I have a friend I’ve turned into a Supernatural fan, of sorts. He likes the show, but the problem is that he’s a wimp about the horror bits, and will only watch as long as someone is sitting on the sofa beside him.
At the moment this is me, although I have hopes that my friend’s nephew will be willing to pay back babysitting duties when he’s old enough. There’s a “15” sign on those DVDs, though, so it’ll take a while.
I can sympathise with my friend a little, because I remember feeling exactly the same when Dr Who fought the cybermen. I haven’t mentioned this to him, because I’m pretty sure I was only about 8 years old at the time.
My friend (let’s call him Bruce: full name withheld in order to protect the mildly embarrassed) has the excuse that he lives on his own in an old house way out in the country. In Supernatural an old house way out in the country is invariably Not Good News.
I’ve tried arguing that he doesn’t need to be concerned, because Supernatural is fiction and he’s in no possible danger from ghosts (Playthings, Roadkill, Ghostfacers, The Real Ghostbusters), tulpas (Hell House), demons (Devil’s Trap, In The Beginning, I Believe the Children Are Our Future), archangels trapped in rings of burning holy oil (Free To Be You and Me) or zombie alligators (Suze). Sadly, though, Bruce has worked out that this argument doesn’t hold true for The Benders or Family Remains.
Bruce’s house doesn’t have a basement, so I’ve tried arguing that bad things only happen to Sam and Dean in houses that have basements. By the way, what is it with Supernatural and basements? Is it really the case that almost every house in the US has a basement in which a body can be buried (Houses of the Holy, Swap Meat) or a Rawhead, zombie or changeling hidden (Faith, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, The Kids Are Alright)? Or are the Winchesters just unlucky that way? Anyway, in return, Bruce mentions Bugs. Bugs, of course, is the one where the bad things happened in the attic. This may explain where Bugs went wrong. If Supernatural had kept to its usual formula and Sam and Dean had been trapped with killer insects in the basement, Bugs really would have been creepy.
I begin to think I might not win this discussion when Bruce weighs in with the woods behind his house. Have you noticed that in Supernatural nothing good ever happens in a wood? They are the places where you might end up in a Wendigo’s winter larder. They are the places where pagan gods live, the kind of pagan gods that like human sacrifice (Scarecrow, Fallen Idols). They are the places people run through in their nightmares (Dream a Little Dream of Me, No Rest For the Wicked). And they provide a rogue angel in heaven with the sarcasm opportunity of a lifetime (Dark Side of the Moon).
Now, putting this on-going to-and-fro with my friend Bruce to one side for a moment, you may be asking yourself, provided you’ve read this far, what this has to do with a series of articles on the Supernatural fandom. The point I wanted to make is this: Supernatural, for the time being, is still a niche show. That watercooler moment the next day is unlikely to take place in general population, given that most attention is still focused on hospital dramas or procedural cop shows. Only those of us segregated for our own safety can understand what it is we want to talk about on Friday mornings. And while some of us have managed to create our own small, real-life fandom support groups, others of us rely on the online fandom to provide us with a virtual sofa-sitting service, where we can exclaim over what has happened, exchange conspiracy theories, and commiserate with each other. We can pass each other virtual tissues and virtual consoling chocolates over the trials of the past, and hold each other’s virtual hands when we contemplate the trials to come.
We also create a virtuous circle: a show with a lot to say but a small audience to say it to has given rise to a online fandom which is active, thoughtful and engaged, and which then feeds back into the growing success of the show itself. As is constantly said by everyone on the show, from Eric Kripke, Jared Padalecki and Jenson Ackles onwards, if it weren’t for the fans, the show wouldn’t still be going strong at its 100th episode and with a sixth season to come. Sofa-sitting services, whether my actual sofa-sitting services with my friend, or the virtual sofa-sitting services which take place on line, are an important part of that, and another good reason why we should celebrate getting this far together.