Episode 84: Purity Culture

 
 
Episode 84’s cover: bottles of pure, clear water.

In Episode 84, “Purity Culture,” Elizabeth and Flourish brace themselves and dive into a topic they’ve been asked about many times before. They define and deconstruct the term, along with the related “antis” and “stans”—who they are, how they behave, and what impact they have on fandom as a whole. They also address listener letters about the monetization of fanfic, new EU copyright law, and their interview with Javier Grillo-Marxuach.

 

Show Notes

[00:00:00] The intro music, as always, is “Awel” by Stefsax, used under a BY-CC license.

[00:02:55] Our special episode “The Lurker” is available to $3/month and up Patrons, so go pledge if you want to listen to it!

[00:07:07] This comic is, as they say, evergreen.

A comic in which a man yells “I DON’T LIKE THING” and an angel bestows on his a written message which simply says “ok.”

[00:08:46] The Archive Of Our Own’s statement about the new EU legislation is here.

[00:09:35] Cory Doctorow’s really good thread about the shortsightedness of EU legislation is here.

[00:11:25] Episode 4, “Buncha Lawyers,” features Heidi Tandy and Betsy Rosenblatt. The episode featuring Sarah Jeong is Episode 25, “Lawsuit at Axanar.”

[00:20:00] Our interstitial music here (and outro music later) is “Credit Roll” by Lee Rosevere, used under a BY-CC license.

[00:22:37] Sorry, not linking to the relevant callout thread. It just doesn’t need to be spread around more.

[00:26:17] Flourish’s Twitter statement about the Cassie Clare Incident is here.

[00:30:33] 

@PopContrarian tweets: “85% of @fansplaining: Flourish: I don’t disagree with you… Elizabeth: It’s fine… Reliably and delightfully.”

[00:42:33] Episode 29, “Shipping and Activism.”

[00:46:46] “Stan” is also arguably from Eminem’s “Stan,” about an obsessed fan.

[00:48:57] The male celebrity in question is Armie Hammer, the journalist is Anne Helen Petersen, and you can read about what happened in this Daily Dot article.

[00:52:11] Lilah’s letter, which we discussed on-air in Episode 81can be read here.

[00:56:32] That “lovely, very very long” cartoon is from Akimbo Comics.

[00:57:56] “The Reylo Episode” is Episode 66, “The Humanizing Turn.”


Transcript

[Intro music]

Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish.

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

ELM: This is Episode 84, “Purity Culture.”

FK: You asked, we answered.

ELM: [laughs] Oh, man. We just had a 15 minute debate about whether we should call it “Purity Culture.” If you’re familiar with that term, hopefully it gives you an indication about how fraught this topic is and how fraught the term is, I think, too.

FK: Yeah. If you’ve never heard the term, then congratulations and buckle up. But before we get there, I think we shouldn’t even get into it yet. I think we should start off because we’ve got a couple letters in the letter box and I think we should answer them before we dive into anything.

ELM: I think before that we should let everyone know that I am sick and I apologize for my probably very congested-sounding voice.

FK: [laughs] It’s true, you're being a champ to even record this right now.

ELM: Cool, I said it out loud so I could get sympathy, so thank you.

FK: OK. Well, my sympathy is with you. Because you’re sick, do you want me to read the letters?

ELM: Yeah, I was gonna force you to do that, so thank you for volunteering. Please do. Also I think you’re a better letter-reader than I am.

FK: Thank you! I think you’re a better letter-responder than I am, so it works out!

ELM: Oh wow. [laughing]

FK: OK, let me read the first one.

“Hello Flourish and Elizabeth! I listened to your discussion on why it is common to ask money for fanart but not fanfiction. I’m not sure people value art more than words, I believe it’s just a lot easier for both creator and consumer to put a monetary value to fanart. 

“As someone how drew fanart once, I would feel perfectly comfortable making art for money. If you make illustrations it is ordinary to be commissioned, often the process of making the drawing won’t take huge amounts of time, therefore you can be paid an decent amount per hour spent, without the customer having to pay more than they can afford. I imagine it would be difficult to do something similar for fiction, unless the writer is really good at writing short contained fiction. One customer buying a book is not expecting to pay for all the hours an author puts into writing it. The publishing industry creates an elaborate way for the audience to pay for a book’s production communally. Some fanfiction authors allow you to donate them money, which could be a way of paying as a community. I think if an donation option was integrated into AO3 it would probably be more common to ask for and give money for fanfiction, but it might also keep some readers away, and make some authors feel undervalued in new ways.

“I enjoy your podcast a lot! Best, Mathilde. P.S., on a side note, I would love it if you did an episode on lurkers, as I am one myself and find I gain a lot specifically from not participating publicly, and suspect that many people have many reasons for not being public participants.”

ELM: OK first of all, P.S., we just did an episode about lurking! But it was a special episode.

FK: It’s true. And it was mostly about your lurking.

ELM: To be fair. It wasn’t “a panel of lurkers give their diverse opinions on lurking.”

FK: Although that would be an interesting conversation actually, because lurking by definition isn’t something that you hear much about. So.

ELM: I don’t know how we would do that, but if that ever… [laughs] came to be an option for us…but you know, as a reminder, if you are a $3-or-more patron, you have access to all the special episodes, and the last one is literally called “The Lurker.” And it’s a subject I’m sure we’ll touch on again, or focus on again in future. Probably for a general episode at some point.

FK: No no, now that it’s occurred to me that we could possibly go find other lurkers and make them de-lurk [laughing] I’m excited!

ELM: Wow, that sounds a little nonconsensual, Flourish. At this moment, at this pivotal moment… 

FK: Oh great. OK. [ELM laughs] But what about the other things Mathilde said, OK? You work in book publishing, is this how book publishing works??

ELM: Well, I don’t really work in book publishing. I work in book criticism.

FK: OK you’re right, you don’t actually work in book publishing at all. [laughing] But you know more about it than I do, so it’s the same thing to me.

ELM: As a book journalist though, which is not the same thing as criticism, I guess I do know some things about the industry. Sure. But that’s also not necessarily how most art is paid for in the non fanart space. For example, a comics artist is a similar payment model to a…hmm, well, it’s not quite the same thing as a novelist, but it’s a similar payment model maybe to someone who’s writing a tie-in novel. A Doctor Who comics artist…are there Doctor Who comics?

FK: I’m sure there are.

ELM: A Marvel comics artist? [laughing] A Doctor Who tie-in novel, whatever, you’re a contract worker. You’re paid for your art. For visual art in a museum, it’s not like…I don’t even know. Some wealthy person, historically obviously in the Renaissance you’d have patrons, and people would commission specific works of art, but…it’s a little weird now because visual art is I think, it’s very fragmented, what is visual art and not. In a world outside of fanart too.

FK: Well certainly all the people I know who have gallery representation, for instance, they make a bunch of art on spec and then they do sell it to individuals, but it’s similar to if you were a short story writer and you were gonna sell your stories to different places. You write it on spec and then you sort of place them places.

ELM: That’s actually a really good analogy. The model for short story…the very lucrative world of short story writing [FK laughs] is not that people will be buying your story individually but that it will wind up in a place where potentially, if I’ve placed my story in the New Yorker, millions of people will see it. If I sell my work of art to a gallery…probably not millions of people. If my work winds up in the MoMA millions of people will see it.

FK: Yeah, or if you sell it to a collector, then it will be in their house and since they’re probably pretty wealthy a bunch of people will see it. [laughing]

ELM: Millions of people comin’ through!

FK: Whatever, hundreds.

ELM: Right, I just feel like it’s a thoughtful letter, but I remain unconvinced that there isn’t a double standard. That was a lot of negatives piled on top of negatives. But I believe there is still a double standard, or two different rules, for visual art and written art in the fan world. I think that writing is devalued! I think that people…writing is devalued outside the fan world. This isn’t something unique to fandom! I think I said it on the podcast before, but I remember this tweet will haunt me forever, that was like…it says something about our society that people are more willing to pay for a greeting card than they are for a novel. You pay $7.99 for your freakin’ Papyrus birthday card or whatever and you’re having a fit because you have to pay more than $3.99 for…and don't give me the cost of materials for the Papyrus card! You think it took thousands of hours for someone to create that card? As opposed to writing a novel? A novel! Ugh. Those are my feelings.

FK: OK.

ELM: [laughs] Do you have any disagreement with you?

FK: I don’t, I don’t. I was not trying to channel the angel saying “OK.” [ELM laughs] Yeah, OK! I guess I feel like there is something to the idea that at least within fandom it’s normal to commission an artist and feel like you’re paying them one-to-one for the hours of work they’ve put in. I don’t think it’s broadly normalized, but I do think that within fandom that’s relatively normal.

ELM: I think that’s pretty new.

FK: I’m not saying it's not new. I’m saying I do think that’s more normal in fandom, but I don’t think that says anything about the way that came to be.

ELM: No.

FK: At all.

ELM: All right. Well, we’ll be continuing to discuss this topic until the end of time or the end of this podcast, genuinely, it’ll never… 

FK: It’ll never end.

ELM: But I feel like, there was another letter that was along these same monetization of fanworks lines. Hook me up.

FK: OK. “Hi, Elizabeth and Flourish! I was wondering if you could talk about how the new E.U. copyright restrictions could affect the debate on whether fanfic writers should be paid for their work. The new E.U. laws threaten all content that’s not protected by fair use. AO3 released a statement that because of this (and the fact that AO3 is a nonprofit organization), their site shouldn’t be affected.

“However, the fact that fanfic already occupies a legal grey zone is making a lot of people nervous, and fanfic becoming more commercialized potentially opens fic up to getting taken down for infringement. These laws could potentially escalate the debate to new extremes because now the continued existence of fanfic on the internet could be at stake. Maybe I’m catastrophizing, but this is definitely a period of uncertainty, and I wanted to know if you guys had any thoughts on this development. Thanks, Jin.”

ELM: Thanks, Jin! I’ll say it first. I think this kind of is catastrophizing.

FK: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s worth it to be concerned, because the new laws are really bad, but I don’t think it’s enforceable actually.

ELM: So can we summarize it, basically there’s going to be…can you summarize it?

FK: The E.U. passed laws that require there to be basically massively more copyright enforcement online. Which is supposed to depend on things like filters.

ELM: Yeah, automated things.

FK: Automated things.

ELM: Which is gonna screw over…I think it was Heidi, our friend Heidi who commented to me, she was like “The same authors…” cause I was saying I can’t believe, so many creators, I think a lot of small and medium creators were lobbying for this, saying “we wanna protect our work,” and Heidi was like “Well, when their own stuff gets taken down…” cause it falls afoul of these automated filters, then they’re really gonna regret. And there was a really good thread from Cory Doctorow right after this came down, talking about how shortsighted this is and how anti-, it's against the spirit of artistic creation, but also…I don’t know. Just. You know.

FK: I do know. The thing that I would say is, I have absolutely no faith that these filters are going to work in any way, shape, or form. And I think that they will be easy to get around, ultimately, I think that people will figure out ways to get around them, and I think that they will take down things from people who don’t know how to get around them. And I think it’s all going to be a big mess, and I think ultimately it’s gonna mean that the law is unenforceable. I’m not a lawyer, though, and I think we should actually talk to a lawyer. [laughing]

ELM: Yeah, I would love to get a lawyer to talk about this.

FK: To help us understand what this is.

ELM: That being said, it's funny to read this letter after reading one about how people don’t wanna pay for fic, or whatever. Because I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say, sure, increasingly monetized in the fanfiction world, sure. From almost nothing to a tiny tiny percentage. I think that we’re a very long way from, especially in the AO3 world, I think the Wattpad space is pretty murky. Somewhat by design, in terms of where those lines are, what they’re doing, the kind of deals they’re cutting.

FK: Right. And I do think that even in the areas that I’ve seen where there’s the most monetization, where everyone seems to have a coffee, er, Ko-Fi account, that’s not directly tied to any individual fanfic usually. And so there is monetization in the sense that people are certainly tipping people for the fanfic they’re writing, but it’s not the same direct payment for services… 

ELM: Selling my story, yeah.

FK: Anyway, we should talk to a lawyer about this. Let’s have an episode where we have a lawyer on to talk about this.

ELM: Yeah. If anyone hasn't listened to the full back catalog, our fourth episode we had Betsy Rosenblatt and Heidi Tandy, who we just mentioned, who are both copyright lawyers, right? Betsy is as well? From OTW Legal.

FK: Yep, and then later on we had Sarah Jeong on talking about fan films and copyright.

ELM: Sarah Jeong, who is not a lawyer but is a legal journalist, I believe, right?

FK: I believe she is a lawyer as well. She went to law school, I’m pretty sure.

ELM: Sorry Sarah! I just know her as a journalist, so. Talking about that with the Axanar/Star Trek/Paramount lawsuit. But obviously legal stuff is both interesting to us and important to a lot of fanworks, so we should have yet another lawyer come on.

FK: Cool. More lawyers!

ELM: Yeah, more lawyers.

FK: All right. We’ve got one more ask to answer. It’s actually not an ask, it’s an email, but you know.

ELM: Hook me up.

FK: OK. “Hi Elizabeth and Flourish, I just finished listening to your conversation with Javier Grillo-Marxuach! It was really thought-provoking, literally—I have a lot of thoughts about the Bury Your Gays trope, and about this glimpse of the other side of it. 

“I never watched The 100, but it's impossible to exist as a queer fan on Tumblr and not know about what happened in at least the barest terms; Javier’s perspective on it confirmed what I’ve always suspected. Nobody actively or maliciously intends for offensive/homophobic/upsetting things to happen, and there are so many people involved at varying levels of power that I can see how it’s never one single person's fault. It’s the bubble, as Javier said—everyone working on a show being inside that bubble of ‘artistic vision,’ and nobody thinking terrifically hard about how the choices made in the bubble will affect and appear to all the fans on the outside.

“Still, this seems backward to me. Television is, by definition, entertainment. Shouldn’t somebody at least be trying to think about the viewers’ perspective? That’s a slippery slope for sure, and I don’t mean to say that media creators should do whatever fans ask for or think they want. But to be so isolated as to know this problem existed, press on anyway, and get to the point of releasing that episode without actually considering how bad it would be is baffling to me. Individuals make mistakes, say hurtful things sometimes, or do things without thinking. Huge production entities are not individuals; they should be diverse enough to have voices who do hear that storyline idea or read that script and say, ‘hey, this is really the most hurtful way this could be done, maybe we should reconsider.’

“In the end, I think I believe that though it’s no single person's fault when a lesbian character is killed off in a supremely disrespectful way, and it’s not intentional or malicious, there’s a larger blame to place on a system that privileges cis, straight, white, and male voices over others at every level of power, a system that gives those voices the confidence to plow forward blithely en masse, without considering or understanding the consequences.

“Thanks as always for the great work you do. Love, Rachel.”

ELM: Aw. Rachel’s a good letter writer! Rachel wrote a letter in our last one too. Thank you for your letters, Rachel!

FK: It was great!

ELM: This one though is interesting to me, because I actually feel like it kind of answers itself a little bit in the final paragraph when it talks about, you know, you spend the first few paragraphs talking about individual responsibility and action versus collective, “Why can’t collective groups actually do this?” But then the final paragraph situates it within systemic structures. And that’s why. it's the structures! You know what I mean?

FK: Totally.

ELM: Am I articulating this well? That’s it! That’s it.

FK: Yeah. There are structures of power that make it so that it is easier for problematic things to make it all the way to the end than anything else, and that shoot down people’s critiques, and that make the whole thing go this way. 

I think that the other thing is that on the one hand, it’s true that production companies are not individuals. There’s a lot of people there, so you would think someone would raise this issue. But as Javier said, people did raise the issue! Right? They talked about it the writers’ room, they argued about it, there wasn’t enough…whatever. It got argued around and discussed and they thought that they’d found a solution, and then, OK, now once the scripts are written, you’re out of the writers’ room and you go on to being shot…at what point after that is there any way that it can get shot down? Right? At that point you’ve got the entire mechanism.

So all the way up it takes a huge amount to pull something once it gets past that initial script stage. By then you’ve got all this stuff invested in it. Not that things don’t change all the time, cause they do, but you’ve got a lot of stuff invested especially in complex plot threads. It's sort of like there’s this giant machine with all these gears. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other people later on who saw these same problems, but were like a pebble trying to turn the tide.

ELM: Sure. A different kind of structural…it’s all structures.

FK: Exactly. It’s structures all the way down. [laughs]

ELM: It’s a tricky question too because there’s also going to be a diversity of opinions on what’s good writing, what’s good storytelling. I don't think you can say “why aren’t you thinking about the audience” because there’s also different audiences. There’s no audience, singular. Or audience as a collective, always. Not that any, it didn’t seem like audiences were clamoring for this to happen or anything! But I often feel like there are a lot of decisions that get made in television writing, of which this is one of them, when you’re dealing with a bunch of straight characters, fridging happens constantly. Television writers still continue to do what I think of as cheap deaths for emotional impact.

Clearly these are working for someone! [laughs] Not me! Maybe that someone is your typical, you know, television writer in Hollywood. You know what I mean? So we could be fed up with this kind of thing even when we’re talking about straight characters only. I’m not defending this writing in any way, but I’m also saying it’s never gonna be black-and-white binary, this is right or wrong decision, for everyone. Cause I bet there are still people involved in that who think “I don’t see what the big deal was.”

FK: I’m sure.

ELM: And they’ll think about, “I’m sorry you feel bad,” that’s the way they'll frame it. “It was only a mistake because we made people mad.” Obviously Javier, I think that was not his feeling at all, I think he genuinely regrets it and made that quite clear, but I think at this moment when you see people’s apology tours for shit and you can tell some of these people are just not getting why people are hurt or offended by stuff…people have different backgrounds and they have different opinions of what’s offensive, what’s not, what’s hurtful, what’s not, et cetera et cetera. Do you know what I mean?

FK: Yeah. When I think about the ways that this could go differently, the only things that I can think about are getting more people not just into individual positions of power—because that suggests that having one person in a position of power is gonna solve everything, and it’s not—but having a broader diversity in general of people at every level. And even then, I think these things are still gonna happen sometimes! Because the thing is that people make…individuals would still make these mistakes sometimes, even with the best will and the most understanding, people make mistakes all the time like that.

And it only gets harder when you have such a large group of people trying to work together to make something. I actually think it’s a downside to have a large group of people making something in this way, cause an individual can go around and get lots of opinions, but when it’s a large group of people it’s harder to come to a conclusion and come to the right one, you know.

ELM: Cool, that’s a very depressing answer.

FK: Sorry, sorry.

ELM: You know, my cynical take, to wrap it up, [laughs] is thinking about my cynical read of some people who probably…may not necessarily be involved with that, but any of the queer female deaths from that whole cycle, all the women on television, if the response was “I don’t think I did anything wrong, but I think that the bad PR was reason enough not to do it,” the cynical read on that is “Cool, that means they’re not gonna do it again.”

FK: I think that is a perfectly fine read!!

ELM: CYNICAL.

FK: Look. I don’t need your good action to be motivated by anything good. I just need you to take good action. That’s my feeling.

ELM: This brings us back to the capitalism thing too. It’s like, if the reason you’re making more diverse media is cause you wanna cash in on that diverse audience, all right, whatever! Cool, you’re still doing it, right?

FK: Yep, exactly!

ELM: As we’ve seen, amongst some of our lawmakers, words are meaningless and actions are the only things that matter. This is being recorded at a time of extreme strife!

FK: Yes, hooray! Let’s never talk about this, I want to die. We don’t need to talk about that. [ELM laughing] No. Thank you for bringing that in. I need a little break right now before we get on to the main part of our episode. Let’s take a very short break.

ELM: OK, see you in a little bit!

[Interstitial music]

ELM: We have returned!

FK: [laughs] Thanks for makin’ that weird!

ELM: And we are ready to talk about another fraught topic!

FK: Yeah, yeah! So the way that we got onto this fraught topic…which just makes me think about Hot Topic for whatever reason.

ELM: Fraught Topic.

FK: Fraught Topic, right, Fraught Topic, the Hot Topic for your 30s. [ELM laughs] It’s full of Eileen Fisher and uncomfortable conversations.

ELM: Oh man. Flourish, I’ll have you know I shop at Loft, not Eileen Fisher. It’s a different aesthetic. Ann Taylor Loft factory store: cannot recommend highly enough. If you need… 

FK: The difference between you and me.

ELM: …mix and match separates, and you work in an office, get in there, great deals.

FK: Great. [laughs]

ELM: Yeah, cause you’re a California mom, that’s the difference between us!

FK: I am totally a California mom. But the reason we got onto this topic was because of things that happened many years ago when I was not a California mom and how they came back to haunt me.

ELM: When you were a California preteen.

FK: Teen.

ELM: Just on the cusp of teenhood. Yes. Say more.

FK: OK. Well… 

ELM: Don’t go back to then, talk about what happened just now.

FK: I won’t go back to then. I was hanging out on Twitter, like you do… 

ELM: Wow this story is a slow start. [long pause]

FK: …and someone linked me… [ELM laughing]

ELM: Sorry! [laughing]

FK: …to this Twitter post in which someone was like, “Fuck Cassie Clare,” Cassandra Clare, the YA novelist, “because she doxxed a preteen girl and called her mom and ratted her out about all the stuff she was doing on the internet.”

ELM: To be clear, wasn’t this one bullet point in a long list?

FK: A long list of all the many things that people have accused Cassandra Clare of doing over the years.

ELM: Which I would describe as…it was a callout thread.

FK: Yeah.

ELM: But callout, if you don’t spend time on Twitter or Tumblr, Tumblr in particular where callouts…though I feel like callout culture on Tumblr really peaked a few years ago and now it’s kind of evolved into something out. You’d post something and you’d say… 

FK: So-and-so sucks because of X, Y and Z.

ELM: This is a callout for…they once did this, they once did this…I have the receipts, and here’s the proof that they did this, this, this, and this is why they’re canceled. But this was on Twitter. This was a long list. And this was one item.

FK: A long long list.

ELM: One item just in vague enough terms saying, once doxxed preteen girl, called her mom, that’s that.

FK: Right. And what was interesting about that was that I looked at that and I knew from the way that this rumor has developed over the course of many years that the preteen girl in question is actually me. Me, 20 years ago. [laughs] Because I’ve followed the different ways that this rumor has gotten passed around Tumblr, and has been, you know, gone everywhere. And like most rumors, it starts from a seed of truth, in that I was a preteen person and Cassie Clare definitely had at least one conversation with my mother. [laughs]

ELM: OK, but the context for this was you were a preteen amongst adults.

FK: Yes. And… 

ELM: Founding FictionAlley, right, you were involved in this community of Harry Potter fans in the early 2000s… 

FK: Mm-hmm. And here;s the thing. The way that I met Cassie was a I wrote a really negative review of “Draco Dormiens,” her famous Harry Potter fanfic.

ELM: Cool, good job.

FK: So when we initially met I had critiqued her publicly on the internet.

ELM: And you were like 12? That's really good.

FK: For among other things, I think, bad use of semicolons? I had a lot of really nitpicky grammar-y things. It was all very silly.

ELM: You were a terrible 12-year-old. That’s awful.

FK: She was like 23 or something. Anyway. So we had met this way, and so some people I guess maybe think that that meant that we still hated each other later, but we didn’t? I was sort of publicly not into her fic, and then we were working together to found this fanfic archive, because it’s possible to work with people whose fic you don’t like, it turns out, to found a fanfic archive. And because of doing all this, there was a bunch of legal stuff, and so the adults involved wanted to talk to my mom to make sure it was OK that I was taking part in this project. Right? So yes, I gave them my dox so that they could call my mom and confirm that it was OK! [laughing]

ELM: You doxxed yourself!

FK: I doxxed myself.

ELM: Actually known as giving someone your contact information.

FK: Yeah, known as telling someone they can give you a phone call. [all laughing] So anyway, this is how that started and it was weird because I got this and I was like…“OK.” This was tied into a big blow-up around the current state of Shadowhunters fandom. It was getting passed around enough that I felt like morally I was obligated to say something. Before it was always like…there are always people grumbling about how they don’t like Cassie and I don’t really want to get involved, but this time it was on this big list, and it was a big deal, and one of the producers for the new Shadowhunters series got their car vandalized, their physical actual car? It was turning into a big thing. So I was like “OK, I gotta say something. I need to be clear that this is not a thing.”

ELM: All other critiques aside, and I feel like with Cassie Clare it’s some combination of things that she did or is reported to have done as a fanfiction writer or in fandom, and then all mixed up with people’s opinions about her as a professional author, and also then it gets jumbled up with people’s opinions about her work. Mostly her professional work, Mortal Instruments, Shadowhunters, that big series.

FK: Anyway, so it was just weird. It was this stuff from 20 years ago coming back, so I wrote something on Twitter and I was like “Hey guys, I don’t wanna get involved with any of the rest of this, but this is untrue and here’s why and I'm happy to provide proof, and if you want I can get my mom to talk to the internet and tell them that this was not a thing,” [laughing] and it got passed around like another piece of ammo in this war. It was very strange. I had all of these people who were big fans of Cassie coming and being like “Look! The girl who got doxxed came up and slapped the antis down!” And I was like, “Ooh, that’s a whole thing! This is so strange!” And it was just like this weird morass where there's all these people who I’m not sure were even born when this happened arguing about this thing? I don’t know.

ELM: Or people who were quite young if they hadn’t been born yet. Because we’re talking about 17, 18 years ago right? Oh, Flourish, you’re old.

FK: I know. And then the thing that really brought this over into the purity culture side though is, and I’m not sure that this is the right tag, but there are elements of questions about what is good representation in Shadowhunters, good representation in Cassie's work, and so those things which seemed to be all related…which I think we talk about as, purity culture isn’t the word, but there’s debates about representation all this stuff, getting mixed in with this old fandom drama, and both those things being sort of used as sticks to beat people with.

ELM: Sure. I think…yeah. When we discussed this before this episode, we wanted to talk about purity culture and anti culture for a long time, one of my hesitations with wanting to discuss this—and I while I did want to discuss it—is it does seem like a tenuous leap. And it's worth actually mentioning that as opposed to barreling on through.

FK: They’re different phenomena that often co-present.

ELM: One of the things I think is relevant is the conflation, what I was just saying in terms of mixing up people’s personal histories or beliefs about a creator, whether that’s a fanfiction writer or the creator of a professional work that you are engaged with, mixing that up with your feelings about fictional characters. I think that’s where a lot of the battlegrounds within these conversations happen when all of that gets jumbled together. Not even jumbled, but sometimes conflated.

Why don’t we pause, since we’ve foregrounded our worries about the tenuous connection here, and actually try to define what we mean? Actually I’m curious if we actually agree on everything, with saying what anti culture means, what purity culture means. These are two terms which are really popular, those two are popular on Tumblr. Anti I see on Twitter as well. Twitter I also see a lot of the use of “stan culture,” which I think has some interplay in this too? So it might be worth defining that.

FK: Right. OK.

ELM: Kind of the flip side? OK. So start with purity culture. How would you define that in the Year of our Lord 2018 on Tumblr dot com? [FK laughs] The blue hellscape?

FK: I think of purity culture as people becoming far overly concerned with the media that they consume or the creators of the media they consume being correct and perfect and holding good beliefs, whatever “good beliefs” mean to a person, and requiring that all of this is always the case all of the time. Or else they find that person to be bad and wrong and, or that thing. So the idea that either something is pure and good and true and it represents everything good, and it doesn’t have any problematic representation, and it uplifts the right people, and it dislikes the right people, and all of this, or that thing is totally tainted and canceled and fuck it forever.

ELM: Right. So to clarify about “correct,” you mean morally correct, not like… 

FK: Yes. Morally correct.

ELM: Not like, I don't know, “He thought the aliens were gonna invade AND THEY DID” correct. Right?

FK: Right. Morally correct.

ELM: Morally correct. So I think I don’t dis…I’m stealing your line now. I don’t disagree with you. [FK laughs] We were called out, rightly so. What was mine? “It’s fine.” I say “it’s fine” all the time in a resigned way.

FK: And I always say “I don’t disagree with you, but.” [ELM laughs] But I do think there’s something important, people will be like “purity culture is a problem” and they’ll use an example of, like, somebody calling out garden-variety racism or something like that. Calling out an instance of racism is not purity culture to me. To me it’s the black-or-white thinking, the complete…things are either 100% great or they’re 100% bad, that is the hallmark of purity culture.

ELM: Yeah. I see some false equivalencies and straw men get invoked when sometimes, I wanna expand on your definition a little bit. Within purity culture there’s an idea that, it’s such a broad term and it’s not…these are just our perceptions, I think we should clarify, I’m not sure that if you got 10 people in a room who spend a lot of time on Tumblr and are familiar with this term, I’m not 100% sure that we would have completely…we would have probably overlapping definitions, but I’m not sure that we would be in total agreement. 

I’m also not sure that a lot of people who participate in this in the sense of instigating call-outs or cancellations as they were would embrace this term. I don’t think that people are necessarily, who are saying “the stuff you like is immoral, so you are wrong and bad,” I don’t think they like to say “I love purity culture.”

FK: No, this is entirely something used from other people.

ELM: So take that with a grain of salt, because we are the ones who are framing it that way, right? We are the ones who are frustrated with this kind of line of rhetoric on social media, and again I don’t want to frame it in some sort of binary black-and-white “everything they’re talking about is wrong and everything…” 

FK: Right, because among other things… 

ELM: “Everyone opposing them is right…”

FK: Among other things there's all sorts of stuff, the term purity culture can itself become a stick to beat someone with and be like “No, you should stop worrying about lesbian death on The 100! That’s purity culture!”

ELM: “Why are you so obsessed with purity culture!”

FK: “Why are you so obsessed with purity culture and not having lesbians die—” No! But that's not the question! And where does it tip over, obviously. Where does it go from being really concerned with good representation into like, you know, what I consider to be a spiral of doom into “Things must be…”

ELM: “No character of X marginalization can be depicted in A, B and C ways,” et cetera. To further expand on the way this often gets invoked, this is the thing that I think we’ve discussed at least in passing before: there’s a big, big line of rhetoric about censorship, or rather…that was a very loaded way for me to phrase it. I think there’s just a lot of discussion about what people should be allowed to write. This was, we’re talking about fanfiction, fan art. Not just allowed to write, but allowed to think about in the shipping conversation, as well. You’ll get things that are illegal. Again, not illegal—murder, I feel it’s safe to say, illegal everywhere?

FK: No one has a problem with you writing about murder!

ELM: That's interesting, right? Yeah. Things I think get zeroed in on, and the definitions of which get warped a lot are pedophilia, underage—age gaps, first of all, when two characters are of age and would be of age anywhere in the world. Obviously the age of consent varies a good deal throughout the world, in some places it’s 14, in some places it’s 18. That’s a good span of adolescence, and that’s complicated! And there are different cultural factors where people determine that, right? So underage characters. Pedophilia, by definition, we ought to slap a content warning on this episode. Just say these words over and over again. It gets invoked constantly, even though the technical definition is an adult who has interest in… 

FK: Prepubescent children.

ELM: Prepubescent children, which is not to erase any… 

FK: Which is not to erase the fact that adults can have creepy and terrible relationships with… 

ELM: Sixteen-year-olds.

FK: Sixteen-year-olds!

ELM: Just to be clear.

FK: That’s definitely a thing!

ELM: Right. But that’s the one that gets fixated on. Incest gets fixated on. Even when you have stuff like Wincest, right, the Supernatural brothers, when you have people writing AUs where they’re no longer brothers, the fact that they’re canonically brothers, et cetera.

FK: Heck, look, I’ve been having a front seat to this because of all the Reylo stuff, even though for a while they weren’t canonically known to be related to each other or not, and now that they’re known not to be related to each other, there’s still people going “it’s still incestuous!” How? I don’t know! Apparently.

ELM: I have seen people argue “Well, they’re such good friends they’re like brothers, so it’s basically incest.”

FK: Yeah it’s weird. Things get real… 

ELM: Language has no meaning any more. I really don’t understand. And to be clear, that kind of thing gets invoked when you don’t like that ship, right? Because if there’s two characters and they’re friends, close close friends… 

FK: And you like the ship…they’re obviously boinking.

ELM: Right? Yes. But if it’s made quite clear, they show their different sets of parents on the show…I don’t know how to make it any more clear to you, they are not actually related. And so you can spin up whatever headcanon you want, but you could also say “In my head, that guy is a murderer, so that’s not a good relationship.” Sure, you could do whatever you want to try to say…but it’s just this idea of, it’s not enough…it’s the flip side of the shipping and activism thing, saying “My ship is good because it’s great for gay representation.” The flip side of it is to say “Your ship is bad, because.”

FK: This is where we get into anti culture, right? Which to me is people who become really obsessed with hating, usually a particular pairing or ship, and then it’s not just that they don’t like that pairing or ship and want to talk about not liking it, or make fun of it or whatever. That’s been a long-standing thing. But going beyond this into “…and by the way, people who like this pairing or ship are in support of incest and they’re racists and they’re…” listing all these moral failures that attach to anyone who likes or thinks about this ship. In addition to critiquing the ship for being bad for whatever reason and so on. Really going all the way to that extreme. To me a lot of anti culture is related to purity culture because it’s like, “Obviously every instance of this ship existing must be evil, and you’re evil too for liking it.”

ELM: Right. I think that the term “anti” has kind of morphed into something even beyond that. It has kind of detached itself from individual anti ships.

FK: Mm, that’s true.

ELM: You see people on Tumblr who define themselves as “antis.” And a lot of the time what that means is people who are really invested in this, “if you write fiction about it that means you support it in your life, you should not be allowed to write about certain things or think about certain things,” and this is why I've tried to invoke the mid-century morality trials, basically, in literature. The famous D.H. Lawrence and things like that, right.

FK: People who identify as antis are probably relating it in their mind to anti-fascists, right, because that’s another way of saying “I’m against this thought process, I’m against this way of thinking about the world.”

ELM: Oh Flourish, you just made it so complicated.

FK: I know, isn’t that awful and hard? When I look at, when I think about the way…if I were a person who identified myself as an anti, what would I be thinking about?

ELM: Oh my God. Why did you have to just bring up anti-fascists. [laughing]

FK: Because this is a really complicated issue and we can’t make it less complicated, we can only make it more complicated? [laughing]

ELM: That’s the thing, it’s like, there’s a difference between fiction and nonfiction! If you are a fascist… 

FK: I agree! I agree!

ELM: If you are a fascist in your real life, you don’t just say…sure you could just say you’re a fascist and not actually believe it. But if you’re a fascist it basically means you espouse a certain set of beliefs and you are planning on acting on them. So anti-fascists believe…I can’t believe I’m going into this right now. You opened this. Do you wanna connect those two things? I think there’s a massive difference between that and writing fiction!

FK: I agree!

ELM: Just like you said, people don’t go after people who write about murderers! Or people who commit non-sexual violence.

FK: This is exactly what I think is the complicated thing here, because I think that people struggle, many people struggle with that question of when is speech…this is fictional speech, this is…when do you tip over into that space where you are talking about enacting this? What is…and I don’t, I mean, I certainly am not in support of limiting what people can do fictionally, but I think I would feel differently about a novel written by somebody who I thought was a rapist that was about rape. Who I believed to be a rapist, about rape. Right?

If I believed that I don’t know, dude X had raped a bunch of women, and dude X wrote a novel about rape, I would feel something about that novel. Now, do I intuit back, do I read a novel with rape in it and think “Dude X must be a rapist”? No, but I think some people do. And I think that that’s what they’re operating off of.

ELM: Right. But inherent in that, and we’re talking about the fandom question, is people…I guess taking it in bad faith. Because I don’t know how often can you listen to people saying “this is just fiction.”

FK: Agreed.

ELM: You’ll see people saying I was the victim of abuse, I was the victim of this traumatic thing, so you can’t write about it. Despite all of the, I think fandom is much better than the rest of the world at labeling content and being quite sensitive. Obviously there’s, in AO3 there’s “choose not to warn,” and you literally have to broadcast that you’re actively opting out of that choice. And then if you have triggers… 

FK: Right. Not every depiction is in itself a sensitive depiction for everyone, but it is at least labeled so you know what you’re embarking on.

ELM: Right. So then you get in response, people saying “Well, I write about trauma, I write about abuse, because I was the victim of abuse and I wanna process it that way.” And it’s like, you so rarely then have people coming back and saying “Oh, if that’s what works for you.” There’s so little empathy involved there. Or the idea of, that could actually be a way for someone to process something. The assumption that writing about it means that you want to enact it? As opposed to maybe you’re writing about something that happened to you?

FK: Right. There’s also just complexities around this, right? So within…I’ve seen antis harassing Reylos and the Reylos are people who are into Reylo… 

ELM: Gonna make this about Reylos all the time.

FK: Well, yeah, but it’s just cause I have a lot of examples of it right now.

ELM: Sure, sure, your problematic ship, Flourish.

FK: It is my problematic ship. So I’ve seen antis harassing Reylos saying they’re racist, and the Reylo is like “Well, I’m not white and I also don’t live in the United States, so…” Now by the way, I’m not saying that doesn’t mean that people don’t have internalized ideas about who are the heroes of stories or any of this. These are all reasons why I think Reylo as a ship is interesting to people, but it’s like…that nuance is just impossible. It’s either “you are a horrible racist” or “you are a good and pure person.” And it goes both directions too.

ELM: So one thing that I think is worth mentioning about stuff like that, and in both directions, thinking back to the shipping and activism conversation we had with Rukmini Pande and Lori Morimoto, I think it was Episode 29? This was a thousand years ago, I don’t know why that sticks in my mind. And all the conversations we’ve had about race, but not just about race and shipping and fanworks, but also about queer representation or misogyny or any of these things, and I think a lot of our guests when they talk about it make this pretty clear: Individuals, unless you’re writing a ship individually where characters are saying racist things or homophobic things or you’re playing on terrible stereotypes or actually offensive stereotypes, unless you're actually actively doing that, the mere existence of you writing about a male/female ship over a queer ship or an all-white ship over a ship with characters of color, et cetera, the problem doesn't lie in those individual ships but in the broader structures.

It’s that ship on a list of ships where you see where the biases are. It’s impossible to see that in a single ship. Just like I could look at Finn/Poe and say “Cool! People like this, that must mean that fandom is really progressive.” Right? And obviously it’s not! And I could look at Reylo and say, “Aww, fandom just always goes for, of course they like this.” Right? Fans like both of those things. But if you contextualize those in the long long list of white guy ships, you see the clear biases.

FK: And, it also is this structural thing wherein the people who are liking those things are related to the history of how we’re trained to read stories and like things. So it’s much more complicated than an individual’s choice to pick the good thing or the bad thing. That is part of it of course, but what is the good thing? What is the bad thing? How are we trained to like things differently?

ELM: It’s really complicated. It’s funny, I was just listening to a…I’ve actually heard a few people talk about this recently. An anti-racist activist talking about how she wants us to focus less on language. I’ve heard some disability activists talking about this too, and more on structures. This is articulated very well by saying “language is the thing that we feel like is in our control.”

FK: It’s true.

ELM: Structures we feel like we have no control over. I feel like there’s something similar here too. You can say “I hate you and the ship you like,” because you can’t change the broader stuff. And I now feel like we’ve morphed into this conversation in this episode where we’re now talking about structural biases, where we were trying to talk about rhetoric before, but I do feel like there is something about control here overall. Where whether it is a real true genuine critique about…

I’m not gonna sit here and say fandom doesn’t valorize, fans don’t valorize problematic behavior! That fans don’t fetishize abusive relationships! [laughs] I was just reading this very very long and I thought quite well written story about an underage, a big age-gap pairing. And one of the things that was really striking about it was that unlike some of the other ones I’ve read, where you kind of get this vibe where it’s like “It’s OK because it’s the ship”… 

FK: “They love each other so much!”

ELM: “They’re soulmates, so it’s OK, don’t worry about it!” This time the entire time the older one was like, “I should go to jail.” Or, “I belong in jail.” The entire time he was like “This is so wrong.” I was just like, “Yes.” [laughing] You know? 

And just seeing that made me think about all of the times when I did see it, where it was like, you know, you can write whatever you want and you’re not free from critique, but you can write whatever you want. But I’m not gonna sit here and deny the fact that people do sometimes, they’ll say “It’s OK because he really loves him.” And so I just wanna make that really really clear, that I’m not gonna sit here and paint fandom with this beautiful free lovin; brush where I’m like “everything fans do is great!”

FK: This is the point though, everything fans do is not great, everything fans do is not horrible. It’s really hard to live in that grey area. Actually. And this is also part of stan culture, I think that we all… 

ELM: OK, define “stans.”

FK: Stans. People who irrationally completely love something.

ELM: OK. So it comes from… 

FK: In a super big way.

ELM: It comes from a portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan,” but I really feel like it’s evolved out of that, right?

FK: Stanning is like, “My precious baby, can do no wrong,” and it’s idolization. It’s idolizing in this very very classic way, which I know everyone hates to use because we’re all enlightened people who do more complex things. But also sometimes we just idolize someone! And that’s delightful, but… 

ELM: NO! I’m not gonna sit here and stan for stan culture, as they say, because I feel like it’s just…I have a hard time finding a lot of good in a collective group of people who will defend a person in power at the expense of people with less power, which is what you see happening a lot. So… 

FK: Ultimately yeah. What I mean is delightful is the feeling of…I mean, I think we all psychologically, maybe this goes back to back when our parents ideally took care of us, if we had a healthy childhood and we trusted them, or whatever. But I think everybody would love to have someone who you really can trust, who can do no wrong, who is genuinely and 100% there for you. I think a lot of people would love to have that, and for a lot of people their vision of their favorite celebrity or character or author or whoever it is becomes that, which is the classic putting-someone-on-a-pedestal. And they eventually fall off. But in that moment I think it’s very psychologically normal for people to want that and to do that individually. When people come en masse and start doing that? It becomes a big issue, especially if the…idolee? Idolized person? Is fucking up and none of their fans can see it.

ELM: Right. Right. Yeah. exactly. And when I say it’s people collectively attacking a person with less power…to protect someone with more. Who they believe needs protection. A celebrity. So I'm thinking of, you know, a journalist who writes a critical piece about a celebrity…I can think of one male actor who…I don’t know who you’re thinking of right now, but I’m thinking of a particular male actor who’s very thin-skinned and got upset about a celebrity profile last year and all of his stans went after this journalist. She wrote about it recently, so maybe I’ll put it in the show notes, and they were like “You must be jealous of him.” She was like, “He’s an actor and I’m a journalist! Why would I be jealous, jealous of what? We’re doing different things!”

The idea that, sure, there are journalists acting in bad faith who write hit pieces and stuff. But no actor is beyond critique. Obviously you’re not gonna come in here with ad hominem or unfounded attacks or whatever, you deserve to be criticized, but the fact that there are people who will just tear someone apart the second someone says something negative about their fave, it almost always…those parasocial relationships between that collective group and the celebrity are completely, they’re not founded in reality. They’re founded in some sort of often wildly fictional projection, you know. Listen to this person speak for more than two minutes and you’ll realize they’re nothing like this vision of this perfect person you have in your head!

FK: For sure, for sure. I’ve seen the breakdown of a couple of those parasocial relationships, where someone realizes that the thing that they were stanning is not the thing they thought they were stanning. It’s really hard.

ELM: It’s never gonna be! It’s hard if you come from a fan culture too where “fan” usually is much more fascination than frustration. I think it’s easy for us in the frustrated side, professionally frustrated, to be like “Yeah, I love ’em but they’re garbage all the time!” But I think there’s a lot of fans out there who have a really hard time reconciling the fact that someone they idolized is actually not, is someone more nuanced. Someone they can like while still being critical of. That’s really hard for people to do.

FK: And, someone who…I think this also gets into questions of imagined objects in general. So whether you’re looking at it from the positive or the negative side, I don’t wanna bring this back around too much, but back around to Cassie Clare… 

ELM: You’re bringing it all the way around, Flourish!

FK: Something I realized after seeing people’s reactions to this is that in no way was I a real person to anyone involved, or was Cassie a real person, or anyone involved in historical drama to do with Cassie, no one’s an actual individual at that point. They’re all just sort of figures people are using to play out their own worlds, their own concerns with each other. And their own needs. Right? There’s no reason otherwise why 20 years down the line, or instance, people would still be complaining about any of this.

I literally tweeted at one point, “Look, Cassie didn’t dox me, and if she did dox me when I was 13, I would have forgiven her by now because that was a fuckin’ long time ago.” And yet somehow these…I think it’s a case where people are not people at that point. They’re just tools for people's own psychological needs. And that’s weird. [laughs] It's weird!

ELM: So circling it around in a different direction, this conversation’s quite complicated. What about fictional characters?

FK: They were never real to begin with!!

ELM: I know, right? And I’m thinking back to Lilah’s letter in our anniversary episode, too. The behavior that you see around fictional characters, obviously it’s all proxies for people’s individual issues, whether it’s truly in bad faith, where you know what you’re doing and you know deep down that you just hate the idea of these characters together, and much like you might be all for…where you equate shipping and activism, you say “Well, I love them because it’s so politically important,” and that’s your public answer for what deep down is just this id based “THEM. THEM TOGETHER.”

So the flip side of that is “OH GOD, THEM, I HATE THEM.” And so then, you know. There are definitely people out there who are feeling that deeply, but you know you can’t just say “Ugh! I just hate it, it’s gross!” You feel like that’s an unserious reaction. So instead, you need to kind of frame it in a way that says, “Actually, here’s why you’re a monster for liking them.” 

I think that that is less rare, though, than people who…again, on the other side of the coin, where it genuinely is super jumbled and people don’t know how to separate stuff out. So.

FK: I think that the most pervasive thing about this, something that I only just realized as we were talking about this, is that whether it’s a fictional character or a person who you’ll never really personally know, there’s no way to resolve that. So for instance, if I say “I would have forgiven Cassie by now if she had doxed me when I was 13,” I have the power to do that because I know Cassie. Well, I knew her better then than I do now, but regardless, we have a personal relationship, I can say “I forgive you for something you did to me.” Which she didn't do, but regardless. I would have the power in that situation to make those choices. 

But if I’ve never met her, and I’m angry with her for something that she’s done that’s not to me specifically, and we will never have a conversation, there’s no resolution there. I have to find my own resolution to that, whatever reactions I’m having to her. That can only come from me, it’s not a two-way street. It’s nothing that can really be resolved without my own changing. And similarly with a fictional character: if I have strong feelings about the way fictional characters are, I just have to live with that. Or change my thoughts!

ELM: It’s called fanfiction, Flourish!

FK: [laughs] But that's a thing you’re doing on your own, right? It’s a thing you’re doing to resolve it for yourself.

ELM: This is why fanfiction is good! Say my objection to your ship, I hate Reylo, Flourish, [FK laughing] cause I feel like on-screen…I don’t actually know. People find it abusive, but I feel like…I’m still unclear.

FK: Some people feel strongly that Rey hates him and that’s obvious on screen. That she just hates him.

ELM: It’s clearly love-to-hate. I don’t ship this at all but it seems like it’s a hate-fuck situation.

FK: Yes.

ELM: But also I’ve loved multiple enemies-to-lovers ships in my life.

FK: It’s a classic thing, right? People are like “She hates him, so why are you trying to make them fuck.” But.

ELM: First of all, I think we do ourselves a real disservice when we don’t actually tackle any difficult themes in fanfiction, or in fiction in general. I get really frustrated with this line of like, “You should only depict healthy communicative relationships.” “I hate miscommunication.” “That person’s treating this person so terribly in this story.” I’m sorry! You don’t have to read it! You don’t, you know, you don’t have to like it! But I think we do ourselves a real disservice when we try to pretend that isn’t a lot of relationships and interpersonal—people are bad to each other! And I think that, you know me, I completely respect any one who’s like “Life is hard and I want fluff.” But for me, fluff makes me feel worse when I feel life is hard, and I like tragedy. I don’t know why. And I’m not the only one. [FK laughing] I’ve definitely found other people who feel this way, right? I think it’s just personal preference.

FK: I’m with you.

ELM: Yeah. I’m not opposed to fluff but I actually find great solace in… 

FK: Right. The rocks are falling on everyone, it’s not just me.

ELM: Yeah. Genuinely though! Did you see that lovely cartoon about, it was very very long, on Tumblr, about stories and everyone’s making really happy stories, they’re like balloons?

FK: No, I did not see this at all.

ELM: Well, let’s link to it. It’s too long to embed in a Tumblr post cause it’s literally fifteen screens on Tumblr. But I will find it for you and link to it! So OK. OK. I don’t know what my point was. [laughing]

FK: Your point is that you like tragedy, lots of other people do too, purity culture—wait, I’m wrapping this up—purity culture means you can’t write about tragedy because tragedy is about bad things and if you write about bad things you are bad… 

ELM: That’s what I was going for! First of all I think there is great value—again, no one should be forced to read anything they don’t want to or watch anything they don’t want to. I think that it should be, I think it’s polite and decent to label things. Especially if there’s gonna be power imbalances or people being cruel to each other. Sure. Maybe make that clear to people, if that’s not their cup of tea then they shouldn’t be…don’t spring it on them! Don’t be like “This is a really happy time!” and then “Ahh!” Cause that’s cruel.

So first of all, that can be depicted. Second of all, one beautiful thing about fanfiction is you truly have the space to do the work, to actually fix what might be a canonically problematic relationship. Right? So you can have people atone. We talked about this at length in the Reylo episode, the “Humanizing Turn” episode. It doesn’t have to be about shipping. You can show how someone can regret their actions, you can show how someone might not, but still works to be a better person. You can do all this work, you have so much space to do whatever you want, and I feel like some of the purity culture is the same thing we get with this kind of context collapse between different kinds of fan cultures.

So I can say “I ship Reylo”—not me. You can say you ship Reylo, and one thing you love about it is you can really use fanfiction to explore how Kylo Ren can atone. Right? And you can acknowledge that, oh, sure, contextualizing it in broader fandom trends, it is problematic when you just wanna save the white pretty Dark Fuck Prince kind of thing. [FK laughs] Not that I think Kylo Ren is pretty, though I do find Adam Driver compelling. You know what I mean? [FK laughing riotously] This is just a stream of consciousness, I think my medicine might be wearing off. But. But! You could say that! And a person can see Reylo and they won’t be from the kind of culture at all. They might not have anything to do with fanfiction, and they might be like—they only see what’s on screen, they’re very realistic, they’re very literal, and for them it’s just gonna be like “fuck you.”

FK: Yeah, totally.

ELM: What I see on the screen is there, that’s it. And they’re just gonna get in your mentions and say “fuck you” and that’s that. There’s no conversation, there’s no dialogue, what do you think about my long speech?

FK: [laughing] I think your medicine’s wearing off, Elizabeth! No, I mean, I agree with you, I don’t know that we’ve solved the problem of any of this, because I don’t know that there is anything to be done about this. I hope that we’ve said some useful things to people… 

ELM: Hang on, hang on. I wasn’t looking to solve anything! I was just looking to just explain what I’m observing! I worry about these dynamics, because I only see them increasing. I spend a lot of time on Tumblr, I think significantly more time than you do.

FK: Yes.

ELM: Not to say that’s some sort of…that’s sad for me. That’s not positive. [FK laughing] That’s negative. And I have a lot of people on my dash who are very committed to pushing back against this line of rhetoric, especially the broad anti culture, broad purity culture, not pegged to any individual ship, but people…there’s that one post that someone wrote that was like, “Oh I didn’t know the Archive of our Own was founded to protect pedophiles, yikes!” [laughs] That post has been responded to 50,000 different times, so it’s on my dash every day with a different response. It’s always like 20 people yelling at the OP, and it’s like…so I see these arguments over and over again, right?

I don’t know where this is going, but I genuinely see it getting worse, because I do feel like it is a response to a feeling of a loss of control. And I think that there are people who, I think there are plenty of people of all ages who do this, but I think especially for teens who are doing this? I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be a teen right now, and we’ve already talked about this whole conversation of “adults should not be posting adult content because there could be teens seeing it,” that kind of flip in attitude from when we were teens, like “Sure I’m 18, give me the adult content!”

That’s a huge cultural shift, and I think that I’m not gonna blame any individual. I think that is the culture in which the internet, in which a lot of people have grown up in. You know? It’s come with a lot of different attitudes about what you should see, what you should be exposed to, what you can withstand, and I think there’s a lot of people who bluntly argue the opposition. I’m thinking of every professor who scoffs at trigger warnings who frankly aren't helping the situation either. You know?

I don’t see this improving. And maybe it’ll be different in five or ten years, where you have these conversations playing out in college classrooms right now, it’s been interesting to see over the last five years, people in their young 20s coming into the workforce and working with them and seeing if conversations shift. But for the most part the people in power are still the people that were in power, at least in my workplaces, five years ago. They’re still Gen X and Baby Boomers. So I’m curious to see how that will shift the dialogue, as some of the people who are upset about this now grow older, whether that will change or whether our dialogue will change. You know what I mean? I think there’s no way to say.

FK: I agree. I don’t know either.

ELM: Flourish, I’m the ill one, you should say more words.

FK: You know, you’re just saying all the words! You’re saying all of them. They’re all used up. There’s none left for me. That’s how this works, right?

ELM: Oh my God.

FK: [laughing] OK. I hope that we have done a sufficient job of talking about this. I think that we have. I mean, I don’t know how we would get any further than we have. But I think that we’ll probably return to the topic in the future, because it is [sighs] as we’ve noted, evergreen.

ELM: Slash increasingly growing more fraught.

FK: Right.

ELM: Fraught topic. [laughing]

FK: Fraught topic.

ELM: Trademark that one right now.

FK: On that note, if you have any responses to this episode please send them to us. Fansplaining at gmail.com. You can also send us a Tumblr ask. Anon is on, which we may regret after this episode, but we’ll find out.

ELM: Oh no, oh no.

FK: Please don’t be mean.

ELM: What if a bunch of antis come and yell at us?

FK: Imma yell right back!

ELM: Oh wow. All right. No no no. I feel like that incentivizes people. [laughing]

FK: Well that’s true.

ELM: If anyone is incredibly rude we would probably just delete the message, to be clear.

FK: That’s actually true. I just like acting like I’m some kind of a gunslinger. I’m not. [ELM laughs] If you’d like to support us in ways that are not asking questions, you can do that by supporting our Patreon! Patreon.com/fansplaining, we just recently released a ton of content to people, special episodes, tiny zines, we’re gonna have another special episode coming out later in October featuring Javier Grillo-Marxuach, which is gonna be pretty exciting. The first special episode we will have done with a guest. So. That’s gonna be cool! You can also review us on iTunes, give us stars, as many as you believe we deserve.

ELM: Upwards of five! Five or more! Stars. Yeah.

FK: Five is what we like.

ELM: OR MORE. Give us extra stars somehow. [all laughing]

FK: Send ’em to us through the mail.

ELM: Not just iTunes! If you don’t listen, if you listen on a podcast app and there’s any way to spread the word, especially with other podcast fans, or of course every episode Flourish wearies her fingers to the…my medicine genuinely is wearing off now. [FK laughs] Flourish types all the words down. Sometimes doesn’t use enough commas, which is quite ironic considering she yelled at Cassie Clare when she was 12 about her poor use of semicolons. Flourish doesn’t even know what a semicolon is, that’s why. She saw it and she was like, “You dummy, what’s that?” And she was like “a semicolon” and Flourish was like “I don’t believe in punctuation!” So.

FK: [laughing] PEOPLE JUST SPEAK IN LONG STRINGS.

ELM: Flourish claims she’s gonna go back and add some commas. That being said, I hear they’re fun to read, if you don’t mind that. Just insert your own commas. She transcribes every episode in a very timely fashion, and so if you know anyone who doesn’t like podcasts but you think would be interested, or someone who has trouble hearing or is unable to hear, the transcripts are there for them! So, hopefully they can continue to be of use to people!

FK: Great. Well, my weary fingers are ready to sign off for now. I think.

ELM: This is gonna be so meta when you get to this part in the transcript.

FK: It will be. All right. I'll talk to you later, Elizabeth. Go drink some tea or have some more DayQuil or something.

ELM: I had so much DayQuil, Flourish.

FK: OK. Have more.

ELM: Thank you. All right. Farewell.

FK: Bye!

[Outro music, thank yous and disclaimers]

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