Ultimate Insiders: Supernatural, Fandom and Viewer Gratification

Through reading the many essays surrounding fans, fandom and Supernatural, I have come to realize just how large of a role the show has played in my own life. There was an Entertainment Weekly magazine released in 2005 that had a removable, interactive ad featuring the infamous Impala and revved up upon opening. At 12 years-old, I was in complete awe of just the promotional material and felt inclined to watch the actual show. A previous fan of Charmed, Buffy and Angel, I wasn’t exactly a hard sell. However, I still care and reminisce about Supernatural in a way that I didn’t for most of those other, similar shows. Nine years later and with the help of FNMS, I think I have finally figured out why that may be: the hyper-reciprocal relationship between Supernatural and its fan base.

The first official promo poster for Supernatural.

Unlike Firefly or Family Guy or Futurama, this show wasn’t ever in danger of being cancelled, so the undying love and affection of the fans wasn’t a by-product of some corporate-level threat. Supernatural fans didn’t have to be afraid of the show ending in order to galvanize themselves and influence the show’s progression; this fan base was always vocal about their likes and dislikes. The participatory culture embedded in the SPN fandom is fairly singular as far as network TV series go and there are entire episodes (as we have all now seen) which exemplify this unique relationship between content producers and viewers.

Convergence also seems to be key here as fans of this particular series have managed to voice theories and write fan fiction only to have it be realized on the show and analyzed through satire and meta-humor. The audience, especially those who have been watching since the show’s beginning, is rarely coddled. Viewers are frequently welcomed in on the jokes of the series, as seen in the blatant breach of the fourth wall with a wink from Dean or in quip-filled dialogue referencing the actors’ real lives and previous roles. Fans of the series care about both the characters and the actors who portray them a huge amount with Misha Collin (Castiel) declaring that the only reason he was changed from a guest role to full-cast member was thanks to the huge demand from viewers. Collins is also one of driving forces behind the convergence of the show with a very active Twitter account and an engaging relationship between himself and those following him.

As opposed to helping to revive a show as is the case with Community, fans of Supernatural have the uncanny ability to actually control the trajectory of the series. The writers have translated so many of the thoughts and theories of the fandom into canonized episodes. SPN fans have such direct influence over the show that one of the authors, Melissa Gray, asserts that Supernatural‘s canon is in fact closer to being a fanon. This means that fan fiction is no longer limited to cyber-fantasies on a computer screen and that writers take real cues from the things said among the fandom. I am the first to admit how huge of a nerd I am, I’ve even gone so far as to role-play as manga characters online, but I have never experienced a community more appreciated and impassioned than the Supernatural fan base. This is a fandom that serves as an crystallized ideal form of participatory culture and literally affect life and death on the show and its colorful characters.

Castiel will kill for the fans.


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