Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why You Are Not Yet Watching Supernatural (and 5 Reasons Why You Should Be)

Hey everyone! I'm Selina and I'll be joining the girls here at Chaos, yay! I am a loyal follower of this blog but I noticed that no one is talking about Supernatural! Having recently started watching this show myself, I thought I'd do my part to rectify that a little bit and hopefully peak a few readers' interest in the best show you're not yet watching! In this post I'm going to introduce you to Supernatural, tell you why your reasons for not watching this show are completely unfounded, and then give you the top five reasons why you should give it a go!

Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. Why. So. Seriousss?

Considering the copious amount of television I watch and the variety of genres I enjoy, there is a number of popular TV series that I don't watch, that I've never even given a chance: some I just haven't gotten around to, like Bones (I know, scandalous!), and some I just don’t really feel like watching, for whatever reasons. It's very hypocritical of me considering how hard I judge those people who refuse to watch Lost, but really, we've all got those shows that we know nothing about except that we won't like them so why even bother giving them a try? Supernatural used to fall into the latter category for me, and I remember meeting my housemate for the first time last year – she was also a big Heroes fan see, and doesn’t watch Lost, so I was already skeptical of her taste – and smiling benignly at the Sam Winchester poster on her wall... and then doing a double take because next to that was a Dean Winchester poster, as in, "Omfg-it’s-Jensen-Ackles-from-Dark-Angel zomg I luuuuurve him!!11" (as I am pretty sure was my exact reaction). But I never gave it much thought beyond that, I just drooled a bit on her poster and left.

The thing about me, though? I’m a pleaser. I'm not even kidding, I really, desperately want people to like me. So after a while of me and my housemate not really clicking, despite both being real-life fangirls and her being the first person I’d ever met who actually used the words "flist" and "fanfiction" in sentences, I borrowed some Supernatural from her in the hopes that we’d have something to talk about. And also partially to avoid studying for my exam. Heh.

So I watched the first episode... and was notably underwhelmed. Uh, okay, they fought a random demon. Come on, it was fine for Buffy and The X-Files, but we're in a post-Lost era now! Monsters of the week are not really going to cut it for me anymore. But whatever, it's not like I had anything better to do (ahem) so I kept watching. It has to be said that while I appreciate the first season more now after having caught up, the show doesn't really get amazing until about halfway through season 2, when it writers also realized that weekly monsters wouldn't cut it, and started making the show funny. I’m not a big gore fan, was never able to watch The X-Files, but after four seasons of Supernatural I'm pretty much immune to it. I watch for the relationship of the brothers, the snarky, self-referential humor (the highlights being the episode commenting on the writers' strike where two random guys run around with a video camera looking for ghosts and calling themselves the "Ghostfacers", and when Sam and Dean discover that they have fans on the Internet – it sounds stupid but it’s hysterically funny, I kid you not), I respect the show because it's not afraid to poke fun at itself but is still good enough to turn from hilarious to poignant and heartbreaking in a moment.

Supernatural isn't the most popular, or highest rated show out there. The cast consists of two guys, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, who play brothers, so really there is no chance of an ongoing, developing romance, which I'm guessing is a BIG turn-off for most of you. Well, let me tell you something: romance? After watching half a season of this show you will wish ill fortune on all the houses of those darn women who come in between the Winchester brothers! Seriously, the story goes that Jensen and Jared met while shooting the Pilot, are now best friends, share a house and never fight. And it's really paid off in terms of the show because I've never seen two actors with better chemistry, and I've never cared more about a relationship that had nothing to do with romance whatsoever (Wincest, you say? Ew, I say). Trust me, you will want those ladies OFF your boys, and the brothers' bond will only grow stronger as the show progresses.

So to sum up: I understand your hesitance, if you don't like scary and you got your fill of fruitless shipping with The X-Files (ok, it bore a little fruit. Like, a grape... and a baby), but you will not be disappointed in this case. Here’s my top five reasons why you should join me in my Supernatural frenzy and catch up before the fifth and possibly final season, beginning September 2009:

It’s official: everyone wants a taste of Jensen Ackles.
(SPN 4x05 "Monster Movie")

5. The specials: Starting around the second half of season two, Supernatural begins to introduce a lot of "special" episodes: the writers' strike episode, the black and white "classical horror" episode, the Hollywood episode, the Christmas episode, the flashback, the time travel... et cetera. This is good because while the ongoing storyline is really interesting (especially in seasons 3 and 4) there's only so many original places they can go with that, but within the scope of one episode Eric Kripke (the creator) can go all out bat shizzle crazy, with amazing results that are not only cool on their own but actually matter in terms of character development (the drive to return the characters to status quo and therefore resorting to overlooking any development is generally a prevalent fault in the use of standalone episodes on television), and then blame it on some demon and kill it off, resolving the problem. There's a giant teddy bear, guys. Few shows can get away with stuff like that. It speaks to the brilliance of the writing.

"OMG Sam was lying, I so do not have moobs!"
(SPN 4x01 "Lazarus Rising")

4. The shirtlessness: Hahaha. No harm in saying what is definitely a key reason for Supernatural’s dedicated fanbase (I like to compare them to the Twihards). Jensen is supernaturally attractive, pun totally intended, and Jared Padalecki is pretty damn fine too, and while there's not a lot of shipping going on in the show, that doesn't stop them showing off their um, assets, and you can probably manage to forgive the girls that get in their pants along the way because they allow us to see some different sides of our beloved boys. There's a reason why the audience of such a serious, shipping-free, dark action/adventure show is 99% female. Just saying.

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki pour their hearts and souls into this show every single week, and all most people care about is their six-packs. It just breaks your hearts, doesn't it boys?
(SPN 2x02 "Everybody Loves a Clown")

3. The acting: It's funny that on this relatively narrow-reaching, unknown show, so much effort is just poured into its production every week, from everyone who's involved, but most notably (for the viewers at least) the actors. In most shows you'll have a decent sized cast to share the workload and the hours, but on Supernatural we've only got two regular cast members who are in almost every scene - every single week. And yet they manage to deliver amazing, funny, believable, heartbreaking performances. Every single week. You don't always see a great deal of consistency in- and attention being paid to characterization in shows like these, which you expect to focus on the action and monsters-of-the-week, yet Sam and Dean are both believable, multi-layered, understandable, surprising, relatable characters... a lot of shows could take a leaf out of SPN's book here! They are both incredible actors but Jensen Ackles especially stands out: his crying scenes are just top notch, and the range of emotions he can express on screen just make him so fully realized. You feel how much Dean cares for his brother, and how far he will go to protect him. Jared Padalecki is especially good at the humorous scenes, though Jensen's got some classic moments as well, but it's when they work together that they both shine the brightest. They just could not have picked two actors who worked better together, and the fact that they've gone so long and worked so much and yet the atmosphere is (as far as we know) still great on set just proves that fact.

There are precious few hugs between the brothers through the series, because when it finally happens it has to be ultimately cathartic for both the characters and the audience.
(SPN 3x11 "Mystery Spot")

2. The "Wincest": Ew, no, not like that. I understand why some people wish that the two guys weren't brothers, because if they weren't the show could in theory set up a pretty epic romance, but the fact is that they are brothers. Full stop. And I don't wish that they weren't, because if you ignore the crazy people that want them to be together-together, the "love story" that Supernatural tells is one of the most beautiful that's ever been told on television and this is largely due to the fact that they are already family. They're all each other have. "You're my weak spot, and I'm yours," Dean tells Sam. They can only get away with sappy stuff like this because they're brothers and a romance is completely out of the question, and I'm glad because it's just so cute! Watching them fight evil together, looking out for each other, sacrificing themselves to save each other because they know they couldn't go on alone, that's what kept me watching through the first season (which is pretty generic, but trust me when I tell you to stick it out), and which just continues to pull at my heartstrings every episode. Their bond is so convincing, and it’s probably partially because the actors have gotten so close off-screen, and partially because of how well they are able to channel their characters, but whatever the reason it's really made the show what it is, and is one of the main reasons the show has made such a positive impression on me.

"We know you've had it hard during the crippling writers' strike [but] who needs writers when you've got guys like us? Our team faced horrible horrors to bring you the footage that will change your world forever. So strap in for the scariest hour in the history of television."
(SPN 3x13 "Ghostfacers")

1. The satire: This is my top personal reason why Supernatural stands out among the masses of shows I've watched. See, sci-fi/fantasy shows tend to take themselves hella seriously, and in most cases they need to in order to keep the audience invested in storylines that are completely implausible to begin with, and that's fine but when we're talking about B-list shows we tend to get a lot of recycled storylines, developments and character stereotypes. Take teen shows for example – they've got five or six different ways they can develop the story: pregnancy, death, appearance of unknown/missing relative, marriage, time jump, etc., and they always use them all! It's so repetitive. But see, Supernatural is not above clich├ęs of its genre, and doesn't try to disguise something as original but rather goes to great lengths to point out the recycling. Supernatural doesn't claim to be anything more than what it is, and therein lies its brilliance. Supernatural knows it resembles The X-Files, and is not above referring to Sam and Dean as Mulder and Scully. It knows that there are certain gay connotations about the two main characters, and is not above commenting on this ("Don't they know we're brothers?!" "That doesn't seem to matter to them.") within the show. One of my favorite moments of the entire series is in season two when Sam and Dean are looking into a mystery in Hollywood and they go through the CW lot, and as they pass the Gilmore Girls set, they cut to Sam/Jared Padalecki's face (Jared used to star on Gilmore Girls) looking uncomfortable. These little moments that just say "we know this is crazy, but just go with us and enjoy it" are very precious and I feel very flattered as an audience member whenever I catch one of their little hint hint wink winks... if you’re a Lost fan, I'm sure this will appeal to you too. Like Geronimo Jackson posters or the numbers on the hatch door, only incorporated into the script.

There. Are. No. Words.
(SPN season 1 gag reel)

Also, an honorable mention goes to the bloopers. Not really a part of the show, but Supernatural has the funniest bloopers I have ever seen – yes, better than the Alias bloopers! If you're still not convinced after reading this, find the season 1 bloopers on YouTube (I don't think they're too spoilery), and see how great an atmosphere there is on the set, it'll make you want to watch the show just cause of the positive energy that went into creating it!

And there you have it. Thank you for giving me a chance to convince you to give up your precious time on yet another TV series (as I'm sure you've all got plenty as it is), and I'm very excited to be with you here on Chaos - and for single-handedly establishing the little "Supernatural" link that now appears in the link to the right! So did I convince you? Have you already seen the show? Or do you share in the "CW snobbery", which I had no idea even existed before today?! Let me know what you think!

(Credit to Screencap-Paradise for the episode images used in this post.)

10 Responses to “Why You Are Not Yet Watching Supernatural (and 5 Reasons Why You Should Be)”

Nothing against your guys, but there's no way any gag reel beats the Firefly one. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

^ "My cartridge fell out of my gun!" Epic win!

Anyways, I've just got into SPN (s1) and the thing I most agree with here is the whole non-shipping aspect. I'm a pretty constant shipper, but whenever there are women on this show I'm always like "Stay awaaay! Don't ruin the dynamic!" which is a very unusual move for me. Totally agree with this blog ;)

Selina said...

Katherine, I haven't seen the FIrefly bloopers so I'll have to watch those (maybe I should watch the show first though lol)! But I just love the SPN bloopers cause they show how great of a dynamic there is on set. This is a very special one, where Jared missed his cue (he was supposed to appear when Jensen was still lying down) and Jensen decided to just wing it: It's one of my favourites! :D

Thanks for commenting guys!!

Anonymous said...

great post! you pretty much summed up all the reasons i couldn`t live without supernaturals any more!!! i`ll take your list in order to convince some of my friends to finally give spn a try!
winchesters forever!!!!

Unknown said...

I tried to watch supernatural, and the xenophobic message I found was disgusting. In that show:

a) Characters are judged by their nature not by their actions;

b) Negative subjective beliefs prevail over acknowledgment, and always end up being true; the main characters are two brothers were the brother full of prejudices is always right (not because he has objective information) and the younger brother who is not “like us” and is not afraid to develop his abilities, is always wrong;

c) Obedience and conformity are rewarded, while individuality and confidence are punished; if the younger brother doesn’t obey and pretend to be normal, if he insists to embrace what he is, he is condemned to be always wrong, he is condemned to be “a loser.

Everything sends a message, and till now, Supernatural´s message is horrible and devastating: if you are different you are fuck*d ("I’m sorry, it is what you are, doesn’t matter how much you try, how much you pray, how good your intentions are, you are destined to fail, to be a loser, not even god is going to love you"), and the only thing you can do if you don’t want to be a burden, is to repress and deny your identity

Besides xenophobia, there are other horrible, wrong messages(for example, the relationship between the two brothers is so unhealthy that sometimes it seems that they are from a century ago, because now everybody knows that isolation from society is unhealthy, that communication is the way to avoid and solve problems,that repression makes people accumulate anger, etc, etc).

Selina said...

Hmmmm, how far into the show have you gone? Because I think the facts that you mention, especially the last one, are built up the way they are so that later their impact on the characters can be explored. Take Dean, for example. He's built up to be this devil-may-care superior character - which it is made very clear later in the show is an act, a facade to cover his intense self-loathing and how messed up he is.

When Sam dies at the end of season 2, Dean says: "I guess that's what I do, I let down the people I love. I let dad down. And now, I guess I'm supposed to let you down, too. How can I? How am I supposed to live with that? What am I supposed to do, Sammy?" and proceeds to sell his own soul to bring his brother back. Bobby corners him later and shouts at him, asking if Dean is really that MESSED UP to think that his life had to little meaning. This show isn't fucking around, it knows exactly how its characters are being portrayed. Agent Hendrickson alludes to them being abused by their dad in one episode - because this is how a casual observer might interpret their actions and their behaviour towards each other/outsiders. The fact is that their upbringing DID mess both Sam and Dean up, and Supernatural is exploring this throughout the show. In season 4, the darkness inside Sam really gets to him and he does some terrible things: this isn't about him embracing who he really is, this is about him fighting something inside him that he doesn't wish to be associated with, and when that something is EVIL I think he's pretty justified.

I guess by submission you're referring to the fact that Dean guilt trips Sam to give up his education and become a hunter? If so, I remember feeling that same frustration when watching the Pilot... but it all makes sense if you keep watching.

Really, I don't want to just sit here and try to debunk your claims, because you're entitled to them, but this is EXACTLY what I find happens with Supernatural and the general population. You're making excellent poitns, but rather than it being a real criticism of the show you're actually pointing out the first half of the argument for why it's brilliant. I tried to fill in the second half - very condensed, I could honestly discuss this for days! It's one of those shows that is deeper than average, and it puts people off because we're used to being able to tell everything about a show by skimming the surface. Supernatural is very similar to Battlestar Galactica: there's no hiding anything, or making it pretty, there's only cold hard truths and damaged, messed up characters who try to make the best of really, really crappy situations. That's one of the deeper themes of the show, not a surface observation like, it's really funny, or the boys are really cute. Again though, this argument would take 10 pages at least to explore fully.

Also, I'm not religious so maybe I just find it refreshing that in this show, it's not about God. And when it is, in season 4, it's not any definition of God which TV usually has the balls to explore.

Hope you'll read this and maybe it'll be a new angle. :)

Selina said...

Just to clarify, cause reading back my comment was a bit jumbled: Your observations are accurate and very insightful, but it is very intentional from the writers' and actors' side to portray the characters this way, because it allows for deeper issues to be explored than regular television shows might do. It's one of the reasons, along with the blatant postmodernism, that the show fascinated me so much when I watched it. There's not many shows whose praises I'll sing as high as SPN's, and the fact that it's so relatively unknown only adds to my fascination with it. Lost, Battlestar Galactica, the reason these shows are brilliant is in large because their characters are so inherently messed up, and LAYERED. There's never just one side to anything, and TV writing is at its most brilliant when it acknowledges this. Supernatural presents the xenophobia not as the order of the day, but as a THEME which is explored richly and fully. What is normal? The Winchester brothers, whose side we are on by default, are they necessarily in the right? As much as we come to emphasise with the close bond they have, is it necessarily healthy? NO. This is addressed repeatedly throughout the show. But if we're then faced with two brothers who ARE like this, what then? That's what the show explores.

Anyway. Sorry. You just triggered my need to discuss Supernatural like a grown-up! :)

Unknown said...

I wish things were as you said, but I think you love the show and you see what you want to see.

You said supernatural “explores”. WHEN? Until season 4, they never explored anything. By exploring I understand at least having access to more than one perception of an specific issue, and that is EXACTLY WHAT SUPERNATURAL LACKS: more than one position, more than only dean’s pov (who happens to be full of prejudices).

Sam “the monster” didn’t have a voice. The audience never knew what he was thinking and feeling. As long as I remember, he never explained his actions, he never talked about the effects of the demon blood in his body (btw, demon blood he had since he was a child), what weird compulsions he feels, if he feels that an evil entity is taking control of his body, or whatever… bla, bla, bla. The only thing he said about his powers, was that he was in control, and he was right on that, because he used and used his powers and nothing happened, he didn’t turn evil.

Some of those “horrible” things he did (lying and “boohoo”), we all have done, others like the demon blood addiction are disgusting but not evil, and the only thing he did that was not right (not exorcising the nurse and killing her), he did it to save the world and if that is not enough, he did it crying and full of remorse. What kind of evil creature is that? Honestly, where is that monster that Kripke made us judge and condemn so willingly?

Unfortunately, at least until season 4, there is no monster, only a practical, bitter, lonely guy who has demon powers and wants to stop the apocalypse. All the repression, all the rejection, all the isolation he suffered (and that was shown as good) was for nothing.

The apocalypse was not the result of having demon blood or using demon powers; it was the result of a plan, of a destiny, of Sam’s desperate need to prove or get something we don’t know (he didn’t have a voice, he never explained why he was so desperate to be the hero), of Sam having to fight alone (against demons, angels, god, ruby, dean), and of course, of Sam’s irresponsibility to trust in ruby without a backup plan.

And this is a perfect example of the problem: the message the show sent was not to condemn sam for being stupid and irresponsible (because that was not even mention), the message sent was to condemn him for trying to save the world using his powers, in other words, for disobeying and not being afraid of being who he really is.

Selina said...

We could go back and forth on this issue forever - obviously you've given this a great deal of thought and grounded your argument, and as have I. I would just like to add that I don't see things this way "because I love the show" - I love the show because I recognise big, important themes running through the show, positive themes and messages about society.

You describe an issue which many Supernatural fans have taken with the treatment of Sam's character. It has nothing to do with xenophobia however, it is simply a story device used to empathise the growing divide between Sam and Dean, and to pit the brothers on opposite sides of the angel/demon war. You can read into it what you want of course, but I think you have to look very closely and selectively to find dangerous or horrible hidden agendas in this course of action... just like I've looked hard to find my arguments for how the show is good, but surely if this cancels out both our extreme views, the show can't be as horrible as you claim?

My own personal view - which again is as biased and specific and yours, but I none the less thought I'd share with you because it's always interesting to hear alternative readings of a text - is that rather than expressing a hatred for the different or the unknown, Supernatural is actually promoting unification. Not through exclusion, but through (more directly but none the less relevantly) fighting evil. Fighting the monsters, who represent the evil in society. Look at the horsemen: death, war, famine, etc. The ills of society that threaten the human race as a whole, this is the symbolic fight which the Winchesters have dedicated their lives to. Whether or not they win will say a great deal about the state of the world, but no matter which way it goes, it already has made great comments on our society, both the obvious (Paris Hilton and the idol culture, for one), and the more abstract like in this week's episode.

It's always nice to be able to find deeper meanings and ideologies in TV shows, whether they be positive or negative. I would never claim that Supernatural is all positive, there are deep founded issues both with the representation of gender and the issues you have raised, but personally I see the show as mainly highly underrated, much deeper than people give it credit for, and providing great commentary on the state of the world. It's all shades of grey, but don't judge SPN so hard for that because it's the same story no matter what show we are talking about.

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