How Nerdist’s Alicia Lutes is reclaiming ‘Fangirling’

In a geeky world, which was once dominated by fanboys arguing about which Star Wars movie was the best and the worst, fangirls weren’t all that welcome. They were even chastised for attempting to assimilate in nerd culture.

While those fanboys dominate most nerd culture shows, Nerdist’s Alicia Lutes wanted to change all of that and pitched ‘Fangirling’ to her company as a series celebrating women and providing them a safe space to geek out.

“Fangirling is something that I pitched less than a year after I started Nerdist when it was just sort of looking into the idea of doing more web series content,” Lutes told Nerd Reactor. “I had this idea that it’d be cool and fun to give an opportunity and space for women to not only subvert this idea of what a fangirl is, which I think is kinda seeped in a very thinly sexist idea. You know, when you think about how fanboys are regarded and regaled as very intelligent and passionate and know everything about anything. ‘They have all these things down and fangirls are all about shipping and who they want to kiss.’ That to me was a destructive connotation to have with the name fangirling. So the idea to call to Fangirling would be a way to take the idea of what it means to be a fangirl and really write it as the women who consider themselves as fangirls rather than have society or culture tell us what Fangirls are because I think there are a wealth of things in the nerd genre that women really love and respond to.”

The series, which finishes its second season this week, has had some amazing guests such as Star Trek Discovery‘s Sonequa Martin-Green and Mary Chieffo; Westworld‘s Shannon Woodward; Jessica Jones‘ showrunner Melissa Rosenberg; Hamilton‘s Lin-Manuel Miranda; and, Star Wars‘ Kelly Marie Tran. Lutes then invites a panel of women to discuss weekly news and the main topic of the week.

“It’s not just TV and movies and comic books,” explained Lutes. “It’s history, science, tech, and musicals. You can definitely be a theater nerd. I grew up as one. So, I think that is where the radical idea letting women dictate the cultural conversation and give them a place to run the show as most men get to run the show when they talk about nerd culture.”

Lutes has thought a lot about the development of her series. Fangirling has a majority female crew running things around the set, which is important to Lutes (“I think it is f***ing dope”). The series also makes sure to include women of color on and behind the set.

“Including women of color is a no-brainer to me. Intersectionality has been very important to me,” said Lutes, who grew up in Connecticut and lived most of her life in New York and Los Angeles. “My world isn’t white. I don’t want to live in this white woman vacuum and I don’t want that to be a thing. I make an active and conscious effort for every episode. If there is going to be another white person to be on the panel, I ideally would like it to be one person. It not only feels easy but it is important and it adds in a more dynamic layer in the conversation you’re having because all of your panelists aren’t coming from one point of view so not everyone is agreeing on stuff. It’s so much more than the discussion itself – the mechanics of the conversation.”

Fangirling has had a positive reception from fans on social media. Lutes has been blown away by the positivity the show and the impact it has made for, not only female viewers, but the fanboys as well.

“I learned so much all the time every minute of every day when I’m doing the show,” said Lutes. “I learn so much from these women around me who make the show. I constantly learn – not only how to have more confidence in my idea or how to better support and integrate the other women I work with into the show and women who don’t work here on the show and trying to integrate other points of view into the show, and trying to really give a platform to have women to showcase beyond the one-dimensionality that so often befalls women in this community when they are hosts or talking heads. There is so much more to all of us on what we long and what we like and what we’re passionate about. Our different interests influence how we see everything. For me, it’s figuring out what the panelists are passionate about but also how they are different and may engineer different conversations to make it more interesting.”

For the third season, which will hopefully be announced soon, Lutes would like to talk to more music supervisors, historians, more female scientists, and women in gaming.

“Women seem to really want to be involved with the show which makes me so happy,” said Lutes. “It’s not just celebrities that we have on the show – it’s women who are doing really cool stuff.”

Her ultimate guest she’d like on the show? Lutes referred to the question as Sophie’s Choice but did list Kathleen Kennedy, Ava DuVernay, Reed Romano, Tessa Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, astronaut Mae Jemison, and Nichelle Nichols to name a few.

Fangirling’s season finale airs this week with Lara Croft’s Alicia Vikander and is available to watch on Alpha, the interactive streaming service from Legendary Digital Networks, Nerdist’s parent company.

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Laura Sirikul
Laura Sirikul 1831 posts

Trekkie. Jedi. Whovian. Sherlockian. Hobbit. Sanrio. Comics. I am Spartacus. Warrior Princess. Superhero. Nerd. Follow me @lsirikul