When Supernatural announced that it was ending, I was too caught up in my own grief for a while to even think about what might help all of us get through a loss of this magnitude. Then I thought about the many people who have told me that the inspiring messages in Family Don’t End With Blood written by the cast and fans of Supernatural had helped them get through difficult times. Would a book that gave us all something tangible with which to celebrate and remember the show be helpful now? I had already been working on another book about the show – one that would trace its evolution in terms of representation, especially for the women of Supernatural, and including the voices of actors who hadn’t written for Family Don’t End With Blood. Now that the show was ending, I thought about expanding that book. Maybe a book that would celebrate all fifteen years of this incredible show and its legacy would be an inspiration and allow all of us to “always keep fighting.” A book that would give us all something beautiful (inside and out) to hang onto so we can always remember this extraordinary show and fandom.
By the time I had this realization and called my publisher at Ben Bella, the date on which the last episode of Supernatural would air was little more than a half year away. Was it even possible to put a book together that quickly and actually have it be released in time for the series finale?
I think my wonderful publisher at first laughed, and then maybe asked, wide eyed: Oh wait, are you serious?
It felt important to pull together the cast and fans of this one-of-a-kind show one more time to celebrate the legacy that Supernatural leaves behind. But that meant we had almost no time to gather people together and ask them to write about their experience with Supernatural at a time when they were already emotionally raw from the news of it ending (both the actors and the fans). It meant asking them to write something very personal very quickly. That’s asking a lot, especially when many of them were already over-the-top busy. It’s a real testament to just how important this show is to both cast and fans that 20 actors and 18 fans managed to contribute something to There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done. Or, as my publisher has said, it’s a miracle.
But then again, Supernatural always has defied the odds, hasn’t it?
This is my thank you to all the talented people who contributed to There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, both fans and actors.
A big giant shout out to Tedra Ashley-Wannemuehler, Michael Banh, Patty Barbera, Allison Broesder, Tanya Cook, Tara Coste, Dawn Gray, Amy Hutton, Kaela Joseph, Alana King, Gail Martin, Jessica Mason, Joelle Monique, Dmitri Novak, Emerson Lopez Odango, April Vian and Sarah Wylde for sharing their powerful stories. Each one of their chapters was a labor of love, and it shows on every page. I think every fan of Supernatural, no matter why you watch or how you watch or how long you’ve been watching, will find something to relate to in these amazing chapters.
Fans not only wrote this book; they also made it beautiful. A special shout out to my partner in crime, the uber talented Kim Prior, who not only contributed many gorgeous photos but also coordinated the other talented photographers who contributed (and kept me mostly sane throughout this entire process). Those photographers, all fans of the show and the cast they focus their lenses on with so much talent, also came through with a tight deadline. Thank you to Monica Duff, Liz Madsen, Krista Martin, Suzanne McLean, Hansi Oppenheimer, Melissa Rothman and Chris Schmelke for contributing your beautiful photos. We also were incredibly fortunate to have the talents of three amazing artists – Christine Griffin once again created the breathtaking cover art, and Sherri Dahl and Mary Twist contributed sketches that bring the chapters to life. The talent in this fandom is almost unbelievable.
As is the talent onscreen – the actors who bring Supernatural’s characters to life. Another big giant shout out to the cast members who took time out of very busy schedules to contribute to the book (and who didn’t run away screaming when there was yet another nudge from me in their inbox…) Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester), Jared Padalecki (Sam Winchester) and Misha Collins (Castiel) all contributed even though they were in the midst of dealing with their own strong emotions about Supernatural ending after being such an integral part of their lives for so long, and in the midst of still filming that show we’re trying to celebrate. Jared and Jensen both wrote chapters in Family Don’t End With Blood also. Misha has written substantial chapters for not one but two of our previous books. He was in the midst of about a dozen projects (most of which are helping to save the world), yet still contributed a briefer but heartfelt special message. (Most importantly, we’ve partnered with Random Acts once again — this book, like our previous one, benefits Random Acts – to help Misha keep saving the world!)
So many other actors also contributed chapters. A big shout out to Hugo Ateo (Cesar), Andrea Drepaul (Melanie the werewolf), Adam Fergus (Mick Davies), Carrie Genzel (Linda Berman “with sparkle on her face”), David Haydn-Jones (Arthur Ketch), Chad Lindberg (Ash), Lee Majdoub (Hannah), Julie McNiven (Anna Milton), Tahmoh Penikett (Gadreel), Lee Rumohr (Jesse), Richard Speight Jr. (Gabriel/Loki), Todd Stashwick (Dracula), Shoshannah Stern (Eileen Leahy), Gabriel Tigerman (Andy), Brendan Taylor (New Doug), Lauren Tom (Linda Tran) and Rick Worthy (Alpha Vamp), and to writer Davy Perez. Despite all the other projects these talented creators are juggling, they managed to write with genuineness and candor about this show and this fandom that has had such an impact on them.
A special thank you to Eric Kripke, who created this show and these characters that have changed all our lives. Without Kripke, there would be no Supernatural. I am beyond honored that he contributed a cover blurb for There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done that captures his love for the show and the fandom.
The book includes its original theme of exploring the evolution of Supernatural over the past fifteen seasons in terms of representation and the emphasis on family of all kinds. Both actors and fans wrote from diverse perspectives themselves in terms of race, sexuality, gender and disability. They are people of color, Indigenous people, deaf persons, gay and lesbian and bisexual and trans persons and all sorts of other persons. Some trace the evolution of the show in terms of representation as they themselves have searched for it. The book is also a celebration of Supernatural for all that it has brought to its fans and its cast, and of the important legacy it will leave behind. Some relate a powerful personal story of how this show and this fandom changed their lives, supported them through a tough time, or even helped them survive. Every chapter – and every author – is different. What ties them, and all of us, together, is Supernatural.
We all hope that when you read There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done that it will be a permanent way of remembering just how special Supernatural is, and will always be. Something beautiful and heartfelt to hang onto, to help with the inevitable grieving – and at the same time a joyous celebration of the Little Show That Could.
Every purchase benefits the important work of two charities that were created out of the show and the fandom: Random Acts, a partnership between Misha Collins and the SPNFamily, and SPNSurvivors, a non-profit organization started by fans of the show to bring to life and spread the “always keep fighting” message.
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!)
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…
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…
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.
I was very excited to attend the press conference for Eric Kripke’s new show, The Boys, after experiencing the activation installation at Comic Con last weekend. Instead of round table interviews, invited press sat in front of the panel, and cast and Kripke and took turns asking questions. Eric recognized a few of us and gave us a friendly nod, which I admit made my fangirl heart happy. You were supposed to wait for the room person to give you the mic in order to ask a question, which meant I was having a near panic attack trying to get her attention while other people just yelled theirs out. Finally I got a turn to ask a question – one for Mr. Kripke.
Me: One of the things that sets your first baby, Supernatural, apart is that on the surface it’s a show about two brothers hunting monsters but it really is so much more. It’s a show about family and loyalty and how family don’t end with blood. Are there underlying themes on The Boys as well?
Eric thanked me for the Supernatural centric question and gave a thoughtful and interesting answer, which you can listen to below (once I managed to stop just smiling at him and push the record button…) But come on, SPN Family, it’s Kripke!
Eric: I think this show is also about family. It’s about ‘the boys,’ who are the heroes because they stick together and they’ve got each other’s backs, and they’re willing to admit vulnerability and weakness. They’re scared and outmatched and outgunned, but they’re taking on these powerful forces – not dissimilar to the way Sam and Dean take on monsters and demons. What I love is that the heroes of this show are the ones who can express vulnerability and weakness and be imperfect….
Supernatural has been unique in its exploration of masculinity, especially when it comes to emotional vulnerability. Sam and Dean have gone from “no chick flick moments” to being able to cry with each other and to have each others’ backs quite literally. The theme of the ordinary man taking on the super (natural) or super (heros) is a compelling one that is a part of The Boys as well as SPN. Finally, the theme of family – and especially that ‘family don’t end with blood’ seems to be woven into Kripke’s new show too.
Eric: We spend a lot of time building the iceberg under the water with the emotion, and with the satire…
That time and effort to build the ‘iceberg under the water’ is what has set Supernatural apart from the beginning, so if The Boys can pull it off, that bodes well for its longevity.
One of the first things I did when I got to San Diego Comic Con this year was check out the press preview for the Amazon Prime activation for some of their highly anticipated new shows. I was especially excited to get a taste of the new show, ‘The Boys’, based on the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. The show flipflops our usual expectations for a superhero show by taking a no-holds-barred look at what happens to superheroes once they succumb to the lure of fame and fortune and power. (And if you think that’s a handy dandy way to look at the very same dynamics in our own real world, you’re absolutely right).
The show seems to be all about the gray, so nothing is black and white, but the good “guys” (who are not all guys) are the mere humans trying to fight back against flawed superheroes and the multi billion dollar organization that essentially manages their social media presence. It’s ‘the boys’ versus ‘the supes’ and it looks like a hell of a lot of fun. I was also intrigued because I fell in love with one of showrunner Eric Kripke’s first “babies”, Supernatural, and have watched all he’s done since. I love the way he isn’t afraid to go meta or to weave in sometimes surprising combinations into one show, from the violent to the irreverent to the heartwarming – and the heartbreaking. So I was excited to experience a little bit of The Boys!
The activation took you inside the world of The Boys and right into a case, as we all teamed up to help some of ‘the boys’ crack a case and figure out what ‘the Supes’ are up to no (no good clearly). One of them had crashed a car right into an electronics shop, so we combed through the rubble for clues while ‘the boys’ used the F word more times than I may have ever heard in the space of fifteen minutes! It was high energy, gritty, dirty and did a great job of portraying the feel of the show. It also threw us all when one of ‘the boys’ suddenly turned on a guy who we thought was a guest just like us and freaked out about him filming on his phone.
The boy: Are you a supe??? Are you??? Why are you filming, huh?
He threw a punch and the guy fell to the floor, obviously bleeding, and a few people in our group actually gasped out loud because they didn’t realize he was part of the activation. Well done, Amazon Prime!
After I attended the press conference for ‘The Boys’ (and was thrilled to be able to ask showrunner and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke a question!) I jogged over to Ballroom 20 to catch the panel. (I seriously do not want to walk for a week once Comic Con is over…)
There’s a psychological phenomenon that happens when we have an experience that shakes our world so much that our brains encode it as a “flashbulb memory”. It’s an old term, and some of you have probably never seen a camera with a flashbulb, but back in the day it used to go off and illuminate a scene you were capturing with a photo, freezing it in time forever. That sort of memory is so important, and often so upsetting, that it too is frozen in time forever in our brains. The sights, the sounds, the emotions of that moment. It doesn’t fade like other memories, or lose the emotional intensity that was there when it was encoded. Instead, it remains as clear and vivid as if it happened yesterday – we remember the clothes we were wearing when we heard the news, or exactly what we were doing or thinking, or who we were talking to. We remember our initial shock and then the moment when our emotions kicked in.
Usually we think of flashbulb memories as things like the moment you found out about a world-changing event like 9/11 or you got the news that a loved one passed. That’s the level of importance. And yet, I think I may have had one on Friday afternoon – the moment I found out that Supernatural would finally end a year from now. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not making the ending of a television show equivalent to those horrific circumstances, but that’s not how our brains work. When something is important, it’s important. Especially emotionally important. Our brains don’t judge. And for many people, that little television show that lasted for 15 seasons is personally and emotionally important.
I’ve seen quite a few posts essentially saying “what the hell is wrong with these people that they’re grieving a TV show, get a life!” There are lots of posts from fans whose family and non-fannish friends are dismissive of their sadness and critical of them for grieving a television show. Sometimes these people mean well, but let’s face it, they really don’t understand. Luckily, there’s a lot of support in the fandom community, in all its various forms. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that Supernatural is so important in the first place. Yes, fans are incredibly sad to be losing Sam and Dean and Castiel, the fictional characters who mean so much to us. But it’s more than that. Supernatural created a family over these past fourteen years. It’s where many fans found their best friends, their support systems, the people who finally “got” them. It’s where they felt like they belonged, maybe for the first time. That is powerful. Life changing sort of powerful.
When I was putting together Family Don’t End With Blood, it was originally going to be a book written by just the fans. We would all share our stories of how Supernatural and its characters and actors and fan community had changed – and literally saved – our lives. So there are thirteen chapters in that book written by fans that describe how important the show has been, from helping a fan get “sober for Sam” to battling cancer, from leaving a cult to having the courage to change who you are and go after who you want to be. Testaments to the way their lives changed when they became involved in changing others’, through Random Acts or GISHWHES, volunteering for a charity or even starting one. Over the years, I’ve heard thousands more. It’s not the only show or film or book that has changed lives, but thanks to its unprecedented fourteen years on the air and hundreds of conventions, Supernatural has had a greater impact than most.
That Family Don’t End With Blood turned out to be a book written by the Supernatural actors as well as the fans is an indication of just how unique and powerful the phenomenon is. Because it’s not just us who were changed by the show. It’s not just us, in fact, who have had our lives saved by the show and the fandom. It’s the actors who bring the show to life too. And unlike many who work in a judgmental industry that demands perfection, these actors felt close enough to their fans to want to share that – in an actual book that they wrote themselves. That’s extraordinary. Jared, Jensen, Misha and so many other Supernatural actors opened up and wrote about how their lives have changed – finding the courage to pursue things they’d always wanted, finding the validation to become who they really are, surviving a life-threatening stroke, and even finding the support to get up and “always keep fighting” when one of them was at the point of wanting to stop. I don’t know another television show whose actors have been that real with their fans, or another show that has changed its cast’s lives in such a powerful way.
But as I often say when talking about the book, these are not your ordinary actors. It says something so important about Jared, Jensen and Misha that when the decision was made to end the show after next season, they told their long-time crew the news first, the people who are like family to them and whose livelihoods depend on this show. Then they took to social media themselves, recording a video for the fandom explaining that the fifteenth season would be the last. Although all three were clearly struggling with their own emotions, they wanted their fans to hear it from them. It’s the same reason they wrote Family Don’t End With Blood in their own words, because this is too important to telegraph through someone else. I respect the hell out of them for making that video.
The impact of this show doesn’t stop there, however, with the fans and the cast. Over the past few days, actors who have been on the show once or twice or have not been on it at all have weighed in on social media with messages of respect and support, thanking Supernatural for being the exemplary thing that it is and inspiring everyone in the industry. The BC film industry itself weighed in, with gratitude for what the show has done for that industry and Vancouver, including huge financial benefits and providing a talented and hard-working crew with a job they could count on for fifteen years – and one they could love. Journalists from many of the publications that cover fan-favorite shows also shared their own stories of how Supernatural has impacted them; for many, the show was responsible for them entering the field, and for some, it was a personal support over the years just like it has been for many fans.
It’s been four days of shock and grief for the Supernatural fandom as we all start to cope with the impending loss in our own ways. Fandom, ever brilliant and creative, immediately began expressing our intense emotions with art and photos and graphics and heartfelt posts.
Who made a deal, that the show Kripke originally planned to end after Season 5 will go exactly ten seasons longer?
Fans looked back at recent episodes, and wondered if the words were prescient.
“Humans burn bright, but for a very brief time. And eventually they’re gone, even the very best ones, and we have to carry on.” – Castiel, 14×14, Ouroboros
There were clips of Rob Benedict as Chuck, singing that soulful version of “Fare The Well” that now takes on new meaning.
There were gifs and screencaps of that pivotal scene where Sam finds out that Dean made a deal to save his life, and that he’ll go to hell for it – that scene that made so many of us realize just how different and special this show was. The first time I saw it posted on Friday, it hit me like a gut punch.
Fans reached out to other fans, offering a safe place to talk, a shoulder to cry on, whatever support might help. Within the fan community, there was instant understanding that this was an important loss that people were facing, and that it wasn’t something to be dismissed or ridiculed.
Then, as fans began the inevitable process of grief adaptation, they began to look back with gratitude on what Supernatural has given each of us and to celebrate the remarkable accomplishment that this little show has been. The hashtag #SPNGaveMe immediately sprang up on Twitter, and fans started sharing all those life-changing things that Supernatural brought to their lives. Some fans said that they had pulled out their copy of Family Don’t End With Blood to re-read the words of the actors and the fans that memorialize for all time just how special this show and its fandom have been. All over social media, fans reached out to other fans with support and comfort and empathy. I saw many posts from fans of other shows who had never even seen an episode of Supernatural, but as fellow fans, they understood the depth of this loss and reached out with sympathy. As always, fandom took care of each other.
I did my own looking back, my own assessment of what #SPNGaveMe and why this Show is so special to me. I’ve written six books about the show that trace my own journey with Supernatural and how the show and the characters have inspired me and changed me, but I don’t think I’ll ever have enough words to truly describe how profoundly this little television show has changed my life. I found my voice – and myself – through this Show and this fandom. I found courage I’d never had – to speak up, to be real, to change jobs, to call myself a writer and get published. I found friends who have challenged me and supported me, and who I’ve traveled the world with and had the most amazing, life-changing adventures. I’ve had to open my eyes to my own blindnesses and biases and start to make progress in putting them aside. I’ve learned that I can be criticized and not fall apart, and sometimes even learn from that criticism! I’ve gone from being the painfully shy girl who once failed geography class because I literally never spoke the entire time to giving panels at San Diego Comic Con and all over the country – and actually enjoying it! I’ve gone from someone who was too anxious to travel on my own to someone who has navigated airports and train stations and bus stations all over the world – because seeing my fellow Supernatural fans and this cast was just that worth it. The mantra of the Winchester brothers and the Show to “always keep fighting” has been my mantra too, and it has made all the difference.
I am, quite literally, a different person than I was in 2005 when this little Show began.
And that makes the announcement of its ending very important indeed.
So where was I when this flashbulb moment happened?
I was sitting at the Project Fancare table at Lexington Comic Con, surrounded by copies of Family Don’t End With Blood and fellow fans. Project Fancare is a nonprofit which gives fans a forum to talk openly about how television and film and books and all sorts of fandoms have helped them get through tough times, and why that’s a good thing. I had just finished talking to a woman who stopped to tell me what the book and the show had meant to her, which I will never get tired of hearing.
As the woman walked away, my friend Kim leaned over and said softly in my ear, “You need to take a break. Take your phone and go to the bathroom and watch the video that Jensen just posted.” That’s all she said, but instantly I knew. I knew from the genuine emotion in her voice, and the concern for me that I could hear there. I knew because there’s a part of me that has been waiting for this and anticipating it and knew it was coming sooner rather than later. I knew because my stomach instantly fell and my brain kicked into survival mode, blocking all my emotions and making me feel oddly calm even though intellectually I knew I wasn’t. I can vividly see the table in front of me, the books spread out there, and the woman walking away. She was wearing one of the first Represent ‘Always Keep Fighting’ tee shirts and she had red red hair and a bag with the protection symbol on it. I can see it like it’s a photo frozen in time like a flashbulb, and I can hear Kim’s voice and her words like she just finished talking, even though it’s four days later.
I stood in the alcove by the bathroom in the giant convention center and pulled out my phone and found the video – and as soon as I saw their faces, there was no doubt in my mind. Jared, Jensen and Misha are extraordinary in how open they have been with their fans, that’s why they wrote FDEWB after all. I could see all the emotion they were struggling to contain in their faces before I ever hit play to listen to the message. And I am forever grateful that I got to hear it from them.
Within minutes, my phone blew up with people wanting to know if I was okay or wanting to express their own shock and sadness. My fandom friends texted and tweeted and posted and called. My family members, who do understand now that this is important to me, reached out too, checking on how I was doing even if they don’t truly understand why the loss is so deep. I reached out to some of the cast too, who were as emotional as I was feeling. I did a panel with Ruth Connell the next day, so I was able to share with her in person, for which I felt lucky. Even in the midst of grief, there was a sense of “we’re all in this together” that was comforting, even if we might have wished we weren’t in this particular something right now.
It’s four days later as I write this. We are all trying to find the coping strategies that work for us now. Make sure you do so without shame – not everyone will understand how people can grieve for a television show or for fictional characters who don’t exist or for friends you’ve never met in person, but that grief is real because the loss is real. There’s research in one of my books about how we get the same emotional satisfaction from spending an evening with our favorite fictional characters as we do having dinner with family or close friends. Fictional characters play a role in inspiring us and fictional stories are a way of making sense of (and possibly rewriting) our own life stories. Friendship can transcend the physical and online communities can be amazing sources of support. All of that is real, and all of that is healthy. If you’re struggling with a way to cope with fear of losing those things, do what every single person who wrote a chapter in Family Don’t End With Blood advises – tell someone, talk about it, and get some help. There are resources at the end of this article, and don’t be afraid to use them.
It’s also helpful to remind ourselves of the important thing that Supernatural’s very own “dad” posted after the news broke. Eric Kripke, who created this show and these characters, was the empathic father figure on Friday who reached out to tell us all that what he’s most proud of is the family created by his show – and that family is not going anywhere.
Things will change, but not everything. We may not gather together to dissect the latest episode or argue amongst ourselves about which way canon “should” go, but we will have fifteen seasons of rich and nuanced and fascinating adventures to keep watching and keep talking about. As with all fandoms, a lot of what my SPNFamily friends and I talk about on a daily basis doesn’t even have anything to do with Supernatural – we talk family stresses, job challenges, kid questions, politics, that awesome thing we found at Target – whatever! They are the people I can reach out to for support, no matter what the problem.
Fandom friends become forever friends, and the friendship is all the richer for that amazing show that brought us together. Ten years from now a bunch of us will say hey, let’s all watch the Pilot, or The French Mistake, or All Hell Breaks Loose, or the Finale. And no matter where we are in life and who we’ve gone on to become, we’ll all pause and be reminded of all the ways that Supernatural changed our lives. Maybe we’ll get a little teary and reach for the tissues, and maybe we’ll share some hugs as we dab at our eyes, either virtual or in person. Because we’ll always have this in common, and we’ll always “get it”. Nobody can ever take that away.
For now, I’m gonna cherish every single moment I get to spend with the Winchesters and Cas and company for the next year, stock up on tissues, and remember to be very very grateful for this Show and all it’s brought me.
To Write Love On Her Arms: twloha.com
Random Acts Crisis Network: randomacts.org/crisis-support-network/