The strike-induced hiatus is killing me. It’s so bad, American Idol and Dancing With The Stars are on my TiVo. Granted, I’m only half watching with my family while doing other things, but still, the situation is now desperate. I find myself going back fondly to my season pass list, sighing in despair to see shows like Supernatural, Scrubs, Heroes, Chuck, and 24 sitting idle, with no new listings for the near future. My heart crumbles.
I first did what many other fans are doing, breaking out DVDs, watching episodes online (actually, I gave that up as soon as I saw how bad cop shows from the 1970s really are) and replaying episodes on iTunes. Even this inventory can only take you so far, but then I found another source of entertainment for my evenings.
I’ve always been casually in touch with a few online fandoms, but recently, I felt daring, my boredom pushing me toward territories unknown. I took on the harrowing task of digging deep inside an online fandom, to see what is really going on underneath the countless debates over which actor is hotter. Picking the fandom was pretty easy, for one has proven to be more active, more passionate, and more downright amusing than all the others — the Supernatural fandom.
My journey through the endless flurry of threads and URLs has been a wild ride offering hours of entertaining, and sometimes disturbing, diversion. I’m back from my nightly excursions now with notes and much information to share. This can either be a great “how to” guide, or it might end up being a cautionary tale. You get to decide which.
I already had a LiveJournal account, so I added a community, supernatural_tv, to my friends list. This is a very active community where any piece of news, online polls, questions, articles, pictures, games, fun fan diversions, and any other thing that might trigger fan discussion is posted here. These fans don’t miss a beat. These posts often supply links to other sites, along with member comments on what they think about what lies on the other side of the URL. Make sure you know what you’re clicking. I have done my best to avoid anything with the word “spoiler” in it (small tidbits about upcoming episodes that may end up giving away the surprise). I haven’t always been successful, but I’ve tried.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I hooked into this online fandom, if anyone includes the Winchesters in a poll, prepare to be bombarded. Kristin Dos Santos from E! Online found out the hard way in January. She put out a poll telling online users to vote for the best show of the season, and promised she would cover that show in her upcoming columns. Her choices included a long list of all the top shows on the major networks and also included the CW shows. Supernatural ended up emerging victorious with 29%, while One Tree Hill came in second with 28%. After that, no show came close. Kristin responded by removing these two shows from the poll and relisting it, calling these two very active fan bases for these low rated shows “motivated”. The resulting backlash in the comments and from email was brutal. The underlying message? Don’t mess with the fandoms!
There’s plenty of fun stuff for the fan girls. I got a notice of a new poll yesterday on TV Guide, the Sexiest Stars of 2008. They actually had a category for sexiest brothers, and listed Sam and Dean Winchester. That’s a sure fire way to get traffic to the site. They were winning by 80%, but now the ridiculously wide margin has shrunk to 71%. That’ll spark a rally, I’m sure. Also, the CW source set up a hottie bracket, putting Sam in one bracket and Dean in another against other CW heartthrobs. It was no surprise that the final ended up being Sam vs. Dean, and they even had to include a third option for those of us who couldn’t decide between the two. I appreciated that greatly. How wrong is it that I actually considered voting?
Some of these posts trigger deep sympathy from me for Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. News about them sometimes pushes into their personal lives too much. Sure there’s harmless news, like Jared taking the lead role in the new Friday the 13th remake, but a few weeks ago the sites had lots of pictures of him courtside at a Lakers game with his girlfriend Sandra McCoy and both were wearing rings. The speculation over that was way too much. If they had news to share, well, I wouldn’t tell the fans either. Then there was Jensen Ackles’ recent trip to Australia. I was getting links twice an hour about that visit. All I want to know is did the guy get a decent vacation in between all the press coverage?
On the plus side, I love all the info I see from people around the world, talking about how Supernatural is faring in their universe. Ratings and airtimes are often posted by people in countries like England, Australia, Germany, Italy, and even Russia. There are fans right now trying to get Supernatural to air in Bulgaria. There are posts all over with links to TV interviews and scans of articles in foreign magazines. The foreign fans are even are nice enough to translate (sorry, my Japanese is a little rusty).
Fan Sites Aren’t For The Faint of Heart
My adventures next took me to the fan sites and forums (very treacherous territory), where I dug through pages and pages of episode analysis and character threads. The debates were plenty, passionate, fascinating, and often heated. Beware, these threads need to be taken in small doses. While many great comments and thoughtful insights are posted, the attitudes can get poisonous the deeper the examination goes. No site is more notorious for sour moods than Television Without Pity (TWOP). My advice in navigating these forums is to take the negativity with a grain of salt, and move on. Not that TWOP doesn’t have some great postings. Some of the episode recaps can be very entertaining (when they aren’t too bitter) and the actors' threads are filled with deep fan respect (aka, a lot of ogling over the prettiness).
Supernatural TV is a great fan friendly site and there’s no site I’ve seen out there doing a better job promoting the show. It’s a great source for worldwide show related news, word about contests, fan activism campaigns (Supernatural will not get lost), or general info, and everyone in the forums is usually on their best behavior. The message is simple — "we love our show." There’s one member there that has engaged with me in long diatribes via private message about the direction (or should I say lack of direction) the CW is headed. That’s a great option for those of us who don’t want to be exposed to the public forum, or don’t want to be sued by corporate machines.
TV Guide has a blog section where episode reviews are posted, and each review generates pages and pages of wonderful, constructive, and well thought out comments from readers. They aren’t always happy about what they saw, but they rarely attack or vent to the point of annoyance. TV.com offers a wonderful feature where a user can rate the episodes on a scale of one to ten and can give mini-reviews.
One site has really hooked me though, and that’s Supernatural Wiki. It caters to my inner geek, the one that thrives on facts, trivia, and other useless tidbits about episodes, characters, actors, show staff, and all the urban legends/mythology in general. It’s my must have online reference guide. Considering anyone can contribute to the pages, I’ve even found myself posting a few facts from episodes that I found no one else mentioned (there are more Simpsons references in this show than many realize).
And now for something completely different. BuddyTV provides some unique and really fun activities. They have a little questionnaire that tries to match you with your ideal TV boyfriend. As much as I hoped for Dean Winchester (for some reason, Sam was excluded from the outcomes), I ended up with Peter Petrelli from Heroes. I was delighted with that pairing since he’s my favorite on that show. They have great trivia quizzes by show that keep you busy for hours, and that was just with Supernatural questions. There are also many questionnaires one can fill out to determine which TV characters best match your personality. It turns out, while I’m more attracted to Sam, I’m more compatible with Dean, probably because I love old muscle cars and classic rock, too. Even their articles are fun and different. I’ve been absorbed lately in the major discussion going on over whether Dean will actually go to hell or not, and if Sam saves him, how should Sam do it? While the opinions are fun, I’m putting my trust Eric Kripke and Co. to solve that mystery.
Finally, there’s the world of Supernatural fan fiction. I was part of the House fan fiction community for a while, and that has nothing on Supernatural in terms of sheer volume and quality of fics. I found that the Supernatural fics are often written with a greater attention to detail. I tried writing one myself, and it was the most challenging thing I’d ever done. Reading these stories reminds me of what the X-Files community used to be in its heyday. I do have one nitpick though — this community has way too much slash (if you don’t know what that means, you don’t want to know). I have nothing against slash in other fandoms, but come on, they’re brothers!
There it is, navigating the Supernatural fandom in a nutshell. Okay, maybe that was a giant clamshell instead. I didn’t even get to the fan videos on YouTube, fan art, the comic books, the novels, the magazine, and many other sites. I just couldn’t anymore, my plate was full. If I’ve learned anything from this exploration, it’s that there’s way more to a television show than the episodes that air. Finding a way to connect online with other fans takes you to an entirely different universe, and the trip is welcome while eagerly waiting for the next new episode. Is it April 24 yet? No? That’s okay, there’s another online poll that needs my attention.