Mama Bear & Goldilocks: The Supernatural Women

Okay, Supernatural was devoid of a recurring or permanent  female character in its first season. Most of the women who appeared were victims, though quite a few of them were sharp, smart and capable and not screaming damsels in distress. Some people could, and did, take issue with that.

The suits behind the show (or higher up) decided it would be a good idea to expand the Supernatural universe for the second season. I’d discuss how that expansion in and of itself does not make a whit of sense, but that’s a different gripe. My gripe is primarily the addition of two particular female, recurring (so far, sporadically) characters. I don’t argue the idea that women should be more than victims, or that the show could benefit from more females. However, let me give you a bio of them (and please keep in mind this is from my perspective; others might see them differenlty):

Ellen: Ellen is the older woman. She runs a bar that’s frequented by demon hunters. She apparently knew John Winchester, Sam and Dean’s dad. Now, John never mentioned Ellen or her demon hunters’ hang-out to his sons  - we’re told she and John had a bit of a falling out. Ellen isn’t a hunter herself, but it’s hinted at that she keeps tabs on her patrons’ hunts and activities. And, only days after meeting her, Sam has already started treating her like a parental figure, someone to turn to when he needs questions answered. She’s a mommy substitute (or, probably more accurately, a daddy substitute). There’s no reason the Winchesters should trust her or give her the time of day, given everything we know about them. Yet they keep running back to Mama Ellen.

Jo: Jo is Ellen’s daughter. What we’ve seen of her isn’t encouraging.  Initially, she brags about how all hunters want to get in her pants and she acts like she’s hot stuff. She comes on to Dean, who (for very good reasons) doesn’t respond. In finding a man who doesn’t want to bed her, Jo apparently sees him as a challenge. The next time we see her, she acts demure and shy and fetching around Dean. Who still doesn’t buy it, but damn if I don’t hear a shippy hammer o’ doom pounding off in the distance. Also, Jo has a wicked way with a video game shotgun and is panting to get herself on her very own hunt. She’s got skillz, and she wants to prove it. And she likes REO Speedwagon, which I suppose isn’t reason for condemnation…but then again.

So far, I believe it was better for Supernatural to remain without female representation, because what we’re getting is not impressive at all. Here’s hoping that if Ellen and Jo are permanent fixtures they start getting better characterization.

Comments

  1. SunlessNick says

    Ellen sounds ok to me, so long as her initial episodes involve the appearance of reasons for the boys to trust her. We know there’s a network among hunters, and I’d like to see recurring characters from among them. Characters.

    As for Jo, she sounds set up to be the arrogant but useless one. Or the apparently amazing, but really just insulated from challenge, one. I don’t look forward to either one.

    If they want a female hunter, someone kinda like Dean but female would make more sense. If they want a newbie female hunter, plenty of of the female victims from earlier were tough enough to make it in the lifestyle if they chose to take it up.

  2. sbg says

    Yeah. I don’t like Ellen, but I think it’s more the fact that the boys now have this convenient place to turn for answers (there’s another new recurring character that also serves in this capacity) than her, herself. Though I do think she’s acted entitled to information on their hunts, like somehow they owe it to her and other hunters to provide details. I’m still of the opinion that if John didn’t trust her enough to stay in contact, then his sons might reconsider.

    Jo’s just a complete pain in the tuckus as far as I can tell. I won’t lie and say part of my reaction to her is me feeling protective/territorial (god, how embarrassing to admit that!) of Dean, but most of it is just…her.

    If they want a female hunter, someone kinda like Dean but female would make more sense. If they want a newbie female hunter, plenty of of the female victims from earlier were tough enough to make it in the lifestyle if they chose to take it up.

    Yes! I could easily see Hailey from Wendigo or Sarah from Provenance. Both of them had chemistry with the brothers, brains and relatively steady nerves in the face of some pretty crazy stuff.

    I’d also like to see an established female hunter now and again.

  3. says

    I have to say that I like Ellen but I agree with sbg that she seems to be convenient for them to get answers. I mean, they did alright last season with little to no help.

    I don’t like Jo at all. It seems like Dean could snap her like a twig and she looks like she’s 15. But also, I don’t like the idea of the writers pairing these two up. Dean is an experienced hunter who’s been through a lot and Jo just doesn’t measure up. So why is it that Dean seems to be somewhat smitten? It would seem more in character to see her as some annoying little sister type who gets in everybody’s way.

    Personally I want to see a female hunter who’s older than Dean and has more experience and a mouth just as smart as his.

    And sbg, I feel the same way about Dean. If he’s gonna get shipped with some chick, I would prefer she was someone I approved of. She should be independant and have her own way of doing things. After all, most hunters work alone.

  4. MaggieCat says

    I’m still of the opinion that if John didn’t trust her enough to stay in contact, then his sons might reconsider.

    I think there’s a good chance that she was the one who told John to get lost. From what we’ve heard, almost everybody who knew him fought with him at some point (Bobby, the mechanic, was mentioned as having threatened to shoot John if he ever came back but he had no problem helping Dean and Sam.) John was a obsessive control freak and it’s a damn miracle he didn’t get himself killed years ago. Ellen told them that she offered to help when she heard that John was getting close to the demon and that makes me think that even if they had a falling out of some sort she was willing to move on because the hunt was more important. Considering how John didn’t even want his own sons to help (who had, presumably, been trained to his standards) I’m guessing he refused any help from anyone in the most dismissive manner possible.

    I’m reserving judgement on Jo for the moment because all I can think everytime she comes on screen is “Thank the gods it’s not Cassie.” (The reporter ex-girlfriend from Route 666 and it is so sad that I knew that off the top of my head.)

    In the interest of full disclosure, I have an irrational love for this show and cannot be expected to be at all unbiased. Particularly when the subject of John comes up: I’m still pissed about the whole dying nobly thing because I was quite comfortable in my loathing of his character. :-)

  5. sbg says

    Yeah, but John had pretty clear reasons why he acted the way he did, I think. Those weren’t apparent right away, but for him I think it was avenge his wife first…but protect his boys most importantly. He screwed up in the way he did it, I think, but given the circumstances? He raised good kids. But then, I’ve always loved John, even when frustrated with him.

    I guess Ellen just bugs me because she stepped right in and started demanding things of them…and that Sam seems to have no issue with that.

    I find it humorous that the two women specifically put in the show to have sparks with Dean have no sparks at all. I used to think JA could have chemistry with a plank of wood, until Cassie showed up, and now Jo’s just more of the same. Heh.

    Whoops, tangent. I guess I don’t think that a substitute parent and a love interest qualifies as good female characterization.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    It sounds like maybe – at least from your perspective – they’re not making it clear why these guys are accepting these new characters into their midsts. I think TV wisdom holds that if the main characters accept a new character or situation, the audience will accept right along with them. In fact, it often drives a wedge between the audience and the main characters, because we can no longer understand their thinking.

  7. SunlessNick says

    Most hunters, I would assume, treat the “lifestyle” as a necessary job, or possibly a higher calling. Jo, by the sound of it, is approaching it like a game or passtime. She’s going to be vindicated in this or she isn’t. If she isn’t, the writers risk painting her as the silly girl who must be shown the error of her silly ways. If she is, then that’s a slap to all the hunters that do take it seriously – and also to the various female victims who have needed the help of professional hunters – and to the sense of visceral danger to the hunt the writers have cultivated.

    It does occur to me that the eventual goal regarding Jo is for silly youngster rather than silly girl – age dynamics have been big a factor in the series so far – but I think that feel would need an older woman to be the one slap her down. Or Hailey.

  8. sbg says

    Part of that is true, but I also simply don’t like that the two recurring (man, I hope they either wise up and write them better or…kill them the heck off) female characters are all stereotype and no originality. Granted, they’ve had limited exposure, but I tend to gut react and stick with it. So far, my gut is balking with these two.

    We’re getting mixed messages from the guys: Sam seems to have no problem spilling his guts to Ellen, while Dean is wary. Sam completely disregards Jo (it’s like she’s invisible to him, seriously), while Dean has awkward interaction with her and acknowledges that she’s hot. (For the record, I’d dispute her hotness…).

    I’m left siding with Dean on Ellen and Sam on Jo. ;)

  9. sbg says

    Ellen isn’t terrible and I could take her in small doses. I do think, though, that they need to watch the parent substitute business very carefully. It’s great that they have a network as a resource now…I just don’t think it’s the wisest thing for them to run to mommy every time something comes up. So far, they’ve mentioned going to the Roadhouse in every episode, haven’t they?

    Just where is this magical building? It’s conveniently located to wherever the guys are, at all times. ;)

    Jo is…not well cast or written, if you ask me.

  10. MaggieCat says

    Yeah, but John had pretty clear reasons why he acted the way he did, I think. Those weren’t apparent right away, but for him I think it was avenge his wife first…but protect his boys most importantly. He screwed up in the way he did it, I think, but given the circumstances? He raised good kids. But then, I’ve always loved John, even when frustrated with him.

    I know that discussing John’s motivation is kind of off topic, but I still think it’s a miracle that he managed to raise such good kids. I think he was spending so much time driven by revenge that he completely disregarded what his children needed, and every time I think about ‘Something Wicked’ I want to call the Department of Fictional Child Welfare. If it turns out that Ellen disagreed with John over how he was dragging his kids all over creation and depriving them of any stability (two different issues, I know) I will love her. (Somebody needs to have told him that, and who better than another single parent? I just need to know someone told him that.) In a related note, this is why I don’t have trouble believing there’s a network of hunters out there that Dean and Sam didn’t know about- I can totally see John thinking that those people weren’t as committed as he was and keeping their influence away from Dean and Sam. I’d find it harder to believe if there wasn’t a hunter underground.

    We’re getting mixed messages from the guys: Sam seems to have no problem spilling his guts to Ellen, while Dean is wary.

    Dean has trouble opening up to anyone. How many times has avoided telling Sam something until it was practically dragged out of him? Whereas Sam is one of those people who wants to talk about things, so I do’t have a problem with him being more forthcoming. Sam has also shown a fairly decent radar for noticing when someone’s off- he didn’t like Gordon the vampire hunter from the beginning, Ellen just confirmed it- so if he trusts Ellen, I give that more weight than Dean not trusting her, if that makes any sense. I still feel like we haven’t really seen enough of her yet to condemn her, but if she’s going to be involved in the war with the Ceiling Demon that seems to be coming I agree that we’d better start seeing another layer or two.

    I used to think JA could have chemistry with a plank of wood, until Cassie showed up, and now Jo’s just more of the same.

    Cassie was a plank of wood, so sparks would have been very dangerous. ;-) (Over on the TWoP forums there was a long discussion over whether or not she counted as a prop because she was so wooden, heh.) We’ve seen less of Jo than we have of Ellen, if that’s possible, so I’m still neutral about her. I’m not getting the gut deep ‘Oh hell no’ reaction I did with Cassie, but I suppose that could be lingering Veronica Mars-related affection for Alona Tal.

  11. sbg says

    You said eventual goal for Jo…LOL, my dream eventual goal for her is for her to be eaten by a monster.

    Shame on me.

    I could probably understand her desire to hunt, given that’s the environment she’s been raised in, except she sees these hunters all the time and I’m certain at least some of them think the way you’ve described: it’s a job, and it’s a particularly nasty one at that. The ones who relish the hunt are, very likely, unbalanced in some way. Why would anyone WANT that?

  12. sbg says

    Cassie = mahogany
    Jo = honey maple

    They’re both without much personality to me – but then I don’t have a fondness for either actress based on previous roles. I have a feeling it makes a pretty big difference in how folks are reacting, because I do hear a lot of the “I like the actress from ___.” with those who can tolerate Jo better than I.

  13. SunlessNick says

    The only reason to want it is to think in terms of the saving people part, and think it’s worth enough doing to want it in spite of the risk. I’d buy that attitude from both Hailey and Sarah (to bang on about them).

    But those who relish it in any other context, or for any other reason, ought to be dead people walking. The atmosphere the series has created preculed treating the hunt as anything but deadly serious.

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