This Man Ain’t Nobody’s Teacup: Will Graham as the Author in/of Hannibal’s Finale

I’m supposed to be writing like 497 things right now, so of course, my brain chose to get hung up on some Hannibal finale meta instead: meta that centers on that lovely, cunning boy, Will Graham. 

Hannibal‘s finale aired over a week ago and yet I, like 99% of the show’s fandom, am still not over this moment:

hand on the glass

Will: You turned yourself in so I’d always know where you were. But you’d only do that if I rejected you. [beat] Goodbye.

Yes, part of the appeal is that Will’s hand on the glass and the revelation that accompanies it makes mutual Hannigram canon (hurray!). But for my money, this moment matters to the series’ narrative writ large because it reboots our perception of Will: it reminds us (and Lecter) that Will Graham is nobody’s teacup–he’s become a damn sledgehammer.

Let me explain.
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Finding Family at #SPNDePaul

KT Torrey on Twitter Panelist notes that he has realized he is a different type of fan than many here at SPNDePaul. Aud. member And that s ok

This weekend, I found my branch of the SPN Family.

I am not gonna lie, folks: I have been uber resistant to the whole “Supernatural fandom as family” idea. Not because I don’t dig a lot of the people I’ve met through SPN, but because I’ve seen that rhetoric used once too often as a means of division, rather than inclusion.

Supernatural fandom eats its own sometimes, is what I’m saying. Loudly. And in public.

But on Saturday, man, I don’t know: I guess I finally got it, what being part of that family—or one branch of it, anyway—can feel like. And how great it can be to be in a room full of smart people who love/hate/gnash their teeth over SPN as I do, as you can only do over something you adore even when it disappoints you, and have a chance to talk about it in depth.

Now admittedly, Charlie’s death hung over the day, a shroud of discontent that shadowed every panel I attended. The circumstances of her removal from the series were also a central topic of conversation in Robbie Thompson’s keynote Q&A.

[Dude was totally charming, by the way, and a better lecturer in terms of both the psychology and logistics of writing than some of the composition profs I’ve had. Shhhhhh.]

Both my friend Shannon and I were struck by how many people in attendance are still writing + thinking about the show, but aren’t watching it anymore. Indeed, based on what we heard, it seems that Charlie’s death is poised to push some folks away from the show for good. Which may not be a bad thing.

As Louisa Stein put it: “We have the right not to watch.”

Damn straight.

But! Central to the event’s success was that the format of its panels flipped the script on those at traditional academic conferences.

Continue reading “Finding Family at #SPNDePaul”

What she said.

Everyone and their brother (heh) has written some meta-tastic reaction to Supernatural‘s 200th episode, so here’s mine.

Man, see, I want to start off with the snark, with some kind of attitude, because that’s the way I’ve been thinking about Supernatural for so fucking long. It’s kind of hard to turn off.

Which is why I, to my great and utter surprise, adored SPN 200. Because somehow, it flipped the switch on my inner cynic and reminded me–showed me–why I love this goddamn show. And being a fan of the show, too.

Holy shit, dude. Did not see that coming.

To me, “Fan Fiction” read like an acknowledgement that there is no “story” of Sam and Dean. Instead, because of the way the fans have taken up the characters, the plot structure, the themes, there are stories upon stories of Sam and Dean, and all of them, this episode suggests, hold equal weight. It’s like, the ep pointed away from canon and towards fanon, especially around the events of seasons six through ten. It felt like an acknowledgement that yeah, some fans do see the canonical shit from this period as akin to, as Marie dubs it, “the worst fanfiction I’ve ever heard”—and that’s ok.

That is, this episode argues that both we as fans and the current creatives are all riffing on Kripke’s original vision: it’s all fanfic now. Or, you know, it’s all canon.

As a fan writer, I didn’t need the show’s permission to legitimate what I do. Hell no. And I know some people interpreted the episode that way. But for me, it was just fucking gorgeous to see the TPTB tip the old hat at us and say: We’re all doing the same work. We’re all playing with characters that we didn’t create, and goddamn, isn’t it fun? 

I don’t go in for the SPN family stuff, as a rule. But this ep made me feel, just for a moment, like I was willing to believe in one.

I also adored the way the ep presented the raw elements of SPN, its heart, its narrative skeleton: for everything that comes after (shut up), this is a story that begins with Sam and Dean.

Whenever I write about SPN for academic audiences, I wrestle with summarizing the series in one or two sentences, like:

On its face, Supernatural is a programme with a simple premise: brothers Sam and Dean Winchester roam America’s back roads in a hot car, fighting demons, angels and everything in between. At its core, the series is the story of two men dedicated to, in Dean’s words, ‘saving people, hunting things’ (‘Wendigo’).

or:

For ten seasons, Supernatural has followed the adventures of Sam and Dean Winchester, two frighteningly attractive brothers who cruise the backroads of America in a ’67 Chevy Impala hunting a never-ending cavalcade of shit that goes bump in the night.

Right.

This isn’t to say that other characters (like my beloved Castiel) or plot points aren’t essential; they are. But stories of Supernatural, even ones in which the boys themselves don’t appear, they all begin, somehow, with the Winchester boys. To me, these are the essential plot elements that one needs to know about the show: two boys in a hot car hunting for evil shit.

And for me, what SPN 200 did so beautifully was not only to illustrate this point to the audience(s) but to let Sam and Dean see that, too: to see both the love that their fans have for them as characters (as real people, natch), but to see how important they are to each other, to the story they’re still creating together.

I guess this episode gave me hope that the boys will follow Marie’s lead. “I wrote my own ending,” she tells Dean, and damn it, let’s hope the Winchesters do, too.

But if they don’t, well. That’s what I’m here for.

So thanks, Robbie Thompson and co., for making the Supernatural series a space of joy and pleasure again. Will it be so next week? Who knows. For now, though, I’m content.

If Borges Wrote My Job Letter

After a night of Seagram’s 7, I’m a bit of a better headspace today. Am even feeling up to engaging with that anxious octopus of an academic genre: the job letter.

Maybe it’s my obsession with narrative, but it feels like a key part of said letter (and the job search in general) will be to show potential employers how all of the seemingly disparate pieces of my work as a scholar fit together into a coherent whole.

This issue came up for me in a roundabout way last fall, when our department was involved in a hiring search. In reading through candidates’ CVs, I kept looking for the story: I wanted to know how conference presentations X and Y and publication Z lead the candidate to do a dissertation on A. That shows my bias right there, I guess, because I assumed there was a connection, one that could be discerned by me, the grad student, in looking at a potential future colleague’s CV. And I got frustrated, if not irritated, when I couldn’t find one.

However, when I asked a faculty member whom I trust about this, she said, in essence: no one cares how the pieces fit together. To me, she seemed to be implicitly suggesting that as long as you’re doing the “right” things in publications, conferences, etc., the big picture–the grand narrative arc of yourself as a researcher–is irrelevant. Which, I have to admit, makes no sense to me. But what the hell do I know?

The more I learn about this job search thing, the more I think: not a hell of a lot.

Maybe narrative coherency is overrated. Still, I want to get my own story straight, as it were, because think it’s important–in part, too, because on its face my research and publications stuff is, shall we say, wide-ranging. Like, how do I swing from the Harlem Renaissance to some pretty boy angel from Supernatural to the sex lives of evangelical Christian women, exactly, and still claim to have a coherent research agenda?

Yeah.

So this post is me trying to do that, in a way that I hope I can mine for my cover letters to come. But we’ll see. If you’re not opposed to blatant but inevitable self-promotion and repeated references to my CV, you’re welcome read on and watch me flail.

*clears throat nervously*

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Les Deux, C’est Moi

“So do you remember–” my mom said over Christmas; a sentence that usually doesn’t end well. “Do you remember when you applied to Carnegie Mellon [where I did my undergrad], you had to write some kind of essay about why you wanted to go there?”

I shifted around on the couch, my dad’s cat grumbling in my lap. “A personal statement, it’s called,” I said, impatient. “Yeah. I remember.”

My mom shook her head, leaning out of her recliner. “No, remember? You asked us to read it, what you wrote.” She waved her hand at my dad, burrowed into the couch next to me. “And we made some suggestions about some changes you could make. And you said–do you remember what you said?”

Dad tapped my wrist, squeezed, his eyes focused the iPad in his lap. Mom didn’t wait for an answer.

“You said,” she chirped, “that that’s who you were, what you wrote, and if they didn’t want you, the real you, then you didn’t want to go there.”

“Oh,” I said, nodding at the past wisdom of a younger me. “No. I didn’t remember. But that sounds right.”

My mom bobbed her head, pleased. “That’s how you still work, huh?”

I watched my dad scroll for a minute, the glow of my online CV reflected in his glasses as he read the details of my academic life for the first time. “Yeah,” I said. “I guess so.”

Now what’s funny about this is that my attitude on that front hasn’t changed; when it comes to my academic life, at least, I still operate on the “take it or leave it” principle, in part because hey, I write about porn, Christian women, and fanfic. I can’t hide that on my CV; hell, that stuff IS my CV. Nor would I want to. But it does mean that anybody that considers hiring me is going have to get past (or be entranced by?) my unconventional research interests.

As a kind friend once put it, if anyone hires me, it will be because of what I do, not in spite of it.

And then there’s the whole “I write porn/romance/erotica about beautiful, fictional men” thing, too.

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Our Hopes and Expectations

I like to think of myself as a cynical idealist: somebody who’s grounded in reality but who’s always looking for hope.

But if you believe academic Twitter these days, our profession as teachers and scholars is completely and utterly fucked.

The humanities? Disrespected. Labor issues within the university? A gaping head wound that the powers that be have refused to address. The academic publishing industry is a boondoggle and, best of all, there’s almost no chance that I’ll be able to land a tenure-track job.

And that’s all true.

But I balance that, in my cynically idealistic head, with the emails I’ve received from a few of my former students in the last few days, students who have taken some of the work we did in my Literature, Medicine, and Culture class this past fall and created something more. They’re going to conferences, applying for internships, looking at scholarships, in an effort to build on conversations we had in class, that they furthered in their own writing.

I am so freaking proud of them all.

Sometimes you just have those classes where the mojo is just good, where the planets or the goddesses align and going to class is a pleasure, plain and simple. My group this fall was just such a one.

For me, what makes that even more remarkable is that there were some major potential roadblocks in place: a class much larger than what I’m used to teaching, full of students from the sciences; my belief going in that I suck at teaching literature; and, oh yes: I was preparing to take my comprehensive exams. All these things together had me nervous before the term even began.

But then a funny thing happened: together, we made it work.

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Here’s Why I’m Leaving You, Dean

It’s official: I’m out on Supernatural.

After a season and change spent trying to find a reason to keep watching, I’ve given up the fight.

What does it take to disenchant me, distance me, from a text that, for better or worse, has taken up most of my headspace–and ruled my pen–for almost two and half years?

[Which I realize sounds nine kinds of crazy, but it’s true.]

Easy: I started rewatching season 1.

Continue reading “Here’s Why I’m Leaving You, Dean”

if i had a superpower

If I had a superpower, it’d be self-sabotage.

I prefer to think of it that way instead of “epic self-destructive device.”

The reach of this power? Knows no bounds.

Relationships with other humans? Bam.

Burgeoning life as an academic? Kazam!

Writing what I love simply for the joy? Oh, yeah. I’ve fucked that up, too.

I used to think that being conscious of a problem, of a default in one’s behavior, would ipso facto lead to its demise.

See something, say something, stop it.

But, ah, alas. It ain’t so.

No, I go right on Gojira-ing through my daily freaking life,

Taking one self-inflicted body blow after another

And yet still: these patterns? I can’t break.

Suffice it to say, I am a general fuck-up.

I’d like to stop thank you now please.

Can’t See The Trees for the Angst

The other day, a colleague lauded me over coffee.

(I know; stop the presses, right?)

She pointed to my apparent state of Zen as a grad student; in contrast, it seems, to some our peers. To my general lack of concern over the minutia of coursework, of Being a PhD student, of publication and conferences and such.

(But you, dear reader, know better. I just let my anxiety make its home here, on this blog, and keep my wailing in public to a minimum.)

My colleague’s words, they were a nice way of saying: You seem like you don’t give a shit. About stuff that’s unimportant, anyway.

But this got me thinking, as flattery will no doubt do.

I haven’t taken my comprehensive exams yet, much less passed them. I spend most days convinced I’m an idiot set loose by the pen.

Still. Maybe, my ego hinted, I have something constructive to impart.

So: three pieces of advice, for what they’re worth, on how to not live on Pepto and bourbon in graduate school. Most nights. During the coursework bits, at least.

Ok, strike that.

Three pieces of advice on how to enjoy grad school for your damn self. Because otherwise, why are you here?

Continue reading “Can’t See The Trees for the Angst”