Before our interview started, I had to gush to Alicia Lutes that I was a fangirl of Fangirling. If I could have, I would have spent our whole conversation just bringing up moments of the show that I loved so far and her ability as a host to bring various topics to the table and not be afraid of the emotions that it elicits. But it would have been selfish of me to hog her to myself and not let others discover the girl power of Fangirling.
Are you aiming to have every episode be a panel that celebrates intersectional feminists?
“It’s definitely important to have panelists that have strong interests,” Alicia Lutes adamantly states. There’s a wide range of women of different cultures that love everything nerdy and that was a major driving force behind the show. Which is why she challenged herself to have many interesting voices and different angles to look at the stories and events that take up our conversations. “A personal rule that I have for the show is that the panel can be no more than half white.”
Lutes tells me that she hopes that if the show gets more successful she can find different formats for discussing the topics and have the show evolve from being just a panel show. The show has definitely evolved since its first season and it is clear from the second season so far that Lutes and the rest of the crew truly want to make the show the best it can be to tell as many stories as it can.
Do you have a hard time ending every show? I could listen to a group of women fangirl about different topics forever!
Lutes laughs sweetly at this stating her and the guests could go on and on but the show needs to end at some point. And maybe keeping people wanting more will cause the public to want to hear more people from varied backgrounds give their thoughts?
I guess I should backtrack a bit here and ask how did Fangirling start?
Fangirling was an idea back in 2015. When Project Alpha was just beginning she pitched the idea of having a show full of women. “It would be nice if women could have the same table as most white men that have their own shows.” Despite the importance of the topic, she still wanted the show to be a mixture of fun and deep.
“I wanted to show the dimensionality of women on screen,” Lutes says earnestly.
Working on the first season pushed her to keep going with her original vision. The response of everyone involved and those that watched helped her to realize what she was making was vital and she worked on refining the show for season two. “It was terrifying to figure out how to push for what I wanted, including making the show as diverse as possible.” She internally fought with the show because she really wanted women to be able to see themselves represented. This was hard because Lutes admits that she is insecure. A fact that she doesn’t hide about herself and which I believe allows her to be a host that can elicit real responses from her guests.
“I wasn’t anticipating people crying in every episode but our show allows that to be powerful and transformative.”
Speaking of crying, I’m obsessed with Jen Bartel’s work. How did you react the first time you saw the set art that she created?
“I lost my f*cking mind when I saw Bartel’s art!”
Today’s the day! The Fangirling season premiere is officially up at @JoinTeamAlpha https://t.co/8YM764Tht8 (free 2 month trial with code ‘fangirling’) 😘 with all new set art by me! Such a fun project—and there’s even a little segment on me 🙏🏼💖 pic.twitter.com/ed6GFNhlRd
— Jen Bartel – ECCC V8 (@heyjenbartel) January 24, 2018
Lutes met Bartel when they were on the same panel at San Diego Comic-Con. But it was her executive producer Ben that actually recommended Bartel when they were looking for a set artist. She takes this time to give a moment of recognition to Ben. He didn’t want to take the position of EP because he felt the spot belonged to a woman. But she convinced him to stay on because he’s a great ally to telling women’s stories. “It’s important that I stress that our crew is 80% women, which I’m extremely proud of.”
Ben knew Bartel would be the perfect artist for the job and it clicked once he suggested it. “She’s incredibly talented. Her art conveys strength and femininity at the same time.”
Lutes and Bartel had a conversation about what she wanted for Fangirling and Bartel was on the same page since day one. “The three panels represent a past, present, and future of women in pop culture. The past is fantasy, the present is superheroes, and the future is space.” The characters are widely varied as possible to show all types of women. To learn more about Bartel’s process of creating the set art, Fangirling interviewed Bartel, which you can watch over on Nerdist.
She was so emotional after viewing the first sketch that she was running around the office excitedly showing it off to everyone that she could. “I get chills every time I see someone react to it.” All types of beauty are represented in the set art and more stories come out of it when people can see themselves in the artwork. “If you’re a fan of something you need to point out the disservices it does to our culture. We need to demand more from our creators to progress as a society.” Bartel’s work does that by showing the beauty of diversity.
Since more women are taking their rightful place in pretty much everything, is it easy for you to gather topics for Fangirling?
Lutes happily admits that she’s never worried about having things to talk about. A panel of women can talk about anything because they give different points of view than what’s being circulated! “It’s only going to get better!”
Has this show allowed you to brush off the mansplainers and their toxic masculinity culture?
Instead of focusing on the mansplainers and toxic culture (except when it comes to a segment on Fangirling that pokes fun at it), she’d rather focus on this show helping other women to be heard. The more she does the show, the more strength she finds in her voice. But it also allows her to amplify the voices of others that don’t have her platform. The show allows women to be seen. And a lot of men actually appreciate the show. Which she admits was cool to see but she wasn’t really banking on it.
Can you share any future guests or topics that you’re excited about?
Lutes couldn’t share much without giving away some of the hype for future episodes but did drop the hint that someone from Jessica Jones may be stopping by in the nearby future.
Overall, the responses she’s gotten from guests who could and couldn’t do the show have been “f*cking rad.” She’s even had someone approach to be a guest that absolutely floored her that they even knew her show existed. I can’t wait to see who that will be!
You can catch Fangirling on Project Alpha! New episodes hit every Wednesday. Embrace your inner fangirl and spice up your life!