Episode 66: The Humanizing Turn

Episode 66’s cover: Kylo Ren and Rey fight with lightsabers.

In Episode 66, “The Humanizing Turn,” Elizabeth and Flourish use a Star Wars meta that Flourish recently published as a jumping-off point to discuss tropes, characterization, and what we want from stories, in both canon and fanfiction. When do we grant stories complexity—and when do we simplify them, slotting characters into archetypes? They round out the discussion by responding to a listener question about “anti culture” and how both the methods and the content of anti-shipping have changed in recent years.


Show Notes

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

[00:01:00] Flourish’s meta, “The Problem of Reylo,” is here.

[00:02:33] The most kudosed Reylo fic ever is a burn, yep. Has there ever been another ship that’s had this happen? (Genuinely, if there is, tell us!)

[00:11:20] Star Wars’ relationship to the monomyth is one of the most youtube film critic’d things ever, partially because when you learn about the Hero’s Journey a lot of schools use it as an example. We cannot pick one because most of them are kinda bad, but most of them are also basically workmanlike if you are not familiar with the concept.

[00;24:27] Rather than link to anything Devin Faraci has ever written, here’s a Daily Dot takedown of this particular thinkpiece.


@KyloR3n on Twitter (Emo Kylo Ren) tweets: “i made a friend on skype”

See also further Emo Kylo Ren.

[00:30:54] As Elizabeth waxes poetic about the great and nuanced fic in the Harry Potter universe, now might be a good time to listen to our fanfiction book club special episode, about “The Pure and Simple Truth,” by lettered!

[00:33:40] We’re talking about our episodes “Race and Fandom Part 1”“Race and Fandom Part 2”, and “Shipping and Activism”!

[00:36:56] The X-files story mentioned on the Rec Center is “Parabiosis” by Penumbra. The X-Men fic is “A Curious Carriage of Crystal and Cold” by Etharei.

[00:50:40] The ask we’re reading is here, if you…want to see it…was really an ask? 

[01:01:46] Yes, we know you want photos of the doggy. If you don’t want photos of the doggy don’t tell us, Flourish is gonna give you a doggy photo anyway.

Flourish holding a very small black dog with white markings on his face and a red collar.

[01:04:04] As is often the case, our outro music is by Jahzzar!


[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!

FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!

ELM: This is Episode 66; it’s called “The Humanizing Turn.”

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Which is a very fancy title.

FK: [laughs] I came up with it. Sorry guys.

ELM: It was in the meta that we’re gonna talk about that you wrote. It was one of your subheaders. And I thought it was quite elegant. And then I was like…

FK: I think I’m quite elegant, so that’s fine!

ELM: Uh, not as elegant as that phrase, but that’s fine. [laughs] But then you were like “I’m very proud of it, let’s make it the title!” and I was like “OK, that’s gonna be confusing.” But it’ll probably make sense in the end, I think!

FK: It had better! [laughing] I don’t want it to be confusing! What we’re gonna talk about, though, is this meta that I wrote after falling down a Rey garbage chute. Reylo garbage chute.

ELM: No, yeah, just Rey by itself, that’d be fine.

FK: Yeah, I guess so.

ELM: It’s the “Lo” that sucks. [laughter]

FK: Elizabeth is not holding back her feelings on this. She is not a Star Wars person and definitely not a Kylo Ren person.

ELM: I just wanna state that very clearly for the record. He suuuuucks! [FK laughing] A lot!

FK: So normally we don’t do any fandom-specific episodes, and this isn’t actually a fandom-specific episode. It came out of this meta which I was writing about a particular fandom, but then the meta touches on stuff that is overall fandom related. I think.

ELM: Or it kind of opens up the, I mean, I think the meta does hug to Reylo maybe more than you intended, which is not a problem, you’re talking about the ship and obviously you can extrapolate from that. But I think it’s a good…here, especially, since I don’t think you want an hour of me trashing your trash ship…

FK: No, I don’t need that. The whole internet has already done it for you.

ELM: You know the most famous Reylo fic?

FK: It’s the most-kudosed Reylo fic. It is basically just someone fuckin’ wailing on the pairing.

ELM: It’s…“wailing” implies that it’s more than one sentence long. [FK laughs] Is it, “Rey dunks Kylo Ren in a trash can…”

FK: Dunks him into a trash can!

ELM: “Cause that’s where he belongs”?

FK: Something like that.

ELM: The end.

FK: And then the tag is…

ELM: The author’s notes, its author’s notes, “he sucks and Rey’s a lesbian.”

FK: Yeah, it’s a pretty epic burn [ELM laughs] and I will say that I alternate between being hugely admiring and pleased by it and really fuckin’ pissed off, cause every time you go and look at fanfic you’re stuck with this, like, fic at the top with the most kudos and comments and everything that is about how much the pairing sucks.

ELM: Yeah.

FK: It’s like, yeah, that’s sort of…mmm. But it’s such a good dunk! So you almost have to give it to them, you know?

ELM: Yeah, it’s probably better than if it was something that was long and involved and hateful.

FK: Way better. Way better. Because at least this we can laugh about.

ELM: This is more of a joke than an anti screed. So OK. That reminds me, cause that’s what we’re gonna talk about eventually, at the very end, and I wanna say that up front because I know that this ship is a very discoursed ship. I would say, in my observations, it’s probably in the top five on Tumblr of the target of what we would describe as “anti culture,” so it’s more…it’s more to me than, like, your notps, your anti-shipping something specific, or a ship war. I think there are people who are are against this pairing not because it gets in the way of their pairing, right, which is I think what we see more commonly.

FK: Right, it’s quite different from—just to cite a classic example that we both know very well—in Harry Potter fandom for a long time there was the Ron/Hermione versus Harry/Hermione and sort of everybody else ship war. And that was definitely a “this pairing or that pairing.”

ELM: You were in the Reylo of Harry Potter fandom, Snape/Hermione. Do you remember any antis there, where it’s not like they were mad at you for putting Hermione not with their guy, but the fact that you were putting him with that person?

FK: Yeah, there were people who were antis about that because it was a teacher and student relationship, an age gap relationship, right. So there were people who felt very strongly that…

ELM: And one of canonical abuse.

FK: Right. And so there were people, absolutely. People also felt this way about Snape and Harry, there were a bunch of people who were Snape/Harry shippers, and similar to Reylo the big argument was that there was no way to depict this that was OK to write, even if it was entirely about those issues. You should never have this, because shipping means that you want the two characters to be together and you think they’re cute together.

ELM: And you’re endorsing their relationship.

FK: And you’re endorsing their relationship as it is in canon, and all of this stuff. Obviously that’s a, it’s a little more complex than that for a lot of people. Although not for everyone!

ELM: All right. I brought this up…

FK: We’ll do more about this later.

ELM: We’ll get to it later because we got an ask about this, but I wanted to say that up front—because I know there are gonna be some people who already have some strong feelings about this ship—so I just wanted to let them know we’re gonna talk about that and not just pretend that the conversation around this ship isn’t a trash fire on tumblr dot com.

FK: Right.

ELM: OK. So why don’t you talk about your journey down into this pit? Go ahead.

FK: OK. Well. [ELM laughs] So immediately upon seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, like many fans, I know that I have some types as far as pairings go. And one of my types is that I'm really interested in fucked up relationships that are bad ideas. And this is also what brought me into the Snape/Hermione universe and one of the things that I really historically have liked about a lot of different things. I’m not so interested in a happy romantic outcome of the pairing as I am in, like, the deep and possibly irreconcilable traumas that two people bring to a relationship. [laughing]

So I knew that if I let myself fall down the Kylo Ren and Rey rabbit hole, then I would fall down it deeply. So I didn't for like three years. And then finally after seeing Last Jedi I was like, “I can’t.”

ELM: This is radio, so you can’t just make that face.

FK: Yeah, I can’t express the face I made, you just have to imagine the face of someone who realizes they have been damned. Forever. To hell.

ELM: Damned themselves though.

FK: Yeah, well, through their own actions. Their own behaviors.

ELM: “I did this.”

FK: Yeah, I did this and now I can’t escape. So I fell into it. But then of course immediately after falling into it I started reading a lot of fanfiction and I started having a lot of feelings about this, not happy shippy feelings entirely—although some of those—but just sort of thinking about, what is this pairing? What’s the deal with…what’s the deal, to some degree, with anti culture, but also why is it such a terrible idea and also an interesting idea? And how are current depictions of this pairing falling into different kinds of tropes, right? And how are those either working in concert with the tropes that are being presented to us in canon, or just like…grabbin’ other tropes? Or how is that all coming through?

So I wrote this meta about that. And then there were things in it that might apply beyond Star Wars. So we’ll see if that’s true. Do you want me to talk about the meta? I feel like I just soapboxed.

ELM: Yeah, or, why don’t I summarize it?

FK: All right! I wanna hear it! I wanna hear this cause we’ll find out if I expressed myself sufficiently!

ELM: Oh God. All right. So the basic gist and the, one of the troubles of me editing this meta, is that I like Star Wars a lot less than you, so you would have like lengthy paragraphs being like “Well, perhaps it is because of this and this and this hifalutin reason!” and I’d be like “no, the answer is cause it’s basic!” [FK laughs] “It’s basic.” Which is like, maybe not. I don’t wanna, and I know people love Star Wars so I don’t wanna sit here and trash it.

FK: I will neither say that you’re wrong, nor will I say that that was a useful response.

ELM: To the point where I feel like you can write intelligently about literally anything. You can write intelligently about the dumbest thing on the face of the Earth. Something that’s created in bad faith to be incredibly dumb and to appeal to our dumbest selves. I’m not saying that about Star Wars, I was thinking about The Bachelor, in fact.

FK: There could be something.

ELM: Yeah. [laughs] Or that, did you ever watch Beauty and the Geek? Did you watch that show?

FK: [gasps] Beauty and the Geek! That was indeed a show created to appeal to our dumbest selves.

ELM: I watched that entire show and yes, that was like they created a reality dating show for television, is what it felt like. What is the most absurd concept.

FK: Right. And tropey!

ELM: They weren’t even real geeks!

FK: No.

ELM: One of the guys—I don't know if there are multiple seasons, but the one I watched, the guy who won, this was like 15 years ago so I could be speaking out of turn but I think he was, like, a comedian. And they said he’s actually a really cool guy. But he’s at Harvard or something, so he could say “I’m a nerd.”

FK: Right.

ELM: I just felt betrayed. It’s fine!

FK: Because he wasn’t covered in enough Cheeto dust?

ELM: He was a cool guy pretending to not be cool because he was an actor! This is so far from the point.

FK: The point is that you see that and Star Wars as somewhere around the same area! Something that you will watch and enjoy but also you’re like, “Uh, yeah, fine.”

ELM: I’m just saying you can write a dissertation on Beauty and the Geek or something stupid and you can write about it smartly. I’m not saying things have to be incredibly high concept or very intelligent to write intelligently about it. But I do think that there is a tendency, and I think you were doing this in this…I love that this has just become an editorial feedback meeting instead of me summarizing it. [FK laughs] But I do think there is sometimes an impulse to kind of inject more intellectualism into the content itself while you’re trying to sound smart talking about it.

FK: Right, which is ironic because that's one of the things that I’m also trying to critique about the way that we interact with Star Wars or, you know, we’re all caught in this mess of reading into the things that we love.

ELM: Right. So.

FK: But now, so, summarize it now.

ELM: OK. So basically you were saying that Star Wars…original Star Wars is based on…what’s the name of the book?

FK: The Hero With A Thousand Faces. The monomyth.

ELM: So it was deliberately meant to be depicting this archetypal journey and this set of archetypal characters, right?

FK: Right. The characters are basically made of cardboard and called things like “Dark Father,” cause you know that he’s evil.

ELM: But he’s also a dad.

FK: Right. But he’s also a dad. And anything that, any depth that they have is given to them by the actors’ performances and what people read into it.

ELM: Right. So you were saying that…oh my God, I can’t believe, I feel like I’m on the spot right now. You were saying that in the new films, some of that is smashed a bit. There’s some subversion of tropes. I don’t think it's particularly extreme, though I do think that the subversion of tropes…or maybe perhaps turning left when you think he’s gonna turn right? Is some of what made people have such a crisis about. Also, I just learned his name is pronounced “Ryan.”

FK: You didn’t know it was “Ryan”?

ELM: This whole time I’ve been like “Ree-ahn” or something and I thought he was more interesting. I heard him on the radio, seems fine, but now he’s just a regular, just a plain old…

FK: “Ryan” Johnson.

ELM: Sci-fi white dude director. Rian Johnson. “Ree-ahn” made him sound very exciting to me.

FK: Right. But you’re right. So yeah. Original one’s all about the monomyth. And the new one, there’s the introduction of some little characters, like in the first one stormtroopers are just the faceless evil now. However little Finn’s character is developed in Force Awakens and Last Jedi, we’ve met him! He’s not just a dude who dies and that’s his whole role.

ELM: Right. So you were talking about how that leads fanfiction writers to rebuild some of those tropes in their fic. Which I think is an interesting observation. Do you think that’s a good summary of the Star Wars bits? Say more.

FK: I think I would say that also in the original Star Wars people read a lot into that, and a lot of fanfic was about reading into that. You know? So you write your fanfic and you’re like, “We’re gonna come up with a reason why Darth Vader is like this. We’re gonna do Luke and Leia.” And slowly canon began to try and do this some too. The whole prequel trilogy is about why is Darth Vader Darth Vader? In the original movies the answer is “cause he’s evil.” But we have to have more of an answer than that cause we’ve all read into it now! Right? So in the new movies, it’s sort of endorsing this almost, and then fans are re-injecting in some of those tropey things. And that’s part of how I think people get so into Reylo, myself included, because it’s a super tropey pairing.

ELM: Right, and it’s interesting too, do you get the sense that there are a lot of AUs across modern trilogy Star Wars fic?

FK: Yeah, I think so too, and in fact it’s funny. I have never been an AU person, I’ve read some AUs that I've liked but it’s always been very tertiary to the point of fic for me. And I was surprised to discover that a lot of the AUs in Star Wars, not just in Reylo, are the things that I like most. And I think that this has to do with the tension between the mythic imagining of the world, these archetypes which are almost just a constellation of tropey characters that you can almost pick up and put down anywhere else, and the fact that if you start getting closer to reality, even a little bit closer, you have to acknowledge that the stormtroopers are all people like Finn. So when people get shot that's a problem. People have actually died. So if you begin to read too much into this and you start thinking about that too much, you’re like, “Oh shit, these symbols!”

ELM: Right, you actually just reminded me of another point at the start of your meta where you’re talking about how because it’s just a bunch of symbols moving around, it’s easy to think of the violence as…to even dismiss the violence.

FK: Right, because who cares? It genuinely does not matter.

ELM: Blowin’ up a planet, don’t worry about it. We also, we discussed this at length while we were talking in the editing process. There’s no…I don’t know what their ideology is. I don’t know why they’re doing this. They want to scare people?

FK: In the original trilogy, there’s absolutely no reason. And by the time we get to these movies…

ELM: They’re just bad.

FK: If you’ve read the…right. They’re just bad. So what’s now called the Legends canon and the prequels and all this lend them more of an ideology, but still not that much of one. But in the originals it’s for absolutely no reason. Everything else is sort of reading back into that. And yes, we can fight about this, Star Wars people, you have to imagine that you’re in 1970-whatever. You’re gonna kill me for saying “whatever,” but I don’t wanna say a number because I know I’ll get it wrong and you’ll be mad. And there’s nothing on the screen except this big black suited dude, there’s no background.

ELM: Star Wars came out in 1977, Flourish.

FK: Thank you.

ELM: Oh my God.

FK: OK, look, I had a moment of doubt.

ELM: It’s fine! Don’t doubt yourself. Yeah, it’s—even the way it’s constructed where you come in and you get this “Here’s what’s going on right now!” And you’re like, reading it quickly and you’re like “Wait, why did they start this war?” And you don’t really…it’s interesting, cause I thought that both times when I saw these two new movies. Cause I’ve seen, I saw the original films when they re-released them in theaters in the ’90s, exactly once each, and then I saw A New Hope once more in a dorm room.

FK: I mean I think that there is something…how can I put it…the actual, especially the original movies are so, so symbolic, and then the prequels but also the Legends canon sort of fill in more of that. There are reasons, but they’re all reasons that are coming in secondarily. Right? They’re all reasons that are getting filled in to explain why this is here.

ELM: Right.

FK: And then when we get to the new movies, it really depends on how much you've delved into those, the Legends canon and everything else, and also the whole thing is a bit of a mess. You may have different ideas about why this group did X and…depending on what you’ve read, because it’s so big. So you can’t really ever pin it down. The one thing we can all share is having seen those hyper-symbolic movies.

ELM: Right, and I actually…I kind of don’t, it’s extra-canonical at this point. You can say “Maybe you’ll understand it if you read these nine novels they wrote 15 years ago,” or whatever, but I really don’t think that most viewers…most viewers are just seeing these films.

FK: Right. I really value the work, with the new relaunch novel program I think they’ve done a wonderful job and a lot of those novels are really good. Not just for tie-in novels, I think there are some really good ones for any YA novel. Especially I’m thinking of some of the Princess Leia novels that came along with Force Awakens. However, you’re right, that’s not…those are canonical, but you can’t assume that everyone who’s even reading Reylo fic has read those. I haven’t read all of them. You know? And I think that things can be canonical and yet not as central. The most central thing is what’s on that movie screen for Star Wars.

ELM: So kind of the whole point of bringing this up was the idea that if the, if everyone is a symbol, and there are no motivations given for what is frankly genocidal, it’s very easy to…it’s hard to really, you know, have that embodied for you. What does that mean? And I thought you brought up interesting points, the idea of seeing Finn, seeing Rose, understanding the actual faceless…giving a face and a name to the kind of people who would have been affected by that. But I don’t know. I think that does a limited amount of work.

FK: I agree…

ELM: Maybe it’s a work in progress. It’s an ongoing project. You know.

FK: Yeah, and also movies are, when you’re starting from the point of intergalactic war I think that there’s only a limited amount of…starting from where they’re starting from, I think that it’s a big difference. But what I would say is not that the movies necessarily are doing all the work there, but simply that with the new movies because you see these people, now it’s like there’s a question in your head. You can’t just rely back on that mythic vision of it. Thus, we get to the conflict in Reylo in particular, which is if you’re looking at it from purely a mythic argument then it makes sense! There's this dude and he fits in all of these, I mean, regardless of the fact that he’s a petulant baby which he is…

ELM: He sucks!

FK: People love taking a dude who sucks and making him not suck in a romance novel!

ELM: Not all people! Oh, in a romance novel, sure. But that’s totally a thing, yeah.

FK: And people love taking a dude who sucks and making him suck less! And also, there’s this dark and light, there’s this thing and they’ve been in all these tropes and it really really works and it in fact seems like that’s part of the point in canon, too! Because Reylo people, after Force Awakens, read a lot of what was read into it correctly. Followed what was going on and predicted a lot of things…“predicted,” you know. But people were picking up on some of these plot threads, these tropes and so forth that are being reused, in The Last Jedi. But then you run into this problem which is that if you’re really genuinely into the idea of Kylo Ren and Rey bangin’, you have to face up to the fact, someone is going to point out to you, the fact that Kylo Ren is in fact a mass murderer.

ELM: Who has given no indication that he thinks, even thinks he has anything to atone for.

FK: Right, because we’ve seen Finn and Rose and we’ve all this stuff and even if he did try to atone, even if in our fanfic the point is that he tries to atone because we know that he has a mother who loves him and would like him to, right, we care about him to some degree in the story…

ELM: Wait, hold on, sorry to cut you off but that I think is one of the failings of it, right? The only times in these two movies that you see any hint of this ambivalence within Kylo Ren are on a deeply personal level. I can’t remember a single moment where it seems like he actually gives a fuck about anyone else, except he doesn’t wanna kill his mom and he feels maybe conflicted about killing his dad, and he has feelings about his wacky uncle…

FK: And he has feelings about Rey obviously, whether you think they’re romantic feelings or not. He definitely has feelings, whatever they are.

ELM: The only moments of doubt, the only moments of quote-unquote “potential redemption,” are ones that are incredibly small. I mean, in…zoomed in on his life.

FK: Right. He’s very self-centered in this very basic way.

ELM: That's hard! I think the movies are inherently setting people up to discard everything else. Because it shows you those small bits, when actually…you know what I mean?

FK: Absolutely! You're putting your finger on this thing, those small bits are all setups that we understand from romantic tropes. The idea of the selfish man who is making all these bad choices and doesn’t really care, but can only be brought back into normal social life through the love of family and woman, right? That’s basically every romance novel ever. And that’s one of the things…

ELM: Ever?!

FK: Not ever! It’s at least 50% of them, probably more. Right? This is a big ole trope!

ELM: Yeah, right.

FK: It’s a big ole trope! So all this stuff is set up, but then there’s this big mythic galaxy-war setting, which would maybe be OK if we were still in the space of purely mythic, symbolic discussion, where all of the deaths are sort of fake and it doesn’t matter if it’s a personal experience or a galaxy-level conflict experience, because in either case it’s just this tropey symbolic mythic story. But now we’ve got Rey and Finn being like “Hey dudes!” Excuse me, Rose and Finn being like “Hey dudes, little people! We exist in this world, this is a more fully formed world than myth, cause there’s some of us here.”

ELM: You should see the jazz hands that you’re doing! Also it would be really cute if Rose and Finn did jazz hands. They’re so fun.

FK: Yeah. That would be adorable. They’re so fun! But you get my point here, right? So then you’re like “Fuck, now here we are and there’s this conflict between the styles of trope that we’re asked to be in and also our desire to make everything more realistic, which as fans we do a lot of. We take a lot of things that are simple and make them more complex.”

ELM: That’s interesting because I kind of feel like that’s not necessarily…fans don’t always make it more complicated. Just look how popular certain types of AUs are, which kind of work to strip out conflict. It’s not to say there’s something anti-intellectual or foolish or anything like, that’s not to say that stripping out conflict and making your fanfiction…using fanworks to smooth out the hard edges of canon is bad, which I think that there are some people who have written thinkpieces suggesting this very point. And I think that those people are wrong. But I do think we should not say that fans universally wanna complicate things.

FK: You’re right. I think maybe what I really mean is that fans do whatever the canon is not doing. So if it’s…or not always, but a lot of times. So if the canon is simplistic and mythic and symbolic and simple, fans are like, “But what if we made this person complex and have an interior life that they don't seem to have and…” You know what I mean? And again, not always even then, but sometimes. And then if you have something that’s complex and difficult and full of trauma and distress and commentary and it’s very morally unclear, fans are like “But then what if we put them in a coffee shop and just made all of the conflict be about the broken espresso machine and had them hug?”

ELM: I think people do that with both in both situations.

FK: Yeah, maybe that’s true. But my point being though that…you’re right. But.

ELM: You know what I mean though, right? Both those things definitely happen but I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

FK: Right. But I think it would be pretty hard for original Star Wars to be made any more simplistic than it already is. That’s part of why I like it, it’s highly simplistic, but I think it would be kinda hard.

ELM: OK. So can we connect this back to Reylo?

FK: Sure. Reylo was just sort of the catalyst that got me thinking about this, because in Reylo fanfic, I think a lot of people are dealing with the conflicts between these tropes and the competing desires that people have—as far as enjoyment of particular tropes with the canon that they have to wrestle with, or decide not to wrestle with, right? So in a lot of Reylo fanfic, basically you have to come up with some way that Reylo are gonna…if you’re gonna write Reylo fanfic, and it’s gonna be romantic, even…no matter what the ending is gonna be, I’m not saying if it’s gonna be a romance, I’m saying if it’s gonna be romantic in any way, there has to be some way they can meet somewhere. Whether that somewhere is actually meeting in a middle ground or whether it’s some kind of really twisted thing, somehow it has to happen.

ELM: In their miiiiiinds.

FK: Right, and it’s right in their minds in canon.

ELM: I made a friend on Skype.

FK: I made a friend on Skype. So a lot of times people will then go, “OK well, that means that if they meet in the middle then Kylo needs to become more light and Rey needs to become more dark,” and they begin falling down this moral relativism hole, or moral equivalency hole…

ELM: This is all fascinating to me because I actually thought one of the points of The Last Jedi was that Rey wasn’t quote-unquote “light.”

FK: Right. I think so too, but a lot of this was written after Force Awakens.

ELM: Gotcha.

FK: So some of it is how are people gonna deal with this.

ELM: Even then there’s a presumption, “Oh, she’s the plucky hero,” or whatever, but actually I don’t even know if you get that that much in that…I haven’t seen that movie since it came out. So, but I have seen this one twice! I’m an expert. That’s right.

FK: You’re an expert. Anyway, point being though, because you have to sort of bring them together, there’s a lot of different attempts to sort of…maybe minimize what’s happening in the First Order, because if it really is all that bad, and Rey were to meet in the middle, then Rey would need to get a lot more morally ambiguous than I think people are comfortable with. She’s already pretty far down that moral ambiguity hole, she’s not a Jedi, she’s not sort of the light, which maybe is fine actually, right? The light is destructive, potentially, we know this now, if you didn’t already know it you shoulda played “Knights of the Old Republic” and read some Legends canon and gotten some perspective on this.

But anyway, we know that now, it’s in here! So she would have to go pretty far, she’d have to get comfortable with doing some pretty bad shit. Cause Kylo Ren’s pretty far down the bad shit rabbit hole. People don’t wanna do that, so then…

ELM: So then you said they…

FK: They try and excuse things that Kylo has done.

ELM: Cool, great.

FK: They try and say it’s not that bad, or they try and say “Oh, on the one hand we maybe destroyed the Hosnian system, but you Resistance fighters destroyed Starkiller base and there were people on that, it was a whole planet.” It’s like, “OK, cool, that could be true, but I’m not sure they’re morally equivalent, an entire starsystem and a military target that even if it had civilians on it…” but also, come on! Do we have to have this argument? [laughs]

ELM: This is interesting…

FK: And if we have this argument, then it’s a serious argument, right? Then it’s a real argument with real parallels to things in our real world and people, if you’re gonna go there you sorta have to take it really seriously. I think.

ELM: This I feel like gets into the whole question of should you… Well, I mean, I guess not. Because I was gonna say, does it bring you into the realm of should you depict dark themes or whatever. This whole conversation about censorship. But actually what you’re saying is it’s not engaging with the actual…I mean, themes that are sort of under the surface in the actual films.

FK: Reading a story wherein Rey ends up on a First Order battleship hangin’ out with Kylo Ren for whatever reason and ends up hanging out with stormtroopers and getting to know them, but there’s not really a…there’s not a point at the end that actually denying people names is really fucked up and these are child soldiers, right? It’s one thing to show their humanity, but because you want her to get together with Kylo Ren it’s like you have to make that less evil, so then you decide to depict it as though that were all cool and that the Resistance is actually just super super super on the other side and there’s no difference. Right? The problem with stormtroopers was all fake news. They’re all fine.

ELM: I can’t believe that you just said those words out loud.

FK: No really, this is what sometimes ends up, not every fic does this, but there’s actually a pretty clear trend toward it. Not everything’s all the way there, but you get this point where it’s mixed, and that’s tough, and I think that this has to do again with reading into canons that are relatively black and white and trying to figure out how to handle moral greyness.

ELM: Yeah. It’s interesting. I don’t know, I put in one of my notes while you were talking about some of this, one thing I’ve been really pleased about when I came back to Harry Potter fandom and I was reading Harry/Draco stories was how often I actually felt like authors were seriously engaging. And one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of eighth-year fic is often I feel like that gets swept under the rug. I feel like if a bunch of 17-year-olds were just trying to kill each other for several years, and one side was trying to also commit ethnic cleansing—something which doesn’t exist in Star Wars, right?

FK: Not in anything that I’ve seen! The worst that I’ve seen is that the First Order is kinda racist against people who are not…who are alien species, but there doesn’t seem to be a death camp situation going on.

ELM: Great, cool. So anyway I was really pleased because I felt like, maybe it’s just that I came across a good batch of authors and I was specifically looking for stories that had a political slant, but I really felt like they were granting the books…now I’m turning this into a thing about Harry Potter. But they were granting the books a complexity that the books never had in terms of…I mean, it’s a children’s YA series where everything, sometimes it can feel a little, for all the themes of moral ambiguity and making good decisions rather than worrying about your thoughts, just making good actions, that’s the whole theme. Right?

FK: Right.

ELM: But it still can feel a little cartoonish, and I really appreciated there were writers who were taking this on and showing that there could be redemption, but it was going to be genuinely, genuinely hard work.

FK: Right and I don't think that people aren’t trying to tackle these issues in Reylo fic, I think people are trying and often failing. And I think that most people try and often fail, I also think there are some people who don’t care, but…

ELM: That’s interesting, should they care?

FK: Yeah, I don’t know, because there is this level on which if you truly are going to dismiss everything but the tropey aspects of it, and just be like yeah…so here’s an example: one of the reasons I think AUs are particularly enjoyable in this space is that suddenly if you really like the bad guys you wanna have Hux, you wanna have Kylo Ren, and you want them to be, like, hot, now they are not murderers if you’re in an AU.

ELM: Yeah. Right.

FK: Now at worst maybe they’ve ruined someone’s career or whatever.

ELM: Even though these are the facts that define their characters, Hux in particular. He’s nothing more than a hilariously over-the-top cartoon villain who murders people, that’s it. He has no interiority.

FK: But if you decide that you want to grant him interiority, and you decide you want to change everything so the stakes are much lower, then suddenly you can grant him interiority and you can write…it’s much easier to write an “oh, I see the error of my ways” if the error of your ways was not murdering somebody. It just cuts the difficulty down like five pegs!

ELM: That’s really hard. And it obviously, in the back of my mind through this entire conversation I’m thinking about our “Race and Fandom” episodes.

FK: Yeah! Absolutely. People love granting this kind of interiority to white villains, is what I would say, and Rukmini Pande made that statement in…I can’t remember if it was in “Shipping and Activism” or “Race and Fandom.”

ELM: I think it was both.

FK: Maybe both, and she’s also written a lot about it. I really hope that people read her work on this. That’s a whole can of worms that I think is a good can of worms to open, but a big one.

ELM: I think worth mentioning.

FK: Worth mentioning for sure.

ELM: Think about the title of this episode though, “The Humanizing Turn,” when we’re talking about what people are doing to these characters, to put them in these situations.

FK: Right, and you could also say that a humanizing turn could apply to somebody like Finn who is a stormtrooper and therefore doesn’t even get a face or a name, you know, in the original trilogy, if you were there, and now has a face and a name and is kinda underserved in my opinion by the Last Jedi script…and also by a lot of fanworks, many of them are interested in talking about him and his background, but it’s maybe not as appealing as the big evil white dude who’s sexy. I don’t know.

ELM: Quote-unquote “sexy.”

FK: Yeah, we have a difference of opinion about Adam Driver’s face.

ELM: [laughs] You said that half the stories also describe him as hideous, right, which I find hilarious.

FK: Oh yeah, and half the stories, part of the motivation of why he’s evil is that he's deeply body self conscious and ugly, especially if it’s an AU in which he’s…sort of everything’s un-heightened and he’s just a dude, he’s just a douchebag.

ELM: And he’s a weird-looking dude.

FK: He’s a weird-looking dude in half the stories! And in the other half it’s like “He looked like an angel fallen from God.” [ELM laughs] Otherworldly beautiful, not beautiful in the way anyone else is beautiful but the most beautiful! And you’re like “OK, these are the two options.”

ELM: Did people do this to Snape?

FK: People did that to Snape to some degree.

ELM: I feel like it’s funny cause it’s like, when you read those books she is not kind when she describes him. And…

FK: With Snape, half of the people were like, “Through the eyes of a child he was really ugly and as an adult I’m like HOT, sort of, weird hot,” and the other half are like “No, he's just ugly.”

ELM: Fine! I mean, that’s…

FK: By the way, Alan Rickman is hot, so let’s, we can all just accept that she said Alan Rickman was great, and Alan Rickman’s hot, so it’s fine.

ELM: Though 30 years too old.

FK: Yeah, we can, that will forever make me sad. Anyway. I think that having talked about all this though maybe people can see, even separating out your feelings about Rey and Kylo Ren in their mind, I think there’s echoes of this in other fandoms.

ELM: What do you mean?

FK: I’m thinking about especially the AU topic. So like, in Merlin, a show that I hated, I really disliked the show Merlin, loved the AUs! Read a bunch of them. And that was great, it was fine, or in X-Men, everyone for X-Men First Class writing all these AUs in which Magneto was fine. He was just like, “Magneto is now a reporter!” Or, you know what I mean? It totally cuts down the stakes and makes it more manageable to talk about villains.

ELM: Does it actually, we just had a rec in “The Rec Center” the other day cause we had this challenge that was recommend the one fic that you would recommend to people, did you agree with that X-files one? Did you see?

FK: Yeah, that’s a really good X-files fic.

ELM: I also thought you would appreciate the description in there that was about how the show ended after Season Seven.

FK: Actually it ended before…well, yes.

ELM: She said six or seven.

FK: It definitely ended at some point in there. I can’t put my finger on exactly when, but there was a moment in which it ended.

ELM: So yeah, these were the fics that if you had to recommend one fic, when someone was entering a fandom, what would you recommend? And I liked it as, a reader suggested it and I liked it because I feel like you’d hesitate, “Everyone’s read that one, I won’t rec it.” But if you’re not in the fandom, you can find it on AO3, I’m sure but…so someone recced an X-Men fic and that was the main part of their description. They said a lot of the time, I’m not in this fandom so I can’t judge, but they were saying that a lot of the time people totally gloss over Erik—

FK: Magneto. Erik, Magneto.

ELM: His backstory, too, not just what he becomes but what the origins of that are which are quite serious. The Holocaust.

FK: Yep.

ELM: So I am not a fan of this kind of AU. I enjoy a canon-altering AU, I think we might say? What happens if at the end of Season Two X happened, what would the rest of the show look like. If the action continued but this one thing was changed. I love that stuff cause I love fix-its. But the kind of “blank is a…”  [FK laughs] Blank is a rock star and blank is a manager. That is not…I’m gesturing wildly in the negative. It’s not for me. Not for me.

FK: Right, and I think that, I think that one of the things that is appealing to people about AUs is that it serves as a get-out-of-jail-free card on a lot of those conflicts or difficulties or things that are hard to deal with in the original canon. Right? You can imagine the people that you like in the relationships that you like between them, but you don’t necessarily have to deal with the overarching themes, or…the best AUs, in my opinion, do deal with those themes, and in fact use the AU as a way to pluck something out of the original and have a closer eye on it. But yeah, it’s really difficult to do, and also some people just don’t…I mean, I’ve read so many, so many terrible fics over the past couple of weeks. I am not holding up a sign being like “I only read things that are quality!”

ELM: I don’t think we have to either! And also if they bring people happiness, it doesn’t matter.

FK: But also, right. But also I think that they sort of illustrate something about shipping which is different for different people. For some people…

ELM: Tell me more!

FK: For some people shipping necessarily means if you have feels about a couple of characters, for some people that can only happen…maybe not even that they should get together canonically, but that you think it could be a good idea. And for other people that can not even be a good idea, it can just be something interesting. And for other people it can be, I know it’s not a good idea, but I have this deep desire that it was. And I think that even if you could take it out of the fanfic space, that can be a really complex set of things to negotiate in fandom, what people’s interest in these relationships actually are. And I see that a lot in Reylo, but I see it in other stories too, in other kinds of ship wars and other fandoms as well.

ELM: But what does it even mean? You’re describing the Reylo situation as taking these characters and slotting them in, you know, squishing them into these archetypal structures. Somewhat ironically, because they maybe were created to kind of push back against the world from which they sprung that was just constructed of archetypes. And I was pushing back against you saying things like “Well, Rey’s…Kylo’s the dark and Rey’s the light,” but actually Kylo is an ineffectual whiny baby so we'll set that aside, but Rey…she’s quite morally ambivalent, especially in this one. That’s kind of one of the themes of the film, the idea that understanding the Force is not inherently a moral thing. It is, it just exists. Right? And it exists in a space of balance. So what does it say that you’re then…what does character even mean when you just pluck her up and then plop her into a Jane Austen outfit and say she’s the bold heroine who’s gonna reform the surly Mr. Kylo Darcy, right? You know what I mean?

FK: [laughing] The Kylo Darcy thing in particular is funny, I was reading this fic that was written after Force Awakens and someone was like “Yeah, so I got sent this meta about how Kylo Ren is like Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and I don’t see it unless in the next movie he offers Rey the worst marriage proposal ever, full of negs. Then maybe we can talk.” [laughing] So as I said to some people on Twitter, my soul left my body as I watched him be like “You’re nothing. EXCEPT TO ME. Come rule the galaxy with me!” And I was like “Oh fuck, this is indeed the worst Mr Darcy—this is the shitty marriage proposal from Pride and Prejudice, except it’s not at all!”

ELM: But it’s not at all! That’s not what happens in Pride and Prejudice!

FK: He negs her mercilessly and then says “Come marry me in spite of me negging you mercilessly”?

ELM: But he’s not like, come because he’s the one who sees past this. He’s like, “I think your family is a bunch of fools and I think you are problematic. Marry me!” And she’s like…

FK: It’s actually worse. It is worse. [laughing]

ELM: She’s like, “Excuse me?!” And he’s like “Yeah, I don’t regret breaking up Bingley and your sister! Your mother is nonsensetown.” And she’s like, “What?”

FK: Can I just say that I cannot believe that I have maneuvered you into a position where you’re arguing that Mr. Darcy is actually way shittier than Kylo Ren at this point in the series?

ELM: Yes, but I like him more than Kylo Ren! [general laughter]

FK: But you see what I’m saying, right—

ELM: He’s not playing any games, he’s just kind of a dick! And rightly so! Her family is embarrassing!

FK: But you’re seeing, you see what I’m saying, which is there’s these tropes that people are laying on them, and then there’s these romance tropes that people are laying on them, and both those things are to some extent in canon, and there’s this negotiation you’re trying to come up with about how much do we fall into them? How much don’t we? Also, we’re trained to love these tropes, both the Star Wars ones and the…cause the Star Wars ones are really back to that monomyth. And the romance ones, right? We’re given Beauty and the Beast and run around singing Disney songs when we’re little kids. Here these things are, they’re sort of engrained in us. I think that’s a really interesting battlefield, almost, of ideas in this.

ELM: I would hesitate to paint that with too universal a brush.

FK: Fair enough. However…maybe not perfectly universal…

ELM: I watched a lot of Disney movies and I’m not over here shippin’ Reylo! Just FYI. I don’t know if you knew.

FK: That’s a shock! You, I mean, the “we” here is obviously not a universal we, the “we” here is…

ELM: Just wanted to clarify that.

FK: The “we” here is not a universal we, but I think that even if you don’t personally feel that way, you would be hard-pressed not to admit that these tropes are…

ELM: In the culture, yes.

FK: Repeated in the culture many times, and so like, if you…some people may like them more than others, but it's not like it’s a surprise to discover that they’re there.

ELM: OK, but you still haven’t answered my question: what does it mean for character, when people say “I love these characters,” when what they do with them in fanworks often kind of has to hammer them into a shape that they already liked.

FK: Right, and I don’t…I don’t entirely know the answer to that, because I feel like a lot of times fanworks are arguments about how you should ignore certain things that you don’t like and embrace other things that you do about characters and canon, that’s a lot of what any kind of an interpretation is. And that’s what shipping can be too, when people say “I see X as the thing.” And it’s not exactly what’s in the story if you took everything into account, right? Even forgetting fanworks. People like different things in stories and see different characters in different ways. I mean, I don’t disagree with you. I think that there is some amount of trimming to fit, but I think that there’s always some amount of trimming to fit when we interpret a character.

ELM: Well, I think that obviously every character and every story will be, every person will have a different reading. Because every, you don’t, what is it? You don’t step in the same river twice? Is that what he meant?

FK: You don’t step in the same river twice.

ELM: You and I can both read a book and we’re not, no two people will ever read a book the same way because every person is unique. But I think that there are different ways to come at characters. Yeah, you can impose, you can trim to fit, like we’re saying. But I think there are also ways of embodying character as you see it, which obviously will be tinged by your experiences and perspectives, but if you embody that character and then you explore the world from their perspective…and I think a lot of fanworks do that. That’s kind of the opposite!

FK: Yeah, I mean…

ELM: It’s kind of an inside-out versus an outside-in.

FK: I don’t disagree with that and to some degree I think that’s…Star Wars has not ever gotten all the way to that inside-out position, but I think one of the things the new films have been doing is rejecting the outside in a little bit. A little bit! A very tiny bit. [laughs] But that’s one of the things I find so interesting about this. I guess I’d love to know more about this and think more about this in other highly tropey and highly long-term fandoms, so I wanna think more about this in Star Trek which has very different tropes and very different ideas in it.

I wanna think more about this, I’d love to hear from somebody who’s in Marvel fandom to talk about this. What are the received understandings of what this world is? How are they getting messed up, or how have they gotten messed up over time? I know there’s been some kind of major comics periods where there’s been a shock to the system, where people have challenged this, and I’d love to put it in broader context.

ELM: Yeah, though I’m more interested in what fans do than what one iteration of a franchise does to the previous iteration.

FK: I guess I’m interested in fans’ reactions to this and how much it relates to what fans have already been doing.

ELM: Yeah, I’d love to hear from people with diverse perspectives on this. But what I wanna hear from you is, what is the problem of Reylo? Cause that’s what you called your meta, and I don’t know if you really have gotten into why there’s a problem here.

FK: Yeah. To me the problem of Reylo is that the things that make it appealing, to me at least and from the fanfic I’ve read to a lot of people, on an id-candy level, are the very things that you can’t have if you're going to truly engage with either the way that the films are dealing with trope and myth and symbol, or with the very real-world-ish consequences of people’s behavior. Right? It's sort of in between a rock and a hard place. If you choose to take the attitude that all of this is very real and grounded and you’re going to write your fanfic as though it is, then you can’t have those id-candy things that are appealing about it. But if you go the other way, and everything is symbol, then the id-candy stuff isn’t as appealing anymore anyway, because everything is purely symbolic and you no longer have some of those personal, little things that people really get attached to. So to me it’s just, it’s a tightrope walk, almost…

ELM: Paradoxical.

FK: Yeah, and it’s one that nothing…I can’t think of anything that’s ever really gonna fully fulfill the thing I want out of this, cause I don’t think that it’s possible to fulfill that. Whatever that is. I don’t even know that I could, I don’t think I could write it myself.

ELM: But do you think that that fault inherently lies within the source material?

FK: I don’t think it's a fault.

ELM: It’s a problem, Flourish, you called it a problem!

FK: It;s a problem for me, but problems aren’t necessarily faults!

ELM: Do you think this could be solved by the source material?

FK: No.

ELM: Do you think that it’s…

FK: I think if the source material solved it, it would make it all much less interesting, you know? I think that actually there’s a fair amount of chance that in the third movie a lot of this sort of ambiguity is going to be destroyed, because usually in the second movie of a trilogy, that’s the sort of most interesting and morally ambiguous and complex one. So I think the third one is probably gonna to some degree back out of some of these questions.

ELM: Is “Ree-yahn John-sahn” writing the next one?

FK: It’s gonna be back to J.J. Abrams.

ELM: Who’s writing it as well.

FK: He’s maybe cowriting it with somebody, but he’s in the script process. I think that originally Rian Johnson was supposed to write the treatment but then it changed. Anyway right now it’s Abrams.

ELM: OK, all right. I mean…

FK: I think it will probably go back to a slightly more simplistic world. And then I’ll be less interested. So.

ELM: With lens flares!

FK: More lens flares. Fewer reaction shots.

ELM: I don’t mind lens flares. Does that make me a cinematic philistine? You know I don’t really care about the visual elements of things.

FK: No. That doesn’t necessarily make you a philistine.

ELM: Great.

FK: OK, I think we have one more topic that we need to cover, and we should probably go for it since we’ve been talking for awhile, which is an ask we received. And the ask goes like this: “Wondering if you had any thoughts on ‘anti’ fandom. You touched on it a bit in episode 64. My backstory—been in fandom since the X-files in the mid-’90s, re/discovered Tumblr after seeing TLJ, have been fascinated/shocked by the active ‘antiReylo’ fandom. Is this new? If so, why? People have always been pro some ships and anti others (Hi, I’ve shipped Snape/Hermione for years), but this seems different—this sub-fandom seems to be ‘being’ an antiReylo, attacking others and not pro-shipping anything. Thoughts?”

ELM: So what is it about the X-files and then Snape/Hermione and then Reylo? Is Mully—Mully. Is Sculder and—what?

FK: SCULDER AND MULLY! [general laughter] We do not do smush ship names in the X-files, bro.

ELM: MSR, is that also like these other two ships?

FK: Mulder is a man-child.

ELM: Wow!

FK: He’s not as bad of a man-child as many people, but he is a pretty bad, stunted man-child.

ELM: This is incredible. I’m not trying to pathologize you or this asker. So like what we touched on in the beginning…I don’t know. You’re the one who has all these ships, you tell me.

FK: I don’t know. I feel like this question is so big because it’s not just to do with Reylo or morality in shipping, this is also to do with the history of fandom and different platforms and how those have impacted the way that people find each other or people who agree with them or disagree with them, so… Honestly, I looked at this and I was like…I don’t know.

ELM: And you started to answer it, and it’s true there are a lot more people, exponentially more than there would have been back in the day. I also think Tumblr in particular… In the year 2000 or whatever, 2000-whenever, you hated Snape/Hermione, right? One, not you, obviously not you. [FK laughs] And what are you gonna do? You gonna go to the Snape/Hermione archive page?

FK: It was a Yahoo Group! It was a Yahoo Group at the time and people would sometimes come by and troll it and then get banned and that’s it.

ELM: And immediately, right? So there wasn’t much you could do and if there was a public-facing page or whatever…what are you gonna do? Drop in the comments, people are gonna be like “Fuck you, go away.”

FK: Right, or ban you or whatever. There was moderation at that time. Remember there was a time on the internet when people met on moderated forums!

ELM: All right, grandma!

FK: And people got kicked out of the forums for being antisocial or dicks, so if you decided to come by and brigade something, you could be banned!

ELM: That still happens in Facebook groups!

FK: True, but there’s no moderation on Tumblr.

ELM: Like the person who hated seltzer and then got called out in our seltzer group? And then made a big deal out of it and was kicked out?

FK: I remember that, you're right. There are some spaces online that still do this. But the Tumblr Reylo tag is not one of them.

ELM: Right. So it makes it so much easier, right? It would be a lot harder probably to find small conversations people are having, but now obviously you just can go right in the tags. And it’s the whole idea of “don’t tag your hate,” but it’s really easy for people to type in “Reylo” and find every post and find blogs that are devoted to this ship and go on and on and be dicks in their mentions. So that is definitely a functionality thing. That’s not necessarily a change in attitudes. But I do think there has been a change in attitudes as well.

FK: I don’t disagree with that. I think that to some degree, some of the things are still the same as they ever were, right? People did not like the idea of Snape/Hermione because there was a canonically abusive or anyway negative relationship between them, right. And because it was a teacher/student thing, and so people felt like you cannot touch this with a 10 foot pole, that is fundamentally…

ELM: A very large age gap. Of 20 years, right.

FK: Right. So there was this idea that you could…and there’s all these things wrong with that. There are genuinely a lot of things wrong with this! So people feeling like you can’t touch that with a 10 foot pole. And anybody who does is endorsing it. To me that's similar to some of the feelings that anti-Reylo people have, right? They’re like, “This is a guy who’s a jerk who has literally done awful things to Rey.”

ELM: Right.

FK: Like, he mind-raped her. Kind of. Not to put too fine a point on it. And the first time they meet!

ELM: Right.

FK: So you know, what…is that good? Should you celebrate that? You must be endorsing that if this is your ship!

ELM: Yeah. I mean, that’s really tricky because it’s also like, I feel like you’re dealing with people who are working with different constructs of…mind-raping is not a thing. That’s a thing in science fiction.

FK: Yes. Or fantasy!

ELM: I think you could write a story in which, depending on the story you wrote the context of that could change.

FK: Absolutely! The context of it could change, the way that it functions in that society could change, the actual experience of the characters—which we only see on a film screen, and it appears that Rey is also in his mind and then that it’s later on their minds are connected and it’s not consensual on either part, right—so there’s all these different ways you could depict that. Again, when you’re talking on the internet and you’re having an argument, the thing that’s gonna get the most clicks is the most strident and not-nuanced point. Those things I think tend to get recirculated. And even more so now than when everything was on a different format.

ELM: Right. None of this is to say, though, that—I just wanna make sure that it doesn’t sound like…and I really…cutting myself off here. But I really am not sure that we dug in enough at the title of this, and I do think that woobification still happens.

FK: Yes! Yes it does.

ELM: For anyone who doesn’t know, that’s a relatively old term, it means taking a character and turning them into, you know, softening them. Often times it’s a bad guy, making them a sweet, kind of gentle, sometimes helpless, kind of, right? A lot of depictions of Draco Malfoy, particularly while the books were coming out, were definitely of that nature.

FK: Absolutely, absolutely.

ELM: I just worry, I don’t want it to say like, when we throw around terms like “moral panic” and when we think about the onscreen actions or the on the page actions of some of these characters, I think fiction is complex and should show the full spectrum of human behavior, but I also think that there’s a danger of humanizing can also equal apologizing for or erasing or…you know. You know what I mean!

FK: Absolutely! I think that the thing that is most frustrating when talking about anti culture and saying anything negative about it, is that often antis aren’t wrong in all the ways! They’re pointing out real problems: that often people who are really into that pairing—whatever the pairing happens to be, in this case Reylo, but in other places too—they’re pointing out real problems that the people who are really into the pairing don’t wanna look at very much.

ELM: The 16-year-old/18-year-old cartoon character boy age gap, no.

FK: Yeah, not always. But.

ELM: I’m gonna put my foot down! [laughs] Some of these are too much!

FK: Not all of them, some of these are too much! But you see what I’m saying though.

ELM: 100%!

FK: And so it’s not…it’s not entirely fair to sit around and say, “Oh, guys, everything’s cool, because it’s OK if something’s not cool for a person.” Anti behavior does not necessarily mean the same thing as not being cool with a ship. And I worry, I worry that maybe we get to a point where the idea of not liking a particular ship and being an anti get conflated. And if that ever comes to be, then I’m just gonna quit the internet because… [laughs]

ELM: There’s definitely ships that I strongly dislike! And I think are…not even, whatever, I don’t know. The ship in Black Sails I complain about, which happens to be the most popular one, even though I complain about it it’s like “Go ahead, write fic about it!” I’m not gonna stop anyone. And life’s too short for me to spend a lot of time worrying about it. I am gonna spend my precious seconds on this earth clicking through AO3 being like “Why! Why is he in this story! Get him out!” but that’s just my own problem. I just can’t, I don’t understand what possesses people to take that next step and then to go in and be like, “Imma let you know that I think this guy sucks and I think your pairing sucks.” I just don’t, I don’t understand…I can’t imagine feeling that way. Especially to go say to a stranger who’s got the name of that ship in their blog title.

FK: Well, I have to say that I don’t understand either, I’m pretty sure that…the working title of this meta was “The Reylo Meta That’s Gonna Get Me Flambéed,” so I’m pretty sure that I’m about to become a lot more familiar with anti culture than I ever wanted to be when I post this meta.

ELM: We’ll do a follow-up episode where we talk about it.

FK: Maybe we’ll do a follow-up episode where we talk about that! But original Tumblr asker, thank you for your question, this was probably not that helpful, I hope that we at least mentioned some of the things we think relate to that. We cover a lot of these related issues in the podcast a lot, so I hope that if you’re listening to them, if you’re listening through our old podcasts you’ll see where we’re beginning to touch on things that relate to your question. But I don’t think either of us is entirely ready to take on anti culture yet, oh God.

ELM: Well, I mean, just the sheer lack of…I understand it intellectually. I just don’t really understand it in practice.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: Maybe we should find some antis. I’m calling them “aunt-ties” now because you said it so much. I’m calling them “aunties.”

FK: Aunties, like your aunt! Like my niece calls me.

ELM: Yeah. No. Anti, not auntie.

FK: Or “auhn-tie.”

ELM: I would never say “auhn-tie.” I know you’re fancy.

FK: I am not that fancy.

ELM: Yeah, you’re from a gold rush brick family!

FK: I’m not that fancy.

ELM: Right? Is that what it was?

FK: You got like maybe 40% [laughter] in that statement. All right, well, I think that kinda wraps it up for this episode, we’re now officially in silly land. We should do our outro stuff. Do you wanna do our usual wrapping-up spiel or do you want me to do it?

ELM: Of course I do! I enjoyed it so much last time. OK.

FK: Go for it!

ELM: Wrapping up number one, patreon.com/fansplaining, we got a bunch of new patrons since last time, so thank you so much!

FK: Woo!

ELM: Really excited! But that doesn’t mean we don’t want more!

FK: Yeah!

ELM: Did that sound greedy?

FK: No, it’s fine.

ELM: We want to, particularly we want to commission some more articles this year than last for medium.com/fansplaining where you can read our original writing of us and some guest contributors that we pay. So Patreon, we have the most recent special episode on Brooklyn 99.

FK: Yes!

ELM: Are you still watching?

FK: I have not had a chance to watch more, but I am intending to.

ELM: OK, all right, phew.

FK: It’s not like an “I’m not still watching,” but I had a work retreat and then I got a new dog and then things happened.

ELM: Yeah! I can’t believe you managed to go this long without mentioning your dog.

FK: Pepys!

ELM: All right, so yeah, if you wanna hear the $3-and-up, you get access to the Brooklyn 99 episode—and you may have seen last week was special episode week, we were just pluggin’ all the old special episodes, so you have access to all of them if you pledged that much.

FK: And soon we’ll have another one, I don’t know how soon, because it’s gonna be a fanfiction book club, and I have to come up with what the fanfiction will be and it can’t be Reylo so I don’t know what I’m gonna do. But we’ll figure it out!

ELM: Cause you sold the fics so well in this episode.

FK: If I found one that was really good and didn’t do any of the things that I don’t like I would consider it, but you would then…

ELM: You would send it to me? No!

FK: You would then refuse. Let’s go on then.

ELM: All right. So if you don’t have any cash to spare, another way that you can contribute to us is by rating us on iTunes or leaving a comment. And also, by joining in the conversation—I feel like there were some contentious topics in this episode, like the last one, which I thought we were gonna get more pushback on. Fansplaining.com which is a Tumblr, you can leave us an ask, you can leave it on anon, don’t be mean. Please. Also, @fansplaining on Twitter and Facebook and fansplaining@gmail.com and we have a phone number on our Tumblr that you can call if you want to give us your vocalized comments—and we love that—so it’s not just us reading your thoughts.

FK: Yeah!

ELM: I did it, I did it!

FK: You did a good job.

ELM: Thank you!

FK: All right, I think that’s it!

ELM: OK, so you’re gonna go post this and we’re gonna see what happens.

FK: Yep. We’ll find out.

ELM: This will be in the past tense by the time this comes out, so.

FK: Sometime between now and when this episode comes out.

ELM: This is all gonna look so quaint when you’ve deleted your Twitter account by the time this episode comes out because you’re being piled on.

FK: It probably will, please, we’ll find out what happens! At least I have a new dog to pet to make me feel better.

ELM: Cool, great, I’m glad you’re voluntarily doing this, I’m really excited.

FK: Yeah, well, I keep thinking it can’t be worse than things that have happened to me in fandom before, but who knows.

ELM: You glutton for bashing.

FK: It seems like I’m…whatever. All right. I will talk to you later Elizabeth!

ELM: OK, bye Flourish!

FK: Bye!

[Outro music, thank yous, and disclaimers]