The Sketchy Feminist

Staring down the male gaze, or: Looking at looking at women in popular culture

Tag: Supernatural

Some Thoughts on Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 1, “Black” or “Who the Blank are These People?”

Yep, so I saw last week’s Supernatural Season 10 premiere.

It was terrible.

And I seriously thought about ending my review right there. Because what else is there to say, really? I didn’t like it. At all. I think it had maybe one or two good lines (courtesy of Crowley) and that’s about it for the good parts.

And the show was written by long-time showrunner Jeremy Carver and directed by long-time showrunner Robert Singer, and this was, naturally, announced in the opening credits (y’know, where episode writing and directing credits usually go) so my hopes were all up.

Aaaand then I watched the episode.

The episode opens with Sam torturing and killing a woman (or a presumably female demon in a possibly-dead-but-possibly-not female human body). This, of course, pings my “SPN random-acts-of-violence-against-female-characters” detector, but this sort of thing is such a common occurrence in the SPN ‘verse that after nine seasons, I don’t have much of a reaction to it. (And maybe my lack of reaction itself indicates the insidious potential effect of these scenes, or maybe this scene in particular is just boring.) The boys, for their part, haven’t batted their long-lashed eyelids at torturing and killing the human vessels of demons for years now. And yet the demon Sam is torturing is all, “Wow, you’re far gone. You must be the demon brother.” Like she thinks that a Winchester torturing a demon is somehow an event worthy of note.

Guess she’s new in town.

My subjective opinions on the episode can be found under the cut:

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Some Thoughts on Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 10, “Road Trip”

I very much doubt I am going to get the next 13 of these things up before SPN Season 10 kicks off on the 7th, but here’s another “Some Thoughts” on Supernatural, anyway. With even more random “thoughts” than usual. It will probably be pretty confusing if you haven’t watched the episode recently. (It also might be confusing if you have watched it recently.)

“Road Trip” was written by Andrew Dabb and directed by Robert Singer.

WARNING: SPOILERS.

The Title

I got nothin’.

The Premise

Dean is guilt tripping over Kevin’s death in classic self-flagellating “Global warming: that’s on me” fashion. To be fair, Kevin’s death is partially his fault. As is global warming! (Baby’s not exactly environmentally friendly.) Re-Graced Castiel comes back to the bunker and Dean tells him all about how he let not-Ezekiel possess Sam to save Sam’s life. They decide they have to find not-Ezekiel and communicate with possessed!Sam so that Sam can cast not-Ezekiel out. They enlist the captive Crowley to help them, and they all head off in Castiel’s pimpmobile car.

CROWLEY: Really? What are you, a pimp?

CASTIEL: I like it.

Dean makes Crowley and Castiel sit in the back together, and away they go.

Further “random thoughts” under the cut:

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Some Thoughts on Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 9, “Holy Terror”

“Holy Terror” was written by Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner and directed by Thomas J. Wright.

Warning: This review is full of SPOILERS. But it is also very, very late, so it will probably not spoil anybody.

The Title

Uh, I really hope this isn’t a reference to Frank Miller’s self-professed propaganda comic of the same name.

But it seems about as likely as anything else. Here’s the Wikipedia disambiguation page for the phrase “Holy Terror.” Maybe there’s something in there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Terror

For now, I’m going to assume that this title was chosen because it sounded like a familiar phrase and could be tied to angels, while working as a reference both to the large-scale threat of the angelic ‘holy war’ and the small-scale threat presented by specific angels.

The Premise

This episode starts out with two gangs of angels (one a church glee club, one a biker gang) facing off against each other. The church glee club (composed entirely of women) wins! The biker gang is K/Oed. Just kidding! They all die.

Sam and Dean roll into town to investigate.

When they arrive on the scene impersonating FBI agents, they find Castiel. When last we saw Cas, he was homeless and working a low-income job at a gas station. Now Castiel, too, is impersonating an FBI agent.

So many questions! Where did Cas get his new suit? Where did he get the money for his new suit? Is it a rental? How did he manage transportation to the crime scene? Is his car a rental? Did he bus here? Did he call out of work for this? Does he have a home now?

None of these questions are answered! (As in: never. Unless they address this stuff in Season 10.) I feel like the show skipped an episode.

Anyway, the boys greet Castiel. Sam looks amused; Dean looks annoyed. Castiel explains, “I still have that badge you gave me,” which–what? Dean gave Cas his fake badge in Season 5, Episode 3, “Free to be You and Me.” Which means that, even though Cas has exploded twice since then, been submerged in a lake, gotten amnesia, lost his Grace and gotten rid of all his clothes, his (well, Jimmy’s) wallet made it through intact. I guess I knew that, since he used money in Season 8’s “Clip Show” (though I always wondered if he acquired that wad of cash elsewhere) but this is still a little weird. And a little sweet. It reminds me of how Dean kept Cas’s trench in Season 7.

Aww, they’re like pack rats.

Moving right along. Cas proceeds to be painfully adorable and Team Free Will sits down for a beer–that is, until Ezekiel-in-Sam’s-body shows up to Destiel block. One of Ezekiel’s biggest plot functions is keep Cas away from Dean. This does not endear Ezekiel to me. At Ezekiel’s prompting, Dean gives Cas the “It’s not you; it’s me” speech.

Thus making all the fangirls cry.

Hey, Metatron!

Metatron shows up, removing himself from my “Missing in Action” list.

Metatron lets us all know that Ezekiel is really Gadreel. Apparently, Gadreel was the angelic guard who let “evil” into the garden of Eden, thus making him responsible for the Fall of Man and pretty much all the evil on Earth. And he’s been being punished for his failure for thousands of years. No wonder he’s always so twitchy.

And Metatron recruits Gadreel, saying that together, they can fix Heaven. This should sound familiar from when Metatron used almost the exact same rhetoric on Cas in Season 8. So this should end well. Also, the creepy music in the background is kind of a giveaway that this is a bad idea.

Later in the episode, Metatron asks Gadreel to prove his “fidelity” by killing people Metatron wants killed. And Gadreel accepts this, because–well, honestly, I think that after millenia of being blamed for all things bad, Gadreel is just desperate for approval from somebody.

Back in the Plot

There is more angelic infighting between the Bartholomew faction and the Malachi faction! This time, Bart’s people kill one angel and a bunch of vessels. OK, then.

Castiel Prays!

Castiel prays! Every which way he can think of. Like someone throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. I don’t know why he’s hedging his bets so much, considering how entrenched Supernatural is in Judeo-Christian mythology, but it’s a little hard to care about that one way or the other.

Because seriously? This is so cute. It’s wrong how cute this is.

It’s also just about the most ill-considered thing that Castiel could do, on account of how he’s Heaven’s Most Wanted and he has zero angelic allies.

Fortunately for him and all of his fans, a friendly angel does answer his prayer. She’s all, “Wow, this was stupid of you.” Here’s the reasoning he gives her for why he thought broadcasting his thoughts to thousands of superpowered people who want him dead might not be the worst idea in the history of ever:

CASTIEL: I’m warded, and my Grace is gone, and I was hoping that I would seem like just another desperate human that the … the militants couldn’t care less about.

Weak, Castiel. Very weak. There are so very many conditions that need to be met for this course of action to work out.

You’re trusting a lot to faith there, Cas.

Oh, yeah …

And the rest of my recap/review is under the cut:

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Some Thoughts on Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 8, “Rock and a Hard Place”

My sketch of Tammy the Virgin in Supernatural, Season 9, episode 8, "Rock and a Hard Place""

In “Rock and a Hard Place,” this virgin gets punched in the nose. Wait, why aren’t you laughing?

I think that one of the reasons I’ve been slacking on my Supernatural reviewing duties–aside from pure, unadulterated laziness–is my reluctance to face “Rock and a Hard Place” in any way, shape or form. Now, I have a fair bit to say about this episode, so this recap pretty much spoils everything in it. You have been warned.

I hate this episode. With the hate of a thousand suns. Because it is terrible. A lot of the time on this blog, I complain about episodes that I like, because they are problematic and/or offensive. But sometimes offensive things are also bad.

I think that “Rock and a Hard Place” is my new reigning champion for Most Sexist Episode Ever. (I feel like it should get a belt for this or something.) Which means that this episode beats out contenders like “Wishful Thinking,” “Heart,” “99 Problems” and “Slice Girls” (a.k.a “That one with the Amazons who had sex with men for procreation and then sent their progeny back to kill them”). Yeah, so. “Rock and a Hard Place.” Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be an uncomfortable ride.

“Rock and a Hard Place” was written by Jenny Klein and directed by John MacCarthy.

The Title

Considering the episode’s focus on sex, the whole “hard place” thing is clearly meant as a double entendre. As is “rock.” Really, this episode might as well be titled “Blue Balls” or “Rocks and a Hard [insert your favorite euphemism for ‘Penis’ here].” But this is Supernatural, home of classic rock and classic cars, and “Rock and a Hard Place” is the name of a Rolling Stones song, so let’s see if we can get any mileage out of that, shall we?

Here are some lyrics from “Rock and a Hard Place”:

This talk of freedom
And human rights
Means bullying and private wars and chucking all the dust into our eyes
And peasant people
Poorer than dirt
Who are caught in the crossfire with nothing to lose but their shirts
Stuck between a rock
And a hard place

Um … yeah this really has nothing to do with the episode. I can see a thematic correlation, maybe, between this song and the larger arcs of Season 9 (humanity’s position between the warring factions of angels and demons, Dean trampling all over Sam’s personal freedoms by letting “Ezekiel” take up residence, etc.) but this Rolling Stones song sounds like it’s about something substantial. And this episode is about horny virgins.

It’s sad that I’m not even joking when I say that.

Jody Mills

She’s alive … she’s alive! Seriously, the only thing I like about this episode is that it confirms that Sheriff Jody Mills is alive. Considering we have not heard from her since the Season 8 finale, “Sacrifice,” when she was coughing up blood on the floor of a women’s bathroom, this is important.

Virgins, Virgins, Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

Jody Mills, who, for the first time since the Season 8 finale, is revealed to be alive, calls the boys in on a case. It turns out that someone has been abducting virgins. And not just any virgins, but virgins from the Good Faith Church chastity group, Abstinence Purifies Us (APU). To investigate the disappearances, Sam and Dean join APU by signing a “Purity Pledge,” a vow of chastity that allows them to be “born again” as virgins in God’s eyes. Point of trivia: this is the second time in the series that Dean has been, as he once tastefully put it, “rehymenated.”

Born-again virgins Sam and Dean then infiltrate APU.

And I think it’s supposed to be funny, because Sam and Dean are all virile and manly and stuff, and Dean is such a horndog (or at least, he self-identifies that way). And it’s so emasculating for them to play virgins, even born-again virgins. Because virgins, am I right? Chastity is hilarious.*

Sam and Dean go to their first APU meeting. Dean proceeds to be horribly inappropriate.

DEAN: But, you know, when you get down to it, what’s the big deal, right? I mean, sure, there’s the touching and the feeling … all of each other, my hands everywhere, tracing every inch of her body, the two of us moving together, pressing and pulling and grinding.

Then you hit that sweet spot, and everything just builds and builds and builds until it all just …

Throughout Dean’s lovely speech, the women of APU are shifting, sighing in little gasps and pushing strands of their hair over their ears. Because messing with the hair is TV code for female arousal.

Then, right as Dean says, “Then you hit that sweet spot,” we are treated to an actual close up of a woman crossing her legs. Because this is apparently a No Subtlety Allowed zone.

And right when you think the scene cannot get any worse, each “builds” in Dean’s “builds and builds and builds” is punctuated with a little sigh from one of the horny virgin women.

But wait, there’s more. Because when Dean gets to, “until it all just,” we are treated to yet another close up of a woman’s lap–because that was super necessary–only this woman crumples up a couple of pieces of pink paper as her hands, we are to take it, spontaneously contract, because the mounting sexual tension is just too much for her.

It’s too much for all of them. Because these women are virgins, see? Which must mean that they’re just desperate for action! How could they hope to resist the appeal of Dean Winchester? Dean Winchester, who, I might add, is tempting them all with the most vague and uninspired “word picture” of intercourse ever? Of course, the whole point is that Dean doesn’t have to try very hard. Because, as we all know, people who choose to be virgins? Secretly gagging for it.

No! Bad show! No biscuit! This is so offensive it hurts my heart a little. There are all kinds of reasons and motivations that can go into people’s decisions about what they do and don’t do sexually. And while, yeah, I get that the intent was probably, at first, to poke fun at the kinds of pressures and sexuality-policing that sometimes stem from overzealous religious groups, the end result here is something very different from that. The end result here is this scene poking fun at the hypocrisy of women: specifically, women who claim not to want sex when secretly they do.

Eww. Just: eww. That is gross and awful and an absolutely terrible message to send.

But Dean gives his (boring) “sex is fun” spiel, and suddenly all those repressed virgin women are like putty in his hands. To steal from something Sam once said to Dean in a much better episode: Supernatural, you’re confusing reality with porn again.

Oh! And did I mention the Very Best part of Dean’s speech? At the end, he makes a little explosion sound effect.

Stay classy, Dean.

And the rest of my review is under the cut:

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Some Thoughts on Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 7, “Bad Boys”

I think of “Bad Boys” as a kind of back-to-basics episode for Season 9 of Supernatural, a throwback to the first three seasons of the series, when everything felt like Dean and Sam against the world.

And that’s not a bad thing.

I critique Supernatural a lot (or complain about it, depending on how generous a spin one wants to put on my SPN blogging commentary) but I really do love it. If I didn’t love it, I would probably not spend nearly so much time watching it, thinking about it and writing about it. And one of the reasons I love it is that the emotional center of the show is the relationship between two brothers.

And Supernatural has been aware since the get-go that this “bond between two brothers” does not begin and end with the brothers themselves, but is instead inextricably linked to the brothers’ relationships with other people. The shadows (and sometimes, quite literally, the shades) of Mary and John Winchester stretch throughout all nine of the Supernatural seasons, and the tension which arises between the brothers’ “neurotically codependent” relationship and the romantic bonds they try to form is a recurrent theme throughout the series. And I actually find it quite riveting that this bond (or “bromance”) that forms the heart of the show is in many ways an unhealthy one, and the series never shies away from exploring that.

Because complicated relationships are interesting. (And simple relationships are unrealistic.)

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Bad Boys,” Season 9, Episode 7.

“Bad Boys” was written by Adam Glass and directed by Kevin Parks.

The Title

I have very little to say about the episode title. I am just very grateful that the theme song to COPS never comes up.

The Premise

“Sonny’s Home For Boys” is being haunted. Sonny calls Dean to ask for help. Sonny knows Dean because Dean once stayed at his “home for boys,” back when Dean was a boy. The (grown up) Winchester brothers investigate. And that’s about it. This is a oneshot, Monster-of-the-Week type of episode here, people.

Tween!Dean

OK, so 16-year-old Dean in the flashbacks is probably too old to be called tween, but he’s older than wee!Dean (think “A Very Supernatural Christmas”) and he looks younger than teen!Dean (think “After School Special”), so I’m going with “tween.”

I like tween!Dean. Actually, I like all of the actors who play Dean. Especially “old” Dean, from “The Curious Case of Dean Winchester.” Man, that guy was awesome. I want the showrunners to shoehorn in a reason for him to come back. I like all of the non-Jensen Ackles actors who play Dean because they seem to have actually studied Ackles’s performance and to be taking it into account in their own performances. And that’s nice. It gives a real sense of continuity to the character. (It’s always bothered me a little that actors who play the same demon or angel character [Ruby, Meg, Gadreel] don’t really seem to try to take their cue from that character’s previous “hosts.” I guess demons and angels just borrow mannerisms from whichever body they’re in?) Anyway, this show is eerily good at finding other actors who look like Dean might have at various ages, even if tween!Dean and teen!Dean (who was what, one year older?) look nothing like each other. I guess Dean hit a real heck of a growth spurt.

What happens in the episode

The Winchesters investigate the haunting. People die, but in the end the mystery is solved and everyone not yet dead is saved. As it turns out, the ghost is the mother of one of the home’s resident “boys,” and she can’t tell the difference between actual, deadly threats to her son and people her son just finds threatening (bullies and authority figures). Apparently, saving her own son from the car crash that killed her has left her a wee bit overprotective. Makes sense.

The Winbros convince the kid to convince his mom that he’ll be fine without her, and the ghost does whatever ghosts do in this universe when they decide to stop haunting.

The Brother Feels

But that’s just the plot, and it’s neither terribly original nor terribly important to this episode. I mean, it’s fine, it’s just not the point.

Because this episode is all about the brother feels (link goes to “feels” Urban Dictionary entry). “Feels” is one of those terms that comes up a lot in fandoms and fanfiction, and generally refers to the strong emotions that fans feel about the things they are fans of. The Urban Dictionary entries for “feels” seem pretty apt, so go check those out. An appropriate use of “feels” in a sentence would be, “When such-and-such spoiler happened in such-and-such fandom, then I had ALL THE FEELS.” Putting “all the feels” in all caps is, of course, optional.

What this particular episode of Supernatural provides is a wealth of that subcategory of “feels” called “brother feels,” which is not as popular a term, but which does come up sometimes in discussions of fandoms–especially if one of those fandoms is Supernatural. “Brother feels” refers to those touching and/or heartbreaking moments between characters who are brothers, or who act like brothers. “Brother feels” in the Supernatural fandom does not refer to the romantic or sexual pairing of Sam/Dean known as “Wincest,” though Wincest stories can include “brother feels.” “Brother feels” generally does not have a sexual implication at all; however, “brother feels” and Wincest are not mutually exclusive terms. The more you know, right?

So, while the Winbros investigate the haunting, Sam’s having an investigation of his own. He finds traces of tween!Dean in Sonny’s Home for Boys: a piece of masking tape with “Dean W.” written on it on Dean’s old bed, Dean’s wresting certificate, Dean’s old girlfriend, etc. Sam slowly comes to realize that the months Dean spent in this place constituted the most stable (and, from Sam’s way of thinking, “best”) time of Dean’s young life. Sam also seems to realize that the reason Dean gave this nice, stable life up was so that he could take care of Sam. And, while Sam is learning all of this new info about how Dean almost escaped “the life”, we are privy to Dean’s flashbacks–and yep, that’s pretty much how it went down.

In one of Dean’s flashbacks, John shows up to retrieve tween!Dean on the night Dean’s about to go to the “school dance” with his sweetheart. Sonny offers to fight to try to keep Dean in a stable environment away from a negligent father who leave his oldest son in situations where he has to steal food for his younger brother, and then, when that son gets caught, leaves him to the local authorities as an object lesson about getting caught (WTF, John?). However, when Sonny makes Dean this offer, he also delivers John’s message: “He just said to tell you you* had a job, said you’d know what that means.” And as we all know from Season Two, Dean has always had “one job”: taking care of his little brother.

Teary-eyed-but-stoic tween!Dean hears the honk of the Impala’s horn, and looks out of the window to see his brother playing with a toy jet. He huffs out a fond laugh, politely thanks Sonny for everything, and gives the man who’s been looking out for Dean’s own welfare for the last two months a firm goodbye handshake. Like the responsible young man he is. Which is just … ugh. Remember, kids, the expression is ALL THE FEELS. Right when Dean lets a single tear fall, Sonny pulls Dean in for a–still manly–goodbye hug. And we get a close up on Sonny’s worried expression. Apparently, Sonny thinks that parents who abandon their kinds for months at a time as punishment don’t provide the most supportive and loving home lives. For some strange reason.

This moment really gives you the impression that Dean’s job isn’t just to protect Sam from the things that go bump in the night, but to serve as a buffer between him and their hard, emotionally distant father. If Dean steps back into the adult role of John Winchester’s “good little soldier,” that will give Sam time and space to be a kid–playing with toy jets–just a little bit longer. Remember this little speech from Season 2?:

DEAN: You know, when we were little–and you couldn’t been more than five–you just started asking questions. How come we didn’t have a mom? Why do we always have to move around? Where’d Dad go when he’d take off for days at a time? I remember I begged you, “Quit asking, Sammy. Man, you don’t want to know.”

I just wanted you to be a kid … Just for a little while longer. I always tried to protect you … Keep you safe … Dad didn’t even have to tell me. It was just always my responsibility, you know? It’s like I had one job … I had one job …

— “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2”

And as if all that wasn’t enough to outright flatten the audience members who have any emotional investment in the brothers’ bond (which is pretty much all of them–er, us), back in the present, Sam thanks Dean for “always being there”:

SAM: Dean … Thank you.

DEAN: For what?

SAM: For always being there, for having my back. Look, I know it always hasn’t been easy …

DEAN: I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

Say it with me now: ALL THE FEELS.

The Women

Not many womenfolk this episode! Which I’m fine with. I mean, most of it is set at “Sonny’s Home For Boys,” so there’s actually a, you know, reason for this episode present a rather male-centered world.

However! We still have three female characters! Let’s see. First there’s the overprotective mommy ghost whose life literally revolves around her son’s–because she is haunting him.

Then there’s the older, devout, rosary-wielding Ruth, who serves as a caretaker for the boy’s at Sonny’s Home, and who is offed by the overprotective mommy ghost.

So, of the three female characters, one dies in the course of the episode and one is dead before the episode begins. Hmm. Ratio-wise, things aren’t looking so great for the ladies.

Lastly, we have Robin, who just so happens to have been Dean’s very first kiss. She’s still hanging around, giving boys guitar lessons at Sonny’s Home. Surprisingly, Robin survives, despite being Dean’s very first ever girlfriend! She should get some kind of special award for that, because that is impressive. Of course, we will probably never see Robin again. Which is for the best, really, because if we ever do see her again, then the odds will not be good for her survival.

robin_sketch4

Behold: the unicorn who survives the episode.

Final Thoughts

The plot’s neither particularly innovative nor particularly interesting, but all in all, this is a solid, emotionally resonant episode that reminds us why the Winchesters are so easy to love.

* * *

* The transcript at the Supernatural Wikia says “he” here. However, I first heard this line as “you had a job,” and after listening to it a few times, I still read it this way.

Some Thoughts on Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 6, “Heaven Can’t Wait”

Wow, I haven’t posted a Supernatural response in a long time. So here’s one. Considering Episode 12 just aired, this is not exactly timely. But what can I say? I’m playing catch up.

I started drafting this response right after “Heaven Can’t Wait” aired (before putting it on a virtual shelf and allowing it to accumulate virtual dust), so the bulk of it was written without any knowledge of what comes to pass in the subsequent episodes.

“Heaven Can’t Wait” was directed by Rob Spera and written by Robert Berens.

Season 9. Episode 6 of Supernatural has four speaking roles played by women in it. Five if you count the disembodied voice on the suicide hotline. And six if you count the wailing infant. (All playing human or human-like parts, and not just voicing non-human animals.) Actually, I think this is a female-representation record for the season! [E/N: Until “Rock and a Hard Place,” anyway. I will share my … opinions … on that episode later.] Confetti and cookies for all!

Are they all roles that in some way feed into stereotypes about women? Yes, yes they are. Except for the infant. But infants get a pass for being dependent and vulnerable. What the hey, I’m still pleased. Because women! They exist!

Castiel’s New Job

Much like “I’m No Angel,” this is really Castiel’s episode.

When Cas first shows up, he is doing the most humiliating thing the showrunners could think of: working at the Gas N’ Sip. (Cue lightning and dissonant chords played on a pipe organ.) I wonder how many fans of this show work at gas stations, and how many of them threw things at the screen when this episode aired.

And this is … a pretty idealized version of working retail, actually. I mean, Castiel’s boss seems appreciative (at first anyway), the delivery guy is polite and we don’t see Cas encounter any whiny, invasive or verbally abusive customers. And the place is very clean. (Though that may just be because Cas himself is so good at cleaning it.) A customer service job without annoying customers? I don’t think any other “sales associate” in the world has experienced that.

Dean’s Reaction to Castiel’s New Job

As it turns out, Dean is kind of an elitist, which is weird considering how self-conscious he’s always been about his own relative lack of education (compared to Sam). When Dean first sees Cas at his new job, he’s all, “You’re too good for this.” Shut up, Dean. Some people work for a living. Also, for most of your life, your finances have come from pool hustling and credit card fraud. And since we never saw you set Cas up with sweet, sweet fake IDs or fraudulent credit cards or cash or even a short-term loan, I’d say he’s doing pretty well for a homeless dude with no ID, money, references or personal history. Just saying.

Also–in this episode and in earlier ones in the season–Sam keeps asking Dean about how Cas is doing (and I love that Sam is thoughtful like that), but he never brings up the money angle. Right now, I’m assuming that Sam is assuming that Dean has already thought of how Cas will need money to survive now that he’s human.

Yeah, Sam really should know better.

No, Wait, It’s Actually Babysitting That is the Most Humiliating Thing the Showrunners Can Think Of

While on the job, Castiel thinks he is being asked out by his attractive supervisor, Nora. Apparently, however, she just wants him to come to her house and babysit her small child, while she goes out bowling with someone else. The whole sequence–and most of the episode, really–seems intended to embarrass Cas, or to make us feel embarrassed for Cas, and Cas ending up having to care for a baby when he thought he was going to get sex (or at least stuff that would lead up to sex) is just oh-so-emasculating that we must all feel sorry for Cas and Cas’s sexual frustration. And I do feel sorry for Cas. Mostly because his boss is clearly taking advantage of him.

I’m a little annoyed with how the episode handles the miscommunication between Nora and Castiel. It would have been really easy to have Cas misunderstand Nora’s intentions simply because he’s still only newly human and he has a hard time picking up on social cues. Castiel’s boss could have asked him to babysit in such a way that the audience would understand what she meant, but Cas would not. Instead, Nora “delicately” phrases her request as follows:

NORA: I’ve been afraid to ask. I don’t wanna take advantage of you as my employee, and I certainly don’t wanna jeopardize our working relationship. But as a working, single mom, it’s hard enough to get a date, let alone meet a really great guy, and–Tomorrow’s my night off, and I know you’re off, too, and I was just wondering if there’s any chance you’re free tomorrow night?

CASTIEL: Um … yes? Yes.

NORA: [kisses him] You’re the best.

Yeah, the thing missing from this request for babysitting services is the actual request itself.

This means that it really, really seems like she’s asking Cas out. Which, in turn, makes it seem like she’s leading him on. And even though she doesn’t seem to realize that she’s leading Cas on, the whole thing still reads like a bait-and-switch in which Nora lures Castiel to her home with her feminine wiles, only to drop the (horribly emasculating) chore of babysitting in his lap.

Cas himself certainly seems to think babysitting is emasculating. When he learns of his night’s true occupation, he sighs out the word “babysitting” with an air of utter resignation. As if he associates some stigma with the task of caring for another person’s child. Where would he have even picked up on that? Did the topic of babysitting come up a lot in his garrison?

It just kind of irks me that the thing the show tells us is even more humiliating than the (presumed to be humiliating) occupation of customer service is the female-coded occupation of caring for a child.

And to add insult to, well, insult, Castiel’s supervisor never offers to pay him for his night of babysitting, even though, as his boss, she surely has some idea of how much he needs the money. Babysitting can be very difficult work, and even when it is not exceptionally difficult, it can still be stressful. It is something you ask family and maybe close friends to do for free. In the right circumstances. Everybody else, you reimburse for their time.

Also, getting your employees to do stuff for you, for free, outside of working hours? Yeah, that’s just tacky.

And the rest of the post is under the cut:

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Some Thoughts on Supernatural Season 9, Episode 2, “Devil May Care”

Here be my incredibly SPOILERY reactions for “Devil May Care,” Supernatural Season 9, Episode 2. (Directed by Guy Norman Bee; Written by Andrew Dabb.) The following is full of SPOILERS.

The Title

“Devil May Care”? Meh, they’ve done better.

Dean

Oh, Dean.

Dean keeps a secret from Sam. Dean feels guilt. Dean drinks. See Dean drink.

So, back in Episode 1, Dean agreed to let the angel Ezekiel possess Sam’s body to save Sam’s life. Sam is in the driver’s seat most of the time, but Ezekiel is still in there. Now Dean feels all bad about the angel deal he made, but he won’t go back on it or fess up, because then Sam could evict Zeke and die without the angelic healing mojo Ezekiel is pumping into his system.

I get that Dean feels like he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s either let this angel possess Sam’s body or let Sam die, and neither of those options are good. Still. What Dean and Ezekiel are doing to Sam is reprehensible.

I do like that Dean has started calling Ezekiel “Zeke.” Because he wants Zeke to be the new Cas, clearly.

My favorite Dean moment in the episode is when he tells Kevin that he’s family, and that the four of them, Dean, Sam, Castiel and Kevin, are all a part of that family. Dean, I just knew you were meant to play mother hen to everybody. I hope Castiel moves into the bunker soon so that the whole family (plus a body-sharing angel and a captive demon) can all start living under the same roof.

Samzekiel

Possession-without-true-consent issues aside, Ezekiel seems really nice. Too nice. “Oh, sure, you want me to ride in the backseat of your brother’s mind, healing what would have been the fatal damage from his Hell trials, never letting on that I’m there or interfering in his life in any way, except on–and ONLY on–those occasions when I can save him from certain death. And once he’s healed and I’m healed I’ll leave and never bother you again. And in return all I ask is a brief ride in the Sammobile, during which ride I will main as unobtrusive as fallen-angelically possible.”

I’m not sure even Castiel at his pushoveriest was this accommodating an angel.

And while I can’t stop waiting for the other shoe to drop (at which point we will surely discover Zeke is some kind of Lucifer-and/or-Michael-supporting baddie, or something along those lines), I really hope Ezekiel turns out to be trustworthy. Because all the consent vs. free will stuff surrounding this very odd situation is just so much more interesting if Ezekiel really is just trying to help.

My new, dearest hope for Sam this season: Sam comes to terms with sharing his body with Ezekiel. Then, whenever he’s in a tight spot, he shouts “Shazam!” to summon his angelic alter-ego.

I know it’s not going to happen.

But … please? I really really want it to happen.

My sketch of Samzekiel in Supernatural 9x02, "Devil May Care"

Shazam, bitches.

Abaddon

Yay, Abaddon’s back!

Wow, Abaddon is really attached to her Alaina-Huffman-shaped meat-suit. I mean, she could have just gone out and possessed any one of millions of bodies that have not been shot, minced, buried alive, dug up, sewn together and immolated, but instead she gets a henchman to practice necromancy to revive her favorite body.

So if, as it seemed, Abaddon spent some time as smoke while waiting for her favorite meat-suit to come back from the figurative dry-cleaners, does that mean that Josie got a chance to go to the afterlife? Or do human souls return when their bodies are cured of the whole being-dead thing? I think this show needs to put out an “ABCs of Possession” handbook: Angels and Demons and the People They Wear, because this is all very confusing.

Abaddon rises from the bathtub where her henchman performs the dark necromantic ritual on her favorite fleshly outfit, and we see a few blurry, tantalizing glimpses of Abaddon’s (Josie’s) naked body. Because she’s the sexy kind of evil.

My sketch of Abaddon in Supernatural 9x02, "Devil May Care"

Her clothes burned away, but her makeup, hairspray and nail polish were somehow reconstituted. Don’t ask.

Apparently, Abaddon is now thinking of upgrading her meat-suit to Dean Winchester, whom she sees as a superior vessel (well, Michael wanted him; she’s probably got a point). That’s what she tells Dean, anyway, once she’s got him in her well-manicured clutches. Honestly, it seems like an empty threat considering how clearly attached she still is to Josie’s body. Why else would she have gone through all that trouble to get it back?

So now I have this fantasy that the season will eventually include an Abaddon-in-Dean vs. Ezekiel-in-Sam showdown, which would be pretty cool. And hey, maybe somebody could possess Cas, too, just for fun. (Like, maybe a demon could possess Cas, and then get ‘healed’ by the Winchesters, and then an angel could possess the healed demon in Cas, who would still be possessing Jimmy, and it would be like possession nesting dolls. Because why not?)

So, Abaddon seems pretty set to become the Queen of Hell. With Crowley still in the Winchesters’ dungeon, there’s not a lot standing in her way.

And the rest of my Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 2 reaction is under the cut:

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Some thoughts on the Supernatural Season 9 Premiere, “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here”

First off: SPOILERS EVERYWHERE, for everything in Supernatural up to and including this episode. Proceed at your own risk.

The Road So Far

The recap kicks off with the Impala zooming down a road and Charlie’s disembodied voice saying, “There’s pretty much nothing the Winchesters can’t do if they work together.” This is a sweet sentiment. Inaccurate, but sweet. The Winchesters have failed plenty of times and that’s why I love them.

After a few seconds, the music picks up. Oh, hells yeah.

It sounds like this “Road So Far” is set to the George Thorogood & the Destroyers cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” Because I am an English major and not a rock star, it will forever bother me that the song does not go “whom do you love,” but I can’t have everything. And also, that would sound terrible.

Anyway, the song is good, and consistent with the tone of the show. The refrain of “Who do you love?” serves to remind us of how much the central characters have sacrificed, or at least tried to sacrifice, for their loved ones. There are also several moments when the line “Who do you love?” comes right before a cut from Dean to Castiel or a cut from Dean to Sam, which surely makes for excellent fodder for those dedicated Destiel and Wincest fans out there. There’s less grist for the Sastiel and Moosely mills, but slash fans can’t have everything, either.*

The song also makes incorporating Crowley’s big “I deserve to be loved” moment into the recap really easy. It’s like a call/response thing. The song asks, “Who do you love?” and Crowley screams, “I deserve to be loved!” Piece of cake. And you just know that this was a priority for the producers. If you have seen a single Supernatural interview between last season’s finale and this season’s premiere, you know that the showrunners, cast and crew cannot get over how awesome they think the Sam/Crowley church scene was. They pretty much went fanboy for themselves, really.

And hey, it’s not like they were wrong. It is a good scene, and it’s nice to see it here.

The Title

Fun fact: “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” is a song from the musical Annie. (There’s also this version with Audra McDonald.) This continues the long tradition of Supernatural naming its episodes after song titles. This episode name, of course, brings with it the added bonus of referencing a Broadway show tune sung by (and to) Little Orphan Annie.

My sketch of Death in Supernatural's Season 9 premier episode, "I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here"

Does that make Death Daddy Warbucks?

Also, like most of the SPN episode titles, this one has a nicely layered meaning, working as a potential reference for both Sam in Limbo, contemplating the afterlife, and Castiel–and his fallen brethren–trying to deal with being stuck on Earth. (This is especially appropriate for Castiel’s arc, considering his initial optimism regarding his siblings’ potential for assimilation.) But two layers doesn’t make for much of a layer cake, so of course the title also applies to Ezekiel taking up residence in Sam’s body.

Sadly, I cannot stretch the title’s meaning to apply to Crowley, who spends the episode in the trunk of Dean’s car.

And the rest of my reaction is under the cut:

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Men. Men in Cages.

It’s time. The Supernatural Season 9 premiere is upon us at long last. I would like to take a moment, in these last hours before the season begins, to look back on one of the more recent Season 9 promotions and my reaction to it.

At the end of September, this happened:

My sketch of Dean in his Supernatural Season 9 Character Promotional Poster.

Dean in a cage. Staring at you.

The Powers That Be over at the CW decided to give us a series of posters featuring the leading men of Supernatural–in other words, Dean, Sam, Castiel and Crowley–in cages.

There are bars. There are chains. Nobody is in the chains, and the posters don’t show the cage doors, so … it’s not at all clear how locked these cages are, or how easy and/or difficult they would be to escape.

But still: cages. Men in cages.

In 1999, Susan Bordo wrote The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and Private. In that book, in the much-excerpted chapter “Beauty (Re)discovers the Male Body,” Bordo describes her reaction upon finding a particularly evocative Calvin Klein underwear ad in her New York Times Magazine:

[…] I had my first real taste of what it’s like to inhabit this visual culture as a man. It was the first time in my experience that I had encountered a commercial representation of a male body that seemed to deliberately invite me to linger over it. Let me make that stronger–that seemed to reach out to me, interrupting my mundane but peaceful Sunday morning, and provoke me into erotic consciousness, whether or not I wanted it.

[–Excerpt taken from page 131 of David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky’s 2008 anthology, Ways of Reading*]

What was evocative, for Bordo, was not the model’s mostly nude state (though she certainly did not mind it), but the way that the model was posed: head down and eyes averted, sinuously muscled body held in a gentle S-curve. The model was enticing in a submissive way that bucked the trend of hard, cold, hyper-masculine male models that were the go-to standard of advertising at the time. This ad was different, and it spoke to Bordo in a way that other mainstream advertisements displaying male bodies–advertisements painstakingly designed so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of a heterosexual male gaze–did not.

Right now, I feel kind of like Bordo in the spring of ’95 (when she first saw the ad, and knocked over her coffee).

Because, for me, with my own particular erotic inclinations, these promotional posters for Supernatural come as a similar shock. These posters are jarring for me–an interruption, though a welcome and enticing one. And they certainly “provoke me into erotic consciousness.”

Yeah. These posters kind of do it for me. And not in a way that I encounter in popular culture on a daily basis, except on those days when I embark on deliberate searches for such stimuli. I can certainly find this kind of thing when I go looking for it; it is just that it does not usually find me.

These are, by far, the most evocative, and most provocative, Supernatural posters (or DVD covers, or photo stills, or what have you) that I have yet encountered. Because they appeal to me, to my taste. They seem almost as if they were designed with me in mind. As if I am, for once, the target audience, and not just someone who happens to enjoy a product that was aimed at somebody else.

In the first place, these posters of the leading SPN men present them in poses and attitudes that actually look, well, in-character. Appropriately enough. And that can sometimes be hard to find.

For example, my parents once bought me a Spike-themed Buffy the Vampire Slayer wall calendar. As Buffy was a show I just about lived for then, and I had a huge, open crush on Spike, this was a very thoughtful and appropriate gift. (And yes, I do realize now why crushing on Spike is so very problematic, but that is not the point at the moment.) I loved the character and I appreciated the calendar. However, there was something dissatisfying about the calendar’s monthly images.

They were mostly just . . . pictures of Spike. Which, I know, I know, is what I signed up for, yes, but these pictures were all so static. Spike standing around. Spike showing some fang. Spike looking cool. The thing is, what had made me fall in love with the character in the first place was his vulnerability. The way he had of always getting in his own way. The wounded look he would get when someone hurt his feelings. How he wanted to be the Big Bad, but still yearned to submit to someone else’s authority. The trademark James Marsters head tilt, indicating absolute bewilderment. I liked Spike because of all of those moments in the show when he wasn’t calm, cool and collected.

And this calendar didn’t include any of those. In fact, some (if not most) of the pictures in it seemed like they weren’t of Spike at all, but of James Marsters in his Spike costume, at a studio shoot somewhere, being told where to stand by the photographer. Which still made for images that were pretty easy on the eyes. They just weren’t what I wanted.

I tried. I tried to look at these studio-polished stills and reawaken the erotic charge that I had felt during the last five minutes of “Fool For Love” (Season 5), or during all of “Intervention” (Season 5), or while singing along with Spike’s solo in “Once More With Feeling” (Season 6). And it worked, to an extent, but it was an exercise of recall, not an appreciation of the calendar’s images in their own right.

In the second place–Hey, remember that there was a “first place” before I went off on that huge Spike tangent?–the CW has a nasty habit of releasing promotional images that are Photoshopped so obviously and so awkwardly, they end up grotesque. (I’m looking at you, Vampire Diaries.) And while I’m sure Photoshop (or some similar piece of software) was involved in the making of these posters, these posters nonetheless do not look grotesque. They look good. The men in them look pretty good, too.

Furthermore, I just like looking at pictures of men in cages. (Disclaimer: when and only when those pictures represent fictional scenarios.) Because BDSM is fun.

My one-poster-at-a-time take (Analysis! Sketches! Also probably some SPOILERS for Supernatural!) on each of the four cage-themed promotional images is below the cut:

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Supernatural vs. Women: Some thoughts on the Supernatural Season 8 Finale

First off, I am no longer numbering the “Supernatural vs. Women” posts. It makes post titles too complicated (especially when I make multi-parts posts). From now on, the posts in this category will just use the heading “Supernatural vs. Women: [Subtitle].”

Secondly, only the first part of this post will focus on the treatment of female characters by Supernatural. The rest of the post will consist of my more general reactions to the finale.

My sketchy, SPOILERY reactions to the Season 8 finale, “Sacrifice,” are after the cut:

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