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Carry On, Wayward Daughters: Is Supernatural Turning the Focus on Women?

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Each season finale of Supernatural opens with Kansas singing “carry on, my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done.” But what about the wayward daughters? Well, on Wednesday’s new episode, we get to find out. The newest installment of the longest running genre show in American television history is entitled “Don’t You Forget About Me.” Written by Nancy Won, the episode will shift focus from just Sam and Dean to some very awesome ladies: Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), a teen essentially raised by vampires who was saved and adopted by longtime fan favorite Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) back in season nine; and Claire Novak, semi-daughter to Misha Collins’ angel Castiel, who also ended up with Jody after fighting her own battles last season.

“For the last season and a half, we’ve watched the boys essentially dump the characters of Alex and Claire on Sheriff Jody Mills’ doorstep,” Showrunner Jeremy Carver told Entertainment Weekly recently. And in this episode “we’re going to visit those three to see actually what kind of family they have or have not become. It’s a funny and an emotional episode watching these three women essentially trying to survive each other under one roof. Throw in Sam and Dean and it’s a fun episode.”

More than a great story opportunity though, this episode represents something very special to the Supernatural fanbase. Despite having an active fanbase that leans heavily female, some feel Supernatural hasn’t always done right by its female characters. The show also tried unsuccessfully (so far) to launch a spin-off, but fans didn’t respond strongly to the season nine attempt at a back door pilot “Bloodlines.” However the episode that aired before “Bloodlines,” “Alex Annie Alexis Ann,” which told an unexpected and dynamic story almost solely focused on women, may have sowed the seeds instead by allowing Jody Mills to become a hero and surrogate mother to Alex. In the season ten episode “Angel Heart” when Sam and Dean put Claire Novak in a taxi to join Jody and Alex, the fans immediately saw a perfect opportunity for the show to possibly solve the pair of problems. As soon as the episode ended, Twitter and Tumblr were calling for a “Wayward Daughters” spin-off. Within days of the airing of “Angel Heart,” fans Riley Keshner and Betty Days were spear-heading an internet Wayward Daughters campaign which included fan art, a Change.org petition for a spin-off, an official logo, and even a Latin motto.

The voices of fans reached through the veil to the creative side immediately as well, with Rhodes and fellow badass sheriff portrayer Briana Buckmaster writing Wayward Daughters fanfic on twitter and encouraging fans to make their voices heard. When I spoke to Katherine Ramdeen, she told me she became aware of the phenomena and fan frenzy “as soon as Claire got into that taxi”and was thrilled by it. The excitement was real, but the event that truly galvanized not just fan enthusiasm, but a real need for something like Wayward Daughters was when, in the episode immediately following “Angel Heart,” Felicia Days’ character Charlie Bradbury (the show’s only out queer character who many fans saw as representing themselves) was brutally and, for some, pointlessly, killed. Many fans left the show after that event, and anger still runs high over what many felt was a slap in the face from a show that has an exceedingly complicated relationship with fans. Though many fans were outraged, others hung on to the idea of a new opportunity for Supernatural to give its fans a story that didn’t just entertain them, but truly represented them, much in the same way the character of Charlie had.

The fans behind the Wayward Daughters campaign wanted to harness the energy and passion of the fandom not just to influence the show, but to do real good. Following the success of campaigns by many Supernatural stars selling t-shirts on Represent.com, the idea came about to sell a Wayward Daughters shirt for charity. Keshner, a graphic designer, had the art ready and with the guidance of Rhodes, the Wayward Daughters were able to be one of the first designs sold through Creation Stands, an off-shoot of Creation Entertainment (the force behind the incredibly popular Supernatural conventions in the United States). The Creation Stands campaign was a huge success, with over 2,300 shirts sold and proceeds directed to Misha Collins’ charity Random Acts. Just seeing some of the cast of Supernatural in Wayward Daughters shirts was a huge triumph for fans, but the momentum had only just begun. In late fall of last year, fans saw the return of Buckmaster (who many had hoped to be a part of a theoretical spin-off or episode) as Donna Hanscum in the episode “Plush,” followed soon after by the announcement that Rhodes, Ramdeen and Newton were all returning in the episode the fandom had been asking for.

Now, no one can confirm that it was because of the fan reaction that these episodes came about. Fandom-creator relationships are always tricky and after all, if internet fervor alone were enough to influence the show, Dean and Castiel would be happily married and running a B&B in Vermont by now. But for Keshner, seeing the return of Donna and the team up of Jody, Claire, and Alex “felt like validation.” Producers and writers of the show have been tweeting with the #WaywardDaughters hashtag though, and are aware of the demand and passion of the fans. The actors are thrilled as well. What remains to be seen of course is if “Don’t You Forget About Me” is what fans have hoped for. Although Ramdeen wasn’t going to spoil anything, she did note that “the Supernatural Fandom is a force to be reckoned with, and I know that the show is well aware of the frenzy in the fans for this kind of content. I think everyone is going to love this episode, not only because of the Jody-Alex-Claire dynamic and screen-time, but also because it is simply beautifully written, shot, acted, directed!”

What are fans hoping for? After losing so many female characters, the only wish they have is just that everyone who isn’t a monster lives. Beyond that, fans are simply excited to see more great female characters on the show have their stories told. Ramdeen summed it up very well when she said: “the fact that the female fanbase has women to relate to on the show is great. Complex women, interesting women, fierce and layered. I know they’ve had many female characters taken away and I know how that kind of death feels like, so I’m just happy that women are getting awesome representation on such a fantastic series.” And so are we.

Jessica Mason is a writer and lawyer living in Portland, Oregon. More of her writing can be found at www.fan-girling.com, and follow her on Twitter at @FangirlingJess.

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