Destiel sings its swan song

Over 15 unrelenting seasons, Supernatural has developed a remarkably devoted and persistent fandom. The show follows brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester, along with the angel Castiel (Misha Collins), as they protect middle-class Americans from mythical monsters while defying death at every turn. Castiel joined the Winchesters in the fourth season, after bringing Dean back to life—and, many have argued, falling halo over heels for him.

On Nov. 5, Castiel finally confessed his love to Dean after seasons of teasing such a reveal and was promptly sent to literal Hell, causing fans to declare Destiel, as the relationship is affectionately known, canon. Despite the emotionally stunted Dean showing absolutely no reaction to this declaration, the moment instantly reinvigorated the online Supernatural community, as well as long-standing accusations of homophobia and queerbaiting by the show’s writers.In the face of the fandom’s constant fetishization of Destiel, showrunners have seemingly no interest in committing to their relationship.

The show continuously romanticizes traditional American masculinity, yet its most devoted fans are overwhelmingly women whose intensity has managed to keep the show limping along as casual viewers wavered. Supernatural developed a devout internet following that has produced over 300,000 unique works of fanfiction over various websites. The relationships between attractive, angsty white men seem particularly conducive to the fascination of teenage girls, as seen with Sherlock and Star Trek.

A potential romance between Dean and Castiel was undeniably teased at from their very meeting. Lingering touches and smouldering stares regularly sent fangirls into a tizzy, but the realization of their relationship was kept tantalizingly out of reach. This form of queerbaiting is common to many TV shows teenage girls typically favour, and is deeply harmful to gay men.

This unending baiting stoked online obsession with Destiel on fanfiction sites and social media, most notably Tumblr. Even the website’s bloggers who were completely uninterested in Supernatural were excruciatingly aware of the floods of GIFS and more controversial memes the fandom fervently spread. This internet enthusiasm led to the complete fetishization of the characters into both “smol beans” and hypersexualized studs, which only served to increase fanbase devotion. The fandom versions of the characters eventually leaked out into mainstream social media, presenting a version of Destiel that is disconnected from their relationship’s representation on the show.

Although Supernatural is ostensibly about the simple pleasures of killing monsters and looking good in leather, Dean Winchester leads a remarkably tragic life, only worsened by the loss of Castiel. After a demon kills his mother, his father raises him to hunt supernatural creatures, prompting an off-the-grid lifestyle filled with violence and loss. All three leading men are deeply alienated from society and frequently struggle with self-doubt and self-loathing. The extension of such a show far beyond its natural lifespan is unsurprising considering that American television viewership loves to watch gay men suffer.

The series finale of Supernatural premiered on Nov. 19, quashing all remaining hope for an ultimate Destiel reunion. Castiel fails to appear in the episode, although Dean’s presumably heterosexual ’67 Chevy Impala makes it into heaven. The ending to this marathon of a TV show demonstrates the steadfast resistance of showrunners to acquiesce to fan demands, and the culmination of years of shameless hinting at anything more than friendship. Faced with the final nail in their ship’s coffin, fans chose to mock the quality of the finale in their frustration. The show’s writers squandered their last chance to achieve the bare minimum of allyship by recognizing a homosexual relationship, leaving a bitter taste in fans’ mouths as Supernatural mercifully starts to fade from collective memory.

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