NOTE: Opinions presented in this article reflect those of the author and are not necessarily those of TDF as an entity. 

Supernatural has a problem, a problem that’s been brewing for a number of years now. No, I don’t mean a problem with its’ writing or story structure. It has those problems, too, of course, but the one I’m getting at is much larger, and cannot be rectified with better editing or continuity control. Namely, that it wants to please everybody, and that strategy is swiftly becoming entirely untenable.

For anyone who might be bizarrely unaware, Supernatural is famous for having one of the largest and most active fandoms currently in existence. (Check Tumblr’s weekly fandom metrics if you don’t believe me) Granted, in the era of social media, all entertainment is subject to seemingly endless critique, dissection and opinion-barrage by the masses. But Supernatural stands at something of a pinnacle in that arena (lucky them) and consensus amongst its’ fandom about pretty much anything is difficult to come by…everybody loves Bobby being the one reliable exception.

For some people, it’s all about Dean’s character arc, while some people are primarily here for Sam. Some fans will only watch episodes that include Castiel, and others just want him to go away and never return. Some people are devotees of the Monster of the Week format, while others are desperate for more solidly built myth-arc plots. Then of course – most divisive of all – there are the bisexual-Dean fans versus the hetero-Dean devotees, and the Destiel shippers, versus the Wincesters and the platonic-bros-for-life crowd.

All fandoms have their fair share of shipping wars and entrenched disputes over any number of topics. In many ways, this is in the nature and at the core of the institution of fandom itself, and that is much to the good, IMO. When it comes to pop-culture, I do not believe consensus is inherently a virtue in most instances; debate and intelligent disagreement have a great deal of intrinsic democratic value.

And truth be told, most of the disagreements and fandom dissatisfactions with Supernatural are either largely moot points, good only for academic debate at this juncture (e.g. was John Winchester outright abusive or just a lousy father) OR they are indefinitely tolerable, and fans will continue to watch the show irrespective of their prevalence/continuance (e.g. the lack of any main female characters throughout the show’s entire run).

Most of the things fans find fault with exist at the level of a side-eye annoyance that can often be shrugged off without too much difficulty (Or which only become ‘serious’ bones of contentious at the height of a hiatus, when all the good meta and speculation and coda/reparative fics have run relatively dry) In other words, fans can tolerate a fair amount of things that frustrate them, and continue to be reliable viewers. Yes, everyone has their own idiosyncratic lines in the sand, but as a demographic phenomenon, a preference for myth-arc versus MotW episodes is not usually going to drive away viewers en masse if a season delivers substantially less than their desired amount.

Here’s my point: fans will put up with some shit indefinitely, they’ll put up with some shit not at all, and some shit they’ll tolerate only up to a point. Supernatural is, I believe, swiftly approaching that point with regard to their now infamous (should I say ‘notorious’?) bi-Dean/Destiel/Castiel problem.

I already know of a number of people who have “rage-quit” the show due to their (tragically well-founded) lack of faith that Dean and Castiel will ever consummate their extravagantly drawn-out UST. The series’ queerbaiting – which is such a well-documented phenomenon that by now, everyone from the Daily Dot and Policy Mic to MTV, Salon and TV Guide treat it as an accepted fact – has already alienated a significant number of former viewers, and those of us who are still hanging on grow wearier of it by the day.

Supernatural "The Things We Carried"

Supernatural “The Things They Carried”

Supernatural "The Things We Carried"

Supernatural “The Things They Carried”

(REALLY, show?! Really?)

Supernatural’s fundamental problem is that it thinks it can continue to walk this razor-thin tightrope into infinity. Its’ writers and producers think they can make Misha Collins a series regular, and only include him in a handful of episodes throughout the whole of season 10. They think they can mollify the Cas-haters by making him largely absent, while simultaneously dropping in just enough Dean/Cas bonding to string along the Destielers at the same time (e.g. that scene at the restaurant, which let us all please note, resulted in a season high in the overall ratings after it was released as the teaser)

As I was watching the show’s latest installment, “The Things They Carried” this past Wednesday, my Tumblr dash saw an endless string of reblogs for the following post, which I believe summarizes the situation quite succinctly:

where angel

Supernatural’s problem is that the dilemma of Castiel, and his potential romantic relationship with Dean, is a fight that is NEVER going to be reconciled within the fandom or the general audience. People are NEVER going to come to any degree of consensus about it. And while slash fans used to only make up a miniscule fraction of a show’s total audience, that reality is swiftly becoming an anachronism. Indeed, if any show could potentially claim to have a critical mass of slash shippers amongst its core ‘general’ audience, it would probably be Supernatural (Sorry, fellas, that’s just what happens when send all your women packing to an early grave)

Maddeningly, Supernatural still refuses to actually face this fairly transparent fact. But fan patience for their denialism is becoming terminal very quickly. So here’s my two-cents, for whatever it is worth to you SPN writers: quit being such a big bunch of wishy-washy cowards and, well

pick a side

Supernatural “Reichenbach”

Either get rid of Castiel completely, or make Destiel canon. Bluntly, those are your two options. But please, enough of this ridiculous roller-coaster of “Dean and I do share a more profound bond,” and “I love need you,” to the two of them barely speaking to each other once every ten episodes. It doesn’t make sense, it’s profoundly bad writing and the opportunism behind it is so aggravatingly transparent, it’s cringe-worthy.

No matter which choice you ultimately make, you are GOING to make some faction of your audience mad. Sorry if I have to be the bearer of bad news for you on that front, but it’s past time y’all face facts. You have written yourselves into a dilemma for which there is absolutely no win-win solution. The only reason Captain Kirk never believed in no-win scenarios is because he was never part of the Supernatural fandom. You are not Burger King and not everyone can have it their way. So please stop writing the show like you are just desperate not to piss anyone off too much. There’s no getting around it at this point. Some significant faction of your viewership is going to wind up pissed at you when this is all over and done with.

You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You need to embrace that fact and get it over with, because right now you are just spinning your wheels, putting off an inevitability that you cannot circumvent. Either pull the trigger on Destiel or pull the trigger on Castiel, but whoever you are planning to disappoint, DO IT ALREADY. Stop dragging all of us along on your never-ending journey of colossal ambivalence. You have already managed to finagle a whopping eleven seasons out of it, which is way more than most other shows could ever dream of getting.

Yes, either one of those choices could very well be the end of you. Both are potentially fatal to your ratings, and you are not wrong to be afraid. But it’s time to face the music, because this see-saw of endless indecision isn’t fun anymore, for anyone. Please, why don’t you do us all a great big favor, and pick a bloody side already?


Post-Hoc Addendum: For the record, this piece was never meant to give the impression that I think Castiel is a worthwhile character only in his capacity to be shipped with Dean. I do not think that at all. My point here is more that I do not think he can remain on the show without simultaneously perpetuating false hope of Destiel becoming canon. Castiel is a worthwhile character in his own right, without a doubt. I just personally feel that his continued presence basically guarantees continued belief by a large number of fans in a ship that is probably destined never to come to port.

What I am calling for here, ultimately, is the total annihilation of false hope around Destiel, by whatever means. If they can pull that off and keep Castiel around, well bully for them and I stand corrected, egg all over my face.

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As much as I would love to see Destiel go canon, Cas is still an important character NO MATTER WHAT. His worth is not defined by his relationship with Dean? ??? ?? I understand the frustration behind this article, because I feel like the show has been constantly baiting too, but Cas is SO important to so many people please don’t say that his only value in the show is as a love accessory.


I agreed with this article until it said that the way to solve the Destiel “problem” would be to get rid of Cas. That won’t be happening after the ratings in S7 and the fact that killing Cas off would do nothing to improve . Instead of reducing Cas to a love interest and fridging him, how about the writers stop playing coy and just come out and say it won’t be happening ever instead of the usual “wait and see” and give Cas some good storylines that won’t be tossed away after a couple of episodes?

Except the ratings for season 7 had nothing to do with the lack of Castiel, and had everything to do with being on Friday’s without a strong lead in that was Smallville’s final season. For example compare the season 6 premiere ratings with season 7’s, a significant drop — and at this point no one knew Cas was being written out, and yet a drop in ratings all the same. Also take into account when Cas did return, did nothing for the ratings. In fact a Garth episode did higher in than any of the ones with Cas in them.… Read more »
Ara Claire
They won’t, because it is still something SOME of the writers might like to explore. Everyone keeps thinking that there is this cohesion in the writer’s room. This is far from true. Not all of them see eye-to-eye when it comes to where they want to go with characters or plots. Why do you think there’s so much inconsistency? So, depending on the writer and their personal perception of Dean and Cas’ relationship, is pretty much what you are going to get. Jerry Wanek, Serge, Robbie Thompson, Adam Glass, Carver and Edlund, before he moved on, see the romantic implications.… Read more »
A Pennell
Y’all just need to shut up and enjoy the show and the wonderful human beings in front of and behind the camera. I am grateful for the time and imagination the writers put into the scripts. It’s entertainment people, not a real life love story. As far as the show loosing any part of it’s fandom, I seriously doubt the real fans will leave. Supernatural is not just a TV show to everyone, it is a family. Look beyound your rediculious assumtions and see the cast and crew for who the truly are, great people with big hearts. Hows many… Read more »
The author if the audience wanted to see Mischa, it would have no thin halls on conventions. About Destiel – totally ludicrous. What UST? Show me this UST. I am the fan of a canon, without any far-fetched things, like your this Destiel, but I will believe in wincest, than in mythical Destiel rather. Mischa isn’t present, Dean remembers it? He calls him when it is necessary and when it becomes unnecessary – go walk Kass, it is free. Series about brothers, for the sake of them, they together and the world around against them. To whom the sad man… Read more »
“Either get rid of Castiel completely” Nope. No, just no. Huge fan of Cas with or without shipping. Even if they never make Destiel canon (which looks unlikely, even with the UST), I would be sorely disappointed to see Cas go. When they tried to get rid of him in s7, the ratings tanked and they were close to cancellation. The producers and showrunners are smart enough to realize that. Personally, I just want Cas around Dean and Sam more. Team Free Will, fighting the good fight like the family they are. Because Cas IS family to them – Dean… Read more »
Thank you. Agree with you 98% – imoo there was a third out here – give either dean or cas another love interest. Now, they can’t do it with dean bc of the whole ‘am doomed, gonna die, bye’ storyline, but they had a perfect candidate for cas – hannah – they built it up, and all – only for cas to reject her and hannah to disappear. So wtf are the writers doing? Do they WANT us to think cas is in loove with dean, or what? Anyway, I don’t usually read meta, but imo this post said it… Read more »
Supernatural is pretty enjoyable. Supernatural fandom… not so much. I think the show’s been pretty blatant about Destiel not happening, between interviews, etc. There’s not really an abnormal amount of UST between Dean and Cas, it’s just how people look at their interactions. You can find as many scenes of Dean and Sam spouting the same crap at each other and “looking” at each other, but no one’s really accusing SPN of queerbaiting Wincest. I was cool with Destiel, up until the point where the fans went nuts and started sending threats to J-Pad- as if the existence of Sam… Read more »
I am absolutely disgusted with this article. I ship Destiel but I would rather it never happened if this is the sort bullcrap that comes out of it. How dare you reduce any character to whether or not they hook up and with whom? “Get Cas to screw Dean or trash him?!” Are you serious? If I didn’t know Misha shrugged off the hate I would pray he never saw this crap. How dare you put all his energy and fondness for his character down into what his parts get jammed into? I’d feel the same way if either he… Read more »

To be honest, this makes no sense. No one would “rage quit” something that they have spent so much of their life devoted to.