Before starting the project, based on conversations with my supervisors as well as my experience with my master’s thesis, I’d decided to limit the fandoms I include in my research to Harry Potter and Doctor Who. This was largely to keep the project manageable, provide a point of shared reference between me and my co-participants, and help narrow the fan podcasts I could shortlist and episodes I could listen to. I made sure to mention this focus in my participant recruitment information. At the same time, I made sure to design the project in such a way that it left room for co-participants to bring in their own preferred texts and fandoms too – preferably ones I was familiar with/could easily access to prepare for our conversation. I was trying to keep the project as flexible and open-ended as possible within the restrictions of a PhD project.
Most of the fan podcasts I’m looking at are exclusively Harry Potter or Doctor Who themed. However, I’d also included a couple of general fandom podcasts in the beginning of the project – Black Girl Nerds and Imaginary Worlds – to which I added Breaking The Glass Slipper after one of my co-participants suggested it and it was just the sort of podcast my research was interested in. Most of my own episodes themselves focused on Harry Potter or Doctor Who. However, even within those episodes, my co-participants and I frequently referenced or recommended other media we loved which happened to be relevant to the themes we were exploring. These themes varied based on the different co-participants’ experiences and expertise.
Apart from this, a few of my co-participants did suggest their own themes, media texts, and fandoms too – themes I wouldn’t have thought about myself. I found this extremely valuable since it highlighted specific issues and changed the way I thought about them. Examples of this include:
- Wicca and paganism (we looked at an episode of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
- Violence against women (we looked at the fate of female characters in Supernatural)
- Different cultures in fantasy worlds and fandoms
- Race and racism in mainstream Hollywood movies
- Representations of women warriors in media and history (we spoke about a range of media ranging from SFF comic books, TV shows and movies)
- International politics and the rise of fascism in the Fantastic Beasts films
- Representation of older women (apart from Harry Potter and Doctor Who, we also focused on Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
- Jewish faith traditions and representations of religion (we looked at the books Station Eleven and Too Like The Lightning and two different iterations of Star Trek – The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine)
- Polyamory in fanfiction and in the real world
Apart from this, one co-participant also suggested representations of fatness through a fat activism lens – specifically the intersection of gender, fatness and class. I remain unsure whether the episode with this participant is going to happen; however, it did allow me the opportunity to put together texts and make notes in preparation for our episode – which helped me gain new insights about media and the world.
I’ve loved this combination of familiar texts and themes with unfamiliar texts and themes because I learned different things in different ways from all the conversations. In several of our conversations – particularly the regular ones with my two friends and co-hosts – we ended up focusing on history, something I didn’t initially consider but I’m now really excited about. It’s made me even more excited about the thought of a Season 2 of the podcast – with guests both old and new – which may not necessarily be a research podcast anymore but will continue to aim an intersectional lens at some of our favourite media, their fandoms, and history.