Back to tv: Supernatural

Supernatural (2005 – ) created by Eric Kripke

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If you spend any amount of time on tumblr – or more specifically tumblr fan blogs – you will have to fight the temptation of starting to watch a new tv show pretty much every day. I’m not kidding. If you’re a fan and you’re following the blogs of other fans they will lure you to watch the shows they love and that you not yet share. And that’s why I bought the first season of Supernatural.

It is probably one of the most well-loved shows on tumblr (beside Dr. Who and Sherlock, perhaps) and so every now and then a half-naked Jensen Ackles will pop up even on my female-feminist-lesbian-centered blog. I’m not complaining (Ackles certainly can pull off the half-naked look), it’s part of being a fan on tumblr. And another part is to give into temptation and start watching shows, even though you already have a problem with keeping up with the shows you’re currently watching.

That’s the tumblr-issue.

supernatural1The Supernatural-issue is another.

The show is about two brothers, Dean (Ackles) and Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki), who are searching for their father John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who had gone missing monster-hunting. And while they’re searching they do what the men in their family set out to do ever since the boys’ mother died: kill monsters. It’s a path of vengeance and righteousness until the family is finally reunited. But evil is never over.

One comparison is unavoidable – and even perpetuated by the show’s creators it seems: the one with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Because Buffy set the standards of modern monster hunting, popcultural references and fast-paced dialogue. And as far as I’m concerned, Buffy is still leading in all those categories. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like Supernatural. I find the closer look at folklore and urban legends very interesting. Buffy was not a one-trick pony but her focus was mainly on vampires – whether it was the search for enemies or boyfriend-material. Supernatural broadens the scope and fights all (evil) supernatural powers.

Having two brothers fighting evil is also something new. Usually the premise of supernatural4a show – that is not a family show – starts with bringing together a diverse pool of people. Sam and Dean are different, sure, but they’re also family and engage in their share of family drama. Their absentee father brings a third angle to the discussion – even when he’s not present.

And therein lies my issue with the show. While the monster-hunting and dark look of the show are great, the family drama gets a little boring at times. The search for their father is a necessary one but the discussion of family issues is repetitive. And, at the risk of repeating myself here, I just don’t find male drama all that interesting. The patriarchal narrative is alive and well in this story. Women fill the void of sometime-girlfriend and evil fiend (and sometimes there isn’t even that much of a difference between these stereotypes because, as we all know: evil is hot). While woman fulfills sinner and saint-roles, the man is engaged in a constant pissing contest with brother, father, male adversaries.

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Am I too harsh? I am. I knew that I would have issues with a story that is centered so entirely around male characters but I still started to watch it because… fans are so really good at making you share their fascination. And the show is not bad and I might yet watch more of it. It’s just that I don’t feel that culture has anything new to tell me about the adventures of the male profession. And I don’t even think that it is me who is so focused on the issue of gender, here. It is perpetuated by the makers, it is shoved down my throat, that male adventure is just different from female adventure, that the male will always be more interesting, more engaged in the extraordinary. There are still people who think that this holds true despite the evidence to the contrary. But I’m not buying – sometimes I’m renting – into this franchise. In the end, your gender is irrelevant, the only important thing is the story you tell me.

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