Episode 82: Javier Grillo-Marxuach
In Episode 82, Elizabeth and Flourish interview writer, producer, and former TV executive Javier Grillo-Marxuach about his long career both as a fan and as a member of the “powers that be.” Topics covered include some of the earliest fan/creator clashes on the web, Latinx representation in Hollywood, the legacy of Lost and the idea of “solving” a show, when it’s time to give up on a fandom, and the decision to kill Lexa on The 100—and the fallout from it.
[00:00:00] Our intro music is, as always, “Awel” by Stefsax, used under a CC-BY license.
[00:01:36] Some further reading on the Lesbian Death Trope & Bury Your Gays.
[00:03:06] Lori Morimoto discussed contact zones in her episode with us!
[00:05:50] Our interstitial music here and throughout the rest of the episode is “Looking Back” by Lee Rosevere, used under a CC-BY license.
Javi goes to conventions and COSPLAYS:
[00:40:32] David Lynch’s furry sitcom is a real thing.
[00:49:51] The long tradition of anthropomorfic lives on in this example!
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is Episode 82, “Javier Grillo-Marxuach,” who is our guest.
FK: Ugh, I’m so excited to have him on!
ELM: OK, so why don’t you…do you wanna do the brief bio?
ELM: Bio. I feel like…do you know his actual biographical information?
FK: Not in detail. So, Javi is a writer and producer and I think that he started off in the TV universe—he’s in the TV universe—as an executive, and then moved over into writing and producing. He has worked in a bunch of shows; the one that probably a lot of our listeners will be most familiar with is The 100. And he’s somewhat famous-slash-infamous for being involved in the Clexa death issue, which we’re going to get into more with him. I’ll leave that aside, I think we’ll explain it when we talk with him about it.
ELM: [laughing] Clexa death issue.
FK: Clexa death issue!
ELM: You need to make that super awkward.
FK: I don’t know, I was trying to come up with a way to say it! We’ll talk about it more.
ELM: I think it’s worth doing a 15-second summary. It was in the spring of 2016; this was the flashpoint that started a huge conversation about the Lesbian Death Trope, and about Bury Your Gays, which is a trope about queer characters on TV being far more likely to be killed. In particular, queer women. We’ll definitely get into it, but if anyone…that’s just the very, very baseline. He was the writer of an episode on The 100 in which this happened that was the centerpoint of that conversation, even though there were [laughing] dozens and dozens of shows that killed off queer women in that television season.
I’m laughing because it just seems so absurd. That’s what makes it a trope, is the fact that people just keep doing it, right? But it just seems bonkers to me that…it’s like, this is me being like “Everyone’s doing it! It's as though there’s some kind of underlying thing going on here!” You know? [laughing]
FK: Yes. So that’s the thing that people probably know Javi for, but he’s also done a bunch of other stuff. He was an executive producer on the Shannara series, which was recently out I think, he’s doing the new Dark Crystal for Netflix, and then long before that he was a writer on Lost, which obviously is a pretty fandom relevant show in a variety of ways. So I think we’ll have a lot of things to ask him about in addition to Clexa.
ELM: This is not just gonna be, we are gonna talk about Clexa, but this is not just gonna be a Clexa grilling session. But one of the reasons I’m excited to talk to him is I know that he is very active on social media, and one of the things that we talk so often about is fan-creator interaction, and then those points of friction—to borrow Lori Morimoto’s framing of this, these contact zones. I know she took that term from some other part of academia, but the contact zones of fandom in which different cultures, producer cultures, fan cultures, are touching each other, seeing each other, clashing with each other. I think that he is definitely someone more than…I’ve seen him out and about on social media, engaging with fans. So I feel like he’ll be really interesting to talk to in that regard.
FK: I think so too. In my work I often cite him as a person who does a really good job of interacting with other people on the internet, just because there’s actually not that many examples. Often I’ll be like, “People you should think about being like! You should look at the way Orlando Jones talks to people and you should look at the way Javier Grillo-Marxuach talks to people,” you know. They’re sort of my go-tos.
ELM: You don’t have to tell me anything about what your clients want, but I am curious about whether that's something you’re just telling them, or if people in Hollywood know that they’re not great at engaging with people online and they ask for good examples.
FK: I mean, they wouldn’t have hired me if they didn’t want to, if they didn’t have some concept. Whether or not, there’s lots of reasons why that might be hard. There’s so many different people. I might be hired by someone who thinks this other person ought to grow and change, so, you know, I’m gonna hire a consultant and tell them and they don’t care, but I’ll feel like I've done something…there’s so many different people involved, so maybe one person wants to take on recommendations that my company has made but other people don’t want to. So there’s lots of reasons why just the sheer receiving the advice doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is gonna change. That said, I do think that people are aware that there’s a problem. I think it would be weird if they didn’t at this stage.
ELM: That’s interesting. I know there’s not, you can’t say a ton, it’s your work and that’s fine.
FK: But that’s the way all consulting is, at any time. You’re like, if it’s management consulting, or whatever, efficiency…you need to do these things, but people may or may not do it.
ELM: Yeah, but if you're hiring McKinsey to come into your company and, say for example, fire 25% of your staff, which may have happened at a corporation I worked for…actually, I don’t think they said “Come in and fire everyone.” They said “Come in and tell us how to save money.” And they were like “Well, we’re gonna take away your coffee stirrers, then we’re gonna fire 25% of all your employees.” And they gave us the coffee stirrers back eventually.
FK: You must have been using a lot of coffee stirrers.
ELM: They did take away hot chocolate and they never returned it. It was nice to have, if you wanted a hot chocolate on a cold afternoon when you were feeling sad.
FK: I think we’ve gotten off topic here. I think that we should call Javi. How’s that?
ELM: OK, let’s do it.
FK: AlL right!
FK: I think it’s time to welcome Javier to the podcast. Hello, Javi!
Javier Grillo-Marxuach: Hello, how are you?
ELM: Yeah, I’m great! How are you?
JGM: Good, thank you for having me!
ELM: Thank you so much for coming on, I’m so excited!
JGM: My pleasure. So what shall we, anything interesting?
ELM: Where do we start, where do we start?
JGM: Seen any good movies lately? I don’t know. [ELM laughs]
FK: Well, I think that usually, we don’t always do this, but sometimes we ask people to start by asking people to talk about their fandoms and their relationship with fandom…
ELM: Their fannish history.
FK: Yeah, their fannish history.
ELM: We don’t need you to go into, name every Star Wars craft or whatever. “Craft.” That wasn’t the word I was looking for.
FK: Sometimes we have people do this, sometimes we don’t, I think it would be interesting for people to hear about that, because you’Ve been so involved in the professional side and so professionally fannish, but I have always assumed that you must have some fandom involvement somewhere in your past but never found out.
JGM: Yeah, I was a fan before I was a creator. Look, I think for most people my age, especially men my age, who work in Hollywood, it’s really Star Wars is the ur-fandom, you know. I’m 48 and Star Wars came out when I was seven, and it was the watershed genre event for a lot of people my age, so I think that was really my first fandom and then obviously Star Trek. Classic Star Trek. I think I spent most of my teenage years in the bottom floor of the Dawn Treader bookstore in Ann Arbor looking for James Blish paperbacks, so. [FK laughs]
But I also was a big fan of movie posters and poster art, so I think the first three, I went to my first Star Trek convention in ’83 at the Detroit Airport Marriott, it was actually a Creation convention, so they’ve been around since the earth was young, and I got to meet Walter Koenig which was very exciting. My second one was I think the same one next year, and that was James Doohan came out for that one. And look, I wasn’t on Compuserve. I didn’t get online until I think ’94, when the fans of SeaQuest formed a reverse campaign to try to get the show to not be the show it turned into.
FK: Oh my God.
JGM: It was sort of like, I mean, it’s weird, because I got to be the antagonist in the first fan campaign that was sort of a massive online campaign, and it was called the Rescue SeaQuest campaign, because I was the network executive on the show and later I was a writer on the show. They wanted to rescue it from the writers, which was kind of weird.
ELM: Oh wow.
FK: Oh no! [laughing]
JGM: So after that, I even had an online nemesis for awhile who hated me and would go on rec.arts.sf.tv, and any time I had a credit he would write a screed about how awful I was—because apparently I was the most junior executive at NBC, and then a pissant writer on a couple shows, and he thought I ruled the world, and my mediocrity was the sole reason for the existence of mediocrity.
FK: This is going a long way to explaining why you have consistently been so calm about internet things.
JGM: You know what happened, it was interesting. What happened was, on the SeaQuest thing, I literally went to the president of the network—I was an executive working on the network and I was the person most directly involved with SeaQuest. I went to the president of the network and I said “Hey, there's this new thing called the internet and the fans there are rebelling against us, can I go in and just talk to them and see what’s going on?” And I did this via the intranet email for the company, because there wasn’t—we didn’t all have email back then. I get a message back from him saying “Yeah, go online, see what you can do, blah blah blah.”
FK: Oh my God.
ELM: Oh wow. That's incredible.
JGM: Because nobody really knew what the…it was just the Wild West back then. It wasn’t even the Wild West. It was just literally a couple people on stagecoaches getting out there, unless you’d been on Compuserve. So I get in there and I write them this big open letter. It goes out. And then like a week later I’m quoted in USA Today, and the fan campaign got an article in USA Today, and Universal wanted my head, and the executive producer of SeaQuest wanted my head, and some people at the network wanted my head. And I was like “Hey, I’ve got a letter from the network president saying I could do this, so…I have a get-out-of-jail-free card!” And after that executives were banned from talking on the internet to fans about shows.
ELM: Oh my God.
FK: [laughing] Oh my God, this is YOUR FAULT. It’s YOU.
JGM: Mostly my fault, yeah. From something that happened in 1994, yeah. But you know what’s really interesting about that, and it actually does come back to today in an interesting way, is that the person in charge of press and publicity for NBC sort of took me to the woodshed about it, and he said “Look, what you did was you made these people. Because you responded to them, you made them legitimate.” This was 1994, when things weren’t happening on the internet as quickly, and a lot of the fan campaigns were rare enough, so they said, “You can’t answer the fans like this because you will make their grievances legitimate.” I mean legitimate in terms of “people will know about them,” you will give them legitimacy in their presentation.
I think social media has sort of taken care of that. I think if enough fans get together now, they’re just legitimate by default. But what I had done was giving these fans a publicity boost they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, using the network’s name to do it. And what I think you see now is that the attitude of networks and studios in terms of dealing with controversies, especially ones that come out of online, is still in a lot of ways stuck in the 1990s. They still think that if shit blows up online, they can just wait it out.
And that was a big conversation that I had during the whole Clexa thing: how do you address this? Do you not give interviews and just wait for it to…cause right after it happened, I was online talking to the fans, partially because I knew I wasn’t gonna go back on the show, so I wasn’t under the same umbrella of studio stewardship, and also cause I thought that it was the decent and human thing to do to go online and talk to all of these people who were hurt by what we did. But the word from on above was very much about, “Let’s wait and see what kind of a life this takes on,” and my argument was always, “In online years, it already does.” So it took them a lot longer to react in a way that was proactive and acknowledged a lot of what was going on, I think because a lot of the mentality is still this sort of older press-based mentality. You know?
ELM: So…we’re talking about 1994, that’s…wait, can I do math?
JGM: It’s a lot. It’s a lot.
ELM: It’s more than that. How old am I?
JGM: We’re talking 23 years.
ELM: Yeah, 25 years ago! So I guess the question I might have is, it’s not just the people who were executives in 1994 are still there. Some of them are, right? Baby boomers, maybe. But it sounds like…
JGM: Quite a few of them are, and most of them, the younger ones, are now people who run networks and things like that.
ELM: So it’s like institutionalized attitudes—it’s just carried on as younger people came into being executives, right.
JGM: Yeah, but I think you’ll notice that there’s a lot of people, some of yourselves perhaps, who are hired by companies to do things like work on social media interaction with fans and stuff like that. And look, there’s a lot of PR departments that have younger people or older people who are savvier about what’s going on and who might respond to things like this differently. I know that it has happened. But I think that there’s still a sort of old guard, and a point of view, that is still getting used to the idea that things that happen on the internet don’t have the same level as…look, I think also a lot of that has blown up since Trump got elected because of what he’s doing with Twitter. So I think that in even in the last, I guess Clexa was what, two years ago now?
ELM: 2016, yeah, yeah.
JGM: 2016, so almost two years ago, I think even since then things have changed dramatically, just because of how much social media has become a part of our lives in terms of politics. And I think that comes back to entertainment, so.
ELM: Sure. Can we take a step back a little bit, we talked a little bit in the introduction about Clexa, but I’m wondering if you’re willing to talk a little bit about that from your perspective, about…not a tick tock or whatever, to use the term…
JGM: I’ve only now done four documentaries about Clexa. [ELM laughing]
FK: Oh my God.
ELM: Can you Cliff Notes it for us?
JGM: And the GLAAD panel at the Austin TV festival, and one at Comic-Con, so you know, I’m very shy about discussing this obviously so [all laughing] so whatever you want.
ELM: I guess for any of our listeners who haven’t, I really appreciate how open you’ve been on this stuff. But I’m curious if you could just talk a little bit about what this was like from your perspective, especially with a couple years of distance too. I’m just very curious about that.
JGM: I’m still on the grand tour of apology for it, to be honest with you, and I’m not upset about that. Look, for those of you at home who aren’t keeping score, The 100, a show that I worked on on its third season, killed a lesbian character that was a very popular character.
We killed the character because we were not going to be able to have the actor anymore, the actress got a role on Fear the Walking Dead, she had been a recurring guest character and then we wound up not being able to get her for more than six episodes in the third season. So we made the decision very early on to kill the character.
We were aware that lesbian characters have a much higher mortality rate, we also thought that the particulars of our show allowed us to take the step of killing the character, but as the season wore on and as we got closer and closer to this death a bunch of factors came together and we wound up killing the character in probably the most insulting way that we could have for the fans. She was shot by a stray bullet, 90 seconds of screen time after she and her lover consummated their relationship that had been going on for a year.
So we were not only dealing with the sort of “if you have sex as a queer person you will die immediately” aspect of fearmongering that goes on against gay people in media, we were also dealing with the fact that she died just like Tara Maclay on Buffy only 14 years later, which had also been a huge uproar, and also we were in that season of television alone, 26 gay women were killed.
So you have this lesbian death trope that goes back to the 1920s, the 1930s and all that in Hollywood and in novels and so forth—we were not the first to do it, but we did it especially insensitively considering the genre we were in, and also we kind of were the point of critical mass, because there had been so many lesbian deaths in television, all of them reinforcing this idea that lesbians don't deserve happiness or long-term relationships, things like that.
One of the things vis-a-vis this which was a big discussion for me in The 100 was when were Clarke and Lexa going to finally have sex. I wanted it to happen much earlier in the season and there was a big debate of would it be earned or not. Even in terms of having that debate internally, I thought they should have sex, they should have a relationship, they should have a relationship that feels fleshed out and like they’ve had it, so when she dies it doesn’t feel like “Oh my God, we’ve been waiting all this time for the consummation, and in result you get DEATH.” So even that was a conversation.
But at the end of the day, because of a number of factors that included production, rewrites, internal arguments in the show, and scheduling, and everything, we wound up with a lesbian death that was evocative of previous traumatic lesbian deaths, that was really poorly handled the way that we did it, and that really had reinforced a very negative message.
And what happened was, the internet went apeshit. The 100 had a huge following among queer teens who were up in arms about it. Within a day of it, within 48 hours of this death happening they started a fundraiser for the Trevor Project, they raised over $130,000. Also, because we were sort of that flash point, the military industrial complex of thinkpieces kicked in around that time we did it. So within a week of us doing that, there were thinkpieces in major outlets, places like the Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, a lot of different places, Vanity Fair, were covering how badly we fucked up and how much it had affected the online fan community and how big an uproar had stayed over all that time.
And then to make everything worse on me personally, I was going to reboot Xena. And as perhaps you’ve heard, Xena is a huge gay icon.
FK: PERHAPS. [laughing]
JGM: So immediately the conversation became “Hey, is this asshole who just killed a lesbian warrior queen on this other show, just like they killed Tara Maclay, is he fit to do Xena?” So for me, the conversation was multilayered.
First and foremost, there was a large community that was really really hurt by something that had my name on it. And I began to hear about it immediately and in a very sustained way—and I was online, I’m an online person, I have a very public persona online. So that was not as difficult for me as it was for the fans who just received this horrible message that they deserved to die. But it certainly was stress-inducing for me, and it was something that I felt very deeply.
There was pressure from the studio to not address this until they had a better idea of what kind of half-life it was gonna have, and also because of that I wound up being the only person…there were a couple other people who were involved with the show who were trying, but I was the only person who was at the level that I was, a co-executive producer on the show, really addressing this, and I wrote the episode. So, you know. It was a very interesting, difficult, and emotionally challenging time.
Look, also my daughter was like five months old at the time and my wife was wondering why the hell I’ve been on Twitter for 72 hours straight [laughs], so there was a lot of…but none of it is to diminish that the main part of the story is the trauma that it caused a great deal of our online fan community.
ELM: I can’t tell you how much I appreciate how openly you talk in these apologetic terms. I’m…honestly, though. Because we have so many bad apologies. We’re recording this on the day that Louis C.K. is back on stage or whatever, to talk about bad apologies. But I’m curious before all this went down, all the very real context that you’re talking about, did you have a clearer sense of all that? Or was this something that you kind of developed more an awareness of as everything kind of came to a head?
JGM: I was a cultural studies major at Carnegie Mellon University. Might as well have been called Marx and Hegel University. [all laughing] At least in that department. So yeah. I had an idea. And you know, it was something that came up. Look, I think that when you’re dealing with a diverse group of people in a writer's room, not all of them are as aware of certain issues, not all of them have lived them. Look, and here’s the thing: you can tell people “Hey, there’s this thing called the Lesbian Death Trope,” but if you have…and we had a writing staff of 15 people. It was a big staff. And there were women and there were minorities and there were LGBT people there, so it’s not like it wasn't understood, but the thing is, when you…or known that it might be an issue.
But when you throw that into this cauldron of intelligent people who make a living with words, the discussion doesn’t necessarily track in the way that society’s gonna receive it or your fan community's gonna receive it. It’s one of those things where, was it in the air, did we know it, was it brought up every once in a while, yes. But when you work in a show, you’re in the bubble of the show. And I think that was our biggest failure in there. We weren’t quite able to peek outside of the bubble of our narrative interests to really look at how bad it would be.
And look, there’s another whole side of it, there’s several interpretations of it. One of the things that made it so bad was that we got a lot of acclaim from the LGBT community, and even from LGBT organizations, because of that character, and because our main character on the show was bisexual, and because the show had a very open sort of attitude towards sexuality and so forth. Our attitude towards sexuality was “The world has ended, so it doesn’t matter who you’re having sex with.” [FK laughs]
So we have a lot of queer characters on the show, and I think that that gave us a false sense of security—that if we killed this one we still had others. Which I think is a false equivalency that a lot of people play when they’re doing narrative math of “Oh my God, we suddenly have a cast of 25 people, some of them have to die. What about this one, it’s a supporting character, oh, but they’re gay, but it’s OK because we’ve got three other gays in there…” You start doing math like that, because you’re not going to kill Clarke, you’re not going to kill Bellamy, you’re not gonna kill Kane, you’re gonna kill Clarke’s mom, so…you start looking at your ensemble to figure out who you can kill, and then you start doing minority and gender math. You know?
So you wind up in this bubble, and a lot of the fans felt that we had queerbaited them, that because we had been so…look, adulation and positive reinforcement are a drug, and I think that we got all of this great positive reinforcement from the community about how great we had been at handling gay characters, and I think that there was a certain amount of us thinking, “Well, we’ve got a whole bunch of gay characters! We kill one, there’s a bunch of others. Clarke is still bisexual, that’s OK, she’s representing, dah dah dah,” and I think we were just ultimately really in the bubble of what we thought was right for the show, and…look, artists don’t always want to think about the reception of their work. By and large we want to think about our artistic prerogative.
I think that especially when you work in a mass medium like TV, you do have an added responsibility to think about what comes after, especially if you make…if you get adulation for being a show that’s positive towards the gay community, and you soak it in and you use it for your own promotion, and I think that we just didn’t see how it was…we knew that we were embracing that community, we didn’t think we were baiting them, and then when it all went to shit we were like “Oh boy, this…none of this looks good in retrospect.” [laughs] You know?
Honestly, one of the things that I discovered about this in terms of my own learning curve was that sometimes the best intentions applied in an ignorant way are no different from malice. [laughs] You know? And I said that to the fans. It’s not like we sit in these oak-paneled rooms smoking our cigars going [funny voice] “Eh! How do we most hurt the queers?!” You know? That’s not what happens. [all laugh] We genuinely thought we were on to something good, and then when we got to the place where we had to kill Lexa, we were like “how do we do this,” and then suddenly it’s like everything about how we did it went wrong. We might as well have tried to hurt the fans, but it certainly wasn’t what we wanted to do.
ELM: Sure. I think it’s an important point what you say, but I think you guys…and you in particular, did take a disproportionate amount of the critique during that spring, of a broader problem. Do you think, I mean, obviously you can’t speak for other Hollywood writers, but I’m curious if you think that the rest of the writers and producers who were killing off queer female characters that year…
JGM: Well there’s two things, I think they’re all glad they weren’t me! [all laugh]
ELM: I think that’s true!
FK: Just to jump on to that, one of the things that I at the time most admired was that you had a Tumblr and you turned your ask box on and I was like “Ho! I would not have been that brave in your shoes!” Genuinely, it was quite a thing, and I do sort of wonder…you’re doing the apology tour, is this spilling over to anyone else? Or is it just that you’re…
JGM: It’s interesting. Even, look, I think that in for example the panel that I did with GLAAD at the Austin TV festival the year that Clexa happened, you know, there were other writers on that panel who had their own perspectives about it, some of them gay, who felt that I had gotten way more than I deserved and that perhaps the uproar was gonna have a chilling effect on people’s creative output and stuff like that, and that’s…I think other people can very much have their opinion about it, look, I think a lot of people were put on notice by it. There isn’t a room that I go into, a writer’s room that I go into now, where this isn’t a topic. The days of somebody brings up the Lesbian Death Trope and somebody goes [funny voice] “Eh, never heard of it!” Those days are gone.
FK: I like that that’s your Hollywood voice. [everyone makes funny voices at each other]
JGM: It’s funny, I’m in the middle of one of these things right now, and I’m on the other side of it, which is the producer of Magnum P.I.—I found out in retrospect he misunderstood a question that was asked of him at the press tour and wound up sort of stepping into it in terms of Latino writers in writers’ rooms and stuff like that.
FK: What exactly did he say? I’m sorry, just so that…
JGM: He was asked if there were any Latinx characters, rather, any Latinx writers in his room, and he said “We have a very diverse room, it just so happens we don’t have any Latinx writers, staffing a show is incredibly difficult.”
ELM: Wait, and this is for a reboot starring…
JGM: Of Magnum that has a Latino person. The next day he came out and he said “Oh my God, I made a mistake, we do in fact have at least one Latino writer in the room.” I have communicated with him since and he’s been very clear to me that he really did mishear the question. There was an issue with his understanding of what the word “Latinx” entailed, in terms of who was in that community. It’s a fairly new term.
So I wound up writing this very, very angry piece in the Hollywood Reporter about that, and one of the things I told this showrunner in communication with him alter on is, I said—look, I honestly feel bad that he was the guy who got caught in the crossfire during a point of critical mass for this. It’s not unlike what happened to me with Clexa. I don’t think that this guy’s a fulminating racist or anything, it’s just that the language that is available to people to talk about diversity in a writers’ room is sort of full of an inherent bias.
And the piece that I wrote wasn’t intended to just single him out and say “this is a bad man and a bigot,” the piece was intended to say “I’ve fuckin’ had it after hearing this shit for 25 years,” you know? And being somebody who, my first job was as an executive at NBC and I got that job as part of a minority hiring initiative, so I do think these minority hiring initiatives work, and they’ve been very good at getting writers in rooms. I think showrunners have been a little bit slower to renew deals for those writers, to hire Latino writers at higher levels, cause there’s this thing that it’s very hard to staff a show, and can we get a Latino who’s gonna play well with others, and are there enough experienced Latinos, stuff like that…
I feel like this one showrunner suddenly just got piled up on because he was the guy in the crosshairs at the wrong time, he made this rhetorical mistake at the wrong time, but at the same time, with me with Clexa, it’s like, yeah, I wound up being the poster child for…look, if you Google my name and “Lesbian Death Trope…” [all laugh]
FK: Oh no.
JGM: You’re going to get 14,300 responses. You know? That’s how much you’re gonna get back. So I mean, I don’t love having my name attached to that, because it’s obviously…but that’s part of my legacy now. For good and bad, the explosion of it really has made it a discussion that can’t be ignored when it gets into the writers’ room. If that’s the biggest withdrawal I ever have to make from the bank of white male privilege, that’s not too painful a withdrawal, you know what I’m saying?
Again, it was worse for the fans, many of them very young, many of them very attached to this character, who looked at this character as an aspirational figure, and watched her die in the worst possible way, thinking that something much…especially because it came at the moment when they finally got to see two heroes that they loved and respected and admired have sex. And all of a sudden the message comes in “fuckin’ die, lesbians!” It’s devastating. So whatever happened to me emotionally for being in the middle of this, it’s kind of negligible, you know?
FK: That attitude is really…I find it admirable, and I…but I also wonder whether, how many other people have the ability to step outside of themselves and their own ego, especially in [laughs] you know, the business that we’re all in, to be able to think of it in those terms, as a withdrawal. I’m genuinely trying to think about whether, your experience aside, what is the next time like? How do people think about it?
JGM: Look, I really appreciate what you’ve said, I think it's very kind, but honestly I haven’t done that much. I mean, all I’ve really done is try to respond to people’s pain the way that I would want people to respond to my pain if it were that bad. And I think that it really, you know, look, a lot of the debate right now is, how much do people who’ve been implicated in #MeToo things and all that have to go through before they can make a “comeback” or whatever. And honestly, the amount of credit that some people get for just doing the decent human thing is disproportionate.
FK: [laughing] The bar is low! The bar is really low!
JGM: Like I said, I like a compliment as much as the next guy, [ELM laughing] and I really appreciate how nice you’re being to me, but I just wanna put it out there that getting smeared on Twitter, having my name attached to this thing, what’s the worst thing that happened to me? I literally got a trip to Austin to go talk on a stage. I’ve been interviewed for a bunch of documentaries, and I get to do podcasts like these with you guys and go over it and discuss it, and yes, it was a life- and continues to be a life-altering event for me. But I don’t know, some part of me’s probably just being really self-flagellating, but I just feel like it wasn’t that far above and beyond what I consider to be a baseline for what it means to be a person who lives in a world that is varied and diverse and has a lot of means of communication in it, you know? Maybe other people don’t see it that way, I don’t know.
FK: [laughing] Based on people’s actions I’m pretty sure they don’t!
ELM: Yeah, they…
FK: I don’t want to praise you to the stars, I’m just…it’s less that you’re great and more that everyone else is being shitty. [ELM laughs]
ELM: I think to draw on your parallel too, saying the shoe was on the other foot where you were going off on the Magnum showrunner too, his discomfort and if he’s apologizing or saying “I misspoke” or whatever isn’t anything compared to your 25 years of being a Latino working in Hollywood and having to deal with the bias and discrimination. It sounds like that’s apples and oranges, and in the same way you’re saying the blowback you received for Lexa is nothing compared to the pain of young queer fans.
JGM: Exactly. And I have to tell you, and it is the dumbest ass story ever and it just makes me sound so pandering when I say this, but during…one of the things that really sort of inspired me to stay online and open the Tumblr box and just say “fuck it, give it to me, I can take it” was around that time, Caitlyn Jenner was at the ESPN awards and she showed up in a tight white gown, you know, and gave a speech about how—she said, “I’m being insulted, I’m being dragged through the mud and all that, look,” and there’s a lot that's problematic, as the kids say nowadays, about Caitlyn Jenner. But she said, and I thought this was really inspiring, she said “You know what, I can take it.”
And I thought, this is what somebody who has lived most of their life as a white male who's made this transition late in life, who has this kind of fame, and wealth, and this ability, should be saying: “I can take it.” And I think for everything that may be wrong about Caitlyn Jenner, that was a real watershed moment where she said “But it’s not about me taking it, it’s about, I can take it for a lot of other people who are in danger because they want what I have.”
And look, for me, when I saw that, I said “If Caitlyn Jenner can get up in a white dress at ESPN, of all places, as a trans woman and say ‘I can take it,’ let’s do this thing, let’s go for it, let’s open up the floodgates and let people come at me and…” You know? But it just seems pandering to be like [silly voice] “Caitlyn Jenner is a big inspiration to me.” Aw, God. [all laugh]
ELM: We’re not gonna hold it against you. I feel like we should take a quick break, cause I think there’s some other things we want to talk about too, but we should have a little pause.
ELM: So we’re back, and I think that Flourish wants to talk about Lost.
FK: I do wanna talk about Lost! [ELM laughing]
JGM: Well then we should talk about…it’s your podcast! We should probably talk about what you wanna talk about.
FK: I’m just really interested in what the experience of working on Lost was like, because it is a show that so many people have considered a watershed moment for particularly the kind of puzzley, maybe not all the way to alternate reality games but the sort of “we’re going to solve this show.”
JGM: Oh, there was an alternate reality game, I ran it! Yes.
FK: I know there was, but I mean—when I say that I mean it’s not just the alternate reality game that it affected, I think it’s also the way that people now, “Oh, we’re gonna watch Westworld and we’re gonna solve this show.”
ELM: “This is a show we solve.” It’s a template for fans gathering online.
JGM: You know, here’s the thing. I’m glad that fans want to solve the shows and shit like that, but I’ve gotta say, one of the biggest things that came out of Lost was just a lot of people makin’ shows where they don’t know what they're doing. [all laugh]
There’s a lot of “We don’t know how it ends, do you?” I literally went for a meeting one time where it was a show about…it had a mythology-mystery and all this stuff, and I went in and I was like “Guys, where you going with this?” And they were like “You worked on Lost, you tell us.” To which I said, “Fuck you, pay me.” You don’t get that in the job interview. You get that after the checks clear!
FK: [laughing] Oh my God.
JGM: I’ll tell you what, I think the biggest legacy that Lost has, obviously it has a huge positive—it helped bring in serialized television more into the mainstream, it wasn't the first but it helped serialize primetime shows, and really 24 is the father of the binge-watch because it was the first show to really sell like that on DVD, you know?
FK: Yes it was. I come to you reporting that once I was trapped on a train, that was in the mountains, stuck, going from Oregon…
FK: Yeah, it was snowed in from Oregon to California.
JGM: But Jack Bauer saved you, and that’s why you love 24.
FK: He did in the form of the DVDs that I watched all of, because there were 24 episodes!
ELM: [laughing] SAVED YOU.
JGM: So Lost has its place in all this golden age of television stuff, it’s not the first, it’s not the last, but it's a big watershed show on that, and that’s great, but I think one of the things that happened especially right after Lost and also happened after The X-Files got popular in the mid-90s when I was an executive on TV, is that suddenly there were a shit ton of shows like Threshold, Surface, Invasion, you know, The Event, the list goes on and on. I think you probably can do this list with me.
And they were all shows that were set about “what happened?” You know? And then you go, “Guys, it’s not just about answering one question.” If Lost was only answering…here’s the thing, when The X-Files got popular, everybody took the wrong lesson out of it. Everybody took the lesson of “Let’s turn the brightness down 50% and have the characters talk in whispers.”
FK: BUT IT’S BECAUSE OF DAVID DUCHOVNY AND GILLIAN ANDERSON AND THEIR UNBEATABLE CHEMISTRY, IT’S LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE, YOU CAN’T SOLVE IT, YOU CAN’T FIX IT, IT'S ABOUT THE—ACK.
JGM: Exactly! And with Lost it’s like, all of a sudden you’ve got five shows on the air that are all about “What happened during the hurricane?” Literally, The Event, they didn’t even bother having it be a thing. It was just THE EVENT. And it’s like, all of a sudden you have a bunch of shows where they’re just throwing up a question and then having a lot of clues, they don’t know how they fit, and a lot of those shows flamed out.
What Lost kind of lucked into was, we had this 14 character ensemble and we decided to do this flashback structure, and now the show became about “What do you tell people you are when you can lie with impunity?” And I think that was as compelling with those characters and the flashbacks and all that, as a theme, as “Oh my God, what’s the island?”
So I think a lot of people learned the wrong lessons from it, and to this day you see these shows where people are like “Ooh, we have to solve the show!” Half the time I wanna be like “Guys, I have a pretty good idea what’s going on in that writers’ room. Just don’t worry about it.” [all laughing]
I’ll give you a really good example of it. True Detective, right. First season, it’s great, right? I loved it, I know it’s problematic, blahbity-blahbity-blah. Not blahbity on the problematic, but I know that it is, you know. But the moment I start watching that show and reading the press on it, people are going “Ooh, who is the Yellow King? Where’s Carcosa? Will they ever…” And I’m like, “This is not a show about that guys, you’re gonna be disappointed.” I’m like, “This is a show about will they or won’t they kiss. Are these two men going to kiss after 13 hours of this shit together?”
And then at the end of it, as much as rough-hewn, you know, tough guys with man pain do, they wind up…it literally ends with Woody Harrelson pulling Matthew McConaughey in a wheelchair going, “Oh Matthew, will you shut up about existentialism?” And he’s going “But no, there is existentialism!” And then they just walk off into the sunset together, arguing like an old married couple. That’s what that show was! And anyone who tells us about the Yellow King or Carcosa or Schopenhauer is full of shit.
ELM: I had no idea that was what True Detective was about!
FK: This actually makes me want to watch True Detective in a way that no one else has ever been able to! This reminds me a little bit of some of the takes I hated the very most about Twin Peaks: The Return, which were the people trying to solve it. I’m just like, “Have you seen anything David Lynch has done since Twin Peaks? It’s dream logic! Just accept that this entire thing is about that you’re gonna see some nuclear blasts and some weird creepy shit! And enjoy some performances by people! Just let it wash over you, forget it.”
JGM: “What exactly in your previous relationship to David Lynch’s art made you think this was gonna make sense?” [all laugh]
FK: I genuinely think that some people only saw Twin Peaks and then were like…obviously none of the weird furry sitcom that he made where no one talks, like, [sarcastically] that obviously will have nothing to do with his current art. Mark Frost cannot rein in this man!
FK: And by the way, he shouldn’t, because that would be a mistake.
JGM: Yeah. It's ridiculous. Yeah. So for me, honestly unless your show has a true believer and a skeptic in the middle who if they get trapped in an elevator and they can argue about that for three years…you don’t have a show. And that is the biggest issue, everything that Lost said was possible, is only possible if you have characters people want to watch stuck in an elevator arguing about whatever their issue is!
You could put Locke and Charlie in an elevator and Locke is all about existentialism and life and being a rough-hewn hunter and all that, and Charlie is talking about drugs and how he takes shortcuts in life and how he’s not really a very brave character, you can put them in an elevator and they’ll have that dynamic. You put them on a desert island and they can hunt boar together and have an adventure. But you know, I think ultimately what saved Lost wasn’t its formal daring, it was character.
ELM: This is the question though, and we kind of have the flipside, I think, on the more female-dominated fandom side, which tends to diminish…I don’t want to make generalizations. But sometimes, some fans diminish a show entirely…they have this tunnel vision and it’s about shipping.
FK: And there’s nothing but the characters.
ELM: No no no, I think that’s not what I’m saying.
JGM: Just the SHIP.
ELM: Just the ship. I don’t think that what you just said is right, Flourish. I think that when people talk about endgame shipping, they’re actually not really talking about the characters at all. They’re just saying that’s the mystery to be solved.
FK: That’s true.
JGM: They’re saying, “These people are pretty, I wanna see them fuck, when’s that gonna happen, that’s all the show’s about, right?”
ELM: So I…it runs parallel to this kind of fandom practice of reenacting the Lost “we’re all gonna solve it online together if we do this” sort of thing.
FK: Oh I see, so you’re saying the people who are like, “I’m going to investigate every frame of this scene where perhaps Dean and Castiel might touch their fingertips together, do they touch and also what does that mean for their relationship and also when are they going to get together,” is that right?
ELM: No, I think you’re not even framing it the way it happens. The way it happens is, “I have seen it, I am putting the clues together, I am solving this.” It’s the same thing as you’ll see with post-Lost, watching Westworld, “I am solving this, I am solving True Detective.”
FK: Mm. “This is going to be endgame and I know it because of these reasons.”
ELM: Right. Whether the endgame is a ship getting together or whatever. I think the question is, so many people do this, and I don’t like this and I don’t think either of you like it, but that’s the way they’re processing story. So the question is, does it matter? Does it matter what the writers in a room intend?
JGM: Well, it matters in that we have to do the best version of the story we want to do, but I mean, I told you I was a cultural studies major. I had all the Roland Barthes crammed down my throat that you could possibly have. [ELM laughs] What the age of the internet I think has shown me is that you can’t tell people how to receive your show, you know? You can’t.
Somebody who wants to see it as that—it is all about excusing Bellarke and making sure Bellarke happens—that’s the show they’re watching, and maybe they’ll be disappointed. I think anybody who watches any show thinking it’s a puzzle to be solved will be disappointed, because the only puzzle in any show is the mind of the showrunner. Cause all shows ultimately are therapist’s couches for their showrunner. [all laugh] Now how much luck have you had solving a person in your life?
FK: Oh, that just…you just made me sad. [all laughing]
JGM: Sad about what?
FK: Now this is my therapist’s couch!
ELM: I do think a lot of the clashes, I wonder how you see this from the creators’ side, I think a lot of the clashes we see in fan-creator stuff right now are because of this mismatch of expectations. The constant line from creators, “This is not about the show we’re making. It’s not about these two dudes doing this or this happening this way.”
JGM: I think creators need to step the fuck back from that, because it’s none of our business, you know? I know that fans come to us and they say “Oh, is there gonna be Bellarke, is there gonna be Clexa, is there gonna be Sanvers, is there gonna be,” whatever, Sculder…
FK: SCULDER! Oh my God, please erase that from the internet and my ears and life! [all laughing] SCULDER, I die!
JGM: Yeah, but ultimately it’s…there was Sculder at the end, wasn’t there! I don’t know.
FK: Let’s not get into the terrible choices they made about how Scully’s reproductive capabilities would impact that relationship. Let’s close the book, pretend it didn’t happen. For the best. For the best.
JGM: In fact, I wish I hadn’t seen Fight the Future, but I did, and…
FK: But I Want To Believe was the one that I actually left the theater and I almost went back and asked for my money back.
JGM: I’m shocked you went into the theater! Hadn’t you learned by then? Jesus!
FK: I had watched every episode of The X-Files ever made! I have not any more. I tapped out after the first season of the new one.
ELM: Wait, you haven’t seen all of them? Wow Flourish.
FK: I can’t, I can’t, it’s done, it’s dead to me.
JGM: This reminds me of when I…so, as a die-hard old-school Trekkie I would always go see the Star Trek movies in the theater, right? So me and my pal, we’re in our 30s, and just shit sucks, and we drag our sorry asses on the opening night to Star Trek: Nemesis…
JGM: And it was literally like Muscovites in 1974 trudging over to Red Square to vote in another rigged election. [all laughing] We were not happy that we were doing this, but we’d done it for every movie since Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, so we were gonna go see it opening night. Mann’s Chinese Theater is literally a third full, just nobody’s there, [all laughing] the most die-hard of the die-hard, and then there’s that scene that J.J. then stole for the new Star Trek movie, where they ride the smaller ship out of the larger Romulan ship, right?
Picard and Data get on the little ship and they crash it out of the big Romulan ship, and this is about an hour and a half into the movie, and we’re all just like “This is ass, nobody wants to be here anymore,” and one person in the theater goes, “YEAH!! DATA!!”[all laughing] And literally every one of us just turned, going like, “Dude, what, this sucks. What are you doing. Really?”
FK: But actually the Star Trek thing—I have some bad news for you, which is that I’m in the middle of reading every Star Trek book ever written.
JGM: I saw that, I saw that.
ELM: Yeah, that is bad news, Flourish.
FK: So here I am, enduring. Actually I’m enjoying it.
JGM: Can we have an intervention for you? Can we do something about this?
ELM: Excellent! Someone who’s on my side.
FK: I’m at 15%, so I think that I’m still in the honeymoon phase.
ELM: Flourish what? I thought you were almost done!
FK: WHAT DO YOU MEAN? There’s like a thousand of them!
JGM: You’re going to die before you finish this project.
FK: No I am not. I’m at 15%. I’ve only been doing it for I think two years now? They’re not writing them fast enough. I am gonna beat them. I’m not even 40 yet, dude.
JGM: No, all right, I didn't think you were, easy, I’m not guessing based on a podcast…
ELM: Aren’t you 30?
JGM: You both look very youthful! Neither one of you looks like you’re over 26 to me! I want nothing to do with any further discussion of this! [all laughing]
ELM: I was gonna tell you, my first date when I was 12 was to Star Trek: First Contact.
JGM: All right, wow. You went out on a date when you were 12? That’s awesome! I didn’t…
ELM: Yeah, it was, you know, we kissed without tongue, you know, we were 12. You know? 12!
JGM: Yeah, I didn’t get that till college, so I’m still not like…anyway. [laughing] WOW, WAY MORE THAN YOU NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT ME. But all I’m saying.
FK: Star Trek.
JGM: All I’m trying to say is…
ELM: My connection to Star Trek guys.
JGM: You cannot tell the fans how to read… [laughs] I’m gonna bring this back onto track, because now you know when I finally kissed a girl, and that’s not good.
ELM: It was worth the wait, I’m sure.
JGM: I might have been exaggerating a little bit, it wasn’t…ANYWAY. POINT BEING, I really think creators do themselves a disservice when they go online to tell people that, like, Bellarke is…I don’t think Jason does this, but whoever, to say that this pairing is bad or that pairing is bad or whatever. You know?
FK: J.K. Rowling. Let’s blame her. She’s a great example. J.K. Rowling.
JGM: Does she troll the fans about ships?
FK: She did.
ELM: She will not stop talking about…I once wrote in an article that it was like she was the PR person for her own characters, she’ll be like “NEW REVELATION.” It’s like, “Please stop talking about this.” [JGM laughs] Really, let it go. She always delivers it like “New news!” Yeah, this is from your head. You aren’t getting it through the wire, here.
JGM: Yeah, you know, I just think that we need to be able to take a step back and look—I’m guilty of it as much as anybody, cause there were people who thought that…on different shows there’s been different ships where I’ve been “Ew, no,” but honestly, at this point I’m not even at a place where I would get into that anymore. I think you heard it here first: I think my stock answer for ship questions from now on is going to be “I’m glad you enjoy that pairing, I hope you enjoy the rest of the show.”
Cause I don't know. There’s ships that you don't even know! People are like, “Oh, it’s Dean Haglund as one of the Lone Gunmen and a doorknob.” And you’re like “Where did you get that?!” [ELM laughing] “It’s a static object! It’s just literally in the office!” And they’re like, “No, but Dean looked at the doorknob this way one time,” and you’re like “Dude!” So you can’t, you can’t. It’s a rabbit hole, it’s horrible. IT’S NOT HORRIBLE. I am glad fans enjoy shows however they enjoy them.
ELM: [laughing] Good save!
FK: No, I mean, I can imagine that it would be horrible from a perspective that you’ve got 200 different demands and how do you answer each of these in a respectful way…
JGM: You get off Twitter and you don’t answer them!
FK: [laughing] Get off Twitter.
ELM: It’s not like with fans tweeting at you you’re gonna be like “yeah.” Any random fan tweet you’re not gonna be like “I approve of your ship.”
JGM: Exactly. And look, there were times on The Middleman where I bit on that and it never worked out well. That was my show, I was very attached to it, people were like “Are Wendy and the Middleman gonna hook up?” and I’d be like “EW!” You know. So, I mean, I guess I have been…but I think moving forward, especially knowing what I know now, it’s just not going to be a big topic of my conversation with fans, because who am I to tell them how to enjoy my show? You know?
ELM: I think too, we talk a lot on this podcast about people conflating representation and shipping, especially for queer characters, and that’s really…
JGM: That’s hard not to, yeah.
ELM: I think it’s really hard too because a lot of the time people will be like “Well, showrunner-or-actor, do you like my gay ship?” And they’ll be like “Ha ha, that’s so dumb!” And they’re just thinking those two characters, maybe they are being homophobic, but I think a lot of the time they’re just thinking “No, that’s an absurd pairing of two people,” and that’s read as a homophobic response. There’s no winning, I think, on this one.
JGM: When we did Lost, and we showed it at Comic-Con—before the show premiered, there was already fanfic, and the first Lost fanfic I read was Sayid gently introducing Charlie to the world of anal sex.
JGM: It was Chayid, I think? Or…[laughs] Sarlie? I don’t know.
FK: I think that at that time we were not yet in the era of smush ship names.
ELM: Yeah. It would have been Sayid/Charlie.
JGM: Hey, no, we had Bennifer and Garfleck back then, I don’t know what you’re…
FK: Yeah, but I don’t think it had made the jump yet.
JGM: Oh, it hadn’t made the jump to television? OK.
ELM: The slash is very important to us.
JGM: Yeah, I mean, and look, that’s one of those things where you see it on the internet and you go “They like the pilot! They’ll be tuning in, great!”
ELM: Yeah, all publicity is good publicity. Wait, do you read fanfiction?
JGM: No. No. [ELM and FK laughing]
FK: You heard it here…
JGM: I WRITE FANFICTION! What do you mean “do you read fanfiction”? I mean, I haven’t in the last three years, but the last fanfic I published was a Downton Abbey/Indiana Jones/EM Forster/Kazuo Ishiguro crossover fanfic…
JGM: Oh yeah!
ELM: All four of those things?? Where is this?
JGM: It’s on Tumblr! I can link you to it.
ELM: Yes please!
JGM: It's a fanfic where you find out that Lady Edith had met Indiana Jones at a party in the house of Lord Darlington from Remains of the Day.
ELM: Holy shit.
JGM: And then Lady Edith, it happens between I think season three and four of Downton when her boyfriend is still alive who runs the magazine, so she’s going to India to cover the opening of this Empire Monument in India, and she winds up running into a street fight that Indiana Jones is in, and they recognize each other, and I did all the math. Indiana Jones would have been 12, she would have been 17, Indiana Jones technically was on the Titanic, so he might have known the dead heirs from the Downton Abbey pilot. They had met at a party at the home of the guy from Remains of the Day, of Lord Darlington, and Lady Edith was traveling with the two women from A Passage to India. So. I’m not fuckin’ around with fanfic.
ELM: I need to read this right now.
JGM: I’m a serious person here. And by the way, it’s like 17 pages long.
ELM: Oh no.
JGM: It’s not like I wrote a page-and-a-half on a goof.
FK: OH GOOD, because I was definitely sitting here thinking, “Is he just sitting here saying ‘I wrote a fanfic’ and he wrote three paragraphs of this idea?”
JGM: It’s a freakin’ novella. I mean no. No no. It’s a thing. It’s not…and then I wrote some Doctor Who/Middleman crossover fanfic, one time…
ELM: You love crossovers.
FK: Is it fanfic if it’s your show, though?
JGM: Well, I’m a fan of Doctor Who, so it is Doctor Who fanfic, isn’t it?
ELM: It’s kind of like a self insert, actually.
FK: It is like a self insert.
ELM: A writerly self insert.
FK: A writerly self insert.
ELM: That’s right, Flourish. [laughing]
JGM: All of which is to say, I am pro-fanfic, I am pro-all-fanfic, and I can’t read fanfic that is on a show that I’m working on, although that Lost thing was so shocking that we all kinda looked at it, but you know. So you can’t really read fanfic while you’re working on a show just because you don’t want it to pollute your creative process and all that, but at the same time, look, reading and writing are difficult things and they are skills. I think that if something I write makes people want to become hobbyist fiction writers, holy crap, that’s great.
I’ve never, I’ve known a lot of creators who’ve looked down on fanfic and all that and I’m like “Wow, we’re just creating a whole generation of writer hobbyists, what’s wrong with that? That sound like a really fun thing!” And I think that writing fanfic actually helps people be a little bit more understanding about what we go through when we’re trying to write these shows and create these narratives and all that. There’s a reason so many fanfics are short and only deal with a chance encounter between characters, you know? [laughs] I think it gives people an appreciation of how difficult the big picture is to really keep in mind. So honestly, I’ve always been very very fanfic-positive and I think it’s a good thing.
ELM: I’m 100% reading this.
JGM: Not to mention, by the way, I just got done doing The Dark Crystal, and I worked on…I wrote a script for Xena. Even if that had been produced, who’s to say that’s not a form of fanfic? It’s something I grew up with and I was a fan of and then I got to write it, yes I wrote it for pay, but at the same time it kind of is a fanfic, you know? And look, I got into an interesting conversation with one of the executive producers of The Orville about this, because I actually wrote a tweet in defense of The Orville. I wrote, “Look, if Fox gave you millions of dollars to live in your own Star Trek fanfic and Adrienne Palicki’s your space girlfriend, how many of us would say no to that, really? So stop hating!” And this guy that I know who's a writer on the show got back to me and was like “Why are you hating on us already? Just watch the show!” And I was like, “BRO.”
FK: That’s the opposite of hating!
JGM: I know! I don’t use the word fanfic pejoratively! Is The Orville a fully accomplished work of art on its own and being created by people who are doing their own thing? Absolutely, but in a way it does share that DNA, because it really is somebody’s response to a tradition of genre, so why not embrace that, you know?
FK: I’m now really upset that we have to wrap up, because I want to pick your brains about every fanfic you’ve ever written, and also possibly do a book club in which we all read and critique nicely—positively critique, we don’t do negative critiques here…
JGM: My Downton Abbey fanfic??
ELM: Wait. Wait. This is an incredible idea.
FK: I think I have a SPECIAL EPISODE idea.
JGM: Well I’ll have to come back for that!
FK: Oh my God.
ELM: Oh my God.
FK: Look, Elizabeth, for a long time we’ve been saying, “What will our next special episode be that’s about a fanfic?”
ELM: Our next fic special episode.
FK: I keep coming up with a fanfic and Elizabeth is like, “I don’t read in that show. I don’t read in that show.”
ELM: But let me tell you, having studied the literature of the British Empire in college, I sure as hell have read half of the source material for your fanfic…[JGM laughing] and I…
FK: We’re doing this.
ELM: I sat through a LOT of seasons of Downton Abbey despite it not satisfying me in any way, so…I actually haven’t seen Indiana Jones.
JGM: Do you think Julian Fellowes was abused by a very beautiful but ice-cold woman of the nobility? Because his love of Lady Mary is just beyond, it’s beyond psychosis. Literally the whole show is about how everybody wants Lady Mary and I’m like, “She’s evil!” She’s so awful! [ELM laughing] And by the way, no Edith, no peace. Literally I don’t know what that man has against Lady Edith, but it’s like, it’s five years of torture Lady Edith, and all the men are fawning over Lady Mary. I have a lot to say on this topic. I think Julian Fellowes is working out some shit…
ELM: Hard agree, 100%.
JGM: I did not appreciate what he did to Lady Edith at all. Look, I guess it’s better than what he did to Lady Sibyl, but...
ELM: She wanted to go. She needed to leave.
FK: All right, I think we have gotten…
ELM: Downton chat!
FK: Not only a wonderful episode about this, but we now also know what our future special episode will be. Thank you for bringing this to us, this was an incredible delight, far beyond anything I ever imagined.
JGM: I do what I can. I’m like Ramon in Peg + Cat, which you probably don’t know cause you don’t have a two-and-a-half-year-old, so there you go.
ELM: No. We’re too old for that. And too young for that. [all laughing]
JGM: Well thank you guys!
ELM: Thank you so much for coming on!
FK: Thank you so much for coming on!
FK: Oh man I’m so excited. We are totally doing this special episode, right?
ELM: I honestly can’t, it's funny that Indiana Jones…I haven’t seen Indiana Jones, because Ishiguro and Forster and Downton Abbey? I mean, I don’t love Downton Abbey. But Ishiguro and Forster?? Two of my top five novelists of all time?? In a fic??
ELM: In a fic?!
FK: Well you don’t have to, first of all, you don’t have to like Downton Abbey in order to read fic about it, because it might fix it.
ELM: That’s true.
FK: And second of all, you only have to watch like one movie to get totally caught up. And it’s a movie you shoulda seen anyway, and it is truly…there’s a lot in there about imperialism!
ELM: Yeah, but is it gonna be a good critical dig in on imperialism, or is it going to be like…
FK: No. People’s faces are going to melt off and Harrison Ford is gonna use a bullwhip. It’s fine.
ELM: I recently went to Disneyland, as you know, and I walked into Adventure Land and I was like, “I forgot! There’s colonialism land!” I was actually surprised…
FK: That it’s still there?
ELM: Of all of the lands… [laughing] I guess in Frontier Land there’s still problematic, Frontier Land is founded on this cowboys-and-Indians vibe, right? But colonialism land.
FK: Yep, for sure. For sure.
ELM: The trading outpost and it had a big British flag on top and I was like “THIS IS REALLY AWKWARD.”
FK: Well you’re gonna have a great time, I can tell you’re gonna have a great time with Indiana Jones as a result of this. You’re gonna have some reax.
ELM: Sad reax only?
FK: Not sad. It’s gonna be a mixture of reax.
ELM: Thinky face reax only.
FK: A lot of reax.
ELM: All right all right, I’m in. Fanfic aside, I thought that was a wonderful conversation. That sounds self-congratulatory. [laughs] I thought it was great, he was great to talk to.
FK: I agree. Actually it was amazing cause I had never heard of this SeaQuest outrage. I was shocked! I felt like, it just goes to show that you can feel like you know a lot about all of these different events, and there’s so many things that impact this and obviously that was a huge deal for the entertainment industry. I literally had never heard of it, because I was too young to be aware of it at the time and I wasn’t on the internet and why would I know, right?
ELM: It’s interesting though, we were talking about institutionalization of attitudes, right. So…
ELM: A bunch of people were there in 1994 and witnessed this, and that has shaped their thinking about the way that networks should interact with fans online for 25 years.
FK: Yeah and yet, at some point, because people don’t continuously talk about it, you sort of forget where that came from. It’s amazing. I’m really, now I’m a little shaken by this in a good way, in an I need to go and figure out this thing way.
ELM: I haven’t heard anyone say “shaken” in years, not since certain other tenses of that word have appeared.
FK: I did that specifically because you once told me that I should not use the term “shook” because it is appropriating African American English.
ELM: And at this point also youth culture.
FK: And youth culture because I'm old. [ELM laughing] So I specifically said “shaken” in order to dodge your…
ELM: Oh, that’s good. That’s good. Well I think that’s it, should we do our wrapping-up business?
FK: Yes, let’s do our wrapping-up business! OK, the way that you can help support this podcast and keep us on the air is by going to our Patreon, patreon.com/fansplaining, where special episodes live—including the special episode that we will be recording with Javi about his fic, as well as many others that you can only get if you’re a patron.
ELM: We recently did a special episode!
FK: We recently did a special episode, that’s true, in which we talked about my fanfic.
ELM: Yeah, I mean, I think that undersells it. That makes it sound incredibly boring. [FK laughs]
FK: We talked about a lot of things that were not my fanfic.
ELM: We picked up on a thread from the last episode about your changing attitudes towards your own fanfiction, and we’re gonna be recording a second one where you grill me.
FK: That’s true and I’m really excited about it, and in order to listen to those you have to be a patron, so this is all relevant.
ELM: $3 patron.
FK: $3 patron. Yes. If you don’t have any money to kick our way, which we understand some people may not, or may not want to, you can still support us by rating us on iTunes. We believe we deserve five stars, you can give us however much of a rating you think that we deserve. That really helps us get the word out about the show. You can also share things that we post on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, et cetera.
And speaking of those things, on Twitter we are @fansplaining, Facebook fansplaining, Tumblr, fansplaining, our ask box is open, anon is on on Tumblr, so please ask us a question. You can also communicate with us through email, fansplaining at gmail.com. We always love listener letters, and in fact our next episode is going to be a letterbox episode! So get ’em in.
ELM: Yeah! So the very best way to contact us is definitely fansplaining at gmail.com, or to leave us a voicemail the number is on our Tumblr. If you get our questions in within the first few days of this episode coming out, that”ll be in time for us to include them in “Ask Fansplaining Anything: Part Two.”
FK: All right, I think that that’s it. Is there anything else?
ELM: No, I think that’s it.
FK: In that case, I will see you next time, Elizabeth.
ELM: OK bye Flourish!
[Outro music, thank yous and credits]