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a queer and pleasant danger
A box of mirrors, a unicorn, and a pony 
17th-Mar-2010 11:38 am
kim
I'm posting here an essay I wrote last year that's been published in an online journal, about the relationship between fandom and those involved in the Show.

Since I wrote this, there's been a lot written on the topic, mainly prompted by the continued appearance of fans in the Show itself. I am interested that most of what i have read portrays fans as very passive in this relationship, as if we were quietly sitting in our lounge rooms penning some fanfic when Kripke HULK SMASHED the fourth wall and dragged us onto the show.

That may be some individual fan's experience, but it certainly doesn't reflect my view of fandoms' relationship with the Show, which has always been rumbunctious and robust and playful and which certainly did not suddenly manifest in late Season 4. And I can well imagine Kripke spluttering "and hey, anyway, YOU started it!"

Thanks Misha Collins, who's quote below provided me with a hook for the essay when i was in despair!

A box of mirrors, a unicorn, and a pony

Fan: If you could ask Castiel one question, what would it be?
Misha Collins: What question would I ask the character I play? That's like being in a box of mirrors. With a unicorn. And a pony.

It all used to be so simple. There were fans and there were The Powers That Be (TPTB), the shows' creators. TPTB created stories that we, the fans, adored, consumed, criticized, and chopped into bits and made into shiny new things for our amusement. There was a version of the fourth wall — more a one-way mirror, really — between the source text and fandom, with both sides generally happy to keep it that way. But with Supernatural that fannish fourth wall has been demolished, and we are trapped inside a box of mirrors with the show's writers and the unicorn and pony of our creative endeavors.

The Organization for Transformative Works defines "transformative works" as "creative works about characters or settings created by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creators. This delineation between fans and original creators, never rigid to start with, is blurring. What happens when the creators of original work take the fans and their creative works and incorporate them into source material that the fans in turn will further transform?


I can see you
Even before the Internet, the transformative works of fandom were no secret to TPTB—not since the first Star Trek fan turned up at a convention wearing some rubber ears and clutching a mimeoed fanzine. However the growth of the Internet, and particularly of Web 2.0, has made fan works much more accessible.

Fandom and Web 2.0 are a match made in cyberspace—the Web helps us communicate, collaborate, and create faster than we ever have before, and in prettier colors. Henry Jenkins called Web 2.0 "fandom without the stigma" (2007), because it embodies many of the activities inherent in fandom: getting together, having fun, and making stuff. The playground of Web 2.0 has brought fandom and TPTB closer together as our creative works have become much more visible and accessible on sites such as LiveJournal and YouTube and through the social bookmarking site Delicious. Since the mid-1990s, any show runner looking at media forums or blogs to gauge audience reaction has also come across links to fan works. TV writers and directors now actively engage with fans through message boards and forums, and more recently through Twitter.

The one-way mirror
Fans have always felt some anxiety around the idea of fannish works being noticed by the original creators. On the one hand, some fans see the works as tributes to the source material, and many creators feel the same way. The gift of a fan creation to an actor or show runner is an indication of how much the source material is valued and appreciated, and also often embodies a wish for approval. Yet some fans have wished to keep these works hidden, for both legal and cultural reasons.

Fans' fear of litigation has diminished in recent years, and both sides have been operating under a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, although this has recently begun to break down. Some of this change has been driven not by any cultural shift, but by the profit motive—the realization by TPTB (particularly in TV) that the production of fan works is a sign of an engaged viewer, one who will consume your product (and that of your advertisers).

Many fans still hold the opinion that we do what we do for our enjoyment and it is not something to be shared outside of fandom, and particularly not with TPTB. Many people who are active in fandom do not share their activities with friends or family because of the negative stereotypes that persist about fandom

A natural law that holds true across all fandoms states, "Two male characters in possession of some personality must be slashed." Since Supernatural has only two regular characters, who happen to be brothers, this means that the slash fan fiction for the show is 85 percent Wincest . (The other main slash pairing is of Dean with Castiel, who was introduced in season 4.) Few who write porn in fandom would share that fact with those outside the community; the double transgression of writing about not only sex but gay incest in particular is reason enough for fans to want to keep their creative endeavors in the closet.

The first professional convention held for Supernatural was called Asylum; it was run by Rogue Events in Coventry, England, in May 2007. During a question and answer session, Jensen Ackles was asked whether he knew about fan fiction:

Some of those fan fictions have some very, very crazy ideas. And sometimes very…disturbing ideas. One of my favorites is, uh, Wincest…I only hope that my grandmother never reads those. Jared and I had a good laugh about that one. It was only brought to our attention because Kim Manners posted it. (Source):


The topic of fan fiction has been raised by fans at nearly every Supernatural convention that has been held. When asked about what he thought of Wincest at the EyeCon convention in Florida in April 2008, Jared Padalecki managed to validate transformative works while avoiding the tricky incest issue: </blockquote>

With fan fiction and RPGs, it's like an aspect of what I was talking about earlier, that everyone's taking a part in Supernatural and they're not just watching it…and they're really passionate about the show, and especially the fans of Supernatural. It's a great learning tool, and exploring tool, to explore this world. So I'm supportive. (source)</blockquote>

Jim Beaver was the first actor to tease fans with his knowledge of fan culture when he wore a T-shirt proclaiming "I read John/Bobby" to the EyeCon Convention in April 2008.

Mirrors on the ceiling
In April 2009 a spotlight was shone on Supernatural fan fiction. In anticipation of the last four episodes of the season, Entertainment Weekly did a feature on Supernatural in its print edition and a few days later reproduced one of the articles on its Web site. It began by outlining the "intense universe of fandom" surrounding the show and included this reference to Wincest:

There's also a unique and very creepy subset of romantic fan fiction dedicated to siblings Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) called "Wincest"—the less said about it the better. (Wheat 2009)


The reason the print article had mentioned fan fiction became obvious when 4.18 "The Monster at the End of This Book" aired that evening. In this very meta episode, Sam and Dean discover a series of books about their lives called "Supernatural," written by Chuck Shurley under the pseudonym Carver Edlund. The episode uses this metafictional device to comment on the process of writing in general, and on the TV show and its writers in particular. Chuck—who calls himself, in his role as writer, a "cruel and capricious god"—stands in for show creator Eric Kripke (Source).

The episode also introduces Sam and Dean to fandom and fandom into the canon of the show, when the brothers find an online fan community:

Dean: Check it out. There's actually fans. There's not many of them, but still. Did you read this?
Sam:Yeah.
Dean: Although for fans, they sure do complain a lot. Listen to this—Simpatico (note 5) says, "The demon story line is trite, clichéd, and overall craptastic." Yeah, well, screw you, Simpatico. We lived it. There's Sam girls and Dean girls and…What's a slash fan?
Sam:As in "Sam slash Dean," together.
Dean: Like together, together? They do know we're brothers, right?
Sam:Doesn't seem to matter.
Dean: Well, that's just sick!:


Are you starting to get that whole box of mirrors vibe?

The episode was one of the highest rated in season 4 (Super-wiki, "Ratings,"), and the mentions of fandom in the show and the media attracted much discussion among fans. Some were delighted to be part of the canon of the show, and appreciated being included in the meta commentary alongside the show's own writers. Other fans were uncomfortable about the (literal) airing of what they saw as "fandom business." Some fans felt loved, others felt mocked.

This variety of reaction is not surprising. Subcultures like fandom form because a group of people are engaged in customs and behaviors which are considered unacceptable in wider society. Within the subculture these activities become normalized, but when the mainstream discovers them its invariable condemnation reminds people of their outsider status. Some people feel shame when their behavior is pointed out as deviant, but for others being an outsider can be a thrill.

These different reactions were incorporated into the text when the character of fangirl Becky Rosen was introduced in 5.01 "Sympathy for the Devil," written by Eric Kripke. Becky's screen name is samlicker81, and she is the Webmistress of a site called morethanbrothers.net. Becky is contacted by TPTB—Chuck Shurley, prophet and author—and asked to contact Sam and Dean.

Becky: Yes, I'm a fan, but I really don't appreciate being mocked. I know that Supernatural is just a book, okay? I know the difference between fantasy and reality.
Chuck: Becky, it's all real.
Becky: I knew it!


And this is where the unicorn gets put in the box with the mirrors, as the scene begins with Becky reading from a piece of fan fiction she is writing:

Sam shivered as he leaned against the splintered wooden wall of the barn. His shoulder ached from his fight with the demon spawn Mar-Delok and his clothes were soaked from the cold rain which fell outside. He let the knife fall into the dust and turned to his brother.
Dean was shaken up. His chest was heaving with exertion and his shredded shirt was barely clinging to his muscular frame. Sam could see he was hurt.
"Hey. Are you OK?" Sam stepped closer and put his arms around Dean. "We're going to get out of this, they can't keep us here long."
The brothers huddled together in the dark as the sound of the rain drumming on the roof eased their fears of pursuit. Despite the cold outside and the demons who, even now, must be approaching, the warmth of their embrace comforted them.
And then Sam caressed Dean's clavicle.
"This is wrong," said Dean.
"Then I don't want to be right," replied Sam, in a husky voice.


It's a fine example of the Wincest genre, combining an irrelevant demon with a classic hurt/comfort narrative and the eroticization of a specific body part, suggesting that Kripke is familiar with the genre and its tropes. Thus the creator of the show that inspired Wincest writes Wincest. Of course, his "fan fiction" is unfinished. However on September 13, 2009, only three days after the episode's airing, a LiveJournal user called Samlicker81 posted a completed version of Becky's story—now called "Burning Desires"—to a Wincest fanfic community on LiveJournal. Thus the pony is shoved in the box of mirrors alongside the unicorn.

"Sympathy for the Devil" is not the first time Kripke has written fanfic. In November 2008, the last issue of the second series of Supernatural comics—"Rising Son"—was published. It included a six-page stand-alone story called "The Beast with Two Backs." The story starred the Ghostfacers team from episode 3.13, and the beast in question was a chimera of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, a beautiful two-headed creature that killed fangirls because it could not bear to let anyone prettier than it live. Kripke, it seems, ships his stars—or at least is well aware that we do.

A subsequent episode, "The Real Ghostbusters," is set at a Supernatural convention, and the episode again pokes fun at the show's writers, actors, and fans, with many details that suggest TPTB have closely observed fandom's activities. Kripke, who has described himself as a fanboy also uses the episode to give a positive message about being a fan. The episode subverts the clichéd trope of the socially awkward, emotionally immature fan by making the Supernatural fans Demian and Barnes gay lovers who save the day and provide Dean with an emotional insight. Kripke's most definitive statement, however, is made through the relationship between Becky and Chuck: the creator falls in love with the fangirl. Becky, initially more enamored with his creations (Sam, in particular), eventually transfers her affections to him.

Misha and his minions
Actor Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel, has also been actively involved in this reconfiguring of fannish relationships, kicking over whatever was left of the fourth wall with gusto. At the “All Hell Breaks Loose” convention held in Sydney in April 2009, as Jensen and Jared's last session came to a close, there was one final question from the audience—"How does it feel playing brothers when you're lovers in real life?" There was an audible shocked gasp from the audience. The question, it turned out, came from Misha.

A month previously, at the 2009 Salute to Supernatural con in L.A, Misha Collins had said he was fascinated with fandom as a subculture, and would like to read some slash if he could do so "without getting molested." At the Asylum convention in May 2009, Misha said that he'd read some slash and admitted that doing so had been uncomfortable—it was a bit like "finding your parents' pornography." The following day he was at pains to emphasize that he wasn't criticizing fan fiction. "I've done some pretty pervy things myself," he added. At subsequent conventions he continued to talk about reading fan fiction, even suggesting that he comments on stories (for instance, at the Salute to Supernatural in Chicago in 2009).

Misha is well aware of the discomfort that this break with traditional fan boundaries can elicit. In an interview in October 2009 he said:


So there's these fan conventions…and I've mentioned it [slash fan fiction] in the Q & A things and you can sense the whole audience tensing up. They don't want you talking about this weird, slash fiction, weird pervy stuff they get up to. So I do like to bring it up for that reason. (source)

Misha has also engaged in an original and inventive way with fandom through his Twitter. More than any other aspect of Web 2.0, Twitter has been responsible for redefining the relationships between fans and celebrities, as the application allows a new immediacy and intimacy in interactions. Misha has developed a Twitter "persona" who is a rather surreal megalomaniac and whose followers are known as minions. In this space Misha is creating crack fiction with himself as a Mary Sue, or self-insertion into the story. Fans are creating art, stories, and videos about Misha and his minions (Super-wiki, "Misha's Minions,"). He has paired himself in his tweets with people as different as Kim Jong Il and Michelle Obama, and described running into Queen Elizabeth in the gay fetish section of an adult bookstore.

What happens when you cross a pony and a unicorn?
The integration of fandom and the stories we make into the text of Supernatural fits perfectly within the show's narrative mission. At its heart Supernatural is concerned with exploring the stories people construct and tell about themselves and their relationships, in particular the stories that form, shape, and sometimes destroy families. It has explored modern morality tales (in the form of urban legends) and ancient ones (from folklore), and it is retelling the epic stories of society—the ones we call religion. It has examined the storytelling of pop culture through episodes satirizing movies (2.18 "Hollywood Babylon"), TV (5.08 "Changing Channels"), and celebrity culture (5.05 "Fallen Idols").

Now that we are trapped in this box of mirrors with TPTB and our respective creations, we must ask how this new situation will transform us. Our creative endeavors have already changed the source text. TPTB are creating transformative works about themselves. As the source text incorporates and comments on both itself and its fandom, it remains to be seen how knowing we are being watched, seeing what we do reflected back to us, will change how we play at being fans.



Notes
1. On Web 2.0, see "Web Squared: Web 2.0 Five Years On," an essay, white paper, and Webcast by Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle, at http://www.web2summit.com/web2009/public/schedule/detail/10194.
2. Allyson Beatrice (2007) documents her experience of Buffy fandom, particularly her interactions with the writers and show runners. Many actors, writers, and show runners are on Twitter. For example, the writers' room of the comedy Psych can be found at http://twitter.com/Psych_USA.
3. Some creators of original texts have continued to vigilantly oppose transformative works. Anne Rice is one example, and Warner Bros. recently forced the cancellation of a Harry Potter dinner party (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/28/2726040.htm).
4. This analysis is based on around 33,000 stories written in the Supernatural fandom that have been listed on the Supernatural newsletter on LiveJournal (http://community.livejournal.com/spnnewsletter) and tagged on delicious (http://delicious.com/supernatural_fic) as of January 31, 2009. For a further exploration of Wincest, see Tosenberger (2008).
5. Simpatico is the online name of a poster at the Television Without Pity Supernatural forums: http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/supernatural/the_monster_at_the_end_of_this_1.php?page=5.


Comments 
17th-Mar-2010 01:01 am (UTC)
AWESOME article! I love it. :D
17th-Mar-2010 01:35 am (UTC)
Thank you!
17th-Mar-2010 01:04 am (UTC)
I agree that it's not a one-sided relationship - and, considering the fans who got Star Trek (TOS) its third season - hasn't been for a very long time. That said, the collapse of the fictional universe is deeply uncomfortable for me, and one of the reasons I've stopped watching this season. I'm really sad that the creative interaction around the show - fans, actors, writers, crew - is included in the fictional universe of the show (which, to me, damages that fictional universe). If it had been that way from the start, it wouldn't have been Supernatural, though it might have been another show I liked; now that it is that way, it's not the show I enjoyed and I don't watch it.
17th-Mar-2010 01:35 am (UTC)
I can understand not everyone enjoys it although as I say in the essay and expound on in the comment below, the show has always been about exploring storytelling, and I see it as a positive thing that fanf works are included in the show alongside urban legends, TV, religion and folklore.
17th-Mar-2010 01:09 am (UTC)
Thanks for catalogueing the interconnectedness of SPN and fans all in one place. I appreciate the thoroughness of your references and your cogent writing style.

I agree that "TPTB" have a clear interest in engaging the fans and fanworks, and have worked that into the text in new and interesting ways. SPN makes all other fourth wall references look wimpy next to showing actual Wincest onscreen, after all.

However, I am not sure I agree with the assertion that "The integration of fandom and the stories we make into the text of Supernatural fits perfectly within the show's narrative mission." Perhaps its narrative mission has evolved to feature this integration--but I hold that is largely because of the fascination the creators' have with engaging the audience in this way, not because it is fundamental to the nature of the show.

The fourth wall breaking of late S4 and S5 is quite a strange mismatch with the overall tone and narrative of the first three seasons, in which I didn't see much fourth wall referencing, let alone breaking. If I watched an S1 episode and then Changing Channels or TRG, I'd suffer from quite a narrative shock.

Also? Awesome icon. Read on, Kim!

Edited at 2010-03-17 01:11 am (UTC)
17th-Mar-2010 01:33 am (UTC)
The shows initial mission was to explore American mythology Source. Urban legends, folklore, religion are sociey's stories - and during S1 Kripke and Singer discovered they were also telling the stories families and individuals tell. It then evolved to include pop culture forms if you like - the internet, movies, and TV. The integration of fannish works seems appropriate.

And i disagree that S4 adn 5 are so different. In S1 Hell House was the first epsiode to explicitly integrate another form of storytelling - the stories that are told on the internet and i think you can draw a direct line from that ep to Changing Channels.

Season 2 of course featured the wonderful Hollywood Babylon which smashed the 4th wall by including actual notes from studio execs in the script, pisstaking of Kripke's previous projects and the industry as a whole as well as featuring most of the Sueprnatural crew as extras - including McG.
17th-Mar-2010 01:52 am (UTC)
My feelings on this are ambivalent for the most part. However I do find the obvious knowledge of fandom and the hints of Kripke, Misha, etc having subversibely snooped round the fandom vaguely disquieting.



17th-Mar-2010 04:07 am (UTC)
I don't think they needed to snoop! We do actually shove it in their faces! You have heard of these things caleld conventions?
17th-Mar-2010 02:06 am (UTC)
This is awesome! I linked it to friends. I was trying to explain this just the other day and here it is all written out and wonderful.


(btw one of your youtube links is broken--the Salute to SPN Con in Chicago one)
17th-Mar-2010 02:09 am (UTC)
A really interesting read!
17th-Mar-2010 04:09 am (UTC)
thanks!
17th-Mar-2010 02:41 am (UTC)
This was a very interesting read. Thank you so much for putting it together. I haven't decided how I feel about TPTB mucking about in my fan fic. It used to be a safe place to go be kinky and not have to worry about who was reading it b/c we were all a bit kinky. Now I find that I don't read things unless its from someone I know. It is no longer my safe place and that kind of pisses me off.
17th-Mar-2010 04:08 am (UTC)
HAs it ever been 'safe'? i mean unless you flock everything, its sitting on the inetrnet for all to read. Fanfic hasn't beena secret for decades.
17th-Mar-2010 03:24 am (UTC)
Man what a fantastic essay. You really did a great job articulating so much of what makes SPN so enthralling to me. I have to say, I disagree with some of the comments above. I find that the storytelling has evolved from season to season and the writers are unafraid to explore new things with each episode. I think that's one of the things I love the most. If season five was the same as season one in tone and flavor I would possibly be BORED TO TEARS.

I also love that TPTB love their fans. People have stated before that they think TPTB are making fun of fans but I think your points are well made here. They are tipping their hat, saying 'we see you there!' and honestly I bet there was fanfic of Sam and Dean finding slash about them on the internet even before they actually did on the show. (isn't that sort of fic in every fandom?) Supernatural is just the first to take this fic concept and actually use it in storytelling, AMUSING storytelling. Some people seemed to get angry that Dean said 'that is sick' but honestly...would he be Dean at all if he didn't say something like that?

I really do enjoy how much Eric and the writers (crew, cast, etc) show their love for their fans. :) I do somehow feel I can't really...post the sort of things I'd want to post because honestly, the idea that anyone from the show could look at my art and go 'OH MY GOD WHAT' is so terrifying to me! So in that sense I get that people would be nervous about it...but at the same time they're saying 'we see what we're doing there' and also 'it's ok! thanks for loving us!'.

WOW long ramble but anyways, incredible article. YOU ROCK!
17th-Mar-2010 04:45 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for you thougthful and generous feedback! I love that fanworks have been included in SPN along story telling like urban legends, or religion or folk lore or TV or movies.

Of course I understand people's discomfort. We are a subculture, and we do things that aren't generally socially acceptable. We create a bubble and surround ourselves with like-minded people, but fear that being broken, and being censured by others. I think we should be comforted in our fandom's case that Kripke has said - we see you, we know your dark secrets - AND WE STILL LIKE YOU!

And the thing is the world has changed - in the last week on Twitter Lady Gaga posted fanart someone did of her new vid, and one of the Battlestar Galactica creators linked to a fanvid. that fourth wall is gone!

Edited at 2010-03-17 04:46 am (UTC)
17th-Mar-2010 07:21 am (UTC)
This is a great essay!

I think it's great that the creators/et. al are so aware of us and will nod and wink at us right through the show itself. I also love that Misha has leaped right in with the breaking of the fourth wall by playing along with us and enjoying it. I also think it's awesome that he's not afraid to make us uncomfortable by talking about it, because, really, we're putting it out there where anyone can see it, and there are always possible repercussions involved with that. Thankfully, our fandom's repercussions have been very very small IMO, and the people involved with the show actually seem to endorse putting it out there even if they're not into the content being produced.

The idea that one of them may read my fic personally doesn't really bother me--it's always been a risk, and now they're clearly aware of it. I think that their acknowledgment of it, and their "we know and we still like you" attitude is hopefully indicative of the same way most of us feel about our fanfic; it's fiction, it's for fun, and comes from the heart (of a devoted fan). Maybe the people involved don't want to read stories about their characters getting it on, in particular, but I think they appreciate that we're so passionate about it, that we're out there doing something showing our love.

I'm not sure anything has to change in a bad way now that we're inside the box of mirrors. I see it as a deepening of communication between creator/actors and fans, in the best possible way. Together we're forming a new kind of community that supports and feeds on each other, and I think that only makes us all stronger. I hope so, anyway.
17th-Mar-2010 07:31 am (UTC)
Thanks! Tehre was a recent interviewhere with producer/director McG about the value of fanworks at the 100th epsidoe party for SPN.

The attitude in legal terms has certainly changed in the TV arena. I think as long as they don't think we're making buckets of money out of their product they are fine because they know that passionate fans are good business.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that people like Misha and Kripke are also just a tiny bit envious of what we've created.

Edited at 2010-03-17 07:32 am (UTC)
17th-Mar-2010 10:36 am (UTC)
This a very interesting read. Thank you! Is it possible you could point me to the direction of wherever that Henry Jenkins quote ("fandom without stigma") is from?
17th-Mar-2010 11:11 am (UTC)
Here's the original reference to Web 2.0 as fandom without the stigma, which was referring to how Web 2.0 was all about facilitating creativity, community and collaboration.
17th-Mar-2010 11:27 am (UTC)
Great article, very interesting. I understand why lot of fans are weirded out by how shaky this fourth wall has become, but I find it mostly fascinating.
17th-Mar-2010 11:50 am (UTC)
Thanks very much! Anyone on twitter knows that things are changed forever.

However its not as if TPTB are trawling our journals daily!
17th-Mar-2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
Great essay! I love this stuff even though my brain gets tired from the convoluted journey that my morality seems to be on. First I'm all NO wincest and no RPF and now what do I do? INHALE IT LIKE AIR!!!
::headdesk:::
I am friending you over this. Plus it was nice to meet you for like two seconds last October. I still can't believe I was such a slacker and didn't go hang out with you all.
As for the breakdown of the fourth wall? I say bring it on - if we can write about them - they can write about us.
17th-Mar-2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks! its funny isn't it that some fans seem to think "we" are off limits - yet fans should be able to do anything they like in relaiton to the show and the people associated with it!
17th-Mar-2010 11:02 pm (UTC)
A lovely, and very interesting article. You did a very good job laying it all out, coherent and cohesive, and I'm a sucker for a good structure with my essays. =)

Also, I didn't know half the stuff about Misha's hijinx, and that's a damn shame, so thanks! <3
17th-Mar-2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Twitter is proving a fascinating platform, and people like Misha and Jim beaver use it in very inventive ways.
17th-Mar-2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
Everyone knows I love you the best and I'm very biased and nepotistic towards my brilliant, talented, and generous friends.

Who asked Misha that question? Was it a con? I'm imagining the look on his face. LULZ, obvs.

My argument has been for a long time that this fourth wall that fans insisted on believing it was a fiction of their own making. Since the days when people who work in the industry started admitting they read MBTV (pre-TWOP, this is so old), the Sauron's eye of marketing depts and creators have been on fandom. Alan Sorkin lost his ENTIRE MIND about fans; Bravo bought TWOP for direct marketing; twitter changed the game and now allows every level of Great Oz to pull back the curtain and play peekaboo with the fanbase. The fourth wall is entirely non-existent. Which is why Kripke is actually very clever to get there first with the incorporating of that truth into his actual program, an eternal feedback loop if you will.


This variety of reaction is not surprising. Subcultures like fandom form because a group of people are engaged in customs and behaviors which are considered unacceptable in wider society. Within the subculture these activities become normalized, but when the mainstream discovers them its invariable condemnation reminds people of their outsider status. Some people feel shame when their behavior is pointed out as deviant, but for others being an outsider can be a thrill.


Yes, this.

Ok, I need to eat dinner. I will come back and remark more later.
17th-Mar-2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
the question was at LA Con last year when Misha and fandom were just getting to know each other ;D

In this last week Lady Gaga has posted fanart on twitter adn the creators of BSG pimped out a fanvid. The game has changed.

Of coruse a lot fo the pearl clutchign reaction is due to people's own inetrnalised shame at what they do. The fact that people see Becky - a pretty average fangirl - as a negative portrayal of a fan that says more about them than it does about Kripke (who is of course mocking us - but I mean there's a lot to mock!)
18th-Mar-2010 12:18 am (UTC)
Very interesting essay!

Actor Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel, has also been actively involved in this reconfiguring of fannish relationships, kicking over whatever was left of the fourth wall with gusto.
Boy, does he ever!
18th-Mar-2010 12:32 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this a lot, thanks for posting it. I have mixed feelings about how fandom's been incorporated into and portrayed in the show, but there's no question that the Internet has changed things tremendously - the same openness that makes it easy for fans to find each other and share stories/art/vids/squee renders the fourth wall pretty much transparent, if TPTB care to look. This was a great summary of the interactions particular to SPN (I was not aware of Misha's convention question antics, for instance *g*).
18th-Mar-2010 12:37 am (UTC)
Thanks! i think its important to remember that the icnorporation of fandom into the show didn't occur in a vacuum, but as a part of a relationship thats been ongoing since it started.

Some fans seem to forget that the people involved in the Show meet us face to face at Cons - what we do is certainly no secret!

18th-Mar-2010 12:35 am (UTC)
Will probably have more detailed response later when I'm not grading papers and have time to read properly, but just wanted to pop in and say hi and thanks. I'm writing about (female) fan representation for my thesis - with SPN and Becky a notable case study- so it's great to read other people working int he same area.
18th-Mar-2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Thanks! I think Becky is a great representation of us.
18th-Mar-2010 02:00 am (UTC)
I enjoyed reading your examination of the fourth wall breaking as it's been happening in SPN. I love you pointing out that this is not new and well in keeping with precedents that have been established. I have to think it is purposefully done.

I was particularly struck by your exchange above with dauntdraws and thenyxie articulating the sense that the creators are - despite having reason to perhaps take offense - sending out a "love you anyway" message with their acknowledgment of the fans.

Now, forget the fans. That's one of the recurring themes we've been served up between the characters on the show this season! It's been touched on before so it's not coming out of nowhere, but it's made explicit in "Sam, Interrupted" when Sam (after acting on Dean's mistake) is drugged up and tells Dean, You're my brother and I still love ya. "In The Song Remains the Same," Sam gets to tell his father, I understand now. I forgive what that did to us. I love [you]. I'm paraphrasing both of those, but don't think I'm very far off. I don't think that's accidental after the season of secrets and lies the boys navigated.
18th-Mar-2010 03:53 am (UTC)
Plain awesome. I know we're a crazy fandom, but that makes me love it even more.
18th-Mar-2010 04:33 am (UTC)
I covered a lot of this ground back during season four right after MatBotB aired in http://isaacsapphire.livejournal.com/3384.html#cutid1 particularly the issue of historical context.

Also, as a show that is incapable of moving away from what makes it so slashable (the close relationship between Sam and Dean) due to the fact that it is intrinsic to the show, Supernatural *has* to accept its slash fans and embrace them. Other shows can try to lower their slash-ability.

I see the universe of Supernatural as having room for pretty much anything to happen (which is why I find it difficult to define crack for this fandom, because pink elephants, sex pollen, unicorns, mind control, and body-swaps are just another day in the Winchester life.

That and we ended up with first Jim Beaver and then Misha Collins, who, as the above examples show, enjoy kidding the fans on this subject.
18th-Mar-2010 10:47 pm (UTC)
While I am one of those people made deeply uncomfortable by the breaking down of the fourth wall (try explaining to your real-life friend who knows nothing about Fandom or what fanfic is your pervy, twisted interests), I cannot deny its inevitability. I got into slash way back when you didn't admit to fellow fans in fandom that you maybe, possibly, preferred the two main guys together, instead of them with their respective love interests. And that didn't even touch the ethics of RPS or incest - just, you know, liking gay porn. :)

I found your essay to be a very interesting read. Not only because some things were unknown to me (Becky's fic, for instance) but because sometimes, having someone else compile the evidence the facts helps you create a complete picture. And, who knows, maybe it'll help me come to terms with Show being out and proud of its Fandom knowledge, instead of skulking in the closet, ignoring the crazy fangirls. ;)

Becky: I knew it!

You forgot the \0/! :D
18th-Mar-2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your comments. Being a fan is of course still consider weird by many people, and I think we have internalised a lot of that. The sex aspects also taps into a lot of shame for many fans. But I feel that the Show celebrates fans and I think we should revel in that!
30th-Jan-2011 04:14 am (UTC)
Fun article! Our fandom is crazy, but so is our show's creator...
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