View this email in your browser
The words "Audio Dramatic" on top of the logo, of a pair of headphones with a pen across them, against a sparkly daytime sky with peeks of skyscrapers at the bottom edge
Hello, fellow podcast lovers!

As summer edges upon us here in Portland, the sun has deigned to come out from behind the clouds, raising the temperature into the 80s and 90s. Sometimes, the nights are humid, made more so by the unfortunate sprinklers on our apartment lawn that go off at 10 pm and 230 am, like clockwork. Two of them are broken, resulting in water-drenched soil gurgling under our feet.

Summer has always been my favorite time to listen to podcasts. Summer was when I met and fell in love with them, so it always feels like I've come to the end of a cycle and starting a new one in the summer months, though the end and the beginning blur in between the episodes. I hope you have an end and a beginning, a rest period perhaps where you can just absorb the weather, the sounds of birds, the brightness of flowers, the chattering as doors and windows start to open again. Maybe with a little more hope.
a field of sunflowers in the sun

A few days ago, writer and podcaster Cassie Josephs wrote a thread about fat representation in audio, specifically speaking to the societal impression of the word “fat” as an insult, caring about fat representation in media, and examples of how to convey the information that a character is fat in audio. Underlying this conversation is a familiar privileged position taken across all media about “hiring the best actor for the role”, resulting in things like skinny people wearing fat suits, abled people playing disabled characters, and yes, white-washing because someone is, for instance, “too Black”. In audio, the form it takes most often is: “well, we can’t see them, so what does it matter as long as they’re a good actor for the role?

Seeing the representation is not the point, not even in visual media. It’s the knowledge of shared experience. It’s an audience identifying that here is not only a character who shares their identity, their culture, and their trauma, but that there is in their voice and background true understanding of all those components. It’s part of the actor’s history and lived experience, and not a costume that they remove at the end of recording in order to return to a more privileged life.

But the single presence of an actor who fits the necessary demographics is meaningless without the necessary care and attention put into the script, into the production process, and into every stage of creating media. Fat, Black activist Da’Shaun Harrison has spoken for several years about the meaninglessness of representation politics, specifically in terms of portraying Black people, if harm is still embedded within the script:

3 tweets by Da'Shaun Harrison (they/them) on December 23, 2019: having a cast full of darkskin people does not mean the writing of the show is void of colorism. in fact, it really calls the writer to be more intentional about *how* they write a character as to not fall into colorist tropes. this is where representation politics always fail us. putting us on a screen doesn’t really do much if the harm is still written into the script. nola from queen and sugar and charity from greenleaf were not written with care at all. and how ralph angel responds to nola, and how the family responds to charity vs. gigi, speaks to this. and it becomes layered when you add that charity is not thin.

And of course, the script always plays out in real life, having identifiable reflection and tangible impact on our culture, our minds, and our societal structures. Harrison, for instance, has discussed the effect of representation politics on government and voting: the focused narrative in 2020 of Kamala Harris as “the first Black woman vice-president” instead of critically discussing her history as a cop, and the responding criticism that refused to criticize Biden as well.

Since the 1970s, psychologists and media analysis have studied the effects of symbolic annihilation, the effect on people and societies when there is a lack of representation in the media they consume. Gabriel Solis of the Texas After Violence Project has examined symbolic annihilation in the context of state violence, taking as its starting point the art installation by white visual artist Ti-Rock Moore of the murder of Michael Brown.

“Through her literal re-creation of the death scene, Moore situated Brown as an eternal victim of state violence, symbolically annihilating his young life, the full potential of the stolen years ahead, and the resilience of Black communities that have been under siege by state violence for centuries.”

The Iron Heel is a three-part audio drama adaptation of Jack London’s 1908 dystopian sci-fi novel (first of the genre).  London envisions a world in which the oligarchs form a fascist regime in America, told from the perspective of two revolutionary socialist lovers. A historian from a utopia in the far future provides dubious historical context. Performed by a mixture of Broadway and Off-Broadway actors, accompanied by the folk music of the Little Red Songbook.
If you want to see more reviews, interviews, and other articles from me, you can support me at my Patreon, or at my ko-fi account for a one-time donation! You can also sign-up to talk about advertising in the newsletter.
Patreon Ko-Fi

On the flip side, we can witness the staleness of representation politics in the other direction, when marginalized groups refuse to accept representations of their own toxicity and harmful behaviors.  The backlash against “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” lives rent-free in my brain.  What started as a short story that set out to reclaim a transphobic meme and examine the fluidity and complexity of gender became a threatening response that forced Isabel Fall to come out as trans and to request that the story be removed from Clarkesworld to protect herself. The fiction podcast Asking For It is a beautiful work about queerness and abusive relationships, and what happens from the refusal to talk about abuse. Denny, as well as audio artists like Faith McQuinn, Wil Williams, and Ivuoma Okoro, have talked about their real experiences with backlash from their communities about their characters, and the refusal to approach these stories as acceptable work for “the community”, whoever that might be.

And on the third side of what has suddenly become a pyramid, fandom across independent and company-funded institutional work encourages the auditioning and casting of marginalized actors in their own stories without also demanding the structures in place to protect them. These are all, in different ways, traumatized and victimized people taking their rightful place in art to tell their stories and bare their souls, but we’ve seen what happens when the production process doesn’t consider their needs. This is one of the biggest reasons why the #MeToo movement, founded by Tamara Burke, took off in Hollywood, because too many times on a patriarchal foundation there are no protections like intimacy coordinators, therapists, mandatory reporters, and non-stakeholders to report abuse to.

The argument for the increased representation of marginalized groups in storytelling and media is not just about their presence. It’s about the absence of their real, varied stories, from the intersections of their lives, stories that could help them notice and exit toxic circumstances, recognize harmful thinking in themselves, or even just be able to provide empathy to someone else down the line. And it’s this lack of empathy that ends up undergirding the issue when someone says, “well, we can’t see them, so who cares as long as they’re a good actor?”

When Cassie Josephs asks for fat representation in fiction podcasts, he’s responding to a detriment in the very first step: a lack of characters explicitly written as fat, and having that impact their lives while also not being solely about a “fat person’s journey” (which usually involves either weight loss or self-love/confidence). Throughout the thread, he targets some of the excuses and fears creators have when approaching this idea, particularly the impression of the word “fat” as an insult, because that is what a fatphobic society has attached to the word: shame, horror, fear, offense.

The battles faced by marginalized people are different; they share superficial similarities, and are often rooted in the same concepts and histories, but it would be dangerous to conflate everything suffered by fat people as the same issue faced by people of color. They aren’t.  But the way that we can tear down the dangerous concepts, illuminate the nuances and distinctions in their realities, and empathize with those who suffer for them, is to meaningfully create space for them, to fund and support their stories where they have their own control, and to work with them to imagine better futures. The audience for audio doesn’t need visuals, because the idea is to implant the visual in their mind, to help them build it within themselves from their knowledge of themself and of the world. It’s why horror works best when you don’t describe the monster, why romance and eroticism is more effective when you talk about movement and sound, why thrillers need the moment of silence in order to have the “oh, god” realization.  And sometimes, giving your audience the tools to crafting the visual means forcing the issue.

Sometimes, it’s ok to just have someone say that they’re fat.


For those of you looking to divest from GoodReads, I can't recommend StoryGraph highly enough. Here's an article from Input Magazine about StoryGraph.

Stitch's newest Teen Vogue article, an interview with Kelly Marie Tran about the harassment she suffered from the Star Wars fandom is a must-read. It's also resulted in Stitch being harassed since it came out, part of a multi-year long harassment campaign.

At some point today, Sarah Z will be dropping a lengthy video about the McElroys. I have it on good authority that it's aggressively fair. Keep your eyes peeled.

Gavin Gaddis wrote a searing criticism of S-Town on Why Your Podcast Sucks. If I have to hear one more person call S-Town creative nonfiction.

Class: Podcasting, Seriously's webinar about podcast metrics with Wil Williams is on June 12th, and they still have tickets available.

This article on creating a budget for your fiction podcast by Cole Burkhardt and Tal Minear is absolutely vital.
  • Podcast Review Day is a monthly reminder to write reviews AND share them on Twitter. On the 8th of every month, ease your podcast review guilt and help others discover new podcasts.

  • Indrisano Audio, LLC: Get help launching or improving your podcast with our consulting, composition, and editing services! You bring the Drama - we've got the Audio. Learn more about audio consulting at our website.

  • Protean City Comics: An actual-play podcast that follows young, superpowered teens as they discover the kinds of people, and heroes, the want to be. Subscribe to Protean City Comics.

  • Sound Escape Productions: A monthly subscription helps us create sustainable audio fiction; you can get digital bonuses and ad-free episodes of Someone Dies in This ElevatorPledge to Sound Escape Productions here.
Did you come here from a link online, or get sent this by a friend?

If you'd like to ask me questions or comments, you can reply to this newsletter (it goes directly to my email!) or reach out to me on Twitter.

May your podcasts bring you joy,
Logo, of a pair of headphones with a pen laying across them.
Copyright © 2021 Audio Dramatic, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp