Is Supernatural: Homophobic?

supernatural2241Now 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.

and…

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.

tumblr_mam7r4mGpR1r7u1uko1_500Charlie 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.

25 thoughts on “Is Supernatural: Homophobic?

  1. Hi, hello. What about Lily? Although she was only in one episode, she canonically stated that she had a girlfriend (that she accidentally killed), and it was not for the amusement of the audience, nor was it necessary for the plot. She was just a woman who had been cursed with powers that killed her partner, incidentally also was a woman. I mean she was a very minor character, but I think it might be worth mentioning. Otherwise I’ve really enjoyed the series and, even as a fan of the show, I think it’s well worth talking about these issues that you have presented.

  2. The show might not be “homophobic” but Dean’s character is (or at least that’s what I can perceived). It seems like in order for a “macho” guy to be a badass of a character, he needs to be a d*ck head first. I don’t get that whole notion at all. And what’s with Dean telling Castiel “you are *not* gonna die a virgin. Not on my watch.” Again, using this as a way to prove someone’s sexuality and what better way for a guy to do so by having sex with a woman. The writers are obviously so out of touch. To be honest, this in fact is a bit disappointing and this coming from a big Supernatural fan.

    • So, I’m gay and I only got into SPN a few years ago, but I’ve watched through the series several times and I haven’t ever really felt the show was homophobic and I never felt that Dean was either. After having seen up to season 8.5 I googled is Castiel in Love with Dean? and Are Dean and Castiel in Love? because I thought it was very clear that they were. Once I felt this way, upon watching the show I feel like I viewed all of Dean’s actions through the lens of someone trying to conceal their sexuality. Dean couldn’t be bisexual or gay because John wasn’t bisexual or gay. By his own admission most of his identity is copied from his father, and what little is truly him is mostly focused on saving Sammy and protecting people, something ingrained into him since he was 4. So even if Dean is actually gay, he probably never expressed it, probably never was with a man and any time anything comes up that could possibly shine a light on who he is, he gets uncomfortable. He makes jokes at Sam’s expense because he’s deflecting. These jokes, Sam always just brushes aside because he is very clearly straight and very clearly ok with his own sexuality and others. I would even say it could easily be argued that Sam knows Dean isn’t straight considering how ridiculously close they are both emotionally and physically, even if Dean has never said it. Over the last few years, Dean’s attitude towards gay people seems to have changed dramatically, in “Everybody Hates Hitler” Dean seemed disappointed when he found out he wasn’t actually being hit on by a gay man.

      This is before I even touch his relationship with Castiel which I think started as a friendship and grew to the point of intense emotional and I would even argue physical connection. Just because it hasn’t happened on screen doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, I mean there is so much subtext it’s practically text. I personally think if Sam walked in on Dean and Castiel cuddling or holding hands he wouldn’t bat an eye, and no one else would either. Dean might try and pull away and deny it for a second before giving up. I think if the writers wanted to really make that leap with Dean it could be done very well, done in a way that fits perfectly into the characters established history and would have little impact on him, except for making him maybe just maybe less of a tortured soul since now he can truly have a part of his identity that is his own hard fought part, and he would be with the man, er.. angel he loves.

      I think Dean being a Demon could really be an amazing opportunity, if they took the fact that he was made a demon by the mark of cain and not by being twisted in Hell, they might be able to sell Dean’s coming out as his Demon self finally letting go of his inhibitions and his cares and doing what HE WANTS finally and having what he wants be Cas. I would be 100% on board as long as he stayed that way after he was cured, though I suppose he would have to if the sell was that the Demon!Dean just revealed Dean’s true personality to a degree.

      Sorry if that was stupid and rambling

      • I feel the exact same way as you!

        Sam has even said at one point (I think in one of the earlier seasons, after someone mistakes them for a couplen) that Dean comes across as over-compensating. I always read Dean as someone raised much more entrenched in the hunter culture (where Sam had more distance), and thus he’s internalized this ideology of macho masculinity. Everything from his popped collars to talk about “chicks” rings false, if he is putting on an act of toughness.

        Over the seasons, the act has softened as Dean has matured. He went from showing shame over his emotions to openly hugging everyone! Early Dean couldn’t even have a relationship with Jo without trying to force some kind of (creepy) sexual aspect to it. But Dean matured to the point where he can have emotionally healthy relationships with other people, such as Benny and Charlie.

        And I totally agree that Demon!Dean would be a perfect opportunity to finally confront who he really is.

  3. As someone else commented earlier, Lily is definitely worth mentioning. Although she was a very minor character she showed that not all homosexual characters storylines have to be centered around the fact that they’re gay. Also with as many times as Crowley has kissed men on the show (including a main character) no I don’t think it’s homophobic. As for Dean’s sexuality, they’re have been instances where his sexuality could easily be put into question. I mean he likes woman that’s obviouse, and has been proven on multiple occasions, but for example when Sam has that dream about Bella and Dean is trying to guess who the dream was about the first two things he says is Angelina Jolie, and then Brad Pitt. He doesn’t ask about multiple females first, he just jumps straight to a male actor on his second guess, also there’s the more recent example of Dean’s gay thing, which he wouldn’t call his gay thing of there hadn’t been some kind of attraction on his part, he didn’t just say “I don’t swing that way” like he normally would in a situation like this instead he got really nervous, and acted the way someone commonly would when placed in front of a crush. There’s also the possibility that he has always kind of known that he had an interest in men but repressed it because 1. John probably wouldn’t except him. 2. His “Macho” ladies man exterior which he uses to hide his self hatred prevents him from being “allowed” to have feelinngs toward men. Besides even if he isn’t technically bisexual he has shown obvious examples of romantic feelings toward Cas, which Cas has reciprocated multiple times. Even if he doesn’t like men, isn’t it possible that he could just genuinely be in love with Cas?

  4. this was written quite a while ago. and since then we’ve seen Aaron bass who sexuality is never really disclosed. I enjoyed him as a character but still he’s not as proud as Charlie was. charlie is an awesome character I really love her. we see many women fall under her charms and that’s great. but still just like so many other instances in pop culture it just seems like supernatural is far more comfortable showing a lesbian romance then one between two men. gay relationships between men have been ridiculed more than once on the show and I’m a huge fan but it is hurtful. I don’t want to see Dean and Castiel have a romance and I definitely don’t want to see Dean and Sam have a romance. but is it really too much to ask to see a gay male character who kicks much ass is Charlie. I mean we see Charlie in the ferry kissing but we never see a male on male relationship that isn’t supposed to be humorous. its pretty disappointing

  5. I don’t think supernatural could be called homophobic but in today’s society where being gay is garnering increasing acceptance it seems a bit odd that they haven’t had more openly gay characters.
    I fully agree that Charlie is perhaps one of the best lesbian characters on TV because she is far from a stereotype but she is only one character.
    Crowley is sexualy ambiguous and perhaps bisexual but this is never dealt with in a serious manner and is more for comic relief (not that I’m against that).
    Personally I would like more side characters to be gay in but in a casual way, also if Dean did happen to come out as bisexual then I would be pretty damn happy but I wouldn’t hinge my watching the show on that premise.

  6. I know for me that I would love to see Dean Winchester as a bi or pan character because I’m pansexual and it would be awesome to have a strong, masculine main character having some kind of homosexual relationship. All the queer characters so far have been very minor and yes while I do ship Dean and Cas I wouldn’t really mind if that never happened. I just feel that they have a great chance with Dean and as he is my favourite character it would be amazing to have him representing the gay community.

  7. I actually think Crowley is one of the best bisexual characters ever portrayed in any entertainment medium. Sexuality is a total non-issue with him. Finally, there is no need to point and throw confetti and hang up signs and shout, “Hey, look! It’s a queer character! Aren’t we so great for having a queer character?” This blog post doesn’t even mention him as a queer character, and yet we’ve seen him openly kiss and flirt with both men and women. I think we’ve only seen him sleep with a female demon, but we’ve seen him kiss more men — and we never had to endure a very special episode of Crowley coming out of Hell’s closet. He’s the King of Hell; he’s got more important stuff going on. Also, he’s been around since the 18th century. My guess is he dealt with any sort of sexual identity crisis many years ago and is now pretty comfortable in his own (borrowed) skin.

    Crowley’s sexuality is explored every bit as casually as is the sexuality of the show’s other main characters. Sometimes, it’s funny. Sometimes, it’s goal-oriented. Sometimes, it shows him as vulnerable or (gasp!) almost human. Always, it takes a backseat to the business of staying alive (alive-ish, in Crowley’s case). We’ve seen him with both men and women, but it’s never been the defining aspect of his character. He’s not even shy about gender swapping (he once used Mrs. Tran as a meat suit). Sexuality, like most things, is merely a means to an end for Crowley. The character is all about ambition. We’re so busy watching him manipulate the other characters for his own personal aims that we hardly notice the casual bits of his sexuality that are just slipped in alongside with rest of the story. That’s a good thing. Not every queer character needs a sexually charged story; they can be bi while pursuing other goals — like, say, ruling over a pit of eternal damnation and torment.

    I find a low-key portrayal of a character as bi without making a big deal out of his sexuality to be rather refreshing. The fact that he is one of what we might argue are now the four main characters of the show is a pretty good indication that the show isn’t homophobic.

    • Palabra, I agree 100%
      I’d like to add a different perspective on the gay jokes and awkward reaction Dean has when he finds out Damian and Barnes are a couple. His only problem with anyone who’s gay is that he’s not sure how to react correctly in a situation he has very little experience with. He’s got the same kind of awkwardness with the D.A. who happens to be a little person.
      Think about it, these guys grew up in a less P.C. time. I’m the same age and when I was growing up everything was “gay” or “retarded” when we teased each other. I associated it with double dog dares and I know you are but what am I, and it had nothing to do with actual gay or disabled people. Thankfully people are less ignorant now.
      When Dean teases Sam it’s meant in the same juvenile way whether it’s about being gay, a nerd or tall.
      I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying there’s not always a deeper meaning behind it. It’s just Dean being a dumbass.
      I do think he deals with Charlie differently because she’s a lesbian. He’s more comfortable with her because they have the common ground of being into girls. He knows how to relate to her.
      You can completely accept something and still be a complete dumbass (unintentionally.) I speak from experience.

      You can also love someone deeply and platonically. Dean has said many times and in many way that he considers Cass family and that he loves him as much as he loves Sam. THe subtext isn’t sexual it’s species related.

      • I agree with you. I relate to women who likes men, but not to women who like women. When around those kinds of women I am awkward not hating on them.

      • Ok, you nailed it. I started watching supernatural only a few weeks ago, but was somewhat bothered by people trying to make Dean’s closeness to Cass into something romantic. I really wouldn’t have minded Dean being gay / bisexual. However, it doesn’t make sense that the same people supporting a boy – girl relationship without romance on it are claiming that Dean is in love with Castiel just because of how close they are. Also, it is true that in order to understand someone, you should take a look at how he was raised. Dean being born in the 70s and being raised as ‘a macho hunter’ explains why he makes those (quite r——d although funny) comments.

  8. 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.

    This paragraph is my favourite and shows the most accurate vision about what happens with SPN and the homo-tension-queerbaiting matter that I have ever read. Jensen Ackles as many ultra-attractive males before, will have to deal with gay rendition to über-hübsch looks. It’s anybody’s fault.

  9. Can we bring in the law of politeness? In hexrpg, when you throw one hex of prank and other say ‘no’, no is respected. The point is, Jensen and Jared play their roles given by SPN, had aboslutely intend not to upset fans and might not reveal what they thinking. Those who said: ‘destiel’, I have no comment. Again, when feel bad by other said, other said bear consequences when offended. I try not to put limelight on actors, eventually in time they show they are married, looking to be respected. Why shippers take it so hard M/M, spoke out their opinion is fine, but if don’t respect wanting a huge gigantic argument is their fault because I’m bringing law of politeness again.
    No matter what in any person fallen in love with, guys to girls, girls to guys, we always looking for each other’s manners and civility. Since when those pairing M/M give this a care.

  10. Thinking along the line characters aren’t Crowley. I remembering before Crowley making appearance, it’s Dean kissing woman to make deal before stab. Crowley doesn’t want him to go around hurting so he’s indifference to sexual orientation. Somehow it started spark Supernatural from start that Dean is a bit horny to flirt, and Winchesters family never rule out, with conversation about having friends than looking for love relationships. Writers aren’t sure what to write about Supernatural when they all filmed in series, thinking SPN is work centric and relationships from start is about Dean likes girls, before exploring themes of sexual tension.
    Everything is really new to Jensen, in terms of relationships, even when married. I know fans want to see more, but… seriously? How many times you want Jensen be uncomfortable, for what is written in script? His background story is growing up with parents, he’s not love professional but actor!

  11. Spoliers for season 11 and 12 Yo, GOD is now bi/pan(sexual) and there was 2 or 3 gay/lesbian couples in season 11 and Crowley is def pan/bi(sexual) at this point considering slipped into a female “meatsuit” and had an orgy with another couple for the hell of it.There has already been a gay POC character in season 12. And they were all very casual about their sexuality, as in that wasn’t their only defining characteristic. They were introduced as people and then their sexuality was just casually slipped in there because it doesn’t solely define them. I think that Supernatural has had trouble in the past bordering on the edge of homophobia, but they have definitely improved with time.

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