Fansplaining: Nerds For Her

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Podcast Episode
Fansplaining
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Episode Title: Fansplaining: Nerds For Her
Length: 1:08:37
Featured: Paul DeGeorge
Date: Oct 5 2016
Focus: #NerdsForHer
External Links: Episode at Fansplaining.com
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Fansplaining: Nerds For Her is a podcast by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining

A related special episode is Special Episode 2, where Fansplaining's hosts "watch the 1998 film Primary Colors, thinly-veiled RPF about Bill and Hillary Clinton". In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Fansplaining released Fansplaining: No Escape discussing the election results.

Introduction

"Elizabeth and Flourish talk to Paul DeGeorge, half of Harry and the Potters and the creator of the #NerdsForHer, a campaign to get fandom excited about Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. Topics discussed include the idea of “political fandom,” Hillary’s bad narrative, John Travolta and Emma Thompson in Primary Colors, and whether fanfiction can help foster enthusiasm for the only reasonable candidate. (Who is Hillary Clinton. Fansplaining endorses Hillary Clinton. Seriously.)"

Links

Topics Discussed

  • Hillary Clinton and the 2016 US Presidential Election
  • Political RPF
  • Harry and the Potters and The Harry Potter Alliance; fandom providing an entry point into political activism
  • Custom fannish political merchandise for campaigning, drawing on a variety of fandoms
  • Sexism in political campaigns
  • Harnessing fannish enthusiasm and treating fans as a unique demographic and voting bloc
  • Relating politics to fandom (ex: Leslie Knope, Harry Potter, etc.)

Excerpts

ELM: OK, before we start talking about Nerds For Her I think we should talk a little bit about your background because I’m sure a lot of our listeners are familiar with Harry and the Potters and The Harry Potter Alliance, so maybe you could talk a little bit about your journey.

PD: Yeah, so those are my two big fandom contributions I guess. 2002, that’s 14 years ago, I started a band with my brother called Harry and the Potters, and we just thought it would be cool if Harry Potter had his own punk rock band. And so we wrote a bunch of stupid songs and started playing them in backyards and libraries and people were really into that idea. And so then we got a lot more serious about it, I guess.

ELM: Wait wait—were you guys the first wizard rock band?

PD: Basically. We were definitely the first band, a few people had written songs before us but we were the first to go full concept.

ELM: ...OK. So let’s talk about the issue at hand.

PD: Yeah.

ELM: Nerds For Her.

PD: Gettin’ partisan. Nerds For Her! I guess the quick backstory on this is in 2008 I started to experiment with partisan politics and fandom and I made some designs that were basically Wizards For Obama designs, and Gryffindors For Obama, just trying to capture where people were identifying. I was looking at Obama’s merchandise and not feeling like any of it was resonating with me, and felt like they were playing to certain constituencies and communities that I didn’t feel represented by. If you cruise to Hillary’s merchandise site, it’s like, Teachers For Hillary, or Labor For Hillary, or these other different very traditional constituencies, and I didn’t see that reflected in the communities I was a part of which is this great Harry Potter fan community. So I made a few little designs and put them up for sale on a print on demand site and sold a handful. It wasn’t anything major but I did see people putting up the little icons, that was like Ravenclaws For Obama.

So rolling into the 2012 election I tried to expand on that and to expand it to new fandoms and created a Nerds For Obama website, and a bunch of different designs. Still have the wizard stuff, but also was hitting some other different fandoms, like Nerdfighters, I had a few Doctor Who designs, Time Lords For Obama, just have a merchandise store and people were buying all sorts of the fandom swag I was making. One of my favorite things was selling a lot of merchandise to the campaign itself, where I kept getting orders from Obama offices in New Hampshire and Chicago…

ELM: OK, so she’s our problematic fave. So this is a thing though, and Paul, you and I were talking about this the other day when you told me about the campaign, the enthusiasm gap, the idea that people are voting against Donald Trump rather than for Hillary, seems to be one of the problems at hand, right?

PD: Yeah, definitely. I see it in my own friends circle, and I feel like when I look back at the 2012 campaign, it was a completely different campaign when you looked at how people under 40 were approaching it and what they were talking about and in relation to the candidates, and there was… there’s always been, Obama’s a cool candidate. He’s easy to get behind. And when he does pander to fan constituencies, it’s not read as pandering, it’s read as “Oh, Obama likes what I like, that’s cool!” versus Hillary which is like, “Oh, she’s just pandering.”

PD: It is like that, it is like that. One of the things I was struggling with was I wasn’t cheerful about this election, you know. It’s a hard election to watch for a wide variety of reasons, but I did start to feel a lot better about it when I started working on it. When I started feeling like “OK, I can play a role here in this election.” And I can have a voice and I can use my talents. I basically was thinking, “What is the thing that I am most capable of doing between now and the election that would maybe have the biggest impact?” My history is for the past 10 years is really organizing inside of fan spaces, so that's why I went this route. I want that to be a place where people can feel like it’s an opportunity to be positive and to make positive contributions to this campaign. And that’s kinda my goal here, is to maybe give fans more of a way to engage with the campaign.

And let me just say, this is not a part of Hillary’s campaign. I’m an individual just working for a candidate I believe in, and for a cause I believe in. It’s not a Super PAC, it’s not part of Hillary’s campaign, you know? It’s just a guy. Just a guy.

FK: So on that note… [laughs] So you felt better after you started actively working for Hillary. And I get the impression that you want other people to do the same thing and you’re trying to organize other people into doing the same thing.

PD: Yeah! That’s the goal here. I think fans represent a large untapped wellspring of enthusiasm and a significant voting bloc, honestly. I think that there’s a lot of power that fans have that maybe they don’t realize, but certain people within fandom play the roles of influencers—and that can come in many, many different shapes and forms, fan artists can create captivating imagery that really resonates with people and changes how people feel about things, you know? I keep coming back to these representations of Hermione as black, and just thinking about how that's very rapidly shaped fan culture and people's attitudes over the last couple of years. To the point where we’ve got a black Hermione for real! You know? There’s real impact from just simple things.

Basically, I think there’s a lot that fans can do with regard to this election, and I don’t want them to feel disempowered, I want them to feel empowered to do things and make change here. So yeah. Open call! Open call here for fan activists to rally round Hillary. And I have some ideas, I’m sure you guys have ideas. You’re fan experts! What have you seen that’s effective in this sphere over the past few years? What changes people’s attitudes, what changes their hearts and minds?

Fan Comments and Response

Fan responses directly inspired by the podcast episode included a piece of fanart and a fanfiction, Archived version created, along with comments left on the promotional post for the episode on Tumblr.

References