My relationship with Supernatural is…unconventional, to say the least. It’s not so much a TV show anymore, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “lifestyle,” exactly. For me, it’s more of a family member—and a toxic one, at that.
I hear people say that Supernatural is their go-to TV “comfort food,” and I wanna know what the hell show they’re watching, because when I watch Supernatural, it’s rarely comforting—or fun, entertaining, joyful…you get the picture. I mean, there’s “Baby,” and “Scoobynatural,” and “Mint Condition,” so there are bright spots, but for me, watching Supernatural is the emotional equivalent of having my fingernails torn off. As Dr. Forrester, the Mad Scientist on Mystery Science Theater 3000 once said, “Prepare for a rendezvous with extreme emotional pain.” It’s gut-wrenching, it’s bleak, and it never fucking gets better!
I avoid watching Supernatural for months at a time. The last season I watched live as it aired was season 10. I stopped watching live in the middle of season 11 and didn’t start again until the beginning of season 14. I’m currently several episodes behind. I watched up to 14.11, haven’t seen 14.12 yet (again, the emotional pain component is what’s keeping me from watching it), watched 14.13 because it was the 300th, so, duh, and I haven’t seen any of the post-“Lebanon” episodes yet.
Yesterday I had a Friday off for the first time in over a year, and I wanted to finally catch up on Supernatural. I didn’t plan to watch it first thing in the morning because I knew I was going to lunch with my mom. When we got home from lunch around 1:00 PM, I sat down in my bed and said, “Time to watch Supernatural!”
And…I failed to pick up the remote and turn on the TV.
Instead, I turned on my favorite “background noise” podcast, picking up where I’d left off the day before, and sat on my bed for five minutes or so, trying to force myself to want to endure the emotional iron maiden that is Supernatural.
Ten minutes passed. I got up, grabbed a library book about politics off my bookshelf, and started to read. I was already feeling…not “depressed,” exactly, but a low, joyless mood best described as unfocused negativity with no obvious cause. I’d felt that way all day, and usually leaving the house helps, but it hadn’t. So I started to read a book about alienation in America.
I didn’t put it together until right the fuck now (because I am incredibly obtuse when it comes to my own mental health) that my negative mood stemmed from the prospect of having—rather than wanting—to watch Supernatural. I figured hey, if I feel this crappy already, might as well pile on the suffering, right? Except my brain didn’t want to fucking DO THAT, because it is way, way smarter than I am.
Seriously, how do y’all do it?
See, I’ve been a die-hard, ride-or-die Deangirl since the first minute of the first episode (which was “Faith,” fyi) I ever watched. Sam really didn’t appeal to me for three reasons:
- He was flawed in all the ways I considered myself flawed, and therefore, I wanted to smack him most of the time, especially pre-season 4; 1 although I am very skilled at writing fanfic from his POV, at least
- The mytharc always revolved around him and his issues, and Dean was mostly stuck on the sidelines reacting to shit instead of actively driving the plot until S3, (half of) S9, S10, and S11; and
- Jared Padalecki just doesn’t Do It for me, physically or mentally/emotionally, and Jensen does, so I don’t feel connected to Sam/Jared, whereas I feel a soul-deep connection to Dean/Jensen.
If you’ve spent any time reading fanfiction, you should be familiar with the term “squick.” It means a visceral feeling of disgust or distaste that causes you to recoil back mentally, if not physically, from the offending trope/story. In slash fanfic, a lot of people are this way with their top/bottom preferences. They’re squicked by the opposites and won’t read those fics. Hurt/comfort fanfic often works the same way for readers: one character’s pain is Delicious Candy and the other’s is Squick Central. Unfortunately for me, Jensen/Dean is the former and Jared/Sam is the latter. And guess who always ends up hurting himself in real life? (Spoiler: not Jensen. Life is so unfair sometimes.) Dean’s broken leg in S7 healed in what, an episode and a half? *coughfuckingbullshitcough* 2 And don’t even get me fucking STARTED on Sam stealing the Trials out from under Dean in S8.
I joked to a friend yesterday that I’m an “accidental bronly” 3 Short for “bros only,” these so-called “fans” utterly loathe Misha, Random Acts, Castiel, angels, and all seasons past S3. They’re infamous for being insane J2 tinhats who show Wincest fanart to Jared and Jensen in RL and spreading hatred all over Misha/RA’s social media. because the only seasons I’ve watched more than once are S1-3. I haven’t rewatched S4-6, although I watched them live at the time. 4 And S5 contains two episodes that, if it weren’t for the SPN podcast I (sometimes) do, I’ve vowed to NEVER watch again: “Abandon All Hope” and “Swan Song.” I binged S7-8 so fast , because I hated them so much, that I don’t remember a single event or episode title from either. 5 except the aforementioned Trials and broken leg I also binged S12-13 (although I skipped some late-season filler episodes to save time) after they aired, and I haven’t even watched most of S9 yet.
I don’t mind Castiel as a character, and I casually ship Destiel, but the characters I really care about are Dean, Baby, and now Jack. Everyone else, including Sam, I can take or leave. I mean, I know Salmon Dean are a package deal, and there really isn’t a Dean without Sam, but I only grudgingly tolerate Sam up until Dean gets the Mark of Cain and Sam switches familial roles with him. When Sam was getting tortured by Toni in the beginning of S12, I turned off the episode and never finished it, because I just. Didn’t. Fucking. Care.
You have no idea how much I would love to be one of those fans who loves everything about the show and never gets angry or disappointed over plot points or mytharc developments. I follow several of these fans on Twitter and honestly, I would give anything to crawl inside their brains and experience Supernatural the way they do. That’s my idea of Heaven! I can’t stop myself from watching through a Deangirl lens that constantly highlights—with giant neon pink arrows—the myriad ways Dean gets shafted by the other characters, the mytharc, the various post-Kripke showrunners, and the narrative/writing itself.
Hell, it’s getting to the point where even just talking about Supernatural long enough to formulate this article is making me feel shitty. I mean, it’s partly because I’ve been talking about the things I don’t like, but it’s also because Supernatural is ending next year. Granted, it wasn’t an uncomplicated happy place for me to begin with, but at least J2M social media content, con videos, fanfic/fanart, and stan Twitter were my happy places. But now they’ve all been irrevocably tainted by The Announcement as well. And that’s what brings me to the real crux of the problem here:
Supernatural makes me feel my emotions.
… and 99% of them feel like shit.
I don’t want to feel my emotions, because they all fucking suck. Most of the time I deal with a sort of background “white noise” of guilt, shame, sadness, anxiety, doubt, annoyance, boredom, and disappointment. That’s my everyday baseline mood. About 85% of it is directed at myself. Only a small minority is directed at other people and/or circumstances outside my control. The best I can hope for most days is to feel enough interest, curiosity, pleasure, desire, motivation, satisfaction, or hope to simply overcome inertia and do something. I work three 4.5-hour shifts a week, usually Wednesday-Friday, but this week I’m scheduled on Sunday the 14th (originally Saturday the 13th), so I got Friday off for the first time in several months.
That’s why I was planning to use my bonus “free time” to catch up on Supernatural, because I never want to watch Supernatural after work. After work I catch up on all the social media I missed and I generally put on a MST3K or Rifftrax movie I’ve seen a gazillion times for background noise. If I’m going to watch Supernatural, I have to focus my full attention on it, because I’m incapable of doing something else while it’s on. That’s why I always get attacked by Feels, because I’m not dividing or filtering my attention with social media, books, music, or podcasts in a desperate attempt to escape them.
You know when else I get attacked by Feels?
When I’m writing.
I will do just about anything to escape the Feels, as long as it provides instant pleasure. Eating sugary junk food and drinking soda work pretty well in the moment, but don’t last long enough to do anything constructive. Online shopping works too, except when I’m forced to deal with the mountain of Amazon boxes blocking my TV or gathering cobwebs in corners. Podcasts, especially TV rewatch podcasts like Again With This and The Melrose Place Podcast, work great because they both have enough episodes to last all day. I can stay on Twitter and Facebook for hours with MelrosePod in the background and the next thing I know, it’s dark and I haven’t accomplished a productive task in 6 hours. Sometimes I’ll combine exercise—like stationary biking 6 I refuse to call it “spinning” like my Fitbit Versa does, it’s not SoulCycle or any of that shit or walking—with the podcasts or a self-help audiobook (which is the only remotely healthy thing on this entire list, you’ll notice) and even then I mitigate it with mental “junk food” most of the time. I read a shit-ton of self-help, mental/physical health, business/productivity, and general nonfiction books. Sometimes those work really well (Alienated America was an effective distraction, at least), but sometimes the self-help/mental health books just make me feel shittier about myself than I already do. And once every 3-6 months, I actually clean my fucking bathroom and/or parts of my bedroom, usually as a last-ditch attempt to avoid the fuck out of something really awful…like watching Supernatural.
And the circle is unbroken.
You know what my comfort food TV is? Trashy nighttime soaps (Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, The L Word) and sci-fi from my childhood (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The X-Files, SeaQuest DSV). Know why those work? Because I’m not attached to any of the characters at the fucking cellular level the way I am to Dean. They’re just sympathetic people 7 Michael Mancini not withstanding. Jerry Seinfeld had a point. doing interesting things, like having adventures with space aliens or screaming and cussing in sign language. 8 This might be my favorite soap scene of all time. It might even be the best thing that’s ever happened on television—although Kimberly blowing up 4616 Melrose Place with dynamite strapped to gas cans is way up there.
I can’t even conceive of a time or place, physically or mentally, where watching Supernatural isn’t going to be the emotional equivalent of running an ultramarathon barefoot in the snow. 9 Shoutout to Jared and Gen Padalecki—the Boston Marathon is tomorrow, as this goes up! I honestly don’t think I will ever get to the point where watching Seasons 4-15 from beginning to end doesn’t feel like Clockwork Orange. I don’t even think I’m going to catch up with S14 before it ends in 2 weeks. (I’m fully spoiled. I’ve never been a spoilerphobe.)
Nevertheless, I still consider myself a huge Supernatural fan. And that’s never going to change.