My, my, how times have changed. 200 episodes. Ten seasons. Millions of super loyal fans. “Supernatural” is going to down in infamy thanks to this milestone, joining a small list of prestigious shows to hit this mark. The cast, crew, writers, producers, and just about anyone on the planet look at this feat and can only say, “How the hell did “Supernatural” get this far?” It does kind of make you wonder, doesn’t it?
When I look at my very first essay in 2008, “How A Show Manages to Succeed Despite its Network,” I couldn’t possibly imagine that I’d still be writing about “Supernatural” in season ten. Times were so different back then. The CW was woefully neglecting the show and anyone with a name in television media wouldn’t give it the time of day. I wrote that article to promote awareness about a struggling little known show on a network that no one watched.
Now I write to celebrate joy and excitement over our very successful show. A program that has seen it’s band of loyal fans grow into large numbers. “Supernatural” is now getting plenty of attention and praise from both it’s network and mainstream media. “Supernatural” is one of the more popular TV shows all over the world. Most actors, writers, and producers of a TV show choose to keep their distance from the fans. To them, it maintains the creative integrity. “Supernatural’s” cast and producers have done the opposite, embracing the fans and all that they’ve done to keep the show going.
Social media, awareness of fandom, the TV industry in general have all taken radical shifts since “Supernatural” first came on the air on September 13, 2005. This obscure little show that could has grown along with social media into an online phenomena. It’s become the test case that a TV show doesn’t have to have ten million viewers to be a major success. Online viewing and buzz is a real thing too, and use of social media to spread the word, something that “Supernatural” was one of the first shows to adopt, is now the sought after way to promote television by everyone.
We live in an age where pop culture is worshipped, and “Supernatural’s” mark on pop culture is undeniable. If “Supernatural” was on a big network like NBC, it would have never made it out of season two because of disappointing live ratings. But somehow, this lower rated show has survived all but a handful on shows on all the networks, proving to them that huge ratings isn’t a must to survive.
Now new generations of fans are finding “Supernatural” as well. Fans of all ages have found it thanks to syndication on TNT. “Supernatural” is the prominent show in their morning sci-fi block, so much so that it airs three hours each weekday. Kids that were four, five, or six when the show started are now 14, 15, and 16. This is the generation that doesn’t watch TV live. These are the ones that go to Netflix and CWTV.com to catch up. Luckily for “Supernatural”, their network, The CW, embraces alternative forms of viewing and has gone out of their way to make their programming available via other mediums. That couldn’t be said back when the show was fighting for survival at the end of season two. It’s a whole new landscape.
The Supernatural Family
How did “Supernatural” manage to get such a devoted following? How did people become so active online in spreading the word about their show compared to other shows? How does a huge sense of harmony exist (for the most part) when a thousand or more people get together at a “Supernatural” convention? What clicked, what blended, how did this bond come to be? Those are mysteries that can’t be easily explained. All I can say for sure is it started early and continued to grow and thrive. “Supernatural” has always been about underdogs fighting the impossible fight, and when that spirit leaks into real life among like minded people, amazing things can happen. I feel like I’m a part of something very special that will never come again.
We fans all have our origin stories of how we found “Supernatural.” Lord knows I’ve shared my story enough times (it’s on my profile page if you haven’t heard it). One thing is usually common in all the stories I hear. “Supernatural” has had a profound effect on fans’ lives in one way or another. A lot of very special friendships have bloomed from this experience. I only discovered the show at the beginning of season three. I can’t imagine those that were around since day one (you must wear that badge of honor in pride).
Despite the extraordinary experiences with this fandom, I’d be lying if I said it’s been all rainbows and candy canes. My times have been very exciting, horribly frustrating, and often tumultuous. This is not a fandom for the faint of heart. With this kind of passion stirring in everyone, there’s bound to be fireworks when it all comes together. There have been plenty. Sharing an opinion in this fandom is a risky act, and the long heated debates and backlash sometimes gets very hurtful. Several of our well intentioned fan projects have led to a lot of fighting and some very hard feelings. I have been the victim of online attacks by “bullies”, a notorious problem among “Supernatural” online fans (and even recently spilled over into a recent fan convention). Through the years I’ve constantly had to ask myself, “Why do I do this?” or “Have I gone completely mad?” Yes, I probably have, but to use an old fan fiction cliche, if it’s wrong I don’t want to be right. With pride I can say seven years later I’m still here, battle scarred, a little breathless, but still believing in this show and it’s community.
Friction in the fandom makes sense though. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” The same can be said about a fandom. A quiet, happy fandom isn’t the one generating all the noise and buzz that the “Supernatural” fans have been known to do. Fans have been labeled “bat shit crazy” by many out there and they have a case. One does wonder how in the world the vicious fandom wars can break out between the Sam fans, Dean fans, and Castiel fans when the characters and actors all get along beautifully. There’s one easy answer though. Passion. And it’s undeniable among “Supernatural” fans of any kind.
My dear friends at Fangasm wrote at length in their book Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls the concept of fan shame. How being so actively engaged in a fandom labels you in society to be pretty much nuts, starting with your own family. I’ll admit, I do wonder what it would be like when I’m not devoting my time until 1 or 2 am every evening working on the site or writing something “Supernatural” related, and so does my family, who has endured mom sacrificing a lot of time through the years for this. But in my case, the problem isn’t shame. It’s spirit. The show keeps going, and it’s hard not to carry on when everyone else is. We are a family and must endure the good and bad. In a way I feel as stubborn as the Winchesters, I should have given up the fight long ago, but I keep fighting for the greater good.
This unbridled fan passion and spirit has intrigued the actors (both past and present), producers, and writers enough to embrace this family in many ways never seen with other shows (okay, maybe Star Trek). They want to engage with the fans, both online and at conventions, and that’s created a huge environment of mutual appreciation. Yes, it’s also created an environment of open attacks and heated criticism, but the actors aren’t shying away. They’re doing more fan conventions than ever and they’re doing so in a large part so they can give back to the fans. They have as much respect for us as we do for them, and that’s extremely rare in any circle of entertainment.
Everyone involved in making “Supernatural” keeps going because the fans keep it going. The fans are still embracing, adopting, and watching this show. The fans are still going to conventions, and spending ungodly amount of hours online sharing commentary, pics, videos, fan fics, article links, etc all because a TV show has fueled an excitement inside of them that they’ve probably never felt before. Families fight. Families are often at odds. Families also adore one another and choose to be together. That’s exactly in a nutshell what we are; The “Supernatural” family. That’s why “Supernatural” has reached this mind blowing accomplishment.
This is of course just off the top of my head, but here’s some major achievements for “Supernatural” through the years, just to make you smile.
Supernatural is one of the VERY RARE cases in TV history where it was pulled off of the death slot on Friday nights. It was put there in season six as an aging show expected to live out it’s golden years. It moved to a prime time slot on Wednesday (then Tuesday the next season), and since then the ratings have been growing!
Supernatural is one of the largest selling TV shows on DVD every year. It’s gotten so popular, there are now aggressive TV campaigns promoting it’s release by Warner Brothers each year.
Supernatural fans are very well known for their trending twitter campaigns. The one that sticks in my mind the most (and makes me really laugh) is the night that season six episode “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” aired. The hash tag line for the episode was #FighttheFairies since those were the villains of the week in the episode. Unfortunately, many gay and lesbian groups unfamiliar with the show took it another way and it caused a huge outrage.
Thanks to it’s fans, Supernatural has walked away with a few People’s Choice Awards. Fans have been known yearly to hold voting parties, relentlessly voting all night. The first two were in 2010. I think this look from Eric Kripke, still amazed by the power of the fans, says it all.
Supernatural fans have been very aggressive in fundraising campaigns, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for a variety of well deserving charities.
Supernatural has earned a spot as a headliner on Sunday at San Diego Comic Con, earning a spot in the cavernous Hall H for high profile panels each year.
When Supernatural Creator Eric Kripke stepped down as show runner in season five, fans, instead of turning against him for leaving, actually showed their appreciation by taking out a full page ad in the Hollywood Reporter to thank him.
One acronym: GISHWHES.
Supernatural is a big International hit. When we did our informal poll back in 2009, it was being shown at the same time in 54 countries. Thanks to online viewing, fans all over the world are able to watch and interact.
Happy 200th episode fans. Give yourselves all a pat on the back and enjoy the celebration of a job well done. You earned this.