The Meme Librarian: Tumblr's Amanda Brennan & Comic-Con
Title: Senior Content Insights Manager, Tumblr
Office location: New York, NY
Years at Oath: 5
Previous Employer: Know Your Meme
Hometown: Elizabeth, New Jersey
Activities outside of work: Crossfit, Stardew Valley, hanging out with my cats, home owning.
Three-word oath: Honor all fandoms
If fans are crazy about something online, Amanda Brennan has heard of it. As Tumblr's Senior Content Insights Manager, saying Amanda's passionate about web culture is a vast understatement. It's in her DNA.
"I specialize in Tumblr's communities and fandoms. I'm known on the internet as the meme librarian because I have my master's in library science. I focused originally in my career on meme culture and finding the history of memes, tracking stuff down, and making sure that meme history was accurately documented."
We speak with her ahead of San Diego Comic-Con, happening from July 18th to July 22nd, where Tumblr will be bringing the best of the conference to fans worldwide.
Tumblr is a place for memes, and a whole lot more. We've heard that users self-organize into "fandoms." How do you describe them?
Oh man. Fandoms are when you love something so much you just want to participate in all the discussion around it. I think a lot of people are kind of afraid of the word fandom, but anyone can participate in one. On Tumblr, we see it in your typical TV, movies, music, hip hop, anime, all of that kind of nerdy stuff, but we also have our poetry community, our artist community, and those are fandoms around the things that they love. Fitblr is our fitness community. If you've ever met anyone who's done CrossFit, they're in a CrossFit fandom, for real. It's a certain type of person.
What fandoms are you part of?
I'm very into this webcomic called Homestuck, which is kind of embarrassing to admit, because it's mostly teenagers who love it. It's longer than James Joyce's Ulysses and just as heavy to read. I'm in awe every time I think about how this webcomic author took the medium of comic and weaved flash animation and playable games into a massive story with 40 main characters, and everyone is as fleshed out as each other. It's this thing that can only exist in the internet. James Joyce would've written the same thing, if he lived now. That's my favorite thing. Also, cats. I'm a cat influencer.
Don't let us stop you—please, continue.
I know a lot about cats on the internet. I've done several cat conventions. I'm doing one next month—they're magical. A lot of them are a mix of adoptable cats that you can play with, or shopping for cats with fun catnip toys, or cat art. What I do at cat conventions is talk about the history of cat memes. I take a deep dive into the very first cat memes on Japanese message boards that were made out of parenthesis and keyboard strokes and trace their history from there.
I have a whole cat art gallery at my home too.
Courtesy of Amanda Brennan
So, tell me about Comic-Con. Why is it so important?
Comic-Con is Tumblr come to real life. When you think about San Diego specifically, it's the biggest Comic-Con in the US. People come from all over the world to bond over the thing that they love the most. Which is what people are doing on Tumblr every day. It's where you go to celebrate your fandom and really dive into all these things that you might not have in your everyday life. The cosplay is just incredible. Last year we saw someone as a character from Overwatch (a popular multiplayer video game) who built a giant robot and sat in it and was posing with it and turrets were moving, it was wild.
Just seeing this young kid in this full suit, carrying it around because she loved the thing so much that she built it herself. That kind of passion is what we see every day on Tumblr. Whether or not someone's going to San Diego Comic-Con, or their local library's Comic-Con, people are making these costumes and putting their life into it and it's a celebration of it. It's like my oath, Honor all fandoms.
Courtesy of Amanda Brennan
What's something unique that Tumblr can do for Comic-Con fans?
Comic-Con is hard to get to, it's expensive, and there's a lot of stuff going on. We strive to bring it to the people on Tumblr and really give them the content they wanna see that might not be covered by a mainstream outlet.
With our partnerships team, we're able to partner with celebrities who are relevant to the platform, 'cause Tumblr likes weird things. If you look at Fandometrics, our TV ranking, it's very different from a Nielsen ranking. Our number one show right now is Voltron: Legendary Defender on Netflix, which is an animated show. Maybe you haven't heard about it from the critics, but the Tumblr fandom loves it so much. We're partnering with them at Comic-Con to do some video answer times.
It sounds like Comic-Con is much more than comics and video games. How big does it get?
Gosh. I feel like there's really something for everyone. There's a section called Artist's Alley, where it's just up and coming artists. There's a zine section, a small press section, there will be a webcomic section this year. There's an area just for gamers, and then all of the big studios like Marvel and Netflix. They all have these booths, like a trade show on steroids. It takes a full day to see the whole floor. And that's not counting the panels and activations.
With big, public celebrations, have the fandoms come out into the public more?
I think so. There was actually a really great book that came out by a Tumblr user and writer on Riverdale, who, full disclosure, I know in real life, called Ship It. I keep telling everyone who works at Tumblr it should be required reading because Tumblr is basically a character in the book. It's about fandom and shipping (not boxes) and how fans use Tumblr to communicate with each other through fanfiction.
The book was published this year and so many people can relate to that feeling where we like something but we're unsure if we want to go to a convention and embrace that fandom. But spoiler alert, maybe the girl does end up embracing her fandom. It all goes back to identity, and so many people find community in these fandoms. If they can interact with it online and then bring it out in real life, it is amazing and magical. When you meet your online friends for the first time, or you see people cosplaying the thing you thought only you liked, it changes you.
The Saturday of Comic-Con is wall-to-wall people. They're shutting down all the streets around the convention center, that's how big this is. To be in that space, knowing everyone in that room loves the things that you love, the same amount that you do, is exhilarating.
I think that's a perfect ending.
Make sure to follow along with Tumblr at San Diego Comic-Con.