I didn’t get it… at first.
I’ve never been what you call a “fan girl” in the true sense. I’ve never gotten excited over the whole celebrity thing. The way I see it, they’re normal people doing jobs like you or me. I haven’t met a lot of celebrities in my lifetime but when I have, I’ve treated them like normal people.
So, heading to the “Salute to Supernatural” con this weekend, I wanted to find out what drove fans to mind-blowing crazy every time Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were nearby. I wanted to understand what this phenomenon was all about. After all, I couldn’t comprehend how people could spend so much money on gold tickets and photo ops for a quick fan experience. I didn’t get how people started getting weak in the knees and all teary as they inched closer to their turn to have their 20 second quick shot with J2.
I instantly learned day three is the day of the fan girl or boy. Madness abounds as even the most rational and level headed middle-aged woman turns to pile of mush over her brush with greatness.
"It was so worth it," I heard from everyone, many who paid over three hundred dollars to get their sets of photos with each actor. Even if I had the opportunity, I’m not sure I would have paid that kind of money. After all, the photo will spend more time in my drawer than anything. That’s me and my practical nature talking.
My roommate, who did pay for all that, came out of each photo op with a huge smile, far away eyes, and the inability to talk. She was on a fan girl high, and as thrilled as I was for her, I didn’t understand how what was happening. She was having her moment though, and I was happy to share it with her.
While waiting for the big Jared and Jensen Q&A session in the main ballroom, I heard some more great fan stories. One of my friends shared her photo op with someone who came in from Luxembourg. This person wanted to buy a photo op so bad, but they were sold out. She tried to buy some on eBay and asked around at the convention if anyone had some on sale, and had no luck. She had traveled all this way at huge expense and all she wanted was a photo. By the time the photo op came around, she was reduced to tears.
Through the intervention of someone, an announcement went out pleading for someone to share their photo op. My friend eventually volunteered, surprised that no one would help this girl out, especially those who purchased multiple photo ops. The shared photo was taken, and now this girl can go back to Luxembourg with her most cherished possession and my friend still got her photo op as well.
As the final auction took place, I still didn’t get it. The wall banners that hung the Jared and Jensen pretty on the ballroom walls for the past three days were sold. Banners paired with autograph tickets were going upward of five hundred dollars. They auctioned off the stage banners, the welcome banners, and bundled every souvenir left in a package deal few could refuse. The amount of money being thrown around was staggering, and I didn’t understand. Hadn’t they spent enough?
In the meantime, the crowd slowly began to pour in and the excitement in the room built into a small frenzy. Jared was due on the stage soon. To pass the time, I talk to Sal, who had the seat next to me this entire weekend. He’s a college student from Aurora, Illinois and has been getting a ride to come in for the event daily. He loves Supernatural and horror and even though his friends don’t share that interest, they all got together and bought him a silver ticket for this weekend. He’s going back to school on Monday and sharing his autographed photos and memories. He even wants to bring his mom next year, who’s also a big fan.
A fantastic fan video played just before Jared came on stage (anyone who knows it please share the link, for I must watch again), and I immediately jumped in the Q&A line, for I’ve been eager for a while to get an answer to my Sera Gamble question. Jared came out, rolling onto the stage in true goofball fashion with coat and hat, and the fans ate it up. He’s adorable, I’ll admit that.
There were a few fans in front of me, but it was clear that I’d have time to get my question asked. I was all ready, that is until I started getting closer. I listened and watched with fascination as Jared handled all these great and sometimes strange questions ahead of me, and reality started to sink in.
Then a person in front of me froze at the mic and ran away crying, only to have Jared come down and give her a hug. I’ve seen this girl all weekend. She’s been in every Q&A asking great questions with confidence, and was even part of the trivia quiz. In the presence of Jared though, she melted. Somehow this time, I understood. She managed to choke out two words after getting the hug. “You’re adorable.”
As I inched closer, all of a sudden, my stomach was in knots. I’m getting why people turn into puddles of mush in front of these guys. Why am I getting this now? I need to ask my question. As I got one person away, it all hit me. "OH MY GOD! That's Jared Padalecki and I'm about to talk to him!" Now I'm shaking.
I stepped up, nervously greeted him, and then asked my question without hesitation. I told him I got to interview Sera Gamble once, and that she couldn’t answer a question I asked about him. Given her penchant for torturing Sam, does he ever cringe when he sees Sera Gamble’s name on a script? The first words out of his mouth? “I do.” Whoa. He went on to elaborate and gave a great answer, mentioning in a nutshell how her scripts are wonderful, but they challenge him. He also mentioned something about Sam often crying or being naked or being naked and crying, but the trouble is, I don't remember most of it. I zoned out over the fact that Jared is up there talking to me in front of a thousand people, answering a question I've been dying to ask him ever since I started writing about this show and giving me a great answer.
I get it now. For the first time ever, I’m having a fan girl experience, and I’m a mess.
I even got to tell him how I thought episode 9 was his best (which you'll hear about if I ever get the freaking review done). The entire rest of the Q&A I sat in my seat a puddle of Jello, freaked out over what just transpired. Now I need to see the answer on YouTube.
It’s about this time that I realize I’m so keyed up, so nervous, and the fact I was in line for most of Jared’s panel that taking notes (like I did the last two days) for Jared and Jensen was not happening. Considering the fantastic and well detailed eyewitness reports from others on Supernatural Wiki, I have a fallback plan. I managed to find the answer to my question there by the way.
Jared’s panel was thrilling, their joint panel was thrilling, and Jensen’s panel was thrilling. With the past cons I’ve always watched their videos and loved the answers but here, I felt the sheer electricity in the room. I felt everyone’s overwhelming love for them, and their love for us. It was an experience that I cannot equate with anything I’ve ever seen. It was definitely one of those “you had to be there” moments, and I’m glad I was.
Jensen at the end was very gracious, even acknowledging that the ratings are way up and they owe it all to the fans. I’ve been saying that for some time now, but to hear that from Jensen, it meant a lot.
So, my fan euphoria ended there, right? After all, I accomplished my two main goals this weekend. I met many of my online friends and I got to ask Jared my question. I was feeling pretty proud of myself. However, as a silver ticket holder, I got the right to get autographs from all the celebrities appearing this weekend, including Jensen and Jared. We were called by row, and unlike the last few days, everything was assembly line and very quick. No talking, no giving gifts or hugs. Get your item signed and leave.
Fans usually buy posters and pictures to get signed. Not me, since I’m not really into that. I brought something a little more special. I brought two copies of my very first article, “How A Show Manages to Succeed Despite Its Network.” After all, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t write that article and it become so well received that I started a feature for the show and began to connect with fans all over the world. The first one had already been signed by the guests from the last two days, who all glanced at the article without asking what it was about and passed it on. The second copy I had was reserved only for Jensen and Jared.
My turn for the autographs came and I handed the person my “item for signing.” She slid the article over to Jensen who looked at it and froze, thus disrupting the assembly line process that had been going so well. I told him in a quick run-on sentence that was my first article and I got to do a Supernatural regular feature because of it. He read the page, looked at me with surprise and said, “I’ve read this.” He went on further, explaining that when it came out someone sent it to him and he shared it with people in his trailer. He remembers it very well. I was so floored and unprepared for the comment, all I remember is becoming a blathering idiot. Then he called out to Jared who was nearby, passed it over and asked if he remembered it. Jared looked at the page and in surprise said, “Yeah, I remember this!” Er… um… wow… I kept the “HOLY SHIT!” to myself.
They signed it and both gave me an appreciative smile as I thanked them for everything while being rushed out of the area by the Creation security, who were obviously a little miffed that I slowed down the assembly line. The only thing running through my mind as I wandered through the ballroom in a daze was, “How am I ever going to top that moment?”
I SO get it now.
My Final Thoughts
I’ve given my hugs and said my goodbyes to the friends that I now know in person, and I’m sitting here alone in quiet reflecting on what a weekend it’s been. I came to Chicago with no expectations, but everything about this weekend turned out to be a mind-boggling surprise.
I was told correctly that the first con for “virgins” was always the overwhelming one. They weren’t kidding. From the moment I arrived I questioned why I was here, but soon I instantly connected with everyone. I was floored that loyal people came out and volunteered their weekends for these events to make these shows possible. I was floored by seeing the actual people that I’ve watched on my DVDs multiple times standing in front of me and talking like we’re regular people. I was floored by running into someone in line and as we got talking finding out I’ve already met that person online and we’ve shared several conversations.
A few people mentioned fan cons like this are a mixed bag. They all are run differently and each one delivers a different fan experience. I heard some criticisms this weekend over Creation’s running of the show, how the prices charged for tickets, autographs, photo ops, and merchandise were getting out of control and how everything again was very rushed, but overall fans left happy. They left with their pictures and memories and many already were making plans for next year.
On the final evening, we were all wiped. The excitement of seeing Jensen and Jared took our breaths away and it was a great finish to all the bustle of the entire weekend. We sat in the bar having drinks, and a few of us stared off into space running the events through our minds while others pulled out their digital cameras and started going through their memories that way.
A short distance away, all the con volunteers sat together exhausted, yet determined to have one last gathering before they parted until the next one. I went over and congratulated them for their efforts and told them how well their hard work paid off. They were appreciative and I can only hope I’m not the only one that told them that this weekend.
Most of all, it was great to come out of my Internet shell and see the real side of everyone. I met the real Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, not Dean and Sam, and it was great to see the real people behind the role. Their respect for us was as mutual as ours for them and I knew that just because they were happy to be there. I met the real supporting actors and got a great glimpse of what inspires them in their lives. Finally, I met the real fans behind the show. As I mentioned in my very first article, it’s the loyal fans getting the word out that has been the main key to Supernatural’s success. After witnessing the love and mutual admiration in that ballroom this weekend, I finally got to see it all first hand, and not as some distant observer reading Internet comments.
Never has a TV show affected me personally in such a way before. Sure fans talk about their times going to X-Files, Stargate, and Star Trek conventions, which have been around for years, but Supernatural will always be my first. That instantly makes it the most special.