Debunking Myth and Correcting Fandom Misconceptions: Destiel in SPN Family
The Supernatural fandom is no stranger to wank, ship wars, campaigns and disconnects between the fandom and the production, cast and crew of the mainstay CW show, now entering its ninth season. However, this week online has been the most troublesome time period for the fandom in general, as WB Executive Chad Kennedy and director Guy Bee unknowingly created a massive divide within the show’s active and diverse online community. Their comments left many LGBTQ+ fans feeling entirely disenfranchised by the show’s narrative and production side, and alienated a large portion of one of the most thriving internet fandoms spun off by any television show: the Destiel shippers.
It’s not my intention to document the wank. The SPN PR Twitterpocalypse that apparently furthered earlier accusations of queerbaiting by Supernatural has been well covered in other media. For the best breakdown of. . . well, the breakdown, I would direct your attention to The Daily Dot.
However, one repeated “fact” being spread within this mess by a segment of the fans to the cast and crew deserves to be called out for the deliberate misdirection that it is.
The Destiel fandom is more than 1% of the population of the Supernatural Family.
The internet fandom concept of Dean and Castiel as a romantic relationship has existed since the angel’s introduction Season 4, in much the way that Slash ships always arise in shows driven by the close relationships of male protagonists. Long before the term Destiel entered into the fandom vernacular, internet trends showed a fairly familiar rise of interest in the pairing of Dean and Castiel. For a time, they mirrored the earlier growth of Wincest (the fandom sexual relationship between brothers Dean and Sam Winchester) within trends in the online fandom.
However, what spurred the large backlash of viewer responses we saw within the Twitterpocalypse is the increasingly romantic light the pairing has been shown in within the canon of the show itself throughout Season 8. Throughout Season 8, the internet trend Destiel surpassed interest in all other ships, show concepts and even the show itself because the Internet began to wonder. . .
Were they actually going to do it?
Were they going to confirm the romantic relationship they have been displaying in well-known television tropes, in framing, in text and in subtext?
If Supernatural is in fact queerbaiting, in Season 8 the fandom took the bait. The pairing had us hooked. New viewers have flocked to the show in curiosity, Tumblr tags exploded with Destiel, fansites were created, podcasts speculated, even the media began to wonder.
The misconception that Destiel fans are a small part of the fandom actually overlooks some very simple truths in favor of unverified and condescending assertions. Based upon the results of Profound Bond’s census, many anti-shippers and more discontented members of other ships within Supernatural’s armada came to the conclusion that the numbers there were indicative of the entire fanbase. This discounts that many if not all methods of achieving accurate census on the Internet are highly flawed and provide an incomplete look at data, particularly fan created polls. Perhaps a better gauge of the ship’s prevalence online, and its prominence within the fandom, would be the fact that Destiel has not lost a single poll this year, or the widespread coverage of the ship in mainstream media over the past two months.
It should go without saying that this level of genuine attention has never been given to a “fandom created” homosexual ship in any show. It is far more on-level with the attention given to slow-burn television romances between male and female leads, such as the Rolling Stone cover of Mulder and Scully, and coverage of Castle and Beckett, or of Booth and Bones. This is a level of legitimacy given to this ship that spreads far beyond the enthusiasm of its fans, and indicates that this is an interest and news generator beyond Supernatural’s primary fanbase.
The systematic dismissal of the Destiel fandom has primarily been led by fans who viewed the introduction of a third lead as a threat to what they believe the core value of the show is: the relationship between brothers Sam and Dean (whether sexual or familial). These same people organized fan campaigns to have Castiel killed, to have Misha Collins fired from the show, and created a false narrative in which they portrayed Destiel shippers as sending hate and threats to actress Shannon Lucio, who was announced as a love interest to Castiel prior to the season beginning. Though these rumors were entirely false, her timeline was flooded with “apologies” on behalf of the fandom for rudeness that was not occurring. Throughout the Twitterpocalpyse, a stunning number of the comments sent to Kennedy, to Bee, and to other members of Cast and Crew were actually passive-aggressive attempts to completely dismiss the views of fans who were insulted and upset by the idea that a queer romance would need to be justified by the story-line. These comments from Bee and Kennedy were particularly concerning as they directly followed an episode in which the narrative had Castiel unnecessarily lose his virginity under false pretenses to a woman who then murdered him, in a series that uses and discards female love interests within the span of one episode on a regular basis.
The one percent myth was thrown at every writer, producer and crew member with even the vaguest form of creative control over the story in an attempt to devalue the view of upset fans and to create a negative view of shippers as being the “bad seed” of the fandom, despite the fact that many of the commentators are shippers themselves (of Wincest or J2) and are frequently the very people who demand changes to the show they are purportedly entirely happy with. When the question isn’t the correction of the mistake they consider Destiel or Misha Collins, they present themselves as the show’s only “true fans” and belittle the interpretation of others.
The truth is very clear, when you stop looking at fan-created ‘facts’ and push away the veil of false narratives and gaslighting techniques and claims of shippers cyber-bullying for their perspective, and look instead at verifiable facts within the show’s very active online fandom.
Castiel overtook both brothers in terms of internet trends following Season 6’s “The Man Who Would Be King” and has remained the show’s most searched, reported-on, and discussed character now for two seasons, and has a staggering lead over the others entering into Season 9.
Destiel overtook Wincest as the primary ship of the show in Season 8, when new fans flocked to the show in hopes of seeing the romantic storyline they had heard about on the internet fulfilled.
Dean’s canon bisexuality has been speculated upon since Season 2, long before Castiel ever entered the picture, and would need no further “justification” within the show to feel natural and unforced.
These are not small portions of the fandom. This is not a viewpoint that should be casually dismissed.
If Supernatural is in fact queerbaiting, with no intention of providing conclusion to the story-line they have built between Dean and Castiel, they need to address it to the fandom in a respectful manner, and they need to resolve it within the narrative of the show. But they need to do so fully understanding that this is not a “delusional” ship steered by a few “weirdo” fans who see “storylines that don’t exist.”
The show’s creative team needs to act with the full understanding that a substantial portion of their online fandom is searching for a romance they have come to truly appreciate as a large part of the appeal of the show’s beloved characters.