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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Happy Birthday, Jared Padalecki!

Happy Birthday, Jared Padalecki!

JIB 2016
Pittsburgh, 2017.
Vancouver, 2017.
Nashville, 2018.

There’s something very special about the birthday of someone you care about – someone who changed the world you live in just by being born into it. That might be a child or a partner or a good friend, and in some cases it might be a person who plays a character you love on a television show you adore. I can’t imagine Supernatural without Sam Winchester, and I can’t imagine Sam Winchester being played by anyone other than Jared Padalecki. There are many things and many people who make Supernatural the special show that it is, but from the start, the actors who brought Eric Kripke’s Sam and Dean to life so vividly ensured that it would be a show with the potential to change lives. And it has. That alone makes Jared a special person in my book.

San Diego, 2017.
Vancouver, 2016.
Jacksonville, 2016.

But there’s so much more. When Jared had the courage to start talking about his own battles with anxiety and depression, he validated countless fans who had also struggled with their mental health. He made it okay to open up and be real, refusing to allow his ‘celebrity’ status to keep him silent. I still remember that Comic Con panel in Hall H when we all sat there holding up the Always Keep Fighting candles to honor his bravery and show our support for his fight, just as he has unfailingly showed his support for ours. The Always Keep Fighting and other Represent campaigns have not only contributed to charities that exist to help people in their fight, but they also gave fans a way to ‘speak out’ as well and to support each other.

San Diego Comic Con, 2017.
Seattle, 2018.
Seattle, 2017.
Pittsburgh, 2018.

All that is enough of a reason to make Jared special. But there’s more. When I wanted to write a book that pulled together the stories of all the fans whose lives had been changed by Supernatural and the SPN Family, it was Jared who was brave enough to say that he had a story to tell too. It’s one thing to talk about your battle with depression in a brief interview or as part of a tee shirt campaign. It’s entirely another to write a 30 page chapter that gets as real as you can get about that battle – that takes you right down into the trenches with Jared  in the midst of his most difficult moments ever. When he sent me the first draft, I sat there with tears streaming down my face and then replied to him with just a few words: Are you sure? He was. Because he knew that only by being that open and that real would he really be able to make a difference. Since Family Don’t End With Blood was published, I have heard from hundreds and hundreds of fans who have read Jared’s chapter and decided that they would keep fighting too. I’ve cried countless times reading their stories of bravery and battle, and I’ve shared some of them with Jared so he’ll know too that his courage is making a difference.

Phoenix, 2017.
Las Vegas, 2017.
San Diego Comic Con, 2017.

Those are the big things, the things I think of right away when it’s Jared’s birthday. There are little things too. The way I’ve seen him kneel down to hold the hand of a young fan overcome at trying to talk to him. The way he soldiers on even when he himself is feeling close to overcome with emotion, empathic person that he is. The way he cares about his costars and crew members and everyone on set and works so hard to create the unique and supportive atmosphere there is. The way he cared so much about writing his chapter that it took two years, because he so wanted to get it right. Who he is with family and who he is with friends – and who he is with fans.

Minneapolis, 2016.
Pittsburgh, 2017.
San Francisco, 2016.
Pittsburgh, 2016.

We wanted to do something to celebrate Jared’s birthday that would make a difference, so we asked him which charity he’d like the proceeds of the project to go to. He chose the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is so important and so needed. An original design ‘Always Keep Fighting/Never Give Up’ tee shirt by artist Angie Siketa raised money for the Hotline in Jared’s honor. Thank you to everyone who contributed! We also auctioned a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood signed by Jared, Jensen, Misha and many more, with all proceeds going to the Hotline. The auction ended at $1,975.00!! And as always, every day, every copy of Family Don’t End With Blood that’s sold raises money for Random Acts and Attitudes in Reverse, two charities that are constantly making a difference.

Pittsburgh, 2018.
Pittsburgh, 2018.
Vancouver, 2016.

So today I’m smiling, because it’s Jared Padalecki’s birthday. He’s not perfect, because Chuck knows, no one is. But he’s one of the good guys, and I’m tremendously grateful that Fate chose him to portray Sam Winchester. I can’t imagine how differently this wild ride of the past thirteen years would have gone if someone else had. I’m so very glad to know you, Jared – I hope on this birthday you know just how special you are.

–Lynn

Links to Family Don’t End With

Blood and Jared’s chapter on

the home page

Family Business Beer and More Austin Adventures with Lynn and Kim!

For Supernatural fans, Vancouver, where the show is filmed, is often referred to as ‘Mecca’. But there’s another contender for that title – Austin, Texas, where both Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles make their homes. Fans have been going to the San Jac Saloon in Austin for several years, ever since Jared Padalecki became the owner. And since January of this year, fans have had another place to congregate when they make the pilgrimage to Austin – the Family Business Beer Company, owned by Jensen and Danneel Ackles, her brother Gino Graul and their parents. That makes Austin a destination city for the SPNFamily.

So when the Paws4AKF charity coordinator contacted me to see if I would like to donate a copy of Family Don’t End With Blood for a charity event at the San Jac Saloon benefitting Austin Pets Alive and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, I said sure. It seemed a small step to then say well, why not buy a ticket to the fundraiser and head out to Austin myself? After all, I’d been dying to experience Family Business Beer, so two birds, one stone, you get the picture.

At the same time, the more rational part of my brain was insisting that it’s never a good idea to buy a plane ticket with only a few days notice. I called Kim, partner in crime and fellow fangirl and talented photographer, to say this is a crazy idea, right? Kim agreed.

Kim: Yes, crazy idea. Definitely.

Lynn: So…. you wanna go? Take some pictures?

Kim: Absolutely.

That’s how we found ourselves in Austin in late June, when the temperatures are just a wee bit higher than we’re used to. We flew in on Friday, me from Philadelphia and Kim from Kentucky, and managed to rendezvous at the Austin airport. Car rental figured out, we GPS’d our way into the city and checked into our hotel – and immediately ran into familiar faces. A large group of the SPN Family had showed up in force for the fundraiser. Most of us made the trek out to Family Business Beer when we arrived on Friday – and was it ever worth the 50 minute drive out of the city!

As the city fell away and the roads became more trees and nature than highways and buildings, we kept our eyes open for some kind of sign so we’d know when we were there. And sure enough, there was a sign! A few, in fact, all hand painted. The unassuming one at the entrance just said ‘Brewery.’ I believe Danneel Ackles painted the signs herself, since she and Jensen and Gino are the definition of hands-on owners. If so, lovely job, Mrs. Ackles.

The signs directed us to the side lot where we parked, then made our way up to the main building. The Brewery itself was gorgeous in the summer sun, the interior tastefully decorated and blessedly cool and the outside dotted with picnic tables clustered under generous shade trees.

I’m so glad we had Kim and her camera to do it justice!

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Supernatural Day and Paws4AKF in Austin!

Otherwise known as… The Austin Adventures of Lynn and Kim!

Supernatural fans have long made pilgrimages to Vancouver, where the show is filmed – but there’s another city that’s also a sort of Mecca for the SPNFamily. That city is Austin, Texas, where Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles make their home. Padalecki owns the San Jac Saloon in the heart of the city and Ackles and family own the Family Business Beer Company, a brewery in nearby Dripping Springs. That gives fans two destinations in which to congregate – and this past weekend, they had a good reason to brave the Texas summer heat.

Longtime Supernatural fans Sandra and Tonia organized Paws 4 AKF (@Paws4AKF), a charity fundraiser to benefit Austin Pets Alive (which Jared and Jensen have supported) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (the other charity selected by Jared Padalecki for this fundraiser). The event was held on June 23 at the San Jac Saloon, which attracted Supernatural fans from all over the country to Austin. About 50 fans gathered in ‘Jack’s Place,’ as the upstairs room of the bar is known, to do some good in the world and to enjoy each other’s company. There was a silent auction with plenty of donated items as well as games, a photo op area with props, a Twister board, and a very popular karaoke mic. I brought along copies of Family Don’t End With Blood to donate, and my friend and fellow fangirl and photographer extraordinaire Kim Prior came with me – so now the event had a photographer too! And this article has some pretty pretty pictures.

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When Being A Fan Hurts – Staying Wayward!

Passion is what being a fan is all about. It’s what makes it so fulfilling, what makes it an important part of our everyday lives and not something we only think about for an hour a week while watching a television show or once a year for two hours in the movie theater. That show or film or band or whatever we fan has the power to change our lives – it provides heroes and heroines for us to emulate, it sends different messages than what we hear from the rest of the world which are sometimes exactly what we need in order to feel okay about ourselves. It can inspire us to be better, help others, change the world, keep fighting for our own lives. The community that forms around the thing we’re passionate about – the fandom – also has the power to change us. Fandom can be a group that ‘gets us’ and gives us that all-important sense of belonging. Someone to share our good times and provide a source of support to get through the hard times. All that comes from the passion we invest in what we love.

When the thing we love is going strong, that is a beautiful feeling. It’s heady, affirming, exhilarating. Research shows that fans of a winning sports team have the same physiological and psychological reactions as the actual players who won the game. No wonder it’s important!

When the thing we love does not succeed, or is taken away from us, the emotions are just as strong. It feels devastating, a denial of all the good we found in this precious thing. It feels like an overwhelming loss – because it is one. There’s nothing silly or frivolous about the way fans love, or anything unimportant about what we get from that love. When it’s lost, we react with grief, and it’s just like any other grief. There’s denial and anger and sadness.

In the past 24 hours, quite a few beloved television shows have been either cancelled or not picked up for series by the networks that continue to have all the power. Lucifer, Brooklyn99, the list was a long one. Fans all over the world, of all sorts of things, are confused and furious and despairing over never being able to have more of that thing they love. Anyone who is a fan knows that sort of pain.

I want to send out a collective hug to all the fans who got bad news today, and all the people whose livelihoods depend on making that thing that people love. As a Supernatural fan, the CW deciding against a pick up of the spinoff Wayward Sisters has been a personal experience. Wayward (I’ll call it that because now we’re allowed to go back to calling it what it originally was, Wayward Daughters, and that makes me happy) was special to many in the fandom, because it was different. A show about women, starring women, and committed to being told through the perspective of women – diverse women. It’s a credit to Supernatural that the show created characters in Jody and Donna that resonated so much with viewers that we knew they could carry a show of their own. When that became a possibility, it felt like a remarkable evolution, and a hopeful one. The importance of representation is indisputable, and Wayward was going to be a big leap forward – in fact, we don’t even know just how far the show was going to take us, or how life changing that would be for so many people waiting to see themselves reflected onscreen.

Wayward was also different because it was an idea that began, not in a writer’s room or a network meeting, but in fandom itself. Supernatural fans wanted more of the female characters we had come to know and love. We wanted a whole show devoted to those women and exploring their stories. At the time, it almost seemed like an impossible idea, but that little idea caught fire and gained the attention and support of Supernatural’s writers and showrunners and the actresses themselves. For more than a year, fans and writers and actors joined forces to get the idea off the ground. Robert Berens wrote a pilot, Andrew Dabb and Bob Singer got it made. Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Kathryn Newtown, Clark Backo, Katherine Ramdeen and Yadira Guevara-Prip kicked ass. Fans rejoiced, and relished the hope that success brought.

I was truly shocked when the network passed. It seemed like the time was so right, and with a built-in fan base, it seemed like Wayward should have been a no-brainer. Then again, I’ve thought that many times only to have TPTB make another decision. I suppose I shouldn’t be as shocked as I am this time.

Maybe the outcry will change their minds; stranger things have happened. Wayward Sisters was trending a little while ago, while none of the shows that did get picked up or renewed were. That probably says something right there.

And if it doesn’t? They still can’t change what Wayward has come to mean to the fandom. That word was reclaimed as something that was okay, as something that was not a source of shame – as something to be proud of! Embracing being WaywardAF on tee shirts and hoodies and caps and anything else you wanted to put it on was powerful for so many fans. It was a way of saying no, I won’t let you shame me for being different, or tell me that I can’t be myself. Led by Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster’s willingness to be real, onstage at a convention or online in tweets or in the chapters they wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, the Wayward message inspired many others to be real too. And that is the healthiest thing any of us can do! That’s the true power of Wayward, and nobody can take that away.

 

I don’t know what the future will bring for Wayward Daughters. I know the fandom that I call my SPNFamily is hurting right now, as are the talented and committed actors and writers who worked so hard to make this happen. I do know that it’s not over. Whatever form Wayward will take going forward, the movement is very much alive – and the evolution that Wayward is a part of is not stopping. So put on your tee shirt and take a page from Briana and Kim because we’ve still got work to do – and don’t let this discourage you from the message. Stay Wayward.

–Lynn

Family Don’t End With Blood info

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