Fansplaining: Fans and the Man

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Podcast Episode
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Episode Title: Fans and the Man
Length: 1:14:15
Featured: Elizabeth Minkel (ELM) and Flourish Klink (FK)
Date: Jan 8, 2020
Focus: Fandom and corporate influence; fandom and profit; affirmational fandom and transformational fandom; sports fandom
Fandom: Pan-Fandom, Multi-Fandom
External Links: Episode 117: Fans and the Man, wayback link (includes show notes and transcript)
The image created for this episode, showing corporate influence as well as Fansplaining's signature fan logo.

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Fansplaining: Fans and the Man is episode #117 of Fansplaining, a long-running podcast where Elizabeth Minkel and Flourish Klink take a meta approach to fandom topics. The episode uses "The Decade Fandom Went Corporate",[1] an io9 article by Katharine Trendacosta as a spring-board for a broad discussion of how corporations interact with fandom.

Episode Summary

"In Episode 117, “Fans and the Man,” Elizabeth and Flourish talk about whether fandom really has “gone corporate” in the last decade—and if so, what parts of fandom, and in what ways? Topics covered include whether fans have “sold out,” been exploited, or both; whether it’s a good thing for fandom to be intertwined with corporations; and whether “curatorial” and “transformative” are even still useful terms to define fan cultures as we enter the ’20s." [2]

Topics Covered


"There’s been a lot of sort of…[laughing] Discussion of…you know. Thanks. Thank you. There’s been a lot of discussion of like, fandom quote “going corporate” or “selling out” or “being exploited” and the idea that like, this has happened in the last decade, and a lot of the conversation about that I don’t think that either of us has found very well-formulated? Like, there’s a lot of…it results in a lot of, like, talking about trends that are not necessarily, I don’t know. That just aren’t very substantive. [...] But there have been some pieces that have been substantive and we wanted to talk about those"
"You know, I, I think that the transformative fandom spent the 2000s not fighting for legitimacy but literally trying to be left alone. Like, literally running away, right? From…I mean…maybe you could frame that as a fight for legitimacy, but it was never a fight for, like, a sanctioned legitimacy… [...]

But you know, the fact of the matter is that fandom wasn’t necessarily mainstreamed in the sense of being sanctioned by corporations, but fandom was exposed to the mainstream in the late ’90s if not the mid ’90s, so. Paramount was suing Star Trek sites I think as early as ’95 or ’96."

"Well there was that and there was also the times when transformative fandom bumped up against sort of corporate, you know, whatever that means. Corporate, you know, copyright holders or whatever. There were also times when transformative fandom pushed back and was like, “No, we don’t want part of this.” So for instance, one of the early cases with FictionAlley we made a compromise, which was that Warner Brothers would allow us to go on and not fuck with us, basically, and we wouldn’t host NC-17 fanfic, and they would also like, let us basically use sale links, right? So like, that happened in like 2003. So it’s sort of weird then too to like, locate this “getting paid” part in the 2010s."
"You know? People did all these kinds of interactions. I mean they named an X-Files character in like the late ’90s was named after a fanfic writer!"
"It makes me wonder if people have anxiety—and I’m not pinning this article, because I think this article is expressing a lot of what, like I said, what we’re seeing in broader conversations—I sometimes think about whether a lot of this boils down to an anxiety about the monetization of things that we love in a space that previously you possibly couldn’t have seen that as clearly."
"it’s all kind of jumbled together and so then you can kind of wind up in statements like this where you’re kind of assuming what corporations are thinking and what fans are thinking, when in fact fans are thinking a lot of different things. Like, it’s not just how people view fanfiction, but fans are thinking about their fannish activity in really different ways and their relation to the corporation and the source material in really different ways."
"I mean, it’s Harry Potter fanart and it’s not consumerist because they did not…on the one hand is that not consumerist, because they didn’t, Warner Brothers didn’t make it? On your wall, the Harry Potter fanart? But on the other hand you did buy it from somebody and it is about sort of collecting stuff around you, you know? I don’t know."
"Exactly! So like, I mean, people who, who see…well, it’s embarrassing to be into something that’s like a corporate thing. Not that people are explicitly saying this. They’re thinking it sometimes, right? “I don’t wanna be, I’m not a person who would be into like a corporate thing. Corporate things suck,” right. “Those are just, they’re just out to get your money, and like, they’re not good and they’re not community-minded and they’re not any of this stuff. But it’s OK if it has all of these other, better aspects to it, and that’s what transformative fandom is, so fuck those affirmational fans and fuck all,” you know what I mean, like, “fuck, fuck also any corporate nature of this. Fuck all that. Because I’m a good fan."
"But, the idea that if there’s a corporate sanctioning involved, who gets that pathway? OK: here’s the actual argument with that stuff, which I don’t think is terrible, all right? Here’s a Tumblr that I like a lot, I think I brought it up as an example, but Doctor Who I think has a really great Tumblr, they reblog fanart of all sorts, all skill levels, really beautiful interesting stuff.

Doctor Who has never ever ever in my experience reblogged shippy or particularly weird fanart. I don’t know, I haven’t been in the Doctor Who fandom broadly, cause I was in the Torchwood fandom, since Tumblr—since I joined Tumblr. I was in the LiveJournal era. So I don’t know, but I’m certain that there’s some weird shit. [...] They’re not going to sanction that."


  1. ^ The Decade Fandom Went Corporate December 19, 2019. Archived October 19, 2020.
  2. ^ The episode, wayback link