Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Women of Supernatural- Part II
"Which is ironic because I ignored Supernatural for ages for the sole reason that I'd read discussions of its problematic treatment of women, framed to suggest a conscious backlash against BtVS (Now BtVS, at its most basic level, was of course about subverting the horror movie cliché of the blonde girl victim, and sure enough Supernatural - in its very first episode - has not one but two blonde women meeting horrible ends in order to further the plot and motivate our two (male) protagonists). And - given that - it's doubly ironic my fannishness has reached critical mass now, when SPN fandom is currently exploding over the subject of misogyny in the series."
What do other fans think? Here's a comment from Kricka:
"I have just recently read some stuff that blames Kripke and the fans of being misogynisitic, and I think that is bunk! There are women on the show that are weak, ones that are bad, and ones that are very capable. Just like in real life. I take offense in the notion that all women must be portrayed as strong, brilliant and feisty, and only that. Because as humans, we come in all forms.
"There happens to be a lot of demons in the show who are women, but I think that is just because the main characters are men, and it works storywise to have a beautiful, alluring woman to try and trap a man. There are female characters who regularly take charge, and don't let those boys push them around.
"I suppose my only complaint would be the plethora of blondes (really, there are a ton of them), and that Ellen's character was supposedly dumped because the actress was too old. She was awesome! It would be nice to have more older characters on TV in general, but this is a negative that happens in ALL television, not just Supernatural."
Finally, a comment from TRoss:
"At first glance it might seem easy to pigeon-hole the ladies of Supernatural as either damsels in distress (how many grateful kisses have been bestowed upon those boys?) or whorish demons (ever notice how many of the actual demons are women?). But the truth is, Supernatch has done a bang up job of representing both genders equally. As it stands, there have been about 20 malicious male beings, and approximately 20 phantom femme fatales (yeah, I actually counted). And when it comes to representing the fairer sex, the ratio of damsels in distress versus smart & sassy ladies is just as equally represented. For every preacher's daughter or helpless mom, we've also seen a feisty art dealer, or an even more feisty barmaid. Or a Bela and a Ruby.
"But the real problem lies not in how female characters are represented on the show, but rather, why they don't stick around. Even their mother finds little screen time on the show. Show creator Kripke often speaks about how attuned he is to the opinions of the fans, and takes a lot of pride in listening to them. While that's really flattering for fans, that's the WORST thing you could do for your story. Negative fan reactions are responsible for the departure of at least two of the show's few recurring female characters - Jo (Dean's feisty love interest), and now Bela. Kripke's getting paid to create the story, not the fans, and this is not American Idol - fan input is NOT required. It's Kripke's damn story, and if he thought Bela's storyline had promise, he should have had the balls to see it through. A very wise, and very successful writer-producer by the name of Joss Whedon (anyone ever hear of a small little show called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"?) had this to say when it came to fan opinions: "Don't give people what they WANT, give them what they NEED."
"Bela may not have been well-liked to begin with (god knows I didn't like her), but turning fan opinion around through a great reveal would have been highly rewarding for the audience. A prime example - Sawyer on Lost. He started out at the bottom of the opinion polls, but after a well-crafted reveal, he's become one of the most popular and beloved characters on the show. I'm not saying Bela would have reached that stature, but she had promise - a lot of promise based on the short reveal we were given before she was given the ax - and the actress who played her, Lauren Cohan, her was phenomenal.
"And then there's Jo - what a wasted opportunity that was. From the beginning we've been led to believe what Dean's character wants most in life, and believes he can never have, is a family and someone to love. Well there was Jo - Dean's equal in both feistiness and heart. How rewarding would it have been for the audience to witness Dean find his way to happiness with someone who was his equal, and brought out the best in him? Now that would have been character representing the women positively on the show - something besides the damsel or the whore. And a great character to fill the female void on the show, as well as in the boys' lives.
"As for Ruby, she seems to be as equally hated by fans as Bela was, and therefore probably not long for this world. But come on, Supernatural fans, we need some other characters with which the boys can interact - someone their characters can grow from through their interaction - because really, how many times can they kill off Dean?"
Thank you LisiBee, Kricka, and TRoss for your thoughts and insights. How do you feel, readers?