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”

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

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If only I looked this pretty getting shit done.

A few quick updates on the (seemingly all-Supernatural?) academic front:

1) As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be participating in A Celebration of Supernatural at DePaul University next month. It’s free! and open to the public, so if you’re in or near Chicago, come hang out with us! Here’s the schedule for the event.

2) Me and my friend and colleague JSA Lowe are working on a new project, to be presented at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference in October 2015. We’ve posted a copy of the abstract for our nascent study, if you’d like to take a look:

3) And finally, I’ve posted downloadable copies of my two most recent conference presentations + slides:

Whew. And then there’s that dang (totally not Supernatural) dissertation to finish…

The Road Ahead

Part of embracing this whole “the way opens” mindset for me is appreciating all the cool shit I get to do this term. I love going to conferences, as a rule, but my line-up for the next few months is particularly outstanding.

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Like the man’s hips said: awesome.

To wit: Continue reading “The Road Ahead”

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.

Supernatural’s New God, At Last

This week, my first critical essay on Supernatural—that blessed bane of my existence—was published in this gorgeous edited collection:

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[You can check out the table of contents and read the first chapter of the collection for free here (and even buy it on Amazon, if you like).]

For me, the publication of this book is exciting not only because hell yes, publication, but also because the essay itself, “‘We’re Just Food . . . and Perverse Entertainment’: Supernatural‘s New God and the Narrative Objectification of Sam and Dean” went through a HUGE evolutionary process. The abstract that I proposed to the collection’s editors back in the spring of 2012 bears little resemblance to the final product—and is the stronger for it. Indeed, the editors did an amazing job of pointing out what elements in the early drafts worked and which didn’t, leading over time to the essay becoming more focused and its central argument more coherent.

And it meant I got to write almost exclusively about Castiel. What a hardship! Heh.

There’s a lot of discussion in academic circles as to whether there’s value in publishing work in edited collections. A lot of people say no. I think it depends in part on one’s field; in fan studies, we tend to draw on edited collections quite frequently, in part because the field is still growing. That said, my experience in working with this collection, with these editors, was rewarding both practically and personally.

Truly, I learned a great about academic writing from working with these editors over the past two years. Their comments were always on target and thoughtful, they were always happy to answer my questions, and they were patient with me and with the work. In the end, that collaboration resulted in an essay that I’m very fond of and even (dare I say) a little bit proud.

DCCon: Notes from the Trenches (part I)

My friend and I, we are Washington cool, because in Washington, people don’t geek out over celebrities.

“In Washington,” my friend said, certain, leaning back on her heels, “our celebrities have real power.” She shook the last of her coffee and looked back at the general admission line behind us, one that stretched around the corner and beyond. “If anybody fangirls in DC, it’ll be over somebody like John McCain.”

So spotting Misha Collins in the wild by the elevators? We were cool. Mark Sheppard zipping by us on his way to yell at a locked door? Eh, no big deal.

Some of our fellow fans, on the other hand? Posed more of a challenge.

Maybe it’s true at any Supernatural convention, I don’t know, but in DC: con world was not our world, at first. It took us some time to adjust. But in the end–plot twist!–we had a great time.

Continue reading “DCCon: Notes from the Trenches (part I)”

He Learned It From Watching Us, Fandom.

This fall, in the aftermath of my oral exams, I swore off fan studies for awhile, seeing as my dissertation’s in another field or three. I made the tactical mistake of declaring this temporary separation in public. And one of my colleagues here at school swept in and said, “yeah, but have you seen what Orlando Jones, that guy from Sleepy Hollow, is doing on Twitter?”

jimmy shrug

And thus the brushfire of fan studies was relit in my head.

Here’s why:

As part of his self-presentation on Twitter (and tumblr, too, natch) Orlando Jones, that guy from Sleepy Hollow, has embraced the Supernatural fandom as his muse. That is, Jones seems to have recognized the Supernatural meta-fandom–one that includes the show’s fans, actors, and even a few of its writers–as a (perhaps the?) gold standard on Twitter both in terms of interactions between fans and the show’s creative team and in re: the ways in which fans themselves electronically embody their affection for the show.

He’s joined the Destiel sub-section of fandom, y’all. I mean. Come on. And gone so far as to create a unique hashtag that unites the two shows: #supersleepy.

Look, I’d argue that Supernatural fans have one of the smartest [though sometimes self-destructive] Twitter fandoms. What Jones’ forays into fandom in general–and his interactions with Supernatural fandom in particular–suggest is his recognition that, as an actor, in order to understand and emulate effective electronic fandom practice, he needs to rely on the expertise of both his fellow creatives (other actors and writers) and that of the fans themselves.

To wit:

Continue reading “He Learned It From Watching Us, Fandom.”

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”