Baiting the Fandom That Feeds You

Homage wall to Ianto Jones, half of a slash ship made canon

With fandom’s migration online and the rise of Social Media, any hope of hiding fan practices has basically disintegrated. Creators (including performers, writers, directors and producers) are actively encouraged to interact with fans via platforms like Twitter, Facebook and even Tumblr. So while some fans desperately attempt to maintain the illusion of the Fourth Wall – TPTB (the powers that be) seem hell bent on destroying it entirely.

Except that they don’t want to, not really because while they are happy to engage with fandom on their terms they tend to become increasingly uncomfortable when fandom takes control of the conversation. TPTB don’t want to destroy the Fourth Wall, they want to control it. The best example of this is seen when TPTB directly court slash fans – as seen in the Supernatural and Teen Wolf fandoms.

An emotional moment with Dean and Castiel

Supernatural and Teen Wolf are known for having active fanbases with popular slash ships.  Both shows have courted slash fans in different ways. Supernatural does it through the actual text – including mentions of Wincest (Sam/Dean), having other characters suggest that Dean and Castiel are a couple and employing established romantic tropes. Teen Wolf does this via Social Media – encouraging fans to vote for Teen Wolf with shippy vids and Jeff Davis suggesting that if enough fans demand it he could be persuaded (which should just be no.1 on the list of things showrunners should NEVER say).

For the most part this has yielded positive results. Both shows have won numerous online polls – which does wonders for exposure. Teen Wolf’s viewership is increasing with every season and the Season 9 premiere of Supernatural saw it’s best ratings in 3 years. While directly acknowledging slash fans certainly doesn’t seem to have adverse effects, it’s not without it’s problems, as seen in a couple of recent fandom meltdowns.

Last week an article about slash fandom – basically the same unoriginal drivel we’ve been seeing for the past twenty years – sent the Sterek (Stiles/Derek, Teen Wolf) fandom into a tail spin. Jeff Davis, who has been praised for his acceptance of the potential slash ship, apparently admitted that while Sterek fans definitely boosted popularity, “Fan desire rarely comes into play in the writers room.” Many fans took this as Jeff admitting to deliberately using the Sterek fandom.

This comes in the wake of the drama in the Supernatural fandom a couple of weeks ago when a WB executive, Chad Kennedy, dismissed the popular slash ship Destiel (Dean/Castiel) after a somewhat problematic episode. He then deleted his twitter – although he has since returned – prompting accusations of bullying within fandom, although most of the tweets directed at Kennedy were critical rather than hateful.

As an active member of fandom and an admitted fangirl I accept that fans have a tendency to overreact sometimes and we can take things a little too seriously. I’m also aware there are some awful people within fandom that give the rest of us a bad name and I know that direct interaction via social media is new, so we should cut everyone some slack. But if TPTB choose to openly acknowledge a slash ship – whether it’s within the text or via social media – then they should be prepared to accept the conversation that comes with it. Especially if they plan of reaping the rewards an active slash fandom can provide.

Derek Hale and Stiles Stilinski

Neither Supernatural nor Teen Wolf have shied away from slash, they are both happy to wink and laugh with the fandom, yet they always seem to be caught off guard when someone asks whether all these hints are actually leading somewhere. When the conversation takes this turn, TPTB tend to become vague and/or defensive, which is frustrating considering they were the ones that started the conversation.

The thing is, once TPTB openly acknowledge something they open the topic up for discussion. Most fans are happy to employ a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ attitude to fan practices, and even if they want to talk about it, they’re not likely to start the conversation themselves. But when TPTB are the ones that bring it up they are essentially giving fandom permission to talk about it. Once they knock down that wall, it’s very hard to put it back up again without making themselves look bad.

To be fair, the mainstream media’s treatment of slash and fandom in general doesn’t help the situation. They do tend to talk about fannish behaviour like it’s something bizarre or deviant that ‘normal’ people don’t engage in, which prevents TPTB from taking us seriously. That said, it’s still a conscious choice to engage with slash or any other aspects of fandom, and if TPTB make this choice they have to be prepared to take the bad with the good.

I’m not suggesting we rebuild the fourth wall, especially considering the fourth wall does not exist, I’m just saying that TPTB should consider the consequences of actively courting a fanbase without taking it seriously. Believe me, fandom WILL take it seriously whether you want them to or not and TPTB need to be prepared for that.

If you can’t stand the tweets, get out of the fandom.

images courtesy of MTV and the CW

Author: Undie Girl

Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.

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59 thoughts on “Baiting the Fandom That Feeds You

  1. Lets not forget the deplorable, despicable and totally disrespectful way that the writers and cast/crew of BBC Sherlock treats its own slash fanbase. Like shit. They’ve insulted us, put us down. Have literally called us “crazed”. They’re worse that Supernatural and Teen Wolf combined when it comes to Johnlock. A ship, and relationship that has had textual and academic support for over 100 years.

    1. Completely agree with you dude. I focused on TW and SPN because they have had recent scandals but Sherlock is definitely the worst for baiting and then disrespecting the fandom. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      1. SPN S9’s “Dog Dean Afternoon” just arguably pushed Sherlock out of the way as one of the worst examples of queer baiting (at least subtext-wise) in years. Look up the movie title “Dog Day Afternoon” and consider the following:

        1) Dog Dean Afternoon came after the friend of Dorothy “Slumber Party” episode in which there was numerous subtext about “revisionist history” being written and not the truth, one direct reference to fanfiction, Jared and Jensen suggested script changes (as admitted by SPN staff on Twitter) that took any possible suggestion of Dean (or by default, Jensen) being against fiction fans off the table and any slight sexual suggestion of Wincest removed (although it’s canon).
        2) The Sherlock writers are at least honest about their attitude toward slash and fanfiction fans. SPN’s creatives again and again try to please everyone and claim that their work can be “interpreted” any way fans want. Even when one of them say that Dean is purely heterosexual, they continue to queer bait using gay jokes or wink winks or a different member of the SPN creative team says that the characterization is open to interpretation.
        3) Wink wink… It was okay, even if it was the dog’s feelings, for Dean to find a very dressed up poodle attractive, but not for there to be any more hints of bisexuality. Look back of S9. Everything short of putting a sign on Dean that says “I’m a heterosexual” has been done over the past few episodes, while in S8 they left it more open to interpretation.

        Note: I’m not a Destiel or Wincest fan. I do believe Dean has been portrayed, purposely and not, as a bisexual character. I personally think that queer baiting has taken place and needs to stop if SPN isn’t going to follow through — especially after the mass of references in S8 and other references in the previous seasons.

        1. One other thing:

          Please note, I do believe that the Sherlock fans have been treated horribly about a fandom that has existed since the beginning. That said, again, at least the creative team for the rebooted series has admitted there true feelings and that they’ve been queer baiting. SPN’s team doesn’t have the balls to admit to it. I think only one person has done so far and that was backtracked by the rest in interviews.

  2. Surely you can’t be serious. I don’t care how ownership a fan thinks they have they do NOT change a show.
    The quote about Teen Wolf was clearly saying he loves that people watch and engage with the show but the stupid character breaking fandoms have no place in the writing room.

    If you enjoy the show let them continue making it their way.

    1. Sorry, where did I say that I wanted writers to change the show? I don’t. (Although it’s not unheard of for a fan-preferred couple to get a relationship upgrade). This article is about respect. TPTB start a conversation that involves slash and then get upset and/or angry when the conversation takes a serious turn.

      1. I should have pressed reply on the first comment, my point being is fandom is fine but the writers have every write to find it crazed and outside of the show they are creating.
        I’m not trying to say shipping is bad, but I honestly don’t think it will ever pay off to be shipping so heavily for something clearly not going to happen.

          1. I guess that’s why the article was saying..if it ain’t going to happen, do not ‘engage’ the fandom just so you can gain publicity for the show…don’t make comments, which you know the fandom will take seriously, the same goes for scenes which you know the fandom will take as ‘hints’…and when you do, don’t be all defensive about it when the fandom asks ‘why’ you did all that….

            I really liked the comment The Elementary writers recently made when as asked if Joan and Sherlock will every be a thing…they directly stated that they don’t want to mess up the dynamic they already have and they like the direction things are going in….they didn’t say it with a “Well if enough fans want it, i might be persuaded”…I’m looking at you Jeff

            This allowed the Sherlock/Joan shippers ship in the fandom and the writers were able to do what they want and not make people angry because they didn’t make any promises or hint at making a promise

            1. Also there is never a ‘clearly not going to happen’ though, because people have different opinions and interpret text and subtext differently; just take a look at Hermione/Ron vs Hermione/Harry the author decided and to my knowledge didn’t say there was a possibility of H/H if more books were bought or something. Or for missing the subtext GOT has Renly/Loras.

              On the side of respecting fans, I heard that the Hannibal TPTB, which I only watch casually so I could have missed something, handled the slash ship politely as well, saying it wasn’t happening but that the reading wasn’t wrong or delusional. And complimented their fangirls quite nicely too.

              Then there is Orlando Jones, who accepted the resolution for a triangle is a threesome instead of ship wars when presented with the option.

              When TPTB act like human beings while talking to the other human beings who pay for they job (so effortlessly, too)… well, it doesn’t look good for those who don’t.

            2. Regarding the “Well if enough fans want it, i might be persuaded” quotes by Jeff Davis – this was said by him when he was discovering Sterek and slash fandom and I really believed that when he said the thought didn’t seriously cross his mind. Because we have spend a lot of time on the net among fandom we find such a suggestion normal, but people who have never encountered big online fandoms can never seriously comprehend it. A friend in RL I hooked on TW, who has never been part of any fandom, couldn’t even take me seriously when I told her which was the most popular couple of the show on the net. I think that was the reason for his reaction and not very carefully thought of tweet. We all make big blunders in the beginning, before being educated on popular online movements, be it fandom or the social justice. That conversation happend shortly after S2 started and statistics, as can be seen here – , show that Sterek was not even close to the force it became after S2 [I’ve used the other couple you mention in this article, Destiel, as a comparison] ended and when Davis started to look at it in more seriousness and think about his answers. And after S2 Davis has not once used the Sterek fanbase or put content in his show that can be considered queerbaiting.

              I fail to understand why the marketing department of Teen Wolf and Davis production are being thought of as almost the same entity. TPTB in the form of Davis and his team create the content we see on the show. The marketing department, which works for MTV, create the online presence. TPTB have included way more Sterek content in the show before they really knew of the pairing [S2 was written at the end of 2011, see how “popular” Sterek was then], than after they learned about it, so saying the use Sterek for anything is hilarious and really unfounded. On the contrary, Supernatural writers have written a story spanning several years in RL using Dean and Castiel, that would have been completely different look on, if one of the characters was female. Replace the gender of any one of them from the begging of their respective stories, and an enormous % of the general public could accept it as a clear cut love story, no questions asked [like Tony and Ziva from NCIS, for example]. That isn’t as valid with Stiles and Derek. Yes, it could be seen as the beginning of one [like Michael and Maria from Roswell, a favorite couple of mine that could be said started the same way], but far behind what Destiel have in those 60/70+ episodes.

              The marketing department use Sterek because they know we are the most active, but they don’t have a say in what is written on the show. If I was in their place I also would be using Sterek in that way [gifs, pictures etc.] to get awards/nominations, it’s the most logical way – go after the most active part of the fanbase with what you can offer and try to get them to do something. There is nothing fundamentally offensive in their actions. And most important – they don’t control what is written, so they are not responsible for making Sterek happen or not.

              Maybe I’m willing to be more patient and not react negatively on the first thing I don’t like after just 12 episodes [the number we have seen that have been written when the writers really knew of Sterek] because this has been the first slash fandom I’ve been so invested in [the other fandom I was really invested in was the Roswell one with the Michael/Maria I mentioned before] and why I’m willing to wait. TPTB [the people writing the show] really learned of Sterek about a year ago, before that the thought didn’t cross their minds because they are like the general public – they don’t see the potential between same sex characters before somebody points it out.

              In short – 1. Davis & co write the show and sell it to 2. MTV which then uses all it has in terms of marketing to make sure as many people as possible learn about it, but doesn’t take part in the writing process. Please learn the difference between 1 and 2, it is big. You have problems with storylines, that’s Davis&co; you don’t like what they post on social media – MTV’s marketing department. 1 and 2 are not responsible for the actions or non-actions of the other.

  3. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but the way you use “fourth-wall” is entirely different from the traditional use that I was taught. That is, breaking the fourth wall is when a fictional character addresses the viewer. A great example is Deadpool comics, where in he constantly speaks to the readers, thereby breaking the “fourth wall” or the separation between real life and a created universe (not literally, obviously, haha)
    More recently it’s been used by Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards”, where he stops, looks into the screen and makes a quip or explains something to viewers. I know there’s another, more widely watched example on TV, but I can’t quite recall it.

    Maybe people have started using this term differently, but what you’re talking about feels, to me, like something very close to breaking the fourth wall, but slightly removed. Breaking the fifth wall maybe? Haha

      1. Okay, thank you for the clarification. I figured that the traditional usage had just deviated into something different. It’s too bad there’s not a better name for the “fourth wall” between fandoms & TPTB because I’ve always loved the older meaning of it, as it’s such a unique trademark of any kind of media.

  4. I will preface this by saying that I haven’t actually sat down and watched very many episodes of either Supernatural or Teen Wolf. However, based off of several articles I’ve read written about how TPTB in both shows have treated their queer fanbases when asked for a legitimate, non-minor-character queer character/relationship, this is kind of the conclusion I’ve come to: it’s very much as if someone were flirting with you for several hours, then gets offended when you ask them out and says they were just being friendly.

    1. This!

      That’s how a lot of the fans of SPN and Teen Wolf have been made to feel. And, it’s one thing for someone’s “friendly” behavior to be misinterpreted. It’s quite another to have someone really flirt with you on purpose to get your attention and then get all huffy when you call them on it and say that they were just being friendly. That’s what many fans feel the SPN and Teen Wolf creative teams have been doing to attract certain fans (i.e. slash fiction fans and gays).

      1. This is a good point / example, but the inverse is also true. By that, I mean, the fandom can be just as hurtful. It’s like being super friendly with a guy / girl, because you like them as a friend, admire their individuality, love them for their quirks and want them to feel comfortable and validated by you, but then have that guy/girl suddenly want to take the friendship to a romantic level, and then get angry, vengeful and insulting when told no, calling the unwilling girl / guy a tease, when she / he doesn’t feel comfortable going there. Fandom, don’t be that way either. Misinterpretation can go both ways. Comfort levels are fluid, and both groups are learning about this as they go. Both can do better in interaction, I say.

        1. One of the writers on Supernatural, Robbie Thompson, joined Twitter and literally tweeted “Destiel isn’t canon yet? :)”
          Jeff Davis literally asked fans to encourage him.

          That isn’t the fandom misinterpreting TPTB signs of “we definitely want this relationship to stay friends only”. That’s TPTB practically talking dirty with the fans.

          The inverse could be true, sure, but not in these cases. It’s wrong to blame the fans for taking TPTB word seriously.

          1. Davis said it in a tweet in the beginning of S2 [which I didn’t think he meant very seriously] before he knew the real popularity of Sterek or how serious fans are about that pairing. Since then he’s never said something of that sorts. We all make mistakes when we make our first real forays into fandom culture underestimating the power of how people feel about their favorite characters or pairings, and using one mistake to justify all of this is something overblown and most likely coming from fans lack of patience because of years of producers doing this game [like Supernatural, or Due South, or Merlin etc.].

  5. This article is 100% perfectly spot-on. And it sucks a lot, because it’s true. It’s even worse because the Supernatural fandom has writers still telling the Dean/Castiel fandom to just “wait and see” and “keep watching,” in other words, giving them hope, when there may very well be no reason to hope at all. And if that’s the case, and they’re doing it simply to hold on to those viewers, or as you put it, reap the benefits, then that doesn’t just make them look bad, it makes them downright cruel.

    People are emotionally invested in this relationship, and if anyone says that TPTB weren’t playing up the Dean and Castiel ship in these last couple seasons, ESPECIALLY season 8, that’s just a joke. They knew exactly what they were doing, they knew exactly how we would read it. They heard our squees, they saw our tweets, and our celebrations actually caused people outside of the fandom to take notice. Destiel is infamous on the internet now…it’s everywhere. And this relationship alone has caused an influx of brand-new viewers, and TPTB KNOW it. There was not a single day that you could go in the Destiel tag in season 8 without seeing a post like, “I don’t even watch Supernatural, and I ship Destiel because of tumblr” or “Okay, Destiel fans! You’ve convinced me! I’m going to start watching Supernatural!” Every. Day. And you STILL see those posts in the tag.

    But indeed…ever since these meltdowns, people have been backing out. People feel tricked and betrayed…and I don’t blame them. I just wish that whatever it is that’s holding them back from taking Dean/Cas seriously, they could give it another look. I wish they would take the time to read a meta analysis written by a fan on Dean’s bisexuality, on the evolution of Dean/Cas, or even just watch a few Destiel fanvideos. I feel like they’re throwing bones at us, but they don’t even understand the weight of these bones, from the fans’ perspective. Fans remember everything, every detail, every look. And they’re just adding to the conviction that we already had that Dean and Cas are destined to be together. They’re playfully messing around with people’s hearts and investments, and it’s just not fair. It’s sad.

  6. This is a great article and very well written. I think it’s understandable that the writers would be scared to take that extra step in regards to popular ships for fear of losing viewers or something, but at the same time, when you tease the fans so much you give them false hope. I am familiar with TW and Sterek but not nearly as much as Destiel. I know that Destiel has been in numerous online articles and has been featured (alongside sterek) in many shipping competitions, and this is potentially what draws more fans in.

    Destiel is a huge fandom. Other fans argue that Destiel is just a very small part of the fandom when it is actually much bigger than you might think. And not only that, they are passionate. Passionate viewers are what win us polls and get the name out there. So the writers should not dismiss these passionate viewers as ‘crazy fans’ because those crazy fans are some of the ones keeping your goddamn show alive. I personally knew about destiel before I even started watching the show. That is, from my experience, how popular it really is. I didn’t even know who Dean and Castiel were, but I knew that they were a popular ship.

    It is really upsetting that recently I have seen so many avid SPN fans lose all hope they had in this ship. They wanted to see more, and after getting slapped in the face with the news that ‘it will never happen’ they have just sort of drifted away in terms of excitement. We were called ‘crazy’ by the writers themselves, and essentially made fun of by the writers for caring so much about something that “does not exist.” WE are not the ones that wrote the lines or created the intense character chemistry, we just took what we saw and went with it. We saw the potential for more. And now we’re being told that we’re just delusional idiots who fantasize about two men together. And that hurts.

    I know that the writers don’t often read what the fans have to say, and my words won’t ever be heard by them…but I wish they could just try and see things from the fans perspectives. We don’t want Dean and Cas to have sex, hell I don’t even care if they kiss on screen. But we’re not crazy, we’re not making this sh*t up. When you have characters say “the one in the dirty trenchcoat who’s in love with you” and “he was your boyfriend first” to Dean about Castiel, and have the characters not-so-subtly admit that they would do practically anything for each other, and then say there is NOTHING there?! That’s bull.
    We even thought we had confirmation that destiel was (in a way) a go when Jensen said that the original script of Goodbye Stranger had Dean say “I love you” to Castiel. Maybe it was said in a brotherly way, I don’t know. But that is all we’re asking for. We want confirmation that there is more between there characters than just friendship. Castiel rebelled against his entire family (all of the angels) for Dean. Dean spent months searching for Castiel in purgatory and refused to leave without him. And Castiel has died for Dean on more than one occasion. Dean prayed to Castiel every single night when they were stuck in Purgatory, and even made a habit of praying to him after purgatory.
    We are not making this stuff up!
    And yet, the writers seems to think we are. Gee…thanks.

    1. I personally thought Castiel liked Meg, but I have also thought for some time that Dean was bisexual and that he might be attracted to Cas. S8 had so many references to Dean being bisexual (and not just signs of feelings for Cas), that it’s hard to believe that there are still people who think that this is just a crazed slash fan delusion.

      I truly believe that SPN has been queer baiting. I think they took it too far in S8 without meaning to and then realized too late that they went too far. Now, in S9, it’s like they’re trying to backtrack.

      1. I also believe that Castiel liked Meg. I wouldn’t say I ship it of course, but I definitely thought the two of them were close.

        Yes. That whole scene with Aaron in Everybody Hates Hitler was probably the gayest Dean scene I’d ever watched! That alone felt like a confirmation of Dean’s (potential) bisexuality, or maybe just heteroflexiblity. Because Dean did NOT turn him down by saying “I don’t swing that way” he just told him that “this is a federal investigation” and then fumbled around and bumped into a table on the way out.

        They’re backtracking so hard that it just feels like a train wreck at times. Backtracking (in my opinion) for both Dean and Castiel. The whole Castiel with April episode just felt like a “get Cas laid” scheme that was just awkward to watch, and not just for Destiel shippers. That whole thing just felt off, and you can tell that the writers just reeeally wanted to make Cas have sex now that he’s a human. Not only that, let’s make Cas have sex with a (probably) non-consenting possessed girl and then kill her! Brilliant! And then let’s have the boys all go to the bunker like “aww yeah, Cas had sex” without any regard for the poor possessed girl they just murdered, cuz hey, at least Cas got laid!

        I really enjoyed season 8 of Supernatural and I thought they were really progressing in so many ways. The characters had grown and developed in so many positive ways and the plot was exciting. They had so much they could do with season 9! At this point, they haven’t even mentioned Metatron in some time and don’t seem to care that there are thousands of angels still wandering around. And then for the characters, I feel like the writers went “well let’s just ignore what happened with the character development in season 8 and maybe the fans will forget about that.”

        1. To be fair, I feel uncomfortable for possessed people when they kill angels and demons, but they barely blink their eyes now.

  7. Hey guys, this is a brilliant article! While I will still continue to hold on hope for my ships to become canon, I do feel like they are leading us on. I had such high hopes for Teen Wolf too, Sherlock couldnt BE any slashier and season 8 was a brilliant set up for canon Destiel. I don’t know why TPTB wont just take that leap and make their show historically memorable, like the first inter-racial kiss between Kirk and Uhura. I really just don’t understand them.

  8. Very well-written and interesting article. As someone who is both a fangirl and who recently worked in social media for an organization that had its own legions of fandoms, it is a difficult paradox to grasp. I understand both sides of this issue quite well: I can see how annoying it is for fans to have their wishes/interests lambasted, neglected, or belittled by the very creators they have helped by being passionate fans. At the same time, I know from first hand experience the ways in which creators hands are often tied by higher powers or simply by their own future plans for their works, which often go against fans’ wishes.

    Overall, I am troubled by the complete ease in which fans can now interact with creators/actors/writers and the apparent meta-nature of contemporary fandom. I worry that fans may grow as if they deserve something simply because they ARE fans and I worry that creators will grow so resentful of fandom that they will turn into bullies against people who are simply passionate. I love fandom and I love the way in which it allows people from all walks of life to interact and exchange ideas. I simply hope that fans always recognize that the creators/actors/writers they admire are not pets, just as I hope that queer ships are not simply fetishized.

    1. Good points.

      I also worry that as social media progresses, and we already see this happening more and more, that creators will feel they have to rewrite their characters or original ideas to fit with fan ideas to stay competitive and make money.

      I’m not talking when fans are teased and fan ideas come from that teasing. I’m talking about a legitimate story line with a long arc that is then changed because fans didn’t like the arc.

      It truly scares me how many times I’ve already heard of a creative writing team rewriting scripts and story arcs, and re-writing/re-shooting scenes for future completed episodes, because of fan backlash over something portrayed on-screen.

      Dexter S6 backlash and S7 & S8 backtracking is perhaps one of the best examples. It’s also one of the best examples of how extensive changes can lead to creative breakdown, poor writing an end result that blows up in a network’s and creative team’s faces.

      1. To quote J: ” I’m talking about a legitimate story line with a long arc that is then changed because fans didn’t like the arc.”

        I personally ~like~ the idea that the fans can actually have a “say” in things. I’m not saying that they should take it to the extreme of “vote to see if so and so is killed off”.

        In the case of Destiel, the backtracking and all has caused mulitple HUGE issues with the fandom. And whether the writers like it or not, viewership is ultimately what keeps them in a job.
        It’s just a thought, but if the CW were to post a poll of “is Dean bi”, and go with the most voted answer, there would still be conflict, and upset people. But at least at that point they could legitimately say “you guys chose”.

        1. Viewership IS what ultimately keeps writers, producers and other TV creatives in their jobs.

          That said, making drastic changes because of fans desires or backlash — when viewership numbers are already good and you’re already at the top of your game — is bad business.

          Queer baiting is bad business.

          Backtracking because you’re scared to admit to your fans that you’ve been using gay subtext to gain viewership is also bad business. In the long run, fans will become more aware of it and will get more frustrated and angry the longer you wait to address the issue (which is exactly what is happening now).

          I personally believe that leaving it up to the fans to decide whether Dean is bisexual is also bad business. CW & SPN would be setting an entertainment standard that tells fans across genres that it’s okay to feel like they have the right to demand changes — any changes at any time (no matter how different from their original plans) — or a show will lose its viewership. That type of behavior then leads to creative teams second guess EVERYTHING they do to try to make everyone happy.

          That’s one of the biggest problem with SPN right now.

          The creatives are trying too hard to make everyone happy after they used too much subtext as a tactic to gain more fans after Season 4 and since things got out of control with Season 8.

          They need to:

          1) Admit what they did publicly and apologize to the fans for any purposeful or accidental misinterpretations and bad handling of the situation.

          2) State once and for all whether or not Dean was intended to be a bi character…even a closeted bi character.

          Some of the actors and crew have said point blankly that he isn’t, but then have backtracked on Twitter and during interviews by saying that they’re happy to let fans interpret things any way they want.
          One person came forward and said that queer baiting was taking place.

          They ALL need to be on the same page.

          If Dean isn’t bi, then they need to stop with the on-screen and off-screen gay “jokes,” hints and other subtext done by hetero characters. It’s fine if it’s Crowley or Charley… they’re established. But, if Dean isn’t bi, then he shouldn’t be mentioning gay bars in Miami and the title of an episode that has his name shouldn’t be referencing a movie that had a transsexual character.

          Will that make some fans sad and frustrated and angry? Yes. But, I’m sure that just as there was massive slash fiction with the original Star Trek (with heterosexual characters and unintended interpretive moments), Supernatural will continue to provide wonderful content that will fuel the imaginations of slash fiction fans. For those who are gay and who looked up to Dean as a bi or gay character, they’ll simply have to accept the final verdict.

          On the other hand, if Dean is bisexual and they publicly off-screen out him as being so, then the heterosexual fans will have to accept the final verdict and either choose to continue to watch or not.

          Either way, the gay subtext is addressed once and for all.

          Yes, there will no doubt still be fan arguments…

          – Fans of Dean being bisexual making louder claims about queer baiting (they’re already doing that)


          – Fans of Dean being heterosexual claiming that CW and the creators of SPN gave into slash fans and the gay community (they’re already doing that too).

          BUT again, rather than the constant teasing, it will be established in canon and everyone will just have to live with it.

          3) Destiel. A completely separate matter.

          Again, the creative team needs to finally once and for address this head on in an official, on-the-record, off-screen public statement.

          They need to stop addressing it in the series by only backtracking. They need to say off-screen with complete agreement among all of the cast and crew that it does or does not exist.

          – If it doesn’t, they need to apologize for the accidental or purposeful baiting and subtext and then no longer do anything even remotely Destiel going forward.

          – If it does exist, then they need to say: Yes. We purposely wrote the characters that way. Here’s the direction we see it going.

          Will some part of the fan base be ticked off either way? Yes.

          At this point, there’s been so much damage done that if they don’t publicly address this, there’s going to be a lot more damage.

          And let me be clear again:

          I don’t believe that a television series like Supernatural should ever be controlled by fan baiting, nor what fans want to see happen. Fans deciding show outcomes should ONLY apply to shows that use that format.

          Excessive subtext, and playing with fans at on-screen and off-screen, started this mess. Now, SPN’s creatives need to clean it up. And not on social media or at cons.

          They need to address it in a news conference or an interview with a major news outlet. And then, even if there’s fan backlash from one side or the other, or debate for years to come, there will be a definitive answer.

          1. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong)
            I believe it was Misha that recently (after the issues with Chad on twitter) stated that some of the writers are pushing for Bi-Dean or Destiel, while others are against it. So what we end up having is a massive tug-of-war among the writers. Some put in lines and scenes that make us go “wow, that’s exactly what I’m looking for in terms of Bi-Dean” and then the next episode, a different writer will make us scratch our heads and go “wtf, what about last episode? This is completely different” and then we just believe it to be backtracking when it could just be the writers fighting for dominance over what is canon and what is not.

            You are definitely right. They NEED to come to a consensus among the writers over whether this is happening or not. If some are for and some are against, they are doing no favours to the fans by writing BOTH.

            As both a fan of destiel and (separately) bi-Dean…if they decided as a group that they are not going for either I would be disappointed simply because they have given so many instances where I have seen evidence of both.

            1. I don’t know how I would feel.

              I just want them to put this to rest. Whether they go one way or another — as long as they publicly address these issues and stick to their guns — they’d have my respect.

              As each day passes, they’re losing that anyway. Just like they’re losing the respect of other viewers as well.

          2. I just want to say that I think there might be a few cases where a drastic change based on what the fans desire might be a good thing. If a vast majority of fans do not like the direction a plot/character is going (and I mean genuinely do not like, as in writing multiple tumblr-essays on Why This Shouldn’t Be Done This Way or similar, not the occasional text post on their baby.) then they should look into changing it.

            For example (Disclaimer: I again do not make any claims to being knowledgeable about this. If I am wrong, please correct me.) I think that a lot of Teen Wolf fans are getting a bit tired of how many horrible things Derek has gone through, especially since some of the more recent stuff seemed to mostly be a reason to give him more angst. In this case, it might be a good idea for TPTB to think about attempting to reconfigure a few plotlines.

            In any case, if the majority of the fans legitimately don’t like something about the show, I think it might be prudent to at least make a few minor changes. Because if they ignore the feedback they get when it is genuinely displeased, eventually the only thing keeping a bunch of those fans will be loyalty and there isn’t any certainty that that will be enough to keep them.

            1. The way I wrote my last comment does make it seem like that I’m saying that viewer or fan feedback should “never” be taken into account.

              I’m not saying that viewer or fan feedback should be ignored entirely by the a show’s creatives. Obviously, if viewers don’t like your show, or a season of your show, you’ve got a problem somewhere and feedback can help you figure out what’s going wrong.

              The reality is that networks and show creators do use viewers polls, focus groups and online critiques to help them see if there show is succeeding or not. And they do tweak areas in an attempt to retain and gain new fans.

              It’s one of the many reasons we are seeing more online social networking during episodes by creatives. The idea is that they’re engaging their fans to keep fans interested by making the experience more personal and to learn from the first impressions that appear on sites like Twitter and Facebook what is working and what isn’t.

              I’m saying that there are “choose your own adventure” (remember those books?) style shows that exist (for example, real-time poll-based reality contest shows).

              Supernatural shouldn’t become THAT. Of course, they also shouldn’t gay bait with non-gay characters OR try to please everyone. Those attitudes are how we go to this point.

              There’s a balance that needs to be maintained. If a characterization into question, a show’s creators need to clarify instead of playing both sides because they’re fearful of ticking off someone.

              You cite Derek as an example. There’s historically plenty of TV characters that are just treated horribly. But they usually exist that way for a reason. Now, that doesn’t mean that a show’s creators aren’t playing up fans when they do this… and Teen Wolf has good examples of extreme fan baiting. But, there are cases in which a character just has a miserable life and keeps having horrible things happen, and that’s the way it is because that’s the arc for that character.

              The question becomes: What will happen as times passes and at the end, AND are the story, writing, and actor portrayals good enough that fans will stick around to find out?

              The greatest problem with feedback is when it gets to a point where fans begin to believe that they have the “right” to control the story and the creators of a SUCCESSFUL show, and I think I need to make that distinction, begin to believe the same thing and make huge alterations to try to please one group or everyone.

              Either scenario can have disastrous results. At that point, the tweaking becomes unnecessary rewrites and the entire premise of a successful show begins to change into something unrecognizable. Perhaps even the endgame for the characters changes.

              I can cite two good examples in which tweaking for viewers resulted in horrible outcomes. One is a show that wasn’t succeeding in which tweaking was supposed to help save it and another in which backlash after one season seemed to play a big role.

              “Babylon 5” – TNT was one of the worse possible network choices for that show. In an attempt to try to save the show by fitting it to the TNT viewers, huge sections of story were destroyed in favor of more action sequences that the network believed its primary demographic would prefer. The show would have done better if it had simply been targeted to science fiction fans on a network that had a higher viewership of those fans, such as then Sci-Fi network.

              “Dexter” – Although some say that Dexter might just be a good example of simply off and on bad writing in the last three seasons, I believe it’s a good example of creatives attempting to present the story as they see it in Season 6, or having a transitional writing lag when changing showrunners, and then experiencing backlash and letting that backlash control every decision after.

              Instead of simply addressing a problem head on with fans when a backlash occurs, there’s a “fear of losing viewers” mode that seems to kick in.

              In the case of Dexter, even though they had an already highly successful show and could have just asked fans to be patient and believe in them, or explained they had an off writing season, they restructured to a point where even they seemed to lose track of who their characters were and how their characters should act.

              Of course, network pressure for ratings and other outcomes comes into play as well, and changes in showrunners and writers can negatively affect a show’s direction no matter how hard you try to stop it. I believe though that creatives shouldn’t give into demands so easily… especially if they have a solid fan base that loves their show and is willing to be dragged a long a bit more through the muck.

              We are “want it now, want it my way” people. Technology has given us the opportunity to pick and choose what we want when we want it. There is an entire field of marketing now that exists based solely on immediate customer engagement and investment.

              When good stories get pulled apart to meet that change, you might as well stop watching TV because every show will eventually be altered to fit this on-demand sort of fast food structure.

              That’s why personally I like Netflix’s binge idea. That way, storytellers can tell their stories the way they want to tell them. Sure, “Arrested Development” got bashed by fans for the Event-style format used last season on Netflix, BUT… many fans polled still state they want more. And other binge format shows are doing extremely well.

              The format doesn’t exclude fans. Creators can still go back and review polls, focus groups and critiques, but they’re not “controlled” as much.

              I apologize for digressing away from the Supernatural issue.

              Again, I believe the focus should be less on SPN fan demands to change the show one way or another and more on addressing the past changes that were made and how they insulted and discriminated against their fans — a completely separate issue from meeting fan demands to fulfill a particular ship. Of course, because of how SPN handled the former on-screen and off-screen, those two issues DO sadly now go hand in hand, but only because the creators aren’t publicly addressing their mistakes.

              1. Those are all extremely good points and I agree with the majority of them. I just want to say that I’ve gotten the impression that, regardless of what plot/character development arc the writers meant it to serve, a lot of the fans are starting to see some of the more recent things that have happened to Derek as angst for the sake of angst.

                For example, (POTENTIAL SEMI-SPOILERS I think. Also, most of my Teen Wolf knowledge comes from the more informative Tumblr text posts and a lot of fanfiction.) the speed with which his relationship with Jennifer developed and several things that resulted from it didn’t really ring true with his character for people, especially considering what happened with Kate Argent. Then, when Jennifer was revealed as the Darach, it seemed more like a way to give him more angst then an actual attempt at character development. Alternatively, a potential plotline here could have fulfilled TPTB’s hints at Sterek while having provided any necessary conflict they felt was needed for Derek’s character development and possibly made more sense than the Jennifer/Derek romance.

                Therefore, in this case and in some like it, TPTB should probably take a look at the message they’re giving, compare it with the one they want to send and where they want the character to end up, then potentially reevaluate some plots. If they don’t feel they can accomplish what they need to in a different way, then they should probably make a statement to that effect or one asking people to be patient. I’m sorry if this is sounding pretentious or condescending, because I really don’t mean to. I’m just trying to put forth some potential ideas.

                It’s kind of as if someone really knowledgeable about games is trying to present the idea of how great such and such game is to someone who isn’t. If the recipient is only hearing how difficult it is, then the presenter might need to reevaluate their methodology, just to make sure that they aren’t accidentally using a bunch of terms the other doesn’t know and not explaining them.

    2. As someone that has worked both sides I completely agree with you, and I definitely think there are some hard lessons that fandom needs to learn. But at the same time I don’t want them to. Fandom should be a place where anything is possible.

      The real problem that I see every day is just a massive misunderstanding on both sides – but it mainly comes from TPTB’s miss-interpretation of fandom. This is not entirely they’re fault – fandom has been insular so there aren’t a lot of reliable resources to actually help understand it.

      Ultimately, fandom desperately wants to love TPTB – so it takes A LOT to break that relationship, which is why it is so incredibly frustrating to watch them continue to make the same mistakes over and over again.

      1. Except that there is no way that all reads can be validated in canon and still be telling anything like a coherent story. The storytellers need to tell the story. Fandom is free to interpret and certainly to engage and create–but that doesn’t mean their interpretations and creations have to become canon. The latest spn brouhaha is not that fans can’t interpret subtext as they wish, but rather that Destiel fans are reading the subtext and not liking what they see. Head canon is crashing into show canon and the writers are being castigated for their story telling decisions. That kind of entitlement is something the fans need to look at carefully. If the writers have to scour every interaction to make sure there is no possible way any fan can read anything into it, that won’t lead to good writing, which is the basis of why we love the show. And the writers could only fail anyway, as people are free to read chemistry where ever they want. One’s person’s eyesex is another person’s conversation between friends.

        1. Essentially I agree with you – because honestly I want TPTB to do what is best for the story and following the whims of the fandom is generally a bad idea. It always ends terribly. And I completely agree that the ease of communication that SM provides has increasing the amount entitlement (this is not a new thing by any means – think Soap Opera fans, who have altered entire storylines or the Sherlock Holmes fans that brought him back from the dead – it’s just easier for people to be heard now).

          Slash – and shipping – is totally subjective. BUT the article is not about giving fans what the want it’s about understanding the conversation. Whether we like it or not SM is part of the text now. It is part of how a growing number of people engage with media – heck it’s part of how we measure engagement now. Communicating with the fandom is a skill that TPTB need to have and it’s something that is going to take some adjustments on both sides, which is why it is so important to analyse the conversation.

          Fans have been told consistently that they need to readjust their expectations. We are constantly told that we don’t have control of he story and that the writers will not be swayed by fandom. That is not a new conversation – whether fans listen to it is another story but it’s been said in every possible way. What we need to talk about is how TPTB engage with fandom and how that effects fans expectations.

          Plus it’s not unheard of for a fan-preferred couple to get a relationship upgrade. If you were around in the 90s and ever dabbled in The X-Files fandom you’ll know this is not the first time there has been a divide about romantic involvement (in fact that is where the word “shipper” comes from). Mulder and Scully were not set up as a romantic relationship and there was well documented arguments within the writers room about whether or not the relationship should be romantic (it took 7 seasons). Of course where slash is involved it also has to combat heteronormative expectations but hopefully one day that won’t matter.

          But you’re right, you can’t make everyone happy – that’s part of fiction. TPTB just need to learn how to entice the fans without baiting them.

          1. I agree all sides need to think about their communication style and that this area is evolving rapidly. But I think the fandom needs to do as much thinking as TPTB, because interpretation of story is at the crux of the matter.

            For example, when a demon mockingly call Cas Dean’s boyfriend, it can read as a tip of the hat to the Destiel fandom. It can also be read as part of the sexualized language all characters get when interacting with demons, which suits the characters and the universe. Do fans really have the right to insist on how characters in the show can talk? Do writers really need to avoid any hint of language that may offer alternate interpretations? Will that improve the show?

            Destiel fans must notice there are many tips of the hat in the narrative to Wincest as well–are they incorporating them into their sense of story or accepting them as the writers having a meta conversation within the narrative with the fans? I do think the writers will have to stop engaging their fanbase in that way, because when they do,some fans insist on a literal meaning instead of the meta, but it’s a shame. I think the rich language on the show offers a lot of room for interpretation, which should then incorporate the meaning contraints offered in the narrative before deciding on the likelihood of the interpretation.

            1. OMG is this so hard to understand.

              The problem is not the INTERPRETATION of the show.
              The problem is that show creators need to sort their characters out, define them, and then COMMUNICATE to the fandom.

              If writers honestly come out to the viewers saying for example “Dean is and will always be hetero” people will accept that. (of course some ppl will be hurt after all this queerbaiting…)

              Ultimately TPTB decide where the story goes. And people know that.
              Viewers will be able to stop having all these HOPES that canon!Dean might be gay or bi.

              Fans will be able to accept the clearly defined canon (or leave the fandom) and continue shipping their OTPs in their fanon world.

              With this constellation creators and writers can still build in “tips of the hat” and make gay allusions all they want…but it will be clear to EVERYONE that Dean is bi…and that this is simply a “tip of the hat” and not a deeper subtext plot for future development!

              Then no one will feel cheated. Cards are laid on the table. People will stop haveing all these HOPES.

              Regarding your questions:
              Do fans really have the right to insist on how characters in the show can talk? Do writers really need to avoid any hint of language that may offer alternate interpretations? Will that improve the show? <<<<<<<< To all of these: NO!

              Fans do NOT have the right to insist.
              Writers need not avoid certain language.

              But creators can CLEARLY STATE on Comic Cons, on Twitter etc…that "DEAN WILL ALWAYS BE HETERO".

              The problem is that people start HOPING when allusions are made. HOPING for a more open-minded storytelling…HOPING for realization of a gay main couple.
              But creators PLAY WITH THE HOPE OF FANS…when they not clearly state and define a character. (excemption: when a character needs to be ambiguous for storytelling purpose)

              1. EDIT:

                “…but it will be clear to EVERYONE that Dean is bi…”

                should be

                “…but it will be clear to EVERYONE that Dean is not bi…”

                *sigh* Are there beta-readers for long comments? XD

    3. Fangirling Daily, I share your concerns. One thing that’s missing in so many of these replies and in the article is that a ship like Destiel involves a lot of personal interpretation and by no means is there consensus on the read. The show is based on the power of family bonds and Dean calls Cas “brother”–part of his found family. We all fill in the gaps in the narrative with our own experience and desires, but when the show fills in the same gaps differently, it is not queerbaiting, it’s telling the story. Spn has always had a metaconversation with its fans where it acknowledges the various fan interpretations. It’s made more nods and winks to Wincest than Destiel, and yet it’s not going there with either ship in the canon text. I think it’s a shame the writers can no longer say, “I see you” to its fans, because now “I see you” means “I validate your read and will write the show accordingly.

      The easy access to the writers and creative team has for most part just made fans feel an entitlement to how the show will be written, and that there are many different reads doesn’t slow any faction down at all. If fans would just acknowledge they are responsible for their read and no one has forced them to make it, the conversations would get a lot more civil.

      1. It isn’t just “fans” — or shippers or gays — who have read Dean as bisexual or observed gay baiting. I’ve spoken with people new to the series who’ve watched it on a binge who wondered when Dean was coming out or asked about the obvious wink winks and nudge nudges. And it’s not just Wincest and Destiel that many people are seeing — hints to Dean possibly being bisexual have been peppered throughout the series.

        There are also people who care less about any ship or sexual preference and are simply offended in general with how SPN has treated this subject and viewers.

        It is true that fans are responsible for their read, and although SPN’s creators haven’t forced them to read the show one way or another (they say that it’s open to “interpretation”), they have been caught doing something viewers are getting truly tired of seeing:

        ….portraying “heterosexual” characters in ways meant to titillate slash shippers and gay fans without any follow through.

        Undie Girl said it well in her last post: “TPTB just need to learn how to entice the fans without baiting them”

        That’s what a lot of fans, across fandoms (because this IS happening in more than one show) are asking for today.There are other ways to entice ship fans and gay fans.

        1) Have real gay characters in relationships or with a greater presence in a show.
        2) Out bisexual characters if they are actually bisexual.
        3) Stop playing up the “possibility” that a hetero character is bisexual unless he actually is going to be bisexual.
        4) Stop putting extras in DVDs that show hetero actors playing up gay because they think it’s funny or because they’re trying to bait a certain segment.

        Now, there are also Destiel shippers, and other fans, who are asking for more than the above.

        It is true that they weren’t forced to read something one way or another, but at least one actor has admitted that SPN creators played up the fandom. There have been other instances of the show’s creative team playing up the fandom off-screen as well. I’m not a Destiel fan, but I understand their anger about this. I also understand why more people in the LGBT community are getting angry about this.

        I believe the conversation won’t become more civil until the SPN creative team addresses this topic formally once and for all. Sadly, the same is true of other show creators who are now stuck in this quagmire for similar reasons: Teen Wolf, Sherlock, R&I (from what I’ve heard), et cetera.

        1. Edit

          I want to be clear that I recognize that there are going to be times when heterosexual actors accidentally, or purposely on a personal level and not because they were told to, come off a certain way when fooling around onset, in interviews or at cons. It’s already well-known that this happens with the SPN cast. They are a bunch of guys who like to get into each other’s spaces and crack gay jokes and pretend.

          It doesn’t make it right, but it happens.

          At this point though, a lot of fans can see that there has been an agenda to use baiting to attract certain fans. Many of those same fans can’t be sure anymore that these moments are just accidental/personal purposeful and not part of a larger money-making agenda.

          To prevent confusion:

          1) The behavior should be curtailed somewhat and shouldn’t be focused so much publicly that it feeds into fan desires and overshadows the canon that the creators want to exist.
          2) Onset clips with actors still in costume playing up a sexual preference shouldn’t show up in DVD extras or become public until after the series ends.

          Now, some might say:

          “Fans know that it’s just the actors fooling around.”
          “This is ridiculous. It’s joking around. It’s not even in the show.”
          “Fans need to learn to separate real people playing around from their characters in the show.”

          Again, it’s not that fans can’t separate (although there are admittedly people in the world who do have problems separating reality and fantasy), it’s that fans know that they are being baited to keep them watching and they’re fed up.

        2. j, that interpretaton of Dean’s sexuality is subjective, not objective. Many fans viewing the series do not see that exploration. Others do. I myself see Dean’s exploration as a wonderful deconstruction of the typical masculinity in a hero narrative. He is a hero who has access to his emotions, who is relationship driven, who can cry and can admit he needs his relationships. Dean has always privileged his relationship ties over the quest and at the same time is the hero others are drawn to. It’s a very nuanced portrayal of the hero. I think it’s an incredibly valuable imagining of masculinity and one that rewrites many tropes about what men can and can not do or feel.

          Others may not see that and that’s fine. But here’s no consensus on Dean’s portrayal and if the writers are showing through their story choices some reads don’t have a lot of story support, then that head canon needs to change, not the story canon.

          The DVD extras are not part of the story and need to be left out of the read. Gag reels are gag reels, not story. The actors are having fun in their own environment. They don’t have control over what the editors put on the DVD and what they don’t.

          I suspect that the actual outcome of the sense of entitlement from different sets of fan groups is going to be creatives withdrawing from social media except as pure PR.

          1. I think we will have to agree to disagree on some aspects.

            I considered Dean a heterosexual when the series began and had no problem believing, as you have, that the portrayal of him as a hero was simply a nuanced one. In fact, I loved that they were showing a male lead the way he was portrayed.

            However, as time passed, especially after Season 8, I began to believe that Dean was being portrayed as an unaware or closeted bisexual.

            Yes, this is my interpretation, but it’s also become the interpretation of a lot of fans who aren’t slash fans or gay.

            That means, at least from a writer’s perspective, that the creators of this show lost track of their character somewhere along the way. There are plenty of shows in which slash fans see slash potential, but when fans who are neither slash fans or gay fans start to see it… there’s a big problem with how the character is being portrayed and the key is to offer new scenes and dialogue that lends support to one view or another. NOT, to offer both and continue the confusion.

            There are also plenty of fans who argue that if there’s nothing in-canon that outright states that a character is bisexual or gay, then he isn’t and it’s only wishful thinking on the part of some fans.

            Sadly, that argument is exactly what some writers and show moneymakers hope will be the outcome of queer baiting.

            – They don’t outright say anything so the fans who don’t see it, and who might not like it, are supported.
            – Yet, they give just enough winks, nudges and nods for the fans who will see it to keep those viewers coming back for more.

            Of course there isn’t a direct statement to any of this other one actor stating that queer baiting is taking place. But, there are legitimate examples in-story canon that something is going on that looks very much like queer baiting.

            – I personally had no idea that there was a gay bar in Miami called Purgatory. Yet, the writers of the show felt it necessary that Dean (with all of this conflict taking place off-screen), in story canon no less, bring it up sarcastically when talking to Garth about where he had been for a year.
            – The writers of the show chose to use a title for the last episode that, besides potentially referencing the dog days of summer or a period of stagnation, also references a movie with a huge link to bisexuality and transexuality.
            – If it’s true that Dean was based on Dean Moriarty from On the Road, then the character was based on a bisexual character.
            – In Season 8, Dean’s “breakup” with Benny was compared to Sam’s breakup with Amelia – repeatedly.

            I could go on back through the series citing example after example. And I’m not talking about long looks between characters, as some fans have offered up as proof…

            I’m talking about cultural references in-canon to gay or bi characters used in relation to Dean and instances when his character has been portrayed as not quite as heterosexual as we’ve been told to believe.

            Again, if you don’t recognize gay references that the writers have added to the show, then you’re not going to see queer baiting. But, it’s not simply head canon or fan preference when you are capable of recognizing those hints and do so.

            Of course, a lot of different sets of fans might have simply enjoyed the show without caring about the winks, nudges and nods had the creators not spent so much time in social media and other areas emphasizing this topic or, in S8, going overboard with the winks, nudges and nods.

            As for DVD extras: I don’t hold the actors entirely responsible. BUT, gag reels are not just gag reels. They are $$$. The creatives and decision makers behind any show know it.

            Having a clip of one actor (still wearing his character’s clothing) making same-sex sexual innuendos with another actor (still wearing his character’s clothing) while on a set in DVD extras confuses the issue even when it’s obvious that they’re joking around. This type of clip might not be such a problem if it it was a one-off and there weren’t so many of these moments throughout SPN history off- and on-screen between heterosexuals joking around about being gay.

            To quote you: “I suspect that the actual outcome of the sense of entitlement from different sets of fan groups is going to be creatives withdrawing from social media except as pure PR.”

            I don’t think it’s simply entitlement from different sets of fan groups either. I think some show creators and decision makers feel, whether on their own or from network or other pressures, that they’re entitled to bait certain groups because those groups are on the fringes of being socially acceptable. That type of attitude is just as wrong as fans feeling they should be entitled to write the story.

            Maybe withdrawing from social media is what needs to happen. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but who knows?

            1. I don’t know much about the writer of the following Tumblr post (i.e. whether this person is even a Supernatural fan), but the explanation of queer baiting is very well presented:


              The last part is really good:

              “Queer-baiting is even more painful than erasure, because it dangles fair and equal representation in front of your eyes, and then snatches it away. And then it tells you that the whole thing was in your imagination all along.”

              I’d also point out the following text: “Often, this takes the form of a character who is clearly portrayed as gay suddenly entering a straight relationship, but that is not the only way it can play out.”


              Of course, going back to SPN and Dean: Obviously, Dean isn’t “clearly” portrayed as gay. The thing about bisexuality or closeted homosexuality though is that true sexuality can be unclear. As a result, queer baiting is actually easier for those who are doing it because they can dangle that character just on the edge of outwardly appearing only heterosexual while suggesting that the character isn’t.

              1. To piggyback off your comment, because what was said in that tumblr post was really good:

                During the whole incident with Chad, he said in one of his tweets that “if it served the story, I would support it.”
                “It” being both an issue of destiel and bisexual Dean. While this should have calmed some people down, it made many people more furious.

                Following this tweet, I remember reading several people complain that “my sexuality shouldn’t have to serve a story” because none of the straight characters’ romances or sexual encounters had anything to do with the plot. But in the case of gay characters, all of a sudden it HAS to be part of some grander scheme.

                And in this way, many queer watchers feel alienated. They feel like the writers don’t look at their sexuality on the same level as the straight characters. Sexuality shouldn’t have to be anything other than what it is. To say that Dean is only bisexual if it serves the story is cruel and hurtful to those who are queer and find themselves relating to Dean.

          2. that interpretaton of Dean’s sexuality is subjective, not objective. <<<<< if clearly stated on a meta-level by creators (at a convention etc) then the interpretation of Dean's sexuality is objective. Statement: "Dean is hetero". Nothing subjective about it for the fans.

            …then that head canon needs to change, not the story canon.<<<<< If creators stop giving ambiguous maybe/maybe-not answers or stop avoiding giving a clear answer…then YES fan's head canon will change. Statement: "Dean is hetero". Head canon changed. Fan's hopes for a great bi/gay storyline successfully destroyed.

            …creatives withdrawing from social media except as pure PR.<<<<<< That might be true.

            On the other hand…social media gives SO MUCH possibility…so much opportunity for a creator to engage the fandom…and emotionally bind the fans to your show…and thus ensuring a certain success for your show…leading to $$$.

            Even if creators stop using social media. Not so long ago there was no social media to begin with. People will survive…

  9. Have you read ‘Fandom At The Crossroads: Celebration, Shame and Fan/Producer Relationships’ and ‘Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls’? We wrote about some of the problematic power relations in the face of the crumbling fourth wall in both books, focused on Supernatural – it’s interesting (and distressing) to see where those problematic relations are now taking us.

    1. I have not but I am going to now (I’m out of the loop academia-wise) because I am completely obsessed with the way this relationship works! Especially considering it should be really easy but it’s actually incredibly complex. Thanks for the heads up!

      1. If you would like a review copy of Fangasm, just let me know and I’ll relay the information to our publisher. You can email us at fangasmthebook@gmail! I think you’ll find Fandom At The Crossroads particularly helpful, since it’s our more academic take on the ‘reciprocal relationship’ (with input from fans, acafans, SPN cast and Kripke, Gamble, etc.) Keep us posted, we’re very curious to hear your thoughts!

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