Years ago, I was visiting my hometown in Texas for Thanksgiving break. We were hoping to visit Fox 12 brewery, but they were closed for a special event so we had to find a new locale. Searching Google maps, I spotted a nearby new brewery with what I thought of as an overly generic name. “What about this place?” I asked my family. None of us had been there, so we decided to give it a try.
As I took my first sip of the Imperial Stout called Grackle, the bartender told us about their new space and how they were co-owned by a TV celebrity. I may have gently scoffed, having no recognition of the name he mentioned, but enjoying my beverage all the same.
You know where this story is going… It was years later that I realized I had visited Family Business Brewing Company in Dripping Springs, a venture partially owned by Jensen Ackles.
It’s been weird and hard to admit that I came to Supernatural so late in the game. It wasn’t until after the show had finished airing that I discovered a YouTube video discussing the series. It was October (spooky season) 2021 and I thought a little monster hunting show might be a fun distraction from my long commute.
Fast forward and only a couple months later, I was buying tickets to my first convention. I should have known this was exactly the kind of show to hook my brain and never let go. But I’m the type to treat obsessions with an academic approach, especially when I don’t understand something. And I did NOT understand why Supernatural held such a sway over me! I also realized something else – that I was absolutely not alone in this preoccupation.
So, I took a page out of Sam’s book and I started to research! I found that a lot of what kept us fans all connected to the show and to each other was the fandom that had been built around Supernatural. “SPNFamily” was such a corny phrase the first time I heard it. But the more folks I talked to, the more accurate it felt. There are so many different talents and life experiences and interests within the #SPNFamily that took me by surprise. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share my central thesis and argument I had with non-fandom friends: that fandom can be an incredibly positive experience of creativity, community, and collaboration.
That’s why I created the podcast, In Defense of Fandom. It’s a show that dives deep into the #SPNFamily and highlights the culture that fandom has created. So far, I’ve mapped out the first season to be 8 episodes long. Each episode covers the fandom of Supernatural and highlights the three core aspects of creativity, community, and collaboration. In the first 4 episodes, I cover the creative projects of fans in several broad categories: writing (fan fiction, academic writing, reporting), visual art (photography, digital art, oils, sketches), and audio (podfics, podcasts, music).
The second-half of the podcast isn’t complete yet, but is fully mapped out. Still to come? I’ll zoom out beyond artistic fans to explore stories of community support offered within the #SPNFamily. There will also be an episode set aside to look at ‘darkside fandom,’ examining common complaints about fandom to see whether the critiques are valid or don’t hold water. And of course, with #SPNFamily I have to cover the charitable pursuits that have been started by fans who have helped folks across the globe. The last episode will wrap up with final thoughts, with interviews from convention attendees at the Chicago Supernatural convention.
I hope that in creating this podcast, people listen and hear how experiences in this fandom mirror fan experiences they’ve had with various other fandoms like Star Trek or Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. Though I do think #SPNFamily is a special case of fandom, I’m interested in how it reflects fandom more broadly and the way that we build community everywhere.
In fact, this is how I ran across The Winchester Family Business! As I was working on an episode featuring writers and writing communities from within the fandom, multiple people recommended that I speak with Nightsky. We had a really lovely chat where I learned that she actually used to drive around in a ’67 Chevy Impala back when she was dating her husband! We talked about how Supernatural has been her muse to start writing and cataloguing her convention experiences, as well as meet other writers. (You can hear Nightsky and the other writers I spoke to in Episode 2: Writing.)
I will admit, starting this podcast was a big leap outside my comfort zone. As a former academic STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) researcher, making such a serious inquiry of fandom feels like a subconscious excuse to spend too much time on Twitter or reading fanfiction. But more and more people are acknowledging that fandom has real power to make change in our world and we should take it seriously. #SPNFamily deserves to be recognized as the creative, energetic community they we continue to be.
You can also follow my adventures on social media:
Article coordinated by Nightsky.
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