Lucio and I are both fans of Steven Universe, but we’re not exactly members of the Steven Universe fandom—or fandoms, plural, each with its own social norms, its own orthodoxies about what the series means, and its own articles of faith about where the story is headed. The people most conspicuously enthusiastic about Steven Universe sometimes seem to be watching a different show than we are. Which can make fandom into something distressingly sectarian, prickly, and alienating.
In practice, fandoms sometimes run counter to what I called “utopian” geekiness way back in the very first episode of this podcast. Being a geek should be an earnest search for the weird and the wonderful, in my estimation. It should be open-hearted, radically inclusive. Enthusiasm in one thing should lead to enthusiasm in more things, one’s world growing larger as a direct result of being peopled by geeks.
A serious fandom frequently has the opposite effect. Fandoms can isolate us. They can laser-focus our passions and calcify our biases. We can all find ourselves having perpendicular conversations, every interpretation incompatible with every other interpretation because each is so leaden with unalterable baseline assumptions.
Here we take a first pass at figuring out how to learn from fandoms that aren’t for us, and that may not even have any interest in talking to us. (And if you think we can’t, we’ll always find a way, and all that). SPOILERS WILL OCCUR.
And stay tuned at the end for some Dark Souls talk, with more to come next time. (“Ashes of Ariandel” is out!)
• We recorded this episode before the Summer of Steven had concluded, so no talk about Onion’s friends or Quentin Frowney.
• This week’s discussion is centered largely on “All These Black Characters and 0 Done Right — How Steven Universe Fails Its Black Fanbase, Part I” by Riley H.
• For thoughts on the toxic aspects of fandom, we refer to “Fandom Is Broken” by Devin Feraci. (And we recorded this before he stepped down as editor of Birth.Movies.Death, so we don’t mention those rather horrific happenings).
• And for some thoughts on the mechanics of ‘shipping, we turn to “Social Justice, Shipping, and Ideology” by Aja Romano.
• I stand by my definition of woke, and the nuances I was describing were all at work in the phrase “woke-ass white man,” but it’s worth mentioning that people of color and queer folks definitely do refer to one another as woke—only sometimes tinged with the sarcasm that we woke-ass straight white cismen tend to elicit.
• That quote that Lucio couldn’t quite remember, in which Garnet explains to Amethyst why they shouldn’t fuse into Sugilite, went like this: “I can be brash, and you can be reckless, and we can both get carried away.”
• And Kofi’s mom is Nanafua.
• Smokey Quartz is voiced by Natasha Lyonne (yes, of Orange Is the New Black fame).
• J.K. Rowling’s first post-Potter, non-Potter book was The Casual Vacancy.
• It was indeed Film Crit Hulk who said, “YOU WANT TO BE INDULGED. YOU WANT OPTIONS. YOU WANT GLUTTONY. WE HAVE A WORD FOR THAT KIND OF VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT AND IT’S CALLED PORNOGRAPHY. AND IT’S PERFECT AT SATISFYING YOUR EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL IMPULSES SO HAVE AT IT.”
• And yeah, the Pokémon GO talk is already pretty dated. Likewise the Google Play Podcasts stuff.