In defence of fans, Gilmore Girls, and giving yourself permission to do it all
“Not in a stalk-y way, but I’ve been low-key following you around Melbourne for a couple of years”, is not usually how I start a pre-interview chat — but I knew that if there was anyone that would understand fandom, it would be pop culture writer, editor, and noted 1D fan, Brodie Lancaster. I first “met” Brodie Lancaster sitting behind a card table one Sunday afternoon at a bar in Melbourne, where she was selling her feminist film zine Filmme Fatales amidst a dance-class/twerk lesson and someone selling bedazzled pop-culture icon postcards (I bought an Oops-era pink sparkly Britney). The next time, I went to a Kanye West party she was throwing at Rooftop Bar in Melbourne. Feminist films and Kanye? A winning combination IMHO. Soon, I saw her work popping up everywhere —as well as founding her zine, Brodie is a writer for places like Junkee, Rookie, Elle, Frankie, andRolling Stone, and has recently written a pop culture memoir, No Way! Okay, Fine. In case you can’t tell, I was pretty excited to talk to her.
By Mia Abrahams
Your book looks at your own life and experiences through the lens of pop culture. What can pop culture tell us about the wider world, and how has pop-culture helped you put into perspective your own personal experiences?
I think the things we consume, and the things that are being made in our time, are reflective of people’s values and lives and the way people think, behave, act, and live. These things can often be dismissed— they are not theatre, literature, not great art. But that doesn’t keep it from being something that reflects our time.
Seven years ago, a friend was going through a breakup, and I had never been through a big dramatic breakup before. I felt like I had to give her advice, and to make her feel like she wasn’t the only person this had happened to. Because it had never happened to me, I was like: “When Rory and Dean broke up on Gilmore Girls…” It was my very clumsy attempt to comfort her, but it felt like I knew what was going on because of that. I have a real archive and catalogue of everything I’ve ever watched and read and listened to, and I default to that when I need a reference point or to understand something.
So I’ve never watched Gilmore Girls before; I missed the boat on it the first time around, but I had a shitty New Year’s Eve, and I was on my couch on January 1st, and thought, why not? Now I’m up to Season 7 and I’ll be super annoyed if Rory ends up with Logan.
Well the thing is, no spoilers, but think of this as the last season. Season 7 is where it ended, and I don’t think the reboot needed to happen at all.
I binged the first 6 seasons, so I’m trying to limit it to one episode a week now, to savour it.
But you can go back to it any time. I used to (slash still do) treat Gilmore Girls kind of like a prescription. If I had a really shitty day, I just need to watch the episode where Rory takes Logan’s limo because Lorelei has broken up with Luke, and looks after her, and brings the TV up to her room. And other days I’d be like, “I just need to watch You’ve Got Mail, or theGilmore Girls episode where Paris doesn’t get into Harvard.”
Mine’s Parks & Rec, like I’ll watch Ron’s birthday episode, or the episode where Leslie gets married.
No, that episode destroys me! I went back to Parks & Rec after the election. My co-worker and I were the only two women in the office, and there were a bunch of dudes around who were like, “yeah, but Hillary was really flawed too,” and we were like… “get out of our faces.” I went home and was like, “I just need to watch Leslie,” but then I kept watching and when she was running her own campaign it got too real!
You write a lot about what “some” culture critics might roll their eyes at (aka, things girls like), and in your book, you talk specifically about your love for One Direction. What is the power and strength of the female fan base?
I think the last few years, since I’ve been writing about fandom, I’ve been asked a lot about fandom in general. But I am specifically so into the 1D fan community. They take a thing they are being effectively sold, and something they are being told, “This is how you consume this product,” and they are saying: no, this doesn’t represent me, and so I am going to twist it, and turn it into the thing it needs to be.
The thing I love most about that community (and it’s reflective of other fandoms) is the unironic, unashamed, act of feeling something publically without restraint. And I had to catch myself just then because I was going to say, “uncritically loving something”, but I don’t think that is true. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about fans, is that they’ll gobble up anything thrown their way. In my experience, some of the best music criticism I’ve ever read is from the biggest fan of the person who is making the music.
That’s something that people who only see the screaming girls lining up at airports don’t understand about fandom, which is why it is easily dismissed. They assume that “being a fan” is a blind acceptance of everything.
For example, a video came out of Louis and Zane from 1D smoking weed in the back of a van, and Louis used the N-word. The people who were critical of that were the fans, not the people writing articles about the young girls seeing their heroes smoking weed. The fans were upset about the racial slur, not the weed.
In defence of fans, they can give really smart, considered criticism, because the thing they’re critical of is something that they know so well.
I don’t think the old guard of criticism respect that super-familiarity as much as it would as if it were from a fan of Led Zeppelin— if it was someone who went to all the Led Zeppelin shows, had all the merch, knew all the facts, and could then be a critic of them. But there’s that unconscious bias, that something that is loved by teen girls, written by teen girls, becomes rooted in the idea of what they think teen girls are.
What are you looking forward to in terms of women on screen, and what do you think still needs work?
I’m going to see Wonder Woman today, which I am excited about — that feels like a kind of point of progress that I don’t think we should minimise, the fact that a superhero movie is not just about a woman but is directed by a woman. That is the thing that is the next part that needs work.
Rough Night has been controversial, in terms of the fact that it’s about a stripper that gets killed in a comedic way, but I am really excited about director Lucia Aniello (also a writer and director on Broad City), and I think she is a really significant comedic director. I want to see more women making comedies, not just being in comedies. We can talk aboutBridesmaids, but it was a Judd Apatow movie directed by Paul Fieg— who are people whose work I love, but they aren’t giving women work behind the scenes.
I’ve just gotten really obsessed with Reed Morano, the director of the Handmaid’s Tale(and who worked as a cinematographer on part of Beyonce’s Lemonade). I’m really enjoying that as much as it’s possible to enjoy such a harrowing show.
You are a person doing a lot of different things all at once. I was going to ask the classic “how do you do it!” question, but then I finished your book, where you talk about asking the question: ‘How do you tell yourself you’re allowed to do this?!’
I think the two are connected, because I think the “how to make time for a million different things” thing led to a lot of burn-out the last few years, and getting kind of exhausted, which forces me to reprioritise.
I think maybe it’s kind of a cop out to be like, “I got a bit older and I stopped caring so much,” but that’s kind of the reality. I just turned 27 a few months ago, I think I’m just a little bit like, I was ballsy when I was younger, even if I didn’t realize it because I was so nervous all the time. I did things on my own, because…I didn’t know how to get other people on board. On the outside, it looked like headstrong independence, but on the inside, it’s me being like, “how do you do photocopying to make a zine at Officeworks?” I am really aware of those duelling perceptions, of someone who looks like they have it figured out, vs someone who is figuring it out.
…I try to be really realistic, especially with younger people who ask me for advice. Especially the “how can I do what you do?”. Well, I had a gym membership for three weeks and then didn’t go for six more months and kept paying for it because I didn’t have time, I rarely go and see my parents, I’ve travelled twice in my life, I’ve always worked a full-time job, and I’m burnt out. I had someone email me recently asking to be my intern, and I was like — all I need help with is tidying my room and doing my laundry because they’re the things I don’t have time to do and make me feel like I’m a failure as a person. I try to stress the fact that I’m not “killin’ it” at life — I’m doing all the work instead of doing other stuff that would make my life nicer. The reality is that I’m sitting here doing an interview in my pajamas and my laundry is in a pile and I’m trying to do my dishes.
I think one of the most comforting things I ever read was an article about being a “woman at work” and it was like – hey, if you have dirty laundry all week, and you’re eating takeout because you’re working hard and late, that’s okay. It’s okay to prioritise that. And I was like—oh thank god.
Totally, and that Jamie Oliver narrative of like, “just go to the butcher and then your family will be healthy.” It’s like, I’m sorry motherfucker, are you going to do all my work that will pay my rent while I’m doing that? Because that’s not life.
This interview has been edited for brevity.
Image: Nina Abrahams