So, if you read our blog, you know that Donna has just finished season one of Supernatural, and so have I. I’ve heard a lot of positive reviews of this show, and now I have some time to fit it into my viewing schedule. So, like Donna, I’m going to say, PLEASE NO SPOILERS about seasons two through ten! Thanks. 🙂
Now, Supernatural is not the type of show I’d normally expect to enjoy. Not just the monster of the week feel of season one, but the monsters in general. I’m just not a horror fan. So, to keep me hooked, this show has to give me more than scary stories, and it is doing that in spades right now.
I love, love, love the family drama in this show. One of my favorite story devices is the family problems device (aka triangulation – see image below). Sibling rivalries, father-son conflicts, missing mothers… I love it all. At its heart, that’s a great part of what Supernatural is about.
The family tension is well crafted. It’s believable not just that men in a family would rub each other the wrong way at times, but also that the Winchester men – Dean, Sam, and John – would have a lot of issues given how the demonic figure in the pilot episode totally disrupted their lives. I love that the writers have made Dean, as older brother, both his brother Sam’s keeper as well as his dad John’s keeper. In families that have been broken in some way, children often become the family caretaker, and Dean is that in spades.
I also loved that by the end of season one, Sam – who is staunchly opposed to many of his father’s choices – ends up siding with him temporarily on the issue of getting ride of the demon that has plagued their family, while Dean – who has been staunchly holding the position of “Dad know’s best” – suddenly disagrees with Dad. And then at one point when Sam and Dad are going head to head, Dean sides with Sam! Not Dad! Wow!
But isn’t that how it happens in families? Of course it does. The writers took a typical, normal family dynamic (the relationship triangle) and used it to ramp up the dramatic tension at just the right time in the season to build up to a powerful season-ending cliffhanger.
In other words, that’s good writing.
So, while I would love to see more female characters in this show that I can relate to, I can also admire the storytelling in it and the craft of writing that is going into making this show successful.
That said, I still think it’s important to discuss female roles in fiction, including Supernatural. The more we think and discuss these issues, the more opportunity we have for opening up our world and growing in how we see and treat women. (That goes for minorities too, but that’s for another post sometime.)
A final thought along these lines: Imagine what it might have been like to have this show told with two sisters instead of two brothers, or a sister and brother instead of two brothers.
In some ways, perhaps the show would have been very different. But in other ways, it would have been exactly the same because the family trauma would have scarred each character uniquely. It’s easy to imagine an older sister who feels just as responsible, just as tempted to hide her emotions, just as reluctant to fight against the parent as Dean is. It’s easy to imagine a younger sister who wants to escape the family “mission,” but who is conflicted about escaping too, just like Sam is.
Is it so hard, then, to put females in roles like this? I don’t think so. That doesn’t mean I mind a show about men. In fact, I think that’s great. This show is a lot of fun, and Sam and Dean both have their emotional edges, which is nice to see played out on screen. I just would say that the show’s premise is proof positive that Hollywood has no excuse that women can’t play these types of roles. Maybe segments of our society don’t want to see women in these roles, but women can play them. And that’s worth noting.
I’ll be viewing season two of Supernatural because all that said, I like men. And I don’t mind watching them. Especially Sam and Dean. I’ll be back with season two thoughts sometime soon.