Supernatural: An Exploration into Camp

Supernatural occupies an interesting space in queer culture, internet history, and fandom. Produced in 2005, it continued for 15 years, boasting 15 long seasons. The show centers around two brothers and an angel, (Sam and Dean Winchester and Castiel, respectively) who fight against supernatural entities, expanding in later seasons to incorporate richer, more complex storylines.  

“The ultimate Camp statement: it’s good because it’s awful” (Sontag, 13). 

It was clear that Supernatural was never intended to be a queer show nor was it intended to garner such a large audience of teenage fans. It also likely never intended to be camp; however, the show embodies it. The characters are so stereotypical that it is often painful. Dean is a hypermasculine, stereotypical “bad boy.” He is a ladies’ man, slightly misogynistic, and really, really likes beer and pie. The plotlines are awful, the CGI is low-budget, and the show cannot go two episodes without Dean having sex with a “perfect” woman.  

It is so awful that you cannot stop watching. Dean and Castiel are incredibly homoerotic, but the show took itself too seriously to allow anything to bloom. There are moments of intense queer pining followed by GUNS, BEER, AND SEX!!! It is both frustrating and laughable, but at its core, it is campy, playing with gender and sexuality without really talking about it. 

“In naive, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails” (Sontag, 7). 

With likely heavy influence from fan spaces, the directors, after baiting a relationship for years, finally allowed Dean and Castiel to have a moment. Castiel admits he loves Dean, with tears in his eyes, and then is promptly sent to hell. More specifically, he is promptly sent to Super Hell. Talk about Burying Your Gays.

Supernatural is a product of its time, but it is also a timeline of queer attitudes during the 2000s. The representation is lacking, but it also goes beyond the screen. The campy, over-the-top nature of Supernatural allowed for an online community to bloom around the show. One cannot understand Supernatural without understanding the space it has (and continues) to take up online, in queer media, and in its own campiness. 

The Trauma on the Uninfected

Louis has an insight into AIDS that no other character in Angels in America can grasp; he lives through the symptoms and trauma of AIDS without directly being sick, as he sees the way his boyfriend declines from the illness. Louis is a representation of the trauma and fear that uninfected gay men lived through during the AIDS epidemic.  

After Louis and Prior fight about calling an ambulance as Prior is having explosive diarrhea, Louis seeks out a hookup with a stranger in a park. This is one of the first times that Prior’s horrific symptoms are shown on screen, and Louis is stressed and scared by them, screaming at Prior and breaking down when Prior faints. During this encounter, the condom breaks: “MAN: I think it must’ve… It broke, or slipped off, you didn’t put it on right, or—You want me to keep going? / Pull out? Should I– / LOUIS: Keep going. / Infect me. / I don’t care. / I don’t care” (Kushner, 60). Louis, clearly in a mindset of distress, implies he wants the stranger to have sex with him without a condom. 

Louis risks getting AIDS when he cheats on Prior. Though his mind is not fully clear, his words reveal what he thinks about AIDS, especially in relation to Prior. He does not care if he gets AIDS, as he knows that if he does, at least he will die with Prior. Louis is terrified of the knowledge that he will lose his boyfriend soon, and this hookup pushes to the point of being a sort of self-harm. He would rather suffer with Prior than suffer without him. 

Louis is the gay men mourning for their lost brothers, not knowing how to cope with the trauma and fear of the AIDS epidemic. Many of these men did not have a healthy, safe, or secure outlet, instead hiding internally or lashing out in hope to get some sense of comfort. Many, like Louis, may have turned to unsafe sex when they were distressed. They would rather have had their names on a quilt than be haunted by the deaths of their friends, families, and lovers. 

To Love is to Die

“Loving you is like living / in the war years” (Moraga, 23).

The first line of Loving in the War Years, a poem featured in Cherrie L. Moraga’s novel under the same title, sets the reader up to understand Moraga’s relationship with her identity as a lesbian. She connects loving a woman to living in a time of turmoil and fear. She goes on to write, “Loving you has this kind of desperation / to it, like do or die” (Moraga, 23). Moraga must either confess and act on her love or die with this secret (the secret of love and the secret of identity) buried in her.

Ironically, this line contrasts with the first line. To love is to “do or die”, but to love is to live in pain and turmoil. It is a painful reflection on the fear many queer people live in; loving means putting yourself in the line of fire, either physically, verbally, or mentally. It means risking your relationships with your friends and family. Loving is akin to war when your love is not accepted.

I was pulled to Eve Sedgwick’s Tendencies, where she writes “I’ve heard of many people who claim they’d as soon their children were dead as gay. What it took me a long time to believe is that these people are saying no more than the truth” (Sedgwick, 2). Parents fear the very nature of their child’s love, because at least death would protect their kid from the hatred queer people face. If you ask people “what is the meaning of life”, you will hear at least one person respond “love”. But when your love is dangerous, it can feel like there is nothing to live for.


Coyote Cry: Nature and Stories

“Cold air / dries her muddy footprints to a path / of hard, open mouths. If she retraces her steps, / the footprints will eat her” (Jones, 23). 

Coyote Cry narrates a man speaking to an unknown person by telling them the story of a woman running through hills. The unnamed woman cannot retrace her footsteps because doing so would obscure her story. Her feet would not fit into the original prints neatly, creating a shapeless and unidentifiable blob. She would lose her story—her footprints—by trying to come back the way she came. These lines seem to urge the reader away from retracing their own footsteps, either literally or metaphorically.  

Along with her footsteps holding a story, nature is also holding her story. Eventually, the footsteps will wash away with the rest of the mud, debris, and grass of the hills. However, she will have forever impacted the story of the hills with her steps. The mud will build over differently if she walks back over her steps, changing the way the world keeps her story. Jones writes, a line later, “Ragged pines snatch her cries and keep them. / That’s why I cry” (23).  

Perhaps Jones is saying that, much like her footsteps in the mud, her cries and steps will later impact the narrator. Despite the narrator never visiting these woods nor knowing if this woman exists outside their imagination, they know that the way nature holds stories will later come back to tell another story. Her cries influence his cries, and her steps may influence his as time goes on.