A Pit Stop at The Crossroads: A Dozen Seasons and Counting – Originally published on Rain Man Digital
Traditionally, I like to start these musings with a bit of my trademark misanthropic humor that all five of you have come to know and love, with perhaps a dash of something offensive and maybe even a dick joke thrown in for good measure. And yet as I sit here at my desk, coffee mug growing cold in my hand, the hours of the night ticking by, I find it oddly difficult to focus on the funny. Perhaps it is because I am remembering where I was eleven years ago. As is common with any trip down memory lane there is that fond stop at the Nostalgia Café before the mandatory purchase at the “Hindsight Is 20/20” gift shop. Like most Americans, I have spent a disturbing amount of time watching television, but there are few shows that have impacted my life as greatly as Supernatural. As I said, I can remember where I was the first time I saw the show. I sat on the couch in my family living room, my younger brother sitting cross-legged on the floor to my left. High school had just started a month prior and I was going to a school outside of my district. I had one friend with me in the beginning, and my brother who I had previously seen every day for lunch, would now be sharing his meals with an entirely new group of friends for the next four years. For the first time in my life I felt as if we were growing apart. When he told me there was this “badass new show” featuring two brothers killing monsters that was supposed to air that night, I knew I had to watch it. Maybe we wouldn’t have lunch together anymore, but perhaps we could share this “badass” show every week. I remember talking with him for the rest of the night about that show and how each of us was like one of the brothers in some way and what monsters we may see in future episodes. I will always remember that night. How many times in your life do you remember exactly where you were when you experienced something? A dozen times, maybe less? And far too often those memories are surrounded by tragedy, not joy. But withSupernatural something was different.
Eleven Years Ago Today Eric Kripke and The Chosen Ones Unite
While there are some who believe the quality has gone downhill in recent years, it cannot be denied that there is something unique about this show to not only give it the longevity it has, but also to drum up enough excitement year after year to warrant an unofficial holiday. But what exactly is it about Supernaturalthat has allowed it such a coveted position? Eleven years ago today Eric Kripke and his team, or as I refer to them “The Chosen Ones,” brought us a story about two brothers who lived out of their dad’s car and fought the things that go bump in the night. At first glance it seems like a rather simple revenge story, complete with an engaging hook at the end of the first episode that, like a succulent worm on the end of a fishing line, doomed us to our fate as fans for the next decade. Dad has gone missing, presumably while hunting the thing that killed several people we really wish it hadn’t, so let’s go find him and kill this thing right back; fair is fair after all. Fast forward and now more than a decade later here we sit with many of the newborn children of original fans now entering puberty and getting cross at their parents who are still talking about this fucking show.
Kripke’s Vision for a Horror Fueled American Road Trip
Undoubtedly some of this is due to the strength of the writing. Kripke’s vision for a horror fueled American Road Trip sat marinating in his mind like the world’s most succulent steak for a solid ten years before any of us even got a taste. From the character arcs to the symbolism, the themes, the plot and even the dialogue of every episode, all of it was so well done, so tight and cohesive, that I personally believe few shows have ever managed to achieve a similar level of storytelling. Of course, no horror show would be complete without some breathtaking art direction. And while I praised the creativity behind many of the creatures in the early seasons and was a bit less charitable to recent years, to this day Supernatural has still managed to introduce new and terrifying imagery nearly every year. That does not include the absolutely outstanding acting brought to each and every episode by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles which is to say nothing about the proverbial fleet of actors that have graced the show over the years. But you already know all this. All of us fans have discussed and obsessed over this show for years now, and yet we still share such a passion. Personally I believe this is due to the fact that regardless of who you are, you can find some element of the show to identify with. Other fandoms are more popular, certainly. Supernatural does not have entire toy aisle dedicated to them like Star Wars does, nor do they have the cornucopia of merchandise that ranges from video games to sex toys that Pokémon has, as utterly disturbing as that may be.
Supernatural Knows How to Tell Relatable Stories
But what Supernatural does best, and better than any show I know, is tell relatable stories. Some of you may scoff at that idea because you have never spent your night scouring graveyards and abandoned buildings hunting monsters, except for that one time and you are pretty sure it was a cat or a homeless drunk. No, I am talking about relatable stories about the human experience. While the horror is appealing, it is just the surface; a thick layer of frosting on a deliciously rich and layered cake. Supernatural tells stories that we can all relate to at one point or another regardless of our background. There are few intellectual properties where people of different genders, sexualities, class or race can come together because they see some part of themselves in a character like Dean Winchester. While everyone loves Yoda, I do not remember the scene in Empire where he puts away an entire bottle of Johnny Walker Blue after everyone he has ever known and loved was murdered so he would be well within his right to do so. No, he just went on talking about the Force and living in a shack in the middle of a swamp being all pious and better than everyone else. Dean conversely, acted like a human when faced with tragedy. When his father died he was angry and reserved, preferring to hide his emotions from the world. When he believed Cas was dead he began drinking heavily. When Ellen and Jo died he mourned but carried on, and when Sam was lying dead on a table he literally made a deal with a demon in order to bring him back. All of these things were aspects of a human being that we all can understand or have experienced ourselves (yes including selling your souls, it’s a metaphor, shut up).
The Show Has Dealt With Challenges That Many of Us Struggle With
More importantly, the show has dealt with the less obvious challenges that many of us struggle with every day. Many shows and characters deal with death, but how many deal with feeling alone? How many have a main character that feels like a freak or an outsider that, try as they might, has never belonged? How many shows have dealt with mental illness and how terrifying that can be? Sam’s struggles through the show constantly reflect issues that are more common to all of us, including actor Jared Padalecki himself, making it a far more relatable and personal story than nearly anything you will see in your standard sitcom. Dealing with family we both love and hate, coping with the loss of loved ones, making friendships through the darkest of circumstances, struggling with PTSD and other mental health issues, questioning sexuality, feelings of loneliness, dealing with hardships and other obstacles we thought impossible to overcome. Each of these concepts have been touched on in by this series at one point or another and each have been shown the respect they deserve, not simply thrown in as the issue of the week that would be remedied by the roll of the credits. This scars were there to stay like they are for all of us, making it all feel more real and human.
Family is Everything and Always Keep Fighting
As for myself, I find that the most important lesson we can learn from Supernatural, even more than the family is everything theme, is to never give up. Even prior to Jared Padalecki’s “Never Stop Fighting” campaign, I always believed that to be a core aspect of the series. Constantly, the brothers are facing terrible odds and are not sure how they are going to overcome any of them. Yet at no point do they ever give up. Not on the situation, not on the fight and not on each other. They do what they can, where they are, with what they have even if all they have is each other. And sometimes not even that. This is the very concept that allowed them to overcome everything that the universe has thrown at them and I think that is something that everyone can take and incorporate into their own life. No matter how dark it may seem, no matter how alone you may feel, you can never give up. Some may say it is just a show, but you cannot deny the impact it has had on people, nor can we know how many lives have been changed by this or any other show for that matter. We forget that any story worth telling is also a lesson for how to get through life, and I think that fact alone has earned Supernatural far more than just an unofficial holiday.
Originally published on Rain Man Digital