I basically live for representation of LGBTQ+ characters. As a bi person, I’m especially starved for good bi representation. Unfortunately, such characters are especially difficult to come by. Then there are wonderful characters who could be great bisexuals, and that’s where headcanons come in. A headcanon is something that is not explicitly stated in the text, but doesn’t contradict it either, and you like to imagine it’s true. It’s not as great as actual representation, but it can be great fun and provide comfort when actual representation isn’t there. So, today I want to share with you my Top 10 characters whom I like to imagine are bisexual and who would make excellent representation if they were made canonically bisexual.
I have actually been keeping up, more or less, with this season of Supernatural, and despite everything… I’ve kind of… been enjoying myself? Don’t get me wrong; the show still fails on every feminist count: the only people of color are demons (and even then, they’re rare); there are dead women in almost every episode, and the queerbaiting is still outrageous. But Supernatural has been, well, somewhat entertaining. The 200th episode was excellent, and many of the other episodes were also pretty fun. Unfortunately, the writers don’t seem to know what they want to talk about in Season 10, and they seem to be using Season 8’s strategy of throwing every possible plot at a wall and seeing what sticks. This in turn has led to a lot of plotlines with good potential being left by the wayside.
Spoilers after the jump.
Supernatural hasn’t always had the best track record with its fandom. The show is about two cishet, white male brothers and their white-male-bodied, written-as-cishet angel friend, but its enthusiastic, mostly-female fandom has constantly reinterpreted the show as either a forbidden love story between two brothers (Wincest) or a star-crossed romance between an angel and a hunter (Destiel). This isn’t a unique problem—many shows with a primarily male ensemble cast have fans who ship one or more of the male characters together. However, the reaction to such shipping has been almost exactly the same across the board: discomfort verging on disgust. As New Statesmen writer Laurie Penny says of the BBC’s Sherlock, a show which is also about two white men:
The discomfort seems to be not that the shows are being reinterpreted by fans, but that they are being reinterpreted by the wrong sorts of fans – women, people of colour, queer kids, horny teenagers, people who are not professional writers, people who actually care about continuity (sorry). The proper way for cultural mythmaking to progress, it is implied, is for privileged men to recreate the works of privileged men from previous generations whilst everyone else listens quietly.
In short, it doesn’t seem to be fandom that these producers are uncomfortable with—it’s female fandom. Men can loudly proclaim themselves to be fans, geeks, and nerds in real life (J. J. Abrams, Mark Gatiss, Peter Jackson), and they can seek to recreate the stories they loved as children (Star Trek, Sherlock, Lord of the Rings). But when women want to recreate their own stories, they’re uniformly shamed for it.
Supernatural takes this general disregard for women even further—there’s hardly an episode where a (conventionally attractive) woman doesn’t die, and the main characters are misogynistic in both their dialogue and their actions. With this sort of background, it’s hard to believe that the 200th episode, meant to be an homage to the show’s fans, would be any good. Dean’s actor, Jensen Ackles, even gave an interview where he said “[The episode is a] bit of a throwback to the fans… some fans who may have had some interesting, objectionable ideas about the show, or maybe some complaints about the show, or whatever, might want to pay attention, ‘cause we might be calling you out on it.”
“Objectionable ideas” about the show? Given all of Supernatural’s history, it didn’t sound promising. Yet Supernatural’s 200th episode, “Fan Fiction”, succeeded in being an homage to its fans—and it also succeeded at legitimizing and celebrating female desires, something it has never done nor even shown the slightest desire to do in the past.
Spoilers for all of “Fan Fiction” below.
Supernatural is back with a bang… well, more of a whimper. Even though I haven’t been Supernatural’s biggest fan in the last few seasons, I still thought the premiere would be exciting, somewhere under all the misogyny and white characters. But the premiere ended up raising more questions than it answered, and not in a plotty way, either. Spoilers after the jump!
Watch out, world. In just one short week, Supernatural will be returning to a television or computer near you for its tenth season. “But how?!” I hear you saying. “How did they get a tenth season?!”
Nobody knows how. They probably made a deal.
I often revisit old columns to get ideas for new posts, and Lady Geek Girl’s post on the magic in Welcome to Night Vale is one that’s stuck with me for a while. The strange and popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale makes the abnormal normal, and uses it to critique some of the ideas we have about our society. If you’ve heard any of the Night Vale episodes, you’ll know that Night Vale is the weirdest place ever, full of carnivorous librarians, dog parks with no dogs, and strange floating cats. (Also, actual diversity in its cast. Hah.) Possibly the only normal thing about Night Vale is Cecil and Carlos’s relationship, and the storytelling focuses on this more than it does the abnormal, things. The audience thus gets the reinforced message that yes, the entire world is crazy, but this gay relationship is normal, disabled people should be treated with respect, pronoun choice should be followed, and racism shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s really shockingly effective. And the interesting thing is, when you take this idea and turn it around—when you make the normal abnormal—you can teach lessons and explore characters just as effectively.
Spoilers for Supernatural and Doctor Who below.
One of the most common answers to the “So what do you believe?” question is “I’m spiritual, but not religious”. More and more people are identifying as spiritually inclined without the attachments to any formal religion or philosophy. Plenty of self-identified religious folk tend to consider this “just plain old laziness”, but I think there’s something more to it. What’s making being spiritual but not religious so popular, and a successful storytelling tool?
Magic that fucks around with identity is, frankly, terrifying. Whether it’s something as simple as a Polyjuice Potion, which allows you to take on another person’s appearance, or something as dramatic as traveling to an alternate universe where your life is markedly different, identity magic is, at its core, an affront to autonomy. In essence, someone is using your face to effect changes in your life without your consent.
The easiest example of the evil identity thief that I could think of is, of course, from Supernatural. The series offers two different examples of magical creatures who can steal your appearance: shapeshifters and Leviathans. Both of these creatures are shown appearing as Sam and Dean while getting up to nasty business; indeed, it’s thanks to a shapeshifter that Dean was being hunted by the FBI throughout Season 3. The show also deals in body-switching and AU scenarios in various episodes, allowing the characters to run the gamut of uncomfortable situations you can experience when you’re displaced from the body and environment you’re supposed to be in. Welcome to Night Vale, not to be outdone, gave us a plethora of identity magic issues all in one episode.
Popular media is making teensy tiny strides in queer representation, but it’s still light years behind where it should be. One of the many issues in today’s portrayal of LGBTQ+ people in media is that their stories are often tragic. Queer characters may exist in a universe, but in all likelihood their relationships, if they’re lucky enough to initiate them, will fail, and they themselves may very well die or disappear.
The ubiquity of this trope occurred to me recently when I was listening to Part 2 of Welcome to Night Vale’s 2nd Anniversary episode. As part of the conclusion of the episode, which wrapped up the recent Strexcorp invasion storyline, everyone and everything that wasn’t from Night Vale was ejected from the town. Unfortunately, this included Carlos, Cecil’s boyfriend, who’s now trapped in an alternate dimension. Their relationship has mostly been smooth sailing up to this point, and I can’t fault the WtNV writers for introducing some new conflict into the storyline now that Strex is gone and a mayor has been elected. But still, I was kind of sad because Cecil and Carlos’s problem-free relationship, while somewhat unrealistic for any humans, queer or not, was a safe space of angst-free queer love. I certainly haven’t found anything like that in other media; in other media being queer is apparently the equivalent of using a black cat to break a mirror underneath a ladder on Friday the 13th.
A couple days ago I posted an In Brightest Day about how pop culture likes to present mental hospitals as horrible, abusive institutions. Very rarely do I ever see them represented in a positive light, and I think there’s a reason for that. It’s easy to demonize mental hospitals for the sake of horror, and since mental hospitals have a bad reputation in the public consciousness, that horror can sink deep. After all, what’s scarier than a place that can hurt you under the false pretense of healing? Especially when no one else will believe anything you say because they also think you’re insane?
This idea, presented over and over again, discourages people with actual mental disorders from seeking help, and even more upsetting, many of these narratives are not even about people with mental disabilities. While this isn’t true for all of these stories—the villains in Batman do need help, and Niki from Heroes suffered from dissociative identity disorder—it’s certainly true for enough of them. Refusing to give the titular characters mental disabilities increases the horror aspect of mental hospitals. After all, it’s bad enough these hospitals can hurt you and no one will believe anything you say, but what if you don’t even belong there? What if you’re institutionalized against your will? Or for the wrong reasons? As such, the characters who actually are mentally disabled end up being erased from their own narrative.