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So currently in SPN fandom there is a good-old fashioned...shipping war? Gen war?--there is a contretemps going on, and I feel the need to rant here because otherwise I am liable to get into something on tumblr, and who wants that?

The crux of the matter is the most recent episode of the show, which was an action- and h/c-packed riff on Reservoir Dogs, and had the family Winchester (and others) fretting over a mortally wounded Castiel. It was pure fannish catnip, and in classic SPN ripped-from-fanfic form featured Cas begging the boys (and their mom, long story) to leave him and save themselves, telling them, "You're my family, I love you, I love all of you. Just please don't make my last moments be watching you die."

Naturally they refuse to leave, fight off the baddie, Cas gets saved at the eleventh hour (unexpectedly and pretty adorably), and the fandom all flailed wildly.

Though for slightly different reasons, because while a bunch of us were thrilled by the Team Free Will family-ness of it all, the Destiel (Dean/Cas) fans decided that Cas's "I love you" was intended exclusively for Dean, was meant romantically, and therefore the show has officially made their ship canon.

And I have been here so many times, with so many ships, on both sides of the aisle -- seeing the ship, not wanting to see the ship; but this insistence on canon is something newer to me. I think it's in part because I've rarely had het ships in fandom (there are actually a lot of het ships I'm into, but I rarely get into the fic sides of those shows for various reasons) and until the last few years, m/m or f/f ships would pretty much never have a chance of going canon.

It's awesome that this is changing, but it means the slash side of fandom is moving into a new arena, one that must be familiar to fans of Buffy and such. The amount of vitriol I'm seeing on both sides I suspect is partly an artifact of Tumblr's conflict-prone environment, but partly because both sides seem to think the other is willfully denying obvious fact, rather than subjective interpretation (the fact in question being whether the show would go canon with an m/m ship with characters who have never been established as gay/bi. Some are convinced it will never happen and anyone who believes otherwise is delusional; most shippers think there's a chance, ranging from 'far out' to 'done deal,' and anyone denying it is a homophobic killjoy. Personally, I think it's unlikely but not impossible; SPN is a weird show and while in some ways it's very, unfortunately, mired in older genre show conventions, it can take unexpected twists.)

(For the record, and to make it clear that I am hardly unbiased, I really hope it does not go canon with Destiel or any other pairing; one of the biggest draws of the show for me is its almost complete lack of romance, and I frankly believe the writers would do a lousy job with it.)

At the same time, some of this is such a blast from the past. It's been a long time since I've seen a slash vs gen war! It's not exactly a shipwar, as most W-incesters don't argue their ship openly, and a lot of us not into Destiel are gen fans with no ships to speak of. While some gen brother fans don't care for Castiel at all, there are those of us who love him, and love that he said "I love you" to the Winchesters -- but get frustrated that it's being interpreted romantically, and narrowly to only one of them. There are also some "get off my side" idiots who insist Dean can't go with Cas because he's not gay and can't be bi, which, on the one hand, no, the char's not been written that way in the past; but it's the 2010s, so why not start? (On the other side, there are those who insist Dean is already canonically bi because arcane symbols and secret signals -- he has a red and blue plaid shirt, so, obviously...?)

Meanwhile the Destiel fandom's treatment of Sam is deserving of its own examination, because it's an odd case of a straight white male character being treated like many female and minority characters -- most Destiel fans don't outright hate him, but call him 'the third wheel,' in the fic he's either written out entirely or serves only as the cheerleader/relationship counselor, and a lot of Destiel fans hope/expect the end of the show will be Sam settling down with a woman while Dean and Cas go off to hunt together. It's especially interesting because Sam is explicitly not a romantic rival -- incest not being a canon possibility, and Sam/Cas is pretty rare despite an abundance of subtext (no one who decries Destiel is suspected of being a Sastiel fan, that I've ever seen) -- but he's still resented for taking up story time and emotional intimacy that the shippers want for their ship.

And I'm just here whining, why can't we all get along? Especially because the show itself, in my biased opinion, has been going out of its way to show Sam & Dean as equally close to Cas -- they've called him "our best friend" and "our brother," and this last ep kept framing the shots so they were equidistant from Cas, often in mirrored poses, such to make my little gen team heart explode:

In conclusion -- SPN continues to be the oddest fan experience in that, as frustrating and flawed as the show is, it still delivers to my id far better than the fandom...

Cross-posted at https://xparrot.dreamwidth.org/178157.html with comment count unavailable comments over there.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2017 01:54 pm (UTC)
I didn't read the post because I've successfully stayed away from shipping wars in this fandom for a decade and I'd like to keep my streak.
But I'm glad the show's delivering all the fannish squee for you and many others. This makes me so happy! :) I figure I'll eventually make my way back into the SPN fandom because it's been the fandom of my heart for so long.
Feb. 20th, 2017 11:00 pm (UTC)
Hee, well, I admit, I haven't been enjoying s12 as much as s11 (which might be my favorite season of the entire show) but it's had a lot to like (and might play better if watched in one go, depending on how plot threads play out...)
Feb. 20th, 2017 02:16 pm (UTC)
Aw, I love that gif - had not noticed that they were all holding hands even after they pulled Cas up. So cute.

I'm a very irregular watcher of Sherlock but a similar kerfluffle re. canon just happened with those fans. There was an expectation that Sherlock & Watson would be "made canon" in the 4th season finale (despite the producers saying it would not happen). When I watched the episode, I thought the shippers would be happy as the show ended with S & W seemingly living together and raising Watson's baby - loads of ship & fanfic fodder there. On the contrary, there was fury at the lack of 'canon". So, canon seemingly requires the characters to bone or at least kiss.

With SPN, I thought that the order of shots of the "I love you" scene was maybe intended to be a little treat/tease to the shippers.
Cas: "I love you."
*camera cuts to Dean*
Cas: "I love you all."
*camera cuts to Dean again, then Sam*

...a la Metatron's "He's in love (beat)...with humanity!" I enjoy these moments but I guess With some fans, a little ship-tease isn't a treat any more, it has to be immediately followed up by "A Declaration", and then sex. I don't get that.

For me, I like ALL the ship teases: Wincest, Destiel, Sastiel. I even kinda have a thing for Sam & Rowena because the height difference between Jared & Ruth is hilarious. But as you say, I think SPN is wise to just tease and not go full-throttle on a ship, as past romantic relationships haven't been well portrayed by the writers.

In conclusion -- SPN continues to be the oddest fan experience in that, as frustrating and flawed as the show is, it still delivers to my id far better than the fandom.
Same. I've watched and enjoyed the show every week but never really entered the fandom, as it might actually harsh the enjoyment of the show (as opposed to SV, where fandom was an enriching experience.)

Feb. 20th, 2017 11:12 pm (UTC)
The extended handholding, I know, so cute!!! Much as I may whine about the impact of tumblr on fanning, I do love gif sets, and how they can bring out these small details.

I was never into Sherlock fandom but knowing a bit about the TJLC (as I am something of a secret connoisseur of fanwank) I definitely see shades in common. And as an old school slash fan it's so weird to me...we used to be afraid to even mention the idea of slash pairings to creators, for fear that they'd stop writing the characters together; now people get cross if they're 'only' saying I love you...

And yep, I totally agree that the editing for this ep was meant to wink-wink to shippers, but I don't think it was meant to be a canon promise, or intended to convince non-shippers (if they'd really meant it like that, they could've had Cas actually say Dean's name there, or at least had Dean sitting next to him?) I don't mind subtext (Wincestiel for the win!) but I love that the show is all about familial love, that that's the source of its drama -- that romance always plays second fiddle to family and friendship is exceedingly rare for teen/adult-aimed TV.

...I do kind of ship Sam/Rowena, though, the height difference, like you say! (and it would be good for Sam to release some tension with someone who he won't get too attached to and he doesn't have to worry about dying! XD)

Same. I've watched and enjoyed the show every week but never really entered the fandom, as it might actually harsh the enjoyment of the show (as opposed to SV, where fandom was an enriching experience.)

Yeah, SV was unusual for me in that I loved the fandom but came close to hating the show at points; in most of my fandoms, such as SGA, I'll have great fun with the show but appreciate the extra layers fandom brings to it. But for SPN I get most of my enjoyment from the show and fanning with my sister, and much of the fandom makes me roll my eyes (...though at the same time I'm glad it exists, if only because I enjoy watching con footage on youtube :P)
Feb. 20th, 2017 03:37 pm (UTC)
At this point I feel like tumblr has gone completely off the deep end with the "it's canon if I say it is; why are you people openly violating MY (head)canon??" thing. Fandom has always had tinhats, but it seems like Tumblr has mainstreamed tinhatting, or taken "death of the author" to absolute ridiculous levels, or something -- to the point that, in a lot of fandoms, if you decide something is true on the show (this character is bi, this one is autistic, this one's agender) then it is literally true, any canon to the contrary is OOC, and anyone who writes or does meta about them from any other perspective is !!WRONG!!!

And the thing is, fandom's always had elements like that, but it seems like tumblr really encourages it, with the difficulty of keeping the different channels separate (it used to be that you almost had to go looking for shippers of your NOTP; now it's next to impossible to avoid them), the youth of a lot of fans on tumblr, and the general tumblr culture which does things like, say, use "headcanon" to mean BOTH "things I totally made up about the show" and "things I'm extrapolating from subtext and genuinely think are true about the show".

And yeah, I also think you're right about slash fandom moving into the same ship-war territory that used to be (mostly) the exclusive province of het fandom: "my ship is canon!" "no, mine is!" "well, mine is GOING to be, all the signs obviously point to it!" On the one hand, it's great because it means things have moved so much farther in that direction that there's at least a chance some of these ships *might* become canon eventually. On the other hand ... oh fandom. /o\

(It's actually fascinating to watch this in action with SPN, because the show's been running so long that it's gone straight through that cultural shift and the tinhatters, while still tinhatty, actually look less tinhatty now than they did six or seven years ago. I remember Castiel and Dean-is-bi tinhatters back in the early days too, and while I still don't think they're right, it feels a lot more plausible now that the show actually MIGHT go that way, whereas in 2011 it didn't even seem like a remote possibility that it might.)

Edited at 2017-02-20 06:38 pm (UTC)
Feb. 20th, 2017 11:36 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the mainstreaming of tinhatting has been one of the more annoying trends of modern fandom ("get off my lawn!" she bleats, waving her cane...) I keep trying to figure out the reasons for it, what happened. I think some of it is from really positive things -- increased representation has made people more eager to see representation for what they care about, and has made it more likely to happen in canon, and that is a really good thing! And like you say, SPN is a special case in that it's been around through this transition -- like I said, while I don't expect it's going to happen and really don't want it to, I do think canon Destiel is a possibility.

But it does seem to be setting up this weird fanning style in that one of the main reasons you follow a canon is for the triumph and satisfaction of having your headcanon confirmed? It's treated like a victory, like you're winning something -- and maybe it was always like that with het shipping, but slash has generally been with the assumption that the best you're going to get is subtext; slashers are used to 'coloring outside the lines,' fanning outside and on top of and between the lines of canon. It's oddly sad to me that we're losing that.

I also do wonder if some of what's happening in SPN particular (and in Sherlock, and certain other fandoms) is due to the social justice points system that's become prevalent, in which SPN is a HUGELY problematic show (which was true even back in the day, and all the more so now; it's gotten better, but not nearly fast enough to keep up) but having a canon bi hero/same-sex relationship would be major points in its favor; you could more easily rec the show to your friends, if it's, "yes, it stars a bunch of white men; but they're not straight!"

...All of which comes down to, I am really starting to wish they would make Sam bi and give him a same-sex love interest (for an ep or two.) Partly because I have an easier time seeing it with his character (like, I'm not 100% opposed to bi!Dean, but I have a hard time figuring out how we wouldn't have seen it before, when Dean is canonically boastful of his sexual conquests, not homophobic, and not particularly one to deny himself pleasure...) and partly because I am petty and it would make the Destiel fans' heads spin. (the best thing is there was a hot gay male witch introduced earlier this season who was mildly flirtatious with Sam, so it wouldn't be that hard to slip it in...)(I would worry that this would lead to killing the witch, but actually for both of the boys, their last het love interest survived, which is one of the many weird unexpected things SPN does...)
Feb. 21st, 2017 03:04 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, I'm on board with bi!Sam.

You know I shipped Destiel like WHOA from pretty much the moment Castiel flapped his wings, but the whole insistence that the only thing that Dean could be is bisexual has turned me off in a big way from certain parts of the fandom. It's just annoying that two guys can't exchange a meaningful look without slash being involved. It makes me feel like this limits their relationship rather than enriches it. On a personal level, I certainly want to be able to look at my same-sex friends with love without any romantic connotations! As a result, I went from dreaming up ways Dean and Cas could get together to feeling that I enjoy them as friends in canon at least as much as I enjoy the thought of a ship.

I feel like at this point if they did make Destiel canon it would only disappoint me because it would "cut off" the other possibilities which are headcanons/fic canons springing off from every episode of the show. There's so much fic spanning from S4 that is wonderful that having only "one" way for them to get together (in canon) would be almost limiting? I guess that's the different style of shipping which attracted me to slash in the first place, the idea that anything goes because none of the possibilities are more valid than the other. I generally tend to fall for pairings that aren't totally in-your-face-there, in which there's work to do to get the people on the same page, and in some ways slash used to fulfill that fantasy of "we're never going to get a canon resolution so anything we come up with is plausible" versus shipping a pairing that might actually be canon and then you only have one "real" way for it to go.

/end ramble ramble
Feb. 21st, 2017 07:20 pm (UTC)
Re: cutting off possibilities -- this is something that's always...worried me, is maybe putting it too strongly; but that I've wondered about, when it comes to slash pairings going canon. On the one hand it is awesome to actually have non-straight characters, this is marvelous and we need more!

But on the other hand, so much of my fanning enjoyment has come from reading subtext, looking for details, the joy of reading in things that may or may not have been intended. And that's being replaced by the search for "proof" that a pairing or what-have-you is going canon, which can be fun but is somewhat a different experience. And I think the narrowing of possibilities does reduce fanfic, at least -- I've been into anime/manga fandom for years, and while there are a ton of Boys Love series with canon m/m romances (more manga than anime it's true), most of them don't get the intense following that the shounen series that are all subtext do.

On the other hand Yuri on Ice has got a ton of fan action, and that's a canon ship, in a series that straddles genres; and I did a ton of fic for Night Vale's canon pairing -- so maybe we just need different kinds of series, ones with canon romance but with other focuses that mean a lot of the action happens off-screen, leaving fans with room to play?

As far as SPN goes, I've always loved Cas (he was the reason I kept watching for several years) but I got into the show for the brothers, and that was why I came back to it now. And most of the Destiel fic and fandom I've seen is very OTP-focused; they prefer Dean/Cas over Dean & Sam, and even those who acknowledge the latter is more important in the show just aren't interested in it as much -- which makes perfect sense, I'm an OTPer myself, I tend to have relationships I prioritize! But for me, that's Sam & Dean (platonically...I almost wish I could do Wincest, there'd be more to read, but in this case it just doesn't work for me.) I kind of like the thought of Dean/Cas (or Sam/Cas)(or both!) happening without supplanting the brother relationship, but I've seen very little of that in the fandom, and enough of the opposite that I stopped looking...

(Though on the other side, a lot of the brother-fans resent Cas for becoming as close as he has and avoid writing him in fic, which also frustrates me because I would really love some equal-opportunity Team Free Will to read!)
Feb. 20th, 2017 03:55 pm (UTC)
I'm not in the fandom, but I knew that scene would cause a ruckus. I felt it was oddly filmed with the guys standing up and away from him. It came off completely gen to me. Anyway... sorry for the flail you have to witness. Very disheartening.
Feb. 20th, 2017 11:46 pm (UTC)
Ahahah yeah, while I was watching I was simultaneously going "EEEE~~~ \o/" and "oh boy the shippers are going to flip". And to me it came across like they really wanted to have "I love you" said but also wanted to emphasize it wasn't meant romantically -- since they are sitting next to Cas at the end when they think he's dying, but not at the declaration.

I don't mind the flailing -- shippers gonna ship, and I've done my share of slashing gen "love you"s ("Tao of Rodney" comes to mind...) But this insistence that Destiel is now canon and everyone who likes gen brotherhood or Team Free Will has to sit down and shut up is frustrating...
Feb. 22nd, 2017 12:19 am (UTC)
I still watch Supernatural but have stayed away from the fandom for the past 5 years or so. I participate in other fandoms, but it feels like Supernatural has gone full on tinhat in recent years.
Feb. 22nd, 2017 12:37 am (UTC)
SPN's always had its share of tinhatting -- the RPF side is terrifying -- and yeah, I'm not sure if this new habit is fairly unique to the fandom or part of a larger trend; but either way, it's less than fun to participate in. ...tumblr still has good gifsets, tho'!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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