On this episode of “It’s a Thing!” Paul Booth of DePaul University interviews me! We talk about transcultural fan studies, scholarship, and even a bit about genealogy.
Jenkins, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture
Finn & Nielsen, eds., Becoming: Genre, Queerness, and Transformation in NBC’s Hannibal
Terms, Concepts & the Rest
LM: Hi and welcome to “It’s a Thing!” the podcast where we talk about fan studies and how it’s a thing. I’m your host, Lori Morimoto.
LM: On this first episode of “It’s a Thing!” for 2020, Dr. Paul Booth, a professor of media studies at DePaul University, will be interviewing, well, me. Because I did this interview with Paul on the same day that I interviewed him for the next podcast, there are a couple of places we refer generally to the podcast I did with him, in case anyone gets confused. For anyone who’s not familiar with my work, I’m an independent researcher of fan studies, and my specialty is transcultural fan studies. So stick around!
Paul Booth: Thank you, Lori, for inviting me to come on and ask you some questions.
Lori Morimoto: I really appreciate it. I’ve actually, since I started doing this, I’ve been wanting to answer questions.
PB: Was that your whole reason for starting this podcast, is you just, you wanted people to ask you questions about your research?
LM: Absolutely. No…
PB: What the best way to make it sound like I’m, I’m doing this just for other people.
LM: Yes. True.
PB: Well, I’m actually very honored that you’d ask me to do this, because I’m a big fan of your research, a big fan of what you do. So, I – to be able to talk to you more about it is very exciting.
LM: That’s very kind.
PB: I’m going to start with a question that you always ask people, which is what is your story for getting into fan studies?
LM: Mine is pretty typical. I was taking Barb Klinger’s Media Spectatorship and Reception course in grad school, and I honestly… this was 2000… it was about 2000, actually, and I had never heard of fanfiction, I didn’t know that it existed. But I was really into the X Files at the time. And so, when we read, as you do, Textual Poachers, Henry Jenkins’s book, I was just like, oh my god, you know. And so, I went and looked online, and sure enough there was all of this X Files fanfiction, and I’m like, oh my god. So, I kind of fell into online fandom in about 2000. I had participated in a Leslie Cheung fan forum prior to that, but that was my first sort of foray into transformative fandom. And at the same time, I realized that it was a thing – fan studies. And so, since I was working on my dissertation, which was a study of Japanese women fans of Hong Kong films and stars, I had been… it’s largely an audience studies dissertation, but I was able to incorporate fan studies research into it and, yeah. I just kind of went from there. It wasn’t very intentional. I just kind of slid in that direction
PB: And when you, I know when you kind of entered this online world of fanfiction, like were you – because it sounds like you started kind of, “Oh, you know, here’s Jenkins writing about fanfiction and now I’m going to go into fanfiction stuff and become a fan.” Like do this transformative fan work…
LM: Yeah, it actually, it was like, it introduced me to fan studies but it also introduced me to transformative fandom.
PB: Yeah, so it seems to have been foundational in both kind of areas, and as you always are curious to know of others, how do you kind of bridge those two together?
LM: Um, I actually… Okay, so my Twitter handle is acafanmom, and I will say that when I made it, I didn’t realize that acafan was a term that we sometimes use in fan studies. And so, my whole thing was that I had just had two children, and at the time that I finished my dissertation, and kind of wandered back onto Twitter, I had a baby and a toddler, and it was painful. And so, I was more interested in reconciling the mom part of the acafanmom. And so, you know, I decided, ‘aca’ could be academic and ‘fan’ could be fan and ‘mom’ could be mom, you know, and it didn’t even occur to me that acafan was a thing.
PB: Hm, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that.
LM: Yeah. And so, I’ve always been interested in approaching my own identity within scholarship as a hybrid, and it helps that I am unemployed in any full-time capacity, so that I can do that without worry or recrimination of any kind.
PB: So, I mean, it – that’s interesting because without a kind of formal institutional mandate, you in a lot of ways have more freedom to research what you want and do what you want to do. The downside is, you know, you don’t get a paycheck from it.
LM: No, no, I do not. Which people in my family like to point out sometimes.
PB: Well, that’s the mom part of your acafanmom.
PB: When you were in this kind of online forum, did you try and hide your fan studies identity? Or did you try and explain like, “Oh, I’m a researcher, and I’m interested in audiences…”
LM: The first one, like in the 90s, no, because I wasn’t at the time. I started going on there in about 1996 when I got my first laptop, and I was living in Osaka in Japan. And I kind of, you know, I had just discovered the Internet and oh my god, you know, there’s stuff on here and oh, if I have an hour, I can get a picture, that kind of thing. Seriously. And so, I found this Leslie Cheung Internet Fan Club. Yeah. And it was for, you know, for pay, I paid. But I wasn’t really, I hadn’t gone back to graduate school yet. And so, I had nascent interests in that side of it, in the academic sort of side of it, but I was basically participating there as a fan.
PB: Mm-hmm. So, I know because you’ve, in your writings and in talking with each other, I know Leslie Cheung is very influential for your kind of early, not early, but I guess dissertation era.
PB: School era fandom. I know that as a young person, you were very into Star Wars–
LM: I was.
PB: -because you’ve talked to me about that. And recently, I’ve heard, I don’t – one or two things from you about Hannibal. I mean-
LM: Why are you being ugly?
PB: Is that the term, is that the name for the show? I just, I can’t – you don’t ever talk about it, so it’s really hard to know.
LM: Nah, I keep that one quiet.
PB: You keep that one very quiet.
PB: Is there, do you see something similar in Star Wars, Leslie Cheung, Hannibal, that has kind of attracted you? Does it speak, does it speak to you as kind of a person…?
LM: Mm-hmm. You know, Star Wars, I think, is a bit of an outlier. I think that one was primarily, you know, it was the first “grown up movie” that I ever saw. And it was the first one that had you know, that sort of sweeping, romantic John Williams soundtrack and all of that, and so Star Wars was more, even though I was absolutely a huge fan, it doesn’t resonate quite as much with the things that I subsequently fell into. And if I had to look at that era, it would actually be Superman the Movie.
LM: Yeah, the Richard Donner one. Oh god, I love that movie. And I love the behind the scenes stuff about it. You know, there was like a making-of book, this little paperback that I just ate up. And that one I think kind of resonates more with you know, Leslie Cheung subsequently, Hannibal now, and I think the thing that links them together is I really like stories that one way or another, or figures that one way or another sort of inhabit a kind of hidden identity. And in the case – you know, Superman, Yeah, Superman obviously is, you know, he’s got a hidden identity and Hannibal has a hidden identity. But with Leslie Cheung, you know, one of the things that was always really interesting to me was just the different ways that his real-life sexuality played out in different onscreen persona. I guess the other thing that always really attracts me to something as a fan is just when something could have been one thing, and it turns out to be so much more than that one thing. And so, you know, Leslie Cheung, he was a pop singer, and he was fine. You know, some people love his pop singing, I think it’s fine. You know, I don’t have strong opinions about it either way, except in a sort of nostalgic sense. But you know, that’s “all he did,” you know. He was just a pop singer. And yet, you know, the first thing I saw him in was Farewell My Concubine, and I just kind of felt like he should never have been that good. And he was and you know, everything he did, he was so good, even stupid stuff. Because in Hong Kong at the time, everybody did you know, they ran the gamut from, you know, art film to stupidest movie ever made, and sometimes they did them together.
And I think that’s sort of how I felt with Hannibal as well. Hannibal could have just been monster of the week, regular procedural with some art. It could have been all season one, and season one was fine, but it became so much more than that. And that’s also a big attraction to me.
PB: Mm. It’s interesting that you are kind of linking these things in terms of secret identity, hidden identity, persona, because I think that also gets reflected in your academic work about transcultural fandom, and – not so much secret identity, but the way that layers of identity can be peeled back and reveal different things about the fan and about the nation and culture that it comes from. Can you talk a bit about how transcultural fandom and this kind of concept really, which I think is one of those groundbreaking concepts and fan studies, how that’s situated within the larger fan studies framework? And then, kind of how does that speak to your particular research interests?
LM: Well, I’ll kinda go in reverse. And to pick up from what I was talking about, I think one of the reasons, you know, as you kind of hinted towards, I think one of the reasons that I’m so interested in those issues of hidden identity is that, you know, I grew up overseas. I lived in Hong Kong for seven years from sixth grade until I finished high school. And I went to an American school and I spoke English all the time. And I went home and it was American. And we were very privileged. We were very privileged. But I still grew up in Hong Kong, and I was out in the city all the time. And I don’t speak a lot of Cantonese, but I know one or two really choice phrases. I can count to 10, you know, that kind of thing. I can I can pick up a little bit more now than I used to be able to just because I watch movies. But for all of that, for all of the caveats that you know, I would never consider myself Chinese or, you know, whatever, my identity is different to what I look like And people generally don’t look at me and go, “Oh, yeah, she totally grew up overseas,” you know. They look at me and they see white suburban housewife, which I also am. But I don’t feel comfortable in that identity. And so, I’m, I’ve always been interested in kind of the juxtaposition between what something seems and what it is. And I think that’s where it piques my interest in terms of research into fandoms. We all of us have these much more complex identities than people know. And I’m interested in how those form and how they play out and, especially within, for lack of a better word, communities, I’m interested in how those play out in communities that perceive themselves as having a sort of central identity.
PB: Yeah. When people have a – if I’m understanding you, when people have this multi-layered identity that is more than just an identity, and by identity, you know, it’s fandom, I guess, multi-layered fandom that comes from identities that are not necessarily visible, how does how does that get reconciled within their larger community?
LM: Yeah, yeah. Kinda, I’m interested especially in the points of friction, you know, where some people see the “fan community” as a sort of a whole, as a community that can be identified by certain characteristics and stuff that usually exceed just liking the thing. You know, what happens within those communities when you get somebody who conforms in one sense, you know, “I like the thing too,” but doesn’t necessarily conform in other ways to how the broader community, you know, sees itself and what kinds of frictions arise from that.
PB: So if, just to play devil’s advocate for a second.
LM: Oh, please do.
PB: How is that… and I think this is key to some of your research, how is that different than say, I am a Doctor Who fan and I’m out in mainstream culture and people don’t necessarily see that about me. Like, what is it, that feeling of having an identity and having a fandom that other people in your immediate surroundings don’t share-
LM: Mm hmm.
PB: -is, I think, is common to how a lot of fans feel, but maybe you could talk a little bit about how it’s different when you’re throwing on, or not throwing on, but when you’re including aspects of nationality and race in into that.
LM. Mm. Well, you know, you’re part British and that does play into your, I think, self-perception, perhaps? I’m gonna psychoanalyze you.
PB: Yes, you are correct.
LM: I believe it plays into your self-perception as a Doctor Who fan, and yet on the surface, you know, you talk like an American, you look like an American. I would never know unless you told me that your father is British. I don’t know the extent to which Britishness informs your identity. I know that in my case, Britishness actually does inform it to a certain extent, because Hong Kong was a British colony at the time we live there.
LM: You know, so there are things about, you know, British culture, for example, that I’m really comfortable with and things that I don’t get at all. But those are hidden, so say you go into broader or wider American Doctor Who fandom, you know, are there things that you bump up against that don’t quite jive with your experience of it very personally? Or conversely, you know, do people have certain expectations of you, as an American fan of Doctor Who, say in the UK, that don’t hold for you for your very specific reasons? Those are the kinds of things where people expect one thing based on their understanding of, in this case, the fandom, and they get another. What happens then?
PB: Has there been – I mean, this has got to be exacerbated and also encouraged by the rapid visibility of fandom over the past 10 years.
LM: Yeah! Well, I mean, one of the big reasons I do fan studies is because I really do honestly think that it’s a microcosm of our broader social world. And I think that the conflicts that we see, say in online fandoms, that have to do with cultural differences, or just failing to recognize the fact that there are cultural differences, I think those are happening at the broader sort of political scale as well. And so transnationally, intercultural, you know, within America, we’re all, as you say, so much more invisible to one another. And yet, we don’t necessarily have the tools or any kind of experience to tell us how to interact with people. who are different from us. And so, we dismiss the difference, we don’t recognize the difference, we fight to make the difference visible, you know, there’s all of these things that we’re doing.
PB: One of the things that you mentioned kind of earlier is that you are an independent researcher. And I know you have done a lot of work at the fan studies conference and at other conferences that you have attended, on – and writing about it – how independence, how to be an independent scholar and some of the biggest issues that come with that. What advice do you have for people who maybe don’t have a university position, but wanna study fan studies or, you know, want to get involved in this game?
LM: Have money.
LM: Be able to support yourself. I mean, that’s the baseline. And I you know, it bothers me, and my husband doesn’t understand this, he’s like, “I don’t know why you get worked up about this,” but it bothers me when I’m not earning any money and I’m just doing you know, research or whatever, because he’s the one that’s making money. And so that makes me, you know, dilettante wife who… whatever. So, I have to kind of fight against that self-perception. But the fact of the matter is, you do have to have income, and that is paramount.
But beyond that, I, you know, one of the one of the things that I try to do in my sort-of outreach type projects, one of the things I try to do is to bring fan voices into conversation with scholarly voices and vice versa. But I, you know, because I think there are quite a lot of fans who are writing really great stuff who don’t necessarily come with a PhD, or a Master’s or whatever, but they’re smart. And I think that’s one of the things that independent scholarship can be. And I think, at least for me, one of the sort-of responsibilities I have as an independent scholar is to try and normalize, or contribute to normalizing, independent scholarship and ways of doing fan studies that people who are within institutional structures can’t necessarily do. So, you know, a lot of my writing is very self-reflexive, which is a nice way of saying that I talk about myself all the time, which is generally not done. But I have the leeway to do it, because, you know, what are they going to do, fire me? It’s not going to happen, so if somebody is prepared to print it, I’m prepared to write it.
PB: You heard it here, first, folks.
LM: There you go. I can do collaborative work. I can cite, you know, whoever I want. I don’t have to – this is a really ugly thing to say – I’m not a performing monkey for anyone. So, I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do. And as a result, I try and do things that other people can’t do in the hopes that that helps to normalize them in scholarship. Which I think went really far afield of your question.
PB: Well, it only did in the direction that I was hoping you would go. Because I wanted to, as you asked me about, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the Fan Studies Network conference, and how you see your role in that, certainly in connection with what you just described about being an independent scholar.
LM: Well, I you know, I think one of the one of the great things about FSN North America is that we are generally fairly open to participation by a wide variety of people. I mean, it is an academic conference, the papers that are presented are scholarly papers. But beyond that, I think, you know, we invite anybody who wants to pay to come listen, I think we’re open to you know, scholarship from people who are not necessarily academics in the traditional sense, and so I see my role partly as publicizing those things and making sure that people know about it, that it’s there, that they can approach us if they want to suggest something or propose something. Mostly just, yeah, making us visible, not just to other scholars, but to fans as well.
PB: Yeah. And that’s always been important, I think, as part of our ethos at the North America one, especially, is to integrate fan voices into what we do.
LM: Right. Exactly. And, you know, I think Louisa Stein has been especially pivotal in doing that, and especially with the vid show, which features the work not only of scholars, but especially fans, and taking all of that very seriously. It’s not you know, let’s go look at the, you know, the animals in the cages and talk about them. You know, it’s not that kind of approach at all. It’s very much coming out of love of fandom, love of fans, love of media objects or whatever, you know, sports, what have you, and trying to communicate how that all works together.
PB: Would you say that’s part of why you started this podcast?
LM: Oh, yeah, definitely. My main impetus was that I was getting real tired of looking at articles that explain fans badly, and there is no end to that, apparently.
PB: Oh, yeah.
LM: That’s just the gift that keeps on giving. And I don’t know how much I am reaching those people at all. I think most of the listeners of the podcast are also academics or fans.
PB: For now, for now.
LM: Someday I’ll be famous.
PB: Wait till you have Bryan Fuller on, and then all of a sudden-
LM: I totally want to. And if I could get in touch with him, he’d probably do it.
PB: Let’s make that happen, world. If you are listening to this podcast, 2020: bring Bryan Fuller to “It’s a Thing.” Hashtag #FullerThing
LM: Yeah. And so I just I wanted people to know that, you know, “Hello, we’re here, we are talking about this, this has been talked about before,” but make it more accessible, because I know that whether it’s true or not – I think we’ve turned a bit of a corner, at least some of us, in terms of readability of our work as scholars. Nonetheless, there is still quite a lot of difficult-to-approach work. And there’s a perception that’s even stronger than that, I think, that it’s all just impossible to read. And of course, you have paywalls and all of this. And so, one of the things I wanted to do is to have people talk about their scholarship and their work and fan studies in such a way that it makes it approachable, and you can hear somebody talking about whatever they’re working on, a new book, what have you, and go, “Huh, I would be interested in reading that book, or at least having a look at it.” That’s what motivated the podcast, definitely.
PB: What kind of future work, and this is not a question that I had asked you, I was gonna tell you I was gonna ask, but, you know, scholars evolve and change over time. Are there areas that you are kind of interested in exploring in the future?
LM: Right now, I don’t know what my future is in scholarship, academia, I feel like I’ve reached a certain point with work on theorizing transcultural fan studies. That it’s all in the stuff I’ve written, and if that’s not communicating, I don’t know what to do. I cannot help you anymore. You got to read this stuff.
There’s this, there’s this passage in Douglas Adams’s book, A Last Chance to See, and it’s about endangered species and it’s funny as hell, which it shouldn’t be because it’s about endangered species. But they go, he and his recorder, because they did this for the BBC Radio, they go to Australia prior to going to see the Komodo dragon. And they meet with, I guess you’d call it a venomologist. And this guy is like completely uninterested in venom, because he has done that, or, you know, that’s his job. He has to go and do venom every day. And they’re like, well, what happens if we get bit by, you know, by a snake or something? He’s like, well, you die. You know, like, the line is, “What happens if we get bitten by a deadly snake?” And he goes, “Well, you die. That’s what deadly means.” But his real interest right then is hydroponics. He’s like, I will talk about, he’s like, “I’m so bored of talking about venom. I really want to talk about hydroponics.” And that’s kind of how I feel right now. And so, I’ve been doing, like, genealogy stuff, and right now, I’m much more interested in genealogy than I am in in fan studies or, you know, media studies. So, I don’t know, really. I don’t want to let it go on the one hand, but I’m not quite sure where I’m going next.
PB: I wonder if there’s a way to bridge that, you know, like-
LM: Well, I mean, they’re definitely, there are ways to talk about genealogy.
PB: Yeah. I used my dad as an example in the other podcast, but this is another interesting connection. He has also become extremely invested in genealogy.
LM: See, he and I need to get together.
PB: I think so. And I see this happening with a lot of people.
PB: I think it’s the DNA thing, and the fact that that it’s so much easier to go online and find material now, but there is definitely a-
LM: Or get misled.
PB: Well, but isn’t that fandom? I mean, like-
LM: Yeah, no, it is, it absolutely is.
PB: You’re exploring the history and the background of this particular text, and the text is your family but it’s still a text. And it’s, what lessons can we learn, what things can we understand, how can we read between the lines? What’s the subtext here? It’s interesting.
LM: Yeah, I think there’s absolutely crossover, or carryover, between, you know, media fandom and genealogy fans, for lack of a better word, totally. And the things that people seem to get out of it, or want to get out of it, are different depending on who you’re talking about. You know, there’s a very strong contingent of, “I’m looking for royalty,” and especially people who have a European heritage. And so there’s a lot of sort of misinformation about who’s related to what out there, that if you spend a little time online, you finally figure out but, you know, there’s all, you know, and then there’s sort of the kind of higher practitioners, just below the professionals, that are that are all, “No, you have to have documentation or it doesn’t count” and all. You know, I mean, it’s, there’s hierarchies, there’s, you know, it’s structured very much like fandom. And yeah, definitely.
PB: Oh, that’s… yeah, that’s what’s what I find so interesting, is you’re, no matter what people are into, there’s a way of looking at it as a kind of fan studies project.
LM: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s definitely you know, it’s- my husband asks, you know, my husband is Korean-Japanese American, and so, you know, he pretty much knows where he’s from, kind of? You know, not details, because especially the Korean stuff is really hard to find for somebody who does not know Korean. And the Japanese stuff as well, although, that history goes back quite a ways. And so, he asks me a lot, you know, like, why do you do this? Why are you interested in it? And it is kind of like fandom in that sense. You know, people from outside of it don’t get the affective appeal of finding out that, you know, you’ve got a bunch of relatives who are Quebecois. And you had no idea, you know, which was my case, you know, I had no idea that these people, I mean, we, go way back in Quebec, and we only left in, like, I don’t know, 18-something.
And, you know, it’s like these weird little things. There’s my family is related to, this is my mom’s family is related to the first indentured servant who sued for his release, when the person who he had been passed on to refused to let him go. You know, that’s a dumb little story. Or there’s one, you know, this is my favorite one, there’s, you know, one of my father’s relatives managed to go testify at something, get drunk, come home, trip over a fence and die.
PB: Oh my god.
LM: Yeah, you know. All of that- finding out how many people were slave owners has been new. You know, we have this sort of perception of slave owners as all, you know, being rich with plantations. Hell, no. Everybody was owning slaves, and it’s appalling. But just, you know, finding out that stuff, it tells you a lot about history, and it tells you I think a bit about your place in history.
PB: And how not very far removed we are from that.
LM: And how not very far removed we are, yeah. I mean, yeah, it’s really interesting.
PB: When you can trace back say, great-great grandfather, great-great-great grandfather, and suddenly you’re like, wow, this, you know, this person is only 150 years removed from me and had slaves and, you know, participated in this historical event or whatever, like it shows us that we are not exceptional. We are just part, we’re part of a grand scheme.
LM: Yeah. And we’re not innocent.
PB: And we’re not innocent.
LM: In the way that we like to pretend we are. Speaking, you know, this is the white “we,” but yeah. And I was also very surprised that my family has, you know, my mom’s family has been here for freaking ever. These people came in the 1600s-
LM: -for the most part. Yes.
PB: That’s really, that’s just really interesting. I think that whole thing is very interesting.
LM: It’s a lot of fun. And that’s, and I, right now, and I don’t know if it’s because it’s just so far removed from what I’ve been working on in terms of scholarship or what, but right now, that’s, one of the nice things about it is I can research it to my heart’s content without having to write anything. And I kind of like that.
PB: And, and I think that’s fair, you know, like, we all have to have a hobby. And unfortunately, as fan studies scholars, our hobbies are often the things that we also research. So, it’s hard to find something that you can do that you’re not also, there’s a part of you that’s, like, well, how can I apply this to my work?
LM: Yeah, and I think, also in terms of, you know, sort of future work, one of the difficulties of being an independent scholar is that, you know, it’s both a benefit and a drawback, I guess, is that there’s nothing holding my feet to the fire, and I am under no pressure to produce whatsoever. Which on the one hand, is nice, you know. I think at this age, I would probably crack with that kind of pressure. But on the other hand, it means that it’s very easy for me to just kind of go, I don’t even know that anybody’s reading this so why am I doing it?
PB: Yeah, and that’s, even for those of us that are in, you know, jobs where we do need to publish, people still don’t read it. I mean, like, it is really a… I don’t know. That’s why, you asked me about talking at conventions, and I know you’ve talked at, you’ve gone to Hannibal Fest. Things like that. You get to talk to audiences that are actually interested in what you’re doing.
LM: Oh, God. Yeah. I gave a I gave a talk, I guess in 2017 at Fannibal Fest. It was the first year of that convention for Hannibal fans. And we did an academic panel, and I talked about something that eventually became an essay that is in the book, Becoming, and I swear to god, that was the biggest and best audience I have ever had for anything I have ever presented ever. They were into it. They loved it. There were lots of them. And at an academic conference, you know, I’m lucky if I get 10 people.
LM: And they’re all sort of, not necessarily there for me. And so yeah, I mean, it’s a, that’s a very invigorating experience and that can make you want to continue. I haven’t had a lot of that lately, so…
PB: Yeah, I, there’s something that is very invigorating about that. And it’s why I keep going back to, I mean, it’s not the only reason I keep going back to Doctor Who conventions, but it’s why I keep doing things at Doctor Who conventions. Instead of just being, you know, the fan that, you know, goes to panels, I actually like to be on them. And then I imagine it’s the same with kind of Hannibal Fan Fest.
PB: Fannibal – is it Fannibal?
PB: FannibalFest. Sorry.
PB: It invigorates your research in a way that you didn’t think it would.
LM: Uh-huh. I mean, it gets you really, you know, when you see what people responded to, like, “Oh, wow, I’m really onto something there. I need to, you know, work with that.”
LM: And that’s the kind of feedback you just don’t get anywhere else.
PB: Yeah. So, I just wanted to kind of conclude with a question that you always ask, and now you have to think of an original answer. If there was one thing you wanted people to know about fan studies, what would it be?
LM: That it’s a thing, I swear to god!
PB: Oh, you have a built-in answer, Lori! It’s not fair.
LM: No, but it’s true. I mean, the other day, there was some announcement about some research that some researchers had done, and it irritated the living hell out of me.
PB: I know exactly what you’re talking about.
LM: Yeah. It had this brand new way of thinking about fanfiction that was, A) wrong-
LM: And 10 minutes looking at fan studies scholarship would have told them that, and, B) it was like, “Oh, we have done this brand-new thing,” and it’s like, “You really haven’t. You’ve done an old thing badly.” And those are the people that I wish would listen to the podcast.
PB: But when you’re talking about their research like that, is it any – I mean, maybe they’re not gonna tune in.
LM: They weren’t tuning in anyway.
PB: No, I know, I know.
LM: If they had been-
PB: If they had been, they might have learned a thing or two.
LM: They might have learned a thing or two, like fan studies is a thing.
PB: I know. Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.
LM: Or there are there was a, you know, there was an ad from some consulting company that was going around Twitter a couple of days ago, and it was like, “What fans want,” and, you know, all of this is quantifiable. And I’m just like, you have got to be kidding me. I mean, yeah, you could quantify it, you’d probably be wrong, or at least you would only have a little bit of the picture. Because if you don’t take the affect seriously, and affect changes depending on circumstances and context. If you don’t take that seriously, then you cannot say anything with any kind of certainty. And even then, it’s hard to lock down fans.
But one thing that I think fan studies scholars are generally very good at is, we can see a problem coming from a mile away, particularly with fan-producer relationships, and what fans are going to or not going to like. There aren’t a lot of things, I think, that surprise us when they turn into sort of conflagrations. And we, we can do that because, to a greater or lesser extent, we understand what motivates fans and the kind of intersections of media, of the different subjectivities that we bring to it, better than, you know, some algorithm. And I think, I think in a lot of ways fans help to sort of indicate the limits of what’s possible with an algorithm, because of affect. And that is something that I would really like other people to know and take seriously.
PB: Well, Lori, thank you so much for having this conversation.
LM: Well, thank you for talking with me.
PB: I have, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about you, and I’ve learned a lot about fan studies.
LM: I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me, because I just really wanted to do it. After doing it for a while it’s like, no, I want somebody to ask me questions!
PB: I should have asked you totally different questions that weren’t even about fan studies, just to, like-
LM: You can ask me one question that’s not about fan studies.
PB: Oh, I need time to think of a really good one.
LM: Oh, okay.
PB: So we’ll do it as a postscript.
PB: Do little postscript episodes on the off weeks.
LM: There you go.
LM: That’s all for this episode of “It’s a Thing!” Next time, I’ll be talking with Paul Booth about his work as a fan studies researcher at DePaul University. So I hope you’ll tune in then, and remember, wash your hands!
Music: “Neck Pillow,” by Silent Partner
To cite (Chicago): Morimoto, Lori. 16 March 2020. “Lori Morimoto.” Podcast audio. It’s a Thing! MP3, 1.7. [Accessed date]. https://itsathing.net/2020/03/16/episode-7-lori-morimoto