FEELINGS… with The Geekiary: Ep 5
Erin, Tara, and Von have A LOT of FEELINGS about the backlash against feminist criticism, specifically in regards to Supernatural and Game of Thrones.
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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14 thoughts on “FEELINGS… with The Geekiary: Ep 5”
Supernatural Season 3 had four series regulars: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Lauren Cohan, and Katie Cassidy. The reception of the Ruby and Bela characters was lukewarm at best and did not seem to merit the increased costs associated with keeping these actors as series regulars. Throughout the show’s history, there have been issues with casting that have nothing to do with gender but more with cost and, more significantly, actor availability. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a classic case but more recently was the need to film the final episodes of Season 10 way out of sequence in order to accommodate Felicia Day. Jim Beaver has indicated that he turned down an offer to be a series regular so that he would be available for other roles. Please keep in mind as you criticize that there are many elements to be considered when making creative decisions regarding characters and plot lines that go way beyond ‘this show hates women.’ This is not to say that improvements could not be made. There always are. In everything (Mad Max: Fury Road comes to mind). Harping on one element as if that is the only or most important aspect of the show seems dismissive and disrespectful to everything else that people love about the show. Some balance (perhaps nuance) would be appreciated. It is clear what is hated but what is loved or appreciated? If this cannot be articulated, then is what’s really happening ‘hatewatching’ and is that really what you want to do? Also, given that so many shows are so quickly canceled these days before they have even a season to find their creative/emotional footing, it might be helpful to watch an entire season before pronouncing judgement or dismissing outright. Speaking for myself, a Supernatural fan from Day 1, if it makes you miserable, please do not watch or feel obligated to watch. Being told there is something you ‘must’ watch can be just as frustrating and insulting as being told there are things you ‘must not’ watch. But then, I am just a fan and these are just my feelings.
Hi, I think as a response to the “if you don’t like it, don’t watch” portion of your comment I’d like to direct you to my article here: https://thegeekiary.com/im-proud-to-be-a-social-justice-warrior/24830
I’m going to copy/paste the segment of that article that is most important:
“We aren’t asking for there to never be a show with a cisgendered heterosexual male protagonist ever again. In fact, I like a lot of actors who fit into this category and I don’t necessarily wish unemployment upon them… We are simply pointing out patterns that have emerged in the media we love and why we feel it’s a problem. This issue is much bigger than these two shows, but these are what we love, what’s happening now, and excellent examples of these system wide problems. In a way I wish these were isolated examples because then it’d mean that media is doing something right, but sadly this is the norm. All we want is for the norm to be better than this. We want the media we love to be better than this.”
We love Supernatural and we want it to be better. If we didn’t love it, we WOULD stop watching. We aren’t hate watching this show at all. We are watching it because we genuinely enjoy it. This criticism comes from a place of love, not hate. We want this thing that we love to be better.
As far as the rest of the comments go, I’m going to inform Erin that this comment is here since it was in reaction to her comments on casting choices. I do, however, want to point out that the poor audience reception to female characters and the viciousness towards any ‘threat’ of a love interest is something I’ve analyzed elsewhere in depth. It doesn’t, however, have anything to do with the content of the show but rather an analysis of fandom, which is not what this episode of the webcast, the article it was referencing, or my response to criticism with my own article are about at all. Perhaps I will write an article about that topic at a future time.
Also worth noting is that both Ruby and Bela died brutal deaths very quickly, which fit in with the theme of our argument.
Thank you for your reply. I have read the article you posted and quoted back in your response. To be honest, it felt a bit self-congratulatory and condescending to me when I read it and it still does. What might be helpful are examples of where things are ‘done right’ so that those of us who seem so in the dark have a better understanding of just what it is you want to see.
Orphan Black is very much ‘done right’ in regards to representation of women. Penny Dreadful is very much ‘done right’ in regards to representation of LGBTQ+. We still critique those shows, though. And as far as Supernatural, we say good things about that show very regularly in our reviews.
I’m sorry if you view that article as condescending, but I stand by every word of it. Including the part where I’m baffled that people view my position as a bad thing. I really don’t understand how wanting the shows I love to be better and treat under represented groups with more respect is at all something to be shamed for.
I do not view your position as a ‘bad thing’. I do resent the idea that your position is the correct one and all others fall short somehow. That is the feeling I got from your article. But I am just one person and I do not expect everyone to feel the same way I do.
Also, how should Bela and Ruby have gone out? Should they have not died at all? Bela made a demon deal and went out just like everyone else who has made such a deal, including Dean. Ruby was a demon who was an integral part of releasing Lucifer. Do they get passes somehow because they are women? Should those roles have been recast as men so that their deaths would somehow seem less ‘brutal?’
By stating that we think that characters shouldnt die because they are women, you are missing the point of our arguments. That is not the argument in the slightest. Our point is that a lot of media, including media we love such as Supernatural, frames women and their deaths much like the “Women in Refrigerators” trope. If you are unfamiliar with that trope, I recommend looking it up and reading Emily’s article about how it relates to Supernatural.
And yes, I do feel my position is correct. My position is that under represented groups should be respected more than current media currently does. And I don’t get the viewpoint that that should not be the case.
I am familiar with the trope. I just do not think that it is applied to every death. How would you have handled these character deaths?
Maybe have them more balanced out and not have so many women die to further men’s pain? There is a balance problem with the deaths and there’s also a framing issue. It’s like how on Game of Thrones they framed Sansa’s assault to push Theon’s pain. It’s just not right to do that to female characters so consistantly.
Of the two characters we are discussing, Ruby’s death was absolutely a fridging. I’ve seen debate about Bela but I tend to agree it counts too for Dean’s pain and turmoil.
So what would I change? Stop having women die, get tortured, or otherwise damaged to further men’s pain so consistantly. This show and these characters included, though not limited to just them.
What would your propose instead?
That there is more balance with deaths, women stop dying for men’s pain/motivation at the current rate it’s happening, sexual assault and exploitation of women stops happening for the benefit of male characters at the rate that it’s happening in media, and that under privileged groups get treated with the respect they deserve.
How would you address this specifically with Supernatural? Kill more males (Castiel, Cole, Crowley, Garth)? Should characters be created specifically to represent the under privileged just to have them on screen? Shoehorning in characters feels disrespectful and when done poorly (Season 3) reeks of Mary-Sue, which can be so drecky it makes my teeth hurt. Characters that work, like Charlie, are organic to the universe and serve to drive the story line. Supporting characters are supposed to serve as foils, motivation, and mirrors for the main characters. Ultimately, they are all servants to the plot. Should new main characters be added? Should the focus be taken off Sam and Dean? I agree that there should be more and better representation however, not when it is poorly done or done purely for fan service. In a way, this is can feel even more insulting than no representation. Believe me, I know.
I do recognize that violence against women is a problem. I deal with its ramifications every day in my work. I deal with the ramifications of violence against men and children as well. There are no special snowflakes in my world. For me, one of the best (and most useful) aspects of this show is the depiction of how these traumas and losses (and I don’t mean just deaths) impact the two main characters. Do I wish that we could see a better, more fair world depicted? Sure I do. However, I do not want to see a crappy, treacly world either. My concern is that someone might dismiss the show or form a negative opinion based purely on articles like this one. I don’t mean that the article should not have been written but a brief acknowledgement of what the show does right would have helped. ‘We’ve said great things about the show in other places’ doesn’t exactly work unless someone is willing to go and look for those other places. Given the reactionary nature and short attention span of some, I do not see this happening very often.
In regards to Game of Thrones (sigh), we are at the wack-a-doo part of the season where the plot is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. With this show in particular, I tend to wait for the entire season to roll out before making any judgement or opinions because the season are so short. Also, they have now entered into uncharted territory, away from the books, so it is hard to tell just what will happen. As much as I love the books and the show, problems abound everywhere right now. However, given that the story is incomplete, there is hope that these can be resolved to some extent by the time it is all written and done.
I would have Supernatural specifically balance the deaths out and stop having women (and POC) killed for male’s pain at the rate that it does. So pretty much exactly what I feel should be done for all media. I am very clear that I have no problem with shows led by white male protagonists. Otherwise I wouldn’t be watching this show at all because all 4 of the leads are white men. But we can diversify the secondary cast, perhaps promote more diverse characters to the same ranks as our second tier leads (Cas and Crowley), and stop killing them off in ways that focus on the white male’s pain at the rate it currently does so.
And I disagree with you completely on Game of Thrones but this thread comment is already going in circles as I’ve stated my point 3 times in almost the exact same wording each time and it’s still not somehow clear. I’m not sure if I want to do that with Game of Thrones too. So I’ll just leave it at “I disagree” with that one.
And yes, the article is critical and people may develop negative opinions of the show, but on this topic it is worthy of a critical look and a negative opinion. This article is about this one specific topic, not about the show over all. We will not dumb down our critique for people who can’t recognize that distinction. We are an analytical site. Always have been. Always will be. And sometimes, hey, we just plain squee about things too. This article we are referencing happens to tackle something that is not worthy of squee: the treatment of women on Supernatural and how that fits into the larger feminist critique of current media.
First of all, thank you for correcting me on the casting issue. As I mentioned in the webcast, I don’t consider myself a hugely active viewer of the show, and did not start watching it in “real-time” until about season 7, so anything prior to that was done in a binge-watch fashion, and the promotion of two female actors to regular cast was something that I overlooked.
As far as harping on one element of the show–that was kind of the point of the webcast. We were talking about the specific issue of fridging female characters and the misogyny of the show for this episode of the webcast. It is definitely not the only thing that I think of the show; it is simply an element of the show that I believe gets swept under the rug all too often. There are obviously far more elements of the show that I love than ones I dislike because I am still watching after 10 seasons (which is a huge time commitment!). In fact, I often point out fun elements that I love while doing the live tweets of the series from The Geekiary account on Twitter. The fact that you caught me on a single episode of the webcast in which we were focused on this one topic may make it seem like that is all I care about, but it is just one opinion that I have. If you stick around long enough, you will see that there are MANY instances where I will talk about the MANY things I love about the show–especially the cast.
I appreciate your response. I guess as someone who has watched from the beginning I am a bit sensitive to blanket statements made about the show that do not take history into consideration. I guess one of the things I really reacted to was your surprise in regard to the reaction people had regarding the article. It was as if everyone should have the same feelings or opinions regarding this issue and that felt a bit like a slap in the face. I am aware of the concerns being raised and understand that not everyone feels the same way I do. I think a reasoned discussion would be helpful, however, as usual with most things nowadays, it seems to be turned into a highlander episode: ‘There can be only one’ way to think or feel about something. That just turns me off from ever wanting to engage.
These types of issues have been around since before Shakespeare and the best way to make change, in my opinion, is to create work that provides different perspectives. I recognize that I do not have this talent and greatly appreciate those who do and put themselves out there.
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