I’m not exactly a fan of Supernatural, the long-running (and recently concluded) series featuring the monster-hunting Winchester brothers (Sam and Dean) and associates. I am, however, a fan of several of the characters, which is why I’ve stuck with the show. I’m currently re-watching older seasons in anticipation of catching up on the last couple I haven’t seen yet, including the series finale.
The thing is, no matter how much I try (and I have tried), I just can’t pretend this show doesn’t bother me on numerous levels. I’m not trying to ruin anything for the fans out there (who I’m sure far outnumber detractors like me), but someone needs to say it. Supernatural has problems. Here’s four of them.
In season 8 Supernatural introduced the “Men of Letters,” a secret society that, among other things, made a point of amassing and preserving vast stores of occult and magical knowledge. Sounds pretty cool, right? You’d think so, but apparently the show’s writers disagree, as multiple characters repeatedly refer to the Men of Letters as “librarians.” And it’s never a compliment.
First of all, fiction is full of librarians who could hold their own in the Supernatural universe. Secondly, the show itself establishes that the Men of Letters were also men of action– they just put a little more thought into their actions than the Winchesters and their fellow “hunters” tend to. More importantly, though, is that real-life librarians deserve better than this kind of casual derision. Yes, they spend an inordinate amount of time with books (not sure why that’s a bad thing), but they also help people and improve lives on a daily basis (here’s a story from last year as just one example). Librarian as an insult? You’re only showing your own ignorance.
2. Mary Shelley Didn’t Create Frankenstein
Season 10 brought us the ill-conceived Styne family, an ancient clan into all kinds of evil, including murder, Nazism, and really poorly stitched body modification (seriously, this is your thing– learn how to sew). But– big reveal– it turns out the family’s name was originally… Frankenstein (groan), and that their family friend Mary Shelley, after spending a few days at their estate and seeing what they were up to, wrote her book to try to warn the world. In other words, Frankenstein isn’t a work of Shelley’s vibrant imagination (and one of, if not the, first works of science fiction), but rather non-fiction based on something she witnessed.
Seeing as how women writers throughout history have been consistently ignored, suppressed, forgotten, and denied credit, for Supernatural to come along and discount the achievement of one of the few who did receive her due… let’s just say that Supernatural owes Mary Shelley a huge apology.
3. The Writers vs. Castiel
Introducing angels to the show is generally acknowledged as being one of Supernatural’s smarter moves. Castiel especially turned out to be a great character, with some decent development over the seasons. Unfortunately, the writers backed themselves into a corner with angels. Debuted as incredibly powerful beings who can destroy a human just by existing in their natural state, the writers subsequently were forced to find ways to make angels far weaker than they started out. As the Winchesters’ protector/friend Castiel gets the brunt of this– the writers spend the rest of the series finding excuses to take away his power. Poor Cas loses his mind, gets stuck in purgatory, is put under the control of another angel, and even becomes human, among other things. Even when he is at full strength, the writers ignore the extent of his abilities, inexplicably render them useless (“I can usually heal anything, but not this…”), or simply pretend he doesn’t exist. He can be summoned by phone or by prayer, yet he often “isn’t answering,” or more often, the Winchesters don’t bother calling. There are so many times when Cas could easily have dispatched demonic enemies or fixed an unfortunate situation (like, say, bringing Charlie back to life), but it’s inconvenient to the story, so he’s nowhere to be seen. What all this amounts to is a lot of poor and/or lazy writing that ultimately lowers the quality of the show. F for effort, guys.
4. Sucky Vampires
Vampires aren’t the focus of Supernatural, and it’s a good thing because the ones on this show are awful. From the hideous rows of fangs to their bland personalities, I have to wonder why the show bothered including vampires at all. Mercedes McNab, who brilliantly played student-turned-vampire Harmony on Buffy and Angel, shows up as a vampire in one season 3 episode of Supernatural. Her character mostly spouts exposition and whines about being hungry before Dean finally beheads her. Other vampires throughout the series are similarly unremarkable (although there was one storyline that had potential, about vampires taking advantage of the Twilight craze, but it ultimately missed the mark). Even Benny, who befriends Dean in season 8 and actually gets a story arc, serves mostly as a source of tension between Sam and Dean. Not every vampire is going to be a Dracula or a Spike, but it takes some skill to make all of yours forgettable.
There are other problems with Supernatural (like Sam and Dean’s casual willingness to murder innocent people just because they’re possessed– remember when they used to at least try an exorcism first?), but I’ll leave it here. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my points? Share in the comments…
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Aspasía S. Bissas