|Date(s):||December 13, 2020|
|External Links:||Supernatural feels|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
Supernatural feels is a 2020 essay by ivyfic.
It was written shortly after the show's final episode was first broadcast.
The topic of the essay is about how general fandom has changed, and ivyfic's dissatisfaction about younger fans' lack of understanding historical context and fandom.
Some Topics Discussed
- Supernatural, The X-files, Lois and Clark, Smallville, due South, and other fandoms
- Supernatural's longevity and its place in fan history, as well as changing platforms and expectations
- the reasons ivyfic stopped watching Supernatural around season five
- what "young" fans today don't understand about Wincest
- breaking the fourth wall and involving TPTB
- the youtube video by Sarah Z: The Supernatural Finale Aired, And Tumblr Exploded
- the reddit post Rise of the Supernatural Fandom
- the vid Women's Work
- there is a link to Talking Meme: 01 Mucca Picks a Topic
From the Essay
Supernatural has always been an odd fandom for me—I watched it for the first five seasons, and was as prolific as I’ve ever been in any fandom (which is admittedly not much). I’ve never been a fan of any note, but I was more active in SPN as it was airing than I think I’ve ever been in a fandom before or since. I read the meta, subscribed to the newsletter communities, participated in the Big Bang. I went to real life hang outs with other SPN fans. And for me at the time, the experience of fandom was the lj experience of fandom—it was in continuity with fandoms like SGA and Sentinel. It was don’t cross the streams fandom.
Then Supernatural kept going, and for me became the poster child for the changes in fandom overall: the fandom community moved almost entirely to tumblr; the main fans became people who weren’t old enough to watch it in its first few seasons; the show’s creators and stars (particularly Misha Collins) became incredibly involved with fandom. The show went meta. The people behind the scenes were not only aware of fandom, but read the fic, encouraged the fannish community, created ARGs for the fans. All of that was and is still DEEPLY alien to me and how I do my fannishness.
So running across some of the retrospectives is kind of a mindfuck for me. Youtuber Sarah Z just put up an 1:45 video on Destielgate. Pretty much 100% of everything she talks about in that is post any engagement I had with the fandom. But she linked to a reddit post about the first five years of fandom, and this post, written by someone who joined the fandom in 2013 in the tumblr years, honestly pissed me off. Partly for the sanctimony taken towards early fandom, and partly to the general misrepresentation of the concerns of early fandom. I mean, I get that doing internet archaeology is hard, and this is a humorous summary post, but I found it *really* skewed from what my experience was at the time.
I feel like to start I have to talk about the difference in expectations I have of media, borne of starting to watch TV dramas in the nineties. This is a lot of why I feel so alienated from younger fans’ experiences of fandom—because there are certain things I have learned to just never expect to get in a TV show, and that has shaped what fandom is *for* for me.
Romance: My first experience of fandom was after college, but the first show I was fannish about was Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as fandom at the time—I certainly didn’t have internet at home. I didn’t hear about sci fi conventions til post college. So my experience of this show was just that—my experience.
If you haven’t seen this show, it’s still a fun, very campy watch. It was a Superman TV show (starring an Asian actor as Superman, though he passed for white and was marketed as white, so I didn’t even know that at the time), but very very focused on the romance between Lois and Clark. I was in middle school. This was one of the first romance stories I consumed, and I was gaga over the romance.
There were early signs that they might not know how to handle this across the series (first season focused on a love triangle with a young, hot, and not bald Lex Luthor), but as they moved into seasons two and three things went very, very bad. They have their first date—then there’s another love interest introduced. Lois finds out Clark is Superman in a time travel episode (which was HILARIOUS, one of my favorites) but then has her mind wiped.
Finally, finally, we get to the wedding. Clark and Lois get married! But no! They are not actually married! Because Lois isn’t Lois but is in fact a frog eating clone! The real Lois has amnesia! And thinks she’s the lounge singer main character of the Harlequin romance she was secretly writing! And Lex Luthor finds her and doesn’t tell her the truth!
Friends, this went on for FIVE EPISODES, which, in nineties television, was a frelling eternity. My love for the show curdled. I have been betrayed by shows many times, but everyone remembers the first time a show broke their heart. Even after that, when they finally did let them actually get married, it’s in a sort of a heaven where they are married by an angel…it was all very, very bad.
And it’s not like Lois and Clark was the only one. I was very into the romance in The Nanny as well (we’ll just set aside the rich employer falling in love with the nanny part of this), and in that, the first episode where they kiss, Fran then gets conked on the head and forgets everything.
I loved the show Pretender. In that, Miss Parker got a love interest, Thomas Gates, who was sweet and lovely and perfect for her, and got fridged SO HARD (in one of the rare examples of fridging a man).
There are a lot of other examples—I would later discover Moonlighting, which is infamous. Ross and Rachel on Friends (the resurgence of this show is also very weird to me—I keep trying to explain to people who’ve only watched it in a binge what it felt like to be dicked around for SEVEN YEARS in real time in the nineties). Mulder and Scully, where the romance is consummated off screen after Duchovny exited the show due to a contract dispute, and Scully got a complete personality transplant. There are some rare exceptions, but for the most part, suckage.What I was learning through all of these early TV experiences was: TV show writers do not know how to do romance in a serial format. If you are watching a show for the romance, you will be very, very disappointed. So—don’t ship the canon couple. If you want to enjoy your romance, your OTP should not be canon.
Queer characters: This is going to be short. There weren’t any
Men in media: My favorite movie of all time, The Hunt for Red October, technically has two women in it. For a total of less than a minute of screen time, with maybe three lines between them. My favorite book in middle school was The Three Musketeers. I’m a fan of action adventure, sci fi, genre, procedural shows. Those shows usually do not have women in the main roles, and where they do have women, they are usually not as fully imagined as the men. The men have the meaty emotional story arcs. The women don’t.
I’m not the first and won’t be the last to say there’s a lack of representation of women in the media. What this meant for me growing up, though, is all my favorite stories, all the most interesting stories, were about men. So that meant that if I were to imagine myself into that world, either it would be as a romance interest (and believe me, in my head I have a massive multi-canon Mary Sue epic that I never wrote down but worked on for years), or I have to imagine myself as one of them.
This also plays out with the above lack of queer representation. If there is ZERO possibility of there ever being a gay character on the show, and NEGATIVE A MILLION PERCENT possibility of your two main male characters being in a romance, that means that you can instead get incredibly meaty, emotional, complex stories of these men’s relationships with each other. And you can get a lot of meaningful glances, touching, walking around half naked, and invading each other’s space. A lot of shows did that. A lot of shows were filled with things that would be read as romantic if romance were a possibility, but as it’s not even imaginable, there’s no reason to avoid raw emotionality between men.
Some of this is also very rooted in misogyny—I recently watched a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby buddy film, of which there are many. In these, usually there’s some woman that they’re both interested in, but they end up staying with each other because no woman can bust up their friendship. To a modern eye, these movies read SUPER gay. But really it’s that their friendship is more important than any woman because women aren’t people. It’s not possible to have an emotionally meaningful relationship with a woman.There’s a long history of the Hayes code and how gays were represented in film (I recommend The Celluloid Closet documentary.) But there’s also a part where because women don’t count as people the only relationships that are given emotional depth in media are those between two men.
Slash: These things together heavily informed my early experience of slash. The first time a friend asked me if I liked slash, I’d only ever seen the term in reference to X-Files, so I assumed that it referred to the dark fucked up shit in those fic (ie, slasher). Which, given that fandom…I feel was a reasonable interpretation. This friend then turned me on to Smallville fandom, but my first real fandom—and my still true OTP—was due South. It was already off the air at that point, but I’d loved it when it was on the air, so finding the wealth of incredibly deep, complex, and well-written romance novels in this fandom was just gold.
In the current fandom discourse about slash—a sort of historical perspective from younger fans—the analysis usually discusses lack of queer representation being remedied through fic, and just the desire to sexually objectify beautiful men. While those are both true, I find the analysis misses one of the main themes that I experienced about slash at the time—and that I remember being part of the meta discussions about slash at the time.
Early on in fandom for me, I experienced it as a straight woman (ha ha—turns out I’m not straight so much, but that’s another story for another time). Queer women were always part of the community, but so were a lot of straight fans. For me, why was I drawn to slash?
- Because mainstream heterosexual romances (at least on TV and in movies) were almost all sexist as fuck. I still cannot watch most rom coms because it’s like having a wall of patriarchy shoved at me. Oh, she’s a career woman who has to learn to be a homemaker before she can have a man? fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou
- Because romances on TV shows were almost universally poorly written.
- Because the majority of the media I watched only had emotional development for the relationships between men.head canon into them. Smallville, Highlander, Sentinel, Stargate, due South, Starsky and Hutch—none of them ever had authorial intent for there to be a gay romantic pairing, but you spend years in the fandoms and you start learning the cues to pick up to support a counter narrative that the fandom explores (“hoyay,” as we called it in Smallville). NCIS is a very not good show, in a lot of directions, but if I watch it as the story of the tragic and doomed romance of DiNozzo and Gibbs, I enjoy it in a way I know was never the intent of the makers. That’s how I got used to reading my media, and used to enjoying my media.
I loved that [Supernatural] t was about American folk lore. I’d grown up with the “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” books, and I genuinely loved that they were doing Bloody Mary and the Woman in White and the other classics.
So to me, this was a show that was continuing the tradition of X-Files, which had only gone off the air three years previously, and was putting an American ghost folklore on top of it. I remember being disappointed when the show confirmed that angels were real in its mythology, because I felt that moved it away from its nihilistic vision of the hunters against a world of darkness.I think that’s kind of impossible to grasp if you started watching the show much later and went back to the early seasons already knowing about Castiel etc. The reddit post linked above seems to find it ridiculous that early fans wanted the show only to be about these two characters and all monster of the week. But yeah. That is EXACTLY what I wanted. It’s hard to excavate what people with only the first season of the show thought the show was. But to me, that early version was the show I was enjoying and the show it morphed into is just not one I’ve ever been interested in watching.
I feel like I need all the 3,000 words of context I just wrote to explain why this ship. But first, for the fan writing the reddit post—um, we knew it was taboo. Most of that shit was locked down. One of the BNFs I read would put her fic up for two weeks only then pull it. So I don’t even think you can see enough of the iceberg from 2020 to have a fair idea of what it was. It’s one of the weirder fandom experiences to me that the ship that ate fandom from 2005 to 2008 not only fell out of favor but was essentially disavowed and abandoned. Like, I don’t even remember there being a ship war? (Like the Ray wars, of which we will not speak further.) It was just like—it was over all of a sudden.
- In the modern Supernatural fandom, from what I can see of the iceberg, most fans dislike Wincest. Because, ya'know. It's incest. Fans who joined after Season 4 started never had a reason to learn to tolerate it, because it was no longer ubiquitous in the fandom and it was no longer the only ship possible, so the fandom slowly became less inviting to the Wincest shippers. The ship never went away, but it became a minority.
With all the above, about how I learned to read emotional arcs between male characters as gay as a counter reading to the intent of the show, SPN fell bang into that. Dean and Sam had all the classic tells of a slash fandom, including a deep and complex relationship with each other. This is not just “they were the only options to have bang on the show, so people made them bang,” it was that they had a deeply compelling relationship narrative on the show, the kind that fans love to explore. And explore they did. There was gen, sure. But if what everyone wants to write is romance and what everyone wants to read is romance, you get romance. I’ve always thought this was kind of a limit of the imagination of other genres, that the ONLY genre whose sole focus is the emotional intimacy between people, then when you want to write about the emotional intimacy between people…it becomes a romance. This is not to say I didn’t find it hot. I did. But it was also a set of genre and fandom conventions for talking about relationships.
Don’t cross the streams. I think this is also a part of the disconnect in modern fandom. I wrote at a time where I never believed the actors or show runners would ever be exposed to my fic, or made aware of its existence. I was writing at a time where sharing fic with the actors was verboten, and fans who did it were essentially run out on rails. There were numerous occasions where some fan “crossed a line” and the rest of fandom went after them with pitchforks, because don’t you understand that what we do, we do in the shadows. I mean, I’m still from the generation of you put your fic under a pseud and you wall off that pseud because if anyone ever knew you wrote fanfic, let alone erotic fanfic, let alone GAY erotic fanfic, you could lose your job. It’s weird, cause doxxing is still a very bad thing, but the idea that doxxing would be used for real life harassment honestly didn’t cross my mind in the mid-oughts. I was afraid of my real identity being revealed because it would make me unemployable. (And I would like to point out that at the time, I worked on an erotica line at a publisher.)So if your fandom is totally walled off from the creators and any thoughts or feelings they would have about it, you don’t worry so much about what they—or the world—would think. They don’t matter. We’re in our sandbox over here, and the rest of the world can go fuck itself. And honestly, at the time, it’s not like there was MORE censure for it being incest than there was for it being fanfic at all.
Now, were fans shitty to female characters? Yes. Always and everywhere. That is not new. But.
I remember first seeing more and more posts criticizing how much Dean said “bitch” and “slut.” And how the show portrayed witches (lots of Dean calling them bitch). At first, I had the classic fan reaction of stop pointing this stuff out to me, I am trying to enjoy my show.
Then came Women's Work by Luminosity and Sisabet. This video still makes me cry. Having a video lay out in disturbing detail the violent misogyny of the show. It came with a post analyzing the difference in how kills were portrayed of women and of men, of how women’s kills were sexualized. Showing how the boys relate to women as madonnas or whores. Showing how female monsters in the show are sexualized.
It was pretty much impossible to continue to watch the show having had that argument made so effectively. So I REALLY object that fandom *learned* to be better about women. No. I’m sorry. We were having this debate at the time.
It became very meta (I still HATE meta in my shows) ... First, “The Real Ghostbusters,” where they first encounter a fan convention. I had learned through hard experience that when show runners looked at their fans it always hurt (just ask West Wing). As discussed above, I was very don’t cross the streams. So I didn’t like this in principle. But then the episode itself—showed only male fans. I was so angry. These writers went to their conventions, they saw that their main fanbase was women. They SAW us, they knew we were there, and then when they wrote an episode about their own fans ALL THEY SAW WERE MEN. And fanboy cliches at that. I was like, you’re going to look right at me and erase my whole gender? Fuck you.
...my main takeaway from this is—what the bulk of fandom is now is not a thing that I recognize. And I don’t think I’ll ever be as involved in a fandom again as I used to be. It’s moved past me, that’s fine, but it’s also seemed to have forgotten its roots and looks down upon the older fans who were watching and writing in a totally different media world. So I’m glad I haven’t tried to keep up, cause I think I’m happier not hearing what the young’uns have to say about us.
Fan Comments: At the Original Post
princessofgeeks: I was never comfortable with the breaking of that fourth wall at all. I didn't want or need the writers' approval of my fanfic. And I am still uneasy at how the streams cross. I find it weird and rather manipulative on both sides. Also the power imbalance is creepy.
Not that I am against protests and campaigns for things like an end to fridging and man pain as plot points, or for better female characters or for fewer racial stereotypes or for better queer representation and so forth. All that is valuable and needed.
[ivyfic]: One of the weirder things about watching TJLC from afar (I was in Sherlock fandom, though that's another one where the experience of those watching it as ACD fans from the start in real time and the experience of those getting into it in season 3 with no prior Sherlock knowledge might as well be on different planets). Like, I understand all the representation arguments, I do. I also understand that youth plays in--I had a very different (and very wrong) idea of how writing worked as a pre-teen, especially in shared canons. But either it is canon or it isn't. There's no objective reality to prove it. And if it's canon, 99% of the time they'll fuck it up anyway.
cathexys: Yes to pretty much all of that!
And the thing that bugs me about the slight dismissal/condescension from later fans is that I just want them to do their fucking research. or, like, ASK US!!!
[batdina]: This mirrors my experience of SPN. I watched/read avidly through season 5. And I remember the "RPS is the high road" conversations in seasons 1 and 2, along with the ways in which wincest was written, pretty much exactly as you describe.
I did keep watching (purposefully a season or two behind what was airing), but I disengaged from the fandom itself pretty quickly when it moved to tumblr, and fundamentally became a place I no longer recognised.
yourlibrarian: I suppose it is also like Sherlock fandom in that sense, a new version of an old story that already had fans who watched things tank rather quickly. But I think there was a big exodus of people by the end of S2 when it became clear the show was not going to be what they hoped. And at the same time there are people writing stories jumping off from S1 or S2 as well as postseries S5, rewriting the whole series or rewriting the ending or just making key moments throughout go differently.
[maccamuckk]: Yeah, that pretty much lines up with my memories of the fandom. I came in when season one was still airing, and left at the start of season three, so most of my memories are focused on the season two era on LJ, and there was a MASSIVE debate about sexism in the show sparked by an essay by Monkeycrackmary (who was a fan!) about the fridging of female characters in season one, and the sexism in the fan reaction to Jo Harville (which led to some of the dumbest meta I've ever read about how Dean had such strong feminine energy). A large portion of fandom was LIVID about how Alona Tel was treated, by fans and by the show runners, but no, feminism was invented in season five!
Watching Sarah Z in particular look back on the fandom is frankly like talking someone from fucking Mars.
- [ivyfic]: I’ve been enjoying Sarah Z’s channel for a while now, mostly because it is an anthropological guide into a fandom that is totally alien to me. Like, onceler fandom? Never heard of it. But yeah, it just reminds how far away I am from the action of fandom at this point.
- [maccamukk]: She's great until she starts talking about anything that happened before about 2010, and then I get an eye twitch.
[ivyfic]: Sherlock was such whiplash for me as a fan (clearly like you) of the Jeremy Brett. I read all the books in high school. I loved it initially, loved the fic, but the fandom started tearing itself apart early on. I kept watching the show but stopped reading the meta after the Irene Adler episode. (Irene Adler--the third rail of any Sherlock fandom. Everyone has An Opinion, and everyone is deeply invested in it, because for the love of god, Irene is all we got for women in that canon.) I watched the fan culture evolve from afar in a o.O way. And continuing to watch, my opinion of the show itself got lower and lower. (I have never felt so personally hated on as a fan as I did in 3x01.) hbomberguy's essay was deeply cathartic, even if I don't agree on all points.
[ivyfic]: The narrative around slash fandom now is all about lack of queer representation. Which it is. But it overlooks how much of it was lack of women representation. I've been waiting my whole life for my all-female Three Musketeers. They've rebooted it so many times, including with airships. They could, just once, give me an genderbent cast.
[moth2fic]: Thank you so much for articulating so succinctly the experience of older fans.
I didn't watch many episodes of SPN - I'm happy with monsters in text but onscreen they make me jump which hurts my neck.... But I have dipped into all the fandoms you are talking about (SPN, Stargate, Due South, S&H, Sentinel, etc.) sometimes watching a few eps (or more) and sometimes just reading voraciously, often following writers I admire. The only one where I'm still active is SGA though I'm also in others which are peculiarly Brit and which you haven't mentioned - The Professionals, and Lewis. Those have the same basic premise - a complex relationship between two men.
I'm very aware of SPN and the current angst. My daughter (who introduced me to fandom when I thought my stories were just for me and that maybe I was a little bit mad) has watched the entire show. She writes wincest and J2 and I often do the beta. We are neither of us particularly into the idea of romantic angels...
[pauraque]: I was never in SPN fandom but this was a great read. Love all the clarity and context you bring to it, both in terms of what media we were consuming and in how fandom was shaped by that.
I completely agree with you that slash was born out of media where the only interesting relationships were between men because women were not portrayed as people. Which I think is one of the key reasons that X-Files became a megafandom--it actually did have a female character who was portrayed as a person, and it did have a relationship between a man and a woman that was deep and multilayered and interesting. Of course it's also the reason that XF fan culture became largely defined by the shipper/noromo conflict, because it was actually possible (though not guaranteed) that the central ship would become canon.
[destina]: This is a super interesting post, and it got me thinking. I was writing J2, J3 and Wincest 2005-2008 (especially in the era when Jared was dating Sandy, and J2 were living together in Vancouver), and I actually don't remember it being as locked up or hidden as you do. There were, however, soooo many contentious arguments between friends (mostly on LJ meta posts) about the evils of both genres. I saw friendships break up over it. I think how people reacted to all that depended on how long they'd already been in fandom; if they were sort of new, they didn't lock their stuff up or react to being shamed about it the way some others did. But the SPN-J2 Big Bang allowed all kinds of stories, and people wrote some amazing stuff, which wasn't hidden away.
It's really interesting how, in the 15 years this show was on, fandom did undergo a massive amount of change in its norms, terminology, visibility...all of which is reflected in the fandom itself, and its relationships with the creators. I love the #SPNFamily in concept, but the absolute and total toxicity of how the wincest fans and destiel fans STILL interact (particularly since the finale) is painful to watch, for those of us who were at one time in both those camps at the same time. Also the fans' overlay of expectations on how their ships will be featured or treated, even when the show has shown them what it is (and isn't) about. As the concept of slash has sort of given way to an expectation (and demand) that subtext become/should be text, the things some of us actually enjoy about subtext are being vilified, which is...weird.
It all fascinates me. But I agree, fandom has changed dramatically, and it's bizarre to watch younger fans rewriting history through a skewed lens.
[cofax7]: Like Des, I did not find that either J2 or Wincest was under wraps in the early days of the fandom. I was primarily a gen fan of the show, and IME Wincest in particular was impossible to avoid unless you stayed in a locked corral. Things of course may have been different in other fannish circles.
But it's funny, because at the time, although I found RPF discomforting, I had fewer problems with it than Wincest, because it was (to me) so clearly just using the actors' bodies to tell new and creative stories. Although I certainly would not have wanted the actors to be shown it (which I'm sure has happened).
That said, as you note, the idea that fans of the show only began to notice the misogyny inherent in the storylines and characterizations after season 8 or so is ludicrous. There were SO MANY arguments/discussions about it, and Women's Work was not the first way it was pointed out -- although it was one of the most effective.
I stopped watching in S5 as well: partly because I disliked the turn from a world of monsters that the Winchesters happened to know about to this destiny-based angels-and-demons thing. It felt like a bait-and-switch for the underlying story of the show.
But the other, bigger, issue, was I just gave up when they killed off the Harvelles for no reason at all. Ellen Harvelle was the only female recurring character over 30, and I just couldn't get over that.
Thanks for the memories!
[aethel]: Wild they think no one noticed in 2005 how misogynistic Supernatural was, like 2005 was the Dark Ages. (Is 2020 so much better?) It was noticeably retrograde in its misogyny as I recall, though I actually didn't watch any part of the show until after Castiel was introduced. But I was on LJ so I ended up watching a bunch of vids and reading some fic despite not counting myself as a fan until much later.
[ivyfic]: I would characterize Supernatural in 2005 as air-you-breathe misogyny. Like, bog standard for television, and especially for the horror genre. This just happened to be the fandom where I had my awakening to how incredibly SHIT that is and started tolerating it less.
But I mean, I've watched Criminal Minds. The show Mandy Patinkin walked out on because it was the women torture!porn hour. A lot of the genres I like have this stuff embedded in them, and how much I tolerate varies from day to day.
[melannen]: It boggles the mind that newer SPN fans are positioning things as if the early-season fans hadn't yet learned to care about gender/race/sexuality/culture being represented well! Those of us who were there before Castiel and paid attention to that stuff had pretty much all given up on the show improving that by the time Jo and Ellen died and weirdly, adding a white dude Christian angel to the cast didn't actually convince us it would get better. The reason post-Castiel fandom felt like it was starting from scratch on that several seasons later is because most of us who weren't starting from scratch were already somewhere else.
...while there are many instances of misogyny in the show, I haven't let them put me off. I think there are also many examples of good, strong, non-sexualised women - right out the gates we had Missouri Moseley (also black!), Ellen and Jo (potential sex appeal but resisted to her own credit), even Ruby I; despite being a villain as we later discovered; in this incarnation she wasn't sleeping with Sam so stood on her own merits. Not to mention Mary herself, who was a hunter and not such a Madonna character as she seemed in Dean's eyes. Then later we had Charlie (also LGBTQ representation!) and Rowena - another villain, but such a good one, and we'll just gloss over the unfortunate later liaisons with Gabriel and Ketch which really did her character no favours.
Even the romantic interests were universally strong, independent, clever, all round realistic women, so I've tended to 'read' particularly Dean's linguistic misogyny as a reflection of his culture rather than his mindset. True, he says 'bitch' a lot, but he never disrespects women for their gender, and as for the fridging aspect... well, this show fridges EVERYONE. It even fridges Dean, in the end. TV has a way to go before it can overcome the old stereotypes but I think Supernatural does a pretty good job when it thinks about it, though like any show they can be lazy and fall into common traps with peripheral characters. Don't even get me started on the whole adult!Lilith debacle... But anyway, just as with the lack of queer representation, I never expect TV to represent women well (Buffy was a notable exception, despite what its creator got up to) so overall I have actually been pleasantly surprised by Supernatural's treatment of women, though I won't argue that the usual tired old tropes don't raise their heads.
[yourlibrarian]: SPN had amazing authors, and also artists and vidders. I've been in several major fandoms now and they all have talented people in them. But even at the time I thought SPN had an abundance of riches. I suspect it's because the series was a crosspoint where just about all major authors dabbled in it for a bit, coming from different fandoms and then heading out to an array of others. And it's all the more remarkable given that the fanworks were SO controversial -- a dominant (and nearly only) incest ship where RPS was the less controversial option. I agree, too, that the evolution of RPS fic has been much slower than one would expect given the relative acceptance of slash as a major if not dominant form of writing in many fandoms.
I think that SPN definitely occurred at a time just when fans and creators began occupying the same space. It had started earlier, there was a good bit of it in Buffy fandom, for example. But yes, it had happened by 2010.
[lirazel]: I was only on the outskirts of SPN fandom--I watched the show for the first three or so seasons, I think I wrote like three fics and a handful of crossover ficlets--but with so many of my friends participating in it, I was close enough to observe it, and your articulation of it here is much closer to how I remember it being. Reading this post and through the comments led me back to an earlier era of fandom, one that absolutely had its flaws (you only glancingly reference RaceFail but omg that was so formative for me) but that at least we all agreed that you don't talk about fandom outside of fandom.
And wow--I had totally forgotten about Women's Work, but I read those two words together and got goosebump-inducing flashbacks to watching that vid for the first time. I think it was the first time I experienced a vid as commentary instead of just as a montage of emotions and images set to music. (Well, it was either that or the Buffy vid about how it's Nikki Woods' damn coat.)
- [ivyfic]: There have been multiple racefails and not just in SPN. The one I got flamed in was for SGA. But Racefail was hugely formative for my understanding of race in media. It may be true that the person that you are arguing with on the internet does not learn anything, but I am extremely grateful to the many, many fans who wrote long, thoughtful, well argued comments picking apart all the different aspects, and to linking to other critical essays. I did a lot of reading and a lot of examining of myself even though I never posted (after the first, disastrous, time).
- [lirazel]: Yes, this was my experience as well. I can't say that I'm glad the various racefails (the big one in '09 is the formative one for me) happened because I know they hurt a lot of people. But I'm also grateful for everything I learned during that time.
[jesse the k]: Thanks so much for this insightful criticism.
Given DW's strong foundation I'm confident that it will be readable (and sadly, overlooked) until the unmoored reddit poster is themselves 45.