My husband and I just got into watching the TV show Supernatural this year. Yeah, yeah, I know, we should have started watching it years ago, but we’re ALWAYS late to jump on the bandwagon because we really don’t watch a lot of television. Don’t ask me how many years it took me to finally watch Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer because you’ll be very disappointed with me.
I love Supernatural. I really do. It took me a bit to get into it, but once things clicked and everything started to gel, I fell in love with it. Pretty boys in a sweet car hunting monsters? Yes, please! There are also definite parallels between Supernatural and Rob Thurman’s Cal Leandros Series and that’s always a plus in my book. Most of the episodes that don’t relate to the main plot and most of the episodes of Season 3 (the year of the writer’s strike) are pretty cheesy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Cheese can be a whole lot of fun.
There will be spoilers after this point, so please be aware that you read this at your own risk.
My main problem is their treatment of women in the series. Specifically strong, capable women. We’ve only made it to the end of Season 5, but every single strong, capable woman has been either killed off, is a villain and is killed, or starts off ambiguously good before being revealed to be a villain and then killed off.
I’m going to say first off that I like that they (FINALLY!) redeemed the murder of Mary Winchester (at least a little bit). Up until the beginning of Season 4, her murder as well as the murder of Sam’s fiance Jessica were yet more examples of the Stuffed in the Fridge trope. For those who don’t want to click on the link and get sucked into TV Tropes, the Stuffed in the Fridge trope is where somebody close to the main character is killed either to simply hurt the MC or as impetus to move the plot forward. The victim is usually a woman and they’re generally nothing more than plot devices. The woman Stuffed in the Fridge has no motivation of her own and her only reason for existing is to die.
But in Season 4’s “In the Beginning” we learn that Mary agreed to let Azazel (the yellow-eyed demon) into her home years down the road in exchange for John Winchester’s life. It’s not a perfect redemption because everything she does revolves around the men in her life, but we get to see Mary as a fully-realized character who has hopes and dreams of her own. And that made me feel a lot better about her.
Unfortunately, there is no such redemption for Jessica. She was specifically introduced to Sam and then killed off just to hurt Sam and get him to do what the demons wanted him to do. Jessica could have been completely cut out of the series without there being any noticeable difference. Well, except for the fact that Sam wouldn’t be quite so much of an emo boy during the first couple of seasons. When you can cut a character who has such an emotional impact on an MC without it changing the structure of the story one iota, that’s a sign of lazy writing.
And then there’s Meg who starts off as a quirky character and is then revealed to be possessed by a demon. Azazel’s daughter, no less. The boys are able to exorcise the demon, but Meg ends up dying from injuries sustained while possessed. Her ghost later returns to torment them and relay the sob story of how her younger sister killed herself due to Meg’s death.
Then there’s Madison, the werewolf Sam falls in love with and has to kill. It’s obvious she was never meant to be a recurring character and she was always meant to die, however she’s the second love interest of Sam’s who has died simply to get an emotional reaction from him. Chalk this up as another one Stuffed In The Fridge.
And Bela, the amoral thief (yawn, how predictable!) from Season 3 who does nothing except muddle things up for the Winchesters. She is eventually killed by hellhounds and it’s revealed (without any foreshadowing) that she’d made a deal with a demon ten years earlier and her time was up. She’s another character who could be entirely cut without changing the structure of the story.
And Ruby who starts off as one of those ambiguous characters whose true motivations are unclear, but who helps the Winchesters out when they’re in trouble. When she was first revealed to be a demon, I thought it was pretty cool and I was hoping that she would add some dimension to the demon mythos by truly being good. Alas, her return in Season 4 killed that hope. It was apparent only several episodes in that she had her own agenda and Sam was simply a pawn. She gradually corrupted Sam by pushing him to use the powers he gained from drinking demon blood to kill demons. Of course, at the end of Season 4 she’s revealed to have been working with Lucifer and Lilith all along in order to bring about his return. Ho-hum… saw that coming a mile away. After Sam kills Lilith and inadvertently frees Lucifer, Sam and Dean kill Ruby for her treachery.
Let’s not forget Anna. Lovely Anna who we’re introduced to as a mortal woman who can hear the angels. We find out that she’s really an angel herself who willingly fell from grace (by removing her Grace). Yay! A rebellious woman! Anna’s character motivation in the few episodes she’s in is erratic and she seems to flip-flop quite a bit, but there’s no denying that she’s smart and capable. So, of course she has to die. Her last episode seems to have been written solely to kill her off.
Pamela, the psychic blinded when she looked at Castiel’s true form is killed off during her third appearance. And Bobby’s wife, Karen, has been dead for years, but is resurrected only to be killed off once more. For crying out loud! After looking at the Wikipedia page for Dean, I see that he has a daughter who is also listed as deceased.
Then there’s Ellen and Jo. I think I’m the most put out by their deaths because they had such potential as recurring characters and they ultimately died for nothing except the personal grief of Dean and Sam. Their deaths were supposed to give Sam and Dean the chance to kill Lucifer once and for all, but they couldn’t. So, it felt like these two strong women were killed off simply to get them out of the picture.
It really says something that I was extremely surprised when, during Season 4’s episode Sex and Violence, the female coroner who has sex with Sam isn’t the siren they’re hunting. The siren is actually the male FBI agent Nick Munroe.
It seems that the only way for a female character to remain alive is to a) not hook-up with Sam and/or b) only appear in one episode. And that’s not even a guarantee considering how many unnamed women die over the course of the episodes.
Yes, Supernatural is ultimately a story about Sam and Dean and their brotherly quest for vengeance so adding in long-term love interests isn’t necessarily a good idea. Yes, the over-all storyline is about war and the Apocalypse and people (men and women both) die during war. But criminy! Can’t we have just one recurring female character who is strong and capable who doesn’t end up dying after only a few episodes?
I still love the show, but writing up this post just depresses me. Yes, I’ll admit that most recurring characters on this show die, both male and female, but the four characters with the highest number of episodes are all male. Sam and Dean are a given, but why couldn’t one of the other two be a woman? Why can’t there be a non-love interest character introduced who is smart, strong, capable and FEMALE who doesn’t kick the bucket sooner rather than much later?
This just renews my resolve to write strong, capable female characters who kick ass, take names, and don’t die simply for the emotional turmoil it causes another character.