How Schitt’s Creek And Supernatural Have Me Rooting For Queer Ships For The First Time
I’ve always believed that the arts can have a very profound impact on our lives, and effect change in us on an atomic level. It makes the biggest case for representation in entertainment today, as we inch towards a society that is opening its eyes and arms to people, situations, belief systems and experiences that they were closed up against before. Books, movies, TV shows are important because the characters we see on them are like outfits we try on, to find one that we like. And for a long time, certain sections of our society, such or the LGBTQ+ community, did not find any characters that they could relate to. That changed when shows like Supernatural, Schitt’s Creek, Watchmen, Never Have I Ever and others arrived on the scene, with characters that were queer, ethnic or practiced different faiths, and played characters that did justice to these aspects of their being.
As both, an obsessive reader and binge-watcher of TV shows and movies, I’ve always felt very strongly attached to fictional characters. All those funny quotes about fictional friends meaning more than real friends, living vicariously through fictional romances and fictional men ruining real men… all of them hold true for me. I’ve had my Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings phases, Star Wars phase, my Twilight phase, my Firefly, Buffy and Angel Phase, Game of Thrones and The Vampire Diaries phase, and of course, my Supernatural phase. Some, such as my chick-flick and Pride & Prejudice phase, of course, last longer than the others. But rest assured, every fandom I’ve ever belonged to, I continue to carry in my heart.
As a fangirl, I come with lots of fictional relationship baggage. No wonder my own love life is as dry and desolate as the lands of Mordor.
My garden of fictional ships sees a lot of rainfall, and is in a state of constant bloom. I mean, you name it, Elizabeth and Darcy, Buffy and Spike, Bella and Edward, Beckett and Castle, Emma and Hook, Elena and Damon, Klaus and Caroline, Sookie and Eric, Fleabag and Hot Priest, DeckerStar, Covinsky, there are just so many! Now blame it on a lack of representation of LGBTQ+ relationships, but I never really got around to shipping a same-sex couple. No, I wasn’t homophobic, before you think that. I just had my hands too full with the other cis couples that I was shipping, I just never felt any such relationships really move me, even though there were quite a few around on television.
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Now the bromances, those I shipped real hard. Gimme a good Winchester or Salvatore brother, or a Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke team-up, and you could have my soul (no, not really, go away crossroads demon). And when you have bromances, you also have the slash fiction that comes along with it. To each their own, but I was never into shipping incest either.
And then suddenly, something changed
I was quite late to the Schitt’s Creek housewarming party. I had been meaning to watch it before the final season began, but never got around to it, Their clean sweep of the Comedy awards at the 2020 Emmys is what solidified my resolve, and I finally got down to watching the Roses life get torn down and rebuilt again, less luxuriously but definitely more beautifully. I think it would take another article to do justice to my love for Schitt’s Creek, Dan Levy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy. But what I can tell you is how Schitt’s Creek was responsible for making me ship a queer couple for the first time. And for that, I think I’ll be eternally grateful.
I feel so immensely lucky to be alive at the same time that romantic relationships like the one between David (Dan Levy) and Patrick (Noah Reid) exists. I saw the impact that it had on the LGBTQ+ community, and it made me tear up thinking how long they’ve had to wait for mainstream television to give them characters that could tell their stories. What is remarkable about David and Patrick’s relationship, which I am sure has been talked about countless times, is how the show completely refuses to make a big fuss about their genders or sexual orientation of the couple. It’s not presented to the audience as a ‘queer’ story that should be made a big deal about or have the other characters fuss over in any way. It’s just two people in love, and their family and friends coming together to celebrate that love.
David and Patrick’s romance goes through the same motions as most heterosexual relationships would go through. We’ve seen how most queer characters are represented in Indian movies and shows (no, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, not you. You did good.) Schitt’s Creek did the exact opposite. And that normalising is what opened my heart up and made me want to root for those two. I was crying by the time we came to the series finale, and my heart was too full. But I was a tad dejected that we wouldn’t be able to see David and Patrick as a married couple living in David’s dream house because can you even imagine!
When the special retrospective episode came around, and there was that moment when Noah read the letter that mothers of LGBTQ+ people had written to the cast of Schitt’s Creek to tell them how the show had impacted their lives, the tears were pouring torrentially. OMG, stop it, David! (Read in Alexis’ voice.)
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Right after I finished with Schitt’s Creek, I resumed my rewatch of Supernatural Seasons 1-14, which I had begun sometime earlier in the year. You know, in prep for the series finale. Because are you even a true fan if you don’t?
If you’re a fellow SPN Family member, then you already know about what the show has meant for its fans. The Supernatural fandom doesn’t just call itself a family for nothing. It really is one. And the show, its cast and crew have played a huge role in helping many fans get through some of the most difficult times of their lives. In fact, I’m currently reading a fan-compiled book that contains essays from people whose lives were changed by, as Jensen Ackles puts it, “the little show that could”.
Supernatural, through its characters like Charlie Bradbury (Felicia Day), angels not having a gender and inhabiting both male and female vessels, and the struggles of its leads like Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki), Castiel (Misha Collins), Crowley (Mark Sheppard) and Jack Kline (Alexander Calvert) who are ‘different’ than the norm, has given the LGBTQ+ community story arcs that mean a lot to them. One of the most popular ships in the entire fandom has been Destiel, which ships Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), a canonically straight character, with the angel Castiel, who is his BFF, and who is often considered the third Winchester brother by Sam and Dean. This isn’t lightly done, because the show has a history of queerbaiting with strategic (and seemingly intentional) moments between Dean and Cas, that might cause any non-Destiel shipper to notice at least a tiny crack in their chassis.
Supernatural ended its decade-and-a-half long run on November 19, 2020, with Season 15 Episode 20. And well, hearts were broken. Some beyond repair, because in 15 x 18 episode, titled rightly ‘Despair’, the angel Castiel finally confessed his love to Dean, just moments before he sacrificed himself. The power of the SPN fandom, which is notably one of the most loyal and active fandoms of all, was so huge that ‘Destiel’ was trending above US Elections and Putin’s resignation on Twitter! It single-handedly resurrected Tumblr! For fans who had been shipping Destiel since Supernatural Season 4 Episode 1, ‘Lazarus Rising’, when Castiel took Dean by the hand and raised him from perdition, this was a sanction of their feelings. Things got crazier when just days later, the actor Misha Collins, confirmed that Castiel didn’t just love Dean as a friend, but his was a romantic, gay declaration of love.
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Me, I was a rendered catatonic. It’s like you’re sitting in the dark for too long, and suddenly someone turns on the light. And for a moment, you don’t know what hit you. And then, you see everything so clearly. Cas’ confession did that to me. I had been aware of Destiel for so long, almost as long as I’ve watched the show (2013 onwards). I was never opposed to it; in fact, I always thought it was adorable, made even more so by the easy chemistry and the off-screen friendship between Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins. But I always knew that the Winchesters’ story would end with each other, and they didn’t have time for love. They had to save the world!
And then BAM! That angel took me by hand and raised me from the ordinary ships I was rooting for and gave me the biggest love story of them all. Yes, Destiel, YES! I see it now! The intensity of Castiel’s love for Dean, a love that changes you on a such a cosmic level and makes you rebel against your own maker, God himself. What was even more heartbreaking was that Castiel didn’t just tell Dean he loved him, he told Dean that he was not the person he thought he was or others thought he was, but someone who was worth saving, and who was capable of so much love. How could I not ship them? How could I not ship this love that was so alchemical? I was desperate for their union, even if it meant an off-camera “Hello, Dean” in the final episodes or just the sound of angel wings rustling. Anything, I begged, just give me anything.
What happened in the aftermath of that episode and the Supernatural series finale, and how it divided the fandom, is again a gigantic timeline that you just might have to follow on Twitter, or even better, on Tumblr. Some fans thought the show did DeanCas wrong by not having Dean say it back. Some called out the writers for queerbaiting once last time and then giving into a very common trope called ‘Bury Your Gays’, in which you have a queer character killed off because you can’t really give them the happy ending they want. Many called it a missed opportunity for the show to do something unprecedented in the history of television. It got so intense that Misha Collins had to come on Twitter, offer clarifications and ask the SPN fandom to educate him on why they were upset. Again, a whole separate article ought to be devoted to this one, because there’s some serious learning to be taken from it.
I’m seeing a lot of commentary on the ending of #SPN & the recent Spanish dub & am disheartened to see there are a lot of misconceptions that are making many in our family feel unheard & unsupported, so I’m calling a #SPNFamily meeting to sort a few things out for the record: pic.twitter.com/hwK0HOkZ8a
— Misha Collins (@mishacollins) November 26, 2020
I don’t want to get into whether I am happy or upset over how Supernatural ended or Destiel became canon or didn’t. I love the show, and nothing’s going to ruin what it made feel. For me, as Castiel said in his confession, happiness is in the being. And me being aware of how hard I now ship Destiel is such a wonderful feeling that it trumps every negative thought. I’ve been revisiting old videos and posts about the show, looking for those little moments, and living off the fan-fiction that shows Dean and Cas as a happy couple! Besides, with the show offering an open ending, and being a writer with an overactive imagination means I can give Dean and Cas the story I want to.
I know, that David and Patrick are vastly different than Dean and Castiel. The former is canon, the latter is under major scrutiny. As I have learnt from simply listening (like Misha Collins), the LGBTQ+ community actually considers what happened with Destiel as counterproductive to the representation movement. And to that, I have to give the mic to them because it’s their voice that really matters. But for me, even though SPN did create more controversy than representation, what I take away from it all is that… it changed me.
The foundations laid by Schitt’s Creek were quite strong, and Supernatural built on it for me. A shaky home, but one nevertheless. From shipping only straight couples to having two queer fan ships that I cannot get enough of, I feel like I’ve come a long way. And here’s the magic, right? Right now, my social media is flooded with my emotions over a fictional ship of a fictional show. And I know there might be people dismissing it as, “Oh but it is just a show! Get a grip.” But the alchemical power of stories transcends pages and screens and words. It can change how real people see and do things. And that’s why, to come full circle, we need more representation. Not one for the heck of it, or to bait people into something, mind you. But representation that normalises. That comes through. That matters.
Is that too emotional? I don’t care! I’m going to Carry On. Best Wishes, Warmest Regards.