The Supernatural New Jersey con is the closest I get to a “home” con – a less than two hour drive from Philly. The key word there being “drive” – as in, no airfare! Woohoo!! I packed up my car with many boxes of books and headed out on Thursday up the NJ Turnpike to scenic Secaucus, happy not to have to deal with airport and parking and TSA. Apparently I got a bit too cocky though, because no sooner had I arrived at the vendor section of the gigantic Meadowlands convention center than I realized that I hadn’t brought my usual backpack for flights to cons – so I had only part of what I needed for my vendor table!
NOOOOO! Luckily the convention center is adjacent to a giant Walmart, so I trekked over and had my promo pics reprinted, then trekked back to finish setting up. (My friends and I returned to Walmart later that night to stock up on supplies for the con weekend, which included an alarming amount of Beefaroni and ramen noodles, bags of chips and possibly some Lunchables but hey, con weekend!) We love Embassy Suites with their mini kitchens in the room and free breakfast buffet every morning – between that and the Walmart, we were set. And it’s a good thing, since I was on my own in the vendor room – luckily fandom is always wonderful and generous, with fellow fans offering to grab me drinks and pretzels or time for a bathroom break.
This con was special because it was the 100th Creation Supernatural convention – also christened Schmelke Con for the one person who has been at all 100 and taken over 250,000 photo ops to prove it — the one and only Chris Schmelke! There’s no overestimating the difference Chris has made to these conventions – photo ops are a special thing and nobody knows how to make them more special than Chris. We interviewed Chris for one of our first books, Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls, and it was immediately obvious that he truly cares about fans’ experience – he gets it. And so he does everything necessary to make sure those few moments allow a genuine connection. Chris will be the first one to say that Supernatural conventions are unlike any other, and in part that’s because these actors also go out of their way to make the photo ops special.
There were all sorts of special decorations celebrating the 100th con and Creation even handed out bracelets to commemorate the occasion, so it was very cool to be there!
Richard introduced Friday’s first guest panelist, Rachel Miner, by giving her well deserved props for her work with Random Acts. She was asked about her initial reaction to her character Meg, and said that she got to read her audition scene with Jared and Jensen. Eric Kripke was there too, and they both ended up laughing; she knew right away that she loved the character.
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.
Last Thursday was a day full of anticipation for the Supernatural fandom – it was the day we finally got to see the Wayward Sisters episode. Wayward Sisters was not only an episode of Supernatural, but a backdoor pilot for a possible spinoff starring instead of two brothers, six women! That fact alone, unfortunately, is pretty unusual on television, let alone on the CW. Women’s voices are finally being heard a bit more both in media and in the world in general, so the Wayward Sisters pilot is coming at a good time. Perhaps not only the Supernatural fandom but a whole lot of viewers are ready for a show whose leads are all female.
At least I hope so. Don’t get me wrong, I love Supernatural and I love it just the way it is. The show has had some amazing female characters over the years, including the ones who star in Wayward Sisters, and it has evolved from the days when a female character was in danger of being ‘fridged’ to inspire a male character to start hunting. I love Sam and Dean and Cas to the moon and back and always will. The wonderful thing about Wayward Sisters is that it can be its own thing, an extension of the Supernatural universe just like fanfiction and fanvids and fanart are, which can be beautiful and important in its own way while Supernatural itself goes on (and on and on and on, as far as I’m concerned…) Not all fans were on board with the possible spinoff, and that’s okay – we all like and love and want different things, and nobody has to love the same thing as I do or you do. But for many fans, the idea of ‘Wayward’ had become very important, even beyond the possibility of a spinoff.
The idea for Wayward Sisters began over two years ago – and it began in the fandom. That’s not where ideas for pilots usually come from. Fandom has all sorts of fabulous ideas, as anyone who’s been in a vibrant creative brilliant fandom like the Supernatural fandom knows. But those ideas don’t get heard, and even if they do, they certainly don’t get taken seriously to become reality! Wayward Daughters, as it was first called, was an idea that fans had – not just for a spinoff, but as a rallying cry for some of the things I write about in my books on fandom and Supernatural. For finding the courage to be yourself and proud of it – for being “Wayward As F—k.” That ‘WaywardAF’ slogan ended up on tee shirts and pajamas and all sorts of things proudly worn by fans who were tired of not being real and ready to be wayward. Actresses Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster were on board from the start, adding to the empowering message. They wrote chapters in my book about the power of Supernatural and the SPNFamily (Family Don’t End With Blood) all about being WaywardAF, and so did the two women who started the Wayward Daughters movement, Riley and Betty. Eventually the rallying cry was so loud that The Powers That Be heard it. Writer Robert Berens, who had penned some of the pivotal episodes introducing these characters, hopped on board to write the episode, now known as Wayward Sisters. And that? Is a big thing.
One week from today, my favorite show will return from its winter hiatus, and I can’t wait. This return will be extra special, because of two things. One, it’s on my birthday – I suppose that’s only special to me, but it feels extra special because of the other thing. That other thing is the return episode will also be the “backdoor pilot” for a possible spin-off for Supernatural – Wayward Sisters.
What’s so special about that? The show has tried a backdoor pilot before, with the Bloodlines episode back in Season 9. That was a pretty spectacular failure – I adore this show, and I must confess even I didn’t like it. Largely because it didn’t feel like a Supernatural episode at all. There were no established characters who would transition to the new show, and the new characters seemed like they’d be more at home on Dynasty than on Supernatural. I couldn’t imagine Sam and Dean ever making a guest appearance – in fact, I was pretty sure they were secretly rolling their eyes at some of the newly introduced characters.
To the show’s credit, the overwhelming NO response to Bloodlines didn’t sour them on considering a spin-off. And they’ve learned from their mistakes. Wayward Sisters is different in a number of ways. First, it stars characters who are already established on Supernatural, and who fans already know and like (not every character is liked by every fan of course, but you can pretty much say that about any fictional character ever – there’s no such thing as unanimous liking and that’s okay). Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) has been a recurring character for some time, as has Donna Hanscum (Briana Buckmaster) – both are fan favorites on the show and the actors are fan favorites on the Supernatural convention circuit too.
Also in the cast are Claire (Kathryn Newton) and Alex (Katherine Ramdeen), both of whom have been in multiple episodes of the show. In Season 13, we were introduced to Patience (Clark Backo) and Kaia (Yadira Guevara Prip), rounding out the cast. Instead of a bunch of characters we don’t know at all, this attempt at a spin-off utilizes characters who are already familiar to us as part of the Supernatural universe. That should make a big difference.
That’s not what makes Wayward Sisters special, though. Instead it’s the way the spinoff came about and the striking evolution that the composition of the show represents. Wayward Sisters, unlike its inspiration, Supernatural, is a cast of women. Don’t get me wrong, I think Supernatural has given us some amazing female characters over the years – the women of Wayward are some of them, but there are many more. The show was roundly criticized in its early days for the rarity of any episode passing the Bechdel test and for its use of the ‘fridging women’ trope to serve as inspiration for its tortured heroes. There has been evolution over the course of 13 years, in terms of cast and more slowly in terms of female writers and directors, but this is a leap forward, not a step. If the pilot flies, this is a show about women that, according to its cast, is committed not only to being told through the perspective of women, but to diversity of many kinds. That’s a lot of evolution for a little show on the CW.
That evolution is one of the unique things, but it’s not the only one. The other unique, maybe even unprecedented, thing about Wayward Sisters is the way it came to be. The idea for Bloodlines came from the usual places – producers, studio, network, showrunners, writers room. The idea for Wayward Sisters came from the fandom. And that really doesn’t happen. Fandom has all sorts of fabulous ideas, as anyone who’s been in a vibrant creative brilliant fandom like the Supernatural fandom knows. But those ideas don’t get heard, and even if they do, they certainly don’t get taken seriously to become reality! As Kim and Briana are fond of saying onstage at Supernatural conventions, “YOU. You did this.” And you know what? We did. And that’s pretty extraordinary.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I LOVED last week’s episode of Supernatural, so I went into this week’s with high expectations, especially because this was the lead-in to the Wayward Sisters pilot episode that happens when we return from Hellatus. ‘The Bad Place’ turned out to be a wild rollercoaster of a ride that kept me on the edge of my seat – it literally looked and felt like a feature film crammed into 42 minutes! That’s not to say I loved all of it, but it definitely did a great job of setting up the possible spinoff while simultaneously entertaining me throughout.
So, what I liked? Well, I really liked Jack. It was nice to meet Alexander Calvert at last weekend’s Supernatural convention and to be able to tell him in person what a fabulous job he’s doing on this show, because DAMN. I have been rooting for Jack since the beginning, which says a lot about Calvert’s acting and the way he’s been written considering he’s Lucifer’s son. I didn’t think I’d like him at all before Jack was born, so I wasn’t even prepared to care about the character – but I do.
We open with a young Native American artist, Derek, and his girlfriend discussing the difficulties of making a living through art, which, YES.
Enter Jack, a prospective buyer.
Derek: You’re young.
Jack: I am.
I laughed out loud at Calvert’s delivery, and the fresh faced expression on Jack’s face. He manages to make Jack entirely likable while also playing him with a hint of wait-is-that-a-menacing-look so I’m always a little off base and unsure. I was so horrified when we thought that Jack killed Derek, it actually made me a little sick to my stomach. I don’t WANT Jack to go dark side, Show! And that says something very good about how the character is being written and acted, because I actually CARE about him.
Writer Robert Berens does a good job of incorporating a bit of Native American lore and casting does a good job as they almost always do with finding an actor (Nathaniel Arcand) who makes us care about him even in the four minutes he was in the episode! Arcand is not just very good looking, he invests Derek with personality too.