Destiel, Bi!Dean and preparing the audience for a “shocker”.
I just did a re-watch of 12x10 and it really got me thinking again about Benjamin and Cas’s talk in the car with the boys about Benjamin and his female vessel.
At the time the episode aired, I think I was so excited about the prospect of Cas being in a female vessel, and how this could potentially shift a heteronormative audiences perception of Dean and Cas that I didn’t realise just what else they were trying to do.
This is about reassurance.
This is the conversation that was had in the car:
CAS: Benjamin is always very careful. Long ago, he found a powerfully devout vessel in Madrid, and her faith, it… she gave him everything – her trust and her body.
DEAN: Wait. So Benjamin’s a woman?
CAS: Benjamin is an angel. His vessel is a woman. But it – it’s – it’s more than that. She’s not just his vessel.
Just this small exchange is important as exposition for the audience. It is about preparing the audience for what is coming up. The idea that Cas was also once ‘a woman’. Which, okay, no he wasn’t a woman, he just had a female vessel, but imagine how that would have gone down had this exchange not taken place? Imagine how a general audience would have reacted to Cas and his female vessel had Benjamin just been another angel in a male vessel?
Probably a lot like the way Dean acted here, with confusion.
By giving us the Benjamin character and this particular scene as well, the writer has successfully prepared the audience for Cas in his female vessel. Preventing raised eyebrows and confusion because the audience will remember this conversation and apply it to Cas.
“Castiel is an angel, his vessel WAS a woman. His vessel is now a man, Cas is still a dude and it’s not weird. Cool beans.”
(when I think of a general audience watching SPN lets just say that I certainly don’t think of the fandom or tumblr. I think of my brother and that is something I won’t get into here. Heteronormative doesn’t even begin to cover it.)
The fact is, making one of your three main lead male characters a woman for an episode is a weird thing to do, the kind of thing that would probably make some audience members uncomfortable. So adding in this exposition, this reassurance, removes that level of discomfort, it gets them used to the idea first, like a buffer.
See for a show like SPN, whilst its always been a bit weird with its story lines, it’s never been all that progressive. As much as we would all like to wish that all SPN viewers were like us – liberal forward thinking people who are willing and eager for TV to break a few taboos – the chances are that is very much not the case. Its an old show, it has an established audience (apparently a bipartisan audience amazingly) and therefore breaking boundaries the way more modern shows have (such as American Gods, How to Get Away with Murder and Orange is the New Black) just isn’t really in the cards. Those shows established the taboo stories, the queer main characters, the representation, from the start. They built their audience on those foundations. SPN can’t do that without isolating part of its audience – unless it thinks very carefully as to how it may present such notions.
I hope I am explaining this in a way that makes sense. See this is of course about Bi!Dean and Destiel (as if anything on my blog WASN’T about those topics). Because here’s the thing. On any other, newer show, for Dean to come out as bisexual, for two male lead characters to enter into a homosexual relationship, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Those shows could build their audience around those concepts, because they would be ingrained into the show from the start.
For Supernatural, that sadly isn’t the case. SPN didn’t clearly establish Dean as Bisexual early on, and Destiel isn’t canon, it has always been the subject to interpretation with just enough ‘no homo’ so that anyone who chooses not to see it doesn’t have to (again, excluding 12x19 but we’ll get there)
One of the biggest hurdles to getting bi!dean and canon destiel, is for the SPN creators to overcome this fear that half their audience would reject them if they actually went there. It would be seen as coming ‘out of the blue’ and all those heteronormative people would raise their eyebrows and moan and be utterly confused by it.
That’s why Supernatural needs the buffers. It needs the gradual exposition, the subtle desensitisation of a general audience to anything even mildly “progressive”. If Supernatural wasn’t putting these buffers in place already, I would think we would have a problem. I would be much more apprehensive at even the idea that destiel could be a thing that is actually happening.
What is so fantastic, is that just like in 12x10 with the fem!Cas buffer that was Benjamin, we have already been getting buffers all throughout the last few seasons.
Here are some of my favourites:
- Jesse x Cesar – 11x19 – These guys are my absolute favourite, they were created specifically to show the audience that you can be a gay man and also a macho man. That gay men aren’t stereotypes, that hunters can be gay and settle down and especially that gay romance doesn’t change the theme of the story. The big take away from this episode is that it shows the general audience that men like Dean Winchester can be gay/bisexual.
- Hannah – 10x17 – This was a real eye opener for any Cas x Hannah shippers. Because Cas didn’t treat Hannah any different, and he had exactly the same warmth and affection for Hannah in her male vessel that he did in her female vessel. Basically this was a nice punch in the face for any homophobes watching. SPN doesn’t care about your heteronormative ships. You wanna ship Hannah x Cas? Fine! But Hannah’s in a dudes body now and guess what? Cas doesn’t care! How do you feel about THAT?
- God is Bisexual – 11x20 – This was just a nice big fuck you to homophobes everywhere. Don’t like queer characters? This is NOT the show for you! Because in our world even GOD is queer! Yay for LGBT representation! It works as a buffer because once again it is sending a message to the general audience that this is the kind of thing you can expect on our show. We are changed now.
- Dean rides Larry – 12x11 – Okay so maybe it’s not an obvious buffer, but it is kind of a subliminal message so I’m counting it. Dean riding that damn bull was the most sexual scene we have had on this show in seasons (and no that god awful thing that happened in 12x02 doesn’t count – nor does the same god awful thing from 12x08). The jokes alone, the sexual innuendos. This entire episode is loaded with subliminal messages basically screaming at the general audience to maybe just consider the fact that Dean likes guys.
- 12x06/12x20 – Max Banes – like Jesse and Cesar Max works as a buffer because he is another way to get the general audience used to the idea that characters that are similar to Dean Winchester can be queer and it’s no big deal. Max is badass, funny, smart and charming and also 100% canonically queer (whether gay or bi we know textually that he is totally into dudes). Sam and Dean don’t bat an eyelid at his sexuality, so neither should the audience. It is just one part of his character and certainly not what his story is all about. Max is proof that you can have a queer character who is a badass and a hunter whose story is basically nothing to do with their sexuality. Their sexuality just happens to be a part of who they are.
- And finally – Destiel – season 12 – I’m making this its own
buffer because honestly? There is no way to view Dean and Cas’s relationship as
non-romantic at this point. I think that the writers have slowly been turning
up the dial on Destiel probably since 11x18. 12x19 really drummed it in for us
though. The angel/human love themes of 12x10, the textual “I love you” in
12x12, the MIXTAPE and everything else about 12x19. This is all preparation. It
is indeed a build up to a reveal. Destiel is it’s own buffer and even if people
do still accuse it of ‘coming out of nowhere’ once it goes canon, all the
writers have to do is gesture at season 12 and the fucking mixtape scene and
say to those people “in what universe does the gifting of a mixtape between
people who are not explicitly related NOT have romantic connotations?” Only a
fool would argue with that if they had any knowledge of pop culture history.
Sorry, but that’s the truth.
Anyway, that’s my thoughts on that. A show with a long established audience about to make a move that could potentially appear (but not really) out of left field would need to build up that move through a series of well thought out buffers, symbols, themes and subliminal messages before actually making it.
Like how Benjamin was the writers way of normalising Cas’s female vessel, the past two seasons have been a journey to normalise bi!dean and destiel in preparation for making both of these things explicitly canon. Yes we still have a way to go - it still needs to be stated explicitly in the text that Dean is into guys, in love with Cas bla bla bla, but we are getting there.
In summary. Destiel is endgame. Dean is bisexual. The general audience better learn to throw their heteronormative goggles in the bin because this is the state of this show right now, and it is good.