Happy Birthday Rob Benedict – And Here’s to Season 15!

 

As we head into the last season of Supernatural, we know there will be lots of familiar faces returning for one last time. I think we’re all agreed that we’re grateful one of those familiar faces will be Rob Benedict, returning as Chuck or God or The Writer or whoever the hell he really is. We all have mixed feelings about his character right now, but no one I know has mixed feelings about Rob himself.

Whether he’s kicking ass with Louden Swain or the Station Breaks in concerts all over the world or waxing eloquent about The Bachelor on Will You Accept This Rose podcast or showing off his acting chops on multiple projects (how does he have so much energy??), Rob makes us happy.

I’m forever grateful that he took down all his defenses and wrote the inside story of what happened when he had a stroke at a Supernatural convention six years ago in Family Don’t End With Blood. Not only did his story inspire many others to ‘always keep fighting’, but his chapter saved some lives for real because people who had read his story recognized when they were having a stroke and got help right away. Talk about making a difference!

The fact that we almost lost Rob has made us even more grateful that we still have him as the heart and soul of the SPNFamily. He is every bit as passionate when he takes the stage for a Saturday Night Special and brings us all together to celebrate Supernatural, the fandom, and life itself as he was the very first time I saw him play a decade ago. I watched that concert sitting in the back with Richard Speight Jr. – and we all know how that turned out! What a gift to have Rich and Rob together for all these years, making magic onstage at conventions, emceeing at Comic Con, and immortalizing a tongue in cheek (and hilarious) take of what this has all been about in Kings of Con.

It seems fitting that Rob would rejoin Supernatural for its final season. He’s been an integral part of the family since his first appearance on the show over a decade ago – and a force for good in the lives of so many. I wrote a retrospective of the many chats I’ve had with Rob last year, with lots of great quotes from Rob and lots of Kim Prior’s pretty pretty pictures, which you can read here:

Looking Back – Rob Benedict and SPNFamily

He’s pretty special.

Happy birthday, Rob – here’s to much much more of your beautiful music and inspired acting, and to an amazing Season 15!

— Lynn

You can read Rob’s heart-stopping chapter in

Family Don’t End With Blood, links at the

Home page!

Always Keep Fighting – A Message of Hope for World Suicide Prevention Day

As a psychologist, I’ve had the privilege of helping many people come out on the other side after considering suicide. As a psychologist who researches fandom, I’ve experienced firsthand how the television shows and films and bands and books and celebrities we love can also inspire us to keep living, and how the supportive community of fandom can provide a safety net while we fight through those difficult times.  What those two realms of experience have in common is someone else encouraging us to talk about it. Not to keep those thoughts and feelings and hopelessness to ourselves, but to share it so that someone can help us through. There is still a tremendous amount of stigma and shame around talking about suicide, and there’s nothing more important than changing that. I teach my students who are learning to be counselors every the importance of creating a safe space within which their clients can share ALL their feelings. I’m honored to work with Attitudes in Reverse to try to erase that stigma and start the important conversation.  I was also honored to be able to work with some of the people I proudly fangirl (the cast of Supernatural, my favorite television show) to put together a book that shares their most private, difficult to talk about, even shameful feelings – to inspire those who read the book to also share theirs. None of us can find the help we need without first opening up and letting someone else know we need that help.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, I wanted to share some of the messages from that book, Family Don’t End With Blood, that people have told me have helped them to “always keep fighting”. Some are from the chapters written by the actors and some are from the chapters written by the fans, because there’s tremendous wisdom in both. It can help to know that even the celebrities who we idolize have fought through debilitating self doubt, depression, insecurity and anxiety. It can help to know that other fans, who are just like us, have struggled with the same – and how they managed to keep going anyway. Every time someone tells me, or tells Jared or Jensen or Misha or anyone else, that reading what they wrote in this book saved their life, it means so much. So here are a few of those messages, in the hopes that they’ll keep inspiring us all to keep fighting.

The chapter that Jared Padalecki wrote is the longest one in the book, by far.  More than 30 pages long. He worked on it for almost two years, repeatedly wanting to add to it and edit it even though I kept saying that it was already amazing. He knew, I think, that if he didn’t have the courage to share the depths of his own experience with depression and anxiety honestly, that his chapter wouldn’t help anyone. And so, courageously, he did. I still can’t read it without crying. Over the years, countless fans have told me the same – and that Jared’s words are the ones that inspire them to ‘always keep fighting’.

Jared writes about how the fandom and the show have changed him, about his struggle with anxiety and not feeling good enough, about the times he’s broken down. In one powerful part of his chapter, Jared writes about the time he pushed himself to go to Europe for a convention at a time when he knew he wasn’t okay, but didn’t want to let anyone down. When he found himself with one day free and looking forward to going to the watch museums in Geneva – only to realize the one day he was there was a national holiday and they were all closed – the pressures that had been building for a decade overwhelmed him. Here are a few small excerpts from his chapter:

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Happy Birthday, Misha Collins!

I just finished doing my fourth round of GISH, which over the years has inspired me and a friend to wear a hat made of kale (and an evening gown) to a country club, to cajole my niece into wearing a dress made entirely of construction paper and pose by my neighbor’s little red sports car, to brighten the day of WWII veterans at the local VA, and this year to help a four year old conquer his fear of strange noises in the dark. The beauty of GISH is that it gives you permission – and actively encourages you – to step outside your comfort zone. It makes weird a good thing, and underneath all the zaniness, it reminds us to be good to each other.

Those are two of the important things that Misha Collins has accomplished in the past decade, but there have been many more. There’s an inspiring and emotional chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood about how Misha changed fan Claudine Hummel’s life, and it’s titled “Spreading Kindness Like Confetti.” That’s a pretty apt description for what Misha has tried to do over the past ten years, and how much he’s succeeded.  He realized soon after joining Supernatural that he could harness his popularity and the charitable nature that has long characterized fandom into making change in the world, and he’s done exactly that.

I remember one of our first chats, which turned into a long discussion of celebrity and how weird and artificial it can be, and how uncomfortable he was with it at the time, but he was also one of the first to recognize that it could also be a force for good. That’s how Random Acts came to be, and the good it has done in the world at this point is off the charts!

Misha wrote about celebrity, fandom and the creation of Random Acts in his chapter in one of our first books, Fan Phenomena Supernatural. His chapter is extremely candid, irreverent, hilarious – and fascinating. Just like Misha. It’s one of my favorites out of all the books I’ve put together. And he had this to say about his role on Supernatural and starting Random Acts:

At some point, fairly early into this strange experiment, I realized that my position on the show would allow me to provide a framework within which people can engage one another in the community. That I could be a catalyst because I happened to have been cast on a show that people were really, really enthused about. And so I guess I partly saw it as my responsibility to be a coalescing factor. Or perhaps a better way to put that is I saw it as an opportunity to serve and to help others be of service. So now I can say “Let’s all go do a scavenger hunt” or “Let’s go help Haiti” and people will come along and participate and engage. It became apparent fairly quickly that there was tremendous creative potential in Supernatural fandom. In spite of what everyone seems to think, I don’t spend a lot of time trolling online, but people email me things or I occasionally click through on something in the Twitter feed, and I see a tremendous amount of creative energy. I started Random Acts with the ambition of harnessing those resources to playful, productive and compassionate ends.

And did he ever! What a difference Misha and the SPNFamily have made, all over the world!

My conversations with Misha have often been around the ideas on celebrity, fandom and Supernatural that are in all my books, and I’ve loved hearing his thoughts – they’re often outside the box, which is a rarity. He also wrote a chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood about the SPNFamily  – and following Misha’s example of trying to do some good in the world, every copy of the book benefits Random Acts and the important work they do.

Misha’s new book, The Adventurous Eaters Club, is also a way of changing the world and helping others. The book benefits the fight against childhood hunger (while also providing you with some out-of-the-box recipes). It’s impossible to list all the charitable endeavors that Misha has spearheaded over the last decade, and that the SPNFamily has generously contributed to, but suffice it to say, it’s a lot!

Random Acts isn’t the only way Misha has changed the world, though. He’s done it by throwing his weight behind the political and social causes that he believes in, opening eyes and raising awareness in the process. I keep telling him he needs to run for office, but I think he’s found his own way of making a difference. He’s done it with tweets and posting videos and giving us glimpses of his decidedly unconventional life and family, a challenge to the way we’re taught things “should be” that I think is healthy. I found myself all emotional yesterday over a video he posted of him and his family and friends in kayaks rescuing a pelican ensnared in fishing line, because of course he did. Misha grew up with an unconventional life and he’s continued to live one, and I think sometimes we all need a little shaking up of the status quo to realize there are other ways of being, and some of them might just make this world and our human-to-human interaction a bit better. (Not to mention human-to-pelican).

Misha is an extraordinary human being who has managed to do extraordinary things. He’s been a tremendous influence on his costars and on his fans (me included), I think for the better.  And if he does decide to run for something, I’m right there lining up to cheer him on.  Supernatural is ending, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Misha Collins changing the world.

Happy Birthday, Misha. Keep on being you.

 

Love ya,

Lynn

You can order Misha’s new cookbook and help

fight childhood hunger, link at his twitter!

All Hail The Popcorn King! A New Documentary about an Inspiring Author

I usually write about my favorite television show, Supernatural, on this blog. But as an author, I admire other authors – especially ones who are able to write lots and lots of books with characters that capture reader’s imaginations and inspire them to change some of their world views. I also admire my fellow Supernatural fans and creators, including my good friend Hansi Oppenheimer. I so enjoyed working on her Squee project films – we share a love of Supernatural and an appreciation for creativity of all kinds. So when Hansi put her creative talent to use on a new project, I couldn’t wait to see it.

I had the privilege of watching a screener copy of Hansi’s new documentary film about groundbreaking author Joe R. Lansdale, ‘All Hail The Popcorn King’ – and found it captivating. Not only is it an intimate portrait of the author, it is also a walk through history. East Texas and its rich background comes alive through Lansdale’s memories as he paints a vivid picture of how things were when he started writing, inspired by the everyday (and yet unique) people around him. The drive in movie, the small town library, comics and Bugs Bunny cartoons, soap opera radio shows. The typewriter with keys that stuck and early manuscripts messy with white out and smudged carbon paper – as Lansdale himself says, some of his uniqueness comes from the meshing and crossing of different forms of media in the late 50s and early 60s as Lansdale was growing up.

[Joe and Bruce Campbell on the set of Bubba Ho-Tep]

Lansdale talks like he writes, and you don’t want to look away. He’s a storyteller, and that lends itself to a documentary. Hansi Oppenheimer makes the film a visual feast to go along with the verbal one, just as rich in walking us back through time. Vintage footage of drive-in movies and intermission concession ads create a feeling of nostalgia that works well with Lansdale’s rememberings.

The film traces Lansdale’s influences through the eyes of those who know and love him as well as through Lansdale himself. He walks us through his own history as he walks through the parts of East Texas that formed him, repainting the current landscape with his memories of what it was like when he was a young boy. It’s a rare glimpse into what makes an author tick, of the influences that impacted his writing and his style of storytelling. Lansdale has created characters who were groundbreaking in terms of representation, and who were inspiring enough to help people get through tough times in their real lives.

Joe: To think that fiction can do that, can have that impact, that’s kinda humbling.

That statement sort of encompasses both Lansdale’s influence and who he is as a person. How wonderful to have a film that captures both those things while Joe is still with us – and still writing.

I asked filmmaker Hansi Oppenheimer about her reasons for making this film and her appreciation of Joe and his work.

Hansi: I’ve been a fan of Joe’s work since the 80’s. I finally had the opportunity to meet him two years ago  when I was invited to appear at a con in Houston. I reached out to him to see if he’d be available for an interview for my Youtube channel and he invited me to Nacogdoches for lunch and the interview. After the interview, I reached out to him for a piece on a short about Joe Bob Briggs that I was working on and he wrote me the most beautiful, touching, funny piece and got it back to me in a day. I was so grateful that I promised him my next film would be about him and I ‘m so glad I did. I’ve never worked with anyone who was more honest, generous and collaborative. He reached out to some of the biggest names in Hollywood and introduced me so I could include them. As Mick Garris said “If you’ve read Joe Lansdale, you love Joe Lansdale”. He truly is a genre unto himself.

[Joe and Nick Damici on the set of Hap & Leonard]

I also wondered which of Joe’s stories and characters spoke to her personally and why?

Hansi: I really love The Drive-in. I’m obsessed with Drive-in culture and his novel takes that and turns it on it’s head. Another favorite is The Magic Wagon which is about a traveling medicine show in the early west with supernatural elements. I adore the Hap & Leonard series about  two “brothers” who try to fight the good fight despite overwhelming odds. (Sound like some characters we all know and love? Yes, Hansi is also a Supernatural fan) It was briefly made into a wonderful series on Sundance TV and is available on Netflix. I also loved his run on the comic Jonah Hex.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten many more favorites and there’s so many I haven’t even read yet. As his son Keith said “He writes them faster than I can read them.” He’s written over 50 novels and 500 short stories! So there’s something for everyone in his work. But the best thing about Joe is he is as genuine a human as you can find. He won’t bullshit you and he’s been a supportive and encouraging member of the creative community for decades.

[Joe, Don Coscarelli and Joe’s niece, Pamela Lansdale]

[Joe, Karen, Keith and Kasey Lansdale at their home in Nacogdoches, Texas.]

There will be a screening of ‘The Popcorn King’ in Austin, Texas, on August 18 at the historic Alamo Draft House. Joe Lansdale himself and his family will be there, along with Brian Keene, Rick Klaw and Yuri Lowenthal, among others.  Filmmaker Hansi Oppenheimer and Joe will also appear at KillerCon on August 17 in Austin to discuss the film, hosted by Brian Keene. And on October 5, George R. R. Martin will host a Q & A and screening with Hansi Oppenheimer at the George R. R. Martin Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which should be fascinating.

There is also a a DVD available for pre-order at the Squee Projects site at  https://squeeprojects.com with bonus featurettes and additional interviews that didn’t make it into the final cut of the film.

Squee Projects is also looking to partner with people to bring the film to smaller community venues. If you would like to host a screening or partner with Squee, you can contact them at squeeprojects@gmail.com.

–Lynn

A Chat With Eric Kripke – The Boys, Supernatural and Crafting the Icebergs Under the Water

 

I was introduced to the new Amazon Prime show The Boys at San Diego Comic Con and was immediately intrigued. I was already excited about it simply because Eric Kripke, creator of Supernatural, is executive producer (and we all know how passionate I am about Supernatural...). So I went to the “activation experience,” which took you inside the first episode of the show and let you help some of “the boys” solve a superhero-related crime. That’s right, the superheroes in this show aren’t exactly the good guys. In fact, they’re a bunch of assholes. Most of them anyway. Propped up by big corporate money and power, the “Supes” are essentially the worst kind of fabricated and manufactured celebrities, their personas carefully constructed to appeal to the unsuspecting masses as the only hope for an increasingly frightened and powerless humanity. If that sounds a little too close to real life right now, that’s exactly the point.

That’s the premise of the comic on which The Boys is based, and the premise of the Amazon series as well. The show has something to say about who holds power in our current culture and how they wield it, including the role of social media and propaganda in shaping people’s views and keeping them in a perpetual state of fear – which makes a superhero who swoops in to save the day and claims to be able to keep everyone safe very appealing indeed. It’s a dark, gritty, cynical world that The Boys inhabit, but it reflects the fear-mongering and online manipulation that is all too real, that make people long for “saviors” and turn the other way when those saviors turn out to be the actual monsters.

All that hits a little too close to home, and if that’s all the show was about, the darkness would be too much to take on top of the overwhelming dose of darkness I get every day through every type of media. What makes The Boys instead as hopeful as the traditional superhero tropes it subverts were intended to be is the existence of a resistance. In the tradition of Supernatural’s Sam and Dean, the resistance comes in the form of a bunch of just plain humans, who nevertheless are willing to go against the odds and try to do what’s right. Instead of taking out demons and wendigos, the Boys are going after the Supes. Outgunned in terms of powers and definitely the underdogs, nevertheless the Boys are every bit as invested in the “always keep fighting” mantra that has made Supernatural such an inspiring show. I’ve only watched one episode so far, and I’m already rooting for them.

For a show whose first episode begins with an ultra violent occurrence and includes a decadent sex-fueled club scene and some full frontal (equal opportunity) nudity, The Boys tackles complex and relevant themes with a surprisingly deft hand. Main character Hughie, whose quest for revenge is instigated by one of the Supes callously running through his girlfriend at super speed and exploding her, has his trauma examined instead of just tossed out there as an explanation for what happens next. And while everyone on the show seems to live somewhere in the morally ambiguous grey area that I love seeing characters struggle through, that goes for the Supes too – or at least one of them.

The premiere episode also takes the time to examine new Supe Starlight’s recruitment into the elite “Seven”. Presented as young and naïve and fully buying into the cult of celebrity that she thinks she craves, Starlight soon finds that the Supes are not who she thought they were when she had that poster of The Deep on her wall. It’s a pointed commentary that was fascinating to me as a psychologist who’s studied celebrity and fandom for the past decade plus. There’s significant sexual assault-based trauma for Starlight that happens with that realization, and it too is not glossed over but explored realistically. That story line pulled on my heartstrings more than anything else in the first episode, and anchored the show in a feminist slant while critiquing the misogyny and power dynamics inherent in that world – and our own.

At the Comic Con press room, Erin Moriarty (who plays Starlight) said she loved the fact that you initially believe that Starlight is going to fit into the familiar stereotype, but it turns out she’s a lot more than that. So far, one episode in, she feels like the moral compass of the show, along with Hughie, who she just so happens to meet on a park bench as they struggle to come to terms with their respective traumas and how those traumas have changed how they view themselves.

The Boys is executive produced by Seth Rogen and Eric Kripke, based on the comic series by Garth Ennis. It stars Karl Urban (Billy Butcher) as leader of the Boys, along with recently traumatized Hughie (Jack Quaid), Karen Fukuhara (The Female), Laz Alonso (Mother’s Milk), and Tomer Kapon (Frenchie). The Supes include Anthony Starr (Homelander), Dominique McElligott (Queen Maeve), Jessie T. Usher (A Train), Chace Crawford (The Deep), Nathan Mitchell (Black Noir) and Erin Moriarty (Starlight). Elisabeth Shue plays Madelyn Stillwell, the corporate PR person who pulls the strings with a chilling smile.

As a passionate Supernatural fan, I was initially interested in The Boys because of Eric Kripke, who created the characters I love so much on Supernatural. I asked him a question at the press room for The Boys at Comic Con (see video link below), but couldn’t wait to talk with him some more about his new show and its similarities to his first ‘baby’, Supernatural. We’ve stayed a little bit in touch over the past decade by email, but having a chance to actually chat was a treat.

E: Hey Lynn, how are you?

L: It’s been like ten years since we’ve had an actual conversation!

E: It probably has been, but I follow you on twitter and we’ve had some twitter conversations and you seem like you’re doing great, so I know what you’ve been up to. And thank you so much for all the support over the years.

L: Pretty sure I should be thanking you – I’ve written six books about your show (Supernatural) that helped me get tenure and promotion to professor. Thank you for that!

E: Well, you’re welcome!

It really had been a while. I first chatted with Eric Kripke way back in 2008 when I began researching and writing books about fandom and celebrity, mostly focused on the show he created that I had fallen head over heels in love with, Supernatural. (Here’s Eric the first time we met at the Supernatural Creation convention in Burbank – he was a baby!)

Photo Lizz Sisson

We did a few phone interviews and met up at Comic Con that year to chat some more. We talked a lot about fandom and of course about fannish creativity and fanfiction. Eric’s first question: Am I ever in it?

Me: Umm, I guess? I may have run across a few…

Kripke: Oooh, is it porn? You have to send me that!

Fast forward to 2019 and Eric’s Reddit AMA when someone asked him if he’d read any Supernatural erotica and he said yes, and then described the definitely-not-G-rated fic…

L: I had to laugh when I saw you mention that fic with you and Jared from back in the day (laughing). I mean, what you said is true, you were assertive in it…

E: Exactly!

L: I had forgotten what it was actually about and was like OMG that’s right…

E: Yeah (laughing) I’ve never forgotten it, it made a major impact that’s for sure.

L: Well, either you’re welcome or… I’m sorry?

E: (still laughing) Yeah right, I think a little of both.

Side note: Eric has always been fine with fans “playing in his sandbox” and understands transformative works as a sign of affection for his characters and his worlds. There’s a whole chapter on our early conversations about Supernatural in Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls if you’re curious.

L: Anyway, The Boys! I’ve watched the first episode, I’m a bit old school in that I like to watch one at a time and space it out and sort of digest it. I LOVED the first episode and I think other Supernatural fans will really love the show too. There are some similarities to Supernatural for sure.

E: Mm hmm

L: For one thing, the protagonist is sent on a hunt for revenge because the love of his life is violently killed – Mary burning on the ceiling is an iconic image for Supernatural, and so is Robin being decimated and Hughie standing there still holding her bloody hands!

E: Hmm. That one, I mean yes, now that you’ve pointed it out, there are similarities to that. Robin dying in The Boys is taken almost frame for frame from the comic book so it’s funny, that hadn’t really occurred to me about that connection, because in The Boys the instigating incident is so infamous for anyone who’s a fan of the books. It was my job to capture it as faithfully as possible and that’s mostly where my head was, but yeah. Also, I think where they’re similar is there are a lot of tonal and thematic similarities. In a lot of ways, The Boys is a hard R Supernatural.

L: (silently) A hard R Supernatural….ohgod yes please…

E: And it’s funny because you don’t even realize these things until it’s hindsight. I don’t set out to say oh I’m gonna make something for Supernatural fans, I just make stuff – the only person I really try to please is me. But because I love Supernatural and those are the kind of things that I love, I guess it stands to reason that if left to my own devices to make another show that I put all my love into, it will have some similarities.

L: That makes sense.

E: What The Boys is really ultimately about is these kind of very down to earth middle class blue collar people taking on these arrogant ultra powerful forces that are overwhelming and all powerful. In Supernatural it’s angels and demons and (laughing) God…

L: lol

E: And in The Boys, it’s the sort of pantheon of superheroes. The incredibly big guy with magical powers basically is something that I’m clearly interested in. I think I really like the idea of blue collar no bullshit guys taking on and puncturing these huge myths and kind of having to bring them down to earth just through their own wits, because they’re outmatched…

L: Yeah, and that’s all they have, their own smarts.

E: And that says something to me, I think, about the world. Like we’re always up against these seemingly insurmountable forces, but there are things we can do to get some equality. You just have to – it’s not easy and it’s not fair – but you just have to keep banging away at it.

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