Episode 90: The Year In Fandom 2018
In “The Year In Fandom 2018,” Elizabeth and Flourish discuss the events of the year: What trends from 2017 continued, what was less important, and did anything new begin to emerge? Tumblr fell apart; #metoo did not save us from the way systems enable abusers; K-pop more fully entered mainstream Anglophone culture; moral panics around shipping only intensified; and capitalism shaped everything in fandom, forever and ever, amen.
[00:10:17] Episode 88: Kenyatta Cheese!
[00:15:50] Flourish is a little wrong—Eliza Dushku didn’t win her case against CBS, she settled some time ago and the details of the settlement finally came out recently. Nothing actually happened in court. The other details we talk about are correct.
[00:17:06] Moira Donegan’s article about starting the Shitty Men in Media list, in case you need some backstory.
[00:19:29] The interstitial music here and throughout is “Auld Lang Cha Cha Cha,” by the Airmen of Note, which is in the public domain.
[00:25:44] Flourish and Elizabeth talk about Flourish’s copy of The Once and Future King on the special episode about The Favourite, which you can listen to by donating $3/month or more to our Patreon. But here’s what they’re talking about:
[00:36:12] As you might guess, the LA Times is the newspaper that covers “How the team behind ‘Ready Player One’ wrangled a bonanza of pop culture references into a single film.”
[00:39:25] Episode 71: Lori Morimoto!
[00:50:22] Episode 29: Shipping and Activism!
[00:51:30] Here’s Aja Romano’s coverage of SESTA and FOSTA’s impact on the internet—written back in April 2018, long before we saw these most recent results.
[01:00:24] WE LOVED THE FAVOURITE EVERYONE. Listen to our special episode about it by donating $3/month or more to our Patreon!
Elizabeth also enjoyed SO MUCH X-Men fanfic and her many many recs are available for your perusal here.
Meanwhile, Flourish just enjoyed Swear Trek.
Flourish Klink: Hi, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth Minkel: Hi, Flourish.
FK: And welcome to Fansplaining, the podcast by, for, and about fandom!
ELM: This is episode 90, “The Year in Fandom 2018.”
FK: We survived!
ELM: I don’t know, like, this year compared to last year and the year before... I feel a lot less compelled to be like, “Thank God!”
FK: I feel less compelled, too. But the reason I feel less compelled is that I have become used to it.
ELM: I really do think this year—people are saying, like, “Oh, it’s not like I’m just dreading the end of this hell-year. It’s just, like, a weird year.” And I feel like it’s just strange, like a lot of strange things happened.
FK: Yeah, I don’t know. I guess I’m having a hard time telling whether I’m just like, you know, the frog in the pot slowly getting boiled to death.
ELM: It’s called climate change.
FK: Right, exactly! But it all feels, it all feels sort of normal at this point.
ELM: So. Pause. Let me apologize to the listeners in advance for my cold voice.
FK: It’s not that bad!
ELM: Really? It sounds to me... Maybe because my ears are full of fluid, like, everything is just full of fluid. There’s a lot of fluids.
FK: Uh, well, I can tell you that while you don’t sound normal, you also don’t sound like you’re about to die.
ELM: Cool, thank you!
FK: Which was the impression I just got from your apology here. That you feel like you’re about to die.
ELM: I’m kind of mad because it’s the second... 2018, marked by two different full-on classic sneezing colds. You know, where you sneeze for days.
FK: I hate that! Cause it gets in your way.
ELM: I don’t get those that often. Yeah. Yeah. It’s really frustrating. The first one I had in the spring, and I had a tickets with a friend to go see A Winter’s Tale.
FK: Oh no, and you were sneezing!
ELM: My nose literally would not stop running and it was like, “This is really, really unpleasant.” Cool. Welcome to the podcast. My nose wouldn’t stop running when I was at a play. [FK laughs] Don't worry, don't worry.
FK: Well, maybe that’s somehow metaphorical for our year. However!
ELM: [muttering] All right.
FK: All right. So, traditionally what we do in these episodes is, first we talk about the sort of trends we saw last year. So, in our 2017 episode, when we did the year in review 2017, we listed some things that we felt like had been going on that year. We’ll talk about those, we’'ll talk about how they’ve continued or changed in the current year, and then we’ll talk about what new happened in 2018. That’s the plan.
ELM: Yes. That is the plan.
FK: So let’s start by talking about what we said last year. So last year we talked about... We felt like the limits of how much fandom could possibly mainstream had been reached. Like, people knew a bunch of fandom terms, but they didn’t understand what they mean and we were like, “How does it get more mainstream? We don’t think it can go further than this.” Question to you, person who has engaged in fandom journalism: do you think that it somehow got even more mainstream? Or do you think we were right?
ELM: What does that mean, “more mainstream”?
FK: I don’t know, this is what we said last year! So I’m just responding—complain to our year-ago selves for having a bad topic!
ELM: It’s not a bad topic! This is one of the things, this is one of my biggest issues right now with the broader discussion around fandom. Right? But I don’t know, I just think this kind of continued. I don’t think that there was any saturation point. For example, before the midterm elections, that Republican strategist who’s a dumbass on multiple levels—he was the one who also tweeted about how, like, monarchies were good, actually, during the Bush funeral week.
FK: Oh, yeah, that guy. That was a bad take.
ELM: He tweeted something before the midterms, like maybe in September or October saying about Beto O’Rourke from Texas—that Beto was a fanfiction, and then some other words, and that had nothing to do with... And I think... It was to the point where rather than just, like, having a weird, off idea of what fanfiction meant and using it—this was almost as if his phone, like, autocorrected the word “fantasy” to “fanfiction.” Because it literally made no sense. And so then I was like, “ugh.” And of course I retweet these. And I’m like, “Ugh, stop.”
And then a political journalist from The Atlantic who I actually think is very, very good, who I don’t want to drag again, retweeted it—and engaged with this tweet on his level, saying like, “No, the real fanfiction is…” And I was like, “No! Now even smart journalists are doing this! And people who I think have good political coverage, not just hacks, are!” And you know, it was a male journalist, right. Who obviously doesn’t really know what fanfiction means. Not to say that male journalists don’t, but like...
FK: But sometimes they don’t.
ELM: More often than not it tends to be them, you know. And he responded to me and he was like, “I was just furthering his construction.” And I was like, “Yeah, but it sucks, because, like—I respect you generally, but not this,” you know. And that was only a couple months ago and it just... It feels a little pointless. Me sitting there in the corner being like, “The way you’re using this term has literally nothing to do with what it actually means! And this is frustrating!” You know? And they’re like, “Go away. We’re talking about politics.” You know.
FK: First of all, yes. Second of all... This is, like, the classic. I’m being as Flourish as possible here by saying, “first of all, yes, second of all..”
ELM: [emphatically] “Yes. I agree with you.”
FK: I aggressively agree with you, and I’m gonna argue with you because I agree with you! But I do think that this is a very—I may have said this last year, that this is a common... People get a word from a subculture and then they don’t care. Right? Like, obviously the guy you were talking to, he doesn’t have a horse in the race of whether people use the word “fanfiction” correctly or not. He doesn’t care.
ELM: Yeah. He doesn’t care.
FK: Like, he genuinely does not care at all. And I think he should, but I also don’t care if like, I don’t know... I mean, on some level I care if, like, a skateboarding term gets used correctly, because I would like all terms to get used correctly. But if I see someone using it wrong, like... “All right, whatever. You used the term ‘alley-oop,’” and I’m just...
ELM: Oh my God. [laughing] The difference between that and this is, actually, there are really interesting ways that you can use ideas about fanfiction and what it actually means to talk about something like politics.
FK: [laughing] Are you saying that you couldn’t use a skateboarding term to talk interestingly about politics? I’m not sure you could, but I’m going to argue as the devil’s advocate here.
ELM: Yes. That is what I’m saying! That I don’t...
FK: [still laughing] I guess can’t really defend this very well since I just said “alley-oop.”
ELM: I don’t—is that, is that a skateboarding term? It’s a basketball term.
FK: I don’t know! It’s just a term I plucked out of the air that sounded like something.
ELM: Incredible. Incredible. Yeah. I think that...
FK: But I take your point, that there is a real way that you could use that to interact with politics and talk about it and like... They’re just not doing it.
ELM: I’m not saying there aren’t examples of what you’re saying that I wouldn’t agree... Come up with a better example, and I’d be like, “yeah, that one too.” But that was not a good one. I’m not going to say yes to that. No offense.
FK: [laughing] I don’t take offense.
ELM: Good, good. Yeah, it’s super annoying. I think... Was it last year or this year that, that professor blocked both of us?
FK: I think that was last year.
ELM: It was last year still, when you politely told him not to use “fanfiction” that way and I called him a clown.
FK: Yeah. And then he blocked both of us and that was great.
ELM: And a bunch of other people too. So who knows what his insights are? We haven’t had any of them in 2018!
FK: Yeah. Too bad, so sad.
ELM: His great commentary about politics and fanfiction. You know, like, whatever. I just... I guess that bothers me less, I think, than people who are in the entertainment media sphere, who misuse things like shipping in particular—who have a very blunt or incomplete understanding of what shipping means. Who maybe have one definition of shipping, which has many, many intersecting definitions? And assert that that’s what it is. And I’ve seen this from entertainment journalists who actually have no experience in fandom themselves—or in that kind of fandom, in shipping fandom. So, fanfiction is one thing, but it just feels like people are really ignorant with the shipping thing. It’s just—it turns into sort of a mansplaining situation a lot. And it’s like... But that’s not even, that’s only one facet of something that's actually pretty complicated.
FK: Yeah. I mean, I think that it’s particularly in journalism. Because when people who are, say, running an official social media account or something like that, you know, choose to only reflect one form of shipping or one type of fan interaction, then at least they’re not like, you know—they may or may not be communicating that they understand the whole fandom, but they’re not making any claims about, like, what fandom is. They’re just, like, reflecting one part of it. [ELM makes a doubtful noise] But in a journalist talking about this, I find that... I find that much more frustrating.
ELM: Well, but I don’t think you can set those hard lines between those things because every—all these people are on Twitter in the same space. [FK makes a “hmm” noise] And I know a lot of people who are, like, media commentators who actually don’t do very much journalism. Or I know people who are on my feed who mostly are like, you know, writers in Hollywood or whatever, that kind of thing—or directors or people who broadly work in the entertainment industry, who make a lot of sweeping statements on Twitter.
FK: That’s true. That’s true. I was thinking more about, like, an official account choosing to, you know, say whatever.
ELM: But when an official account does something like that, they are kind of inherently saying something, because now they’re invoking ideas about shipping that have to do with official sanction. Right?
FK: Oh, absolutely.
ELM: That’s the clash, right? Because it's not necessarily what they're intending. Right? Like if they—the Star Wars account tweeting back at the Waffle House about the Reylo waffle tweet. That is your number one story of 2018.
FK: [laughing] Oh God. Number one.
ELM: Like, the Star Wars account engaging with that is a suggestion that... that's no longer just, “We the people and we the Waffle House customers think the idea of Reylo is fun.” When the Star Wars account gets into that conversation, that changes it.
FK: I agree with that. I guess what I would say though is that I expect from, say, the Star Wars account—or, like, say, the Doctor Who account, right, to go back to Kenyatta who came on the podcast a little while ago. The Doctor Who account reblogs certain kinds of fanart and not other kinds of fanart. Right?
ELM: But they don’t engage with shipping at all.
FK: Right. They make a choice not to engage with shipping at all, for sure, but still they are putting official sanction on certain types of engagement and not on others. And I think that everyone expects that from... I mean again, I think it’s more tense when you involve shipping and, you know... But, but I think it’s fundamentally the same kind of thing. It’s just that people don’t get angry about, like, “Oh they didn’t, they didn’t reblog my,” whatever, “my Doctor Who porn,” or something. Like, no, everyone understands why they’re doing that or not doing that.
FK: Right? Whereas, like, with shipping, there are also reasons why people would engage with or not engage with it from a business perspective—that are broadly kinda similar to why they don’t reblog your Doctor Who porn. But it has a big impact, because—
ELM: But I’m saying a lot of brands ARE engaging with shipping.
FK: Yeah! And they’re choosing to do that for similar reasons to why you might choose not to engage with certain other kinds of things. Right? They’re engaging with it because someone wants to get clicks, or because they truly do want to engage that particular type of shipping and think that that should be encouraged from their strategic standpoint. But I think that people understand that that’s a strategic standpoint. It’s not a statement like—I mean, maybe some people read it as a statement about what fandom is, but it’s a different kind of statement than a journalist saying “...and this is what shipping means.”
ELM: I think it’s a different statement, but I think it’s a much bigger statement. I think a massive brand account engaging with shipping in any way is bigger than any one individual. Because then you’re going to have thousands and thousands of fans reading into it—without a lot of context—and imposing their own beliefs about what shipping means and what this is clearly a signal of.
FK: I agree, but I just think that when there’s any, any kind of interaction, right... Like, if you interact with cosplay in that way, or with like... Like, literally any kind of interaction. If they interacted with an alternate universe story or something like this. Right? Like...
ELM: I think it’s different. I think shipping is different than all the things you’re talking about.
FK: I mean, I agree. I agree with you fundamentally on that, but I’m trying to—I’m trying to think about, like, why. You know, and I’m not sure I know why, but I have that same gut feeling, but I’m trying to, like, figure out why it’s different.
ELM: Yeah. I mean, I think the only other place where people get as passionate is when it comes to various kinds of representation that aren’t tied up to relationships. Which, of course it’s really hard to untangle those too, but you know... The idea of, like, “This character is going to be cast as a—with a female actor,” or “this person is going to be cast as a Black actor,” whatever, et cetera. Like, that’s the only time when people get as invested as they do with shipping. But other kinds of fanworks and official brand account interaction? Like, there’s nothing for people to fight over. [FK makes a “hmm” noise] You know, “Oh, they support cosplayers,” like, you know. OK.
FK: Right. Yeah. Well... I’m going to have to think about this a little more because I think that there's more to dig into with it, but I think that we also have to sort of move to the next thing.
ELM: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
FK: And this’ll come back in. OK. So the next thing that we talked about was in 2017, [laughing] I quote, “There’s been a lot of moral panic around shipping.”
ELM: You’re laughing at it like you didn’t write these words.
FK: Uh, well, actually they’re pulled from quotes of what we said. So I did—I mean, I may have said it or you might’ve said it, but one of us said this on the air last time.
ELM: Well, if I said it, it’s because it was true.
FK: But I’m laughing because we did not know what 2018 had in store for us yet.
ELM: Look, we didn’t say “And it's going to be over in 2018.” I’m sure we said something like “It’s going to be much worse next year” because this is just like—this is a recipe for disaster.
FK: Because everything gets worse. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.
ELM: Yeah, that’s fine. That’s fine. So obviously I am very, very pleased that we finally kind of approached this head on with our Discourse Trilogy, because we’ve just been skirting around it for, like, literally the entire length of this podcast. And it was very, very helpful for me to kind of just say, “We’re going to talk about it.” And like, “How do I feel about it?” And I know my feelings.
FK: All right, great. That's it. OK. So the third thing we talked about, which we didn’t, like, literally put our finger on... Literally, how would we literally put our finger on...? We’d, like, write this on a whiteboard and stick our finger... Nevermind. Anyway.
ELM: Oh, Flourish. Go away. [both laugh] I’m sick. Don’t do this to me.
FK: Oh, poor Elizabeth. We also talked about Me Too a bunch, which to me now feels like it’s sort of been an ongoing thing that will never go away. But it’s funny because that was something that we really pulled out last year.
ELM: Yeah, well, I think in December of 2017 we were two months into this and there was a simultaneous... I think pleasure is the wrong word, but you know, I think both you and I and a lot of people we know were pleased that bad actors—literal bad actors [laughter] but you know, actors who’d done bad things, not just actors, but, you know, structures were being exposed as well as individuals. But also with the simultaneous sense that it wasn’t sustainable, that there’d be a backlash sooner rather than later. That actually, structurally, things weren’t really going to change in any significant way. I think we were feeling that from the very beginning. I think that this past year has largely borne that out. Which is kind of a depressing framing of it—to say we knew it wasn’t going to really make any long-term change and it really hasn’t.
FK: Yeah, I do think that there has been... People have continued to come out of the woodwork. And I mean, you know, maybe I’m feeling more hopeful about it because of Eliza Dushku having just won her case against CBS. If anybody doesn’t know about this, Eliza Dushku was cast on the show Bull, and she was supposed to become a series regular, but she complained about harassment from the lead actor in the workplace and they wrote her off and she just won, like, 9.5 million dollars, which is the money that she would have made if they had kept her on. And the thing that was really notable there was that the lawyer for CBS provided these tapes that he thought were going to help CBS because she was, like, cussing in them? But turns out that they also captured literally all of the harassment on those tapes.
ELM: Cool. But she was, she was doing the un-ladylike wearing.
FK: Exactly. So, like, they got in court [laughing], and they were just like, “You know, shockingly enough, you have just handed us the evidence that indeed she has told the truth about everything that happened and this is the case and you need to pay her money.” So I guess I’m feeling a little bit positive about things because that was just a, you know, I mean, that was, that was such a high profile thing. And I don’t mean to say that like I know any more than has been reported about that—I don’t, but it’s, as it has been reported, it’s nice to see someone, you know, being made whole for what was a shitty thing, you know?
ELM: Right. Absolutely. But like, you know, at the same time, it’s the actual structures.
ELM: I don’t really see a lot of movement on that. In my own industry, you have one of the men who was put on the Shitty Men In Media list suing the creator for one-and-a-half million dollars with a law firm that looks like it was set up explicitly to do this kind of case. Like, these men set up a law firm to defend men who had been accused of various things. And so, like, I mean... I think that that, that case is probably going to have a similar backfire effect. People are saying “Just wait until discovery” because a lot of people have a lot of things to say about this man and his various crimes—sorry, not crimes, but you know, offenses, I don’t want to say anything legally explicit here... But you know, that being said, there are still people on that list who obviously still have their jobs and still have a lot of power.
FK: Yeah. And even if, you know, an individual is taken out, if there’s still structures that enable this... Right? It’s not like, it’s not like there aren’t new people who are jerks coming up every day. Right?
ELM: Absolutely, and in a way I think this is kind of... This is a problem and I think this is true in multiple industries, where there’s this kind of, like... Yeah, and I think it’s not just true in media, but in a lot of industries where this is happening. There’s definitely been an attitude from the very start of, like, “These are bad apples and we need to remove them from the barrel, but this barrel is super great.” And you’re like, “Actually, the barrel is a piece of shit also. There are all these really mediocre apples that were protecting this bad apple and nothing is going to happen to them.” Right? There’s a whole apple structure that needs to be taken down. Look, I like apples, don’t get me wrong.
FK: I am just amazed at how far you took this apple situation.
ELM: Don’t get me wrong!
FK: How DO you like them apples?
ELM: All right. To be fair, there’s been a lot of discourse in my life recently about Red Delicious apples being not delicious.
FK: They are not delicious.
ELM: So I just wanna put that out there. They’re not delicious.
ELM: They’re red.
FK: But not delicious.
ELM: Great, glad we solved that.
FK: They’re mealy. Anyway.
ELM: Yeah. They really are. So you know... I just feel like I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do with all of this and like, I dunno, I’m very cynical about this. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about it any more.
FK: It’s OK. I mean, I do think that maybe that some of these, some of these things that we’ve been talking about shade into some of what we wanted to talk about in 2018, including this one. So maybe we should take a quick break and, you know, get onto the subject of 2018.
ELM: All right, let’s talk about this weird, not-worst-year-ever, but not-great year.
FK: All right, cool.
FK: All right. Onward to 2018. So I think that since we’re moving from 2017 into 2018, we should talk about purity culture, because that was a 2017 thing that is also here today.
ELM: [groans] You want to do that one first?
FK: Yeah, I know. We have to. But we’ll get it out of the way. It’ll be like ripping a Band-Aid off. [ELM sighs hugely] So, OK. So I think that what you just said—
ELM: I like how I don’t even say words and you’re like, “All right, I guess I’ll do this alone. That’s fine.”
FK: Fine. I’ll just do it. You can’t. You can’t say words. No. I think that actually what you were just saying—about bad apples and all this—is really relevant, weirdly, to some ways that people are having purity culture discourse. Right? And it’s gross and weird because it’s that way where...
ELM: Tell me more, because I’m confused about this transition, or analogy, or whatever we’re calling it.
FK: So you were talking about how there are all these structures within media that enable bad people to continue being here. So like, you know, whatever, we fire a bad actor—whether they’re a literal actor or they’re a person running a media company or whatever—and then new people come up and fill that spot and nothing has really changed. And I think that one of the challenges with purity culture in this past year has been the way that the language of Me Too, the language of attempts to truly bring, you know, actual positive change and justice and change structures, have been twisted or... I don’t know at what point, the way that purity culture co-opts them, it makes it really hard to draw that line sometimes. Right?
So, like, people will talk about like... “Fandom is set up to groom people,” you know, it’s about... There’s this narrative, right? This is just one example, right? People will say... There’s this narrative. “People are grooming, grooming young people for unhealthy relationships and a lot of the stuff is reinforcing this,” and all of that. And they’ll talk about it as, like, a structure that is there that is doing it. And it’s frustrating, too, because it’s not always that there’s nothing at the bottom of that complaint, right? Sometimes there is something at the bottom of that complaint. There are people who use fandom to, to groom, you know, younger people into trusting them. I’ve seen some of them. And yet it gets taken in this direction and to this extent, and using all the same language that’s just completely unwarranted. And you’re like, “How did we get there?”
ELM: Well that's interesting. So the way you just said it—I kind of feel like it’s flipped from what you’re actually... That’s more suggesting that there are actually bad apples in fandom, but people are suggesting the barrel is bad. Like I was saying that the media barrel is bad.
FK: I know, but, but I also sort of wonder: there are some things that are bad about the barrel of fandom, right? Maybe not all of the purity culture things, but we just had Rukmini on talking about whiteness being centered in a lot of fandom. And there are some things in the barrel that are bad that way. Right?
ELM: Sure, sure. I just think... you know, I think there’s a lot of things that are kind of getting conflated. And I’m not trying to say you’re doing a bad job, but I think I’m having a little trouble unspooling them. So you know, the kind of...
FK: Yeah. I don't know that I’m unspooling them either, I’m just saying, “I see this tangle! Look at that tangle right there! It’s a tangle!” [laughing]
ELM: So what you have is big, big unstructured groups and no one teaches—really, really teaches anyone else in fandom how to read and what to do with what you read. And to be clear, I don’t think most people in, like, secondary education are doing a fantastic job, at least in my experience and from what I see if a lot of people talking about their schooling. It’s rare that you get a teacher who—especially before college level—who really teaches you how to read and how to read something that is hard and fraught and maybe full of people doing terrible things, and how to not read that as a blueprint, but actually to read it critically and understand that like reading fiction isn’t about, like, a guide for living a moral life? You know?
FK: Particularly when a lot of books for younger people ARE sort of like, “Here’s a guide for living a moral life,” you know?
ELM: Yeah, after-school special kind of, like, potted... That sort of thing. Sure.
FK: Or even just, like—a lot of the books that you’re supposed to, there’s a clear message you’re supposed to take away from it. Like, “Oh, there’s bad people in this book, but at the end we understand they’re bad people,” you know. And then making that transition over....
ELM: I don’t know, I think a lot of the stuff that I read as a child had some moral ambiguity to it. Maybe, you know, you see a lot of... I think you see a lot of [that] in classical children's literature. You know, and your protagonist doing things that are kind of complicated. It’s not as straightforward as Disney, for example. I think particularly in books. I think in the movies that we’re exposed to as kids, I think it’s more black-and-white, and maybe that’s part of the problem, but yeah.
FK: Well, maybe it’s the way that some of them are taught, you know—you’re taught and then there’s like... Whatever, you’re reading, oh, Bridge To Terabithia, and like, the teacher asks you questions about people’s mental states and like, “Do you think that they did the right thing in this moment?” And it’s all very framed around this idea of, like, we’re going to learn something about...
ELM: I think that those questions are necessary, you know what I mean? And so like...
FK: No, I mean, I agree with you that, like, talking about morality is important for children and talking about how we can think about different people’s morality...
ELM: I think you need to start the conversation. Like...
FK: But all I’m saying is that I think that sometimes those conversations about literature get turned into an idea that books are supposed to be about right or wrong.
FK: Which they aren’t always, right? To bring it back to purity culture and these structures, like you were saying, I think you’re right that there is this sort of undifferentiated... Unlike the media or something like this. Right? You know, unlike a work context, there’s this large decentralized group of people who are all reading in different ways and who may have had different levels of ability to read nuance and different things. Not necessarily—I’m not saying, like, innate ability. I’m just saying, you know, exposure to this idea and encouragement.
ELM: Yeah, I think a lot of people just literally aren’t given any structures, any useful structures by their... When I think about the way we were taught, and even... I know I said it was so pure, and it is so pure, but the fact that you were highlighting books for settings, character, themes is actually kind of indicative of how we're taught, you know? “What is the theme of this?” And you’re like, “Can I say it in a sentence? Can I highlight the theme?” And that—there is some value in that, if you say, like, “I think this is a really strong theme of this book,” but the idea that a book has a right and wrong answer.
FK: Well, but also more to the point, that is an age-appropriate stage. But for a lot of people who—especially who don’t continue on into literature classes or anything like this, right? Maybe their age-appropriate learning stops at age 16, whenever they finish their last class, the last English class that they have to do. And then, you know, you never get into... A little bit like how in math, you know, for most people, myself included, your math education ends right when the interesting higher level mathematics begins. Right?
ELM: You calling geometry not interesting?
FK: Yes. You love geometry? Geometry was the best of the options, of the various ones.
ELM: I remember everything until calculus feeling like I didn’t like math, but it was all fine because it was like, you got the right answer and then you were done.
FK: Oh, see, I had the opposite, which is like—I hated all of that. And then as an adult I encounter higher math problems and I’m like, “Whoa, that’s awesome!”
ELM: No, I really don’t, don’t like math in any way. But you know, when you got like... In what do you call it, trigonometry or whatever? When you... Trigonometry? No. What’s the one where you’re solving for X?
ELM: Really? Algebra? What’s trigonometry?
FK: Algebra is solve for X.
ELM: I love this. You know, I got a higher score on the math SAT than the verbal. If you asked me to take the GRE right now, I would get like a zero on math. I remember none of this.
FK: See, my problem was always that I would like get too in the weeds with like some... I couldn’t just do the problem. I had to be like, “But what if…” And the teacher would be like, “Just fuckin’ do the problem! Just do the problem.”
ELM: That's dumb. Just get it over with!
ELM: Yeah. Math. #math, #math. Stay in school, kids, learn some math.
FK: Oh my God. OK. So, but point being that I think this is part of what the purity culture wars are about is this. But it’s also about, like, taking critiques... I don't know, like I said though, there is this element in which despite the fact that fandom is unstructured, there are structures that are part of it, like white supremacy. These things.
ELM: That’s different than the kind of structures I’m talking about. I’m talking about literal organization of people.
FK: I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.
ELM: But saying, talking about systemic forces... We can’t use this. We just had the same... This is just getting semantically jumbled, I think, you know what I mean?
FK: I do know what you mean. I’m just trying to figure out... Maybe it’s just a tangle.
ELM: [laughs] Good. Good takeaway. Just a tangle. Yeah, I mean maybe that’s the answer though, is like, “Well, there aren’t any actual structures.” So here’s the thing, like if you were in a class, you do have, you know, you have a leader, you have a teacher, and if they can give you a frameworks and tools that really help you read. So I’m saying fandom is unstructured in the sense of like—there aren’t really a lot of leaders. There are people who have louder voices than others, but it’s also not something... It’s not like a lot like BNFs are trying to teach you. Sometimes they can get pedantic or they can say, “I think we should interpret this character this way. I think we should interpret, we should ship this ship for this reason.” Right? You know, that definitely happens, but it's not the same thing as saying, “Here's some critical frameworks for which—in which you can read Harry Potter fanfiction,” you know what I mean?
And that's fine. That’s no one’s job, but it also winds up with... You can have this big mass that doesn’t... That is having a lot of simultaneous conversations, and not realizing they’re talking across each other. That being said... So then what you’re talking about, structural forces, structural inequalities and biases, kind of can act as inadvertently the scaffolding that holds up these conversations. Right?
FK: Right. Exactly. There you go. You—
ELM: Did I thread it?
FK: You did it! You threaded it!
ELM: I untangled and rethreaded. I’m working on it.
FK: Man. These metaphors.
ELM: Yeah. You know, this is right when my DayQuil is actually wearing off, so maybe that’s the problem.
FK: Is your DayQuil? I’m not on DayQuil, so...
ELM: Maybe the cold is really, really—the cold itself is making my synapses fire.
FK: Maybe. OK. Purity culture: big problem in 2018. Let’s move on to the next thing. I think we’ve done enough of purity culture.
ELM: All right.
FK: All right, so: capitalism. [laughs]
ELM: [pathetically] Why?
FK: Always an issue! But in 2018 I do think it's true that some of these questions about fandom and capitalism... You know, it’s not like it’s been the year of people rubbing serial numbers off things, but I think it has been a little bit the year of everyone getting a Ko-Fi [said “koh-fee”], Ko-Fi [said “coffee”].
ELM: Ko-Fi [“coffee”].
FK: That thing.
ELM: I call it Ko-Fi [“koh-fye”]. I don’t think everyone’s gotten a Ko-Fi. But I think it is definitely my number one takeaway from this year, is thinking about capitalistic structures. We did a lot of stuff about capitalism in the beginning of this year. That’s not to say, like, we invented discourse about capitalism and fandom this year or, like, anyone did—obviously it’s been going on the entire time. But I feel like for me personally, in the way I think about fandom, it really came into focus on a lot of levels.
FK: Yeah. And I think that it also has to do with the mainstreaming hitting a certain point, right? Like, in certain ways there is no longer... It’s no longer like “Ooh, we’re going to do the…” I mean, I think The [MTV] Fandom Awards still exists, but that’s not what the context is anymore. It’s not like “Ooh, we’re going to have a special thing which is about fandom.” Now it’s like, “Of course.” I went to Cost Plus World Market to buy a case of wine and there was, like, five Game of Thrones wines, you know what I mean? Which is this very capitalistic use of fandom-y things, and there’s a very clear idea within there that, like, the ways that people are going to do... you know, like some of the sort of stealth fandom stuff we talked about. That’s why that exists. [laughs] And so there’s this, there’s this way that that fandom has really gotten more enmeshed in capitalism...
ELM: But, like, tie-in products I don’t think are particularly new. Here’s what I'll say, here’s one example...
FK: No, but I do think that those in particular are an interesting case because they do feed into this stealth fandom thing in this very particular way.
ELM: Yeah, but I believe the first time I ever went to your house, your husband served me Fifty Shades of Grey wine.
FK: That’s true. It's not that this is new. It’s just, you know, it’s... It’s so widespread now.
ELM: I’ll go write a fic about that. It will be so meta.
FK: Nick serving you Fifty Shades of Grey wine?
ELM: Yeah. The levels.
FK: He got it just to mock you.
ELM: To mock me or to mock you?
FK: Maybe both?
ELM: [laughs] I think it was to mock you. You’re married to him. [both laughing] The example that I am thinking of, that I do think is something that is relatively new, was a few weeks ago when Daredevil was canceled. And everyone on my feed, to the point where it was so tedious, said something like, “Of course we know this is because Disney is creating their own streaming service.”
ELM: And I was just sitting there like, “Oh my God, great. Cool. You’re all experts now.” Like everyone’s an expert in the machinations, right? It’s the, it’s the idea of... And there are people who I’ve never seen them write a... They don’t work in the entertainment industry, they’re not entertainment industry journalists, they might be cultural critics—the fact that they’re culture critics and that was their immediate response. Wasn’t like, “What a shame. Here’s why I thought Daredevil was good and it’s a shame we’re losing it.” It was, “Here are the, like, very exposed corporate…”
FK: “Reasons that we think,” yeah.
ELM: It’s a true medium-before-message kind of, you know—”The only reason these things are being made is because they’re going to appear in this form,” and it completely overshadows any conversation about the content itself. Or even often the way that consumers... It’s more about the way consumers get it than the way they feel about it, you know. And that has really, really infected so much conversation about culture.
FK: Yeah. At the same time, before this became, you know, an infection in everybody’s conversation about this, it could be intensely frustrating to see people say like, “Oh, why are they doing X?” And you’re just like, “Look, if you would pay even the slightest bit of attention to the corporate element of this, the business element of this, you would know exactly why they are doing X.”
ELM: OK. But it’s not like people saying, “Oh, I know this happening because you know, Disney’s creating their own streaming service.” It’s not like people have a lot of information, and there’s so much speculation and so much...
FK: It’s true.
ELM: You know? And like, I don't know... I was really struck by this when I was at Comic-Con—and I wrote about this a little bit in my Comic-Con piece—where you’re walking around and you can tell from people’s conversations who's a mansplaining fanboy. [FK laughs] And they’ll be like, [silly voice] “Well, because John was directing it, and then blank and blank…” And you can tell the way they’re talking about it that it’s not actually anyone who works in the entertainment industry. And you could hear the same conversation but in a slightly different way and know like, “Oh, these people actually do work in Hollywood.” Right?
FK: [laughing] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
ELM: And it’s just so funny and it’s just... The mansplaining-ness of it too is just hilarious to me, because it’s like, “Cool, like, you know exactly what’s going on.” I just think it’s a weird turn, you know? I don’t know, something about it too—like, the Ralph Breaks The Internet princess thing actually really bothered me. Genuinely. Because there’s something so... Like, the corporate meta thing. I mean, it’s a Deadpool thing too, and if you enjoy these things, more power to you—but there’s something about the, like, corporate meta in-joke, “I know you’re a fan, we're a fan, look at all the stuff, we’re fans together, wink, wink,” you know, that kind of vibe?
FK: I do.
ELM: That really—that turns me off a lot. And that was the kind of... You know, just that whole thing too felt a little corporate-feminism-y to me too. And so that in conjunction... That bothered me a little bit more than Deadpool, where it’s just like, “Yeah, this isn’t really for me.” It’s just like, “Please calm down.”
FK: Yeah, well you know, it was interesting, there was recently this article about how... So Ready Player One, we all love making fun of.
FK: For very good reason. And this is maybe one of these examples, but one thing that’s interesting about it—separate from whether this was at all a good idea—was the author saying, like, “Oh, you know, I didn’t think this would be filmable because it’s using all these cultural references from all these different places.” And then there was, when they filmed it, they changed a bunch of stuff in the book so that it could be stuff that they could get clearance for. Which I thought was weird and sort of ties into this—I mean, it’s not weird in that it’s not, like... Of course that’s what you would have to do to make that. You put the Iron Giant into it instead of some other character because you have the rights to the Iron Giant and you can make that happen. Right?
FK: But it’s weird. Whether or not the project was originally good—which it wasn’t. But then the way that that changes it... It’s not that I don’t admire the work that people do to try and make that work and make sense. It’s just that it’s a weird situation to have it be in at all.
ELM: Yeah. No, I mean I think that really bothers me. I think that’s also why, you know, the reaction of, like, the Disney and Fox merger and people saying, “Does that mean the X-Men get to be in the MCU?” It just kind of annoys me because it’s kind of like... It just makes me dig into my own, like, anti-capitalist fanfiction self where I’m like, “Yes, the X-Men can be in the MCU. In your fucking fanfiction. Why do you need the rights to be cleared?” And I just, I just can’t relate to this on a personal level, because I don’t...
FK: Yeah. I guess in that case I see it a little bit more because...
ELM: You defend this. I’ve already complained about this to you multiple times and you’ve defended this, you’ve been like, [dopey voice] “But it would be so cool to see…”
FK: No, that’s not it! [ELM laughing] That is 100% not it.
ELM: That’s what you say, Flourish.
FK: In this particular case, I see it as a little different because it was a case where dumb corporate choices separated those things [the X-Men] from the original story.
ELM: Sure, sure.
FK: But I agree with your general point here.
ELM: Yeah. Maybe not that example, but like... I’m trying to think of other ones, you know, just different ways where you’re...
FK: What's going to be in Super Smash Brothers, and you’re like, “Great, some more things will be in Super Smash Brothers, fine. Sure.”
ELM: Right? Like, you say, “Oh, I know exactly who owns what character,” and that’s just so antithetical to the way I like to think about, like, what fandom means. And it’s just like you’re sitting there waiting, you’re saying, “Well, my favorite thing is owned by blank and now it’s going to be owned by blank, and I can’t wait to see what the new owner does with it!” And it’s like, “But it’s yours, and it should belong to you, and you should do whatever you want with it.” And I... You know, that’s not to say that I—I am morbidly curious to see what happens to the X-Men franchise after this thing goes through. But, like, that doesn’t change how I feel about these characters or how I feel about the fanworks that are created about them, you know?
FK: Yeah. I do know. I think we have slightly different takes on this, but I do know and respect your position.
ELM: It’s because you’re, like, secretly a fanboy at heart. [FK laughs] You’ve got your, like, comic books in plastic and you’re just—it’s just classic. Where’s my Expanded Universe, George Lucas?
FK: Where IS my Expanded Universe? [ELM laughs] Give me Mara Jade! ANYWAY. Let’s move on!
ELM: I’m kidding, I;m kidding. It’s not a binary!
FK: Thank you! Thank you. I appreciate that. OK. Let’s move on. Let’s move on.
FK: The next thing we were going to talk about was K-pop and transcultural fandom more broadly coming into focus.
ELM: Transnational fandom.
FK: Transnational, we should say. Yeah, transnational. That’s a better formulation of it.
ELM: A reminder, if you’re interested in transcultural fandom, which is a broader term that encompasses “transnational” but also encompasses, like, fan–producer or transformation versus affirmational shipping or whatever—listen to our episode with Lori Morimoto where she blew our minds.
FK: Yes. Yeah, it was incredible. So this was the year, though, that, that I feel like you could finally be like “BTS: biggest band on the planet,” and everyone was like, “Oh yeah, I know what that is.” In my context. So this is a very USian context, right? And yet....
ELM: Yeah, yeah, yeah, or an Anglo-American context. I think that, yeah, you could make a case to say that K-pop has been a mainstreaming in the West—and the fact that you have to frame mainstreaming around the West is obviously problematic, but everyone understands it. That is the conversation that we're working within. And those were...
FK: News flash, we are two people who live in the United States and speak primarily English.
ELM: Yeah. So it's not to say we’re condoning it in any way, but like the fact that BTS was on Good Morning America and on The Voice or whatever... I don’t know, The Voice, something like that. I was in Texas for a conference and I turned on one of those shows—because I don’t have TV anymore, so I don’t see these things. And BTS was the guest and I was like, “I don’t know what year it is. I don’t know where I am. I’m in Texas watching the biggest K-pop band on one of these, like singing competition shows on network television.”
FK: Yeah. And it has a very different—and it’s not like there wasn't access. At the time that I was in high school, it was J-rock, Japanese rock. That was the thing, right. You needed to be into Gackt.
ELM: We went to very different high schools.
FK: Yeah we did. But that was a subcultural thing, right? That was like—clearly it was like, “OK.” And that was also at the time, you know, maybe Sailor Moon was on TV, but almost all the other anime you could watch was somehow gotten to you in a weird DVD format that you had to, you know, get from someone who knew someone and you know, still in that phase. But now it’s like, “No, actually, everyone has access to K-pop in the United States, very easily.”
ELM: I think that it still has that same barrier that One Direction had as well, and I think that the boy bands of the late nineties have too—there’s no “everyone” here because it’s definitely something that’s concentrated towards the younger female demographic. To the point where it’s not taken seriously by the quote-unquote “mainstream culture.” You can get people—like adult critics, older people—saying things like, “I never even heard of them.” People definitely said that to One Direction the entire time, even when they were incredibly popular. I feel like people even still do that a little bit to Harry Styles. It’d be like, “Oh, that, that kid from that boy band or whatever,” you know. It’s like, “OK, Grandpa, I don’t know what to tell you.” So I think that the fact that the fandom is still going to be predominantly women in their teens and twenties is going to always put a limit. And these bands don’t make that Beatles leap.
FK: Yeah, I was just going to say “But there is that viral tweet that just went around pointing out that teen girls are the reason you know, who the Beatles are.”
ELM: Right. But I don’t see any of these bands making...
FK: That leap.
ELM: That leap. And you know, that being said...
FK: However much Harry Styles wants to. I think the jury’s out. Very far out.
ELM: That’s the thing, though. No offense to One Direction, Flourish, but the Beatles also evolved musically... [FK makes noises of agreement] It’s a little simplistic, I think, to say “teen girl fandom invented the Beatles,” because the Beatles kind of expanded what they were to fit a truly broad audience, you know what I mean?
ELM: That being said, men went back and took the original cheesy pop stuff seriously. Once... You know what I mean?
FK: Yeah. So here’s the question. Do we think that, DO we think that there’s going to be some artist—whether it is BTS or someone else—who is going to take advantage of this step toward, you know, Anglo-American mainstreaming and break out of that teen girl spot.
ELM: I think... My read on this, and I would love to hear from people that actually are into K-pop, is no, because I think Americans not necessarily are... I mean, Americans are racist, obviously, but it’s not just about that. I think that there’s so many conceptions of like... BTS and K-pop in general, I think, really challenges a lot of mainstream western culture perceptions, especially around—you know, they have a fairly feminized style, right? Like, a very soft style. I just, I just see a lot of elements of the culture not valuing that.
FK: Yeah, yeah. Yes. I recently... Yeah, I do know. I do know what you mean, having recently had to explain what "bishie," as in "bishōnen," meant to some entertainment executives in the context of why Legolas was important.
ELM: You are doing the Lord’s work...
FK: Thank you, thank you.
ELM: ...in Hollywood, California. That’s really beautiful.
FK: All right, so moving on. I think that I think that we’d better continue on to the topic that we really have to discuss more in this episode, which is Tumblr. 2018, Tumblr.
ELM: I don’t wanna talk about Tumblr.
FK: You don’t want to talk about any of the things. Maybe this was actually a worse year than you thought. Because, like...
FK: None of these topics are topics that you’re like, “Let's talk about it!” They’re all like, “No, I can’t!”
ELM: No, no, I actually really do like talking about capitalism. Like, it kind of makes me depressed. But I think it’s interesting. Tumblr...
FK: Having thoroughly self-owned with their own examples of what was acceptable to post on their platform being flagged by their bot... I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations, just in the past week or two, like, with academics about the topic of Tumblr and its bot that’s not really working very well to flag porn—people for whom that was really opaque. Who I didn’t realize, like—maybe they knew there was a bot, but they didn’t understand what it meant to train that on a corpus. It’s been an interesting conversation, because I felt like there are a lot of things that I just been taken for granted that people understand about Tumblr and what’s happening with it.
ELM: What kind of academics?
FK: People in fan studies.
ELM: Oh, in fan studies. I was like, “All right, well, I can introduce you to some machine learning academics who…” [laughing]
FK: No, I mean, of course! I know a lot of people in machine learning who know about this, you know what I mean? Of course! Like...
ELM: And probably aren’t particularly impressed with what they're seeing on tumblr.com! [still laughing]
FK: No, not generally! But you know, it’s been interesting to me because it really has highlighted for me the difference in people’s knowledge about some of the structures that underpin our experience of the world. Right?
ELM: So, I don’t wanna get into a deep critique of fan studies, but this has actually been one of my problems with the field and what I’ve seen out of it—since I’ve gotten, you know, in the last five years or so. Often it seems like all of your papers from fan studies people, I’ll just be like, “If you spend a little more time on the platform as opposed to just observing the people on it, but actually looking at being on it... What is this thing that—study the room, not just people inside the room,” basically, you would have a different, completely different, you know...
Like, the biggest... I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but there was one paper on Tumblr users I heard at the Fan Studies Network conference this year, and she was talking about the fact that people are calling it a “hell-site,” and her conclusion—after doing an ethnography with maybe 50 or 100 fans—was that they didn’t like the functionality. And it was just like... I raised my hand and I was like, “OK, sure, everyone complains. It’s not just—there’s a lot of technical problems. But when they call it a ‘hell-site’ it’s because of the content."”Like, you know, I think you spend a little time on Tumblr and you understand the context in which those conversations are being held. Right?
FK: Yeah. There may be some joke about like, “oh yeah, this thing is fucking broken again.” But the undercurrent is...
ELM: It’s always like, “This is what we deserve, because look at this garbage we’re all producing together. This is the garbage website that we are owed for... This is the sad receptacle for our sad shitposting.” You know? And, like, that’s a funny, ironic, you know, but also like...
FK: Yeah, but also not entirely ironic, see the entire conversation about purity culture.
ELM: Yeah, right. Yeah, exactly. So, but you know, when I said that everyone was looking at me like “What?” And I was like, "Uh," like, you know, I spend a lot of time on Tumblr. I have a pretty good sense of The Discourse as it is, capital T, capital D, TM.
FK: It does kind of make me wonder, though, whether... Cause it’s not just within Tumblr, it’s also things like Twitter and Facebook and everything else... I wonder whether maybe we should think about doing—instead of taking for granted that people have some context in this and have been reading coverage of the ways that websites shape our vision and so on, whether we should maybe talk more about this on Fansplaining. Whether we should try and dive into the way that these tools shape our experience of fandom.
ELM: Yeah. Well, we’re having Casey on one of our first episodes of 2019, who literally studies platforms.
FK: Oh, that’s true!
ELM: I would love to do that. I mean, as you know, Casey is an information science professor. I did my masters in the digital humanities, which is, like, a sister field. Like, we were in tandem. I took a lot of info-sci classes in my master’s, and I wrote my dissertation on Tumblr, you know, as a platform. And so I would love to talk more about this, you know—I said this last time, but I really feel like this conversation... The fandom’s position on Tumblr and “What do we do now?” conversation has been so unfocused and so reactionary and like, “Where do we go now? We all went to Tumblr from LiveJournal!” Like, that is not how it happened. Right? Like every—you’ve been saying this too, but it’s not like everyone shut their LiveJournal on one day and literally packed up their suitcases and waltzed on over to Tumblr, you know?
I just feel like there’s so many ways that people have come to these various platforms. They rise and fall, and people will pin things on various platforms that really are about certain groups that have formed there—or their own life experiences at that time that they’re conflating. They’re like, “I feel like we were all doing this on LiveJournal in 2005,” and you know, cool, that’s—you can have those feelings. But maybe your perceptions of it were colored by the fact that you were in college, or you were getting married, or you were, you know, you were taking a step back from Tumblr because you were having trouble at your job. Or from, from whatever platform. It’s not useful to make these kinds of big generalizations about what fandom was like on X platform at any time. You know?
FK: Yeah. I do know. So I guess, the answer to all of this is we don't really have anything that we haven't already said about Tumblr, but we are going to talk to Casey about it in the New Year—
ELM: No, look, Flourish. I have some more things to say. Can I say a few more things?
FK: I mean... [laughing] You’re on the soapbox already!
ELM: One thing that I found a little frustrating, and I think this ties into the “Shipping and Activism” conversation a little bit, is: OK, first of all, obviously the filters are just bad, right? So I’ve seen people saying, like, “They flagged blank! It’s just, it’s just two women holding hands!” Or something. And it’s like, yeah, the filters are flagging—like, I saw the filters flag a picture of Benedict Cumberbatch’s face, which...
FK: Yeah, at first the filters did not understand that naked people could be green if you put some green shading over them—and then the filters learned that and then things got taken down...
ELM: They’re bad filters.
FK: You know what I mean? You can see them training in real-time.
ELM: That’s not to say that queer content is not often the first thing to get censored, but I think there is... there is a picking and choosing element to what you are, people are choosing to be morally outraged over, when clearly it’s just very bad filters. Right?
ELM: So there’s that. There’s also kind of the discourse point about “Tumblr is just full of puritans.” Tumblr is complying with these laws, which if you want to frame those laws as puritanical? OK! You know, I’m not, I’m not going to argue against that. I don’t know how you feel about that—what, SESTA and FOSTA?
FK: Yeah! I think they’re bad laws.
ELM: Right? So can you summarize them?
FK: No, not accurately. [laughs] Not accurately enough that I want to put it on here without looking up exactly what’s in them.
ELM: Let’s put—let’s find one of the good explainers.
FK: I feel like I have a general sense, but it’s like the general sense of like... I’m going to say something and that’s going to be wrong. [laughs] So let’s not.
ELM: So you know, like this is basically an attempt to crack down on you know, paid sex work online.
FK: Yeah. And a lot of it’s framed around human trafficking, right? Which depending on who you talk to may or may not be the biggest issue within this, and I don’t feel qualified to make a determination, but regardless it is all putting a lot of onus on sites to...
ELM: Yes, right. So, I mean, like, Facebook rolled out some pretty extreme stuff around the same time as Tumblr, but got a fraction of the flack, because I think people consider Facebook completely useless on all levels.
FK: Yeah. And the stuff was way more extreme. It was literally things like—I mean, I tweeted about this. It was literally stuff like, you’re not supposed to mention your sexual orientation in context of an image of a person who’s doing something remotely sexual, because if you do that then that is understood as, like—
ELM: Solicitation, which is absurd.
FK: It was truly shocking.
ELM: And the fact that I only saw, like, a couple of tweets about this as opposed to like 150,000 articles is really interesting to me. And I do think it’s because everyone is just used to Facebook and being like, “Oh no, they leaked 2 billion users’ data and also they allowed Spotify to read all of your messages to your loved ones and delete them.”
FK: And because I don’t think people believe that this is actually going to be enforced, which to be fair, I don’t think it is.
ELM: Yeah, I don’t think so either.
FK: But that doesn't change that it’s a terrible, unenforceable, and also wrong rule.
ELM: That being said though, like, so for my day job I do sponsored posts of articles about science and technology—funded by the Gates foundation. So this is explicitly nonpolitical. It’s from a nonprofit organization, or foundation, rather. And I’ve had posts rejected for threatening national security about such topics as whale sharks [FK laughing], jellyfish, anything remotely related to the environment. And they’ll just send, they’ll say, like, “Sorry, this threatens national security. You can’t have a paid ad for it.”
FK: About jellyfish.
ELM: And so I’ve appealed it. And they claim a human reads it, because they have this massive net that's catching all the media within all the paid advertisements. Meanwhile, people—bad actors—are finding millions of loopholes to get through all of it. And it’s just like—the whole thing’s a mess. So, like, the fact that Facebook has this huge, huge net—similarly bad to Tumblr’s filters—and they don’t know how to fix them, just means like, you know—if they do try to enforce it, it’s going to be a massive net that catches way too much.
FK: Yeah. All right. So I think that, I think that we should close out our conversation about 2018 with just “Platforms are bad.” Let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s remove all platforms. How are we going to live? I don't know, but let’s just kick them—throw them all into the sun.
ELM: I think it’s a real challenge. Here’s the real question—and I think it’s a big one for you because I think you have strong feelings about it. I do too, but I think you maybe even stronger than me. I think that it’s inherently fraught to say, “Well, fandom needs to build it themselves,” because I think as you’ve mentioned, a lot of people don’t have the resources for that. And so, then, what the hell do we do?
FK: Yeah, I mean, I think that it is inherently fraught to say that. I also think that one of the reasons people don’t have the resources to do that is because of structures that have been built that make it hard for them to do. You know what I mean?
Like, I think there’s—it's not just like, “Oh, people don't have the resources, so let’s accept this thing that’s shitty.” It's like, no, actually, we can build things so that people do have the resources. It’s possible to change things in this way. And I do think that there are some ways—like, I want to hold it in tension, right? Like on the one hand, it’s absolutely true that a lot of people don’t have the resources to build everything themselves, and it’s incredibly difficult to do it. There are also things that people—if they decide to not accept this as just like “Oh, I can’t do it”— there are things people can do to improve it and I really, I really would like to see that sort of spirit of defeatism go away. Because I think that it may not be possible, but it’s still worth striving for.
FK: And yet, you know, that’s a lot to ask of individuals who are just trying to fucking get through the day. So it’s a really hard nut to crack.
ELM: Right. I saw, I saw a post the other day that was talking about how, you know, it’s not just “We need to treat fanworks, contributions to fandom, not just as fanart and fanfiction stuff, but like…” The people who coded the AO3 are as vital—if not much more so, clearly, because they built the structure—that any individual author writing stories and posting there.
FK: Yeah. You know, as a person who once tried to make a fanfiction archive run, I will say “Yes, this is true.”
ELM: Right? You know?
FK: And actually, I think that that’s been devalued over time. I think that at one time, in, like, the late nineties, it was much more valued because that was the only way you get those things—is by having a human that you knew made it and that was incredibly valuable.
ELM: Literally building it. Right.
FK: And then when people began moving into corporate spaces where it was provided for them, that was devalued. Because you know, we could sell our information in order to get access to a Tumblr.
ELM: Right. Which is obviously gonna look a lot cuter than anything that volunteers are... The AO3, I think it looks fine. It’s not the most beautiful site. It’s real stripped down. I like that. I don't know, I don’t need it a lot more from that functionality-wise. But some people want that. Some people want something flashier, and there’s a big trade-off.
FK: Yeah. All right. I think that that should wrap up our 2018 section, genuinely. I think that that is the note to end on for 2018. It's like—how do we DIY this in the future?
ELM: Let’s keep talking about this and foregrounding it, because I think it’s one of the biggest questions that fandom is facing for next year.
FK: For sure. Yeah, I do think that’s a good spot to end on for 2018. So let’s take a little break, and then we’ll talk about our fandoms for this past year.
ELM: All right, let’s do it.
FK: All right. Elizabeth, what’s been consuming your every waking moment?
ELM: Why do I have to go first?
FK: Because you have a new fandom.
ELM: I mean. All right. Don't you have a new...? No. You don’t have a new fandom.
FK: No, not this year.
ELM: Just old ones.
FK: Last year I talked about Star Trek and guess what I’m going to talk about again this year.
ELM: Star Wars?
ELM: Now we’re doing you.
FK: No, it’s all about your love for Cherik.
ELM: [laughs] Are you trolling me?
ELM: Do you think it’s pronounced “chair-eck” or “share-eck”?
FK: I think it’s “chair-eck,” like cherries.
ELM: I don’t want to say that out loud. Can we not call it that? It’s so upsetting.
FK: I can only call it that because it’s upsetting.
ELM: Ugh. Fine. It also, it is slightly awkward. It doesn’t roll off the tongue with a slash in the middle, sadly.
FK: No, it doesn’t.
ELM: What if I gave it a new ship name all by myself, like “X-neto”? [both laugh]
FK: But that truly has been—not only has it, like... It’s gotten into your whole life.
ELM: My whole life! [laughing]
FK: You haven’t read anything but it for, like, ages.
ELM: That’s true.
FK: I finally got to rec some fic to you, which was delightful.
ELM: You recced me a famous fic that... It's good!
FK: It’s true! I finally got to rec SOMETHING to you.
ELM: It’s a very compelling fic.
FK: And you made me and Nozlee—well, you didn’t make either of us do it, but you have been infecting other people with X-Men: First Class.
ELM: Shout out to Nozlee!
FK: Shout out Nozlee!
ELM: Nozlee, a friend of ours who loves other people’s fannish love, asked me to describe the current X-Men franchise when we had had two cocktails, and then said, “Can we go watch one of them right now?” It was like—it’s like a Tuesday.
FK: Let’s do it!
ELM: I was like, “We sure can.” So I felt really proud on that front. That’s fine.
Yeah, it’s been interesting. It’s been really nice to be reading fanfiction in fandom that is—where most of the action happened, like, seven years ago. And also where it’s a massive ongoing franchise that has literally been going on for... 55 years I believe? And one that has so many interpretations and iterations that, like, I think, there’s no... Like, I’m sure there are ship wars out there, but I don’t encounter any of them because who cares?
But it’s also like it exists in this kind of.... It makes me think of the olden days a little bit, in the sense of: I know neither FOX nor Marvel nor Disney nor anyone who’s making these films is ever going to have this ship come to, like, physical fruition onscreen. Maybe in the year 2055. But it’s as close as you can—it’s as shippy as you can get while you still know that it’s within this, like, you know what I mean?
FK: This box. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the box, the box that queer relationships used to be in in media.
ELM: And you’re like, OK, sure! It is what it is.
FK: Everyone has accepted this.
ELM: And it’s—James McAvoy and I can just vocally ship it, as a unit together, and that’s fine. It’s kinda nice to be away from the kind of fraught, active, new-canon, is-this-queerbaiting, like, “Is my thing going to happen?” Which is just stuff that I don’t really care about as a fan. But it’s really—it really overshadows my experience. And the fact that those conversations drowned out a lot of the pleasure I took out of Black Sails, to the point where at the beginning of this year I was really just in 18th century RPF fandom, you know, my interest in it had shifted so far away from the actual show and just towards the era.
Then luckily I was rewarded at the end of the year with The Favourite! And I'm going to bookstore today! My copy of The Favourite, by Ophelia Field—it's out! So Ophelia Field, who wrote my Kit Kat book that I loved? Her book about Sarah Churchill and Queen Anne was trapped in publishing limbo all year because it came out more than a decade ago, but they wanted to rerelease it to tie into the film. And so it’s been literally trapped, you know when publishers do this?
FK: Yeah, I know!
ELM: It is now out! It came out like two weeks ago and my copy just arrived at the bookstore. I'm gonna pick it up today. You should order yourself a copy too.
FK: I will! I’m really excited now that I know that it’s out!
ELM: It’s out!
FK: It’s funny that you were saying that about X-Men fandom, because... You actually put your finger on something that I’ve really been enjoying about Star Trek. Because I’m... Like, I watched Disco, but I’m not actually active in—I don’t have a ship in Disco. I’m not active in anything. Like, I’m enjoying watching the show...
ELM: That’s Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access streaming service.
FK: Correct. That is Star Trek: Discovery. I mean, right, I’m enjoying it, but I’m not like... But I’m not engaging with it in any of the ways that I have historically engaged with, like, fanfiction fandom. And the way that I’m engaging with Star Trek has been, like, Swear Trek gifs, and people making jokes about Star Trek and weird memes and things. And it’s all about—you know, Garak and Bashir from Deep Space Nine, who, their love will never be consummative because it’s been off the air for a long time, you know,.
ELM: Don't worry about it.
FK: But it’s all this very like... Sort of enjoying the culture of Star Trek in a certain way, as opposed to some of the things about fandom that in other fandoms I had been really engaged with. It’s a very different kind of fannish engagement, and it’s one that’s a little less driven by, like, moment-to-moment drama. There’s other differences too. But I really vibed with what you’ve said there—and I just used the word “vibing.” But I did!
ELM: Vibin’ with me. Oh, I’m so glad you vibed with me. Yeah. Like, it’s interesting because I feel like there’s so much anxiety. People are like, “Shit, you know, is there any use in writing fanfiction in a dead fandom?” Or whatever, and it’s like—there’s actually a lot of pleasure in being in a space where it’s not so hot right now. Because, you know, very few people I know who were in super active fandoms right now are actually having very much fun. Oh! You know, there’s that famous Tumblr post that’s “My Enjoyment of a Fandom.”
FK: Yes, yes!
ELM: And it’s like, it’s up and up and up and then like the wank is like—it reaches a fever pitch. And then it’s down in the garbage and then it rises back up again and you’re like, “All my fucks are gone.”
FK: “I have transcended all of this.”
ELM: Which is—there’s things that I can’t go back on for. Like I can’t, I can’t take—I was happy that Benedict Cumberbatch’s face was blurred out on my Tumblr [FK makes sympathetic noises] because I already have him muted.
FK: Thank you, bot. Thank you, terrible, terrible bot.
ELM: Oh, and that Brexit trailer. Oh, Flourish. It's like he’s trying to punish me in 2018.
FK: All right. All right, I gotta call this. We can’t get on the Benedict Cumberbatch train right now.
ELM: [laughing] It’s called the “Cumbertrain.”
FK: Elizabeth, I need to be a lot drunker to have this conversation.
ELM: I know. I’m stone cold sober. We can’t talk about this right now.
FK: We'll have that opportunity at my New Year’s party where, like every year, we’ll take a picture.
ELM: We will take a picture.
FK: And we’ll put it in the show notes of this episode.
ELM: Anticipating that moment that we can take a picture at a party. But yeah, no, and in terms of personal fandom, it’s been actually a really—it’s been a really lovely year for me. I just read a lot of really good stories! It’s really nice to have a big bulk of fanfiction stories to enjoy. Like, I hadn’t had that in years. So thank you to the fine people of 2011, you really did me a solid by being enthusiastic seven years ago.
FK: And in my case, I guess, thank you to all the people who are still nerding out about Star Trek on Twitter and, like, continue to make really what are apparently evergreen Star Trek jokes about shows that have been off the air forever, just because like...
ELM: This is good. Real pure. Yeah.
FK: Just cause, why not?
ELM: Yeah. Well, this has been a year.
FK: Good sum up. I’m not going to say good 2018, but you know, uh, may 2019 be better.
ELM: Wait, we’re not leaving yet, though. We need to tell them all the end things.
FK: Oh, you’re right. We have a lot of things to talk about.
ELM: I’ll go first. So patreon.com/fansplaining. Everyone’s sending you requests for money in your year-end giving; this is not actually a nonprofit so I can’t use that same language, but, if you have a few extra dollars a month to spare, we have a lot of great things to offer, like special episodes—including our episode about The Favourite, which we will plug again in the new year when it finally comes out in the UK. I’m sorry that you all have to wait for this true cinematic masterpiece. And when it’s in wider release—I’m assuming it’s going to be in more cities in the coming weeks, too. Maybe not. I have no idea.
FK: I think it’s already been in more cities than it was initially slated for.
ELM: All right, rush out there, go see it, and then pay us $3 so you can listen to our thoughts about the 18th century. Um, and if you don’t have any cash, absolutely no worries. We understand how it is. Another way you can support us that is free is writing us and giving us a review on iTunes or any other podcasting listening app, sharing it with your friends, sharing our transcripts with any friends who don't like listening but prefer to read. That’s really, really helpful for us.
FK: And we’re pretty close to a new website, which is going to be really exciting, getting off the blue hell-site—and that’s going to be even more accessible. So, like, with alt text for every image and so on. So we’re really looking forward to that. Making the podcast even more accessible for people who you know, need that.
ELM: Absolutely—though to clarify, we are not going to get rid of fansplaining.tumblr.com.
ELM: We will continue to post every episode there. We’ll continue to answer asks there until Tumblr goes down in flames, which is entirely possible.
FK: At any minute.
ELM: But people, it's funny. After all the, you know, Titanic gifs prior to, you know, up to December 16, it seems like most people are still there.
FK: Yeah, for sure.
ELM: So yeah.
FK: Come and take advantage of our ask box to send us anonymous comments or questions or whatever. And if you don’t care about being anonymous, the best way to send us something that you want us to answer on the podcast is to leave us a voicemail at 1-401-526-3267. That’s 1-401-526-FANS. We’ll play it and answer it.
ELM: And if you actually—we’ve actually had a few multi-part asks recently, and I would say if you want to ask us something longer but want to remain anonymous, we obviously would never share your name or any of your information if you told us in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org that you wish to remain anonymous. Because it’s just—Tumblr’s not really a great receptacle for a, you know, 700 word question. So anyone in the future, if you would like to write us some, some longer thoughts but really want to stay anonymous, just say so—because we really literally will never share your email and we'd be happy to delete the email, even, if you want, after we read it out loud.
FK: If you so desire.
ELM: But yeah, that’s the best way to send to something a bit longer. Also, of course we’re on Twitter—another kind of hellscape—and we’re on Facebook—an additional kind of hellscape.
FK: Great. Well, I think that summed up our hellscapes; is there anything else?
ELM: Um. No, I think that’s it! That's, that's 2018 wrapped. Done, sorted.
FK: All right, next time we talk to you, dear listeners, it’ll be 2019. So have a happy New Year!
ELM: Yeah. And it’s, it’s been a year.
FK: It’s been real.
ELM: OK. Bye, Flourish!
FK: Bye, Elizabeth!
[Outro music, continuing over the credits]
Elizabeth and Flourish: 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, Stephanie Burt, and in honor of One Direction and Captain James McGraw Flint. As always, our intro music is “Awel” by Stefsax, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Find out more details in the show notes. The opinions expressed in this podcast are not our clients’, or our employers’, or anyone’s except our own.