It’s October. This means many things to many people. I’m not here to annoy you with pumpkins. But I am going to talk about Supernatural.
Season 11 is premiering next Wednesday, and, God help me, I will be tuning in.
I found an essay on the Black Girl Nerds website by Kourtney King that I identified with wholeheartedly: Supernatural: My Favorite Show That I Won’t Tell You to Watch. Being a fan of this show is a rather complicated and emotional undertaking, one that I am often ashamed of having embraced it with the vigor that I have. My fervor has waned significantly, but I can’t seem to rid myself of it completely. I’ve come to accept the sad truth: I’m sticking it out until the bitter end. This is no longer a functional relationship. I am, for the most part, bitter and unfulfilled. But I’ve invested entirely too much time and energy to abandon ship now.
I started watching the show at a weird point in my life. Harry Potter was completely over: the final movie had come out, I was home from another convention, and however soothing it felt for my friends and I to try and placate each other with empty platitudes about how “the magic will never end” and that “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home” (thanks Jo), the fact remained that there would never be a new book or movie to get lost in, and that hurt. For so many years, this series had been a major part of my life, a refuge. And while I was eternally grateful for the experience, for the friends that I had made, for the characters and adventures I would never forget, the loss was stunning. I felt bereft. I needed a brand new fictional world to lose myself in.
I was also acutely aware of how pathetic my existence was at that time. I was post-college and pre-job, much less career. Living with my mom. I had no social life to speak of — partly because central Jersey offered very few enticing options, but mostly because the effort alone was exhausting. Interacting with people was so incredibly grating and induced all sorts of anxiety that was so easily avoided by staying inside and pretending they didn’t exist. Once I found a reliable streaming website and seven entire seasons of a show that looked mildly interesting (and 23 episodes per season to boot), I knew I’d found the perfect balm for my fantasy-starved soul and the ideal activity to suit my misanthropy: binge-watching. Those were dark days — literally; I sat in my room all day, consuming episode after episode and only occasionally stopping to eat or shower or sleep. I tossed and turned all night, plagued with disturbing visages of the ghosts and demons and monsters I’d spent hours watching. Until I woke again, and picked up where I left off. I did my best to ignore all evidence of the outside world and the carefree young 20s life I knew I was supposed to be living. I did my best to ignore my own self-loathing voice, the one that whispered what a sad little mole person I was. Another episode. Another.
I finished all seven seasons in about two weeks. I got a job at a bookstore shortly after that, which added little fulfillment to my tiny life, beyond a paycheck every two weeks. I had no idea what I was doing, what I was worth. I had vague notions of travel and internships that I couldn’t find the emotional or mental energy to see through. I was embroiled in family issues during that period that, no matter how carefully I attempted to ignore or push aside or compartmentalize, ran a sinister, steadfast undercurrent of dread and rage beneath my torpor. I felt stuck. I went to work. I came home. I got on Tumblr. I’d sleep. I’d watch Supernatural. Rinse, repeat. Until the jagged and sharp edges of all of that dread and rage were worn down beneath the routine, the suffocating sameness. Shaved down to blessed numbness. Fandom, once again, was my only refuge. But it was a perverse inverse of what Harry Potter had offered: friendship, connection, good dreams. Levity. I found no less pleasure in Supernatural, but it was pleasure with a serrated edge. Death, fire, brokenness, fear, denial. Family don’t end in blood. I hated season seven. I cried for an hour after the finale.
That period of my life ended and another began. Supernatural followed me: I was hooked. I almost went to a convention — bought tickets to meet two of the actors and everything. I would often go into my email and stare at the receipt, heart pounding. I was excited, but I was also afraid. I don’t know. It felt strange. The event ended up coinciding with a job interview, so I sold the tickets with relief. I still felt so far from this fandom, somehow: a bridge I couldn’t see myself crossing without somehow becoming a totally different person. It never quite fit. It was incongruous, the depth of emotion I felt for these characters, and the embarrassment I felt at giving them so much of my time. The plots became over-wrought, non-sensical, annoying. Tropes and themes spun on and on endless circles, losing their grit, their weight. The actors themselves annoyed me. I wished they would stop tweeting. I trawled the archives of Tumblr and fanfiction sites, anxious to change the narrative to suit my tastes, subvert the mundanity of the lily-white sausage fest I had so willingly accepted. I was frustrated with myself for supporting such a tone-deaf show and frustrated with my own frustration. Supernatural would only ever be was it was. Why should they cater to the whims of their audience? But then again, why wouldn’t they? The social media frenzy, the paragraphs of righteous indignation, the gloriously queer meta-analysis: the antithesis to a show steeped in heteronormativity and misogyny. I couldn’t understand what I was getting out of it, anymore. Seasons 8, 9, 10. Hundreds of hours spent rolling my eyes. What was the point?
Despite my misgivings, despite my disdain, despite all of the things I can’t stand about this stupid show, I care too much about the characters. It’s a bizarre sort of caring, seeing them buffeted about by different writers in contradictory plots and poorly-executed story arcs. As if they are somehow separate from the narrative; independent entities with a tragically scripted agency. They make me laugh. They make me hopeful, somehow. I want endings for them that can never, ever be; with each new and totally predictable crisis or disastrous finale I can only wallow in all-too familiar pain. I would prefer a surprise in the form of family gained and kept, not lost. This is not the story they’re telling. I want bed and breakfasts in Vermont and safety and lolling dogs with wagging tails and stability and intensive psychotherapy and the boring sweetness of domesticity. Ridiculous, I know. This is not the story they’re telling.
I am a very different person than I was when I watched the very first episode. Dean and Sam have changed dramatically since then, as well. Cas has been through the ringer. Bobby’s dead. Ellen and Jo are dead. So, so many people are dead. I’m no longer numb. I still haven’t been to a convention. This is the most complicated damn relationship I’ve ever had with a stupid television show. I love it and hate in almost equal measures. I have no idea when it will end but I am ready to say goodbye, ready to let the quiet after this dragged-out storm usher in the better memories. Until that happens, though, I’ll still be watching, every week. Rolling my eyes. Crying. Laughing. Reading the theories. Reblogging the fanfics. Being heartbroken for Dean, and pitying Sam, and adoring Cas. Growing up as they grow old. These sad men with their sad, fictional lives. Season 11. Sure, why not.