Episode 74: Ask Fansplaining Anything: Part 1
In Episode 74, “Ask Fansplaining Anything: Part 1,” Flourish and Elizabeth answer a pile of listener letters from the past few months. Some touch on recent episodes, from more observations about fan tourism to critique of the discussion on alternate universe fic. Others pose new questions, on topics including the Society for Creative Anachronism, aging into or out of fandom, fic-searching and tagging methods, how to make fandom friends, and ways to help your family understand why fandom is so important to you.
[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel” by Stefsax.
[00:04:35] Fact check! JK Rowling was living in Manchester when she wrote the books, but she based the Kings Cross Layout on Euston Station, which is (according to Elizabeth) the ugliest train station in Britain.
[00:07:42] Danny DeVito is in fact 4′10″. He has Fairbank’s disease. We went down a Wikipedia hole and discovered that Robert Reich, who was Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton and supports a universal basic income, has the same condition. Now you know!
[00:08:55] Hanson Day looks really delightful. All active members of the Hanson fan club are invited and they play a free concert (!) and debut new songs (!)
[00:11:15] The Pros of Cons is by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman. The plot: a drumming convention, a fan con, and a taxidermy convention are all in one convention center, and hijinks ensue.
[00:20:23] This is the record Elizabeth found. Yeeeeep.
[00:25:12] For these asks to make sense, make sure you’ve listened to Episode 72, “Alternate Universes”!
[00:27:08] The fic is World Ain’t Ready by idiopathicsmile.
[00:29:47] “The Reylo Episode” is actually Episode 66, “The Humanizing Turn.”
[00:34:44] The big swoopy Reylo fic is landscape with a blur of conquerors by diasterisms as absolutely no one who is into Reylo will be surprised to hear.
[00:35:00] Our interstitial music is also by stefsax this time!
[00:37:28] Our episode on Wattpad was super early: Episode 3, “What’s the Deal With Wattpad?”
[00:37:51] OK possibly we have not covered this topic as extensively as we thought, because we could not find the conversation we hallucinated we had. If you know where it is, let us know, or else we’ll…uh…have that conversation on air sometime? We promise?
[00:40:01] ICYMI, the Archive of our Own is updating their search feature! Extremely exciting. Also mentioned here, Episode 19 “Cataloging Fandom,” and Shannon Fay Johnson’s article in Transformative Works and Cultures, “Fan fiction metadata creation and utilization within fan fiction archives: Three primary models.”
[00:55:17] Elizabeth says we’re not gonna get into it but if you’re wondering, this is the The New Yorker piece about Infinity War by Richard Brody.
[00:59:15] Episode 73, “Ship It”!
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish.
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is Episode 74, “Ask Fansplaining Anything: Part 1.”
FK: Right. And spoiler, the “Part 1” is not because we're going to be doing “Part 2” for our next episode, it’s because this episode is a bunch of listener letters and voicemails, and we will someday probably do another episode like this in the future. We’re not sure when.
ELM: We definitely will, we committed to it, we called this Part 1, there has to be a Part 2.
FK: Right. But it will be like…you know.
ELM: It can’t be like—you know when you’re saying a sentence and you’re like, “There are a few reasons why we can’t do this, A…” something something something, and B never comes. We’re not gonna be like that.
FK: It’s like reading a serial fanfic and there’s a Chekov’s-gun moment and by the end they’ve forgotten about it and you’re like “Oh, I guess you were writing this serially. Oops.”
ELM: Oh, yeah. Does this happen to you a lot? Do you notice this a lot?
FK: Just a couple of times I’ve noticed it, where it’s like…this didn’t actually come back around.
ELM: Just a statement that was made at some point. Yeah.
FK: Yeah, and it would be…in normal novel-writing process this would be edited out, but because you wrote it serially it’s not going to be, and that’s fine. No hate on those people. But.
ELM: That’s part of the risks of writing serially!
ELM: Yeah. So for context, obviously every episode we ask people to send their thoughts. So a lot of people do and sometimes we put them aside and say “We’ll answer that eventually,” and then they sit there for months at a time because we're delinquents. So a few of these are relatively recent, a few of them are a bit older, and a million apologies if your ask has been languishing. We’re getting to it now!! And I’m really sorry about that. [laughing] Usually the stuff we set aside too is stuff that we wanna thoughtfully answer, that’s why, we don’t just dash off an answer.
FK: We’re like “Yeah, we’d like to do that, but we should wait till we have lots of time to address this,” and then we’re like “Oh, shit.”
ELM: And it’s buried in the Tumblr drafts among the 8,000 things we have queued up or whatever. So we’re gonna talk about this, and hopefully it won’t be too long before we answer the other ones that are sitting in our box.
FK: All right. Well. All that having been said, shall we get on with it and read some letters?
ELM: Yeah. What’s our first topic?
FK: The first topic is fan tourism, based on our fan tourism episode. We’ve still got some of that lingering in our inbox, so.
ELM: People love fan tourism.
FK: All right. The first letter is from Ruth.
“Hi Flourish, hi Elizabeth, I have one more thought following your episode on fan tourism and Stephanie’s letter on your Lori Morimoto episode. As she points out, New Zealand is not Middle Earth and Oxford is not Hogwarts. Of course if you really want to see Tolkien’s old stomping ground, you really need to go to…Oxford. The film adaptations of these books have set up associations with the wrong places, but then given that neither Middle Earth nor Hogwarts really exists, what is the right place to go to be a fan tourist? Sometimes the real locations can feel like a letdown after what we’ve seen onscreen. The pubs of Oxford and the surrounding countryside won’t seem very Middle Earthy after you’ve seen the Peter Jackson films. Keep up the good work, Ruth.”
ELM: So I can say from personal experience, New Year’s Day 2014, my friend and I were feeling kind of glum and we had lunch at the Eagle and Child, which is the pub where the Tolkien’s…
FK: The Inklings. Also known as the Bird and Baby.
ELM: Is that what they call it?
FK: Yeah, it’s a whole thing. The Bird and Baby.
ELM: Cause my friend lived just around the corner and we were like “Sure, why not.” I don’t know. It was a very depressing New Year’s Day, England in January, anyone who lived there understands, and we made the mistake of sitting at the table right in front of the display pictures and things like that. So during our depressing meal we had multiple tourists come and try to take pictures over our heads and it was like, “We can move if you want!” And they were like “No, it’s OK.” So I hope people appreciate us in those photos.
FK: I hope so too! [ELM laughing] I hope so too. No, I mean, I think that this is a good point. One of the things about this is that fiction takes us in our minds to a place that doesn’t exist in the world, also. The heightened…I feel like we talked about this a bit in the fan tourism episode, King’s Cross station not feeling like Harry Potter to me. Even though it’s so important in Harry Potter. Of course, that’s to be expected. And that’s actually a case where literally it’s written into Harry Potter, and yet it didn’t feel like that for me.
ELM: That’s interesting, because it feels right for me, and I think it probably feels right for any Londoner.
FK: Yeah, absolutely, because that’s what they envisioned, because they knew what it was like before.
ELM: And know what it feels like to be there and get a train…so it’s as if you were not reading it in the way it was…you know. She also wrote it thinking of the wrong train station, famously. You know this?
ELM: There’s no…because of the way the tracks are laid out, I believe it’s tracks one through eight that are in the main section and then there’s another section. I don’t know if this is still true, cause it was under construction for years while they were fixing up St. Pancras.
FK: But she was thinking of a different one where there could be a Nine and Three-Quarters.
ELM: I believe she was thinking of Manchester. Train station. It was one of the northern train stations. There was no way for there to be a wall between nine and ten, and so that’s why if you go now you’ll see it’s just next to the Warner Brothers shop, which is next to the ticket office, you know? It’s a big open space, but yeah. So the first time that I ever went to King’s Cross was maybe 15 years ago, and it was under construction, and someone had just tacked up a sign near Platform Nine that was like “Here it is!” [both laugh] Like, people just…and I like that a lot more than what’s happening now, cause it feels very commercial now. That felt kind of, not a sell-out, you know?
FK: [laughing] I do know and I think that…I think that maybe the point of this is I don’t think there is ever a “appropriate” place to be a fan tourist or an inappropriate place. I mean, not like being an asshole to somebody, don’t do that, don’t go to a place where you’re gonna be a jerk as a tourist, but I don’t know, I think that people’s relationships with locations and their imaginations of things in books is very personal and I think that that’s…I think it’s OK to not, to go and not have something be what you imagined it.
ELM: Sure! Yeah!
FK: Disappointing, but I think it’s fine. It can be. It’s all right that I have a complicated relationship to King’s Cross. That’s fine!
ELM: Would you characterize it as a complicated relationship?
FK: Well, it’s not that complicated. [ELM laughing] As complicated as any relationship could be to that! But you know what I’m saying. It’s fine. It’s not a failure that that wasn’t what I imagined, and it’s not a failure on its part either.
ELM: I think it’s just…it’s hard with books because you can…and that’s the moment when you went there, you might have realized “Oh, I didn’t really understand.” Not necessarily “Oh, she didn’t explain it as well as she could have,” but you were like “I jumped to conclusions in my head,” or whatever. And that can be very surprising, but it doesn’t matter! The King’s Cross in your head can be right too! I feel like I’m channelling that Dumbledore scene at the end. It’s all in your mind, Flourish!
FK: But it’s also like meeting a celebrity that you idolized and discovering that they’re short.
ELM: Wow, are you being heightist?
FK: I'm not being heightist, it’s just that as a tall person I envision everyone as my height until I see them and discover that they’re short next to me. And then I’m always like, “Wait.”
ELM: Were you the one who thought Danny DeVito was a regular height, or…?
FK: No, I would never think that, but I love the idea that somebody could.
ELM: It was you and another tall person on Twitter and I was like, “You guys know, do you think Danny DeVito…” Danny DeVito is 4’11”, I think legally…
FK: Yeah but you know what I mean. It’s not that, you have a vision in your head of this person. They’re not that. But it’s fine. OK. Shall we listen to the next thing, which is in fact listening, cause it’s a voicemail?
FK: VOICEMAIL! Thank you. This is from Katie, and thank you Katie for leaving us a voicemail, it is amazing.
Katie: Hey Flourish, hey Elizabeth! My name is Katie and I’m really excited to be leaving a voicemail. This is a really cool thing that you guys do because I love talking way more than I love writing and I love writing quite a bit! So I’ve just finished catching up on some of your episodes, and I just listened to the fan tourism one, which I really really enjoyed, but I just wanted to talk a little bit about the fan tourism that I’m about to do in about two weeks.
I’m going to Tulsa Oklahoma, which sounds crazy, but that is the birthplace of the three Hanson brothers! And every year we do a thing in the fandom called Hanson Day, it’s in the middle of May every year, where pretty much the entire fan base goes to Tulsa, so the city is kind of overrun with lots and lots of Hanson fans, and they do some shows and there’s different activities, but the main thing that we do is kind of all get together in order to hang out. Which I think is pretty much the coolest thing about this weird fandom that I’m a part of, which is the Hanson fandom.
So basically it’s just about four or five days where we all get together and hang out and see the city where they’re from, we do their studio, and it’s just a really cool behind the scenes situation that I don’t think a lot of music fandoms get, and I mean, I know from being a part of huge music fandoms that that is very very specific to the Hanson experience. And I’m just really excited about it, and I think it’s a cool thing that we get to explore as their fans. Anyway, I love you guys, I love this podcast, I listen as much as I possibly can, and I think you’re awesome. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’. Bye!
FK: I really liked hearing about this because it was almost the in-between…when we were talking about fan tourism, fan conventions, Elizabeth, you were just in a convention center, and so maybe that was too sterile and it could be anywhere and the only thing about that is other people and it’s not really tourism, and it seems like this is kind of…this is kind of in between that. It’s a place that is associated with the band, but it sounds from what Katie’s saying that the experience is more about being with other fans. There is a tourism experience, but the main thing that makes it special is about the fandom, and I think that’s really cool.
ELM: Absolutely. And to clarify, especially with conventions and my experience with them, the ones where the convention…the hotel and the convention bit are in the same space, it’s that people are not…barely leaving the building. You know?
ELM: Especially in the summer, that kind of thing. So it’s impossible for me to think “Oh, this is really…” Even if it was in the town that your television show is set or something. If you just stay in the convention center…unless your show is set at a convention center.
FK: Oh that would be amazing.
ELM: Why hasn’t anyone pitched this!
FK: It’s funny because the…you know, there’s actually a YA novel out now called The Pros of Cons which is in part based on an experience at a convention that I ran, which we should read and talk about maybe.
ELM: Why have you never mentioned this before?
FK: I don’t know, I didn’t realize I hadn’t!
ELM: All right! Well.
FK: Anyway, as we talked about a bunch of things, recently I realized one of the reasons why I was so into the idea that conventions could be fan tourism, is because a lot of the conventions I went to had a lot more of that tourism incorporated in them. Going to the Harry Potter park as part of the convention, or once a convention we held was in Salem, Massachusetts and the point was to go and do all the American witch history…
ELM: Such an American, Flourish.
FK: Yeah well, whatever though, right? This was at a time when lots of people were imagining what the American Hogwarts might be like, and that was the point of being in Salem.
ELM: Little did they know…
FK: Yeah, little did they know.
ELM: That it was gonna be in the proper Massachusetts, not the stupid end of the state, but the good end of the state. Get ready. You wanna have a Massachusetts fight? Cause you look like you’re gonna throw down right now.
FK: [laughing] I'm not going to throw down, I was just amazed that you were the first person I know who is not actually from that end of the state who has made this assertion.
ELM: Well, I went to college in Western Massachusetts, so I did live there for four years and my hometown is less than…probably about a half an hour drive to the border. So obviously I’m gonna defend Western Mass.
FK: You are kind of from there.
ELM: But I don't dislike Boston, but I do think that Boston thinks that the rest of the state cares about it, and I just want to clarify right now that Western Mass is not worried about Boston.
FK: Boston thinks that a lot of people care about it that don’t care about it at all.
ELM: [laughs] That’s true. But it doesn’t even need to be said for something like New York. I know. This came up when the Ilvermorny thing came out and people were doing all these Boston headcanons. “Do they take the T to the…” and I was like, “This is in the fuckin’ Berkshires! Are you serious!” [laughing]
FK: I remember these discussions. We don’t need to go further into it.
ELM: They take the bus to Albany!! It’s the closest city! [laughing] Oh man. You want me to write about the Albany wizarding scene? Cause I could do that for you.
FK: You know what's horrifying? I’ve been to the train station in Albany so many times and now I’m forced to imagine that there’s Albany Harry Potter trains and I’m horrified.
ELM: I know, it only seems like there’s the two tracks, but there’s a secret magic track that you probably don’t know about cause you’re not from the area.
FK: All right, we need to move on. [laughing] The next ask…
ELM: New topic, new topic! So I believe this was an anonymous ask on Tumblr. We got this awhile ago, so you’re one of the people we’re apologizing to for the delay.
“This isn’t so much a question as something I've been thinking about. Recently I was having a discussion with my father about the difference between Civil War reenactors and the SCA.” Pause, that’s the Society for Creative Anachronism. I just learned about this. We’ll explain that in a second. So it continues, “I mostly think of transformative works in the form of fanfic and fanart, but I started to think about the SCA in that light too, because they’re not just reenacting the same battle, they’re taking bits of history and making things, like arts and crafts and fights too. Love your guys’ podcast!” Thanks! I’m saying thanks to that bit. And thank you for writing in! So tell me about the SCA.
FK: So the SCA is a group of people who like to get together and be creatively anachronistic. And basically what this means is they do anachronistic…
ELM: Anachronistic, to clarify, if people don’t know what that means, anachronistic means something that is temporally incorrect, I would say. Like if you were wearing jeans, if you time traveled to the 1600s and you had a pair of jeans on.
FK: Right. And the SCA is into the medieval period, but kind of as I understand it—and I am not myself an SCA person so SCA people please correct me—but as I understand it they’re not so…when someone attends an SCA event they dress up in a particular time period and place, but someone else might be from a slightly different time period and place. One person is, this is from 1300, and the other person is from 1400, and they’re very…one of them’s Dutch and the other one is from somewhere in the Middle East and they are doing a very, they’re attempting historical accuracy for the point that they’re in, but this other person is doing historical accuracy for the point that they’re in, and then they meet up in this big meet-up and they joust.
ELM: OK but it wouldn’t be like, I went and wanted to pick and choose parts of my outfit, some from 14th century…
FK: I don’t think that would be appreciated.
ELM: Or steampunk it.
FK: I think there are people who like steampunk who are also in the SCA, but I don’t think that’s part of the SCA scene.
ELM: So you need to be internally consistent but you all get together in this vague general long middle ages.
FK: Right, and then there’s also these different kingdoms, these areas of the country which are ruled by courts, and people are elected to the courts as members of the group, and they get together and enact battles, which are not historical battles, they’re fantasy battles—but they’re historically accurate kind of fantasy battles. So it’s this interesting place between historical reenactment and medieval-inspired fiction.
ELM: That's interesting. So it’s interesting that this also sprung up as the asker talking with their father about the difference between that and Civil War reenactment, which is…Civil War reenactment…for non-Americans, I feel like Civil War reenactment probably does get, a lot of people outside of the U.S. have probably encountered this concept via American pop culture. But basically people reenact battles from the Civil War.
FK: And it’s also I think, interesting, because everywhere in different areas of the country, people reenact…do historical reenactments. Where I grew up there was, near Sutter’s Fort where gold was found, there were these Pioneer Days where people would go and reenact, I took part in some of them.
ELM: Did you shout things like “I’m prospectin’ for goooooold!” Did you sound like a prospector?
FK: No. I was mostly a child, and so my job had to do with doing a lot of chores. And having a backstory.
ELM: I think it was fifth grade we had to do a poster for history day or whatever, and I chose to do it on women in the Gold Rush. Women made a shitload of money!
FK: They did make a shitload of money! Women made a ton of money.
ELM: I’m so proud of those ladies! And my mother helped me…
FK: Sell shovels. [laughing]
ELM: It was literally, they were charging extraordinary markup for basic tasks. My mother helped me use a lighter or a match or something, some fire, to make the edges of the poster look worn.
FK: Yeah!! Did you soak it in tea and everything?
ELM: I think we found posterboard that was already kind of mottled and legit. I think I did pretty well on that one. [laughing]
FK: Point is, this is common in the U.S., I don’t know how common it is everywhere else, I assume other places also do this historical thing to do with teaching or to do with particular historical sites, but Civil War reenactment is a subculture and it’s obviously a fraught subculture because the Civil War is a fraught issue!
ELM: There are different ideological takes on the Civil War, and definitely if anyone’s involved in these communities I would love to be corrected, but my understanding from reading about this—it’s definitely ways that you can do it that further an ideological narrative that is probably somewhat problematic in framing it as, you know. I don’t know. Just tiptoeing around what’s going on right now. So…that’s tricky.
FK: Right. I think it would be fair to say that there are definitely reenactors who go all the way on the “The South was a lost cause, the glorious South, things were better when there was slavery,” all that.
ELM: You’re gonna go right there, this is what I was tiptoeing around! [laughing]
FK: I’m gonna go right there! Because I think there were some people who are like that and some people who are very much on…
ELM: Historical accuracy.
FK: “I’m just a history nerd and this is the most important thing that happened in the town that I’m in, so I’m interested in it,” you know what I mean. It’s a complex issue. Which by the way, this reenactment stuff is still complex in other places. At Sutter’s Fort it is not uncomplex to do a reenactment of Gold Rush settlers showing up and fuckin’ up the Miwok. I mean, they didn’t…it’s not like…
ELM: Do they do that part in the reenactment?
FK: Well, it was an economic…as I understand it it was a long-term economic fucking up, so yes, they are reenacting the long term…
ELM: That’s harder to reenact.
FK: No it's not, it’s easy to reenact cause you have all these people here in this fort engaged in what would be one day of the long-term economic fucking up, you know? I think that it is in fact, it’s harder to see but it is totally implied in the reenactment, so.
ELM: This is a tricky thing to think about, too. I don’t know, did I tell you about the Hitler record that I saw last week?
ELM: [laughs] It’s haunted me! I discussed it at length with the friend that I saw it with yesterday. I went to this used record fair last weekend, and there’s thousands of thousands of records and I wasn’t playing, I don’t have a record player, I was just hangin’ out with my friend who was looking for some specific stuff. So flipping through these hundreds of records, idly, I came across one that looked like it had come out in the ’60s, I would estimate, from the way the cover looked.
And it was Hitler’s speeches, some of them, and it did not look like an archival historical thing. It was clearly certain excerpts of his speeches had been chosen. One of them was “Goebbels introduces Hitler,” that was one of the tracks, and then there was patriotic Nazi songs. And then there was this blurb on the back that was like, “Well, obviously this was all very bad. But we must not forget history.” And I just thought it was the most half-assed, I just thought, this is incredibly irresponsible and who did they think they were making this for, if not for neo-Nazis a few decades after World War II?
FK: I don’t know, but I now am really interested to find out what the story is behind this record, because…
ELM: I should google it. If we can find out any information obviously we should put a content warning on this, uh, but we were discussing it a lot and it makes me think about Civil War reenactors too—or people who engage with history, if there are lines that should be drawn between engaging with history in a fannish way, and what that means, an enthusiastic way. Obviously this is something I’ve thought about a lot as someone who spent years studying the history of British imperialism. There’s definitely on the conservative end of the spectrum of people writing about the British empire, they’re writing about it in a reverential “We should go back to that!” kind of thing. Obviously most post-colonialists are not, they are critiquing it and saying it was really racist. But you know what I mean?
FK: Totally. I think that there’s also…I don’t know enough about it but I think that some of these conversations have been really highly relevant in the SCA as people have talked about, for instance, how you have people dressing up from different parts of the world and how that fits in too, and how to expect and to talk about that and think about it and, yeah. It’s further away, so it’s less immediate than the Miwok at Sutter’s Fort and what…what is that, cause that was literally less than 200 years ago, but it’s still a relevant issue.
ELM: Still, these are all the things that…and World War II is obviously more recent than that. I just think that fandom, a lot of…all across all sorts of corners of fandom right now, people are getting so wrapped up in talking about the morality of the fictional things that they’re into, or the ship that they like, or whatever, and it’s really a lot harder when it’s real stuff. And you see some of these clashes when it comes to RPF. And that’s contemporary…in a way that’s the contemporary version of history, right?
If I’m really into, I don’t know. I wrote a paper on Charles James Fox, the Whig leader in the late 18th century, back in the day I was really into reading about him. Obviously I’ve always really liked the Whigs. I think that regular listeners can tell. I think you see it with contemporary RPF conversations, where people get really muddled because it’s easy enough to say, like, “This thing you like, this book is problematic.” But it’s a lot harder when it's a human or a historical event that happened. Obviously you can say that’s problematic, but there’s no way to erase that. You can just say “Don’t read that book,” but you can’t say “Oh, this historical event didn’t happen,” or “This person didn’t actually cause this harm,” or whatever. You know what I mean? Complicated.
FK: And also the way those things get used or reused as symbols. We talked a little bit about pagan symbols being white nationalist or hippie pagan, but also I studied classics in college and a lot of people I know have different tattoos of things to do with the Roman empire, and those get used by fascists. You know? Again, it’s something that’s 2,000 years old and doesn’t mean that in the context of a classicist [laughing] getting a tattoo, but at the same time there can be these moments where you’re like “Ah fuck,” so. This is sort of off the point of the question.
ELM: The Roman empire, so problematic, Flourish.
FK: Can I just say that Cicero is my favorite, favorite awful person?
ELM: Good to have one!
FK: He is, was, an awful person and I love him so much.
ELM: I gotta figure out who my favorite awful person, it’s a long list.
FK: Cicero’s definitely my number one. OK. Let’s keep going.
ELM: All right, let’s see.
FK: That closes out our fan tourism and people being fans together section, and the next section is about our alternate universe episode! So this first letter, we got an ask that said something similar to it as well, and they were so close that we’re just gonna read one, so thank you asker. But here’s the letter. And I think we’re gonna cut this one down a little, because it’s pretty long. Hope we cut it down right, Emma.
“Hi Flourish and Elizabeth. I’m a super big fan of Fansplaining, I really appreciate the work you all do and I’ve learned so much. However, I was a little bit taken aback by the recent episode about alternate universe fic. Neither of y’all like to read AU fic according to this ep, which is obviously totally fine, but then the guest on this ep also doesn’t particularly read AU, so the episode was mostly about why y’all don’t like AU fic. There seemed to be a lot of pondering about why someone might like or even prefer AU fic, but without any real answers because that point of view wasn’t represented.
“I think that y’all had lots of good points about the negatives of AU fic, especially modern AU fic. I think it’s true that it’s more common for characters to feel quite different in a modern AU fic than a canonverse fic. However, I’ve read canonverse fic where the character or characters felt quite different based on the assumptions made by the specific fic writer, or on a different interpretation of canon events or actions.
“I don’t read modern AU fanfic for every fandom I’m in, but I did want to talk about why I read only modern AU fic for one of my fandoms, The 100, just to put that perspective out there. I was a mega-fan of The 100, it was my favorite show. Then Season Three happened and was a dumpster fire. Normally when a show turns to shit you read fix-it fic and move on, we’ve all been there, but The 100 was different to me. Season Three was so shocking, so heartbreaking, so viscerally upsetting, that I couldn’t and still can't bring myself to go anywhere near canon. I find it too painful. Modern AU fic allows me to hold on to the characters and relationships I love but discard everything that's upsetting or rests too close to that upsetting material. I also get to stay connected with my friends in the community, even though I no longer watch the show.
“While modern AU fic can feel distant or out of character, I think that it can also serve a purpose and I think that’s worth discussing. Thanks for reading! I look forward to listening to the next episode.” And that was from Emma.
ELM: OK! So I have a lot of thoughts about this, do you want me to read the second AU letter and then we can talk about all the AU stuff?
FK: Yeah, let’s do that. We’ll talk about them together.
ELM: “Hi guys. I very much enjoyed the latest episode on AUs, but it sounds like none of you have read idiopathicsmiles’ wonderful Les Mis high school AU, ‘World Ain’t Ready.’” Pause, side note, eight million people have recommended this in “The Rec Center.” It’s incredible. I feel like we should read it just because so many people are into it.
FK: All right!
ELM: “I highly recommend it. I’m not usually a fan of high school AUs, but ‘World Ain’t Ready’ is one of my all-time fave fics in any fandom. You don’t need any knowledge of the canon to enjoy it. Like Morgan’s fic, it leans into the idea that teenagers are dumb in a very affectionate, relatable way, and it’s also hilarious and emotionally affecting and you should definitely go read it. Incidentally, Les Mis is another fandom that is completely dominated by AUs to the extent that canon-era fics need to be tagged as such for people to be able to find them.” Wow. “Part of this is due to the…” I said wow, just FYI. [laughs] “Part of this is due to the difficulty of writing fics set in 19th century France, if you don’t have the relevant historical knowledge, but I think another factor is the fandom faves…” I never know how to say these guys’ names.
FK: Enjolras and Grantaire. I think.
ELM: How would you pronounce…
FK: Enjolras. I think.
ELM: I took French, I don't know why I am having a crisis over these names. Enjolras and…Grantiere?
bLM: Grantaire! Grantaire. “…have only minor roles in canon and are quite broadly characterized as a passionate idealist and a drunken cynic, respectively. These basic types, and the dynamic between them, are very appealing, especially for stories about social justice and political issues, and the lack of detailed characterization in canon makes them easily transplantable into a modern setting and allows fans to fill in additional details however they choose. For instance, many writers show Grantaire struggling with mental health issues, which isn’t explicitly indicated in canon—though it definitely can be read into it—but it’s an idea that a lot of people find compelling, and it’s something that's easier to deal with in a modern setting than in canon era.
“I think that’s a key part of the appeal of AUs generally, the ability to focus on just the aspects the writer's interested in, whether exclusively romance or other things as well and ignoring the complicating factors that may be present in canon. Anyway, thanks for reading all my rambling, I hope it makes sense, orangistae.” I hope that’s how you say it, who is a frequent submitter to “The Rec Center,” so you are one of my heroes, thank you very much orangistae.
FK: My first thing, and I just want to get this out of the way in talking about this, I feel like I must have given the wrong impression in this episode, the AU episode, and suggested that I never like AUs and don’t like them at all.
ELM: I was actually taken aback that two people, both the asker and the first email writer, both said that. Maybe it was the impression we gave about high school AUs that led people to think we disliked all AUs? But you talked at length about how you were always there for certain things.
FK: Yeah, but also…I think I must have given the wrong impression, and I think you’re right that that must have been it. I think if people go back and listen to our Reylo episode, I wrote, I even wrote a whole thing about what are the reasons why I like AUs in that fandom, so I don’t know. That’s tough. But that said, obviously it was an impression that people had, so I’m glad that people wrote in and said why they liked AUs, because I agree with… [laughing] These are good reasons to like AUs!
ELM: Sure, and I also think it’s a fair point—and I regret that we didn’t say this—the idea that there are plenty of quote unquote “canon” fics where characterization is wildly off…like, so it’s not…it’s not, and to the point where sometimes people even say it, they’ll be like “This is kind of OOC but I’m just going there,” and you’re like “OK.”
FK: And also the difference between canon and fanon interpretations of people’s character and what that character even means. Obviously the one that I care about the very most at all times is Snape who has a canon characterization that is, he is a total fuckboy. And… [laughing]
ELM: He’s so bad, Flourish.
FK: It’s just so bad.
FK: Whereas I think there’s a very highly developed fanon idea of him that actually conforms in many ways to canon, but the difference is that he’s not such a dick. And this is…this exists for historical fandom reasons, but definitely is not in character. So. I think. You know. Yeah. That’s a thing.
ELM: It’s hard, and that thing leads me into the idea of whose…not even rough edges, but whose problematic shit canonically gets softened away. You know. This comes back to this idea that we’re constantly talking about of who gets certain treatment and who doesn’t in fandom and that kind of thing.
FK: Yeah, although I will say that I think that for Snape in the best ones it’s…he’s actually still awful, just in not exactly the ways that J.K. Rowling makes him awful. But.
ELM: Still! You know.
FK: They’re boring ways. They’re boring ways!
ELM: Yeah but you could say that if you spend all your time…I don’t know. I don't wanna really get into this idea of, you're glossing over an abuser or something, you know. Which is definitely a discourse point talking about Snape, that kind of thing. But I do think it’s tricky sometimes, when fanon can overpower canon so much that you wind up glossing over certain things or, and then as I just said, the fact that it’s sometimes it’s not universally distributed, this kind of softening.
FK: Right, because people do it in order to make people fall into tropes or stereotypes, this is obviously what’s happening with Snape, so yeah, totally.
ELM: Yeah, it’s tricky. But on the flip side of that, this kinda connects back to what Emma was saying about The 100 and their experience there. And a kind of way of, I don’t know how to characterize it. Protecting yourself? From the trauma, maybe “trauma” is too extreme. But the sadness…I’m not being very articulate right now! [laughing] But if you find something that’s really hard to watch but you still love the characters, AUs can definitely perform that function. The flip side is true too, not necessarily an AU for this, but if you want to use fiction to process your own traumas, then go ahead. You can write your characters, it doesn’t have to be hurt/comfort but it might be. You can put them in situations that help you, that give you a lens through which to process the hard things too. It can go in both directions. I think there is a stereotype or an assumption that it only works one way, that it’s taking hard canon and making it softer and approachable.
FK: Right, but it does go the other way for sure.
ELM: I think that’s a…and this ties up in a…
FK: And even sometimes in the same piece. In the same character you can have people who are taking hard canon and making it softer, and people who are making it harder.
ELM: You mean like in the same story?
FK: No, not in the same story, but in the same fanon character. If you have a character…I’m trying to think of a non-Snape character to use as an example! [ELM laughs] But if you have a character who’s like that, who some people are like “Oh, but I’m really into this person even though they’re a dick,” people take that in both directions. People woobify, and they also...
ELM: [laughing] Yes, that’s true. I’m also thinking maybe it can even happen in the same story. We were talking about when you have big swooping canony stuff, you can take away the swoopyness, which not necessarily softens it, but makes it more realistic. And then that can actually give you space to do more character work, I feel like.
FK: Right. And then you can also do it the other direction and make it bigger and swoopier.
ELM: You can always make it swoopier.
FK: [laughing] As we know because the most popular Reylo fic right now takes Reylo, already big and swoopy, and makes it even bigger and swoopier.
ELM: Swoop it up!
FK: Swoops it up. It is a canon-compliant with the Legends canon forced marriage AU. So. As you might expect.
ELM: Your favorite.
FK: My favorite!
ELM: Lack of agency, forced marriage.
FK: Lack of agency, love it, #loveit. OK. Should we take a break before we read the rest of the letters?
ELM: Yeah, I think we should.
FK: All right, we're back.
ELM: We are back! All right, what’s next?
FK: OK. This first letter is by PersephoneGarnata, Seph, and I’m gonna compress it a little bit for length just so that we have enough time to get to everything. So.
“Hi Flourish and Elizabeth, not prompted by anything in a recent episode of the podcast, but I was wondering if you were planning to do anything on fandom and age at any point? There’s a popular perception that fandom is full of teenagers and people ‘age out’ of it. I expect that’s true to an extent, but there are of course many people in their 20s, 30s and older who are still in fandom.
“My own experience here is perhaps slightly unusual—I’ve aged into fandom. I didn’t get seriously into fannish activities until my early 30s. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is simply that, for a period of several years, I wasn’t really into anything that came with a significant transformational fandom. Another reason is that I suffered a period of ill health when I had a lot of time to fill, at home, by myself—fanfic to the rescue! And a third reason is that, as I’ve matured, I’ve become a lot less judgy about fandom. I used to be a bit sniffy about fanfic, thinking it inferior to ‘proper’ books and ‘proper’ writing. Even after I got into reading it more, I kind of thought of it as mostly a guilty pleasure, reading about sexytimes between your favorite hot guys, not as something that could stand up as literature. That all changed after reading some fic which ruined my life (in a good way). These days I am a vocal proponent of the Fanfic is Great school of thought, and I just wish I’d got the stick out of my butt a bit sooner.
“Being an aged-in fan can sometimes be a little odd, because I’m the same age as many of the people who’ve been in fandom for years and have the same level of general life experience, but I missed out on many formative experiences like Strikethrough and Dashcon. I went straight from Fiction Alley to Archive of Our Own! Many of the fans I interact with online are much younger than me, which is normally cool, but occasionally I get a bit weirded out when I realise that quite a lot of that interaction could technically be described as sharing sexually explicit material with minors. (But hey, I always try to tag my stuff appropriately!)
“Finally…a callback to one of your early episodes for making me feel like an Ancient. In your episode on Wattpad, I remember you talking about teenagers writing fics called stuff like ‘Dean Winchester is my father,’ and thinking ‘But Dean isn’t old enough to have a teenage daughter…oh wait, yes he is.’ I’m roughly the same age as Dean, so the thought of teenagers thinking of him as a father figure is—oh my God I’m so old! Thanks for reading my thoughts, keep up the good work! Seph.”
ELM: So we have talked about this a bit. We should probably dig up some of the links for the show notes.
FK: Yeah, for sure.
ELM: We definitely have talked about sharing space with minors, and how there seem to be differing attitudes on this. And I think both our perspectives come from historically having been minors in fandom growing up with the idea that it is up to the young person…we always had to kind of lie and say “Oh it’s fine! I’m 18, don’t worry about it,” never an expectation that adults would change their behavior or the way that they were communicating with each other. If you wanted to be included in adult conversation, you had to lie and say you were an adult. And I can’t see the other way around, honestly.
FK: Yeah. I agree. I think that we’ve struggled with this because it has been such a hot-button issue when we’ve talked about it before, and also because I think neither of us want to be the old people talking about the teen experience. I think it’s complex, to talk about age in fandom we would want to have on people with…
FK: Yeah, teens, and also much older people, and it would just be hard to fill different kinds of experience.
ELM: I think it would be worth doing.
FK: I think the summary of this is: yes we’ve considered it and yes we would like to do it and maybe we will do it. We have vague nebulous intentions. It’s slightly moving parts-y. But we’re gonna figure it out. Right?
ELM: I just think, I think this discourse is gonna keep happening. I think that, it frustrates me to see, but I also don’t read it and think “Oh, am I too old to be here?” Because I’m surrounded by people in their 30s and 40s and 50s who are in fandom and people who have great jobs and relationships and families and things and still manage to write extraordinary fanfiction and this weird…it’s not just fandom, the idea that women in particular stop existing as whole people when they reach certain ages or when they have children or whatever. So “don’t let that get to you” is what I would say. Easier said than done!
FK: True. All right, let’s read the next one.
ELM: OK, I’ll do it. “Hello Flourish and Elizabeth! AO3 announced that they will be updating their search feature, which is probably long overdue.” This came in a few weeks ago. “But it got me thinking about fandom metadata and how we look for fic. (Blame Episode 19 of your podcast, Shannon Fay Johnson’s article for Transformative Works and Cultures,” we’ll put a link to that in the show notes, “and the day job, I’m a cataloging librarian.)” Woo! That’s me, cheering for librarians.
“Most communities tag and organize their fic very differently from one another. FF.net has very rigid tagging capabilities, AO3 is a mix of formal tags and free-form tagging. Tumblr is a mess, some people tag, some people don’t. I was a member of several different LiveJournal communities, all had different ways of tagging fic. Sometimes this is on purpose—people would rather use fandom specific terms to keep outsiders from finding their fic. I remember when people used to tag things ‘Wolfstar’ instead of Remus/Sirius, for instance.
“So my question for you is, how do we find the fics that we’re looking for? Do people stick to the same searching strategies, or do they vary across platforms? Mine look completely different, even in the same fandoms. The way I look for Star Wars fic changes with each level of the universe I’m looking at (prequels, original, new trilogy, Clone Wars, or Rebels).
“I’m curious how other people go about it! Or is it all just luck of the draw when you go browsing? Waiting for recs? Finding a favorite writer and sticking with them and what they like? Thanks! I enjoy the podcast! Kate McManus.” I love this letter!
FK: Thank you Kate! So actually I have a proposal for this. I think that we should invite, I think you and I should each write up our fic-finding strategies, just quickly, and we should invite other people to do the same thing, and maybe we should write something about that. Cause I would be interested to know how other people do this too, and I think that probably there will be a wide variation.
ELM: Absolutely, and I have a lot of feelings about this, because I am in literal AO3 hell for the last—now it’s been month and a half. Oh God. Time’s tickin’ away. So I’ve been having to actively find fic a lot, right? And I have strategies.
FK: I do too, and mine vary a lot depending on fandom and where they are. OK. So that’s what we’re gonna do then, right?
ELM: OK, so we are gonna write this down and listeners are gonna write in and tell us how they find fic. OK.
FK: And we’re going to drum up people to do it and then we’ll do a round up or something.
ELM: All right, so send in your stuff everyone.
FK: OK. Next letter. “Hey. Thank you so much for your excellent podcast! I’m writing with a request: could you maybe do an episode on how to make fandom friends online? This is something I’ve never figured out how to do, even though I’ve been a voracious consumer of fanworks since Highlander in 1996. How does one go from being a regular commenter on fic or resharer of Tumblr posts to forming a friendship with someone? I’d love to hear your stories of how you both managed it. Thanks!” And that I think was an anonymous ask on Tumblr.
ELM: Yeah I think it was anon. We are literally two of the worst people to answer this question.
FK: Because you never make friends and I always do? No, that’s not right.
ELM: No, I’ve made plenty of friends since I stopped lurking, but using my real name and writing very popular articles about fandom in mainstream publications! So I remember at one point in Sherlock fandom I made a rec list, someone asked me for recs and I added the people who I liked, and I was like “Oh I really love blank’s fic, and I love blank for this and blank for this,” and they all followed me. And if I had been some random person just saying “I like blank blank and blank,” would they have followed me back immediately? But because my real name is attached to it and my real name is attached to articles that were being widely shared in the Sherlock fandom, they knew who I was and then they were like…I’m not saying that my writing is so irresistible that no one can say no to my friendship… [laughing]
FK: Yeah. But I will say this, I just started posting a long serial written fanfic under a sock…
ELM: Oh yeah!
FK: …and no, I’m not gonna say what the sock is but people can figure that out, I’m sure, if they look at my history, don’t worry, you can figure it out. Go do some sleuthing.
ELM: And all of your psychological hangups in fic form.
FK: All of my hangups. It’s just very obvious who wrote this fic if you think too hard about it. So anyway, I have this sock, and it has started getting comments and there is a person who I feel like I have a growing baby maybe-gonna-actually-be-a-friendship someday, at which point I’ll have to tell them who I am and that that’s my sock. And they commented and we got into a conversation in their comment on my fic. So I think that is…that’s certainly the way it always worked before I was high-profile in fandom, and I think that must be how it goes.
ELM: I think a lot of people who want to make friends…being the fic writer is the privileged position. Because I think most people are not gonna be the fic writer. Or if they are, are they gonna be the fic writer that generates enough attention to get several people commenting? I think there is definitely resentment around “BNFs” in particular, part of that is because it’s such a…it’s kind of a celebrity–fan relationship in the sense of you can feel like you have an intimate relationship with someone’s fan presence, their fic, if they have a lot of followers then you probably see their content a lot, you know. And how do you say…“I’m here too!” And I say this with many years of lurking, I definitely felt like I had a personal relationship with some of my favorite authors, but first of all I didn’t…what was I gonna do, be like “Hey!” You know? I knew these were very popular writers too, so then it definitely feels like I’m a fan and they’re a famous person. You know?
FK: I agree, but I do think there’s something…first, I think you’re right. I think you’re absolutely right that…
ELM: [laughing] Cool. First things first!
FK: But I also think that it doesn’t…I think a lot of people feel like it has to be “I’m going to be a writer and that’s the way I’m going to contribute to this community, and then therefore people will talk to me and they’ll care,” and I don’t think that’s the only way you can make community contributions that cause people to speak with you and engage with you and make friendships. I think people do it through writing meta, through having fic recs, I think people do it through any form of…
ELM: All of these are creation! I don’t mean to just pin it on, I think this is the example I gave.
FK: I think they are all creation, but I think that is kind of part of how you make friends!
ELM: I think it’s also quite challenging to make really good, you know, really good gifsets or really good fic rec lists! So that, I think that’s a bar. It’s really hard and I imagine there are actually lots of people in fandom who are semi-lurkers who, and don’t have access to cons, maybe don’t feel comfortable with IRL stuff, and there’s no…it’s very hard, I think, to laterally find people who are also similarly not high-volume content creators and who wanna be friends. And it seems like it’s a, you know, you need some kind of singles bar or something, cause there’s so many parasocial relationships.
FK: I think it’s one of the reasons people like cons. It’s one of the few places where you can see people face to face and say “Hey, thing!” And talk to someone in a line or whatever.
ELM: And that’s not to say, I’m sure, I don’t know what it would be like to be a popular fic writer, but it’s not to say that they’re on some pedestal and they don’t actually want fandom friends, you know. You never know…
FK: I also think that it’s actually, it doesn’t have to be a fan–celebrity situation. I think that just having opened a conversation through this creative thing that you made, then people contact you because they have engaged with it and then the conversation is started. And that is a position of power even if it’s only incredibly small. I think saying “fan–celebrity” makes it seem like it’s a big deal, I can promise you that this fic I’m writing, I am not a celebrity by any stretch in this fandom. [laughing]
ELM: Not celebrity but like…cult famous author.
FK: Oh, thank you, thank you. [laughing] I see what you’re saying. I think it’s hard, and that is the way that most people do it.
ELM: You know what, here is my recommendation. You should start a fandom newsletter and get thousands of people to sign up, and then you literally write in the newsletter “I’m into this show Black Sails, you should message me if you like it.” And then multiple people will message you and then you wind up in their guest room at Oxford!
FK: Sounds like very relatable and reasonable advice. [laughing]
ELM: This is why I’m saying it’s not helpful! And I don’t know, I say this with full knowledge of having been a lurker for a very very long time. And not, you know, ten years ago…it’s not necessarily something I would have even wanted to do. Obviously I’m very grateful to the friends I made through fandom while talking out loud about things, but I have a complicated relationship with being really open about my feelings about the source material. Some of that’s very private to me, you know?
FK: I agree with you, I guess the thing I’m struggling with is I feel like it relates to making friendships in any community to some degree. I’ve been bouncing around from church communities for a long while now. and one of the things I realized after trying to find a church community and failing and feeling really alone and sad, was that the only way for me to actually make friendships within that community was to volunteer for shit and be on fuckin’ flower guild or altar guild or…you know what I mean? Just do shit instead of hoping people would talk to me.
ELM: Were you just hoping if you shook their hand and you said "Peace!"
FK: “Peace be with you!” right?
ELM: And then they’d be like “Best friend forever”? Sometimes I think this!
FK: Exactly! And I think giving a kudos or whatever, for a lot of people…
ELM: Have you had this feeling? I had this today. I always think this at peace. What if I shake hands with someone and then we decide we wanna be best friends? It literally will never happen from a peace, but yeah.
FK: So only by, and that’s not easy either, and it requires…and not everybody can, and this is one of the reasons why that’s hard, and I feel like it’s not the same thing exactly in fandom, but I think they’re related.
ELM: Participating. I like that you just compared giving kudos on AO3 to exchanging peace at church.
FK: It’s like on May the Fourth. May the force be with you…and also with you. And also with your spirit.
ELM: And also with thy spirit, yes…you say and also with your spirit?
FK: We don’t use “thy.”
ELM: I am so glad I go to my church and not your church.
FK: I am so glad I go to MY church and not YOUR church too!
ELM: “Thy” is superior.
FK: Uh…it certainly sounds snootier. OK! Let’s talk about the next one!
ELM: I love history, I don’t know what to tell you.
FK: That’s just how you are.
ELM: Also, “thy” was the informal. “You” was the formal.
FK: I know! If you remember when I was in…
FK: When I was in Sleepy Hollow fandom…
ELM: Oh yeah! [laughing]
FK: And I got really mad that the Quakers didn’t speak right.
ELM: Yeah…you wanna read…this is the last one. I’ll read it.
FK: It’s your turn.
ELM: But I also have feelings about it, so what if I read it and just answer it without you.
FK: OK, I can read it then and then you can have feelings about it.
ELM: OK, so the first one came in and then the second one came in and I feel bad. I literally set this one aside because I had so many thoughts, and now it’s about the Infinity War premiere which obviously happened last week, so. You’ll see. The asker I think, the problem was sorted out, but I think this is still relevant to us.
FK: And this was an anon ask. Two anon asks.
ELM: Two of them.
FK: That were obviously the same person. “I obsess over a lot of fiction for comfort or escapism (quite common I’m sure). Today my mother messaged me about travel plans she made for the family—the same weekend that Avengers: Infinity War comes out. I’ve been looking forward to this movie for over a year and was planning to go with friends for midnight showing, dress up, take pictures, et cetera, be part of a crowd that’s equally excited. I feel truly devastated but she thinks it’s frivolous. I wish for her to validate how I feel. Any advice?” Next ask…
ELM: This came in shortly afterwards. It was within a few days.
FK: “Marvel Studios moved up the release today, which is awesome for me, but wow, what are the chances of that timing? So disregard my last message…sort of. I'd be interested in your thoughts regarding explaining fandom emotional investment to non fans who don’t ‘get it.’ I’ll obviously prioritize real life (especially family) over hobbies, but you can’t help but feel disappointment when fandom is so special and big to you. Especially when people write off your interests as silly and shameful.”
ELM: OK. So what I was gonna write, and what I still think, is that in situations like this, one thing that’s helpful is to apply what I would call the Big Game Test. I don’t know if you can see where this is going. You wanna go see this movie at a midnight premiere, and your mom’s made plans for you? And you’re like, “Don’t you understand how important to me this is?” And your mom is like “It’s just a movie!”
Now say your team was in the Super Bowl. Is this situation…so say it’s your grandmother’s funeral and you were like, “But my team’s in the Super Bowl!” Depending on your family situation, but it’s almost definite that your parents would say…
FK: Depends how Grandma feels about that team!
ELM: I don't know, a very serious…we don't know your family, but under normal circumstances you would have to attend a family member’s funeral even if your team was in the Super Bowl!
FK: Unless you’re in Lincoln, Nebraska and…actually that’s college but never mind.
ELM: Wow, you think that your football team is the only one that anyone cares about, but in fact it’s like that for all the football teams in all of the towns.
FK: [laughing] I know it is.
ELM: Maybe not the best example, because it’s probably true that your whole family wants to watch the Super Bowl in this case. [laughing]
FK: But we get it.
ELM: Emotionally. There are definitely situations, whereas if you’re gonna have to go to your grandmother’s funeral and you’re like “But Mom, don’t you understand Infinity War comes out this weekend,” sorry, you have to go to your grandmother’s funeral. There are definitely times in fandom where I think—and we don’t know the circumstances of this and this is not specifically about this ask—but there are times where people are like “Don’t they understand this is really important?” And it’s like “Yeah but…you can’t…I wanna read only X-Men fanfiction right now, but I do still have to go to work.” Right? And I think this is sometimes an issue that I run up to in talking to people in fandom because they’re like “Don’t you understand I’m celebrating my passion?” And you’re like “Yeah but there are things that do have to take precedent.” And obviously the asker knows that and they say it right here.
FK: But on the other hand also…
ELM: I think it requires clarification based on some conversations I've had with people! What’s the other hand?
FK: But on the other hand also if Nebraska was in the playoffs when I was growing up, you bet your fuckin’ ass, not only were we going to be watching this, but my grandfather would call the entire family to come and watch with him, even the parts of the family who don’t actually like…and I’m sure this is the same for other people about other teams…
ELM: You say this like it's unique and this is literally how all America feels about football!
FK: But I’m not! My point is saying…first of all, not literally all Americans feel this way about football. I have to tell you not everyone feels this way about football. But the point being that’s fandom and it’s a fandom that takes over the entire family even if you don’t like football, you still have to be there because it’s a thing.
ELM: So that’s why I think it is true that I feel like when you’re talking to a family member, not to make it really gendered, but more likely a dad or a male family member than a mom—even though there are tons of women obviously that love pro sports—but I definitely think it’s a way to contextualize if they’re like “It’s just a movie, you can see it whenever,” you can be like “Would you feel that way if it was the playoffs and our team was there?” And they’d be like “Oh no absolutely.” It’s an easy analogy to make, but it’s also one that I think helps. It helps people…one of my long-standing theories on this is the idea that it’s much more rare for people to be casual fans of sports in the way you can be casual fans of something like the MCU. You know?
So there’s a big debacle when Infinity War came out, because Richard Brody from The New Yorker wrote this piece that was like…I don’t wanna get into it because I actually think he had some fine points, but it was talking about the structure of the franchise. Did you see this? Talking about the structure of the franchise and how you popped into it and the characters were placed into it and you have to understand what happened in the previous 19 movies to have any idea of the context for anything, and I think part of the problem there is this disconnect between thinking of a cog in a franchise as the same thing as the standalone film. And I’m not saying that he…he could figure that out. But I do think it’s a problem that we review these very different types of movies in the same space under the same rubric.
FK: Especially when nobody would say, “This game, you could understand…” I mean you can understand, I guess, to some extent outside of the context of what’s happened in a season for your team, but…
ELM: It helps! Right. So it’s like, yeah. But that was an aside. I think that you get millions and millions and millions of people who are going to see Infinity War this weekend, and they may have a vague memory of what happened in the other movies and real chill for them and “OK that was fun,” they walk away. And maybe they didn’t like it, I’ve seen some weird reactions coming out of this movie.
FK: Actually maybe this IS a little bit like the Super Bowl. You have to watch the Super Bowl even if you don’t care about the teams, but if your team is in the Super Bowl…
ELM: There are three things that happen in the Super Bowl, I would say, in my observation at parties. There’s the people whose teams are in it, then there’s me who cares about a football…I cannot watch a soccer game or an American football game without getting invested in them. Otherwise I’m just like “You’re literally going back and forth and I don’t care.” In football I have all these very specific biases.
FK: Do you have a ranking system where…
ELM: Yes. So.
FK: “I root for X over Y and Y over Z.” Is Dallas at the bottom? Because Dallas should be at the bottom.
ELM: Dallas, I think Dallas should always be at the bottom. Very briefly, anyone in the AFC who is not in the Bills’ division, I will always root the most heavily against the Patriots, the Dolphins and the Jets, but I prefer the AFC over the NFC cause the AFC seems soft and pure and the NFC seems evil. But I will root for an NFC team if they are from the Rust Belt.
Everything is connected to the Bills somehow. If they come from a cold, hardscrabble place, I’ll root for them. I’ll root for the Steelers and I’ll root for the Packers and I’ll root for the Vikings, cause they come from sad-ass places where people need football! If you live in Florida, you can just go sit in the sunshine and wrestle an alligator! Do you need this sport? And it’s all they have!
FK: All right. So now we’ve gone down that entire path. But what I will say, I do want to get one thing into here before we get too distracted [ELM laughing] which is to say that I thought the asker was super wise to say that “I wish for her to validate what I feel,” because I think a very relationships thing of like…it’s not just, the question is not just “Can I go see it or not?” or “Will I go see it or not” it’s “I want my mom to understand how much I love this thing,” and that’s hard.
ELM: But I’m not sure…this is why I bring up, why I think it’s harder for people to understand this, because everyone’s going to go see Infinity War. And then be like, “Well, I just watched it and it was fun,” and walk away, and they’re like “You…wanna write stories about these characters?! I like them but I don’t understand.” Whereas it doesn’t go in the opposite direction, where you just kinda swing by the football game and you’re like “cool” and then you’re like “I don’t understand why you’re so invested painting yourself.” I think it’s much more rare that you casually swing by a sports game.
FK: And if you do then you totally know why the people are painting themselves.
ELM: Yeah! I mean…do we really know why they’re painting themselves. It’s so much. It’s cold out! The hardscrabble team, it’s very cold in this place, they’re gonna get frostbite. They probably have alcohol poisoning anyway.
I just think it’s really hard. One of the things about Ship It, if you listen to the last episode, the mom character, she’s very very very supportive of all things. You know, at one point the protagonist is like, “You’re gonna let me be by myself?” Trying to get her mom to say no, actually. She’s trying to get her mom to get her out of it, right. And she’s like “I could be offered drugs! I could get pregnant!” And her mom says something like “Those all sound like important life milestones that you need to pass at some point.” [laughing] And obviously I don’t believe that this is outside the realm of mom attitudes, but this is not a standard mom attitude! That’s undeniably not.
FK: I will say that it is a very particular Pacific Northwest mom attitude.
ELM: Yes, and an artist mom. And I totally get this mom and I’ve met this mom before, but…
FK: It’s not the standard-issue mom.
ELM: But it then makes her blanket acceptance and interest and the enthusiasm and interest in her daughter’s passions a lot more believable. Whereas a different type of mom would be like, “Why don’t you care about something real, this is a fake relationship, focus on your own life.” So it works for the story because obviously we’ve laid the groundwork of her being this kind of person, it’s just like, “Groovy! You have your things you love, I’m gonna go make a sculpture out of the mini cereal boxes in our hotel,” or whatever, that’s not an example but she would, probably. She seems like a mixed-media kinda lady. [laughing] And her dad writing poems about the convention center!
But I just, I think some people just aren’t gonna get it and their minds don’t work that way, and maybe the way to say it is contextualizing within the fandom saying, “This is actually really important to a lot of people, and I’m one of those people, and I know you love me, and it’s brought me friendships and it’s made me a more creative person,” or any of the positive things that you think fandom brings to your life, and I think that anyone who loves you, if family members want to see you happy…as long as you're not skipping, not doing your job or school or whatever I feel like it’s convincing them. That’s how they can see the value and if they see the value it brings…“I don’t like the things you’re a fan of, but I like that it brings you joy.”
FK: Exactly. I think that this is one of the hardest things, maybe I’m just expanding my own experiences to the world, but I think this is one of the harder things about growing up and growing into an adult relationship with not just your family but also your friends and everyone else. Sort of finding the ways that you can have those people who mean a lot to you and who are never gonna get certain things that you care about, and being OK with that. And I think different people have different levels of being OK with that and I think it can be really hard.
ELM: Look at everyone, every day on Twitter I see people angry that people like something. You know that cartoon where the angel comes down and hands, the guy is like “I hate that thing” and the angel comes down in the next panel and hands him a little card and he opens it and it says, like, “OK” or something. All right! Just OK! You know? Got it. Please calm down. [laughing]
FK: Like I said I think this has to do with…there’s a lot of things, people’s personalities are different like this. I say this as a person who is significantly religious and is married to an atheist, so obviously I have extremely high tolerance for people believing and caring about very different things from me in a fundamental way, and some people aren’t like that and that's OK too. And that can be hard, if you’re like that asker. I understand that that can be incredibly hard.
ELM: Yeah. The asker sounds like…
FK: They have their shit together!
ELM: I was gonna say “head screwed on right” but then I lost the train of…
FK: You got it though, you got it!
ELM: Was that right? Is that the expression?
FK: Yeah, head screwed on straight!
ELM: Cool, so yeah. So. Thus concludes “Ask Fansplaining Anything: Part 1.”
FK: It does. And now if you have been inspired by this episode to ask us things, the very best way to do it is by leaving us a voicemail, like Katie, who we love.
FK: Yeah, Katie!! Like the way Katie did.
ELM: Wait wait wait, a bunch of our asks were anon asks so…
FK: You’re right. That’s also a great way to leave us an ask!
ELM: I don’t wanna force anyone. You can also call and use a pseud or not use your name at all, say “Hey, I’d rather not use my name.”
FK: Use a voice hider so no one can know your voice.
ELM: That's incredible. Sound like you’re on a Dateline special in the dark.
FK: Yeah, do that. OK. So you can do that, but also genuinely it is true I didn’t mean to suggest that…if you wanna leave an anon ask that’s also great. Thank you, no one has been sending us hate, thank you for not sending us hate and keep not sending us hate. [ELM laughing] GOOD JOB PEOPLE.
ELM: On fansplaining.tumblr.com you will see the phone number that you can call if you would like to use your voice. You will see the ask button that you can turn on anon for or not to send this stuff. Tweet or Facebook, both at Fansplaining, though I don’t think either of those really give you enough space to say too much so…
FK: And if you really wanna stretch out you can send us an email, fansplaining at gmail.com.
ELM: Yes! Other points of business, patreon.com/fansplaining, this is how we continue to make the podcast. Thank you to, every episode I feel like we get at least a patron or two and I really really appreciate that whether you’ve been listening for a long time or you’re a new listener, if you find your financial circumstances allow you to give us even as little as $1 a month. Or as much as $400 a month, if you want Flourish to make you a sweater just in time for summer!!
FK: Actually if you did it right now you would probably get it just in time for winter, so.
ELM: It’s an elaborate sweater. It’s a Harry Potter sweater. But obviously I am not expecting anyone to give us four hundred dollars a MONTH. a MONTH.
FK: [laughing] Look, it takes a long time to make a sweater, OK? So if you don’t have money or don’t want to give us your money or whatever, or even if you wanna do something nice to us in addition to giving us your money you can also review us and leave a written review, like a starred review and a written review, on iTunes. Really helps us get out there and helps people find us so please do that if you have a chance.
ELM: I think those are all the points of business!
FK: All right! Well, in that case, you gonna go and read some X-Men fanfic now?
ELM: Literally reading an AU.
FK: OK, I'm gonna go keep writing my AU under my sock.
ELM: Yeah! You know what, I do wonder, will I become a universal AU fan after this?
ELM: And then we’ll have “AUs Part 2,” we'll have Morgan back, we’ll just…
FK: And you’re just gonna be talking about how much you like AUs.
ELM: I’ll be like “I only like AUs.” We’ll see, we’ll see. I’m gonna go read some more. It’s fine!
FK: Talk to you later!
[Outro music, thank yous and disclaimers]