Unless you find yourself deep in the Supernatural fandom, it’s hard to explain to outsiders just how much of a family it feels like. Sure, shipping factions or actor/character loyalists bicker and that can be a drag, but a lot of us have found at least one part of the fandom to identify with on a deeply personal level. This is where we’ve found friendship and support.
A lot of you have your own stories about what the show and fandom mean to you. Maybe Supernatural came at an important point in your life. It gave you a group of people that helped you get through something major. Maybe it’s your escape or a way for you to explore new ideas. Perhaps it became part of your academic research, your podcast or website, or was your sandbox to create wonderful art and stories. It has meaning for you.
For me, I found family in the Destiel/Castiel/Misha Collins areas and have formed friendships that have lasted over seven years at this point. I started watching the show in December of 2010 after seeing a gif of Castiel on the SomethingAwful forums. I’m sure it wasn’t this exact gif, but it was something like this:
I was captivated. What is this? I needed to watch it immediately.
For context about where I was in my life, I was a few months shy of being with my boyfriend at the time for five years, but life was pretty hard with the recent economic crash. We were both recent college grads (UCSC class of 2008) and trying to find our own way, but things were a struggle. I was having a hard time finding a decent full time job. His job, which was thankfully full time, still wasn’t quite enough to support two people. I was slipping into one of the worst period of depression I’ve ever gone through in my lifetime and nothing felt right. But this gif looked incredibly interesting and I had to give this show a shot in the off chance this show could bring me some joy in pretty bleak times.
I marathoned the first five and a half seasons in about a month. I even watched it during a holiday trip to the other side of the country. It was just too good to put down. While watching season four I felt a powerful connection between the characters Castiel and Dean. I googled for fanfiction for the pairing, found the Destiel segment of the fandom, and found a family among them. I began writing fic and participating in online fandom events. Chat rooms were created. Social media accounts were made. I had something positive when a lot of my life seemed terribly negative.
My partner and I broke up shortly after season six concluded and the friends I met through fandom helped keep me from feeling so alone. Many of them were there for me to talk to them in my darkest moments, helped spur my creative pursuits, and they inspired me to make something of myself when I thought everything was over. A couple even helped me get back on my feet when I found myself homeless in 2014.
These friends have become so important to me that I routinely send people cards and gifts for the holidays and meet many of them at conventions every year. I’ve celebrated their weddings and pregnancies and graduations and been with them through the deaths of family members. I’ve donated to their GoFundMe‘s to help with special projects, tuition, and even surgeries. As a group, I’ve helped them raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity and dramatically changed lives. I even founded my website with the encouragement and support from them and my website has become one of the most important things to me over the years.
It was hard letting go of the show, particularly due to these friendships. I tried to “break up” with it in season seven when they killed Castiel, but when they brought him back I came back too. Then they killed Charlie Bradbury and my passion for the show began to die for good. I made it through the first couple of episodes of season 11, but then only caught a few episodes mid season before cutting the show off entirely. One of those episodes I caught before finally stopping the show was ‘Into the Mystic’, which introduced Eileen, a deaf hunter from a family of hunters who had an adorable chemistry with Sam Winchester. Based on what happened on the show last night (spoilers ahead), I’m glad I didn’t stick with it and go through this plot point. I don’t think I’d have been able to deal with her death. I still don’t know the details and I’m not really interested in finding out.
My friend Emily summed up the problems with this pattern in her article Supernatural: A History of Violence Against Women. You should definitely read the article in full, but a short tl;dr is that the show has a bad habit of killing off its characters from marginalized groups, particularly women. Last night they killed not only a woman, but a deaf woman, making it basically a two for one. Why kill off someone from one marginalized group when you can kill off somebody from two groups at the same time? It was the same thing with Charlie, who was both a woman and a lesbian. It’s pretty painful. I hurt just thinking about it all. This was a huge part of why I stopped watching.
For all my friends who were still watching and hoped they’d somehow learned to not do this, I’m sorry. Many of you are quitting over this and I’m here for you, guys. Your fandom friends aren’t going anywhere just because the show isn’t giving you what you want out of it anymore. Some of us have scattered to other fandoms (what up YOI fandom? where my skatefam at?). A lot still participate in fandom, too. There’s still fic and art and special projects that are completely independent of the show. There’s Random Acts. There’s Gishwhes. There’s fanfic. Most of us are still friends because our friendship has transcending one single show.
So please, do what’s best for you. If the show is causing you emotional pain and you have to walk away, do it. It hurts saying goodbye when you have such a strong history with something, but it hurts more being emotionally damaged by something that initially gave you a sense of comfort and support. And if you decide the show still gives you more positive feelings than negative feelings, that’s fine too. Our friendship is stronger than the show alone. If this show has taught us anything, it’s that family don’t end with blood.