Supernatural: Queerbaiting, White Men, Misogyny oh my!
Out of mostly sheer boredom and mild curiosity, I’ve been binge watching season nine and ten of CW’s hit show Supernatural over the past couple days. I used to watch the show religiously (pun intended) a couple years ago- often binge watching the first few seasons with a jar of salt clutched to my chest.
*Warning I will talk about spoilers from season one episode one all the way up to season ten episode five (the one I just recently finished).
Like so many things, there are aspects of this show that I just so love. The lore and it’s roots in actual history, religious text, myth, etc, the stories woven into the show’s own reality, the ways in which the show has repeatedly broken the fourth wall and had so many meta episodes (The French Mistake being one of these episodes).
But Supernatural isn’t without problems and as much as I love the show, I have so many questions and so much frustration over how certain issues are handled. So let’s look at some of the issues:
Lady Saika on Lady Geek and Friends wrote about what queerbaiting is and talked about how it happens when the writers/producers/general powers that be of a show acknowledge the fact that some of the characters could have a queer reading in the subtext but never actually make the characters queer in anything more than subtext. Queerbaiting is a way to draw in LGBT individuals with promises of representation without actually ever having real representation. It’s a game of chicken through subtext but subtly yelling ‘no homo!’ before anything real happens.
Supernatural is unfortunately really great at queerbaiting – something that many fans have taken the show to task for. Sadie Gennis wrote a really in depth article about the problem in the show, particularly highlighting that much of the queerbaiting comes from one ship (relationship) in particular and even more so from one main character (Dean) that could very easily (and should definitely) be bisexual. (And should be bi not because it serves any story but because there are bi people everywhere who literally just exist and LGBQ+ orientations don’t exist for stories and plots of television shows.)
Really I should have titled this section ‘lack of diversity’ but really, white men kinda says the same thing. (I’m joking. Mostly.) Anyway, like with the massive amounts of queerbaiting, Supernatural has also been called out for its severe lack of diversity in the 11 years it’s been on air (more or less). The two main characters (brothers Sam and Dean) are both white men and the two of the more recurring characters Crowely and Castiel? Also white men.
Lack of diversity is a larger issue at play in mainstream media but that doesn’t mean Supernatural should be left alone as far as this issue. There are hardly any characters of color in the show, particularly any recurring characters of color.
There is so much misogyny within this show and this is of course related to the lack of diversity in the show and the fact that a majority of the show focuses on men. Some of the women from the show have commented about the misogyny problem Supernatural has, including the fact that Rachel Miner (who played Meg repeatedly) made the comment that she knew that Meg was going to die because she’s a demon chick.
So many of the characters outside of the four leading men have barely lasted more than a few episodes (other than Kevin who lasted quite some time only to eventually be killed). I mean in addition to Kevin dying, there’s the deaths of Ellen, Jo, Bella, Abbadon, Meg, Ruby, Naomi, and many more. (Someone actually started to keep a body count of the show up until season eight, episode ten.) Carly Lane wrote about the ongoing misogyny (and race) problem with the show and at one point, wrote about the problem quite eloquently:
Its problematic treatment of female characters—not to mention characters of color—is a cold, hard truth that’s continued to resonate through the show’s history. If there’s a recurring female character on the show, chances are fairly high that she will be sacrificed in some way in order to further the journey of the male leads.
Ultimately, there is a tiny little part of me that still hopes that the show will be better in the future but with the last ten years behind us, I don’t have any expectations that anything will actually happen. I want to like the show but after ten years, there’s too much bitterness left to be super hopeful that things will change. And I also realize that there are so many other problems with the show (and with the cast, crew, and execs).