Fansplaining: There’s No Place Like Home

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Podcast Episode
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Episode Title: Fansplaining: There's No Place Like Home
Length: 1:06:09
Date: November 30, 2016
External Links: Episode at

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Fansplaining: There's No Place Like Home is a podcast by Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel.

For others in the series, see Fansplaining


Elizabeth and Flourish reflect on the ways that reboots and never-ending sequels have changed the experience of being a fan alongside an extended (and hopefully successful!) metaphor about relationships with family over time. Topics covered include reconciling or moving on from problematic texts, the trajectories of some franchises versus others, and an extended segment about “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” (If you haven’t seen the movie yet and intend to, spoiler alert!) Plus—register your surprise—continued discussion of the US Presidential Election.


Topics Discussed

  • Changing perspectives on, or relationships to, an old fandom of yours
  • Critique of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and other tie-in parts from the Harry Potter franchise, such as Magic in North America on Pottermore
  • When franchises would benefit from external sources or multiple perspectives being brought to the story
  • Evolution of content - such as with Star Wars, X-Files, or Twin Peaks reboots
  • When to reconcile a new perspective with an old fandom, and when to move on or walk away
  • Having mixed feelings about fandoms, which can simultaneously be an escape and have problems
  • Processing the 2016 American Presidential election


FK: OK. So in combination with Thanksgiving happening, we went together to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And as every person who listened to this podcast before today knows, this is a shared fandom that we have, Harry Potter. And, we had a lot of thoughts about fandoms that we had in the past, and returning, this has been a year of soft reboots and revivals like Star Wars, Harry Potter obviously we just said that, X-Files, Gilmore Girls is out now if you’re a Gilmore Girls person, Twin Peaks is coming back, right.

ELM: Star Trek on TV is coming back.

FK: Star Trek, yeah, and there was another film which a lot of people felt like was more true to the Star Trek style. So there’s been all of these going on, and there's something about our relationships to old fandoms that maybe… fandoms that we spent a long time with, that maybe, I don’t know, metaphorically relates to being home for Thanksgiving and being like… I don’t know. Everyone here is exactly like they always were and yet I have a different perspective on it, or maybe I still have the same perspective on it but I still have to be back with you because I kinda have to because I’m compelled because I’m a fan… I don’t know.

FK: You know what I mean, though, right? I feel like at a certain point fandom feels like it’s something like family, in that there will never be a Harry Potter thing that I don’t see — even if I loathe it — or maybe there will be, but I’ll probably ultimately have a mixed feeling about the fact that I don’t see it, you know what I mean? It’ll be a conscious choice. And it’ll be weird for me, anyway, and it’ll be a thing. Or if you cut out an old fandom, it’s a little bit like cutting off someone who’s really toxic in your life, which is a completely reasonable thing to do, but I think a big choice.

ELM: Yeah, and tied up in that is the fact that a lot of these fandoms are probably ones that you encountered when you were significantly younger. And the world has changed and probably your perspectives have changed. We both read Harry Potter, well I did anyway, when we were a little bit older, but I hear from a lot of people who were 8, 10, 11 when they first read the books and now approach them with adult eyes, and I don’t wanna frame this as a sort of “Back when I was a teenager I was ignorant and racist, and now I understand things!” No, cause I think that that inherently is gonna frame it around being a white teenager, for example. I don’t wanna make it as reductive as that, cause I think there’s a lot of different ways that your world-views can be broadened.

FK: All right, we’re back. So. Initial thoughts upon seeing it in reference to your own personal Harry Potter fandom.

ELM: Mmph. Uhhhh. [laughs] I think I said this, cause I was just re-listening to the special, the first special episode which was about Cursed Child. And at the end of that episode we were talking a bit about what’s been going on in the franchise this year, and I was saying that one thing that strikes me and, you know, as someone who’s spent a while living in the UK, and spent a lot of time studying British literature, I felt like the Harry Potter books reflected a problematic racist society, and other problems too, not just racism, but they also, they feel true to Britain now, Britain at that time. It’s nothing, you know, the sidelining of character of color, the—can’t even say sidelining of queer characters, you know. The centering of—

FK: Queer villainous…

ELM: Of straight, of of certain kinds of quote unquote “Britishness.” It’s definitely problematic and definitely worth critiquing strenuously, but it’s something, it doesn’t feel disconnected with reality. Like, nothing about…Fantastic Beasts didn’t feel connected to any reality. And it was like, I don’t know. I feel like this is maybe a weird rabbit-holey way to frame this, so maybe I could try to walk myself back out of it. But all of the discourse we’ve been having, aside from the “Magic in North America,” which, in case anyone somehow managed to miss that story, Pottermore released this four part history of magic in North America that was like, super super racist and culturally appropriative, Native American mythology, and histories, stories of mythology and magic, right. And it was super…is paternalistic the right word? The whole “Only Europeans had wands but Native Americans had spirit magic,” that kinda thing.

FK: More in the way it was framed than the, like, concept, right? It was very specifically in this framing of the wand as being the better tool.

ELM: Right. Oh, of course. Important European technology is much better. You know. Than the people that they were coming to [sighs] displace and murder. But all of that wasn’t even like, none of that was in the movie. You know? At one point someone was saying to me “We don’t know that’s gonna be in the movie!” Well, that doesn’t mean it never existed. They still chose to make that this official thing that they put out. So that doesn’t erase it. But it is true that it doesn’t have anything to do with the movie, right?

FK: The way in which I find it useful for this is from thinking about the idea of how far can any one author take a story. Right? An author can tell a story from their own perspective, they can tell a story from other perspectives, but I do think there’s a point at which maybe when you’re trying to tell a global story, or truly have a global view of something, then maybe it can’t be a single-authored thing. Maybe you need other people with other perspectives to either collaborate or to, to take it on, right?

FK: No, I started off talking about how one of the problems I was seeing with it was I see other people trying to take on similar stories to this in fanfic and this made me think about how this is sort of like that, but it doesn’t hit all the right notes—not that all those stories do either, by the way. But then thinking about, should this be singly authored?

ELM: I don’t know.

FK: If there’s a goal for a truly international wizarding world, can it all come from J.K. Rowling? I don’t know.

ELM: Well, that the answer is 100% not.

FK: Right, but then we get into this question of multiplicities of universes and how to create something that feels true, and I think one of the benefits of fanfic is that it allows us to…it allows lots of different people’s perspectives to get injected into a world.

ELM: Definitely. But that’s not gonna happen, so now we're stuck with 100,000 movies in this arc, Lord only knows…is Newt Scamander gonna be in all of them? He barely felt like he was in this one. It felt like he didn’t even belong in this movie, you know? It was like two different movies smushed into one very poorly. I don’t care about any of the characters, maybe him a little bit, and all of the extraordinary, really tense, well-built political elements of the original books is utterly lacking in a time when you’re supposed to be showing this point of political tension, where for anyone who hasn’t seen it the American wizards have a different approach to their relationship with Muggles, I’m not gonna say fucking “no-majs,” and they are self-segregating, very strict, there’s a no-intermarrying rule, which as our friend we saw it with pointed out that’s a fairly problematic construction to suggest if you’re trying to draw this American, this is an American story they have segregation in marriage and whatever, right. But it’s somewhat irresponsible to say that that was the imposition of the minority group, right? And I agree with that.

ELM: But, yeah. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t always have to be this kind of awakening, “Oh, no, my childhood faves actually super problematic,” or “Oh no my childhood fave keeps putting out shitty content that gets more and more problematic.” It can be “Oh good, they’re evolving with the times and they’re listening to conversations and they are becoming something that I’m proud to be a fan of as opposed to one that I’m increasingly ashamed to be a fan of,” J.K. Rowling, are you listening to this? No. No, she doesn’t listen to any of this.

ELM: OK. So, I don’t know. I think some of this is reconciling with the fact that, I don’t know. I think it is important to kind of be real with yourself about how much of your experiences with texts that you liked when you were a kid or a teenager were partly tied up with when you were encountering them. And sometimes I think you just need to leave it at that. I’m not saying that if you and you were like…you can confront that. But if it’s just a matter of it doesn’t really hold up, I think it’s…

FK: But even if you do confront things, I feel like there’s something about…you can value the emotions you had with it and also let it go. You know what I’m saying? There’s a time at which you can be like, like with family members, you can be like — no really! If somebody is too, if you can’t keep them in your life, you can say to them, “Hey, I love you, I’m grateful to you, but we can’t talk anymore.” That is a thing that people can do for their mental health, right?

ELM: Sure, sure.

FK: And for the sake of the world. And for some fandoms that’s it. And for other fandoms that’s not it and you keep going back to your racist uncle talk at Thanksgiving.

ELM: But I think there’s a lot of presumption there. If you look at fans of any of the 16,000 shows that killed off queer women this year, or, look at Harry Potter itself, you know? You could say “Oh I just don’t wanna think about it.” I don’t know. I think that it’s tricky to say the object of fandom… yeah, sure, it can be an escape, but it’s like… I’m not sure you can universally say that any text is gonna be an escape, because something’s gonna…there’s gonna be something that will probably bring you back into the real world.

FK: I was talking about, hmm. So I was talking about, people can use texts in different ways, right? Someone, even someone who is directly impacted by things in a text, right…you can read a text that is sexist or racist or whatever, and in certain ways you can decide that you’re going to, that you’re going to elide that in your mind, right. A lot of people have said this about Harry Potter, they’re like “Yes of course it’s racist, the way lots of things are racist, of course it is. Naturally. And yet I…” and I’m not talking about white people here. Let’s be clear. “And yet it can be an escape for me, I can escape to Hogwarts in my mind.” So what I’m saying is you can choose to use something as an escape even knowing and acknowledging its problems, but that doesn’t mean its problems don’t exist and that doesn’t mean other people don’t get to point those out if for them it’s not an escape.

ELM: Sure.

FK: You can choose to use a text the way you want, but the moment you bring fandom into it, you bring in other people with their own perspectives and takes on things, so some of them are not gonna agree with you. It’s not gonna be like, the text wasn’t a safe space, and fandom’s not gonna be a safe space either. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it as an escape, but it means you’re gonna have to deal with that. You’re gonna have to accept these people and their opinions and their viewpoints and their ways of using the text or engaging with it.

ELM: Right. I mean, the flip side of that obviously would be that you can find the people who see the same problems as you. Or you can find other people who elide the same things, and want to bury their heads in the sand about the same things also. It can go either way. It doesn’t have to be so black-and-white either.

FK: Right, and the same text can do the same…you can treat the same text in different ways even within a short period of time, I think. Or many people can. So I think that’s what’s… that’s what really bothers me about this narrative of escape and safe space versus NOTHING IS SAFE, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE THIS. Yeah, but actually people can flip between these things and should, probably, in order to maintain a healthy balance of feeling about the world. But it’s really hard to find that balance.