Well, that was painful.
Look, I know Supernatural is not trying to be the most self-aware, progressive show on the air. It’s about two handsome white guys heroically fighting monsters and demons and all things supernatural all over the US, roaring around in their gas-guzzling classic muscle car and listening to classic rock while swathed in denim and plaid. There are lots of guns and bullets. There is punching (sometimes of each other.) There is porn. The sex is of the casual, one-night-stand variety, usually.
The women in the show are, if not the monster, usually superficial side characters who are damsels to be saved, victims who are burned or eaten by the monster, brief motherly figures, fawning fangirls or daffy cat lady witnesses relating what they saw for comic relief.
There are occasional egregious wardrobe choices for the women, like the lovely young female hunter a couple of episodes ago in daisy dukes and a short shirt, while the men are swathed in five shirts each, plus a jacket.
But yes, I still watch. I am able to ignore most of the yucky treatment of women because the two main characters are compelling and the show is often a good creepy, gory hour of escapist television.
But last night they did the unforgivable. They made one of our heroes a dick. For laughs.
Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) is a flawed character, to be sure. He’s selfish, bossy, sexist. He makes gay jokes at his brother’s expense. He’s macho and a horn-dog. He’s a huge hypocrite. He drinks too much and sometimes has a quick temper. But we have watched him and loved him all these 8 going on 9 years because he is also a good guy. He’s a hero who has been damaged by loss but still keeps going on, risking ever more to save people from things that most don’t believe exist. We forgive him his ton of flaws because he is, at heart, a good person who loves deeply.
But last night they made him a smarmy creep.
Suzy, the leader of a Christian chastity support group looks somehow familiar to Dean. She’s a beautiful woman, and I knew where this was going immediately. She guilelessly invites Dean to her apartment to loan him her books on abstinence. Dean gives his brother the “don’t wait up” signal and leaves Sam behind to apparently work on solving the strange triple disappearance case with Sheriff Mills while Dean gets laid.
The scene in Suzy’s apartment is too cringe-inducing to fully relate. Dean is a creep. He pretends to pray with the woman for her lost friends, but is barely able to keep his eyes off her breasts. When she goes to the bathroom to dry her tears, he pilfers through her dresser drawers (what???) and finds her CDs of Spanish porn, starring — her, of course. That’s how he knows her. Dean is ecstatic. His come-on is too embarrassing. I’m trying to wipe it from my mind. And to make things worse, it is played for laughs, with cheesy Spanish guitar music in the background.
And of course, Suzy forgets her chastity vow and has her legs around Dean’s waist in about 1.3 seconds, because apparently all former porn actresses who have changed their names and moved to new towns, are also nymphomaniacs when tempted by the “charms” of Dean “Adios” Winchester.
I’m pissed. I’m pissed because this episode did not have to go this way.I’m also pissed because it is going to go down in Supernatural history as one of the worst episodes of all time because of its portrayal of Dean. Tina Charles of TVGuide Online (a Dean fan) was tempted not to review it. (But she did.) Laura Prudom wrote a terrific critical review where she NAILS the episode’s problems. I have not read the message board talk yet, but I can only imagine.
I’m pissed because the bad handling of Dean is going to completely overshadow the actually terrific writing and portrayal of Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes). How can a writer fail so terribly with some characters and do so great with others? Sam’s conversation with Jody while they were working the case together was wonderful. It is one of the rare moments when we get to see Sam interact on a friendly and open basis with anyone anymore. It was nice and brought a moment of coherent focus to both characters. Jody is just cool. I like her better than any recurring character on the show since Ellen. She’s attractive, but they don’t try to make her a sex kitten. She’s damaged, but strong and determined. She’s smart, but knows she still has lots to learn. She brings her own skill set to the game. She talks to Sam like he’s an adult, not like he’s Dean’s sidekick little brother. I love her. Also, she pulled a freaking huge wooden stake out of her own shoulder and killed the monster with it!
The other thing I regret about this episode is that the last five minutes were the best part. The nod to “what’s going on here.” Sam was actually so present as a character in this episode (that shouldn’t be an unusual thing, but it unfortunately is), that I actually forgot about Zeke for a minute. I wasn’t wondering, “Why doesn’t Zeke come out and save them?” I was focused on Sam and, “Oh, crap, he’s realizing that he’s not okay, and he’s going to question Dean about it.”
I might have made a little startled yelp when Zeke did appear and stop Dean from confessing to Sam. Jared Padalecki has the two characters down so well that the instant transition from Sam to Zeke would be amazing even without the special effects eyes. He was Sam, then he was Zeke (and Zeke, WHAT A BASTARD) and then he was Sam again, mindwiped of the several seconds Zeke was speaking to Dean. Gulp.
Anyway, I’ll get over being pissed, somehow. But the bottom line is, if a show is going to touch on issues of violence against women, chastity, sexuality, rape, and domestic violence (and Supernatural has, and must, because at heart it is a show about good vs. evil, and supernatural monsters are often metaphors for human evil) you can’t claim moral high ground and then be tone deaf when you want an easy laugh. If you want us to believe in your heroes, you can’t make them larger than life in their ability to prevail against evil (and against Death itself), and then let one of them be a ludicrous, irredeemable lout in his treatment of everyday people.