Fansplaining: Bad Fans

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Podcast Episode
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Episode Title: Bad Fans
Length: 58:51
Featured: Elizabeth Minkel, Flourish Klink
Date: May 30, 2018
Focus: Interpreting the source text wrong; redemption; alternate universes
Fandom: Pan-Fandom
External Links: Episode 75 on (includes link to audio, show notes, and transcript)
Archived version

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
For others in the series, see Fansplaining.

Fansplaining: Bad Fans is an episode of the podcast Fansplaining by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel. This episode uses an article by Emily Nussbaum, a television critic, as a jumping point for a discussion about fans who interpret immoral or amoral characters as heroic. Among others, Walter White from Breaking Bad is discussed.


"In Episode 75, “Bad Fans,” Elizabeth and Flourish discuss Emily Nussbaum’s concept of the “bad fan”: people who read against the expectations of the source material to celebrate the bad behavior of characters, from anti-heroes to villains. They then discuss a listener letter about the concept of redemption: what makes a character redeemable? Do all characters deserve to be redeemed? How does fandom grant redemption? Finally, they discuss alternate universes—yes, again."[1]

Topics Discussed


[ELM] Anyway! So Emily Nussbaum was talking about Walter White, she was talking about Breaking Bad fans’ reaction, saying that he’s an antihero and he’s committing these atrocious acts and people revere him for it. And so they are the bad fans. They are interpreting it in a way that…it’s supposed to, a violent antihero is supposed to show you how you should not live your life, and instead if he’s being celebrated then are you a bad fan? [...]

[FK] Instead of understanding the show as a cautionary tale [laughing] you’re understanding it as “Yeah! Let’s go do that!”
[ELM] So this article is great, cause it really digs into it in talking about the — Norman Lear’s intent was to say that this bigotry was absurd. And not something to be feared, but laughed out of existence. “Look at this dinosaur, with his terrible backwards ideas, he’s the butt of the joke, and we just need to excise these sort of attitudes rather than hide them.” I understand that, but I also understand the response of saying, “Well, it didn’t exactly work.” This is just a man saying a bunch of racist and homophobic shit on television! And, the way that it backfired is that a lot of people related to him and thought of him as this hero. [...] But that aside, the bad fans in that scenario are the people who saw Archie Bunker, instead of seeing him as an absurd racist who should be laughed at, as someone who was tellin’ it like it is, just sayin’ what we're all thinking, that kind of thing. So that was not Norman Lear’s intent, so they’re the bad fans. Right?


On OwlTail (one of many sites for listening to podcasts), Bad Fans is ranked #16 in popularity as ranked by user listens.[3]

Tumblr user villanellekills responded to the episode in a reblog:

"Thanks for answering my very philosophical question. I really enjoy listening to your ideas about fandom! I think redemption in terms of a fictional story is significantly different than what we consider redemption in real life to be. I mean we don’t want to leave serial killers running around just because they only kill bad people now, but that’s a perfectly reasonable outcome in terms of a story."[4]



  1. ^ Episode 75: Bad Fans.
  2. ^ Quote from Elizabeth, viewable in full early in the transcript.
  3. ^ Fansplaining on OwlTail. Accessed and archived on December 28, 2020.
  4. ^ Tumblr post by villanellekills. May 30, 2018. Archived from the original on December 28, 2020.