Fansplaining: Kfan: Trapped in His Own Game

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Podcast Episode
Fansplaining (fandom podcast series)
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Episode Title: Fansplaining: Kfan: Trapped in His Own Game
Length: 1:11:16
Featured: Kfan
Date: June 15, 2016
Focus: Kim Kardashian, RPF
External Links: Episode at

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Kfan: Trapped in His Own Game is a podcast by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining.


"In this episode, Elizabeth and Flourish talk to Kevin Fanning, author of “Kim Kardashian: Trapped In Her Own Game,” about RPF, the fourth wall, Wattpad, and branded content. Then they answer reader mail with more discussion about RPF and the fourth wall—and try to figure out whether fandom really is “broken.”"


Some Topics Discussed


[Kfan]: I’ve always been really obsessed with celebrities and thinking about what are their lives like off camera or what are their lives like in transition, like when they have what we think of as their story arc. Like Lindsay Lohan’s back in the hospital, what’s her life like after that. So that’s been an aspect of celebrity that I’ve always been really interested in, and I started writing and publishing online fiction about the Olsen twins and about Lindsay Lohan because The Parent Trap, her version of The Parent Trap is one of my favorite movies and I’ve been very invested in her career and the things that have happened to her since then. And so that felt really comfortable to me and I really enjoyed it and that was just a thing that I did, so I kept exploring more and more writing stories about celebrities.

I started putting out my own little chapbooks of stories that I had written, like I had a collection of stories about Jennifer Love Hewitt called Jennifer Love Hewitt Times Infinity. And I didn’t realize, I wasn’t a Trekkie growing up, I wasn’t super invested in Harry Potter, I didn’t know that there was other people who wrote weird stories the way I did, not that they were weird, but just that they weren’t literary fiction—air quotes, hashtag, whatever. It wasn’t until I started putting together little books and sharing them with friends of my stories about celebrities that one of my good friends was like “this is so great, you know there’s this whole thing? This is like a thing? This is RPF, this type of fanfiction that this is.”

And I was like “This isn’t just me?! There are people doing this!?” And I was kinda blown away that this was an actual thing that I was a part of without realizing it. I was not disappointed that I hadn’t invented something. I was just kind of excited that there was actually history for what I was doing, it wasn’t just my dumb weird thing, I was part of something that other people were interested in too. So that was kinda cool for me.


Around the same time I was playing Kim Kardashian Hollywood, her new game that had just come out, and I was ub-sessed with it, like I could not stop playing it, it was my favorite thing ever, and it was that fandom thing where I was like “I need more of this! It’s not enough!” So I started googling around, and obviously there was no fanfiction about Kim’s game. (All laugh) I was the only person on the internet who felt this way. So “Screw it! I’m gonna start my own Kim Kardashian Hollywood fanfic!” And I really just sat down one morning, I was like, here’s the first chapter. And didn’t think about it any more past that, didn’t expect it to be anything that I spent any long term amount of time on. But it almost immediately blew up and it’s almost two years later now and I’m still writing Kim Kardashian Hollywood fanfiction.

[Kfan]: I love Kim and I am very invested in stuff that she does, but I’ve only ever seen one season with Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I’m not so deep in—and it was the season that I got paid to write about for New York Magazine. I’m very interested in them but I’m not necessarily interested in the TV show version, I guess, it’s more of sort of what they represent. So I’m not hardcore Kardashian and I think that’s apparent to people in the fandom who I do follow on Twitter and try to interact with. It’s, I’m definitely not—I’m definitely a separate fandom if that makes sense.

[Flouish Klink]:... there was a lot of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny fanfic out there, there was a ton of RPF, but it was so underground, it was way more underground than X-Files fanfiction, which was itself kind of a secret. Not a big secret, but it was sort of a secret, but RPF was definitely a secret at that point.

[Kfan]: I think Wattpad as a whole is very interested in finding ways to connect the needs of writers and brands, I guess. They’re looking for ways to find writers ways to get paid, and they’re looking for ways to use writing as an outlet for advertising. I happen to be a fanfiction writer, but that’s not just what Wattpad is about. I think most of the campaigns you might see getting people to write are not from fanfiction, because that’s a lot more complicated. But romance writers, horror writers especially, there’s a lot of brands, movies, book series, authors, etcetera who are interested in sort of using people who are writing in those communities to extend their brands and get paid opportunities to write.

I happen to write fanfiction and I’m very interested in finding ways to do the stuff that I want to do working for celebrities. But it’s a little more complicated than just money is flooding into fanfiction, because I can’t get paid to write a story where Kim drinks Coke or something like that, you know? I’m not her official representative, so I can’t write fanfiction about her enjoying a Coke, although I’m sure I would do a very good job of it. It’s not something that I could easily get paid for.

[KF]: I don’t write about celebrities that I hate, I write about celebrities who I think are interesting, so to want that to be acknowledged I don’t think is like, outlandish or out of left field. There’s something about, I’m obsessed with these celebrities and I write stuff because I support them and think they’re interesting. So to want some kind of official seal of approval, I guess, to want that as a goal in my life—it just makes sense to me. My perspective, of course it’s my perspective so it makes sense to me, but it doesn’t seem crazy.

[Elizabeth Minkel]: I don’t think it necessarily has to be an RPF, celebrity thing versus not. I mutually follow some people who work for Pottermore, JK Rowling’s extra-canonical site, so they’re essentially writing Harry Potter fanfiction every day, as am I. It’s just their way of expressing their—I mean it’s also their job, so they’re paid. But you know, everyone who’s making that site is clearly a fan and expressing their love in officially sanctioned channels. Whereas that’s not something I would like to do. So…

[KF]: To me it’s just an extension of what other types of artists already get, especially visual artists. They’re often paid to create derivative works or different covers for things or ancillary art for whatever project is happening. It’s perfectly acceptable and reasonable for visual artists to expect to get paid for that, and it’s not a thing. It’s not controversial, it’s just a thing. So I don’t see why it should be a big deal for writers to be interested in that if they’re interested in that.

And I don’t think it means fanfiction is ruined, I think one doesn’t negate the other. If you don’t want to read my official Kim Kardashian fic that has her name on the cover, that’s totally fine. There’s lots of other fic for you to read. But I think they could both be interesting or be valuable in different ways.

[ KF]: In the past I have been paid to write articles for different online magazines and things like that, but then I’ve also gotten paid to write fiction through Wattpad. And it’s definitely—I don’t know the best way to put it, but writing fiction through Wattpad has been very good to me. And I don’t get paid to write my Kim Kardashian stuff, that’s me proving that I can write and that people are interested in my writing.

They say online advertising is starting to get really weird, that’s why the Toast is not gonna stick around. They couldn’t make money, as good as the writing is there, they couldn’t get paid to do it, which is crazy. So I think the way forward is gonna have to be to figure out how do we leverage all the money that these brands are willing to spend on the internet to get eyeballs and attention with the people who are really talented writers and the people who are proven, that they can get eyeballs on their writing. That’s really what it’s about for me, it’s about finding ways to match my writing and the people who are interested in reading what I write with the brands who are interested in working with someone like me. So I don’t know.

To me it doesn’t devaluate the—everyone’s needs are aligned. If Coke wants to give me, wants to pay me to write something, and that’s something I’m interested in writing, then we’re on the same page. And people can read that or they can not read it, but they’re aligned with giving me money and I’m aligned to take that money because we’re excited to work together. We can see if it works or not, but at least I’m getting paid and I’m writing something that I’m interested in writing and it’s not really like I’m whoring myself out or anything because I don’t have to take that, I don’t have to take that project if I don’t wanna work on it.

[KF]: That’s why I[Wattpad is] such an interesting new channel to me. Brands are gonna do what they’re gonna do, right? They’re either gonna target the hell out of us on Facebook or they’re gonna somehow buy their way into our email or they’re gonna be harvesting our data doing God knows what with it, or they’re sponsoring these nice little fiction stories that people can read. (All laugh) So it’s like, to me it’s a really neat new, I hate to keep using the word “channel” but it’s a neat new advertising channel that is, I’ll take it any old day over not being able to skip the ad on Youtube, you know?

[ELM]: And that was really frustrating. On a personal level, I have already had a lot of final straws, but Mark Gatiss who’s the co-creator of Sherlock retweeted it, and he was like “yes exactly.” I understand that creators have to deal with a barrage of just garbage from people on social media, but then so does everyone with a large platform. And if you are going to say that you’re being harassed every time that you’re being criticized, I think that we have a real problem here. And I think that that’s what I was seeing.

[FK]: I certainly agree with you that I was sorry to see how many people were reposting it, because I think it was a very bad article. But I guess after talking with some people who had sent it to me in various attitudes, sometimes approvingly, I realized that many of them weren’t reading the same parts of it the same way as I was. So for example, most of the people who I saw who reposted it approvingly initially, seemed to have just entirely jumped over the paragraph about fanfiction.

[ELM]: That didn’t even make sense, so that’s probably for the best.

[FK]: Right. But it was interesting to me because one of the reasons I was so mad at it was that it seemed to me like it had completely misunderstood every subtlety of fanfiction and also of fan movements in general, it was so broad and so blunt. But if you were to just skip over it and say, Oh, this says that people are brigading folks online and that’s bad, and you’ve just been brigaded… I don’t know, I wish people would be more careful with what they post, because when you have a big megaphone like that, everything you post is really significant, you’re really amplifying it.

[FK]: ....something that I noticed coming up again and again in discussion of the article is when people pointed out criticisms of it, the response was “so you’re saying it’s OK to send death threats over Twitter?” And I think that it’s not just fandom that’s broken, it’s a broader online discourse that’s broken. Which many other people have said before.

When we talked to people in the Race & Fandom episode, they said, if I post something that’s not nuanced, that’s just one note, it’s going to get shared and spread and that’s what people will hear from me. And if I post something that’s a complex, nuanced examination of anything, no one wants to read it. And I think that’s a piece of human nature that gets amplified by the internet, and I think that both applies to people sharing the Devin Faraci article and not thinking more deeply about it, and also applies to some of the brigading things that happen on every side.