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Navigating The Supernatural Online Fandom: A Great Hiatus Time Killer

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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.

Getting Started

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.

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About Alice Jester

  • katie

    Oh just give it a bit of time, you’ll totally get over the ‘but come on, they’re brothers!’ squick. ;D

  • coltshot_1

    Its great fun surfing the Supernatural fandom, isn’t it? You didn’t mention the icons –little emoticon pictures/art made by fans. I have no artistic talent myself, but I love them. I have collected hundreds and hundreds of them and LJ only lets me have like 30 userpics!
    (I’m with you on the whole slash issue – its been two years now and I’m not over the squick)
    The CW board is also a fun place for some excellent discussions — and a fair share of ‘Who’s hotter?’ threads. 😉

  • Anonn

    Thank you so much ALice!, for taking the time to delve into ‘our’ fandom universe. I really appreciate the positive comments you put forth and great understanding you have shown of and for the fans of the show.

    We are more than fanGirls, even Mr Kripke, Director of Sueprnatural has said it.
    He says we are the smartest/best, funniest etc fandom out there, and I agree entirely.
    I’m so glad you do too.

    Thanks again.

    P.S- Maybe you could also do an article about the other SN related phenomena us Supernatural fans cook up in another article.

    Would you please also, if you could send this off to Mr Eric Kripke?

  • Roger

    Great article!

    Don’t suppose you managed to find Plastic!Winchester Theater….

    (I love to pimp it out. haha)

  • Erin

    How fun and enlightening to read a relative newcomer’s journey into the SPN realm. Welcome to the madness! LOL, it is a place you kind of have to pick and chose where to step, but on the whole, it is a fun, rowdy, warm-hearted fandom filled with some really amazing people. Thank *you* so much for a fair and balanced look at the fandom. I can tell you that we really appreciate some honest press. Thank you!

    Heh, and I hear you about the slash. I know some very dear people who write and read it, and more power to them. But having come to SPN from the LOTR fandom, I was honestly surprised at how many people (and how easily) people embraced the incest thing. I guess it’s because the Winchesters’ lives are already so damaged and screwed up, they figured taking that lack of normal human relationships and (total reliance on just each other, with few other people to trust) to the next level wasn’t that great a reach. So … *shrugs* Incest is grotesque by any definition, but I’ve learned to just close my eyes as I go by slash in the SPN realm. I value the people, fellow fans, more than I’m squicked by the stuff some write. 😉

    Again, thank you for a terrific article!

  • Roger – I love Plastic!Winchester theater. It’s a riot! There were so many things to write about when I did this, I forgot that one. Feel free to provide a link and pimp it out! It’s worthwhile. That’s true for anyone. I couldn’t do the entire fandom justice in one short article, so tell everyone what I missed.

  • gg

    Thank you for the wonderful article. The SN fandom is pretty diverse and multi-faceted. I love Plastic!Winchester theater, too. Also, thank you for the Supernatural.tv mention. 🙂

  • haha thanks for the great fandom review Alice! i have to agree, i fear the fandom way more than any monster Kripke can cook up (fandom demon? haha)
    though i just have a few things to point out. most of the reason we’re kinda urked about the rings is cause we wanna know! most of the fandom loves Sandy just as much as Jared and really, we want them to be happy!

    as for the slash… lol. you’re right, they’re bros. that’s nasty, IMO. buuut there’s the amazing RPF that kills me dead. and the regular gory, angst ridden fics are also so well done. we’re really blessed to have such amazing authors.

    and if you want to continue your exploration, try a few other things like The Society for the Continuation of Limp (And Redeemed) Sam, and Team Winchester. Beware of the CW boards. they can get just as nuts as the TWOP boards. but of course, we usually come back together for a good long oogle.

    have a great one!

  • Dee

    Great article!! I’m glad you liked the Supernatural fandom!

  • Anon

    We’ll convert you yet. *grins*

    *sings “Brothers On A Hotel Bed”*

  • Sabrina

    “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!”

    I completely agree! Way too much, and it often drives me crazy. I try to ignore everything slashy and to focus on the gen sides of the fandom…

    Anyway, great article 🙂

  • Lisa

    In case you haven’t found them yet, kroki refur’s Episode Reviews of Doom and Ten Expressions are a thing to behold (and her fic’s pretty shnazz, too..and her comic, The Awesome Adventures of Andy and Ava is good. Well, you get the idea). You can get all her Supernatural shtuff.

  • Kay

    Make sure you check out Sam’s drunken letters to Stephen King. I laughed until my sides hurt.

  • Missyjack

    Great article – we are indeed a diverse and talented fandom! As an admin, and fellow geek, at the Superantural Wiki, I am so glad you enjoy it. And of course, I have now linked to this essay on the Meta page!

  • I’ve finally found the link to Plastic!Winchester theatre. I should be taunted heavily for forgetting this, for it’s the most unique and outrageous thing I’ve seen in any fandom.

    Thanks everyone for all the suggestions, and keep them coming. Sorry, but I’m still queasy about the slash!

  • Ve

    Thank you for such fun, insightful and respectful article on Supernatural fandom that also showed that you know the show and love it as much as we do.

    One thing that is really particular – and special – about our fandom is that we are very protective of our show and the boys. Even they recognize that.

    I am a brazilian fan and seriously adore Supernatural. I like Chuck, too, but Supernatural has a very special place in my heart, and honestly, in my life too.

    Thanks again for the wonderful review/post!

    Best regards!

  • xan

    Oh God~ I got peter petrelli too~~ *facepalm*~ argh the only reason I stick to internet till now is because of SPN fandom~ I’m addicted! XD thanx for the wonderful review hon!:D

  • vicki

    Podcasts are popping up as well, like Supernatural Podcast.

    I love this fandom! We are some of the wittiest, smart and interesting people around.

  • “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!”

    While I have absolutely no problem with someone having a problem with slash (and especially incest slash) but to say “you don’t want to know” is a little judgemental. You can’t know that someone doesn’t want to know what to slash is — and truth be told a variety of aca-fen had to learn the hard way to find the fan/academic discussion because people are scared to define and/or understand the issues that contextually are referenced in slash and slash fandoms because of its “problematic” nature. Just because something is linked to relationships about homosexual pairings does not make it an automatic freak show.

  • Overall a very nice article, covering most of the main fandom outlets.

    However, I wish I could say I was surprised by your rather judgmental one-liner about slash. The tone was troubling, but I feel Shay addressed that very well above. So I’m just going to take a moment to address the way you glanced right over slash with a tiny, obligatory mention.

    The fact is, whether you’re comfortable with it or not, most of the online Supernatural fandom is slash oriented, especially when it comes to fanfiction. All you have to do is take a look at the daily Supernatural Newsletter to see that this is true. The newsletter is a thorough compilation of virtually everything Supernatural related posted on livejournal each day. The volume of Sam/Dean and Jared/Jensen stories is much greater than any other genre or pairing. And yes, both incest and RPF squick a lot of people. I understand that and I’m certainly not trying to force people to read something they’re uncomfortable with. I just think that passing over slash in our fandom with barely a mention is a disservice to and misrepresentation of our community.

  • Analin

    I second the commenter that said you should check out Team Winchester! It’s comprised amazingly dedicated, proactive fans that are physically out promoting Supernatural, as well as spreading the word online.

  • What boggles my mind is that folks constantly miss the CW Lounge – the message board on the website of the NETWORK that the show is on! There are so many thoughtful threads and not nearly the negativity TWOP is notorious for!

  • MM

    Just a quick comment about Jensen’s trip to Australia. He was there promoting the show. He was there to do tv, radio and press interviews. He combined it with a little vacationing, but his reason for being there was to promote the show for Australia’s Channel 10, so don’t feel too sorry for him. He was supposed to be attracting attention to Supernatural and he did his job well. 🙂 There were no pictures or reports of him during private time, just public appearances.

  • Marie

    Good article. I’m on your side with the incest thing; it makes no sense to me. I think what’s kind of sad is that, as with pretty much any other fandom, those of us who are bothered by it or don’t like it are unconsciously pushed into silence because it would be “politically incorrect” to voice our opinions. Not to mention a lot of slashers can tear off your head in piranha-esque frenzy if you express your disapproval in more than just a passing one-liner. (Or even with a one-liner, as your article demonstrates.) Slash debates always end up being ridiculously long and downright ridiculous….

    Personally, I’d like to think in Supernatural fandom, slash is confined to the internet. Fans who are mostly uninvolved with online fandom don’t ever really go there. And why should they? I kind of know what you mean by the whole “you don’t want to know” comment. My friends, who have never been involved in online fandom, learned about the existence of slash (and incestuous slash) through me, and they still can’t get over the “ew” factor every time it gets brought up, even after a couple years.

    What continues to bother me, after years in all kinds of fandom, is this weird undercurrent that keeps popping up in discussions: there’s always gotta be at least one slasher that hints at wanting to convert a nonslashing fan. As if not slashing is uncool.

    But anyway — as for Supernatural, this one fan made an amazing survey of all the fanfiction in the SPN Newsletter not long ago and created a pie chart of the results! Check it out!

  • Sherry

    Alice, you said something about cop show in your review, I was wondering what is your favorite cop show or do you have one? I’m a huge Starsky & Huch fan, I think that was the the best cop show on TV in the 70s. I love Supernatural! Great fandom review Alice!

  • The Supernatural fandom is one of my favorite fandoms, and is one of the best I’ve ever been in. The only other one that I think even compares is Firefly/Serenity fando,.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to check our fantabulous fandom out.

    Totally agree with you on the slash thing – I’ve never had much of a problem with slash in other fandoms, but in SN, it drives me up the wall. Sam and Dean are sacred as they are, in the primary brotherly love.

    But I loved your rticle, and I’m glad you’ve joined us, even if it was only for a short while. But you know, once a Fanchester…

  • Thanks again everyone for more suggestions. I really need to get busier. I’ve got plenty of time until April 24th (although I will be watching when reruns return Thursday). It sounds like I’m going to have to do a follow up article on all that I missed. I’ll certainly be busy this summer.

    LindsayW – Thanks for mentioning the CW lounge. I haven’t spent a lot of time there, but from the time I have spent there, you are right, many of the threads provide some interesting discussion. In the future, I’ll cover the CW site in general, because in my opinion, their website is more fan friendly than other network sites. Too bad the network isn’t as well done as their website.

    Sherry – I’ve actually been watching Starsky and Hutch on hulu. I wrote an article about hulu, commenting how much I was looking forward to seeing that show finally and how much I was in awe to see that car in person in Vegas. It was even cooler in person. Others, like Adam 12 and Dragnet (which might even be 60’s) are dull.

    MM – Thank you so much for clarifying about Jensen’s trip. I’m glad to hear he actually did have a good vacation. From reading posts, that was never made clear.

    Finally, I’d like to address the slash issue. I’m not dissing slash or homosexuality. I was in the House community for years, trust me, House/Wilson slash is the norm and some of the best written stories were from that pairing. My comment about “you don’t want to know” had nothing to do with homosexual relationships. It had to do with the perspective in this fandom, which is incest. I have zero disrespect for those that read and write the Sam/Dean pairing, but it’s just not my thing. Please don’t take the remarks to mean anything but one person’s opinion on one particular pairing. Thanks for sending your comments and defending your part of the fandom! It’s great to see people standing up for what they believe in.

  • ALICE Great article with some great information. I just wanted to mention another interesting and very active message board that I’m drawn to again and again and that is the IMDb SUPERNATURAL board. It has a very excellent self-policing policy that keeps the negativity (not that there’s a lot ;)) at a minimum. It also watches out for spoiler damage because many of the posters are from all parts of the world and haven’t yet seen all the episodes that we have here in the States. All in all, it makes for a very enjoyable excursion into the ‘Supernatural’ Realm.

  • Kel


    Can’t believe you forgot Fandom Rocks, which is a fan-based charitable contribution drive!

    There’s also OpWin, or Operation Winchester, that collects money and DVD sets to send Supernatural DVD sets to troops overseas in the Middle East!

  • That was a blast Alice. I agree with what you said about slash, I write fan fics though mine generally run to romance/family for the “boys.” I also have four forums, a website (the one linked) as well as a fanfic archive community and Numerous Live Journals with fics about the show. I think I am a bit over zealous but my readers don’t mind. LOL. Thanks for your input on the Fandom.