For those unaware of the premise behind Supernatural, it’s a series about two brothers (and occasionally their father) who are on the road, hunting demons. It’s basically a monster-of-the-week show, with the added bonus of a very strong familial bond and an underlying “big” demon theme directly involving the family – Dean, Sam and John Winchester.
The lovely Aizjanika pointed me toward discussions at the LiveJournal community Metafandom (and elsewhere, I’m sure) that have revolved around the lack of a strong female character on the show, some implicating Supernatural goes a long way to cut down the uber-feminism portrayed in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.
This can be explained by the fact that it is, after all, the hero’s prerogative to save the day, and Sam and Dean — the heroes of Supernatural — are both male. But the masculinity the characters attempt to embody is one which reinterprets tropes which were introduced into the postmodern horror genre by Buffy, and the ways in which Supernatural seeks to recontextualise these images is distressingly easy to read as an attempted regression away from the new frontiers opened up by Buffy.
Other essays and points of view disagree quite a bit.
Supernatural has its share of damsels in distress, but I don’t view that as necessarily anti-feminist or anything. The main characters are all male; they’re going to be flirting with girls. And there were noteable exceptions to the damsel in distress rule. Fred-who-wasn’t-Fred in “Dead in the Water” was, yeah, a nice sweet mom, but she did fight against getting pulled under and she took the initiative to kiss Dean in the end. The girl in “Asylum” fired a shotgun, talked to a ghost, and dumped her boyfriend. The girl in “Scarecrow” (I suck at names, can you tell?) burned the tree that was animating the fugly zombie dude. The girl in “Wendigo” complimented Dean’s car and was determined to go find her brother.
All comparisons to Buffy aside (I don’t think she was as uber-feminist as some), is Supernatural anti-feminist simply because the two main characters are male?
I tend to fall on the side of the second essay, to be honest. I’m all for strong, ass-kicking females…but they have to make sense within the context of the show. Supernatural quickly established itself as a show about the brothers. There are damsels in distress, but there are also dudes in distress. The female victims of the week that left a lasting impression on me were often portrayed as strong, capable women, even if they weren’t regulars on the show. They’re not all young and beautiful. Well, most of them are, but most of them aren’t flail-the-arms-and-scream victims, either.
I’ll also admit the thought of TPTB adding a female, ass-kicking demon hunter to the show simply to “balance things out” makes me absolutely cringe. The family dynamic works as is, and though I would not mind if the Winchesters ran into female hunters during their journeys…a full time or even frequently recurring female would be there only as a token and would upset the good formula they already have. I live in fear.
And does that, I wonder, make me anti-feminist?