Fansplaining: Death and the Fangirl

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Title: Fansplaining: Death and the Fangirl
Created by: Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel
Date(s): January 27, 2016
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Fansplaining: Death and the Fangirl is a podcast by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining.


"After the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, Elizabeth and Flourish take some time to reflect on the way fandom mourns their idols. Featuring Casey Fiesler (professor of Information Science at CU Boulder) on the parallels between online and physical memorials, Kathleen Smith (the Fangirl Therapist) on healthy ways to cope, and a meditation on the eventual death of Paul Giamatti."


Topics Discussed


Elizabeth Minkel: We’re recording this a week before the episode comes out so it was last week that, Monday morning, we all found out about David Bowie, and then just three days later we all found out about Alan Rickman and it really felt like a week that was dominated by people, like, fandoms grieving and fans grieving. And we both had a lot of personal feelings and we had a lot of broader curiosities, I would say so we kind of wanted to explore that. So I kind of feel like I’m monologuing right now, but I could just go for it.

Flourish Klink: No, that’s OK! It was a really intense week I think for everybody between the grief at people passing and then the sort of stress and drama of having everybody all at once memorializing them, which feels really great at some moments and really overwhelming at others… I think that it was a week that was full of emotions.

EM: That’s one thing I found very interesting, I think I said it earlier. There were moments I felt where it felt a little weird to me, that people seemed to be sadder about Snape again than about Alan Rickman. So that’s something I think about fandom, and grief in particular. There were times when I sort of felt like, it’s like no no no, it’s not about Snape, you know? But then for a lot of people it really really was. You know what I mean? And I wonder, like, it just felt weird and conflated to me at times. I don’t know if this is something you’ve observed. I guess with someone like Robin Williams he had so many roles that I don’t think anyone said “oh no, the Genie is gone,” or whatever. Like, maybe not that one. But you know what I mean?

Casey Fiesler: I noticed it being very different in different social media spaces, which makes total sense, right. So on Facebook I saw a lot more people talking about GalaxyQuest and Die Hard and this sort of thing, whereas I was in Harry Potter fandom so I go to Tumblr and I mostly see Snape. Which makes total sense, because that’s the group of people in that particular network.
Kathleen Smith: There’s a lot of stuff out there sort of explaining why we get obsessed or why we get attached to fictional people or to celebrities even though it’s sort of this one way street of a relationship. But to me, the more important question is sort of “what do you do about it?”And I think we don’t really have a good answer because it kind of gets pushed away or people get reactive to it? In psychology there’s this term called “disenfranchised grief,” types of grief that aren’t really accepted by society or kind of pushed away as not being as serious, and I think that this falls under that category. We turn it into a competition, right? So if I am mourning a celebrity, then someone else is gonna say, well, that’s not as big a deal as a relative of mine dying. Or if I’m mourning a fictional character, well, they didn’t even exist in the first place. So we kind of turn it into a competition, which I think makes people less able to kind of come out and express that as grief. Does that make sense?

KS: You know, I was talking to my Dad earlier this week about David Bowie, and he said something to me that I felt was really true. He said that when you lose someone who was influential in your life especially earlier in your life, it sort of makes you mourn your own youth. I’m a little bit older than girls who grew up with Harry Potter, but I think this last week especially with Alan Rickman… When you lose someone who was influential in your childhood, that’s sort of a bookmark in your own life. Maybe it’s not a relationship that you’re grieving, but sort of this chapter that’s coming to an end or this plot in your own life that isn’t around anymore.

EM: If you listened to the last episode, we were sort of talking about this, and Flourish already made fun of me for it, but how I—my favorite character in Harry Potter died and I read the book right before I graduated from high school, and I was so sad. And the last book came out right after I graduated from college, too, that didn’t make me as sad as much as it made me angry. But like, they were all wrapped up together. I was sad about something that was ending as well as genuinely being sad that my character was gone. But I don’t know, it’s interesting, I don’t think I saw the last couple of weeks people trying to diminish anyone’s grief on the internet. It’s different when it’s a fictional character for sure. But if anything, if there was a competition, it was to see like, who David Bowie was the most important to.
KS: what I would say is rather than trying to pull [grief] outside of yourself, just try to take it and run with it. This did happen to you. This is very personal to you. What are you going to do with that? How is that going to influence your own narrative and living 29 versus living 28 and having Alan Rickman, or, Snape’s gonna be in your life for forever but Alan Rickman is no longer with us so what does that mean, how does that inform your own story. But most importantly not being hard on yourself about it either. So trying to fight it or feel like it’s wrong or dysfunctional or negative is definitely not gonna get—you’re never gonna win a fight with yourself, right? So just saying ‘OK, this happened to me, what happens next.’

FK: Just a second. “Shipping.” OK. Hold up.

EM: Are you on Fanlore?

FK: The actual term shipping originated—this is actually on Wikipedia [1] so I’m not sure it’s right. But, um, Wikipedia believes that the term “shipping” was coined in the 1990s by fans of The X-files Mulder/Scully Relationshippers, then Shippers, as compared to NoRoMos. The oldest uses of the nouns ship and shipper as recorded by the OED are in 1996 on


  1. ^ :(