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.