Now here we are at the last and final installment of this little series. I looked at the accusations that Supernatural is sexist and racist, and now it’s time for the last question: is Supernatural homophobic?
Supernatural has been accused of being homophobic by fans and non-viewers alike. This is sometimes because of the actual portrayal of gay characters in the show, but sometimes because of fan pairings. Fans have also accused Supernatural of not being daring enough with certain characters’ sexualities when they have the opportunity to. So let’s take a look at homosexuality in Supernatural to figure this all out.
So let’s talk about the portrayal of homosexuality in Supernatural. There aren’t many gay characters in Supernatural and no recurring ones (at least not until recently). The gay characters that have made appearances on the show are Corbett, Demian and Barnes, and Charlie Bradbury.
Corbett is a character from season three who works for the Ghostfacers as an intern/cook. Though it’s not obvious right away, it’s eventually revealed that Corbett has a crush on Ed Zeddmore, one of the main Ghostfacers. Corbett is sadly killed by the ghost the team is investigating. Corbett’s ghost, however, returns and after Ed telling him that he loves him, Corbett finds the strength to fight the ghost that killed him, saving the Ghostfacers, and Sam and Dean. So here we have a gay character that becomes a hero. Granted he has to die to do it, but still a heroic gay character! Yay! So what is problematic about this episode? Well, it’s the treatment of the relationship between Corbett and Ed.
Ed, you’ve got to go be gay for that poor dead intern. You got to send him into the light.
Yeah. Heh heh. And here we were thinking that, you know, we were teaching you and all this time you were teaching us; about heart, about dedication, and about how gay love can pierce through the veil of death and save the day. Thank you, Alan J. Corbett.
Oh, God, really! Corbett and everything he sacrificed is made into a joke. His love for Ed is made out to be something funny. And sure these lines were funny, but it’s not portraying the relationship as serious. What this kind of treatment basically says is, “See, he’s gay, but Ed doesn’t really care about him. It’s all just supposed to be funny so it’s okay that he’s there.”
Heterosexual relationships are never shown as something laughable and silly, but using homosexuality and gay characters in this way fast becomes a theme in Supernatural.
Demian and Barnes are two other gay characters that appear in season five at the first ever Supernatural convention, dressed as Sam and Dean. Throughout the episode no indication, or at least, very little indication of their sexuality is given. However, after helping Sam and Dean defeat a horde of little kid ghosts (the creepiest kind), Dean having bonded with Demian and Barnes asks them how they met. It’s then that Demian and Barnes reveal that they are partners.
One of the things I love about the gay characters of Supernatural is that none of them are stereotypically gay. Supernatural has gone out of its way not to stereotype gay people. Now, this is thanks to good writing or simply so they can hilariously reveal that “These people are gay! Isn’t it funny?”
Whatever the case, Demian and Barnes’s big reveal as being a gay couple seemed more to be for laughs, to make Dean uncomfortable, and for fan service. Since Demian and Barnes were cosplaying as Sam and Dean and are dating, thus making it funny because Dean’s uncomfortable and supplying fan service to all the Wincest shippers.
Charlie Bradbury, who appeared in season seven and is played by the awesome Felicia Day, has the distinction of being the first and only lesbian character on the show. She is written remarkably well. However, the show falls back on the same old reveal “she is gay for laughs” thing that it does. However, this time the show does a little better. Charlie is revealed as being gay and it’s only funny because she is supposed to be flirting her way past a male security guard and she doesn’t know how to flirt with guys. The reason I like this better is that her homosexuality isn’t being used to make someone uncomfortable, nor is any relationships she might have played off as a joke. Though it isn’t perfect, I would actually argue that Charlie is one of the best lesbian characters I have ever seen on TV. So… go Supernatural!
While there are no other gay characters, there are many gay jokes at Sam and Dean’s expense throughout the show. Characters that don’t know Sam and Dean are related often mistake the brothers for a gay couple. This is done again both for fan service, and for laughs by making Sam and Dean uncomfortable. While this is mostly from the fact that Sam and Dean are brothers and not a gay couple, this does tend to hurt in some ways the portrayal of homosexuality, by turning a gay relationship into something laughable instead of a serious relationship like any other.
The other big issue is many fans in the Supernatural fandom truly feel that certain characters are queer. I have already written about Dean and Castiel’s sexualities, and how they can be interpreted, but some fans feel so strongly that Dean is bisexual and that he and Cas should be in a relationship that they literally feel it is ridiculous that they aren’t in a relationship. Many fans further point out that if Castiel was a girl he and Dean probably would be together already. Well, I have written about this issue, too. So without going into detail, I think it is kind of sad that in pop culture no one can just be friends. Yes, if Cas was a girl, he probably would have hooked up with one of the brothers and that’s upsetting. A girl can never just be friends with a boy, and now apparently, no one can be friends without there being some underlying sexual tension.
I think some fans would also like to see Dean as a bisexual character simply because he would be an excellent gay character. Dean is one of the main protagonists. His sexuality is not ignored, nor is it the sole focus of his character. If he were gay, the gay community would sing Supernatural‘s praises… maybe.
If Dean had originally been written as a gay character, then that would definitely be the case, but at this point, while it could make sense if done well (again, see my post about Dean’s sexuality), it could also seem like slap-dash fan service. Since Dean wasn’t originally written as a gay character, that means that the writers would have to explain why we’ve never seen him with men before, and why he is hooking up with guys now. A lot of people came down on Joss Whedon for Willow, saying the whole thing was fan service, even though Willow is a really awesome gay character. I feel if the writers took Dean in that direction the same thing could happen. It might be awesome, but it wouldn’t be as perfect as it could have been.
So is Supernatural homophobic? I don’t think so. I think there are some problematic elements, but overall I think the writers try to portray gay characters well, and though there are some problems, for the most part I think they do a good job.
Do you think Supernatural is homophobic? Let me know in the comments.