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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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