glitter_n_gore: (mia)
glitter_n_gore ([personal profile] glitter_n_gore) wrote2016-10-17 01:22 pm

Arriving At the Supernatural Party 12 Years Late

Good lord, I let two whole weeks of October go by without posting anything Halloween-y! Shame on me. Let’s fix that.

As some of you know, one of my yearly traditions is the 31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon. The challenge is to watch 31 horror movies--one for every day of the month--up to Halloween. Ideally, they should be movies one hasn’t seen before, but that gap gets harder to fill every year. Plus, I just want to see some of my old favorites again. This year, however, I am a few days off schedule. Partly because of planning and the number of hours in a given day. But mostly because I made the ill-timed decision to start a new television show. You may have heard of it. It’s called Supernatural.

Via Giphy

I wasn’t expecting much. I figured it would be entertaining in a dumb, snarkable kind of way. But here’s something I recently realized: somewhere between deciding to actually watch this properly, then getting hooked to the point of wanting to continue watching more episodes because it’s a lot smarter and more self-aware than I expected, and getting gut-punched by Season 2 in general, and by Episode 17, “Heart,” in particular (it’s about werewolves)--I have become a FAN of Supernatural. Because you know, I was kind of holding it at arm’s length before, mostly because of all the Problematic Issues people have warned me about. However, I was intrigued because so many of my favorite people seem to love it despite those issues, so I wanted to know what was so special about it.

The most basic of plot summaries: Supernatural is a road-trip across the continental US in a midnight-black 1967 Chevy Impala, stopping at all your favorite horror tropes along the way. It’s got werewolves, vampires, demons, ghosts, zombies, cursed objects, urban legends, abandoned places like asylums and cabins in the woods--it’s very much a horror kitchen sink. Our central protagonists are the brothers Winchester, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), Hunters who seek out supernatural beasties and lay waste to them where they can. Their mother was killed by a yellow-eyed demon when Sam was exactly six months old; one side-effect of this was Sam being gifted with psychic abilities, the full implications of which haven’t been explored yet (at least not where I am in the show now--NO SPOILERS). Papa Winchester raised the boys like a drill sergeant, putting weapons and arcane folklore into their hands from a very young age. So the Winchesters have issues. But they are very good at killing monsters.

It should have been an easy sell for me from day one. I like the spin on existing stories that have been part of our cultural miasma for so many years. I like the fact that the Pentagram is identified as a symbol of protection, given it’s so often misappropriated as a Devil-worship type thing, especially in horror. I like the soundtrack that’s almost exclusively late ’70/early ‘80s classic heavy metal. I like the self-aware, comedic tone that balances out the angst and horror nicely. And well, horror has its own issues just in general, but that’s never really stopped me from watching hours of it anyway. Here’s how Mark Oshiro put it when he started watching a few years ago:

I’m coming into Supernatural from someone who adores the genre, despite that it is flawed and a hot mess. If you’re a horror fan, I’ve found you generally see more bad movies than good ones, but some of the bad ones end up making for a great time. About fifteen minutes into “Pilot,” I realized that even if this truly is a problematic show as people have said, I am going to have so much fun yelling at bad decisions.” (Source.)

Yup! That’s it in a nutshell. Horror is notorious for a lot of shitty, predictable plots and shittier, more predictable tropes, especially when it comes to female characters, but dammit it is fun to watch. Yelling “Don’t go in there!” and “Look out behind you!” and “The knife, son, get the knife!” is part of the appeal. However, like Buffy and The X-Files before it, since we’ve got a Monster of the Week style plot for the bulk of the episodes, the common thread has to come from the characters.

And man, these characters are compelling. I imprinted on Sam almost immediately, for a number of reasons that I'm not going to get into today because this post is way too long already. Most days, that's all I need--one character to really care about can pull me through the questionable plotting and laziness. But it's also really well-plotted. And better written than I thought it would be. And the more time I spend with the other characters involved here, the more I start to care about their fates as well, and goodness, I just was not prepared for how deeply this show has gotten its hooks in me.

The reputation I was forewarned about is the show’s dialogue choices and story framing as regards the treatment of LGBTQ+ characters and women. I’m not at the rage-smash point yet, but I can see the problem already: Any character who walks into this show who isn’t Sam or Dean is a cypher to tell us something about them. They exist to either further the character development of these two brothers, or to further the seasonal arc. In other words, it runs on Man Pain. Eh, I’m an angst junkie, and I love tortured characters in general, so I can kinda roll with that. The problem is the show keeps bringing in these other great characters for the audience to care about, and then either killing them off or leaving them behind forever. There are a handful of recurring ones--mainly other Hunters and a bunch of demons--but even they all have expiration dates, I’m sure. Hell, Dean’s already “died” and come back a couple times, and I’m sure he’ll get “killed” at least once more before Castiel shows up. (There are a couple spoilers I did know coming in.) So far, the deaths in service of Winchester angst have been spread out more or less evenly across the gender scale, but I’ve been told that will change.

But you know what? I don't even mind that much. Yeah, I invented a drinking game for when certain words or patterns come up, but I want to stick with this. I want to know how this story ends. I want to see Sam and Dean continue to grow and change as the years pass. I want to get more involved in the fan community, which has been overwhelmingly positive and welcoming every time I've encountered them. Mostly, I'm just basking in the glow of a new fandom. Maybe this is something you can't understand if you don't have that Fandom gene--either you get it, or you don't. But there's something about diving into a fictional world full of monsters, some of which aren't as evil as they first appear, and seeing our heroes either defeat or emphasize with them depending on how the story goes, that I just needed right now.

Happy October, and I'll try to post at least one more thing before we get to Halloween!

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