Fansplaining: GeekyCon and Meredith Levine

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Episode Title: GeekyCon and Meredith Levine
Length: 56:17
Featured: Flourish Klink
Elizabeth Minkel
Meredith Levine
Date: August 12, 2015
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Interview Notesarchive

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  Fansplaining: GeekyCon and Meredith Levine is a podcast which includes commentary and an interview conducted by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining.


In this episode, Elizabeth visits GeekyCon and sees the Harry Potter theme park for the first time; Elizabeth & Flourish field a listener question from Tahariels; and we have a conversation with Meredith Levine, intrepid fanthropologist. Topics covered include LeakyCat, finding community in fandom, stars reading fanfic, and the intersections between fandom, consumerism, and commerce.

Topics Discussed


They are here.

Excerpts: The Fourth Wall

ELM: Oh yeah. So when I wrote this article, and I was just like, “Screw this guy.” He has the right to feel uncomfortable if people write fanfiction about him. That’s within anyone’s right. Just say, “I don’t really want to talk about it.” And mostly I placed the blame on the media, though I learned later that he actually brought it up, which made me feel awkward afterwards because I was like, “Journalists stop asking these guys!” And then the editor, like, tweeted at some people—in a rude way—and said, “He brought it up.” And it’s like clearly it’s bothering him. But! It was very interesting to see the response because I was flooded with responses from fangirls and fanfiction readers who said, just, “Thank you so much. I was feeling so ashamed after he said those things about me.” You know? And it’s just like, well, yeah, if you and I feel like we’re not going to feel ashamed anymore, and I think that’s why we can go on things or write things and be like, “Screw that guy!” And then the more people say it, the more people say it publicly, the better everyone’s going to feel. Hopefully.

ELM: So all right, yeah, any individual, you’re signing up as an individual to have your physical presence…I don’t want to bring up a lot of Sherlock examples but there was also another one where Amanda Abbington—who plays Mary Morstan and she’s also Martin Freeman’s real-life partner—and she caused a bit of a stir when she went on the record in the British press saying she thought that fanart was disgusting. I don’t know, she didn’t use that word, but she was disparaging it and was saying, “My children could see that.” And then people started pulling up all the sex scenes that he’s done in movies. You’re image is your job, if you’re an actor. That’s a major part of it, is your physical countenance. And you don’t really get to control it.

FK: Yeah, so I mean I think this is a complex question, though, because it’s also…it’s not actually something that necessarily the powers that be can control. So for instance, I know that when some of the Teen Wolf actors have gotten in trouble for some of this stuff, right? They’ve said things about fanfic. Nobody at that show wants to say anything negative about fanfic, but actors are individuals who go into interviews and say things. You know?

... And so it’s their perspective. I think this comes back to also the question of are the powers that be a monolith or not? And something that I notice in fandom is that it’s really easy for us to think about, sort of, everybody who’s involved in a show as either all being on the same team, or even just being, like, united under one person, like the showrunner. It’s easier, mentally, to keep that in mind than it is to think, oh there are literally 400 people working on this show, and they all have different agendas and different desires and different needs. But it’s wrong and sometimes it results in some real misconceptions on the fans’ side.

Excerpts: Meredith Levine

ML: So, my background is in research, I have a master’s from UCLA in media studies, and what I did there is I emphasized cultures of media production and consumption, and the intersection of cultures of media production and consumption. So what that means I do in the business world is I take a look at fan community behavior and fanworks, and it just so happens that right now I’m using some pretty cool social listening software– ...

The company I work for can track the video level of videos on YouTube, so what that means, I can find fandom and consumerist subculture, which is where I’m spending a lot of my time right now is in consumer subcultures–
ML: Yeah. I mean, I think fanfiction, fanfiction is one of the dominant forms of, it’s massive, it’s a massive community, there are lots of people writing it, there are tons of people reading it, but it’s only one aspect of fanwork, and it’s an incredibly literary one. And so I spend a lot more time thinking about I guess video? And thinking about real world events, and thinking about a way more I guess business-minded process, of when do people get sucked in and what is compelling and how does that translate, how can you move the same group of people from one place to another place to another place. And trying to figure out how people actually communicate and build these webs that are fandom where in theory you would have say Harry Potter at the center of it. But that might not necessarily always be the case for everyone, because for some people StarKid will be at the center of it, for some people it will be GeekyCon or for some people it will be literary culture more broadly, or for some people it will be cosplay or theme parks because there are just so many rabbit holes at this point.

ML: I really strongly disagree with anti-consumerist fandom. Because it’s missing a whole part of the production cycle that is absolutely necessary for people to understand in order to actually get canon. And in order to actually get fanworks!

ELM: Well wait, hold on, we’re just talking about new works that are coming out right now–what if I’m in the Jane Austen fandom?

ML: Right, I still think economics are a huge portion of that. Because you’re still gonna have to, there’s still this cycle of economics that is at play in the background that I think is important to acknowledge. Like, part of book culture are books. But what happens when the economics of books change to the point where what if Jane Austen fandom exists solely on e-reader? That would be a very different cultural experience.
ML: And it comes to an understanding of diversity within fandom. As you broaden out fandom, and open up these gates, and as, I mean, if we’re using an invading army analogy, if fandom is being invaded, with that comes an acknowledgment of a diversity of fandom. And so it’s, it’s almost like the way that the internet has changed media, you wind up with a lot more of it and a lot more niches. You might wind up with a process where your fandom used to identify as Harry Potter fandom, but that was a monolithic fandom to begin with and so it just become more honest about the niches within the Harry Potter fandom.