Okay, this has been bugging me for a while now and I wasn’t going to say anything, but after today’s events I’m sorry, I can’t not.
Before I start, let me make one thing clear: I totally love that the SPN fandom is constantly growing and that, since being on Netflix, it has pulled in a whole new younger audience. Supernatural is a truly amazing force of nature (not just a tv show) and I think it’s fantastic that more and more people are getting the chance to experience something that has power to change lives.
Over the last year or so I’ve noticed that there seem to be more and more inappropriate questions being asked at cons. There’s been more wank in the fandom and a couple of truly horrifying cases of bullying amongst fans at conventions. I’m not saying this sort of thing never happened before, because it did, on occasion.
It seems that there used to be a strict unspoken code amongst fans and actors alike to not discuss ships and fanfiction. On very rare occasion a fan who hadn’t got the memo would ask an inappropriate question and you know what the audience used to do? They would gasp in shock or sometimes even boo.
Over the years some of the actors have got a bit more relaxed about it - Kim Rhodes quite happily tells us how she still gets flustered around Jensen. Jim wore a t-shirt to a con with “I read John/Bobby” on it. Matt Cohen got jokingly jealous when he discovered Cockles wasn’t about him and Jensen. Misha would make occasional Destiel/Cockles implying jokes and the like. But there was still a trend: it was always left to the actors to bring it up. It wasn’t a completely taboo subject any more, but in general fans knew it isn’t our place to bring up what is a potentially touchy subject, or that there were only certain members of the cast it was okay to do so with.
Yet somehow over the last year or so, that doesn’t seem to apply any more, leading to frankly embarrassing incidents for both the actors and the majority of the audience. THIS IS NOT OKAY. The incident that immediately springs to mind is in the J2 panel at last month’s Phoenix con. A fan asked Jensen “How would you like to see the series end for Cas and Dean?” At which point Jared swiftly stepped in and gave a very detailed answer about the brothers going down swinging because if they’re still alive, why aren’t they hunting and if they’re hunting why aren’t we getting episodes? In other words, knowing that Jensen is uncomfortable discussing shipping, Jared stepped in and completely and utterly side-stepped the question and answered a similar one instead. He shouldn’t have had to do that.
Now I’m no scientist, but I can’t help but notice the correlation between the increase in fans acting inappropriately and the constantly increasing number of “first-timers” at conventions. Go back a few years and when Jared would do his routine “How many of you are first-timers?” the response was considerably smaller, often a lot less than half the audience. These days it seems it’s well over half. Now I’m not saying it’s all new fans, or that new fans are a bad thing by any means, but that does seem to be an interesting correlation.
On a similar note, again during the same period of the last year or so, it seems that there have been a lot of repeated questions. There’s been a couple of instances when a fan has asked a question that’s been asked several times before in the past, and while Jared and Jensen pause to think, I’m sat knowing exactly what they’re answers are going to be, because they’ve said so several times before. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that and within the bounds of being appropriate, fans are entitled to ask whatever they like; but one thing baffles me: if you’re enough of a fan to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on going to a convention, how is it that you’re not enough of a fan to have watched every con video you can find on youtube? I have never been fortunate enough to be able to attend a convention because of financial/geographical reasons, but I am desperate to and so watch every clip of every panel that is available on the internet. I talk to fans who have been to conventions and read fan accounts. Sometimes it almost feels like I have attended them, and one thing I have definitely picked up on is those unspoken rules and boundaries that had carefully been set up over the years. So why are they now coming crashing down? How is it that there are people who are willing to spend such vast amounts of money to meet their idols, yet haven’t even seen a panel on youtube? Or do they just simply not care?
Now why am I saying all this when I previously didn’t plan to? VegasCon.
Some of you (if any of you are still reading at this point) may remember me expressing concerns about VegasCon back when it was announced that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was attending. The reason for my concern was based on the recent surge of inappropriate panel questions and hate-tweets directly to actors, coupled with the fact that this is JDM’s first convention. I was (and still am) very concerned that there will be certain fans who can’t (or won’t) separate their hatred for a character (who in my opinion deserves it, John Winchester was an abusive ass) from their opinion of the actor who plays him. And the way things have been recently, I can quite easily imagine JDM receiving a lot of hate or hurtful questions during his panel. I really hope I’m wrong.
Now onto today’s saga. Jensen tweeted a picture of him and Misha with their arms around each other’s shoulders in front of a sunset. Yes, this could be interpreted as romantic, but IT IS NOT THE ONLY INTERPRETATION. Are you really telling me you have never put your arm around a friend’s shoulder? I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve done that this year! It can be a completely platonic gesture. Now both Misha and Jensen are obviously very well aware of Destiel, and it is quite likely that they knew that some people would see it as such. But guess what? It’s a joke! They’re teasing us, the same way they tease each other! That’s always been one of the best things about Supernatural that really sets it apart from other fandoms: it’s ability to make make fun of and laugh at itself, and the inclusion of the fans in that friendly teasing. We see how J2M are constantly teasing each other. We see in the show the writers making fun of Jared and Jensen. They do that to us too - think of Becky. I am such a sam!girl and I think Becky’s character is absolutely hilarious because it’s supposed to be a parody, and we know that the writers know that’s not what we’re really like. Or in 5x09 The Real Ghostbusters when the entire convention was made up of male fans that fit society’s stereotype of a Trekkie? That was a joke because the writers obviously know that is not at all the case and that the audience is about 90% female who are normal people, and knowing what the writers intended, it’s pretty funny.
There have been a lot of fans today making tumblr posts and tweeting very publicly that by tweeting that photo, Jensen has forfeited all rights to complain about Destiel questions and that he is a complete hypocrite. There is a (I hope minority) movement planning to bombard Jensen with sexually-explicit Destiel-related questions this weekend. IF YOU ARE PLANNING ON DOING SO, DON’T!!! If you know anyone who is planning on doing so, please try to talk them out of it. It goes past being inappropriate, it is sexual harassment, and even worse it is being done with malicious intent to “get back at him for queer baiting.” I am sorry, but posting a picture of you and your friend does not constitute to queer baiting.
I see that term bandied about the fandom frequently and as someone who is as queer as they come, I have never once felt that Supernatural has in anyway queer baited. In fact, the vast majority of people I see in the fandom using that term are actually straight cis teenage girls who are desperate for their OTP to become canon and nothing more. As far as actual queer representation goes in the show, yes there’s always room for more, but we have the wonderful gift that is Charlie Bradbury, one of the most well-written queer characters in modern media, and personally, while I feel representation and inclusivity is important, I don’t believe that means it has to happen in every show on the air or that a character who the creator has openly stated as being straight should have to come out as bisexual just because the fans demand it. I’m not against bi!Dean or Destiel becoming canon if that’s what Jeremy Carver decides to do, but I don’t think it is essential to the story.
Honestly, Supernatural has a more reciprocal relationship with it’s fanbase than any show ever has in the past. They read what we write on social media, they listen to what we say at conventions and they do tailor the story to our wishes, and they are unique in the tv industry for the extent they do so. Can we really not be content with the many blessings we’ve been given? I’ve only touched on one aspect of what makes Supernatural so special here, part of why the term SPNFamily got coined. But recently I feel like it’s been less of a family and is becoming more like every other fandom.
I don’t want to spark any arguments or any more hate, all I ask is that fans be considerate and suitably grateful to the cast and crew. That those of us who have been here a while show what it means to be a part of the SPNFamily and offer guidance and advice to newer members so that our family can grow, not be torn apart. There will be some we can’t get through to, but I have faith that there are others we can, and I look forward to welcoming them into the best and most loving family on earth with open arms.