“Family Don’t End With Blood,” a design featuring iconic items representing Team Free Will. Voting is active on the Supernatural Design Challenge, and five winning designs will be produced on licensed merchandise. You can vote for as many designs as you’d like! This one is the poster version of my t-shirt entry.
Trigger Warning: The following article contains discussion of harmful psychological conditions, and includes a brief reference to eating disorders.
While the last Supernatural was primarily a Monster of the Week and fairly unremarkable in a history of similarly formatted stories, the final three minutes of the episode have sparked debate and discussion within the Supernatural Family regarding a repeated theme that has divided the fans for years: the codependency of the Winchester brothers.
Codependency is signified by, essentially, making a relationship more important to you than you are to yourself. Within the Supernatural fandom, it’s a heated point of contention: for some fans, it’s a rallying point, a symbol of the fact that the Winchesters are willing to die for each other. For others, it is a repetitive story device that has become a tiresome trope, used to manufacture drama between Winchesters and the rest of the Supernatural world.
Regardless of personal stance on the matter, Sam and Dean Winchester are undeniably codependent, following many of the denial, low self-esteem, compliance, control, and avoidance patterns outlined as characteristics of codependency.
So let’s talk for a moment about Season 9 of Supernatural.
Going into the season, we were promised great things:
Regarding the “broken landscape” that season 8 left behind, we were told by Jeremy Carver to expect “A lot of players this year and a lot of players for the throne of who’s going to rise to the fore here, and there’s a lot of really juicy options that we’re going to be introducing, so we’re excited.”
What we have seen, though, is a broken king of Hell in a bunker cell and the trunk of a car, posturing with a rarely-seen Abbadon. We’ve seen Bartholomew once, and he was flat and generally uninteresting. We’ve seen Malachi once. We’ve seen Metatron once, same episode. None of these interactions really made a massive impact on the viewers, save Metatron outing Ezekiel/Gadreel. For the most part, the plot of the season has been put by the wayside in favor of one-off “funny” episodes.
And as for these new, individual angels. . . “I think the angels that have fallen are not a monolithic force, in that we treat them for the most part as individuals. And in that way, we’re really able to dig deeply into these individual characters, who are these angels.”
Well, I don’t feel I’ve gotten to know any of them particularly; and the ones we do are killed rather quickly, before we can truly care.
We had Carver telling us that we’re going to be getting a new look at these characters, a fresh understanding of them, in interviews saying “I think, especially after nine years, we all tend to put our brothers and the various supporting characters into certain boxes that we tick off: “This is who they are, this is how they would act,” and I think any time we can find a piece of the past that maybe makes us look twice at our characters, and maybe adds a couple extra layers of complexity, is always fun.”
What we’ve seen though isn’t development of these characters, it’s either regression or out of character. New layers implies that they build upon past ones, not slather over them to blot out what we already know. It’s one thing to think outside of that ‘box,’ and another thing to take these characters we love and render them unrecognizable.
And there’s the perpetual commentary about how character driven the season is:
Carver: “So we’re always trying to turn over a new dimension and new sides to our characters. I think we’re all really excited about taking a really strong character approach.”
Singer: “We left so many balls in the air and we have so many great characters that we haven’t paid off that we’re kind of telling a … I hesitate to say ‘soap opera,’ but that kind of character-driven, multilayered storytelling.”
But what have we seen of our characters this season so far?
From the very first episode, Sam is whumped. He’s dying, and within his own head his conversation isn’t necessarily a terribly flattering depiction of this man we know has defeated the Devil. He’s immediately then non-conned into being an angel condom by Dean, and then lied to. This is where he sits the entire season.
If we look at Sam as a character, rather than both roles played by Jared, what has Sam been able to do this season?
Well, nearly die a lot. Honestly, we were all making jokes about how much Ezekiel had run around saving Sam, weren’t we? When did this man, one of the best hunters in the world, get so sloppy? What happened to the Sam that waded solo into that mess of Croats with Bobby staring at his back in pride and awe?
Additionally, when did he get so gullible? Sam is intuitive: it’s one of his great strengths, both as a hunter and as a human being. He’s intelligent, great at reading people, and not exactly easy to fool. So how is it that these lies Dean tells are being missed and shrugged off? Why didn’t he catch on? Why did it take another Veritas (whoops, sorry, Vesta!) scene to tell him something was off?
Sam has let Dean’s avoidance lies go in past seasons (think Hell), but not because he was oblivious to them.
But apparently this is the new interpretation of Sam. I mean, this guy’s been missing things like his brother “going missing on hunts” for months since he was 9 (or 12… math is hard!) when there was no hunt, and no conceivable way that smart kid we saw in past eps would buy that.
So. There’s our “new layers” for Sam. He has been robbed of agency, transformed into a barely-present puppet to an angel who perpetually interrupts his conversations (that’s gotta be annoying!) and erases his importance in favor of a gimmick that we were once told kept Castiel from being a main character; taking the hunt and the war and the fight out of the hands of the Winchesters and making it too easy to get out of situations they write them into.
Where is he now: Well, according to Gadreel, there is no Sam (Only Zuul).
Dean Winchester is a lying liar who lies. No, really. His entire role this year is to hold on to this ‘big secret’ of the fact that he sold his little brother to be vessel to an angel. I seem to remember this being a major plot point for several seasons, how they didn’t want that. They’re Team Free Will, after all, because they were fighting against being vessels.
So, this season has been one clumsy lie after the next to explain why they’re suddenly out of whatever situation they were in (because of convenient!Ezekiel interventions).
We’ve talked about Dean’s codependence since Season 1, and this season rather than changing that or giving us a new angle or even appreciation of it (for those keen on the idea), Dean is being held hostage by it. His codependence is a loaded gun held to his temple, telling him to lie to his little brother, kick his best friend out to be hunted without assistance, and generally alienate everyone he cares about.
This isn’t a positive no matter what side of the codependence issue you’re on: if you’re pro-codependence, you’re watching that relationship be twisted into something to hurt Dean and Sam both. If you’re pro-independence, you’re watching this be trotted across the screen perpetually in exactly the way you dislike. It’s a tiresome, repetitious plot device.
Like Sam, Dean is also being damseled this season. How often have Ezekiel, Charlie, Jody, Sam etc had to save Dean this season? How often has Dean actually been a decider, considering Carver discussed him “driving the mytharc.” Honestly, we haven’t seen it. What we’ve seen is Dean being a pawn to someone else’s manipulations from the very first episode (Gadreel/Ezekiel) and then having to MAKE himself seem like the big damn hero after the fact to explain what Ezekiel’s done.
Now let’s talk a little bit about character assassination. Dean Winchester is not stupid. Dean is intelligent, actually; he is clever, tactically-minded, mechanically-minded, has hunted and researched on his own, and he has a head for obscure facts that extends beyond just his pop-culture references. Sam is more educated than Dean, but Dean’s raw intelligence is not insubstantial. So why are we so often getting him written as “dumb for laughs”?
Dean’s also not skeezy: he likes sex plenty, and he’s a hell of a Casanova, and he will privately objectify women or do so with an audience he feels comfortable around (“Gumby Girl,” Busty Asian Beauties) but when Dean goes to pick up a chick, he does it with charm, a compliment, and an open offer. He may give a false name and job because of his line of work, but he goes in offering ‘a good time, one night only’ and will walk away when it’s not wanted.
He accepted Jo’s “self-respect” line on her last night on Earth, when if he’d pushed after seasons pining over him she might have gone for it. He didn’t demean Nancy in Jus In Belo for being a virgin or offer her a roll in the hay to disqualify her from Ruby’s spell. He walked away when Kali said she wasn’t interested. The argument for “Rock and a Hard Place” seems to be that Dean’s hot, so of course any woman would! Well, Dean’s hot, and there are plenty of willing women who aren’t in chastity groups, so why would he push?
This season has been problematic in its portrayal of Dean in many ways. His ‘new layers’ are either stripping away past development, or slathering on a thick glaze of caricature interpretation of his personality. Dumb, lecherous, lying one-dimensional Dean!
Honestly, how has either Winchester lived through the mess of their own lives if this interpretation is true to their past selves in any way?
Where is he now: Well, his little brother is purportedly gone because of his lies, his best friend is being hunted and going to war without him because of his lies, and his surrogate son figure is dead at his brother’s hands because of his lies.
This season began with a lot of promise for Castiel. Many fans believed for years that it was necessary for Cas to fall in order to better integrate him into the lives of the Winchesters or bypass the deus ex machina potential now being abused with SamZekeGadreel. His transformation into a human was something heavily promoted in the hiatus.
And from the start, rather than use this opportunity to have Castiel be the fresh eyes on humanity that he was lauded to be in the “Angel Warrior” featurette of Season 8, Castiel’s humanity is a running gag. An ancient creature who has been watching humanity since before it finished evolving, who’s fallen to (mostly) human before, lived an (inexplicable and understandably ignored) married life with Daphne, who has followed the Winchesters around from about a foot away for the past several years, and is unfathomably intelligent in many ways is written as an idiot because he’s in his meatsuit more permanently.
The transformations are jarring: this is no longer Castiel the warrior. It’s bumbling Cas in a way he’s never been: not when crazy, not when fallen entirely in 2014, not when tilting his head and declaring he doesn’t get a reference, and not even when he was the unwitting straight-man for jokes because of his unfamiliarity with humor or humanity.
His storyline has become about sex and laughs and torture; and almost ONLY sex and laughs and torture. From bouncing boob shots to dubious sexual consent with a creature who tortures and murders him after taking his virginity, to ‘is it a date or not,’ and on to backslaps and high-fiving over the hotness of chicks (. . . if Reapers are suddenly angels, was the April thing incest as well as dubcon/non-con of both parties? Lord only knows) the way Castiel is being written this season is probably more suited to a sitcom (well, minus the torture) than Supernatural, and feels disrespectful of his past and his capability.
Like Dean, like Sam, Castiel is now the frequently-damseled former hero as well. Castiel is gullible, canonically, but the repetition of him being duped and then tortured (down to torturing him in the exact same way in half the episodes he’s been in this season) by no means helps develop his storyline.
Rather than actually develop this humanity aspect they promised, they had Castiel inexplicably take to vamping other angels for Grace. Either this is his demon blood (repetition) or this is him stealing souls for power for the greater good (repetition), but either way it drops him back into sort-of angel with powers that may or may not work when you need them to (status quo).
These are our new layers for Cas: sex, lols, and humanity derp.
Where is he now: Tortured again. Dumped by his only friends again. Cutting ties to go to war again. Homeless still. Kind-of maybe an angel again (I figure season 5 inconsistencies of abilities).
Kevin had great growth and character development last season: Season 8 took the character from being a kid they had to chase after, to being one of the family. The end of last season challenged him to buckled down into his role as the prophet.
Unfortunately, the plot can’t have him figuring out that angel tablet too soon! So instead of contrivances like broken tablets, they suddenly had to render Kevin inept at tablet translation (you know, that thing he was specifically born for and fated to do). He’s translating to cuneform, he’s headscratching and lost, and generally he’s a lot less efficient with this whole tablet of Angel than he was his partials of Demon.
And when he’s not that, he’s written out in stupid ways: few too many shots the night before, going on vacay to a warded hotel room, he is handwaved away in absurd ways in order to explain his absence at the Bunker.
And then they do to Kevin what they tried to do several times to Castiel: they wrote him off of the show because they couldn’t figure out how to use the power they gave him. The writing put itself in a corner, the solution they built in was too powerful, and so they axed it.
New Layers: Dumbed down.
Where is he now: Shock value death in order to place guilt on both main characters (how original, Supernatural!)
So, given we know that not all of the season is written yet. . . where did these ideas of character driven and developing story come from? Where’s the exploratory season we were promised? Is this what we were meant to perceive as that?
What we have so far is a mess of broken characterization, choppy scripts that jumps from episode to episode and often scene to scene without creating a united narrative, juvenile humor, problematic consent issues, and little to laude about the current story arc. Canon facts like reapers, like their childhoods, like their capabilities, like how angelic possession works (if it’s THAT easy for a vessel to throw out an angel, they just undermined their two strongest seasons–4 and 5–almost entirely) are being torn apart, with the requirement that the audience rather than the storytellers find ways to fit these breaks into a new canon for the show.
I’m finding very little to look forward to in January as we leave the first half of Season 9 behind us.
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.
It’s Winchester Wednesday, and around these parts that means one thing: novelty t-shirts, pajama bottoms, burgers, pie, and three fangirls lounging around on couches and the floor, recreationally arguing every new episode of Supernatural to air. I guess that’s just what happens when you put a Dean!Girl, a Cas!Girl (guilty as charged) and a Sam!Girl in one room. It’s all in good fun . . . though we think our Sam!Girl is a little afraid of us sometimes.
Coming into tonight’s episode we rewatched Torn and Frayed, which brought us closure on the brother versus brother angst, the completely unsurprising reveal of an angel tablet (seriously, was anyone surprised?) and our last glimpse of Castiel. Torn and Frayed ended with the brothers warding Rufus’s cabin against Castiel listening in as they discussed the possibility that someone is pulling Cas’s strings. We’ve got some classic dramatic irony going, building tension that carries into tonight’s ep, as the viewers know about Naomi and the CIAngels and our boys remain unaware.
So, what’re we expecting to see tonight? Unfortunately, our SamGirl was unable to attend, though she’s liveblogging via text to me to make up for it, which leaves the rabid Dean and Cas girls to argue with each other before and after the episode. Here’s the truncated (we had an hour to kill!) general preshow.
@ExorcisingEmily: So, what are you expecting tonight?
@Mrstserc: I am expecting Cas to boldface lie to the boys, Sam to be sickly, and Dean and Cas to have to go off and work on something themselves and come across Meg. I don’t know whether or not the possibility of Meg and Castiel ever having a thing will ever be brought up, but I expect Cas will kill her because she knows stuff about the angel tablets that Naomi doesn’t want Dean to know. I also expect Naomi to tell Cas to kill Dean.
@ExorcisingEmily: I’m with you about Naomi telling Cas to kill Dean. I think that works into the Manchurian Candidate homage they seem to be playing to: the last thing she needs to do to really break Castiel would be to kill Dean.
Family Don’t End With Blood: A look at the role of adoptive family and extended cast within Supernatural
So, the call went out a while back for scholarly articles on Supernatural, and me (being me) I jumped at the chance to get my feet wet again in essays, articles and lit-crit about the things I love. In this case, the full cast of characters within CW’s show about two underwear models who road trip across the US in a beautiful car killing ghosts and demons.It just so happened at the time that people were on sites I read claiming that bringing Castiel on as a full member of the cast would be “ruining” the show. Full Disclosure: I am a Cas!Girl. I saw red. I saw red, then I sat down and wrote an abstract, an outline, a Writer’s CV, and I submitted it all to one of those calls for essays.
Shortly thereafter I recieved an amazing response encouraging me to put together the article. So oh yes, my dears, this is happening. This will be coming soon to print near you: if by “soon” you understand that I mean “after the season’s over, probably more like Christmas time.”
Within Supernatural, the importance of nuclear family is established and undisputed, with the focus on the Winchester brothers. However, the role of the Adoptive Family is just as pivotal to the storyline and the development of the lead characters. This article focuses on four primary demonstrations of family by the extended cast of the show: nuclear family, adoptive family, rejected biological family, and rejected claims of family by acquaintances.
Looking at the Winchesters, the article first establishes the undisputed bond between the brothers, and then examines the nonexistent relationship to Mary and John as parental figures. By discussing the flaws and redemptive stories of both parents and the basic pattern of behavior from the boys, we are able to determine what makes someone a “Winchester.”
By examining the roles of Bobby Singer, Castiel, Lisa and Ben Braeden, Amelia Richardson, Kevin Tran, Jo and Ellen Harvelle, and Charlie Bradbury, the viewers are able to determine how the family structure has extended beyond being simply the “Sam and Dean” show. Each of these characters falls into a specific family relationship with the brothers.
Looking beyond that at Samuel Campbell, the Campbell hunters, Henry Winchester, Adam Milligan, and Emma (from the “Slice Girls” episode) we see examples of non-relationship with biological family: further illustrating that family is built upon an emotional connection, rather than genetics. Each of these characters has estranged themselves from being considered family, despite being “blood.”
With examination of Becky Rosen, Garth Fitzgerald, Karen Singer, Benny Lafitte, “Tiger Mommy” Tran, Ruby, and Meg Masters, viewers are able to determine that not all acquaintances with a close connection to the boys, or a potential claim, are accepted as family. For Dean and Sam, incorporating an individual into their family unit and extending that much care and concern to them is an honor not given lightly, and cannot be demanded or forced.
To avoid stagnation and to further the concept of family being “the whole point,” the inclusion of these secondary characters builds a richer on-panel universe and offers further perspective into the lead characters. While the primary focus of Supernatural will always be Dean and Sam, the extended cast has played a significant role within the story, and their involvement should be encouraged rather than resisted.
Oh, as a sidenote on the matter. After those hateful comments, the spam to writers and producers, and the general attempt to run Castiel off of the show? Guess who’s a season regular next year.
(I may be slightly smug about this.)