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Giving up

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I don’t know anyone. I got into the Supernatural fandom by accident, because I study mythology and the ancient world and I was interested in how the ‘ineffable’ was portrayed in modern media.

Ineffable: too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words; not to be uttered.

There is this Greek writer, Herodotus, an amazing man. If you haven’t read his books, you should. He writes about mummies and crazy kings and cursed rings. Modern, in many ways. Very curious, very rational. A superb storyteller, even though, strictly speaking, he was a historian. Anyway, Herodotus traveled all over the Mediterranean trying to answer one question: where are the gods? Has someone actually seen them? And nobody he spoke to knew anything. ‘The gods are long gone’, they all said. Until Herodotus came to Egypt, and he was shown the sacred records detailing divine activity on earth. And, yes, the records said no god had been seen in Egypt for a thousand years, but Herodotus didn’t leave empty-handed. He witnessed something there; experienced the divine. And he wouldn’t say what, exactly. ‘Of such things, we will not speak. They are ineffable,’ he wrote - which is pretty frustrating for us, but, I guess, if you saw something - angels, demons, God - it wouldn’t be easy, it wouldn’t feel right, to babble about it.

Anyway, that’s why I started watching Supernatural. I liked the first three seasons, but it was Castiel who made me fall in love. Here was an otherworldy character which had been done exactly right - threatening, eerie, BAMF, and yet oddly vulnerable and completely alien. Good writing, and near perfection from Misha Collins. Hats off, gentlemen. And at that point, I was still just me - a nerdy student interested in the divine, movies which got it wrong (Troy - nice battle scenes, though) and movies which got it right (Dogma had an interesting, unique perspective).

But then I started noticing things. Was Castiel staring at Dean...that way? Was Dean staring back? I rubbed my eyes. It was just me, surely.

Life got in the way, and I forgot Supernatural, forgot the whole thing. I came back to it thanks to the fandom (CW, you should really be more grateful), thanks to those ‘We have a gif for everything’ posts. By then, ‘Destiel’ seemed to be a popular concept. I had to look it up because I had no idea what that meant. So I read about it, and then I started where I left off, the beginning of Season 6. And after two episodes, I decided to go back and watch the whole thing from the beginning again, because it was that good. Also, I wanted to look at Dean (and Castiel) again, because apparently it wasn’t just me.

So, yes, I was no longer a student alone in a room - without meaning to, I had become a ‘Destiel shipper’, discovered there were thousands of people like me, who were seeing what I was seeing, and they were blogging and writing and giffing about it. They were drawing fanart and editing heart-wrenching videos.

For a while, it felt good. It’s always good to belong somewhere, isn’t it?

Because, well, by that point I had my Master’s degree. I was still interested in the ‘ineffable’, of course - it is a rare skill to pin down so well someone who’s totally alien, a being which we, as humans, have never seen, can barely conceive of (in that same period, I binge-read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and the thistle-haired gentleman became my new obsession).

However, I was more interested, in that period of my life, in another kind of ‘ineffable’: anything that wasn’t heterosexuality. The deviation from ‘the norm’. Homosexuality, bisexuality - how is it even possible to define what we love? Isn’t it weird how we need labels for everything? What is a girl who had a crush on another girl only once? What is a married woman who doesn’t feel attracted to her husband, or anyone else? Why do so many men experiment with other men and reject the ‘gay’ and ‘bi’ labels for themselves?

Sexuality is fluid, and the need to define it and control it a cultural construct. I’d studied ancient Greek for seven years; I knew that much. Ancient Athens was a city where men were encouraged to fool around with boys, and yet homosexuality (ie, penetrative sex between two men) was a crime punishable by death. In the Greek department, anything had seemed normal, pretty much. I had been reading about Alexander and Hephaestion in the morning; about a guy turning into a donkey and having sex with women in the afternoon. Queens were laying eggs. Goddesses were having sex with men, and those men lost their sight - because Supernatural got that part right. The divine cannot be looked upon without consequences. As soon as I stepped out of it, though, I realized that, actually, no. ‘Deviation’ from the Stepford family model was still perceived as dangerous, immoral. People were suffering; gay people around the world were executed or emprisoned for being gay; gay teenagers in the West were taking their own lives. Hell, teenagers suspected of being gay were taking their own lives. I had been aware of this before, but at that moment in my life it became the core issue I was interested in. Do we accept that consenting adults can do whatever they want with each other? Do we accept that people can love, deeply, madly, passionately, the ‘wrong’ person? I saw this, still see this, as a line in the sand separating civilisation from barbarity.

And about Destiel - sorry it took me so long to get here. Since nobody is going to read this, I’m taking my time. About Destiel, then - it became - it became a symbol for everything I wanted fixed in the world. A love story blossoming between two improbable characters. Something completely different from the usual black and white BS one sees in series and movies. It was moving, a joy to watch, the way these two characters were finding each other, despite all obstacles in their paths - despite this show being a horror comedy on the CW.

Also, it was undeniable. It wasn’t friendship. I don’t know how anyone can perceive what’s going on between Dean and Cas as friendship. I saw the same thing happening in Sherlock, had fights with friends about it. I remember scoffing at someone in exasperation that straight men don’t look at each other’s lips when they’re talking. They just don’t. That’s Sexual Attraction 101.

Anyway, there is no need to make a list of reasons. You’re here, so you know all about it. Or, more to the point, I am talking to myself, so I know all about it.

But the thing is, I called this post ‘Giving up’ because I am giving up. On Dean and Cas, I mean. When the whole queerbaiting Twitterstorm came down, I was still hoping against hope those people had been wrong. I was hoping that the romance dialogue and the longing looks were actual things, part of the plot, and not just a cheap trick to keep people watching and making gifs and bringing more people to the show.

I now think I was wrong.

The episodes we’ve had since the Twitterstorm - I read many metas about them. There’s so many people on tumblr who are really talented. I read metas turning dialogues and photography and clothing choices inside out, trying to prove that Destiel was still there - was the endgame, many said. These were clever analyses, they really were. I tried to hold on to them. But I saw Angel Heart this morning (written by Robbie Thompson, no less). And I now think they were wrong.

I love Castiel, I love Dean, I love what they had between them, and I still love ‘ineffable’ things. But I don’t see it - them - anymore. Jensen and Misha are not playing it like that anymore. Cas has been studiously paired with Sam, not Dean. And Cas’ character arc is coming to an end. He’s now amended for his sins, such as they were, by making sure Claire will be safe, her parents in Heaven. I think he’ll perform a last duty as ‘Winchesters guardian’ by saving Dean, and then he’ll die. Rowena’s threats to Crowley are a red herring if I ever saw one.

And even if I’m wrong, even if Cas survives the season finale-

Fact is, we can learn more from Sherlock than from Dean. The truth is very often the less complicated thing we see. It’s right in front of us. ‘Cock-up before conspiracy,’ as Sir Bernard Ingham said. Because there is no conspiracy here, no endgame. Just a bunch of creative people playing around with characters. For money - let’s not forget that. I do not wish to cheapen this, at all, because I admire their work, but we have to be aware of this: the show must sell. These are not crazy performance artists living on the streets. Their job is to keep people watching. People watching means ads, and ads means money, and money means another episode - another season.

So the truth is, in my opinion, exactly what we saw happening right in front of us.

Some of the time, the relationship between Dean and Castiel was constructed as a romance. Because some of the writers imagined it that way; because Jensen and Misha have awesome chemistry; because someone made a deliberate choice to diversify target audience; because it was a way to avoid introducing other characters and upending the balance; or just because. In any case, someone thought it would be a good idea. But then, increasingly, people got upset. A discussion followed. Decisions were made. The whole thing was called off. Why risk upsetting thousands of traditional-minded viewers who’ve been there from day one for some ‘honest fun’? Why take a stand on such a controversial subject? Surely, even the most devoted Destiel shipper must realize that Dean and Cas making out on screen would create a lot of trouble. This is not an experimental French movie. It’s an American TV show. And I don’t dislike the US (much) but let’s remember what we are talking about here.

A few years ago, a woman who believed in witches was on the shortlist to become the next president. Many children are taught that Jesus created dinosaurs; that God created this planet in six days (and these are not hidden, sectarian schools; this happens in the open; this is legal). Teenagers are encouraged to wear Abstinence rings. The US has changed so much, in fact, that believing in God (and if at all possible in the Old Testament version) is a prerequisite for anyone wishing for a career in politics. This is a new phenomenon. It started with George W. Bush - it was a deliberate political strategy, and got out of hand. It caused a lot of damage, and it will probably turn even uglier, because people are funny that way.

So, well, a CW show - a family show - telling the story of two men falling in love, implying, in fact, that someone can ‘become gay’ (so many people are not seeing that Dean is actually bi, because, admittedly, the hints are so subtle they’re very easy to miss) - that someone can be ‘turned gay’, even - and not by your average good-for-nothing Communist, but by an angel of the Lord? Right. If you don’t think that would create huge waves - and the presidential race is on, don’t forget - you don’t read enough newspapers.

So, well.

I guess the CW still gets what it wants, because, unless Cas becomes a woman or the writers are replaced by badly trained monkeys, I will keep watching it. But the spark, for me, is gone. I don’t think Dean and Cas will get their happy ending. I give up.

And since I am talking to invisible people, I will talk, now, directly to everyone involved with Supernatural - producers, writers, editors, actors, supporting staff.

Please - prove me wrong.

I am not saying, Change the plot to give me something I want. Never that. I am saying, Stay true to the story you want to tell. And be aware you’re not telling your story in a void. The world is going through something momentous right now, a defining moment of some kind. I watch your show because it’s good and because I don’t want to go out drinking on a Wednesday, but I also watch your show because everything is turning dark and sinister. Because we’ve never seen so many refugees since World War 2. Because Syria has been destroyed, and we have done nothing to stop it. Because Yemen and Ukraine are about to blow up, and those explosions will scorch our own borders. Because our cities can be attacked with near impunity, our journalists killed, our citizens threatened and silenced. Because in so many countries around the world, women and girls are raped, mutilated, killed, sold into slavery and forgotten. Because young boys are forced to cut off their parent’s heads and become soldiers. Because we are on the brink of a disaster and nobody seems to know what to do. Because we need to remember what is good in this world, as Sam would say, if we’re going to make it to the other side.

And that’s why it’s intolerable, for me, to think that perhaps you came so close to this line, this ‘ineffable’ line, just to have fun, or for marketing reasons.

It’s 2015, but our Apocalypse, in our world, has not been averted yet. We are all Dean, out here. We feel guilty about people we cannot save, we survive in a life we have not chosen, we do our best to keep our families safe. And we don’t think we deserve to be saved. We don’t think we deserve to be loved. We don’t think we can be ourselves, express our feelings, have something we truly want for a change - act instead of react to whatever monster life is throwing at us next.

So, if you think we can still save the world, and ourselves - be more compassionate, more loving, more tolerant of each other’s quirks and weirdness - please let Castiel rebel for us; learn about us. And love us. Because we’re family. We need him. I need him.