Episode 88: Kenyatta Cheese
In Episode 88, Flourish and Elizabeth interview Kenyatta Cheese, a founder of Know Your Meme and currently of Everybody At Once, the company behind the social media presences of Doctor Who, Orphan Black, and other shows. They discuss EA1’s philosophies of community and fandom, the way the entertainment industry understands fan culture, and how official accounts navigate fannish spaces—plus a good ol’ critique of 20th-century Marxist frameworks.
[00:00:00] As always, our intro music is “Awel” by stefsax, used under a CC-BY license.
[00:02:09] In case you missed it, the Discourse Trilogy was three recent episodes of Fansplaining: #84 “Purity Culture,” #85 “Age and Fandom,” and #86 “The Money Question.”We followed it up with #87 “What We Discourse About When We Discourse About the Discourse,” which is a letterbox episode of responses.
[00:02:28] This question was from @sulasaferoom. Thank you for asking it!
[00:02:45] The Verge’s coverage of Tumblr’s removal from the App Store, which suggests that the problem was with visual not written content; also, if you’re not familiar with the Strikethrough incident, here’s the Fanlore summary.
[00:05:29] The interstitial music is “Where It Goes,” from Natural Therapy by Jahzzar, used under a CC-BY-SA license.
[00:23:46] The Doctor Who panel Elizabeth loved so much is online in full:
[00:29:57] Those Deadpool toilet seat covers are, in fact, now available on eBay, because of course they are.
[00:30:30] One example of the type of project Kenyatta’s talking about is when the producers invited a fan artist to make screen-used bracelet props for Orphan Black.
[00:53:43] There were, in fact, seven Police Academy movies, and apparently the franchise is being revived, because—sing it with us—everyone loves a sequel!
[01:00:47] The interstitial music is “Where It Goes,” from Natural Therapy by Jahzzar, used under a CC-BY-SA license.
[01:02:48] Professor Stenger is @JoshStenger on Twitter!
[01:03:18] Destination Toast has appeared on this podcast several times, most notably in #13 “Destination: Stats!”
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish!
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is episode number 88, “Kenyatta Cheese”!
FK: Woo hoo! We’ve been waiting to get Kenyatta on the podcast for, like, basically since the podcast came about, so it’s super exciting that he agreed to come and chat with us.
ELM: OK. Kenyatta: one of the founders of Know Your Meme. But, I think we’re mostly going to be talking to him about his current company and work. He is the founder of Everybody At Once, which is a very fandom-oriented…“social media” isn’t the right descriptor. I don’t know if they’re an agency?
FK: “Social media management company” maybe? I don’t know how he would describe it, but I would say that they are the people I admire most in the field of managing television show social media.
ELM: Right. So I think they’re probably best known for doing work for BBC America. So they do the social media for Doctor Who, they did it for Orphan Black. If you have followed either of those Tumblrs, you have a real sense of how they’re engaged with the community, and how they’re not, you know…where they know to be involved and where they know to kind of stay and leave the conversation just for the fans. Which is, it’s a tricky balance, that I think a lot of content creators and the people doing the social media are pretty bad at.
FK: [laughs] Yeah, we complain about this a lot, so it’s nice to have someone on who I feel like we both agree that we like, and is doing a great job. Not just him, his whole company.
ELM: So yeah, we will be talking to him.
FK: Should we just do that right now?
ELM: No, no, no! No! Flourish! No!
FK: Oh, we have a question to answer!
ELM: Yes, we do have a question to answer! We also got more feedback on our Discourse Trilogy, our hot-button issues, which we’re gonna hold for the next episode, just so we have a little more time to talk about it. But this was a quick question we wanted to acknowledge.
FK: Yeah. So, this came from sulasaferoom, through our ask box. They asked: “Hey, my dear people, quick question. Are the Tumblr purge and its relation to the other Strikethrough events going to be addressed in an episode? Thank you!”
ELM: So, the answer’s no, not right now. Possibly when…
FK: Maybe in the future.
ELM: When the dust settles. I think to talk about this issue right now…here’s what I understand of this, is: there hasn’t been a lot of actual communication from Tumblr. Tumblr was taken out of the app store, briefly, earlier—it was last week, I believe?
ELM: What I understood, it was because it was violating child pornography laws—which are federal laws. So obviously the app store providers don’t want to be liable. Everyone involved then becomes liable, in a chain, and because Tumblr wasn’t able to keep its content filters up to snuff, they were like, “No, we’re protecting ourselves.”
ELM: I have heard of blogs getting deleted, I’ve heard a lot of rumors and fear-mongering about fans-writing-about-fictional-characters’ blogs getting deleted, and I have seen no evidence of that—so I think it would just be irresponsible to talk about it now, when I just feel like there’s a lot, a lot of rumors flowing. And people are using it on both sides of the purity culture debates. Either saying, “Look at that. You, I think that what you’re doing is child porn, and now they’re gonna take it down,” versus like—you know what I mean. The other side.
FK: For what it’s worth, I think it’s perfectly possible that there was actual completely non-arguable child porn on Tumblr. It would not surprise me to discover that…
ELM: Oh, 1000%. Like…
ELM: Which, to define it, is visual, where actual children are involved, which means actual children were harmed.
FK: Yeah. And, furthermore, I would say that to me, so far, the difference between this and Strikethrough that I’ve seen is that with Strikethrough—which I was there for—there were several communities that were taken down that immediately you could identify as A) having been taken down by LiveJournal on purpose for this reason, with LJ communication; and B) were definitely not this kind of child porn. And I haven’t seen that yet on Tumblr, which doesn't mean it’s not there, but does mean that I don’t want to, like, get on soapboxes about this until it’s more clear. And I think you feel the same way.
ELM: Yeah, absolutely. I just don’t think it’d be very responsible of us to talk about it right now. So. That being said, in a few months, maybe? Or even a few weeks, if it becomes really clear what's been going on and if there’s an outcome. I definitely think it’d be something we should talk about, just in the sense of, like—we’re talking a lot about fandom history right now and the history of the rocky relationship between fans and platforms. But it’s entirely possible that this isn’t about fandom in any way and people are just using it as a weapon in their inter-fandom fights.
FK: Yeah, and for what it’s worth, if anybody does have a really solid “Yes, this particular blog was definitely and 100% taken down for this reason,” I mean, I’d be interested to see it. I don't know if I’ve seen it yet, so send it to me. Send it to us! You know, if you do. I assume. But yeah, sittin’ on this for now.
ELM: Yeah. But thank you for checking in on that and we’ll keep you posted.
FK: Yeah, it’s definitely a worthy topic.
ELM: All right.
FK: All right!
ELM: Kenyatta time?
FK: Let's call Kenyatta.
FK: All right, I think it’s time to welcome Kenyatta to the podcast. Hi, Kenyatta!
Kenyatta Cheese: Hey!
ELM: The enthusiasm! We are very enthusiastic in return. We wanted to have you on from the start, so I’m sorry it took us three and a half years to make this happen.
KC: No! I’m a fan, not just of the podcast, but of both of your work. This is great. Thank you guys for having me on!
ELM: Yes! We had you on to compliment us only. That’s perfect. All right. Do you want me to, [laughs] do you want me to ask…
FK: Yeah, ask it!
ELM: Ask the opening question, because I dragged you for the way you asked it in the past?
ELM: All right. All right. What is your origin story as the professional that you are now—and I mean this, like, because you work in and with fandom, right? So like, there’s probably a fannish origin story in addition to the way that intersected with your professional one.
KC: Yeah, so, I think that it all kind of connects. There are two things I do now, or I’ve done, or am known for. One is Know Your Meme, which is a project I did with a bunch of friends where we wanted to make sure that the communities that were producing memes were getting credit for it. So we started this giant sort of wiki about it, and there was a lot of people doing it.
The other thing is Everybody At Once, which is a company, a group of weird little unicorns that kind of work with fandoms—with distributors and studios and that sort of thing.
If I look back [laughs] and I try to see where it all started, it actually has a very long, long timeline that we’re gonna make really thin, which is that I’m African American and Chinese. And I grew up, like, poor as poor. And like, my family does just fine now, everyone, like, worked their way up, like pulled up their bootstraps and did the whole bullshit Horatio Alger thing—which doesn’t exist and it's absolutely impossible and brings lots of fun therapy issues over time. [all laugh] But early on it meant that I was always fighting. I was fighting with the Black kids for being Chinese. I was fighting with the Chinese kids for being Black. I was fighting with the—you know, I’d get a brick to the side of the head by a white supremacist. Like, I just fought all the time.
And the place where I was able to find community and family was fandom. And, uh, whether it was particular TV shows or music or things that I really got deeply into, being able to get deep into things and to be able to find other people who were that obsessed and that interested in it gave us a point of being able to find connection in a way that…you know, my, my, my thing was very extreme, but a lot of people who I connected with, a lot of people who I became lifelong friends with, were people who were also dealing with the same kind of thing. Right? In their own sort of way. So yeah. I have no idea how I ended up here in a place that looks like trying to figure out: how do you actually better support fandoms? How do you actually change the relationship between the people who make things and the people who use things? But if I actually look back far enough, like, oh, there's totally a thread there.
ELM: It’s interesting because I feel like, for some people, when they tell their origin stories—depending on what kind of fan you are—there’s often a narrative of exclusion, but that’s also within the fandom elements themselves. Right? Like, “I loved something so much that I had all this knowledge and I—” you know, like, “I read every comic book so I was the top fan,” that kind of thing. But for you, fandom—it sounds like—has always been a place of inclusion. Not, obviously it’s not—you know, it’s a fraught place as well, but that’s what you came to it for. The fact that that’s where you could take what you love and find a place that was inclusive in a world that was not.
KC: Yeah. I think one of the, one of the interesting paradoxes is that we look for things in each other that show ourselves, right? That give us a point of commonality. And once we’ve made that connection, once we've made that relationship with other people, it feels like family. It feels like community. It might feel like intimacy, but it feels like other people who you can like…who you can be open with, and people you can, you don't [have to] be afraid to, you know, share thoughts and ideas with.
The interesting thing that happens, though, is because these things are ultimately open—because anybody can watch a show, anyone can read the graphic novels that I thought were only…no one else cared about except for me—when those people come in, if we don’t actually pay attention to how that person comes into the community, if we actually don’t figure out how to onboard people, or think that we actually maybe even have that as a responsibility—then all of a sudden my fandom blowing up can feel like a, can feel like a threat, right?
ELM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
KC: When people come in just because they’re there for the content—but they don’t understand there’s an entire culture already here? That can, that can be hell.
KC: And I think having, having the relationship to fandom I did put a stronger emphasis on the community part, and the feeling responsible for it. Right? Because that’s the only way I could—I was the only way I could build family. [laughs] Which is probably true of a lot of people.
FK: It’s funny—what you’re saying is making me think…we’ve been doing episodes recently about the discourse, about purity culture, about age in fandom, all of this. And one of the things that’s making me think about, too, is some of the ways that sometimes fandom can feel like a dysfunctional family. [laughs] Or like a family, you know…like the differences in people’s…especially, like, opinions about the canon, can really turn into feuds in a certain way. And it seems like that’s also an outgrowth of some of these same dynamics.
KC: Oh, totally. Yeah, I think so too. The thing that’s hard to recognize in the moment is that in some ways, at least for me, that’s kind of the point of a fandom, right? Well, it presents moments where you’re able to kind of state where your position is and state what somebody else’s is. And kind of—the thing to try to do there, is try and make space for one another. If you don’t do that, then you’re just being a shitty fan, right? [FK and ELM laugh]
If you think that you are the only one that can decide what canon is—or you and your community, whoever you think you identify with—are the only ones who can set that, then that doesn’t leave space for other folks. And that’s kind of like the exact opposite. It’s funny, we, we think about—I say we, but I really mean myself—I have those moments where I, like, get so engrossed in what I think is the right canon, the right relationships, the right things that kind of reflect my values? And the values I think the other people around me have, that I’m going to defend those in a way that doesn’t actually…that kind of limits what this thing is about.
And the funny thing is, when we look at throughout the rest of the world, right? We talk about things that are happening in governments around the world. We talk about things that are happening on social platforms and technology and how, like, exclusionary it is. And we can—I mean I can, “we,” I keep on saying “we,” but I really mean “me”—I complain every day about the things that Facebook is doing or the things that I see this wiki platform doing or whatever else, and point out the places where it feels exclusionary. And then if I don’t actually stop to, like, put that own—that little filter on myself to see, “OK, am I actually doing that myself?” Then that’s kind of messed up. But the other part that isn’t recognized, like: why is it that I need to do that in the first place? Like, I need to figure out why that's important to me, if I’m going to get through that, get over it. It’s not enough, not enough to be like, “Yeah, I’m a, I’m a shitty fan." Because, no! There are really important things there that are, that feel, that feel like—maybe like safety, or feel like trust or whatever it is.
FK: You mean—so you mean, like, why you need to stake out a space and emphasize it as, like, the moral position and, you know, defend that territory?
KC: That is exactly it, right. When we actually exhibit those behaviors ourselves that we actually criticize others for, it’s not enough to be able to just self-criticize, you have to go past—I think that it’s good to go past that and figure out, “OK, why was that important to me in the first place in what am I looking for?”
ELM: It’s so hard for some people to do that though.
KC: Oh, it’s so hard!
ELM: You’re a very thoughtful person [laughs] you know, to even have the language to think about—or, or the ability to kind of, slightly out of yourself and to contextualize yourself and to look at those power dynamics and…me critiquing Facebook is very easy. It’s very easy to critique Facebook, right? Like maybe, maybe not, maybe not that easy to do it in an accurate way instead of just, like, “they suck.” You know?
FK: One of the things that I feel like this leads into is: we’ve been talking a lot recently about how social media—like, the design of social media—has moved away from people understanding the fan community they’re in as a community. One of the things I admire about the work that you do, Kenyatta, is that you help push official sites, you know, official social presences, to at least have some kind of community norms and like…you know, sort of support a fandom and try and…maybe not impose anything on anybody, but to sort of get people talking and thinking in terms of community…?
ELM: Well, to model—to model behavior. Right?
FK: Yeah. That’s maybe what I really mean. But, so I’m interested in hearing about how you think about that.
KC: Yeah. So it's funny, we actually take a look at, uh…when we, when we start working on a new show and with a new property…Flourish, what are you looking at?
FK: I love the way that you said that. [disgusted] “Property.” That's how I think it every time I say it. [Elizabeth laughs] I’m like “Property…”
KC: It’s hilarious. The companies that make this, that make a lot of the sort of big budget content—they think about it as intellectual property, and they’re still thinking about everything in this traditional producer-consumer model. “I’m a producer. I’m making this thing in a factory called Hollywood or Toronto…” [laughs] “…or Vancouver or Wales or wherever else. And then I’m throwing it over this wall.” [all laugh] And I think I have this vision of everybody just sort of like—oh, once you throw the content over the wall, everyone just scrambles over for it and like…and they’re all supposed to consume it. Right?
FK: [laughing] Like feeding time at the zoo.
KC: Yeah, totally. That’s it exactly. That’s the feeling I get…
FK: Yeah, it’s true.
KC: …when I went to these meetings, and it doesn’t matter if it’s the folks who are doing the marketing, folks who are doing the legal department, even the showrunners and writers themselves. Sometimes they—and this isn’t to disparage them! This is to say that sometimes that the model, the thing that they’ve built in their head, is one of these 20th century thing of, like: “I make a thing, I’m an auteur, and then I put it out there and everyone experiences it.”
For everyone who works at Everybody At Once, and a lot of other people out there—folks like us, we see it differently, right? Fans see it differently. These are places for participation. We have a joke we always talk about where we say that the difference between media and social media is the difference between egg and eggplant. [all laugh] It has the same exact word, but they’re completely different things. And when you put something out there, the important thing isn’t the content or how many people were consuming or how many views it got, or whatever else. It’s what is the conversation that kind of built around that? Which is, like, the easy way for us to talk about—I’m doing air quotes, by the way—the “easy” [ELM laughing] way of explaining that we don’t consume culture. We make culture. Right? We take content and then we figure out the way that it connects with, with, with us—our lives and our identity and what we’re trying to express ourselves. “Maybe I can articulate something through this gif that is actually easier to communicate in a forum, in a social post, than I can in trying to actually write lots of words” Right?
FK: Keyboard smash emoji. Er, emoji? Gif.
ELM: Conversation…all three of us in our work, because even in my work that’s not related to fandom, aren’t necessarily thinking about audience in terms of behaviors, right? So having conversation is a behavior. Creating fanworks are behaviors, right? And it seems like—you two are both much more involved in working with the content producers in the entertainment industry than I am, but the old broadcast model suggests that there is only one behavior, which is…two behaviors, sorry: one, view; two, maybe buy things. Right? And a total lack of ability to see the fact that there’s a whole breadth of our behaviors within there.
And I think sometimes too, it’s…I don’t know, in the media I feel like people talk about conversation. There’s a lot of conversations right now about impact, right? And so they’ll just be like, “It got 20 million views, so that’s real impact.” And it’s like, OK, well, what are the behaviors that anyone took afterwards? And even if it’s as simple as “they had a conversation with someone about it,” or “they had a really thoughtful dialogue with another reader in the comments,” that's an actual behavior. But, like, hits is not impact, right? Because that’s such a, like, top of the funnel, kind of like…you know? Or impressions.
FK: Yeah, but it is funny, because the internet makes it relatively easier to measure certain types of actual impact. So, like, when I was working on East Los High, our first season, the thing that…because it was grant funded, the thing we were trying to do was we just had to prove, quote, “impact.”
ELM: Yeah, fans love impact!
FK: Great. Stick a fucking Planned Parenthood widget on our main site [all laugh] and let me tell you: Planned Parenthood saw impact! Because more people used that widget than they ever had before. And it was so easy to track, you know what I mean? It was like, “find a clinic near you,” and people use the widget and found a clinic near them. And Planned Parenthood was like, “Whoa, it happened, great impact.” You know, obviously there’s lots of other types that are hard to measure, but there are certain things that are easier to measure like that—you know? Which is so funny, then, that people always go back to, like, hits and so on. When you’re like…tiny bit more effort! You can measure something that’s much more significant.
ELM: Well, especially when you’re having something like, oh, this is on like child trafficking in Malaysia or something. What, are you going to click a button be like, “I’ll fix it.” [all laugh] You know, some of the time it really is like awareness and creating conversations, right? I mean like these are very serious topics. I think the flip side of it, it’s got to be hard in the entertainment industry because it’s not like every television show you're going to put a little Planned Parenthood button and say, you know, this is like an after-school special—did you learn something? Now actually go out and like, you know, make healthcare decisions. Not every piece of entertainment is going to be that serious, too.
FK: Yeah, but you can set conversational goals in terms of creating cultural impact where you can talk about things like how much people are…I mean, I don’t know. Kenyatta, you, you, you have a good—I’m sure that you have lots of good ways to measure this. Tell us about your measurement strategies!
ELM: Hook us up!
KC: We like to measure…! No. We don’t like to measure. Measuring’s hard. Because when we talk about measuring, we’re usually talking about quantitative measures, right? So things that machines can actually count—
FK: —and that they’ll give you an account. Thanks, Facebook, for killing every way to track anything that has ever happened on your platform. [laughs]
KC: And the hard part about all of that is that people get obsessed with those things and they’re like—it’s like they’re eating menus instead of meals. What matters aren’t the things that you can count. What matters are the things that actually…
For us, our goal is always to get two fans to care about one another. The particular piece of content, the particular participation campaign, the, the Instagram story that we’re doing from behind the scenes, whatever—the amount of views or engagement or whatever, the vanity metrics that people, that folks tend to care about? That’s the byproduct. For us it is, are we actually enabling an actual connection between people?
A lot of our work is informed by the idea of limbic resonance, which is in psychology whenever we—it’s the idea that we look to each other to find meaning in the world around us. And so the simple version of that is: you and I are having this conversation, and we’re actually looking at each other’s facial expressions, and as I’m talking, if I see you nodding, that means that you acknowledged this. So it’s like, “OK, cool. We can keep this conversation going.”
ELM: This is very meta, cause we’re nodding right now.
KC: Cause we’re nodding! And then the really weird abstract version of that that shows up in social media is, we’re all using the same hashtag at the same time. Which means that this idea resonates with other people. And yes, there’s lots of other reasons why people use hashtags, et cetera et cetera, in marketing and everything else—but that general idea of being able to, like, see each other, and to look for meaning in each other, is pretty cool. For us.
If you’re actually trying to support fandom, our thing isn’t to get more people—necessarily get more people to, like you said earlier, monetize. Right? That’s the byproduct. The important part is, are you actually creating moments for people to make connection with each other? And if so, yeah, of course you’re going to go and buy the ticket to the new movie, because you want to do that together. But it’s because you want to do that with each other. Our idea is, if you build around that—if you take that as a basis of supporting, I’m using air quotes, “supporting” fandom from the position of you being a studio or showrunner or writer or talent, whoever: How are you actually finding ways to create these life-affirming connections between people? Because all the other stuff comes as a result. And so that means that if you’re just concentrating on the metrics, if you’re only concentrating on the meal, you’re never going to be full. I had to bring that full circle there. [all laugh]
ELM: Do you find this is a hard sell in…I mean, obviously, as you—the more and more work you do, the more proven results you have. So that’s something. But I think in terms of ideologically, it feels like—based on my observations, as I said, I’m the outsider here amongst the three of us in terms of what we do, though I think there is overlap in what we all do…it seems like a lot of studios and intellectual property holders don’t think about their fans this way. They think about them as two sides, consumer, or you know, fan and producer, right. You know, no one ever says, in Hall H, “Look at the person next to you. You’re all here together.” Right? They’re like, “Look at me on the stage. You’re all here for me! We’re here for you,” you know.
FK: Except for the Doctor Who panel that you loved so much!
ELM: Genuinely, though! Like, it’s rare at those—especially with that big top level, big corporate media, where they ever acknowledge that you’re a member of a community.
KC: Yeah. I see it a lot more than I used to, and I don’t know if it’s that…rather, I see more people, whether they’re producers or writers or even marketing people—they get it, they’re starting to get it! And I don’t know why that is. I don’t know if it’s because…we all know stories of fans who grow up as, like, huge fans of things and then they get into these positions of power, and then they act just like the—you know, they act just like the asshole creators that they think they’re replacing. There is that. But I feel like, I don’t know if it’s because of the internet, I don’t know if it’s because they’re all listening to Fansplaining, I don’t know what it is… [all laugh]
ELM: That’s definitely it.
KC: But people are, are, are starting to understand that these are places for participation more. And even if you’re just looking at the economic incentive of, “Oh, if we can do another version of this TV series as a film release, or we can do it as a novelization, or we can do it as a game, whatever—that attracts more people in, which means that those original things that I made can get monetized some more!” And that’s great, because that enables you, as an awesome creator, to do more work. It’s like—we, as fans, want that to happen! Cool. But understand that the relationship isn’t one of producer-consumer. It’s one of—these are all people who are participating in culture. And as you were saying earlier, Elizabeth, it’s about behavior as opposed to thinking of it as transaction.
FK: I do think that maybe—cause Everybody At Once mostly works with television, primarily television franchises and properties? I hate myself right now, but, uh…
ELM: Well, but what else are you gonna call it?
FK: Yeah, what else am I gonna call it?
ELM: You can continue this in one second, but can I just say I hate it, HATE IT when people in Hollywood use the term “fandom” when they actually mean “consumers,” which happens constantly these days. And they’ll be like, “Well, the fandom for blank…” And I’ll be like, “What do you mean? Like, you’re just, you’re just appropriating that term now because you hear you have fans.” Anyway. Continue. [laughs]
FK: Yeah. Well, I was going to say, is in my experience, I think there’s a difference between like the…I think TV is getting it much more than film franchises are, and I think it’s to do with the cadence, right? Like, the way the TV comes out on a regular cadence and you can see people interacting with each other. And, like, there’s a long period of time in which you can sort of get on board with this and follow it.
Whereas with film, all of the people involved, they’re all just like, panic, panic, panic, panic, panic up to the release date—and then either everyone drinks some champagne or everyone has the terrible meeting where you stare at each other and someone gets fired. And then we’re done, and we don’t look at this anymore until the next movie is actually happening. And then that’s like a couple of years. And so there’s never a time in which people are observing, except for the people who are literally doing the social media—and they’re limited by all the other people. Right. You know what I mean? So I feel like the cadence is quite different and it hasn’t picked up as much in the film space yet, except for maybe with Marvel or Disney.
ELM: Those are serialized.
FK: Exactly. And they’re, and they’re serialized more frequently.
KC: With lots of other ways to monetize, right. In the ways that there isn’t really an off-season. And that, that helps. And everyone looking to those franchises—and by everyone, I mean the studios and producers who are trying to build something new—they’re looking at that and saying, “Oh yeah, we want to have a…we’re building IP now.” And that’s good; it’s a step in the right direction. But that knowledge and that understanding is still having to—is still in conflict with this giant studio system that was built for a certain kind of release for certain kinds of distribution.
Everybody At Once is in New York and L.A., and we didn’t open up our L.A. office till like I think maybe three, four years ago. And when we did, I started getting all these meetings with studios. It was kind of awesome, and I’m like, “OK, great! I’m going to show these people what’s possible!” All these things we learned, the things that we learned about—like what happens when you do that, when you actually support fandoms for, like, Doctor Who and Orphan Black and Portlandia and all these other places! And I get into the first room where I show all the amazing things that a fandom does to support one another, and to create opportunities for one another, which didn’t have these effects for the new releases. And the very first question I got is, this guy raises his hand and he says, “All this is great, but after three months this is somebody else’s problem. So why do I care?”
FK: I’ve been in that meeting. [ELM laughing] I have had exactly that guy asking exactly that question.
KC: Oh my God. And what’s your reaction? Because mine was like, “Are you fucking kidding me? Do you not see where this is going?”
FK: I usually let my business partner, who comes from that side, attempt to take it on. It doesn’t usually work very well. The person who asks that question…
ELM: No, wait, because what is your answer? Why should he care? Him individually? Why should he care? It’s not his problem anymore. He doesn’t love this.
KC: He doesn’t love it, and he’s in this giant system that’s measuring his ability to do his job by just showing how many people can show up on opening weekend, and how many people can, whether or not that can sustain over three to four weeks. And then that’s it. And I totally get that. But there’s this emphasis now on building franchises, right? Everyone wants to build a franchise. Everyone wants the characters who…not everyone, I’m sorry, not everyone, but a lot of folks are interested in…
FK: Just about everyone! [all laugh]
KC: There’s still people who are just into…
FK: Hey guys, we’re going to have Call Me By Your Name Two: Electric Boogaloo! [all laughing]
KC: Oh GOD. Sorry. Flashback. There are a lot of—there are still some folks out there who are interested in telling singular stories really well, and that’s awesome. And, and, and those are things I still love, but when I speak to producers and studios, they’re often interested in trying to figure out “How do we actually build a franchise?” And the hard part is meeting with them and saying that, actually, you have everything you need. It’s just not ordered in the right way. Because you have this giant infrastructure that’s been optimized for single releases and not caring after the release, after that first release window is done—that first release window usually means when it first comes out theatrically, or when it premieres on a network or yadda yadda yadda.
FK: Yeah. One of the things that blew my mind was I sat on a train, coming to Comic-Con with a guy from FOX Home Entertainment and discovering that all of this really cool Deadpool stuff was all FOX Home Entertainment. Because once the release window was up—Ryan Reynolds was in control of it, and then once the release window was up, they handed it over to Home Entertainment, and Home Entertainment was like “Let’s rock with it!” They’re the ones who did, like, the toilet seat covers and all that stuff. They want to keep selling it to you for years, so the Home Entertainment people get it! But they have, like, such tiny miserable budgets and nobody to deal with the social media and so they have no ability to do it, but they want to.
KC: Oh, I love hearing that story. Those are the ones that fuel me and fuel, I think, and I feel like fuel our team, the EA1 team and the work that we do. Because the place that we try to get them to next is: OK. If you understand that there is no single window—people are going to discover things you know, a year, two years from now. And when they do, and they watch the thing or they read the thing, they’re going to want to go out and be able to have that moment of limbic resonance. They want to be able to see who else is talking about it, who else has found a meaning in it that I have. And if you can actually help keep the fandom alive, then that in turn is going to help keep that property alive.
Which is part of the economic thing, but then there’s a civic thing, at least for us. There are a bunch of things that we do that are less about the right there in the moment. Here’s what’s happening this week on this show—that is important, but for us, we also want to do things like…when we post a really great gifset, right? Or some really great fanart on Tumblr or Instagram? We’re looking for the responses in either the notes or comments where somebody says, “Oh my God, I love that. I wish I could make something like that.” So that what we do is, we will follow up with like, “OK, hey, we’re going to do a gif tutorial,” or even better, “Hey, this other fan has actually already put together a really great gif tutorial. Go check this out!” When we do…and so now, we’re hopefully giving people a sense that they can actually make the things that they love.
If we do, like, an Instagram story poll of, like, “Which bracelet should the character wear in this scene?” It’s not to just like do some, like, very low-level “Hey, I feel like I'm participating” thing, but to actually show that you actually have control over the things that you love. What we’ll do is, at the beginning of the season we’ll say something like, “Hey, is anyone else having a—anyone out there having a party for the premiere?” And, you know, there are a bunch of people who will say, “Yeah,” and they’ll show us what they’re going to make and everything. We look for the people who say, “Oh, I would love to, but I don’t have the time.” And then we build a kit and we ship it out to them. And then when other people see that—because they post it—then they say, “Oh, we wish we had that.” We say, “Hey, we can’t send it out to everybody, but here’s a PDF download.”
And those aren’t actually big moments in a quote unquote “campaign” for marketing—but for us it’s showing people that you can actually start to have agency over the things that you love. Which also means that now that I know how to make things, now that I know that I have control over things, and now that I know I can actually organize the people who—the people around me, it means that you can also organize—you can actually do things around things that you hate. [all laugh] You can organize around the things that you love. You can organize around things that you think are important, which then changes your relationship to the other things around you and it's not a…it’s not a, like, “Oh, this happens all the time and every single and every single…this is going to make everybody a more, a better, more civically engaged human being,” but, like…fandom’s a really good space for that, because fans are already doing that on their own. So why not support that at the highest level?
FK: What would you say—I know that there are people who would critique this and say, “This all sounds great, Kenyatta, you know, but on the other hand, you’re still getting money from the studio or from the network…”
ELM: “You're still The Man.”
FK: “You’re still The Man and you’re still an…ultimately, if The Man is teaching you to make gifs then isn’t that less valuable than if…” You know. I mean, even if the man is only connecting you with someone else to make gifs…
ELM: I like that you ran with my Man thing. [laughs]
FK: “Fuck that! I don’t want The Man connecting me to anyone. Fuck you, man!” How would you respond to that? Because this is something that I struggle with sometimes. Like, on the one hand, feeling like the corporations, the people who own the stories that people who own this stuff are going to be in it anyway, so why not do the least harm and to do some good? But on the other hand, you know—what about being radical?
ELM: Can I expand on this question a little bit? I was thinking about—this relates too: I think the point about the rhythm of things and the types of properties is a big one. Because as we were talking about this, I was thinking about the Inception fandom, which is a very robust fanfiction fandom, good seven years after this movie came out. There’s no added value to Christopher Nolan here. I’m not even sure the Inception fandom adds goodwill to Christopher Nolan, for his…
FK: [laughing] In fact it might be the opposite.
ELM: But so, you know, it doesn’t have to be that one in particular, but like: there’s not going to be an Inception 2, if we're lucky. [FK laughs] And there’s no, there’s no added value to the studio that made that within this fandom. But this fannish conversation is continuing. It’s completely out of the hands of the corporation now. We’ve talked a lot about this this year in particular, about how the cycles of capitalism—how fans play into and also sit side by side, and you know, the weird intersections and the way you can’t divorce yourself from it. So I’m wondering, to take Flourish’s question a step further: not just, like, what about the fans who were like, “You’re The Man, we don’t want you involved in this”—but what about when it truly doesn’t seem like there’s a role for you, because there isn’t any added value for your clients for you to continue modeling that behavior and, you know, being the facilitator. Does that make sense? Is that, like, a attached question? Flourish, you look a little skeptical.
FK: No, I’m not skeptical.
FK: I was just thinking of my pitch for “Lego Inception,” the video game. [all laugh]
FK: YEAH! Anyway. Go on. Answer the real question. Kenyatta. Don’t think about “Lego Inception” and what it would be to smash all those dream-worlds!
KC: I am totally thinking about “Lego Inception” now! But, but, that’s a multi-part question with a multi-part answer.
ELM: Sorry. That was gonna be one question and then I turned it into six, and I really apologize.
KC: So, we’ll start with the original, which is that, which is: What about the, what about fans who see, see the work that we’re doing as the work of The Man? Right. And that if it’s coming from The Man that it’s hard to trust—which I completely agree with—and that ultimately it’s still some form of exploitative, extractive capitalism, and I would say…yeah, if you want to throw that model on it, which is a wonderful old 20th century Marx—excuse me, 19th and 20th century Marxist model—that is just the flip side of the producer-consumer model that we all agree is the wrong way to think about fandom in the first place, like…cool. You can think that. And if that’s the relationship you want to have to the work and to each other, that’s cool too. Because again, like, that fulfills something, and fulfills a sense of justice and, and guards against— [FK laughs] Honestly! Seriously, guards against bullshit, bad behavior by folks who are just trying to exploit fandom as opposed to trying to support it.
ELM: Right. All those fanart contests, like, “We’ll pick a winner and then we’ll use that fanart.” You know what I mean? That was like a big trend for a few years, like five years ago, right. “Win our competition and we’ll put your thing on the front of the DVD, and we’ll give you a very small royalty check if we do that at all. But you get that exposure.”
KC: Yeah. And I think there was a time for that, right? Because that was a small step that needed to be taken in this direction. But then what comes after that? Right? What I would have liked to have seen is—I’m still going to answer the question, but this is a big…this is one that, we used to do that quite a bit. We wouldn’t throw it on a DVD cover. I think maybe we did that once for Orphan Black, where we used it as the poster, and they got paid as if they—the person got paid pretty well, decently for it. I’m not gonna say “pretty well” because there’s always a whatever to that.
FK: But the same amount that somebody would pay for a poster normally.
ELM: If you commissioned an, if you hired an artist.
KC: Right. But that was like…in the same way where I was talking about how the Deadpool toilet seat covers is, like, the first step towards this longer thing that looks like civic engagement…at least in my model. I think the thing that looks like honoring fanwork—actually, just acknowledging it in the first place, right, and honoring in a small way, needs to be intensified. I want to get to a place where fanwork is seen as a part of the ecosystem, right? And as absolutely necessary to the survival of these content universes. It’s something that fans see and fans know. It’s harder for studios and creators and everybody else to get that too. Even though they sort of do, they just don’t…it’s still a very abstract thing. So understanding what it means, to think about…
FK: It feels like kudos. It feels like a sign that people like it, as opposed to an actual thing in the ecosystem, in my experience, when people talk about it. Even people who love it, right? It’s like, “Oh, they loved it so much that they made this thing!” And you're like…
ELM: Hang on, though. But you’re both saying “No,” but I think that the majority of people I know, including myself in fanfiction fandom, that is the max. That is the most I would like out of a studio. I don’t want FOX to say, “Oh, you’re writing X-Men fanfiction? I’d love for it to be part of the ecosystem.” If they want to say, “Oh, you love it so much that…you love my dumb movies so much that you’re going to write some serious fanfiction about it,” which is what’s happening right now? Cool! They’re welcome to say that. But I’m coming from—and I think this is specific to fanfiction fandom. I think this different in fanart, in the fanart world. But you guys are, you know, like in your work on these properties—and now I’m just going to pause before I say it every time—you’re, you’re not engaging with fanfiction fandom. And I think that there are probably a lot of reasons for that. But I think culturally there’s going to be an opposition there, and I’m not sure that's a good path for anyone to go down.
KC: I think that for us, fanfiction’s a good…there’s two good reasons, reasons why we have tended to stay away from fanfiction. Number one, as I was saying before, it’s not about the content, it’s about the context—and understanding that this is respected space. Like, the output that we see archived as, like—to me, when you see fanfiction, that is just an archive of actual activity that happened within a, within a fan space. And it doesn’t mean that…it’s not an object. It’s not content. It is not something to be monetized. It just means that this is something that happened there. And for us, we have to look to see what’s actually happening in the culture. That particular culture, which—when we’re talking about culture, by the way, just to be clear, we’re talking about the…we’re talking about folks who author and discuss fiction on particular platforms within particular fandoms, right? Because we all know that fandom looks different on different platforms. It also looks different even within different communities on those platforms. And so you have to understand the context of the stuff before you use it, number one. “Use it.” Oh God, sorry. I apologize for saying that.
FK: But there is a certain amount of using it, right? I mean, because it’s one thing to say, “This is part of the ecosystem, and we respect it, and we’re also never going to touch it—because it’s a fucking grizzly bear and why are you going to fight that?” Right, as opposed to, “This is part of the ecosystem and this is an herb that I can collect and, like, you know, put in my dinner.” One of these things is fanfiction. That’s the grizzly bear. And the herb might be, like, the kind of fanart that is drawn by a professional artists who is looking for more exposure. Right? Like, these two things are totally different. I mean, is that, is that how you would see it? Or do I just like saying my own opinion?
KC: No, no, I think that’s…I aligned with a lot of that. I think the…
FK: Oh, you align! [laughing at the corporate-speak]
ELM: The herb v. bear construction.
KC: And knowing that there’s also… There’s also a thousand different variations of either of those two, right? Which—and I think that’s part of it, it’s why we’re called Everybody At Once. It’s recognizing that there are always going to be lots of different ways to participate—but also to be attracted to and decide to even come into a fandom in the first place. We have to be aware of as many of them as possible, to be able to understand what it actually means culturally.
But there’s also another side to this equation which is: say the original author, right? The, the showrunner, the creator, the person who came up with the idea and is making this thing where they do feel like they have a…they have an idea in their head and they have a universe in their head that they’re trying to represent through their original stories, through, through the canon material. And that is…
It’s funny, for every—and this isn’t true of all of us—but when any of us make fanwork, it can feel really shitty to see your work screenshotted and thrown on someone else’s Instagram account. Like, a bad one, right? Where it’s like, it’s obviously somebody who’s not doing it because they’re trying to expose your work and give you credit, but because they’re using it as a commodity, right? That happens at all levels. And so, let’s say you’re an original creator who maybe worked really damn hard to get the story and these characters and these relationships a home in this TV series or in this movie studio, right? And you get into production, and you see that work taken and used in lots of other ways that maybe you didn’t imagine. Maybe if you're secure with yourself, you’re looking at that and go, “Oh wow, that’s cool. That’s awesome.”
FK: [laughing] But how many writers have you ever met who are very secure with themselves?
KC: Exactly. It’s like—if you think about, “Oh my God, they’re going through the same thing that I’m going through as a fan,” when they see their work used these different ways—it’s going to take a while to…I think culture is going to take a while, before we’re in a place where even they’re ready. For being able to accept all the different ways that your characters and story and universe are going to be used.
FK: It seems to me that one of the things that’s challenging about that, and maybe this is something that you try to address in some of your work, is that there’s such a…it's so hard for someone who is not getting paid for their writing, who does not have the ability even to get into rooms, to fight, to make a show, to recognize that someone who has all those privileges can still be a neurotic mess. [all laugh] You know what I mean? Like, who truly cannot handle criticism unless it’s coming from someone who is more powerful than them and when they do get that, then they’re like, “Fuck you! I guess I’ll do it!” Right. You know what I mean? All those things, all those stereotypes about Hollywood writers, right? Like, it’s hard for the empathy to go from, like, someone who doesn’t have the ability to get their own stories out in the same way and to say like, “Have empathy for this creator.” That's a really hard leap for people to make, and I don’t know if it’s fair to ask everybody to do—to make that leap.
ELM: I don’t think it is fair to ask that. Really? You really think so? I’m sorry. As professional journalist, that’s a contract that I’m making. I don’t think being a professional journalist means that I should be harassed—but I’m being compensated for my work, so people can say whatever they want about it. Right? Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying?
KC: Oh, what I’m saying?
ELM: No, what Flourish is saying.
FK: No, I was—that was the point that I was making.
ELM: Oh, OK! I’m just repeating it.
FK: That was my, that was my point. My point was like, I don’t know—I don’t know that it’s fair to ask someone to have empathy, to ask fans who—
ELM: No, but you were framing it like, “Fans who only write fanfiction and are unpaid really can’t understand what it's like,” or something. It’s like—
FK: No, I don’t mean that. I meant that to ask them to, like… I mean, number one, first I think it is sometimes hard to be…like, “Duh, you’re getting paid. How could you be that neurotic about this? Like, dude, you have no problems.” Like what’s wrong with…
ELM: Yeah, that’s useless.
FK: And then you’re like, “Oh, you ARE neurotic? Well, tough luck, bud!”
ELM: Right, right. OK.
KC: Yeah, that’s a good point. I didn’t—maybe I should have acknowledged that. No, there’s a total power dynamic there, whether the original creators acknowledge it or like it or not. And that's all the more reason to be aware of the context in which the criticism's coming—or the context in which somebody else…like, somebody else is doing…it’s not because, not everybody is making fanart and fanwork and fanfic because they’re trying to, like, break the industry. A lot of people are doing it because they’re just trying to express themselves. Right? It has a total non-market, there’s a total non-market reason for doing it.
And I think that's the piece where when you start to see that—whether it’s studios or creators or even other fans—like, understanding that there is a difference between the things that are happening because I’m just trying to express or am trying to articulate an idea that I have and I’m doing it through, through smashing keyboard…I don’t mean smashing keyboard. I’m doing it through writing or I’m doing it through illustration or video or whatever else it is. The reason that exists isn’t because—or the reason people are doing that are usually personal reasons that don’t necessarily have to do with the market.
That said, once people realize that they’re really damn good at a thing and they want to keep doing more of it, figuring out how people can get compensated for what they’re adding to a community is, feels like…I don’t know what you guys think about it, but I kind of, I worry about that. Because once you throw in a market incentive to making fanwork, then that changes your relationship to the work. And it changes your relationship to the fandom. And then, and you’re now creating new power structures again. So I guess, “Oh yeah, yay capitalism,” which, there’s no way around it…
Folks on the traditional side of what looks like The Man are going to start interacting and trying to do stuff with fandoms. They have to do it in ways where they’re approaching it with as much empathy and as much sort of cultural sensitivity as possible. And when I say cultural sensitivity, I mean in the broadest form, down to “There is a particular culture on this one site, in this one forum, in this one group.” Right? And if you can’t acknowledge that and you can’t, like, at least—if you can’t figure out how to build around that, then, you know, you can mess things up.
ELM: Yeah. It seems to me that, though, at least the current models that you work with, you’re not really imposing on anyone. Like, I could be a Doctor Who fan, deep in it, and not follow the Doctor Who tumblr. And you could be…Doctor Who tumblr could not be a part of my life in any way and I could have this super aggressive oppositional relationship to the show and be like, “I don’t need any of this.” Right? But, you know, if I was a different kind of…I mean, I do follow the Doctor Who tumblr because it’s just charming fanart all the time, you know? [laughing] You are not…I mean, you don’t have to actually speak about this—maybe you are doing things like this. But it’s not like you’re going into these specific forums, you’re, like, rolling up on AO3, like, “Hey, how do you do, fellow kids? We’re the show! You writing some fanfic about us?” You know, you let people opt in to the conversation that you’re having. I can choose whether or not I want to engage with you in the platform where I already am. Is that fair?
KC: I think it’s, yeah, I think that was very kind. So thank you.
ELM: [laughs] I like your tumblrs!
KC: Well, it’s very, it’s a kind understanding of what we’re trying to do, which is, which is that core is…first, we have, we have this methodology we came up with where it’s like: the most important thing in a fandom are the people themselves. And so therefore…and not the work. Not to look at it as commodity. And so therefore you have to listen to what is going on in the fandom, not just in regards to whatever the particular property is, but what else is going on in their lives? What else are they paying attention to? What are they interested in? What do they care about? Can you amplify the positive behaviors—or what I call, positive is a weird word for me, I like to say “life affirming” behaviors, which isn’t about saying that this is good or bad, but it’s more like…this is something that actually says, “Hey, it’s cool that you exist,” as opposed to saying “You're a bad example.”
What are the ways you can actually help support the fandom? Where it seems like certain people need support. And the folks who are like really deep in? Like, they don’t need support. Like, they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re, they’re holding the entire freakin’ fandom up on their shoulders, right? Um, we, we try to help. Our thing is to go alongside of them and hold up along with them. Um, and then what are the different ways we can actually organize to get people, get people in front of each other.
And so, if we’re highlighting fanwork, we’re always making credit—because we want people to speak to the original author. We don’t—it’s less important that they talk to us. Or if it’s something like a Comic-Con, like, we want to put together a meet-up where people will get to meet each other. It’s, yeah, if talent happens to be there and everything else, then that’s cool. But it’s really about, how do you expose the fandom to each other.
So if we put together a meet-up, we’re going to ask—we’re going to find interesting work and we’re going to ask the original creators if we can put that up in the gallery. If we can—if they made music, can we play it during the event, which is about exposing people to each other, not to more opportunities to monetize them. Right? And if those things do happen, those things are sort of secondary, right? Because the primary thing is, you know…because there’s going to be a merch table at everything, right? But if you can get people to actually make connection with each other, that’s how you support a fandom that will maybe continue to exist long after the release is done. And yeah, there’s never going to be an Inception 2.
ELM: Thank God.
KC: But if we all found each other, and we’ve developed ways of being able to be in conversation with each other at a decent cadence, cool. Right?
FK: I would not hold my breath for there not being another—an Inception 2. I just have to say that the desire for franchise is so strong. It’s so strong.
ELM: Flourish, I’m gonna cut off your mic. I wish I could.
FK: I don’t know. I just never say never in cases like this.
KC: OK. Is there something that you do want to see a “two” of?
ELM: What, can you make that happen? Look, you guys, I’m coming from the book world here. There are very few twos in the world of, like, adult literary fiction and that’s usually for the best. I also like, I think I said this to Flourish before, but I will often go on…if I really love a novel, I’ll go on AO3 and I’ll be like, “Has anyone…?” And there’s nothing. And I’ll be like like, “No, you know what? That’s right.” Like, I’m just gonna sit with my thoughts and then I’ll read another book at some point.
FK: I think that this is true.
ELM: Do you feel this way too? I think there are a lot of movies like this.
FK: There are things that I feel like are great. Like, there are some things that I’m like, “This is unfinished and, like, I have to argue with it,” and there’s some things that are like, “No, that was great. I’m done with it.”
ELM: And learning to tell the difference between, “Oh, I just love sitting with this!” And like, “Gotta continue punching this bag!” You know, like, it’s actually kind of hard to tell the difference sometimes, when you’re in it, but…
FK: Yeah, just as we all feel when we get to the end of, like, movie eight in a franchise, and we’re like, “Actually, I didn’t even want movie seven, six or five! Four was a maybe! We could have stopped at three and I would have been mad at the time, but it all would have been for the best!”
KC: During the ’80s there was the Police Academy? Horrible—slapstick comedy, stuff that doesn’t hold up for lots of reasons and is totally problematic now. However, I don’t remember how many they got up to. Police Academy 8, 9, something like that?
ELM: Was this your fandom as a young person?
KCb I wasn’t, I wasn’t an active member of that fandom, no, but it was a…but I think it’s a really great example of like what happens with…I mean, we see this all the time now. I guess too, especially in horror, where you see that they just try to milk it over and over and over again to the point where it just—there’s nothing there to to do anymore. No matter how many times they try to reboot Terminator.
ELM: Well, and you’ll get people in the door though. You’ll get people to buy tickets, but you’re not going to…
FK: “Which is all I care about! The first three months. I just want someone to buy the ticket and then I’m like…”
ELM: Genuinely! I dunno. I feel that’s why, whenever I watch these announcements of…there were a lot of them that I saw this year at Comic-Con in San Diego, and people were just like, “So glad to see Predator back!” And it’s like, you clearly don’t even care about the content of this film. You liked this concept. You have vague memories of seeing it in the past. You’re going to go again. And that’s all that matters! Because like, who cares about the—you know, a fandom around that, right? Like, that’s the vibe I get from a lot of this. Maybe that’s cynical.
KC: No, but maybe that’s what that person thinks, that’s what that person thinks is possible and that’s what they want. And so…
ELM: Just people to buy some tickets.
KC: There’s two things that fan activity does for me—there’s a lot of things that it does for me personally. One is, I don’t tend to watch things when they premiere. I don’t tend to see—like, I’m the person who sees the trailer like five weeks after everyone else and it’s like, “Oh my God, did everyone see this?” [all laugh] Everyone’s like “Yeah, it’s been covered. Been a few weeks.”
FK: Yeah, me too. The immortal time that I watched M*A*S*H 30 years later and was freaking out about Hotlips and Hawkeye kissing and everyone on the Internet was like “great.”
ELM: You’ve brought it up on this podcast maybe 50 times.
FK: It was so memorable! Go on, Kenyatta.
KC: But I’ll go and I’ll take a look at, like—I’ll take a look on Tumblr, I’ll take a look at AO3, I’ll take a look at…I’ll even take a look at places like Reddit and see are the people who are excited about this. And if there are, I’ll be like, “OK, I’m going to watch this.” Because it obviously resonates with people in communities I respect, and there’s going to be a discussion of it when I do finally get to watch it. Right. Which feels, which makes me feel like, “OK, there’s gonna be people there ready for me—even coming in as a noob.” And that's cool.
But then there’s this other piece. We spent a lot of time working on shows that we want to last forever, but a lot of them tend to end early. Earlier than, you know—a lot of shows tend to end earlier than we expect, or definitely earlier than fans expect. When that happens, we try to figure out, OK, how do we actually either land a these official accounts gracefully or…it’s not just about shutting it off, it’s about, “Hey, these are people who are actually…” We recognize that people are in conversation around this thing, and we’re part of the conversation. How do we do this in a way where we’re actually handing the conversation off, so that the prominent members and the organizers of the fandom can take this over and feel like they have ownership of it. I spent a lot of time looking at, uh, looking on tags, looking at subreddits for shows that were only on for one season, just to kind of understand the conversation that’s happening and what people expect. And then it’s also taking a look at, “OK, what’s the kind of work that’s still being produced?” Because if we can set something up for that, then that feels more responsible than just treating it as marketing.
FK: Yeah. The famous shutoff where it's just like, “Bye. Bye now. Maybe you’ll get a pre-queued-up post on Christmas.”
ELM: Do they not call it sunsetting in the entertainment industry?
KC: They do…
ELM: I just like the word sunsetting. Makes me annoyed.
FK: That suggests that someone has any, like, consciousness around what they’re doing. Because usually what it’s more like is, “Oh yeah, it’s out of Theatrical’s hands now. So we’ll just throw it over to whoever…who has it next? Oh, I don’t know, they’ll contact us if they want the account.” Actual conversations.
ELM: The worst I would say is stuff from like maybe five to ten years ago in that range. More like, closer to five than ten. That was, like, extra-canonical material released just for a movie. And the site has barely been maintained if it has been at all. And then you enter a fandom seven years after the movie came out.
KC: Ugh. Do you ever go to like, dead Flash sites?
FK: Elizabeth is experiencing some feelings right now.
ELM: No, I don’t, I genuinely don’t care about anything that FOX says. What were you saying? [all laugh]
KC: My favorite is going to, when I would get really excited about…especially during that time, because at that time a lot of people were doing, or a lot of brands and marketing folks were doing ARGs.
FK: Yes, they were!
KC: And I’ll sometimes think about, “Oh yeah, I remember that ARG. That was so cool! I want to go back and take a look at it again. I wanna go play that again!”
FK: Yep! Nope. No one’s taking care of that.
KC: And it’s a Flash site! [all laughing] Where you get nothing but, like, the missing plugin symbol? And that’s kind of, that’s, that’s a favorite of mine.
ELM: Oh, Flash. OK. I am, I am very sorry to say that I think we’re past time. Not even out of time, but like, we’ve gone slightly long on this one.
FK: Aww. But I wanna keep talking!
ELM: Yeah, I do want to keep talking.
KC: I do want to keep talking to you, but I also want to be mindful, too, both of your time and everyone’s who’s listening.
ELM: No, I don’t know. One time, this was years ago, but one time we asked our listeners if they were OK with the length—because everyone is like, “Oh, podcasts should be, like, under half an hour.” And then people were like, “It could be longer,” when we asked. We were like, “Oh goodness.”
FK: No, no, no. We can’t do longer.
ELM: I’m sure that there are people who will never listen to this because they see it’s, like, longer than an hour, and they’re like, “No, my life’s too short.” But anyone who’s still here, thanks.
ELM: I made it awkward for anybody who’s still listening.
KC: Can we put an Easter egg in there?
ELM: You have an Easter egg to give them?
KC: I was just trying to think if they, if they’ve gotten this far. It’s like getting really far in the Terms of Service.
FK: Just lay an egg! Just lay an egg, Kenyatta! Just go “bok-bok-bok” and lay it.
ELM: That’s…Flourish! [laughing]
KC: Oh my God, that’s it!
ELM: We are very much past time.
KC: Reply to the Fansplaining Twitter account with a chicken emoji.
ELM: Oh wow. That’s incredible. I really hope this happens. Yes. If you listened this far, tweet at us—tweet at you as well. Is it @kenyatta?
KC: Yeah, @kenyatta.
ELM: Yeah, and @fansplaining. Please tweet a chicken at us. That's beautiful.
FK: [finger kiss noise] This is the finest minds in audience engagement, right here! [all laugh]
ELM: Yeah. Make that your next campaign for some major property! Tweet a chicken at us. Just to show that you listened to it.
KC: I’m quiet ’cause I’m actually trying to think of a way to sneak that into something. [laughing]
FK: All right, I gotta call it. It’s been wonderful talking to you, Kenyatta.
ELM: Thank you so much, Kenyatta.
KC: Thank you both, this was great, you’re welcome.
FK: Ah, Kenyatta!
ELM: Is the greatest.
FK: Yeah, definitely.
ELM: Absolutely. Also, like, I can’t wait to have him on again. Too soon!
FK: Yeah, or other people from Everybody At Once.
ELM: Yeah, but also him! We’ll go through the whole cycle, and then we’ll have him on again. It’ll be the Everybody At Once podcast going forward.
FK: Oh my God. [both laugh]
ELM: That was great. You know, I’d love to hear thoughts from fans, because I feel like…you know, all three of us, particularly the two of you, kind of exist in this space of...you have this kind of standard line of, “Well, fandom has changed, it’s exposed, people are gonna try to monetize it, so I wanna be there trying to do good work while this is happening.” Right?
FK: For sure.
ELM: But your stance is definitely…but there is no going back, and it is happening, so let me help this not be painful and exploitative and stuff. [laughs] And that’s definitely Kenyatta’s approach as well, but you know, I’m always curious to hear from people who are…if you say it’s not happening, that’s not a useful statement, but I’m curious to hear from people who…
FK: Substantively not true.
ELM: Right, right. But the kind of, like, “I still don’t really want these content creators coming in my fannish spaces,” I think that’s something valid, and I don’t know. It’s interesting!
FK: Yeah, I agree!
ELM: OK, before we do our wrap-up stuff, can we thank everyone at Wheaton?
FK: Yes! Oh my God, it was so much fun to go to Wheaton College to talk to classes.
ELM: So we went to Wheaton College in Massachusetts, shout-out to Professor Josh Stenger…
ELM: I wanna say, like, he’s our bro! We really bonded in those two days, I feel like. Sorry to put you on the spot, Josh. Hopefully we’ll have him on at some point, because he does fan studies, media studies, film studies, but he also does digital humanities, some real data analysis work around fan studies.
FK: Yeah, and I thought that was awesome and fascinating. I really would love to interface him on Toast and see what happens, you know?
ELM: Incredible, “interface him on.”
FK: Destination Toast, who’s been on the podcast before, if you haven’t...not, like, a piece of toast. [both laugh]
ELM: If Josh wants to go out for toast, I’m down. That’s fine.
FK: Avocado toast. We are Millennials, after all.
ELM: I love toast. I just had a hummus toast. Anyway, we talked to a bunch of Josh’s classes and we had a wonderful evening where a whole bunch of people came—and actually asked us some questions that have, like, haunted me.
FK: They’ve haunted you!
ELM: Not haunted me, but really really helping me articulate…how I think about this podcast, how I think about podcasting, how I think about audiences…like, at one point during the interview, Josh asked us what would we be doing if we weren’t—with this, like, time and these ideas—if we weren’t podcasting. And I had to think really hard, and I was like, “Uh…” [laughs] You know? And actually articulate that. The answer isn’t just, “Well, you’re doing a podcast,” you know what I mean?
FK: Yeah, I also might not have had some of these ideas without...you know what I mean? I don’t think I said that, but I don’t think that I would have had a lot of these ideas without podcasting. I think that a lot of my ideas have been shaped by our podcast. I mean, I might have had different ideas, but not these ones. It’s not like it would have been, “Oh, without this podcast, we both independently would have gone and written exactly one half of the things that we said on Fansplaining,” you know.
ELM: I think having conversations with people and with each other really gives us the chance to kind of work through a lot of ideas, and my thoughts have really evolved on a lot of stuff. And with our listeners and readers. I always say “listeners,” but I know we have readers too.
FK: The broader conversation, that I hope we’ve fostered.
ELM: Helped to, yeah, all right. But anyway, the students were incredible, and I just wanted to acknowledge that. They made me feel really excited about...I’m gonna sound cheesy, but excited about the youth! Right? [laughs]
FK: Yeah! Excited about the youth! And if any of those students are listening to us right now, hooray!
ELM: Yeah, thank you!
FK: Thank you for sticking around. But also, if you want to join this conversation that we hope we’ve fostered—especially you, Wheaton students, we’re looking at you—
ELM: Smooth transition!
FK: Yeah, look at this sweet segue! You can contact us. And the very best way to contact us is by calling us and leaving a voice mail at 1-401-526-3267. That’s 1-401-526-FANS.
ELM: We’re gonna start saying the number, because you got that FANS number for a reason. And then we never say it on the air, which is dumb. What’s it again? 1-401-526-FANS?
ELM: [laughs] I feel like people don’t do that any—cause you know, back in the day, they’d be like “Call 1-800-something-something-something-WORD.”
FK: You know what still does that? Amtrak. 1-800-USA-RAIL is what you call to get—
FK: Yeah, I’ve got it memorized.
ELM: Beautiful. Yeah, the only numbers I’ve got memorized are for WAMC and WNYC because they say it so often during the pledge drive.
FK: Oh my God. You know what’s sad is, that I don’t have my own husband’s cell phone number memorized. But...
ELM: I don’t think anyone has cell phone numbers, which is kind of scary when you think about it.
FK: I know, right? Like...
ELM: Like, what if I didn’t have my phone, and it was an emergency.
FK: Couldn’t, wouldn’t happen.
ELM: Send ’em a Facebook message.
FK: I guess. [both laugh]
ELM: Anyway, yes, that’s the best way to contact us, if you would like to use your voice. If you would just like to use your words, you can send us an email at fansplaining at gmail.com, or an ask at fansplaining.com, which is a Tumblr.
FK: And anon is on, so if you want to send something anonymously, that’s probably the best way to do it.
ELM: We’re also @fansplaining at Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram, so I don’t know if you can even send messages through Instagram—clearly I know nothing about Instagram.
FK: You can in fact send messages through Instagram. You wanna show us images of your face, that’s also a good way to do it.
ELM: Oh wow.
FK: Please don’t show us images of anything else. [laughs] Oh, God.
ELM: Your Funko Pop collection!
FK: You can show us pets! We’re into that.
ELM: Fine. Or, my new favorite way of people contacting us, is patrons through Patreon!
ELM: We’re getting more and more correspondence through there. We have a Patreon. That’s how we, not necessarily fully pay for this podcast, but it does provide monetary support—just to pay for hosting costs and some of our labor, though not even remotely all of it. So it’s patreon.com/fansplaining, you can pledge as little as $1-a-month, and our most popular tier is $3-a-month where you get all our special episodes. And if you’ve been on the fence, can I recommend doing it right now, because we have recorded a new one!
FK: The Favourite, which combines our love of…if you like femslash, it is about lesbian romances in Elizabeth's favorite time period!
ELM: Lesbian love triangle…well, WLW love triangle…
FK: “Love”? “Love” triangle? How much love is in this.
ELM: I think that love is complicated. [FK laughs] It stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, all three of whom are exquisite, I believe, is the word that I would use.
FK: Yeah. But we can’t talk about this any more. You will have to pledge at the $3-a-month level to hear our thoughts on this movie.
ELM: And on historical fiction!
FK: That’s true.
ELM: And on The Once and Future King!
FK: Well, that’s a future episode, I think.
ELM: We also talked about it in this episode, but yeah, we’re gonna do a future one on the whole book when I’m finished. Just, I’m sorry, am I givin’ away too much right now?
FK: You’re givin’ away too much! We gotta hold something back.
ELM: Shit, shit. All right. So that’s $3-a-month, of course there are other levels, we’re gonna be doing a new Tiny Zine—our next installment in our collaboration with Maia Kobabe, our favorite artist, about fandom firsts. The first one is about Maia’s introduction to fanfiction; the next one will be about mine. And, uh, yeah! So that’s at the $10-a-month level if you have some cash to spare!
FK: All right. Well, I think that covers everything!
ELM: All right!
FK: All right.
FK: I’ll talk to you later, Elizabeth!
ELM: OK, bye Flourish!
ELM & FK: Fansplaining is brought to you by all of our patrons, especially Kathleen Parham, Kitaoroshi, Bryan Shields, Boxish, Grace Mitchell, Christine Hoxmeier, Desiree Longoria, Jennifer Brady, Bluella, Georgie Carroll, Goodwin, Earlgreytea68, Chloe-Leonna Steele, Menlo Steve, Katherine Lynn, Clare Mulligan, Heidi Tandy, Megan C., Sara, Josh Stenger, Tablesaw Tablesawsen, Jennifer Doherty, froggy, nubreed73, Amelia Harvey, Meghan McCusker, Michael Andersen, Helena Romelsjö, Willa, Cynsa Bonorris, veritasera, Clare Muston, sekrit, Maria Temming, Anne Jamison, Jay Bushman, Lucas Medeiros. Jules Chatelain. Javier Grillo-Marxuach, and in honor of One Direction and Captain James McGraw Flint. The opinions expressed in this podcast are not our clients’, or our employers’, or anyone’s except our own.