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A Few Fandom Musings

A hot debate has blossomed on the current season of Supernatural within the fandom. Some are thoroughly enjoying it. Others---well---not so much. As this is really my first anniversary more or less being a fan, I can't say I agree with the latter as much. Oh, I see some of their points, don't get me wrong, but I am getting to that happy medium where I'm beginning to think that a good amount of the criticism is a combination of impatience and blowing some things out of proportion.

Here's the main issues (not in any real order) that seem to be creating the divisions in my view:

1) I love Cas. I miss him. They should bring Cas back.
I find this argument the most amusing one. Don't get me wrong, I love Cas and Misha Collins, too. I can't imagine any other actor/actress reprising the role of our nerd angel turned God turned Leviathan. He was a great addition to the show, brought another layer into it that I really enjoyed and liked, but I don't think that Cas is the most essential thing for the show. I watch it for Sam and Dean, really. Cas is cool, but look at how many episodes after his introduction that he wasn't even in. All last season, when I was dipping my toes into the fandom, trying to find my particular niche in it, I heard over and over and OVER how so many people supposedly wanted the Angel Storyline to end already and get back to the brothers. Well, there ya go. It has. Now we're all whining that we want Cas back and how could they get rid of him. Sure, you could argue whether the way it was handled was good, bad, or ugly until your blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is he's gone---and let's be honest, what true Supernatural fan thinks any character is truly gone GONE for good (Jo Harvelle just made a damn appearance in season 7 and she's been dead since season 5. Her mother appeared the year prior. Yeah.) I don't know how or in what role Misha Collins will return as, but I am fairly certain that he's not totally out of the Supernatural fabric. Anyone who asked him questions at the recent Chicago Con and got a lot of "I don't know anything more than you" should know that's code for "I can't discuss that due to my contract and if I were to speak of my possible return I could get fired, so back off bitches!" All in all, I'm finding that if you're a Cas fan, you're upset about season 7 in some ways thus far. If you didn't like Cas or didn't feel that the show hung upon his character, you're not feeling too, too badly about his absence. If you hated him, I think you're dancing for joy.

2) I want the show to go back to its roots./It's getting repetitive. They're pretending like the last three seasons didn't exist.
Oy vey. What a land mine THIS argument is. Last season, again, all I heard through the various first brushes with fandom was how the Angel Storyline had more or less corrupted the show and taken it away from Sam and Dean. So many screamed that they wanted THE BROTHERS, JUST THE BROTHERS. Be careful what you wish for, gentle viewer. You may not like what you get, huh? They dumped the angel storyline. Check. They refocused on the brothers. Check. So what's the complaint now? We've seen this all before. We have, but I argue in some ways that we haven't. Sam and Dean's lives were totally railroaded after Dean came back from Hell. Sam was being manipulated and used by Ruby, Dean was struggling with his Hell memories and being turned into an Angel's puppet. Neither brother had the chance to truly reconnect and heal from the trauma that happened in "No Rest for the Wicked." And now they've got some more issues on the table (Sam's own Hell which I don't think is over with, the Leviathans) to add to what they've never addressed. We're seeing Sam, finally whole again for the first time since the end of season 6, trying to feel out his closed off brother and so he's fallen into old patterns and old ruts only to clash against Dean's old patterns and old ruts. They're stuck and they don't really know who each other is anymore or how they mesh and that's why we're seeing some of what we're seeing. Dean is Sam's anchor and he'll only be good at that if he can get his head wrapped around who he is.

3) Season 4 Is the BEST season when it comes to writing.
This one is a bit more complex, I'm finding that for as many people who claim that they love Season 4 the most, there's an equal portion who absolutely HATED season 4. It seems, again, if you find yourself struggling with this season, you choose season 4 as the best season ever. If you feel that another season was better or hated season 4, you're doing alright. Personally, I think this issue stems far more from a Kripke vs Gamble thing. Kripke always set a season up to have an end goal (find dad, kill YED, save Dean(and fail), stop the 66 seals (and fail), put Lucifer back in his cage (success, but with huge loss), where as Gamble's style is to choose a theme (noir, B-,movies this season) to model things off of. You can argue for each side and still have the division amongst the fans. It's a matter of letting it be, I think. Each season is its own thing and to really go out of your way to compare the two show runners (although that's never going to stop) is only setting yourself up for a disaster of a viewing experience.

4) The show is too dark. There is no more hope left for the boys. They fail far more than they succeed.
This is not new, folks. Hell, look at what happened in season 2 no less! Sam DIES in Dean's ARMS. Is that really a success? Really? Sure, Sammy came back thanks to the deal, but is that a "win" for the Winchesters? And season 3, they FAIL to break Dean's deal and he goes to Hell anyways. Season 4 ends with Sam breaking the very last seal and springing Lucifer free.That's a big "win" there. And then to fix that, Sam has to jump in with him into the pit. Sure, they stopped the Apocalypse their own way and all that, but are we really going to go out of our way to say that was a win? Those are all Kripke showrunner decisions, by the way. Gamble may have them isolated and in a corner. Dean may be struggling with nightmares and drinking too much. They might seem like they're going through the motions, but I'm going to argue right here right now that you're supposed to pick up on that. Last season, again, as I dipped my toes in the fandom pools, I noticed that a lot of early season 6 critiques whined that the "soul of the show" was missing. Uh, because it was? Sam = Soul, Dean = Heart. Which leads me to....

5) The show doesn't have any heart like it used to.
Uh, if Dean IS the heart of the show and he's not feeling chipper or his head isn't in the game really, then perhaps the heart of the show IS missing. Much like they had to get Sam's soul back to get the show's "soul" back, they have to get Dean out of his rut and fired up. Give him his heart back and the show will have its heart back. Right now, they've got him floundering and trying to figure something out about himself that he's never considered before: who he is. Dean has always been far too busy "watching Sammy" to even know who Dean really is. Thanks, John. John may have had many reasons to do this to his eldest---but I figure it's cause he feared Sam being the monster. Dean took it to mean that John saw Sam as the favorite child and the most important thing in the whole world. Right now, Dean's not sure if that's who he wants to be anymore---the big brother who has nothing of his own. Season 3 saw him start this debate, really. His (now missing) leather jacket was his fathers. His music. John's. His baby? Dad's again. Sam is his little brother, but he's also John's son. Dean's suffering a severe identity crisis on top of an intense grieving process with the loss of Castiel. So yeah, he does his hunts and he goes with his black and white view, but let's be honest, his heart is bleeding out on the floor and it hurts us to see and so we notice that the show's heart is missing. I'm guessing we'll get it back before long because Dean can only idle so long before he dies or gets his ass in gear. Oh, and to add some fuel to the "heart" debate, check this article, posted just yesterday saying just the opposite! It says that this show HAS so much heart, so hey. http://peoplesworld.org/tv-s-supernatural-a-horror-drama-about-real-family-values#PageComment_22254

6) They kill off too many of the characters.
I think this one has been said to death a million times. John. Bela. Jo. Ellen. Ash. Ruby. Rufus. Balthazar. Gabriel. Zachariah. Samuel. Need I really go on? Fine. The brothers themselves. Here's the thing. We, as fans LOVE this show. I can't tell you how many people who are not fans critique the show on this point alone. They kill people only to bring them back over and over---especially Sam and Dean. Sure, they've got some credence in their point, but they're not really getting it. Sure, some fan favorites are gone, but let's be honest, a few of them (I'm looking at you, Bela.) have huge hate factions within the fandom that did a dance when they bought it---and some of them weren't even villains (I'm looking at you, Jo)! The argument that they must repopulate the landscape outside of Sam and Dean is a bit valid, but we don't really know who we'll meet this season until well---we've met them!

7) The show doesn't have a moral purpose in season 7.They let too many monsters go but Dean killed Amy. What gives?
Oh really. Much has been made about Dean killing the kitsune Amy---most look at it negative because of the secret keeping from Sam and feel it was a poor storyline idea. First, Dean's killing of Amy is symbolic. He sees himself as a monster and so he was killing that portion of himself by killing her. Second, the moral debate that I see emerging when this secret comes out is this: monsters kill humans. hunters arrive and kill monsters. Do monsters have the right to live as much as humans or are they simply that, monsters, and therefore need to be put down for the good of human kind living mostly oblivious to them? This is a grey area and one they've touched on but never fully explored in the past. Lucifer was a monster, and no one would dare argue he has a right to live free. But what about Lenore the vampire (killed in season 6 by Cas) that fed off of animal blood? Sam and Dean let her go once, so why is everyone so upset that they did the same to the Starks, witches that overpowered them with Gypsy witchcraft and age---all because Dean killed Amy? Really? That doesn't make any sense. They never managed to beat the Trickster, turned Gabriel, either. And even when they had him trapped and COULD have killed him, Dean didn't. He's the one that put the fire out and walked away. So again, really?

8) The writing isn't as good as it used to be. (The elephant in the room here, folks.)
I argue that's also a matter of above issues. Depending what side you fall on with some of these, you feel it's great or not. I have also think this is more proof of what I'm going to call the DVD Box Set Effect. Those, like me, that could speed demon through the entire series and get caught up don't seem to be as frustrated with this season as those that say started watching from the start OR started watching before mid-season 4. The fact that you could watch the series so rapidly and get the pay offs, you don't feel the slow pace in watching it live now, or at least I don't. Having to wait week to week to week is part of the problem. Throw in a couple hiatus periods and it gets worse. The fact that people are so up in arms over some of the episodes so far (we've only had FIVE out of TWENTY THREE) also puzzles me. Consider this: each season has its handful of lesser than episodes than others, even season 1, the start of it all. (I'm looking at you, Bugs, Route 666). I'm also going to let you in on a secret. I tried, when I first fell head over heels with this show to share it with a friend of mine that I thought would love it. Five episodes in and I KNEW she hated it but kept hoping she'd start to see what I saw so I kept at it. She never stopped hating it, guys. In her view, Dean is a terrible older brother that is "mean" to sweet Sammy and that Sam should ditch him like a damn hot potato. She still thinks that even AFTER seeing him sell his soul for the kid. Yeah. I don't get her view either. She wouldn't come out and say that she hated it direct, but her absolute hatred for 90% of the episodes I loved drove me wild. Mystery Spot is a fan favorite, really. She despises it. She HATES the Trickster/Gabriel character so much that when I visited her, fresh off my Con experience, when I decided to watch it while she walked the dog, she came in, saw him on the screen and said "I hate that guy" even though she KNOWS it's one of my favorites. I told her to skip Ghostfacers and she didn't and got mad and ranted about what a waste of an episode that was. She hated Ben Edlund's suicidal talking Teddy Bear from Wishful Thinking and if I mention it on a whim to see her riled for fun first words out of her mouth is this: "That's just bad writing." So, really, while this season's start after the first two haven't been the best of the best of the best, really? Until we get to the end of the season and can look back at what those episodes lead to, how can we truly KNOW for sure if this is good, bad, or ugly? For the record, my friend also hated 99.9% of all the meta styled episodes and all of the MOTW episodes, especially if they centered on ghost, a huge staple from day one of the show.

So, what does this all mean? I think it means that each one of us in the fandom has to sit down and perhaps think about why we watch this show each week, why we (a little unhealthily) obsess over it, and what it has given to us before we raise massive alarm bells over the writing direction thus far on a very very very young season. I'll start:

This show first of all gave me something to watch and enjoy. It got me hooked on a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed turning over like a puzzle in my brain endlessly, which then gave rise to me doing something I hadn't since I had graduated college: pick up a pencil and write again. I managed to go to a convention this summer and meet Jared Padalecki, the actor I'd LOVE see bring my story life on screen as my main character, to which he seemed genuinely touched. I have a lot of friends I didn't before within what we call the Supernatural Family (as temperamental as they seem to be). I have the courage to dream big and do things even if it scares me---that hey, despite Sam and Dean's penchant for dying a lot and coming back, we only live once and to hold back for safety's sake sometimes leads to regrets and that to go for it is always the answer. Hell, with the Twitter connections to the show and people who are in it/make it, I feel so close to it, more than any show EVER. It's given me more than I can ever imagine and more and I can't imagine abandoning it now.

I have been here before. I was an avid X-Files fan, and I have to say that the fandom for that show was the most vicious I've ever been part of. I was only in high school, but I fell into the nit picker group and now I can't really watch it again without the bitter taste of how it ends and realizing that I let my own disapproval and the bitter fandom ruin it for me. I will NOT let that happen to Supernatural. I am here for the ride. I want them to tell me a story and take me some place. I want to see where it goes. I don't want to put any expectations upon it or demand anything from it. Mostly, I don't want to let go of why I fell in love with it in the first place: two incredible and unforgettable characters that have forever captured my heart.

Far Away Eyes

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I agree with you on nearly every point, my dear! Thanks for taking the time I couldn't to put a lot of things into words. :)

I'm glad you liked what I have to say. I'm not saying there aren't valid points, I just feel that it's very early in the season to be practically throwing this one away as bad. And hey, my friend proves that just because we feel that seasons 1-5 are excellently written over all, some feel that it isn't and so this is such a subjective thing.

Well said, m'dear! And maybe that it's just that I came into the series mid-season 6, but I'm not seeing any reason to panic. I ended up pretty happy with season 6 aside from a few loose ends, but when everything was said and done, I liked the final product. And that's given me the patience to wait this season out and see where it goes. Episodes that didn't seem significant at first last season ended up meaning much more in hindsight.

I'm sure it also helps that I'm not a huge Cas fan. I liked him (though I think I like Misha more and transfer some of that to Cas) but never loved him like many fans. I don't doubt we'll be seeing him again around hiatus, but the point is that his loss never quite hit me like it did a lot of other fans who adore him. I watch for Sam and Dean and that's what we're getting this season. I really like the dialed back feel so far and just know things are gonna get crazy again. Sam's gonna crack, Dean's gonna come clean, Cas is gonna return, and Bobby's gonna be the father figure they need through it. People just need to calm down and let things play out as they will.

I think Linda is right. It is a 1st Gen vs 2nd Gen type fan thing. You and I started watching at some point during the last season, got caught up, and are enjoying the ride for the ride at this stage more or less. I think a lot of the latest news (Jensen's Q&A about scripts) have been twisted or blown out of proportion. From the way I read it, it sounds like they've come across lines in the past (and not just season 6/7) that they feel is not in character and while they rewrite those lines they don't necessarily change what it says.

I also think, yes, Cas is a lynch pin for fans. Like I said, I find it hilarious to an extent. I don't know how much you dabbled in the fandom before joining, but as I felt my way, I just saw a lot of people grousing that he's taken the show away from Sam and Dean and that they want the angels gone. It just baffles me that we're now seeing the opposite.

And I think this is another quibble to chew on: Kripke went from micro (finding Dad) to macro (the Apocalypse). Gamble has taken it from macro (the Apocalypse) to micro (the brothers alone facing a new and unknown enemy). I don't know if it'll go macro by season's end or not, but so far it's getting smaller for them and some have issue with that. It's showrunner vs showrunner for me more than anything.

Edited at 2011-10-27 11:13 am (UTC)

I think that makes a lot of sense. It would be interesting to do a survey of a bunch of fans to see when they started watching and what their opinions are to really get a sense of it. The controversy is just so interesting to me because everyone was so gung-ho about season 7 after the first two fantastic episodes, then all of a sudden BAM, the show is being ruined, waah!

People are never going to be completely satisfied. That's no fun on the internetz. And I agree with some of the criticisms being leveled at the show re: the writing, but at the same time, you're right, we're only 5 episodes in of 23. Come on, people. Season 5 was my favorite even though it had its share of weaker episodes, but the overall arc was so strong in that season that the stronger episodes absolutely carry it. If 7.01 and 7.02 are indications of the good episodes for the season, then I'm completely behind it. I'm crossing my fingers for "Slash Fiction" to be as awesome as it's promising to be any maybe some of the hate will die down a bit.

That's part of why I'm feeling frustrated with the whole thing, I think. We WERE all excited and on board with how great season 7 is and then we run into a couple monster of the week type things and BAM it's all going down hill and being ruined and oh my god! Like, WTF? I see some points and I will not take their right to say that away from them, but sheesh. I agree with you on season 5. Some of the eps were not as strong as the overall season and that's why I never judge a season until I've seen it all. I was pretty happy with season 6 overall. Was it perfect? No, but none of the seasons have ever been perfect anyways. I just wish people had a bit more patience.

I think another issue is that people forgot on some level that despite how much we've gotten from the show, it's still just a SHOW and it's supposed to be FUN. Taking it so very seriously can almost ruin it for a viewer than anything else. I also think some people were determined to HATE anything after season 5 simply because the show runner was no longer Kripke. I don't really want to compare him and Gamble because I think it's going to drive me wild, but I think some fans were going to hate who ever took over---no matter who that was. Those kind of "fans" stay around if you ask me to press sour grapes and gripe just because they are so disgruntled.

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