It meant so much to so many queer people, and they had a chance to make history and to really make their LGBTQ+ fans feel seen and validated, and they really had a chance to do something special, and instead, they queerbaited and they silenced and they tore down any sort of hope that we had with this show.A Supernatural Fan
On November 5th, 2020, something extraordinary happened. Something that many fans will never forget. Castiel, an angel of the lord, confessed he was in love with his best friend, a human named Dean Winchester.
Supernatural is a show that began back in 2005, making it the longest-running live-action fantasy show in history. The plot of the show revolves around the brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester. Their mother was killed by a demon named Azael. As a result, their father raised them to be soldiers that hunt demonic creatures and kill them to avenge their mother’s death. Years later, as Sam is in college and away from the demon-hunting life, his older brother Dean finds him and tells him their Dad has not come home from one of his hunting trips. Together, the brothers try to solve this mystery.
The introduction of a fan favorite
The writers introduced a character named Castiel in season four. He reveals that he is an angel of the lord, who pulled Dean out of hell when he died during the season three finale. Unlike most depictions of angels in mythological lore, angels in the Supernatural universe are a lot closer to being villains. Castiel, in particular, was stoic and disciplined. At least, that was what it seemed, until he confided to Dean that he had doubts about his mission to Earth.
Castiel’s character was only meant to last three episodes, but the fans of the show were fond of the character so much that he would be present in the next eleven seasons. Fans noticed the profound bond he shared with Dean Winchester, and many of them had begun to believe these two were in love. However, instead of getting their happy-ever-after, the fans continued to be queerbaited by the writers.
What is queerbaiting?
Queerbaiting is a marketing technique where entertainment creators imply same-sex relationships but do not explicitly depict them. Writers and directors utilize this technique to attract an LGBTQ+ audience while not alienating the straight audience. Examples of this include John Watson and Sherlock Holmes from BBC Sherlock, Stiles and Derek from Teen Wolf, and Betty and Veronica from Riverdale.
Of course, this angered many Supernatural fans for years as the writers refused to claim whether or not Dean and Castiel were in love. Even TV Guide wrote an article on Supernautral’s queerbaiting problem, claiming the show’s ratings went up because of Dean and Castiel’s relationship. The writers and the network did nothing about it. They made fans feel like they were crazy for seeing something more between these characters. Even though their long, deep stares into one another’s eyes and their disregard for each other’s personal space revealed otherwise.
Neither the writers, the network, or much of its cast handled Dean and Cas’s popularity very well. Their relationship was often the end of the joke or deflected as not being “the point of the show.” Fans questioned this, as both Castiel and Dean had female love interests over the years. Why was heterosexual coupling not receiving this same criticism? Why could the main characters be shown loving women but not loving men?
Fan reaction to the final episodes
The last-minute confession created a divide between fans. Even though Castiel’s actor confirmed that Castiel is gay, many people claimed the love confession was not explicit enough. They feared people would still interpret Dean and Cas’s relationship as nothing more than friendship.
After all, Dean did not even respond, so people debated whether Dean felt the same way. Some individuals felt the confession scene was funny and poorly acted. Others were upset that the writers kill-off a gay character immediately after he declares his love.
Social media accounts like Tumblr and Twitter went into a frenzy, criticizing the writers for using the “Bury Your Gays” trope. This is a harmful plot device that means the death and expendability of a show’s LGBTQ+ characters, often represented through their deaths and unhappy endings.
Some fans defended the show with the hope Castiel would return for the season finale. However, this was just wishful thinking, and the writers and the network proved they could not follow-through on the confession. Blame was placed everywhere, on the actors, on the writers, and the CW for not caring about their LGBTQ+ audience.
Fans will not take it lying down
A whole online movement called #TheySilencedYou resulted from the final episodes. Fans speculated Dean originally said “I love you, too” in reply to Cas, but the network removed it in post-production. Fans even created a documentary made to study people’s reactions to the finale and their anger towards a show that never cared for them.
Either way, fans have a right to be upset at Supernatural, as its LGBTQ+ characters have always been lacking, established off-screen, or killed-off. The LGBTQ+ community deserves to be respected and represented in the entertainment industry just as straight people do. This incident stands among many, and it is a constant reminder of how homophobia is still a problem.
It is difficult to imagine the writers and network making up for this mistake. Several fans have already blocked the CW network and its upcoming shows, refusing to support them ever again. Of course, fans will continue to fight for Dean and Castiel, never letting the network get away with hurting those considered different.