Fangirl Fridays – SPN Family
If it's wrong to fangirl something you belong to, then I don't want to be right. I fangirl the SPN Family. SPN = Supernatural the television show, and the name of our fandom is SPN Family. We're so great, we won the 2013 People's Choice Award (more on that later).
However, I don't fangirl us because I love the show, or because of what our fandom produces; in fact, when fangirling SPN Family I do so objectively, in effect taking myself out of the equation and looking at SPN Family from afar. And when I can do that, I am truly amazed at the unique dynamic of SPN Family, and at all of the things it has accomplished over the years. I don't think I'm biased when I say no other fandom compares, and that the use of the word “family” is no accident. We really are family. For better or worse, fans, crew, and actors, we stick together.
Follow me after the jump and I'll tell you all about SPN Family and why they are fangirl-worthy.
I'm a newcomer to SPN Family. And I had no idea what I was getting into. But never once did I feel like the step-child, or the distant cousin hovering at the edge of the family gatherings. I immediately had a place at the table, was welcomed and initiated into the love and dysfunction of our cozy little family. When I first heard the term SPN Family, I thought, “Oh, well, isn't that . . . cute.”
But as I learned more about SPN Family, I learned that we really are a family. We are close, we band together to help those in need (our own and those outside the family), we are protective of each other (sometimes to our own detriment), and we have our share of dysfunction but we remain a family unit in spite of any “wank” that happens behind closed doors. See? Just like a family.
WE GET SHIT DONE
The first opportunity I had to be impressed with SPN Family was the level to which We Get Shit Done. First off, we win all the polls. Seriously. By landslides. There was one recently that was a little too close for my comfort, which pitted Destiel (Dean/Cas) vs. another (non-SPN) pairing. Come to find out, the other pairing was winning because SPN Family members who weren't so fond of Destiel were putting their power behind the non-SPN pairing. Dysfunction? Yep. Communication and power to get shit done? Hell yes. Incidentally, Destiel won that poll.
There is also an organization that runs a poll every month: vote for your favorite celebrity, and they will donate a set amount of money to a charity associated with that celebrity. Turns out that organization wasn't entirely (mostly, but not entirely) on the up-and-up and I stopped following them, BUT... Every month SPN Family would get together (virtually, of course) and decide which SPN Family celebrity member they were going to vote for. And that celebrity would win that month. After several months of Supernatural celebrities sweeping the poll, and one particular non-Supernatural celebrity coming in 2nd month after month, SPN Family decided to throw their votes behind that non-Supernatural celebrity. She won the following month.
Sometimes we use our abnosome powers of communication to do bizarre things. One word: Mishapocalypse.
April 1, 2013. If you were on tumblr, you know of what I speak. Everyone was Misha. You could not stop it. There was only Misha. One Misha to rule them all. And in that moment, I swear we were all Misha. Except for the real Misha. Everyone was Misha apart from Misha. Misha was not Misha. (Thanks to Superwiki).
Everyone had the same psycho!Misha avatar. Psycho!Misha's face was everywhere, corrupting well-known tumblr memes and gracing the covers of brand-new memes. I thought it delightful. I don't know what people outside SPN Family thought of it...
We also use our powers for good. When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, SPN Family mobilized and donated $4600 to the Red Cross. We've also donated in the SPN Family name to other causes, including St. Jude's, A Dog's Life Rescue, the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas, the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I could go on . . .
Speaking of polls, the People's Choice Awards is one SPN Family takes very seriously. In 2012, Supernatural won Favorite Sci Fi/Fantasy Show AND Favorite Network TV Drama. SPN Family was VERY excited. Supernatural won a non-genre category! It won over The Vampire Diaries, The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy, and House; we're talking mainstream recognition! Alas, not only was neither award presented on the air, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, the show's leads, weren't even INVITED to the show. As you can imagine, SPN Family had something to say about that. We had so much to say, in fact, that this year, not only were Jared and Jensen invited to the show, but they were presenters. Also, not coincidentally, this year the PCAs added a new category for Favorite Fan Following. Of course, SPN Family won that one.
|Look, Ma! I won a People's Choice Award!|
Part of the reason we won the PCA, I have to believe, was that not only were the fans voting for SPN Family, but so were the crew and cast of Supernatural. And it wasn't for show “recognition” or to thank the fans for watching the show. It truly was because we are family and that's what family does. The other thing family does is help our own. What some other shows or fandoms might consider minor characters or guest stars, SPN Family considers part of our family. And when they need help, we step up to the plate.
WE GOT WORK TO DO
This year, Gabriel Tigerman (Andy in S2) and his wife welcomed a daughter to their family. Unfortunately, there were severe complications with the birth. His daughter was in NICU for 10 days, and his wife faced even more severe, life-threatening complications and is still recovering. A call went out to friends and family for assistance. Even though Gabe appeared in only two episodes, he remains part of SPN Family and so we were part of that call for help. And when SPN Family learned that Julie McNiven's (Anna in S4 and S5) brother had terminal cancer, we also got behind the effort to allow his family to focus on having the best time together they could. Not even extended family is beyond our reach.
Several years ago, Misha Collins (Castiel) recognized that SPN Family gets shit done, and that we are a little, um, passionate about it. So he decided to harness that passion and created a charity, Random Acts. You can read more about Random Acts in Wench Jaym's Misha Collins Fangirl Fridays post. Also, because he is a little evil, he started the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (GISHWHES). Every year members of SPN Family (and others) participate, breaking the Guinness World Record for largest scavenger hunt—yes, each subsequent year we break our own record. If SPN Family is family, then GISHWHES is where some of us go off to fight in peacekeeping missions. We recognize each other by the thousand-mile stare we all share in the weeks after GISHWHES ends. In addition to the registration fees going to Random Acts, this year GISHWHES participants raised money for their local diaper banks, donated blood, made home-cooked meals for their neighborhood homeless persons, posted poems at bus stops, and sang songs to unsung heroes. And we created the most epic romance novel covers ever.
|*courtesy Team Tea and Pancakes|
Artist: Olga P.
And this. We did this.
|Misha is an asshole. That's a garbage dumpster.|
*courtesy Team Tea and Pancakes
IT'S BECAUSE WE HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE
I am part of Generation X, and while we we were the first generation to embrace computers and the new technology they bring and continue to do so, not many of my cohorts have jumped on the Twitter or tumblr bandwagons. I probably wouldn't be there myself if it weren't for SPN Family. Tumblr is a nice place to keep up with fandom news and interaction. And although cast and crew might venture into tumblr at times, it's Twitter where the line between fans and cast and crew gets twisted up and ignored, and where SPN Family comes together.
I know it's not unique for celebrities to interact with fans on Twitter. But the Supernatural cast and crew actually get to know their twitter followers. They know them as individuals, get to know their Twitter personalities, sometimes meet up with them in real life, and I've seen them recognize followers at impromptu run-ins at conventions. I guess what I'm trying to say that is different about the quality of SPN Family online interaction is that, even though it's online, it isn't always “virtual” between Supernatural cast and crew and fans.
Also, did you notice I include crew when I talk about fan interaction? Nobody is left out of SPN Family. From executive producers, directors, writers, assistant directors, the location manager, assistants, the VFX crew, the production designer, the cinematographer, camera operators, stunt guys, food trucks, … Whew!
In fact, the VFX crew thought it would be cool to meet up with a few fans, have a few drinks, and chat after the Vancouver convention this year. A few fans quickly turned into an 80-person event, and with the assistance of @Superwiki, we had an exceptional evening as we were treated to VFX highlight reels and a great Q&A session with the VFX crew. Because we're family, we know the crew by name and are genuinely interested in the work they do, and the crew was interested in meeting us, too!
Not only do cast and crew know who we are, but they also know what we're up to. For better or worse. Supernatural is known for breaking the 4th wall, and for doing it well. They're able to do it well because they have a handle on what is going on in fandom, and they know what's going on in fandom because of SPN Family. In an episode that aired during S4, the show acknowledged not just fanfiction, but Wincest and various fandom practices. In The French Mistake, which aired during S6, the fourth wall was shattered entirely when Sam and Dean were cast into an alternate dimension where they found themselves in the bodies of Jared and Jensen, who were acting as Sam and Dean on the television show Supernatural. (Break it down: Jared and Jensen playing Sam and Dean playing Jared and Jensen playing Sam and Dean.) There were numerous inside references that, while they didn't interfere with the flow of the storyline, only SPN Family would get. Many consider The French Mistake a “love letter” to SPN Family.
FAMILY DON'T END WITH BLOOD
I had the pleasure of attending the Salute to Supernatural convention in Vancouver this year. Vancouver is the Mecca for SPN Family, as that is where Supernatural is filmed. VanCon, as it is affectionately known, truly was a Family event. Although I went with friends, I could have attended alone and felt just as comfortable. I made quick friends wherever I went. I met some wonderful people in an autograph line, and we went out to dinner five minutes later. (Psst! I didn't get your contact info! Find me on Facebook!) While we were in the registration line the first day, someone posted in a Facebook group that they had arrived, but due to circumstances they were without food; within minutes another person replied they had food to share and posted their location. Strangers were sharing hotel rooms to keep costs low; others were posting their arrival and departure times in an effort to share cabs. Not only was everyone helping everyone else out, we were relying on and trusting complete strangers; no, not strangers—we are Family. I met some people who are very well known within SPN Family, and they were just as warm and welcoming as everyone else I met that weekend. Everyone was quick to stop and chat, from the other convention goers to the “famous” fans to Jared and Jensen's bodyguard to the cast and crew you might run into in the hallways.
And let's not forget the crew. Because we were in Vancouver, many crew members who weren't part of the convention and not paid to be there came to hang out one, two, or all three days of the convention. Robbie Thompson, one of the principal writers, was with us in the audience for at least two full days and got shout outs from many of the actors during their panels. The side of the room was filled with crew. Some crew members who stopped by were so popular that the convention staff had to set up tables for them out in the lobby. Supernatural alumni who were in town also crashed the party, just because they wanted to be part of the fun. Rick Worthy, who played the Alpha Vampire in just 3 episodes but is a fan favorite, was not a scheduled guest but came to Saturday's cocktail party and crashed Ty Olsson's panel on Sunday. Just because.
|Rick hugs Ty goodbye, and steals his beer.|
*courtesy Veronica Vishous
A few more words on Supernatural conventions. Supernatural probably has more single-show conventions both in the US and world-wide than any other television show. And this is a show with only two lead actors, one (very significant) supporting actor who has been on since S4, and a wide range of supporting actors who rarely appear in more than 2 to 4 episodes. So how does Supernatural support 9 to 13 or more conventions per year? The supporting cast are part of SPN Family, too. Whether you played a guy who drives a panel-van with a barbarian queen and a polar bear painted on the side, an archangel who unsunk the Titanic, or the head Leviathan, once you're in the Family, you're in. And if you're in the Family and the fans want to see you at conventions, the fans will make it happen (we get shit done, don't forget). I'd like to think SPN Family had a little something to do with getting the executive producer and the location manager invited as guests to this year's VanCon.
I think we've established by now that the SPN Family doesn't just include fandom, it includes cast and crew as well. Earlier this year, Jensen Ackles and his wife Danneel welcomed their first child, Justice Jay. Before she was born, Jensen mentioned to a group of 10 people at a convention Meet & Greet that they would prefer to release their own pictures of their baby on their own time. He told this to TEN people. Within hours SPN Family knew of his wishes. Lo and behold, not long after baby J.J. was born, unauthorized photos found their way online. Warnings went out far and wide throughout SPN Family reminding people of Jensen's wishes. As far as I know, nobody in SPN Family retweeted or reblogged those photos.
Because Supernatural's supporting roles are often short-lived, most of the cast don't meet until they do a convention together. However, many of them have become close friends and created their own family within SPN Family. Rob Benedict and Richard Speight, Jr, for example, often travel together, and also do appearances at ComicCons around the country. Richard and Matt Cohen co-host Karaoke night at the Salute to Supernatural conventions, something that started out as something fun to do but which has become an official part of convention festivities.
|Sebastian Roche, Rob Benedict, DJ Qualls, Emily Perkins hiding behind DJ,|
Richard Speight, Jr, Jim Michaels, Matt Cohen at Karaoke Night, VanCon 2013
**courtesy Veronica Vishous via Rio
Speaking of Karaoke, Matt has talked about how amazing the experience is from the actor's perspective, and how he was surprised initially by how much everyone on both sides, fans and actors, wanted to participate. At Karaoke night, actors have crowd surfed, left the stage and joined the crowd, hugged fans, etc. And let's not forget that fans are onstage singing with the actors. Matt talked to the Fangasm ladies in 2011 a bit more about what makes Karaoke night and the conventions so special, and I think he also sums up what makes SPN Family, family:
Matt: I saw those boys [Jensen and Jared] last night for the first time in a while, because even though we're at these cons together, they're always on Sunday. So last night I went and grabbed a drink with them before karaoke. I hadn't seen Misha for months, since before I was gonna go to Haiti. I saw Jensen at Nashville, but it's just nice to see the guys – the whole family was there, I walked into the bar and every one of the cast was there. It's like a family, it truly is a special thing. We're just a bunch of friendly dudes with each other, and it's like, if you need something, you've got it, it's so easy.
Kathy: And that mirrors what happens with the fans when they come together in this space – they don't necessarily know each other when they get here, and friendships form, and fans support each other.
Matt: And I see that too, I'll walk around when they're not noticing me and I'll see people sitting together in circles and talking and it's great, these cons are special, different. It's like a movement in itself, a private little fraternity.
(Or sorority, as the case may be....)
Matt: It's so rewarding, feels so good – everyone wants to be loved and feel liked, but to make it vice versa, to where I like the fans and love interacting with them, that's what friendships are built on. We have these mini friendships and we see each other every couple of months, and it opens up both of our minds, the fans and the actors.
|I searched “Matt Cohen” & “warm fuzzies” and found this.|
And when Jared and Jensen were asked by the Fangasm ladies during VanCon this year, with the 9th season just starting, how they stay so invested in the show, Jared said:
I think it's actually because of what you wrote about in Fandom At The Crossroads. It's because of the fans, because this show has made a difference in so many people's lives. It's about how being a fan is bigger than the show, it's about the community, and making best friends through fandom, and all the charitable work that fans can organize around and do, like the St. Jude's contribution that fans did, and we're just so impressed and grateful.
There you have it. Matt and Jared said in a few lines what I've been trying to say in paragraph after paragraph. I've never seen anything quite like SPN Family. We were brought together by an awesome show, but what we are is much larger than that, and we will continue long after the show is off the air. I am proud to be part of SPN Family.
Are you part of SPN Family? What makes it so special to you? Tell us your stories below.
**uncredited images via tumblr.com