Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sexism in Supernatural

My friend and fellow Supernatural lover once told me, “Whenever there’s a girl on the show you know that she is either going to have sex with Dean Winchester or die”. This, I would argue, is an accurate observation on my friend’s part and has been recognized by many. One of the show’s biggest complaints is that it is sexist. Female characters often fall under the category of evil if not weak. This leads to under-developed, one-dimensional and un-relatable female characters. In this essay I will address the sexism found in Supernatural, specifically looking at female characters and the sexist actions of the male characters.
Abaddon, Naomi, Lilith, Ruby, Meg, Eve, Bela, and Anna all are evil female characters or eventually end up as evil characters before being killed off. These are examples of recurring female characters that are negatively viewed especially since the audience has time to get to know and really hate these women. Yet, on the other hand, acting as negative reinforcements, there are several individual episodes that deal with evil supernatural woman that viewers only see once. There are no dimensions to these women and the message being conveyed is that for Sam and Dean, the two main characters, to save the day they have to kill these evil women.
For example, the episode “Slice Girls” in season seven employs “the mystical pregnancy” trope. This is when a female is supernaturally impregnated and has a paranormal baby. This device depicts women and their reproductive systems as a dangerous and scary gateway to evils beyond control. “Slice Girls” is centered on Amazon warriors, all women. Their duty in life is to seduce and sleep with men, have their kids, and then brainwash the kids to kill their fathers as a rite of passage. All of these women are then portrayed as evil female characters that kill men; giving off the negative subtext that there cannot be a strong woman that does not also hate men.
Included in this episode Dean kills Amy Pond, a good friend of his brother Sam’s. She is seen as dangerous in his eyes because she is a supernatural character. However, the audience finds out throughout the show that she is not dangerous to humans in the least and furthermore is a caring woman and mother. Yet, she needed to be removed. She was a threat. So even though the show introduces a nice female character she is labeled as evil and then is killed off, never to be seen again…what kind of message does that give off? In a show with previously issues on its treatment of female characters, this particular episode is further insulting to its female audiences and the general female populace.
Bela was one of the recurring “evil” female characters. She was represented as a criminal and morally ambivalent. Slowly the audience realized that Bela’s father was molesting her (sexual assault of yet another women in media representation). We see Bela deceived by Lilith, an evil demon lady, into trading her soul so to stop her dad’s abuse. The plot twisted with the deal resulting in Lilith killing her father. Sad right? Yet woven through the show Bela is seen as the anti-hero, the thief, and a conniving bitch …consequently she is disgraced, humiliated, and ultimately is killed.
Dean continuously pesters Bela with stinging sarcastic questions such as “what, didn’t daddy love you enough,” and later shames her moments before she’s killed and hauled to hell. Dean doesn’t ever find out why Bela agreed to the deal with Lilith, but his endless degrading of Bela pooled with her murder was an awful female/male interaction. Oh but don’t get me wrong…Dean jumped on the chance to have sex with her a few times before she was killed-way to go buddy! Bela’s character never gets justice in the show either, especially due to the fact that Sam and Dean never find out what she had to live through. Then she disappears from the show (only to be forgotten about).            
One of the only “good” female characters was introduced to audiences in the episode, “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo.” Her name was Felicia Day. It was almost refreshing to have such a well-developed character that was dynamic and exceptionally relatable. Despite the utter gender biasness that was “Slice Girls” Supernatural finally incorporated something new and perhaps learned a lesson with female characters (even if that only means we see her in just one episode). It would be great if hereafter the series could include an increased amount of recurrent female characters of similar quality!

         Additionally, Supernatural pushes the image of this ideal woman: a girl who you can sleep with (no strings attached), a girl who will do whatever you say, or a hot damsel in distress. If I had a penny for how many girls Dean Winchester slept with or how many girls swoon over how hot he is and automatically fall for him, I’d be a billionaire. Thus the writers do not give a realistic view of women. We do not all swoon over a man over his looks and crawl into his bed willing to give ourselves over. However the show still continues to influence people to think this is what is expected of women or desirable in a woman.

Going off that, there are multiple shows where Dean goes to strip clubs or is excited over porn (or even sleeps with a porn star). He even takes Castiel, the angel, to a strip club. The viewers see how tempted and enchanted Castiel is by it all. As the series progresses Castiel even has a one-night stand. Since an angel is having a one-night stand it’s supposedly okay for he is seen as a morally sound character. The thing is I don’t even remember the girl’s name and in that same episode she was killed off. To top it all off he eventually is often seen flirting around with a demon woman!
In the individual episode, “Man’s Best friend with benefits” the audience gets to see a man witch with his female companion and lover, called a “familiar,” who switches between dog and female and is tied down to the man witch. The man witch is her master and Portia, the female/dog (one could say bitch—even though she’s not), calls him by the label master. He has the capability to have complete power and total control over her regardless to what she may want. Furthermore, It is Portia’s duty to love and treat him well. This example also works with sexist themes by representing that it’s fine for men to have entire authority over their wives while at the same time reinforcing traditional and domestic female roles.

He’s my Master. I obey him, love him, and sleep with him.” So yea…sexism?
Now familiars do choose their masters. That means Portia choose to be with her witch. Some might then say well it was her fault she put herself into that situation (otherwise known as victim blaming), but the same goes for sexual abuse. A woman might indeed choose to stay with her abusive boyfriend or husband, but that does not mean the abuse is then okay or justified because she made that decision to stay there.  
At one point in this episode she gave an empowering and intelligent speech where she really got to voice her concerns. It was rare to watch that in this series. It seemed that Dean was stunned into silence by this and when he opened his mouth to speak one might have thought he would have praised her but instead he said, “That was hot.” Then Sam, who is not as subjective of girls as Dean is, agreed, “Yeah, that was pretty hot.” This episode in particular was infected with sex jokes and Portia was a female character that was taken anything but serious. I mean she was even dressed up like a common prostitute with tight form fitted short dresses and skirts and even a studded collar. I believe that media like this is what informs men on their beliefs of women and how to interact with us. Supernatural implies that you can simply dismiss a woman’s argument and not take it seriously in the least. That you can just get away with saying “you are sexy when you’re angry.”
One could see that sexism is inextricably tied and extremely relevant to this series. This is seen through the wealth of one-dimensional female characters, whether that be overly sexual, weak and needy (aka: the damsel), or evil. There have been a couple occasions where the writers of the show have broken out of this trend. We see this in Felicia Day's character. Interactions between the men and women characters in plot-lines inform the general public about how women should be, what they should dress, how they should act, what they should do, etc. We see male dominance and female repression and the reinforcement of sex, physical appearances, traditional gender roles, and the destruction of those females who don't fit under particular categories, those women who male characters label as evil. Supernatural's biggest fault may just be sexism. Therefore I provided examples of recurrent and individual female characters and male actions in respondence. Sexism in Supernatural is not natural folks!

Works Cited
"Tropes vs. Women: #5 The Mystical Pregnancy | Feminist Frequency." Feminist Frequency. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <>.
"Lady Geek Girl and Friends." Lady Geek Girl and Friends. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.    <>.
"Lady Geek Girl and Friends." Lady Geek Girl and Friends. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <>.

"Lady Geek Girl and Friends." Lady Geek Girl and Friends. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar.
            2014. <>. 


  1. I think that you made some really good points in this blog post. I agree that it does seem like women in this show are either weak or evil, almost all of the time. I also was really interested in your parallel between Portia choosing to be with her witch, and victim blaming in real sexual assault instances. It seems like a very accurate and relevant comparison to be pointed out. Also, I appreciate that you also included the not-so-sexist example of Felicia Day's character, instead of focusing solely on the sexist aspects of the show, and nothing to the contrary. Great blog post, really interesting to read.

  2. While I love the show I have to agree it has a very bad habit of either making female characters evil and then killing them or having them be good then killing them. Besides Felicia Day's character, though she did technically die and come back but there is almost a running joke now of characters dying and coming back. I would have liked to hear your thoughts on the Harvelle daughter/mother team that were recurring characters from earlier the seasons. Also I would like to add that Castiel was very clearly nervous and horrified at being in that strip club, he was nowhere close to being delighted.

  3. Thank you for this. The show has much potential and I fell in love with Dean, Sam, and Cas during the first 5 seasons but I don't think I can bear much more. The show has rampant misogyny and racism weaved throughout each episode. God, I think I saw maybe two Asian characters, one Hispanic, and like four or five African Americans, IN ALL 5 SEASONS, and they all died or turned evil and THEN got murdered. Ughh :/

  4. It's a complicated issue in Supernatural. Instead of seeing evil female characters, these characters are often very powerful too. And most times, never even needed a man to get on top of the rank. Lisa Braeden is a strong example of independent woman and she makes all her choices. She's portrayed as amazingly understanding as well. And when Jo asked Dean if he didn't want her hunting because she is a girl, Dean denied that statement and simply stated that women can do the job just fine, it's just that Jo is still an amateur. And don't forget the badass Mary Winchester. I'd say Supernatural does poke on sexism, but it tries not to. Apart from having sexy characters, the show instills reinforcement of women's strength from time to time. I still remember when bad Charlie told Dean "You hit like a girl who never learned to hit," instead of just "You hit like a girl,".


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