it’s such a widely used term, and I think that Orlando’s right when he says that fangirling and fanboying are different things and people recognize them as different things when you write then, so I can’t… I think it’s good that he recognizes that those are different things, that we in general do, and embraces the one that is actually what we’re doing—especially for a guy to do that, I think is supportive of it rather than tearing them down. But I sort of wish, yeah, like you said, I wish that we didn’t have those two gendered terms anyway because it seems like it only reinforces the idea that some behaviors are feminine and bad and embarrassing and other behaviors are masculine and maybe a little embarrassing but they’re OK.
ELM: Right, and even in the reclaiming of the bad feminine behaviors as good…I mean, I don’t know, actually, this is interesting because I, so I just gave this talk, right? About fandom.
FK: That you’re going to give back to us next episode, right?
ELM: No, I’m not gonna give the talk back to us because like two-thirds of it was fandom 101.
FK: OK. Not that part.
ELM: If you’re 60 episodes into Fansplaining, I think you’re past the 101 level.
FK: Fair enough.
ELM: But yes, the conference which was put on by the company I work for was a few weeks ago in London, it was called “Episodic,” and it was about episodic storytelling, and so there were comics creators there, there were interactive games creators, television creators, podcasters, and I was kind of there as the representative of the audiences of episodic content basically. And at the end of my 101 bit, I talked a little bit about how fandom really loves episodic storytelling, right? Far more than I’d say standalone contained narratives.
FK: Yeah, way.
ELM: And even the rise of the franchise and how fandom feeds into that is a really great example of how a non-traditionally, films are not a serialized media. Traditionally. Right?
FK: Right, but they've become serialized, and if your film was really successful, guess what’s gonna happen to it? It’s gonna be serialized!
ELM: Right, and that’s kind of in the calculation now too.
FK: Oh yeah.
ELM: How people talk about franchises and things, right. And also fandom is interesting because the way at least transformative fandom, the way they engage with episodic content is to make their own episodic content. And you know, develop fandom within that, within the spaces of their own.
FK: It’s turtles all the way down.
ELM: Yeah, fandomception. So anyway, I kind of briefly at one point said, described what the difference between affirmational and transformational fandom buckets. And I was like “These are really reductive, and these aren’t the only kinds of fandom, but they’re kind of really helpful ways to describe transformative fandom, because most of you will be familiar with the archetypal affirmational fanboy, the Trekkie who knows every single fact about the spaceships,” or whatever, “and furiously updates the wiki to correct people or whatever, argues on the forum,” I like my angry fanboy that I’ve created.
And I said, “Again, this is reductive, but often in affirmational fandom your fannish capital is your knowledge, whereas often in transformational female dominated media fandom your fannish capital is affect. It’s emotion, it’s feels.”
ELM: And afterwards I was talking to one of the other panelists, and I was like, “Actually, I wanna argue with you on that, because I don’t think the affirmational, that kind of fan is divorced from affect.” And I was like, you know, “Of course not!” Right?
FK: Right, but also, it’s not like you’re divorced from knowledge if you’re a transformational fan either!
ELM: Right, right! So I said “I know, that’s why I said they were reductive,” and we wound up having a really good conversation about it for like an hour. You know. So that was great.
FK: That’s good!
ELM: Yeah! No, it was great. But it was just sort of like, I felt bad because I had to, there were obvious holes in these big kind of umbrella terms that I was trying to use, so.
FK: I really feel you. This is such a familiar problem to me as well, from explaining fandom and particular fandoms to a film exec, you end up naturally being reductionist because you can’t not. There’s no way for someone to understand everything about a fandom. You have to cut it down so that they can make, for instance, so they can make a good decision about, I don’t know, who to cast or what to make next. So you end up being reductionist because you’re just trying to sort of give them the gist of it. But that obviously never represents the full diversity and power of fandom. The map isn’t the territory.
ELM: Right. And that does worry me a little, because then what assumptions…so if they don’t understand everything, and then those bits where they have to make their own leaps, what assumptions are going into those leaps? And I think those can snowball then into their own sets of assumptions.
FK: Yeah, and I think that’s exactly what we're talking about with the fanboy and fangirl, affirmational/transformational piece sometimes. I still think it’s really valuable, I agree with you that it’s super valuable, but it’s definitely…it’s almost come back on itself to where people now see it as the team they’re on, sometimes, and it’s not always…I mean, it’s not bad but it’s also not good.
ELM: Yeah. Well. We'll talk more about this next time. We're gonna talk about episodic content, right?
FK: Yeah, we’re gonna talk about episodic content and we’re also going to talk about all of the amazing emails and asks and comments we’ve gotten on the past few episodes that we haven’t had a chance to break out.
ELM: Yeah! So you know last time we talked about cultural expectations of endings, like what a happy ending is, what a romantic ending is, and we got some awesome feedback. We got feedback about Chinese storytelling expectations, we got awesome feedback about 18th century English British novel storytelling expectations, so I’m very excited to read those and discuss them a little bit. So.
FK: Me too. Me me me me me too.
ELM: Maybe we could talk about my new favorite thing?
FK: What’s your new favorite thing?
ELM: Golden Hill! My favorite novel of the year!
FK: What? You’ve never mentioned this to me before! I look forward to talking with you about your new favorite novel of the year!
ELM: It’s set in the 18th century. It’s the only reason I mention it.
FK: How did I guess.
ELM: It’s so wonderful.
FK: All right.
ELM: That’s all I got.
FK: I will read it, I will genuinely read it in between my Star Trek novels. [laughter]
ELM: OK great! Great.
FK: OK. So next time, people’s comments, episodic storytelling, I probably will not have read your novel, your favorite novel yet, but you can tell me more about it.
ELM: My favorite novel of the year, not of all time.
FK: OK, thank you for being precise.
ELM: So in the meantime if you want to get in touch with us, fansplaining.tumblr.com, ask box is open, anon is on, please don’t be mean. There’s a phone number, you usually do this spiel so I’m doing it right now. There's a phone number on the tumblr, you can call and leave us a voice mail. Oh, we should play our voice mail we got, too!
FK: Yeah, let’s do it! Next time.
ELM: Next time.
FK: Next time.
ELM: So many things happening next time. You can also tweet at us or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you have like a dollar. A month. [laughs] Well if you have a dollar we have a, what's it called, PayPal.
FK: Yeah, you can leave us a little tip in a tip jar.
ELM: If you have $1. If you have $1 a month or more, it’s patreon.com/fansplaining, and we are putting together the next tiny zine. So many tiny zines all in a row!
FK: They’re delightful though, who could argue with our many tiny zines?
ELM: Yeah, so we’re gonna be working on that. And, uh, yeah, so that should be coming out to $10-a-month patrons. So yeah, if you have any money to spare we would love the support.
FK: Indeed. All right! Well, I think that about wraps it up for us! I’ll talk to you next time Elizabeth.
ELM: OK bye Flourish!
[outro music, thank yous, disclaimers, and Orlando Jones singing “You’ve Got To Let Love Rule.”]