Go Inside Supernatural’s Unconventional Fandom

Photo: Courtesy of The CW
This fall marks the tenth anniversary of Supernatural — the little show that could. During stints on both The WB and now The CW, it has been bounced around the schedule, including a usually fatal move to Friday night. The show has been to hell and back (literally) multiple times and survived the end of the world, only to discover even more evil for the Winchester brothers to fight.
What surprises me most about Supernatural (known among its fans as SPN) is its core audience. It's a show about two brothers (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) whose core cast includes an angel and the devil, also played by men. The soundtrack is classic rock. It might be the most hetero and original show on TV. The people watching it, however, are largely female and LGBT. They may be some of the most active and opinionated fans out there. What draws this seemingly opposing audience to Supernatural? We spoke to one of the show's fans, Sydney Dares, about what makes her fandom tick. Dares was too young to watch the show when it made its debut, but says that a friend's recommendation and an interest in the show's strong Twitter and Tumblr followings drew her in. She binge-watched the first eight seasons over the course of a month-and-a-half and watched the last two seasons live.
"The first episode that really drew me in was 'Faith' [season 1, episode twelve]. That one got me the most hooked, but it's when you start to realized that the show is more than this neat premise about demons and the supernatural," Dares says in a phone interview. "It's also a show about relationships. The message about family is what drew me in." And the idea of family, perhaps, is exactly the thing that many SPN fans are seeking. They find it not only in the show, but with each other. Dares has nearly 17,000 Twitter followers; her account is mostly made up of Tweets about SPN and fandom. There are SPN conventions constantly, Dares says 13 times a year. The conventions are incredibly popular because stars from the show make it a point to attend as many as they can.
"I met Mark Sheppard, who plays Crowley, in November of last year at Hal-Con [Halifax Supernatural Convention]," Dares says. "I'm going to my first Supernatural convention Thanksgiving weekend this year, so I'm going to meet the whole cast." In return for their dedication, the actors have fans who are involved in their lives far beyond simply being watchers of their TV show. At ComicCon this summer, SPN fans planned a candlelight tribute during the show's panel for Padalecki to honor his revelation in March that he was diagnosed with chronic depression and the start of his charity, Always Keep Fighting. In May, Padalecki canceled conference appearances and asked the fans to Tweet him messages of hope using #alwayskeepfighting. The ComicCon vigil was a surprise to him, a gift from the SPN fandom.
The SPN show universe is complex, which likely appeals to the fandom. In many ways, its political message is liberal. There is no God in their universe and to the dismay of the angels, God has been missing for centuries. The lines of morality are forever being redrawn and the Winchester brothers at the center of it are both nihilists and eternal optimists. That said, there are a few bones of contention between the fans and the show's writers. The main one being: women. There are loads of female characters on SPN, but none of them have ever been in the core group. And there's a problem with the writers constantly killing the women off. It came to a head in season nine when fan favorite Charlie, played by Felicia Day, was sacrificed in the service of facing down the season's villain. It's a debate that has been raging for several seasons and while it may not stop fans from tuning in, it can be a turn-off.
If they're going to add a central female character in the future, Dares hopes she's autonomous and not simply there as a love interest. "A well-developed character who is there for the plot and not just to cater to the boys," is what she requests, noting that Charlie and Jody (played by Kim Rhodes) were fan favorites because they stood on their own, often making better hunters than the guys. "It's Supernatural, people die. A lot," Dares says. "The thing is, I know the show runners realize how upset people are and I'm hoping it means maybe there's an opening for Charlie to come back in the future. Nobody is ever really dead on Supernatural."

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