Supernatural, Queer Baiting, and the Twittersphere
When fans get upset about something, many of them turn to Twitter. They tweet actors, writers, and producers in the hopes of having their voices heard. Twitter has provided a very unique platform for audience interaction and participation and sometimes, on very special occasions, fans get a response from those creators. And that is exactly what happened today with Supernatural writer & producer Adam Glass. Only it wasn’t the reaction that many were expecting.
The following Twitter conversation has been edited to be in chronological order and responses that had nothing to do with the topic have been removed. Other than that, this is exactly as it appeared.
So where did all of this come from? Well, there has been a serious fan movement to make the perceived romantic relationship between Dean and Castiel become canon on the show. People have been tweeting consistently for a good long while for it to happen and it’s quite clearly been noticed. The most recent rounds of tweets were inspired by a Tumblr post that cited spoilers from the often controversial spn_gossip community (only click on that link if you can stomach massive amounts of wank) that stated this season would focus primarily on the brothers and give Castiel his own plot for most of the season in preparation for the spin off. The Tumblr post has since between deleted or locked (it’s asking me for a password, which I have never seen done before) and the original post cannot be found at the cited community. Anything sourced in an anonymous gossip community needs to be taken with a grain of salt in general. Sometimes it’s correct, but a lot of the time it’s just posted to cause drama. If the latter was its goal, it did so brilliantly. So while the validity of this spoiler is massively questionable (I do not believe it), it was enough to pump a shot of adrenaline into the tweeting campaign.
Before we go any further I do need to offer full disclosure on my part so that you all know where I’m coming from. Yes, I am a Destiel shipper, but I have not participated in this particular campaign. I was quite active in (and one of the founding members of) the #SaveCastiel campaign back in 2011. My lack of participation has caused some to claim I am not a “true Destiel fan” (got that one anonymous on Tumblr, but anon is now firmly shut down). Whenever there are questions like “what do you want to see more of?” or “what are you most excited about?” I always respond with “more interaction between Castiel and the Winchesters.” I want them to be on screen together, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to push for them to become canon on screen. It’d be nice, but it’s not something that I need.
This has also spurred some (mainly from the straight community, it seems) into attacking me as not understanding the urgency of needing canon queer representation on Television. To those of you who feel this way, I want you to know I am, in fact, part of the queer community and have written several articles about queer representation in the media. So before you accuse me of not caring about queer representation, keep those two things in mind. I just don’t happen to personally feel that Dean and Castiel is our path to positive queer representation. If it happens, it’d definitely cause a lot of waves, but I just don’t see that happening for many many reasons. Too many to outline in this article, which isn’t really about that. Maybe someday that topic will deserve it’s own article. It’s just not this one. But I digress…
What this article is about is what happened to Adam Glass and how he responded. His responses have been all over my Tumblr dash. It seems to be the topic of the day (besides Osric Chau dressing up as Princess Bubblegum at Dallas Con, that is). While I understand what he was trying to say with his response, I feel like he took some serous missteps with how he worded things. Mainly the line:
“We have many gay friends, family, and coworkers in our lives.”
Look, that’s great. But this expression is often used by the straight community to give them some sort of credit in the GLBT community and, to be frank, it comes off rather insulting. In fact, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert often has series of pictures of him hugging his “black friends,” “Jewish friends,” “Mexican friends,” and so on in satirical spoof of this often overused line of reasoning. Just because you have friends that are a part of our community does not mean you understand what it means to be a part of our community. You do not know what our struggles are. You do not know what it feels like to lack representation in the media.
Again, I’d like to point out that I understand what he meant, though, so please do not send him more angry comments in regards to what he said. If you say anything, say it rationally and calmly and with respect. Do not call him or the other writers homophobes. Do not yell at them in ALL CAPS or insult them. They are people who just might not know how things like that come across to people in the communities that they seem to really want to defend. This is why, personally, when the topic of race or trans people come up in my articles, I will comment with the full disclosure that I am white and cisgendered. I am not part of those communities and, while I feel like I can’t ignore some issues, I acknowledge that I am an outsider to them and will never fully understand what it means to be affected by them. Having trans friends or POC friends does not give me any sort of cred to talk about them beyond my outsider status. Women’s issues and queer issues, however, I do understand as I am part of those communities.
The accusation that spurred Adam’s response is the question of queer baiting. So is Supernatural guilty of Queer Baiting? First of all, what is Queer Baiting? There’s not precise definition anywhere, but generally it’s considered teasing for homosexual relationships without following through. In that regard, I do not feel that Supernatural is guilty of queer baiting. We have gotten serious hints that Dean might be bisexual, or at least a 1-2 on the Kinsey scale (and this, itself, is hotly contested), We have not, however, been seriously led to believe that he will be entering into a romantic or sexual relationship with another man.
Dean and Castiel are extraordinarily close, no doubt, and I truly believe that they canonically love each other very very deeply, but nothing that has happened in canon has made me believe that the show runners are going to give us canon Destiel (the portmanteau for Dean/Castiel). Others may believe that they have been leading us to that, but I disagree. This, as I have mentioned, has led to many fellow Destiel shippers being quite displeased with me. And again, some have accused me of not being supportive of queer representation, which is quite off the mark. Majorly. I just don’t believe that this is our path, guys. I don’t think we’re getting it this round and I’m sorry. We may get it elsewhere, but I do not think Destiel is on the path to being canon. I don’t feel that we’ve been teased for it and I don’t believe that it’s been leading up to it in any serious way. But our desires can always and will always be fulfilled in fanon. So go to Tumblr, go to LiveJournal, and go to AO3. Live it up there. There is much Destiel to be had on those outlets. We just most likely won’t be getting it on our TV screens. If it does happen, I will eat my hat and upload it for everyone to see.
So what can we learn from all of this? Well, one thing that we already knew: television is mostly written by heterosexual men and that is the perspective that they are coming from when writing and interacting with fans. We can have opinions on that and how they handle certain topics in a mature and rational way. We shouldn’t be assholes to the writers because they are less likely to listen to us going forward. They are less likely to learn and change their behavior if they are only confronted by angry, yelling, throngs of people. Despite Adam Glass’s misstep on his language, I honestly do not feel that he is a homophobe. I feel that he is a good person and honestly does not see how his comments can come off to queer viewers (or straight viewers who deem themselves allies). Being rude to him and the other writers gets us nowhere. So while he might have taken a misstep with his words, people who want queer representation have also taken a serious misstep by hounding the writers and calling them names.
So really, everyone needs to take a step back and look at what they’ve been doing. Everyone. Myself included. Let’s be mature about this. Let’s learn from this and move forward.