Happy 300th Episode, Supernatural!

 

The past several days have been a whirlwind of articles and videos and spoilers and lots and lots of excitement about the little show that, for much of its existence, few people had ever heard of. And yet, despite those years of flying under the radar, sometimes happily, Supernatural is about to air its 300th episode – and going into its 15th season!  As I scan through article after article in mainstream publications from Variety to USA Today to EW to TVGuide and everything in between, I’m astounded by what a wild ride this has been and how far this little show – and its fandom – have come.

I remember being similarly astounded when the 100th episode was about to air, feeling so proud of the show and its cast and crew and fans for hanging in there and achieving such a milestone. I remember being over the moon when the 200th episode aired, blown away by both the number of episodes I’d watched over the years and by the episode itself thanks to Robbie Thompson’s genius. I cried a lot as the beautiful haunting version of ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ played and the Winchesters looked on (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles just as emotional as the rest of us). I didn’t think at either of those times that there was much chance of making it to episode 300 – but Supernatural has surprised everyone from day one.

For those of us who have been watching in ‘real time’ since the start, the longevity of the show has made it more than just a favorite television series. If you love Supernatural and are part of the SPNFamily like I have been for many years, the show becomes a touchstone for all the important milestones in your personal life as well. I discovered the show thanks to a few close friends, and made more lifelong friends through online fandom and conventions; I’ve traveled the world with these people, collaborated on creative projects, squeed over favorite episodes. More importantly, these people have been there at the times when I wasn’t squeeful; they were there when I was sad and hurt and angry and scared. The friends I’ve made through this show and this fandom are the people I know I can turn to no matter what.

I write a lot about that benefit of fandom, the community that we all find in fandom and how important and life changing that can be. What’s also impactful about this show is that when you love fictional characters with all your heart and soul, they become very real to you. (Not in the delusional way, my psychologist self is yelling in my ear, but in a healthy and adaptive and helpful way). When you love them, they’re an inspiration and a validation and a comfort to you when times are tough. This show itself is a comfort, and a reminder to many of us to “Always Keep Fighting” even when it’s difficult.

I’ve had a lot of tough times in the past fourteen years, as we all undoubtedly have. My love of this show and its fandom community helped get me through those times when my children were struggling and my heart was breaking not knowing how to help. Through the stress (and frankly terror) of changing jobs and daring to do things I’d always wanted to do, like writing books and actually trying to get them published. Through the insanity of the tenure track rat race and the unrelenting stress of constantly having to prove yourself that is still part of it. Sometimes it was enough just to have the escape of watching a new episode, or revisiting a favorite old one that feels like a warm blanket and never fails to soothe me. Sometimes it was reaching out to fandom friends or just sharing my feelings or reading fic for three hours to de-stress – or maybe writing it myself. Supernatural has always been there for me, in so many ways I can no longer count them.

One of my toughest losses in these past fourteen years was losing my dad. My mom died long ago, and my dad was my rock. He was my biggest cheerleader while I put myself through grad school with three jobs and later when I said I wanted to write books – on a television show he’d never seen. It didn’t matter; he was behind me all the way. I got the call that my dad had unexpectedly passed away when I was at a Supernatural convention. I put down the phone and literally stepped off the airport shuttle and into the con hotel, numb and in shock. It seemed like the worst timing possible; in fact, it was the best. I walked into the arms (literally) of the most supportive group of people on the planet. Friends took my hand and helped me stay calm. Creation staff brought me ibuprofen and literally walked me to my seat and kept checking on me to be sure I was okay. The actors who play the characters I adore heard the news even though I didn’t tell them, and one by one they came over to tell me how sorry they were and to give me a hug. One of the worst days of my life is wrapped in memories of feeling loved and taken care of, because I happened to be immersed in the Supernatural family.

I’m grateful. Grateful for everything this show has given me over these many many years. Grateful that the actors and the fans trusted me enough to help them write a book that told their stories of how the show and the fandom had changed their lives too. Writing Family Don’t End With Blood was a labor of love, and I know somewhere my dad is smiling that it’s dedicated to him and that its sales benefit the work of Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse. Grateful for the amazing friends I’ve made and the stories I’ve been privileged to hear and learn from and the fictional characters who will forever be as real to me as you can get – and as cherished.

I wish I could thank every single person who has kept this show going for 300 episodes – the most dedicated and talented crew in the business, the most eloquent writers, the hard-working producers and staff behind the scenes, the CW and WB and everyone else who didn’t give up, the most passionate fandom in the universe (with all the good that brings and sometimes a bit of the not-so-good too) and the Best. Cast. Ever. For never phoning it in, for never giving up, for never not caring. Someone said early on that this Show is lightning in a bottle – and they were so right.

There have been so many moments over the years – these are just a few that the most fabulous con photographer ever happened to snap. Thanks Chris Schmelke.

 

Happy 300th episode, Supernatural. And many many MANY more.

–Lynn

You can read Jared, Jensen, Misha and ten

more of the Supernatural actors’ chapters in

Family Don’t End With Blood – links here on

the home page!

Love, Passion, Fandom and Lighting the Way for Each Other

 

Holding onto the light.

When I was asked to write an entry for the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign, I thought a lot about that phrase and what it means. It seems appropriate for my own experience with the ups and downs that life throws at all of us, but for me the words also have multiple associations. And the first day of a new year seemed like an appropriate time to write about holding onto the light and what that means to me. It is, after all, what we’re all trying to do this year.

The first thing I thought of when I read the hashtag #HoldOntoTheLight was less a thought and more a picture – a streaming video of the many clients I’ve worked with over the years as a psychologist. Images of people – all sorts of people – breaking down, falling apart, reaching out. Getting up, getting through, getting past. Lots of tears, but lots of smiles too. Sometimes the journey, which it was always a privilege to share, was all about not just holding onto the light, but finding it in the first place. When you’ve been in the dark a long time, that’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes that’s where I came in, a co-traveler in the search for whatever would light the way and warm the heart. The images are full of heartbreak and pain, but they are also full of amazing courage and persistence and sometimes – the best times – of finding that warmth and light. Every single person taught me something, and I’m forever grateful. I don’t talk alot about my work outside of writing, but I love what I do and am continually inspired by the amazing human beings I’ve met along the way.

The second thing I thought of was my own experience of holding onto the light at the times in my life that were the darkest. (And yes, it’s probably significant that I didn’t think of my own experience first – you can analyze me later). It’s an image too; me on my knees, feeling unable to get up. Terrified of being alone and ready to give up. At the worst of those times, it was only the awareness that there were two little children depending on me that got me off my knees and forced me to put one foot in front of the other.  People often refer to me as an “upbeat” person. I’ve been called a relentless optimist, someone for whom things “roll off my back”. Some of the time, that’s even true. But probably not as often as it seems. I was the oldest child in my family, and I understood from a young age that I was the one who was expected to take care of everyone else. Sometimes that included my mother, on the days that were the worst. That’s a hard lesson to un-learn, and one I still struggle with every day. When you grow up with uncertainty about being taken care of, the fear of being abandoned never really lets go; when it actually happens, one way or another, that’s when you end up on your knees.

Eventually, I got up. I got help. I found therapy long before I became a therapist myself, astounded that maybe I didn’t have to “do it alone”. It felt utterly foreign to be the helpee instead of the helper, and I fear I wasn’t the most proficient client at allowing help, but I had some persistent therapists who didn’t give up on me. I thought of them when I walked across the stage myself years later and the doctoral hood was slipped over my head; that PhD was as much a testament to their relentless insistence that I was neither helpless nor hopeless as it was to hitting the books so goddamn hard. It was dark for a long time, but eventually – with help — the light came back, and I’m still holding on.

The third thing I thought about was also an image. San Diego Comic Con, 2015. The gigantic cavernous Hall H packed full of people, all fans of my favorite television show Supernatural. As the stars of the show took the stage, the lights went low and the room suddenly lit up. Thousands of points of light illuminated the room, held by the fans. In my hand, I held one too, on the verge of tears because of the message it conveyed. As Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Jared Padalecki looked out over the spectacle, not understanding, we all began to chant: Always keep fighting. Always keep fighting.  Jared Padalecki understood suddenly; his eyes grew moist, and he picked up the little plastic candle that he too had been given, hand over his heart, clearly overwhelmed. Always keep fighting is the slogan that Jared coined for his Represent campaign to bring awareness to suicide prevention. He also bravely acknowledged that he too had struggled with depression and had to fight to keep going. That day we all held onto the light – for Jared, and for ourselves.

Tweet, William Shatner

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Squee Con! A Celebration of Fandom!

 

Five or six years ago, I was standing in line at Wizard World Philly (as you do), wearing my Supernatural tee shirt (as you do), and another fangirl also waiting in line commented on it. We struck up a conversation, bonded as Supernatural fans, and soon realized we had a lot in common, including a fascination with fandom and the sociology and psychology of being a fangirl. Fast forward several years later, and Hansi Oppenheimer shared with me an exciting idea for her next film project – a documentary about fangirls. Would I want to collaborate with her?

You bet I would! That film became Squee! The Fangirl Documentary. We filmed segments all over the country, including at San Diego Comic Con. It was my first foray into being a producer as well as a co-writer, and I will never not be in awe of all that producers have to juggle again! We’re so proud to say that the documentary garnered all sorts of awards from film fests all over the world and, equally important, the reception from fans was overwhelmingly positive. We wanted to celebrate fandom and combat shame, and fans told us that the film did just that, with the help of some celebrity contributors too.

Hillywood Show film a segment for Squee

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Are These Twenty Things Wrong with Sam and Dean?

 

There’s an article over on ScreenRant  provocatively titled “20 Things Wrong with Sam and Dean Everyone Chooses to Ignore” which has a lot of people talking today. I rarely weigh in on other people’s articles because everyone has a right to their own opinion when it comes to this fictional show and these fictional characters – your interpretation, my interpretation, YMMV. And considering its provocative title, the controversy is probably exactly what the author was going for. A number of people have weighed in in the comments and made some very good points, so I also don’t want to belabor those points, but I will admit that when I got to the No. 1 thing I started shaking my head so fast I nearly gave myself whiplash. Then a few people asked me to weigh in with my psychologist hat on, so I thought, why not. However, my fangirl hat is definitely on as well, so I look sort of funny right now balancing two hats at once.

Anyway, let’s touch on these one at a time. I don’t disagree with everything in the article, but I do have a different viewpoint on some of the assertions.

20. They always come back to life. More a criticism of the writers than Sam and Dean, who even if they were real and had any agency, most likely wouldn’t be the ones to blame for this. Yes, it dilutes the emotional power of death scenes somewhat, but it also keeps a show on the air for 14 seasons. (Also I still sobbed like a baby when Sam died in the tunnels last season and Dean couldn’t save him, both while I watched it be filmed and when I saw it onscreen. I as a viewer may know that Sam will be back, but Dean the character does not know any such thing, and it was in empathy for him that I sobbed. Like a lot.)

19. Dean’s history with women. Is it problematic? Sure. Not in all the ways asserted here, I don’t think. But what I quibble with here most is the assertion that “it’s an aspect of Dean that fans try to ignore.” Not in my fannish circles, that’s for sure! I have a new book coming out all about the evolution of female characters on Supernatural, so my perspective may be a bit skewed, but we’ve all been talking about this since Season 1, way back on Live Journal meta commentary communities.

18. Sam always gets knocked out. Okay, I kinda agree with this one. My reviews often contain rants about Sam or Dean not being the smart and capable hunters we know they are. It’s a contrivance that keeps the story going, but it can create some head scratching.

17. Dean idolizes their abusive father. I think that was true at one time, but not any more. That’s been part of Dean’s evolution as a character, coming to terms with his idolization of both John and Mary. The thing is, it’s not unrealistic. I’ve worked with many children whose parents were a lot more overtly abusive than John, but the children still love the parents. We’re wired that way; we’ll do whatever mental gymnastics we have to do in order to maintain our view of our parents as people who love us and will take care of us. The alternative is just too terrifying. The way Dean was raised, he had to step up early on and push things like anger and disappointment and longing for love out of the way in order to survive, and to ensure that Sam survived. A defensive blanket acceptance of everything John Winchester told him was the perfect way to do that. However, Dean hasn’t been frozen there; he sees both his parents now more as flawed humans whose motives and behavior can be questioned instead of blindly accepted.

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Supernatural Birthday Project – And Fandom Positivity!

 

One of the things that makes the SPNFamily so awesome is the love affair that the fans have going with the show and the characters. Sometimes social media can make it seem like there’s more discord and infighting than agreement or celebration in fandom, but in reality, most of us spend a lot of time appreciating our favorite characters and being grateful that they exist in the universe (even if it’s only in the fictional universe of Supernatural). There’s a fandom project going on right now that celebrates our favorite Supernatural characters, as a matter of fact. It’s called the Supernatural Birthday Project, and it runs until September 10 and is inviting all Supernatural fans to participate. The online blog goes live on September 13, and the organizers will compile a book to give to the cast at the Vancouver convention.

I chatted with the organizers to find out what the SPNBday project is all about.

Lynn: This project, unlike many others, focuses on fans’ love for the characters instead of the actors. What was your rationale for this?

Jennie twitter.com/deanisntfineI think we were trying to get back to the core of what unites us: The love of the show itself. Everyone fell in love with the show because something in one or more of the characters spoke to them. This project gives fans a chance to look at that closely, and then, kind of cathartically, thank the characters themselves for what they’ve gotten from the show.

Axy twitter.com/aaaahhhxyWe often see people creating amazing projects for the actors, either individually or as groups, but as the creator of this project, and someone who did write to Jared in the past, I questioned what it would be if I had the opportunity to speak to Sam. I was lucky enough to experience talking with Jared about Sam, but I felt the unexplainable frustration of knowing that I would never have this kind of conversation with Sam, and that the millions of questions I have would mostly stay unanswered, save for the more pressing ones I will be able to discuss with Jared himself. But that we can’t talk with our characters doesn’t mean that we can’t tell them things. So at first, I thought about a simple letter to Sam but then, how cool would it be to get people all over the world to do that and compile it into something that would have a different meaning for the actors because it would focus solely on their work? Those were the roots of our project. To do something original and a little different.

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