Fansplaining: Stephanie Burt: Part 2

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Podcast Episode
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Episode Title: Stephanie Burt: Part 2
Length: 1:03:27
Featured: Elizabeth Minkel, Flourish Klink, Stephanie Burt
Date: February 21, 2018
Focus: Fanfiction vs. other fanworks; fandom and capitalism; X-Men, queer and trans subtext, Comics Fandom
Fandom: Pan-Fandom, Western Comics Fandom
External Links: Episode 68: Stephanie Burt: Part 2, archive link (includes audio, transcript, and show notes)
Fansplaining—About, Archived version

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
For others in the series, see Fansplaining.

Fansplaining: Stephanie Burt: Part 2 is an episode of the podcast Fansplaining by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel. The hosts continue their interview with poet, academic, and X-Men fan Stephanie Burt, which touches on the state of queer and trans subtext and representation in the superhero genre. Flourish and Elizabeth also discuss the ethical implications of liking a problematic piece of media and whether or not fanfiction is over-represented in fandom meta.


"In Episode 68, “Stephanie Burt: Part 2,” Elizabeth and Flourish wrap up their conversation with poet, professor, and X-fan Stephanie Burt, covering topics from transitioning in public view to allegorical versus literal representation to queer themes in superhero comics. They also discuss a pair of listener letters: one on fandom, capitalism, and ethical behavior, and one on fanfiction’s prominence on both the podcast and within the sphere of fandom commentary at large."[1]

Topics Discussed


The First Listener Letter

"“Or like—I love SF, and the professional SF world has a lot of problems which I have not much power to correct, aside from buying one kind of books and not buying a different kind of books. But! By following lots of cool people in SF who want the same structural changes I want (more ladies! More queer stuff! More people of color! Down with Sad Puppies!), I am more likely to learn about places where I have power to contribute to bringing about those structural changes (what Flourish calls ‘knowing where the levers are’).

“So I think it is okay to stay in Harry Potter fandom, is what I am saying."

Excerpt from a listener letter by @readingtheend, read by Flourish

[ELM] "Looking at it…I was just, the idea that, I don’t know, I wrote in one of our responses to this episode on Tumblr, the one where the person was saying that maybe this was creating our headcanons and our more progressive fanfiction—though progressive up to a point, obviously, as we've discussed at length—could push the cultural needle or whatever. And it was kind of ambiguous what they were saying and I was like, “If you mean the current and next generation of creators are gonna actually create the worlds we wanna see in new media, then I agree. But if you’ve, I don’t think that this is gonna change Harry Potter. I don’t think this is gonna change the MCU beyond,” you know what I mean."

The Second Listener Letter

"I understand that it is very hard to equally represent every fan’s experience of fandom. However, I do think it is worth calling into question the hegemony of fanfic as the mode of transformative fandom, particularly in an era where fanworks are so dramatically expanding and evolving due to the developments of digital technology."

Letter by Rachel Aparicio

[FK] "And analyze computationally, yeah. In my day job- [...] if I want to analyze fan art, I have to plan on having a human categorize it if I want to get data out of that. With fanfic I can just shove all of that into a computer and run textual analysis on it and I learn things. Right?"

Interview with Stephanie Burt

[Stephanie] "But it’s been mediated also by X-fandom. And X-Men fandom, as you may know, whether or not you're in it, maybe not compared to all the other fandoms in the world, but compared to the other mainstream comic book fandoms, compared to other superhero fandoms…there’s some of this in Batman fandom for people younger than me too, I’m not a Bat-person, I don’t even know, but there’s a trans woman in Batman now, I don’t even know, I just read about it. But X-fandom has been really queer and sort of trans since X-Men became significant on its own rather than as just another part of Marvel universe, since the late ’70s relaunch of X-Men. And this was by design. Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson and people around them seemed to have known what they were doing in building queer subtext and sometimes kink subtext into a lot of the stories in this comic that was about members of a subordinated group who find a community and are adolescents anyway."

[Stephanie] "so Logan…no one really knows how old he is, he’s kind of short for a guy in the comics, and it’s really important to him to have serious facial hair. And he’s really macho, he really does guy things. He smokes cigars, he drinks beer, he likes fighting, he’s literally full of testosterone. He has a set of chemicals inside him that give him a healing factor that most people don’t have, so that he can really work out. And at the same time, when he’s well-written, he has a kind of unusually good sense of boundaries, of how to not sexualize a situation that shouldn’t be sexualized, a kind of sense of feminism that is kind of unusual for guys who are that macho. You see where I’m coming from, right? [...] If you are looking for trans guys, and you’re reading comics and it’s the ’80s, or now, Logan is a pretty good person to follow."

[Stephanie]"But. If you’re trans in the way that I’m trans, which is “people thought I was a guy but I’m a girl,” right, if you’re trans in a familiar binary way, there’s something kind of unusual about that identity, which is that you see yourself in certain ways in people and characters and bodies that aren’t your body and aren’t what your body has been. It’s very important to you, and in fact it’s literally part of who you think you are, that you see yourself in people whose bodies aren’t the way your body is right now. And who you’ve been told are fundamentally unlike you. So it is and has been important to me, right, to see myself in people who are at once allegorically trans, and actually canonically, literally cis girls or cis women."


  1. ^ Episode 68: Stephanie Burt: Part 2 on the Fansplaining website.