Destiel, Social Media, and Queerbaiting
I’m sure most of you have heard a little bit about the insanity that happened after Supernatural ep 9.03 aired, but it seems to me that a lot of people only have bits and pieces. So here’s a summary, from everything I’ve gathered.
1. Several regularly livetweeting writers clear off twitter before the episode and direct questions to Chad Kennedy, an executive producer.
2. The destiel fandom reacts negatively to the April/Cas sex scene and Dean’s frat bro reaction to it.
3. Kennedy tweets that the show’s vision for Dean and Cas is not bisexual.
4. The fandom flips out. Kennedy backtracks hastily, tweeting support for bi characters in media but also saying that Destiel has never been pitched to him (also that if it was he would support it).
5. The fandom flips out more. Though the tone of this flipping out, it’s important to note, was mostly rational if upset.
6. Kennedy deletes his twitter.
7. Guy Norman Bee tweets that he doesn’t understand why people get so upset when a storyline that doesn’t exist doesn’t exist. He backtracks hastily, tweeting that he’s a guest director and has nothing to do with the writing. Shoots down attempts at discussion with repeated tweets of “please don’t include me in this.”
9. Adam Glass returns to twitter and basically continues to insist that the episode is up for interpretation.
Now here’s why it’s incredibly valid for the fandom to be upset, and why the production team needs to get their crap together.
Let me remind you season 8.
The season that sent this dedicated non-shipper into a spiral of uncertainty and doubt. Because let’s recap, shall we?
- Dean fought through purgatory for a year looking for “his angel.”
- "I need you." Both times.
- Cas’ love for Dean breaking Naomi’s hold over him.
- Dean and Aaron in the bar (do I even have to again)
- Cas shopping for Dean.
- The whole shenanigans with the Cupid bar.
- Every freaking romantic trope in the book applied to Dean and Cas.
- Every other storyline being about cross species relationships, often in which one member was subjugated by an outside force, and multiple references to angel/human love.
- Multiple cliffhangers hinged on Cas and Dean’s relationship.
Honestly I’m not going into it more than that. I didn’t even want to see it and it was freaking inescapable.
9.03: The episode that sank the ship?
Hardly. Cas can have sex with someone who’s not Dean and enjoy it. Potential consent issues aside, Dean can be proud of him for it. He took Cas to a brothel, for crying out loud. He’s not a jealous lover. And I also maintain that if he is canonically in love with Cas, he hasn’t realized it yet. I don’t see this as a no homo moment. Honestly anything else would have felt OOC to me. So in so far as the ep itself is concerned, I do think people overreacted. But they didn’t overreact to the reaction to their overreaction.
Hello, Queerbaiting. Nice to see you again.
Queerbaiting in a most basic definition is having characters who could be easily interpreted as subtextually queer, taking every opportunity to make their relationship seem almost queer, and then deny them any kind of textual relationship for no other reason than it’s queerness. Again, very basic. Go here for a longer definition.
It’s a very real problem because Supernatural has a massive queer audience that’s starved for representation in media. A lot of people hang their hopes on Dean coming out, and/or Dean and Cas getting together. Because they VERY UNDERSTANDABLY see each other in their characters.
The problem is, the production team is playing into this in damaging ways. Here’s an excerpt from a great article on SpoilerTV:
As Misha confirmed, the writers are perfectly aware how their relationship comes across and denying any responsibility on their part and fans simply accusing other fans of seeing something that is not there will always be untrue. Queer-baiting is not your fault. A response to these scenes only exists, because the people involved in the show include ambiguity. This is why the script puts in specific lines, or why the camera zooms in on their faces, or why the extra-diegetic music used for their scenes underlines romantic interpretations. It’s a combination of all these factors, which makes people see certain things.
Queer-baiting is not your fault.
QUEER-BAITING IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
On numerous occasions, the production team has acknowledged that they incorporate Destiel-related tension in their decision-making process. It’s not a few fans projecting their ship. It’s a few fans reacting with tenuous hope when they see the show make conscious steps in that direction, and then reacting with anger when they make belittling comments or act like it’s all in their heads.
Now the biggest, the biggest part of all of this, for me, is that Kennedy and Bee both did what writers and actors have been refusing to do: Confirmed that Dean and Cas are not and will not be canonically bisexual.
It’s important to take this with a grain of salt, because neither of them are writers, and neither of them are that tapped into the fan base.
But when execs, for a whole season, refuse to confirm or deny a relationship because that would be spoilers, you can’t blame people for inferring that there’s something to spoil. These repeated dodges got people’s hopes up. Because if they weren’t going to do it, why not just come out and say it if people are so invested?
(Hint: You can keep the tension going and your massive queer and queer-friendly audience hooked as long as they have no idea you’re not going to do what you subtextually promised to do…see the problem here?)