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August 20, 2014

Are Supernatural fans ruining the show?

by Hemal Jhaveri, posted May 8th 2009 12:02PM
Supernatural

Being a fan of a "cult" show is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, cult fans are a special breed that live and die with the show. Shows that manage to shore up a devoted (or rabid) fan base can expect to stick around for a decent amount of time. On the other hand, these fans are notoriously finicky and can turn on you in an instant.

I imagine that Supernatural creator Eric Kripke has to feel somewhat the same way. While it's the base that's kept him at the CW for the past four seasons, he must realize what a demanding, petulant and critical bunch we are. Supernatural fans haven't yet reached the Trekkie level, but they seem to have an endless stream of complaints. So, as we approach the season finale of Supernatural, I have to wonder, do fans have too much of a say in what's going on with the series?

Do you keep the fans happy, or do you decide to do what's best for the show? With the season finale coming up, I feel like we're on the verge of that decision. From the previews of the last two episodes, the first of which aired last night, we're in for an epic battle that pits Sam and Dean against each other, which I know fans are not happy about.

From my informal surfing of the boards, the fans want nothing more than to see this Sam and Dean fight come to a happy end. But, creatively it's exactly this conflict that's making the show interesting to critics and casual viewers outside fandom. It's no surprise that the show has picked up critical and ratings steam since the brothers have come to blows. It may not be the same formula from season one that devoted fans feel in love with, but it makes for some really good television.

In the past three seasons, creator Eric Kripke has been walking a fine line between listening to fan feedback (and tweaking said show as a result) and flat out pandering to his audience. It's when Kripke tries to give fans what they want that the narrative runs into trouble. The last few episodes of season 4, namely "The Monster at the End of the Book" and most recently, "The Rapture" seem to be all about placating fans, rather than moving the story forward. When Castiel, the angel at the center of last episode, appeared in the season four opener, he was showered with love from fandom. With that in mind, "The Rapture" was a reactionary episode, something that only got done due to fan interest.

It's no coincidence that once the brothers' relationship began to show signs of strain, the show started to take off with a larger audience. This development brought new life to the show and shook off the formulaic stupor it was falling under. But, from my limited lurking on the TWOP boards and LiveJournal, where fans seem to congregate, Sam and Dean's strained relationship, as well as the Angels vs. Demons war, has been the biggest sticking point with fans all season. Much of the commentary focuses on one point, that Kripke has "ruined" what they love about the show by showing this conflict.

These ticks that fandom loves, like watching the boys cry, which was talked about in "The Monster at the End of the Book," are also the things that are dragging the show down. Look, the emotional relationship between the boys is still the heart of the show, but hopelessly devoted characters get boring to watch. With Sam and Dean gearing up to fight on different sides of this apocalyptic war, the story takes an epic and intriguing twist. And it provides a much needed creative resurgence.

I, for one, am really looking forward to the coming battle and just hope Kripke doesn't listen too closely to fans who may say otherwise.

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Zebadee

I am a huge fan of the show. I do not complain, castigate, whinge or moan about the shows' seemingly (and at times) flippant structure - and I most certainly do not consider that any one who Complains, castigates, whinges or moans about where the plot should or shouldn't go, to be real fans of the show.

I sincerly hope that Kripke DOES NOT pander to the whims of fans (although it does seem that way sometimes) But I feel that a little reminder is in order, to some of the fans:

A little reminder: One of the last lines in the book of revalations is..."....creating enemies on either shore, Turning man against his brother, till man exists no more..."

Perhaps Kripke and the other writers are going somewhere with this and If the show does end after the fifth series I'm sure this will play a part....!

Oh, one more thing... Lilith is Dead-killed at the alter so as to break the last of the 66 seals...Ruby was part of this plot and has been all along....Maybe this will explian, with regards to some of the previous posts, what the relationship is between Sam and Ruby...Think about it and STOP COMPLAINING.

I am really looking forward to the fifth (and probly final) series...with Lucifer rising, it shold be veeeeerrry interesting. Very exited..

July 26 2009 at 6:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gaelyn thomson

my man is dean he is good looking he is sexy and hot and have hot body soft lips and dreamy eyes i want to look in hes dreamy eyes all day and night i and i want to mae out with him in the graveyard

May 23 2009 at 5:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
blue

ok, who won, who was right???

Yesterday, i had a little of hope that maybe, maybe kripke will hold on, like a man, like a creator of something good... I thought, holy crap, maybe, finally after four years waiting for that, the good sam will become evil!!!

But what did i get?? Just the confirmation that kripke is the bitc* of an alienated group of crazy women that miss the brotherly bound between the 2 "boys" (which by the way, are not boys any more, are old, are old, too old to be acting like kids!!!!)

Damn it, kripke, you ruined sam´s destiny! The moment was yesterday. You missed it. Who is sam? what is sam? what exactly was azazel plan? After four years, I am tired, i dont care anymore.

May 15 2009 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lismar

I am a fan of the show and I adore the conflict between Sam and Dean, so thank you for this article. I agree that it must be difficult at times for Kripke but I hope he knows that that the fans who seem to want nothing but to watch Sam and Dean run hand in hand through fields of flowers every week are NOT representative of all of us. In fact, I believe (I hope), they are the minority.

The conflict is fascinating, especially since the entire fate of the world seems to turn on it! Stay the course, Kripke!

May 14 2009 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nohwrah

I'm pretty new to Supernatural, I've only started watching about a month ago. But I have seen the entire series and I have seen it in the right order. I fell quickly, completely and hard for this show: I read the spoilers and forums, post on LJ and read and write fanfic, so I do consider myself one of those "rabid", devoted fans- even if I'm a bit of a newbie.

First of all, I think you're confused about what being a fan of something actually means. Being devoted to a show does not mean that you can't be critical of it or that you have to agree with everything that happens. In fact, I think that the bigger a fan you are, the more critical you get. Which is only logical, by the way: casual viewers will watch an episode and be done with it. The fandom invests a lot more time in the series: watches it, rewatches it, analyses and tries to understand and predict. It's only normal that these are the people who're going to notice (without wanting to imply Supernatural is suffering from either- I'm speaking generally) plotholes or inconsistant characterisation.

So yes, these are also the people who're going to moan about the details and complain about the characters and that is what you're going to read online. That doesn't mean we don't love the show, it means we love it enough to get hung up about the details. Never heard that it's easier to get angry with the people you care about most? Same goes for tv shows.

I myself have posted a couple of times that afraid of where this show is going in terms of the Sam-and-Dean-relationship, because that is exactly what sucked me in: the all-consuming, can't-live-without-each-other brotherly love these two have going on, the way they feel completely lost and useless without each other. And yes, I would like to see this resolved or at least worked on somehow in season five (and/or the seasons beyond that, should there be any). That's exactly why I'm loving season four more than the three others combined and why I think characterisation has been absolutely spot-on: both Sam and Dean have changed since the end of season three and they're trying to get back to what it was like before, but it's hard- they're not in tune anymore and they're having trouble seeing where the other person's coming from.

Having the brothers pitted against each other, has been a brilliant move by Kripke- exactly because their relationship is what the fans value most. He realises that "you don't know what you got 'till it's (almost) gone". So yes, the fans' reaction is pretty strong and we're sad about what's happening- but a good kind of sad. A bit like a romantic novel is only really good when there's this big misunderstanding and the couple have a huge fight before getting back together.

As for the fanservice Kripke's provided, I think that it's been pretty clear for a while now how the series were going to pan out and that Sam was going to go dark side. Kripke's been setting it up since way back in season one and most fans have picked up on that. So I don't believe for a second that he's changed any of his storylines because of fans alone. The episodes you mentioned as specifically written to placate the fans all served the overall story arc- just because they had a few quotes worked in that reference the fandom, doesn't mean they were written entirely to please us. That's what I love about Supernatural, though: that Kripke doesn't take himself, his show or his fans too seriously and isn't afraid to tease us, like with the Wincest-moment in 4x18 The Monster at the End of this Book.

The boys' crying this season, doesn't seem shoehorned in either, not to me. Yes, Dean's had to turn on the waterworks quite a couple of times now- but I never thought it was out of character. He's been in hell for quite a long time, did things he couldn't forgive himself for and had to hear how he was responsible for the Apocalypse, on top of feeling completely inadequate to stop his brother from turning evil. People have cried for less. I'm not caring much for Sam this season, but I can also see where he's coming from. Even if I don't always like what's happening, I can see that this makes sense and is the right direction for the story to go in.

I realise I've spoken for the majority of the fans and it could very well be I'm totally mistaken about the general consessus in the fandom. If it's not, feel free to tell me, though I think this is pretty close to the truth.

Yes, we use big and extreme words and we moan a lot- it's because we're slapbang in the middle of it, caring a whole lot for these characters and their world. It's when we're not posting and complaining that Kripke should be worried- and I'm pretty sure he knows that.

May 14 2009 at 3:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
valeria

ok, but u now what, we, the people that think rationally, the ones that want an EVEN AND NEAT DEVELOPMENT OF BOTH CHARACTERS, EVEN IF ONE OF THEM BECOMES EVIL, are not the ones taht give this show the rating it has. It´s a poor rating, ok, but its something, and its almost due to those crazy bunch of girls (insanely in love of jared or jensen) that spend the whole day "spreading the word" , voting, doing videos, fanfics, icons, making comments, sending letters, repeting all over the internet that supernatural last episode was awesome, even if it wasn´t. Fandom and rating are different stuff, but all the people that start watching the show this season, and tell why, said it was because of a fanfic or a crazy friend that asked him/her to do so. And kripke knows that, thats the reason of dean´s overexposure: because dean has more crazy fans than sam, thats the reason of whining dean, because crazy girls like men that cry; that the reason of white dean and black sam, because thats the way teens like. So, yes, he must heard the fans, cause this is a business, and unfortunately rating and support is more important than a good plot.

May 11 2009 at 8:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna

Personally, I think people such as Ben (demons used to be human) Edlund have had a much bigger impact on the show than the fandom has.
Certainly the fans have had SOME impact on the show- there was no point to Bela (A CW mandated inclusion) whatsoever IMO, but probably a lot less than some people think. I think, based on a number of Kripke's interviews he's been making a lot of it up as he goes along anyway, so outside influences are to be expected.
As for Castiel, he's coming back as a regular next season, so it's only reasonable they spend one episode explaining how he came to be, if not this season, then next.

May 11 2009 at 7:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cj

Way to generalize, I'm one fan who doesn't think the Sam vs. Dean battle is a bad thing. Sure they are brothers and they love each other but they have always been at war with each other, to a certain extent. In the beginning Sam resisted the whole hunter's life and Dean was John's warrior. Now it seems like Sam is the one who can't get enough blood, no pun intended and Dean is the one who is apprehensive. If anyone watched this show from the beginning, they shouldn't be surprised that it has come to this. John, their father told Dean he will have to kill Sam if he becomes a monster. So I guess I'm not a rabid fan because wouldn't tell Kripke or the writers how to do their show. They are a bunch of hardworking, creative people and I enjoy watching their work as well as Jensen and Jared's every Thursday. I don't really think he's listening to the fans as much as people think he is. I actually think this is the best season yet and the fact that more and more critics and viewers are watching and talking about the show is proof of that.

May 11 2009 at 3:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jurneebug

I love where the show is right now.I think Kripke and the other writer's are doing a great job, and the actors are completely nailing the parts.They were absolutely wonderful in when the levee breaks this week.I don't think the fans are trying to ruin the show. I just think they are a little worried Kripke may change it too much for them. Let's face it the thing most of the fans love about the show is the interacting between the brothers. Yellow Fever was one of the most talked about episodes this year. I think the fans are afraid that a season five with 22 episode of no brotherly love or banter, with just the two of them pitted against each other wouldn't be the show they love.They just want Kripke to know that. I think they should stop worrying though i think Kripke understands that we love both brothers and won't take it to far.

May 10 2009 at 11:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kate

I have been a fan of Supernatural since the beginning. I think the show was always great. The monster of the week stuff in the first couple of seasons was awesome, and it let us get to know the characters in a really organic way. That being said, I think the show is getting better all the time. I think Kripke and co. have always kept a great balance between pleasing the fans and maintaining creative integrity.

It's really only a small but obnoxiously loud (IMO) minority of the fans that constantly complain about the show. Sometimes I wonder why they even watch it if it ticks them off so much. The Sam/Jared Padalecki fangirls seem to be the worst. I honestly don't understand how they didn't see "Sam goes darkside" coming since SEASON ONE. It's always been more than obvious to the rest of us. Not that his character is inherently bad, but because of his history and the demon blood, he's bound to struggle with his dark side. But they don't even know yet if his dark side wins. It might seem like it will now, but why can't they just sit back and enjoy the ride and find out?

"It's no coincidence that once the brothers' relationship began to show signs of strain, the show started to take off with a larger audience. This development brought new life to the show and shook off the formulaic stupor it was falling under."

This comment makes me think you haven't actually been watching the show that long. The brothers' relationship has been under strain since season two, and at no point do I think it was falling into a "formulaic stupor". Have we been watching the same show?

May 10 2009 at 8:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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