Fan Phenomena: Supernatural
I got an e-mail from Intellect Books offering to send me a copy of Fan Phenomena: Supernatural, a book of essays edited by Fangasm authors Lynn Zubernis and Katherine Larsen, so I said yes, even though I hardly ever read those e-mails, much less respond affirmatively! In this case, I’m glad I did.
I read the whole book the day it came. I had a cold, and it was nice to spend the evening sitting with a cat on my lap and reading to the end. I did stop at one point and play a few of the YouTube videos listed at the end of the essay about a woman who makes Supernatural fan videos, which made it an unexpectedly interactive book experience.
When I sat down to write about the book, I realized that I hadn’t dog-eared any of the pages, the usual way I mark a page I want to say something about. Well, there’s something wonderful about immersing yourself in what you read the first time through.
Looking at the book a second time, I realize that one of the things I like about it is that each article has an introductory paragraph set off in bold. This is a bit of the introductory paragraph for Lynn and Katherine’s general introduction: “Supernatural….Creator Eric Kripke was inspired by Kerouac’s On The Road…putting his heroes…in search of the urban legends that fascinated him. The series attracted a passionate fan base…which tapped into the zeitgeist of the moment, reflecting global fears of terrorism with its themes of fighting unseen evil.”
How succinctly they sum up the appeal!
The book includes an article on how someone uses the show to teach a college-level course on “Media and Cultural Studies,” one on the changing definition of what the heroes consider a “monster,” one on the Supernatural fandom and social media (which necessarily traces trends in social media from 2005, when the show first aired, to the present), one on how the network encourages the idea of the “supernatural family,” one on how the Winchester mission (“saving people, hunting things”) has been the inspiration for cast, crew, and fans to participate in charity projects, and one on the cinematography of the show.
After I read the article about the woman who makes fan videos with clips from the show, I watched a few of them and they were pleasant enough, although I’m not sure I understand the appeal of taking scenes from an ongoing story and making a 2-3 minute moody or comic pastiche.
Two of the articles are by cast members (both of whom play angels on the show): Richard Speight, Jr., who comments on the roles of cast members and fans at Supernatural conventions, and Misha Collins, who discusses how his life changed as a result of being on the show. Misha, entertaining as ever, writes the best introduction:
“When Lynn and Kathy first asked me to contribute a chapter to this book, I said, ‘No way! Leave me alone!’ and threatened to take out a restraining order against them. But when I learned that they were willing to pay me more money than most people make in a lifetime to jot down a couple of pages, I said ‘yes!’ and then qualified that with, ‘but it isn’t about the money, I’m writing from the heart for the love of the fans.’ I also asked Lynn and Kathy to flash me Mardi Gras-style—which, happily, they did.”
Misha also makes some good points through comic exaggeration: “I’m largely in a position where fantasies are projected onto me. People like to imagine that I’m like the character I play on TV, or that I’m secretly screwing Jensen in my trailer, or that I am somehow a perfect man or that I’m an unselfconscious maverick. And while I am, in fact, perfect, not all of the other stuff is true.”
My favorite article is “I See What You Did There: SPN and the Fourth Wall” by Lisa Macklem, mostly because this is one of the things I love most about the show. She discusses the meta-episode entitled “The French Mistake” in which “actors Padalecki and Ackles play characters Sam and Dean portraying actors Padalecki and Ackles.” She gives examples of self-parody and insider jokes, a few of which I’d missed. And she deepens my appreciation for my very favorite episode, “Changing Channels.”
If you love Supernatural, you’ll love this book. If you haven’t watched Supernatural, you can’t love it yet.