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An Open Letter to Eric Kripke

An Open Letter to Eric Kripke


ETA: As there seems to be some confusion, Alaya Dawn Johnson is NOT the Angry Black Woman. She is a guest blogger.

The following open letter to Eric Kripke contains spoilers for all currently-aired seasons of Supernatural (though nothing about season five). It also includes a racial critique of all currently-aired seasons.

Dear Eric Kripke,

I want you to know that this is a fan letter. I’m saying this upfront because I’m aware that it might not seem like that as I go on. There are some problems I need to discuss, some issues that have repeatedly cropped up on your show that I just have to talk about.

But this is still a fan letter. I love Supernatural. In my opinion, it’s the best speculative genre show on the air at the moment. I love the snappy dialogue, I love the dense, multi-faceted characterization, I love that the plots hold together and continually surprise me (especially the season finales!) I love the actors, I love the writing, I love the car and I love the endless American landscapes. I love that the boys never eat in a Denny’s or stay at a Motel 6. I love that such a strange premise became such an intelligent show, when it could so easily have turned into self-parody.

Like I said, I’m a fan.

I’m also a black woman, and I’ve gotta tell you, that’s been giving me some grief.

Because as a black woman, I can’t ignore the aversive, stereotypical and damaging ways that your show deals with race. I can’t ignore the fact that there hasn’t been a single black woman on your show who has lasted more than one episode. This includes Cassie in “Route 666″– the only woman the show ever states explicitly that Dean loves. And even that was so frustrating. First, because it put a promising character in a ham-fisted Very Special Episode about a racist monster truck. Second, because instead of taking her out of that context and providing some depth to Dean’s relationships with women, she vanishes completely from the show. (This is, of course, an issue with most of the boys’ relationships with women, but I don’t want to get into that here).

Perhaps you will understand the extent of my problem when I say that I can count the named black female characters who have appeared on four seasons of a television show on one hand: Missouri Moseley (in “Home”), Cassie, Taylor (in “Hookman”) and Tamara (in “The Magnificent Seven”). That’s four women–there were none in third or fourth seasons.

You know your show better than anyone. You know that the boys are spending a significant amount of their time south of the Mason-Dixon line. There are black people everywhere in this country, and even setting your show in, say, the pacific northwest really isn’t much of an excuse, but I find it mind-boggling to watch episode after episode where Sam and Dean drive through a landscape of such exquisitely evoked Americana…except without the black folk.

It’s like some sort of freaky horror movie.

Not the kind you were going for? Then let’s talk.

Because it’s not just the black women. In fact, that’s the mildest part of my problems with race on the show. Because, for better or worse, it’s difficult to mess up the portrayals of a demographic you have excised from the world of your characters.

Black men, on the other hand? Well, that’s where I really hit some brambles.

Because you have some black men on the show. They have major roles across multiple episodes. They engage the plots, have multiple interactions with all sorts of people and have as much of an emotional life as any other non-Winchester character does. But there’s a problem. A big one, really, and this has to do with the space in the story that these black men occupy. Because every single time they are tragically evil, and they are killed off to add to the emotional angst of your white leads.

Nothing is wrong per se with a tragically evil character. You have plenty of tragically evil white people on the show, too. Ruby comes to mind, but also Travis (in “Metamorphosis”) and Eva (one of Azazel’s other special children).

But something is wrong when you follow the same pattern with every single black character of any importance on your show across four seasons. First there was Jake, the Iraq War soldier who was manipulated by the yellow-eyed demon into killing Sam and opening the Devil’s Gate. He lasted two episodes, and ended with a clip of bullets pumped into him.

Then we met Special Agent Henriksen. He was awesome: tough, ironic, smart. A worthy adversary for the boys. When Henriksen is finally confronted with unequivocal evidence that The Supernatural Is Real And About To Fuck You Up, he responds with those same qualities that made him such a scary opponent. And then…he dies. Within twenty minutes of his final empowerment as a fully-fledged good character (as opposed to good, but doing bad things mistakenly), Lilith murders him, along with everyone else in the police station. It was a dramatic, breathtaking moment in the context of the show, but once again I had to check a black man off of my list of characters I enjoyed.

Next came Gordon Walker. He was a lone hunter whose philosophy of a black and white world clashed brilliantly against Sam and Dean’s increasingly murky shades of gray. He was insane, but enjoyably so: I loved watching him hunt Sam, and his role in “Bad Day at Black Rock” was hilarious. He was a quintessential tragically evil character: doing bad while convinced he was good. When he was turned into a vampire, I couldn’t wait to see where the show would go with him. Imagine all the drama in that situation: the man who hates supernatural creatures more than anything has become one. Does he still hunt them? Does he struggle with himself?

No, of course not. Sam kills him.

And then there’s season four. Uriel is an angel, so it’s understood that he’s simply possessing his body, but for the purposes of us in the real world, he’s still a black character. I’m pretty sure he was still a black character for you writers, as well. Because isn’t it funny that he’s the one who wants to lay waste to municipalities and break Dean’s psyche by forcing him to torture, while Castiel (the attractive white male) has the emotional arc and the implied romance and the tortured wrestling over the nature of free will and the existence of God?

Did I mention that Uriel also dies, tragically evil?

I suspect that if you were going to grasp my point, you’d have done so by now, so I won’t belabor it. Suffice it to say that now when a black character appears on Supernatural I wince and reach for my pillow, because I’m pretty sure he’ll be checking out in some less-than-pleasant way in a few episodes.

But, like I said at the beginning, this is a fan letter. It’s one in more ways than you might appreciate right at this moment. It’s only because I am such a fan that I am sticking with this show and hoping you’ll do it better. And it’s only because I’m such a fan that I’m writing you this letter.

The fifth season starts on Thursday, and I’m so excited I could sing. I can’t wait to see more of your deliciously amoral angels, your conflicted demons, and–inevitably, perfectly, fraternally–Sam and Dean. The final season four scene of them gripping each other’s shirts as the screen fades to white was one of those storytelling moments where I felt the pure contentment of a well-executed narrative. There is so much going for Supernatural into this season that part of me just wants to lay back and enjoy the ride.

The trouble is, I can’t. Each episode, these problems worm their way inside my head. They’re too obvious to ignore. As a black woman who consumes a lot of pop culture, I’ve learned to compartmentalize. To acknowledge problematic aspects of things I like and still enjoy them. But I’m aware of the process, and when I find myself doing that to such a degree with a show that I otherwise love so much, I can’t help but feel sad.

Mr. Kripke, I certainly hope that you care about social justice and historical power imbalances and the struggles for racial equality in this country. But I don’t actually intend for this letter to appeal to your ideals. Because you’re a writer. A damn good writer, and I can tell from the way you handle the rest of the show that you prioritize characterization and narrative flow and plausibility and other major touchstones of good fiction.

So, consider this as a bit of advice from one professional writer to another: in this aspect, you have really fallen down. The patterns I have identified above don’t just harm black people, or people of color. They harm every viewer of your show.

Every single person who watches and enjoys Supernatural for a hundred good reasons is being subjected to this shoddy, sub-par evocation of one of the most important aspects of the American experience. Every fan you paid homage to in “The Monster at the End of This Book” is damaged by the utter absence of black women (particularly the one that one of your two main characters fell in love with). They might not notice it, they might figure it doesn’t matter, but even so it takes away from the power of the story.

Here’s my point: a richer, fuller, more completely-evoked America with black people and Native Americans and Asians and other people of color (and more women who don’t only exist as sexual objects) would make Supernatural even better.

Maybe I’m the first person to seriously lay out these issues for you. If so, I hope you won’t dismiss this critique reflexively. I assure you, if no one else has said this, it’s not because the problems don’t exist, but because racism (particularly aversive racism) is still so prevalent in this country that many white people can go their entire lives without thinking seriously about race. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist– it means you don’t see it.

Mr. Kripke, I wish you the best of luck with this season. I can’t wait to see what you do with it.

And I hope I’ll get to see what my favorite TV show would be like with a black man who doesn’t die; with a black woman who has a voice.

Sincerely,

Alaya Dawn Johnson

259 comments to An Open Letter to Eric Kripke

  • This is off-topic but have you ever written about racism in graduate schools?

    Macon D of stuffwhitepeopledo recently stated “whenever white people congregate these days, high concentrations of racial homogeneity are just pure coincidence.” …

    I am a graduate student at a major biological “research institution” in New York City. You wouldn’t know this is a graduate/research program if you stumbled on campus. This exclusive, highly maintained campus feels more like Sandals resort with all of the young upper-middle class white or white male/asian female couples roaming around hand-in-hand during the evenings. Groups of white or white-and-asian students roam with tennis rackets on their way to the on-campus court. Or they congregate in packs at the on-campus student lounge with a personal bartender. Or the white and asian students have parties in the hotel-like student lounge of the dorms.

    Most of the groups of people you see dotted around campus are all-white or white-and-asian. The campus is mostly white with a substantial number of asians but has a serious dearth of black or latino students–and I almost never see the other black students.

    You wouldn’t believe the amounts of implicit racism I’ve experienced here. Twice while coming on campus I’ve been stopped in a hostile and condescending manner by newly-hired guards who, having seen my ID, told me that I am ‘ok’ since I was a groundskeepers or a day worker for the animal facility whose staff is mostly black and latino.

    Coming to my dorm, almost every six months someone gives me a hostile look in the foyer as if I’m some intruder. When I attend lectures, I meet the same hostility until I ask a serious academic question of the lecturer.

    When someone new comes to my lab, they’ll automatically either intentionally ignore me or attempt to condescend to me. Scientific sales reps will intentionally ignore me and proceed to the white guys who are also just students. Believe it or not, this one white girl who rotated in the lab would speak to me in a passive-aggressive/patronizing manner. And almost everyone in the lab, despite my being there for years and attempting to form working relationships with them, never come to me casually or attempt to have conversations (work or otherwise) with me unless I initiate the conversation and never at the casual or intelligent level they have with each other.

    I noticed the other two black guys, who are accomodationists (and overrepresented with respect to the real dearth of black students on campus), also attempt to have conversations with the white people in the lab but they are always the ones to initiate the conversation.

    After five years of being here, the only thing I’ve learned is that white and asian people are the only people competent enough to be scientists.

    A maintenance staff guy wrote an article in the student rag praising the university’s president in light of the great hall of European philosophers like Kant and Hume and the great European scientific tradition. Additionally, the sense of ownership and privilege among other students is just incredible.

    I’m beginning to think that biomedical science is almost a white supremist enterprise by default. Science is supposed to be a collaborative endeavor with a free collegial exchange of information and support, but when people are constantly patronizing or condescending to you, such is a psychological assault informing you that you are inconsequential, “tolerated” or unwelcomed. I read a report somewhere that around half of black graduate science students drop out of their programs. If they meet the same kinds of hostility or implied white supremacy I meet, small wonder.

    I’ve especially felt a sort of patronizing attitude right off the bat from many of the white female students on campus. White women, with the help of affirmative action, have made great gains in both scientific student bodies and faculty, but you would still be wont to find black faculty and only a little more lucky in locating black students in scientific graduate programs across the country. That aside, most of my interactions with white females on campus has been unnecessarily hostile and patronizing.

    There are two other black male students who happen to be in my lab; they’re very sycophantic towards the white male students, which surprised me. They’re always kissing up, laughing nervously, you know that trying to court your attention laugh, around these other white males who are just graduate students like them. They prick up their minds and attempt to engage the se white guys with crisp, intelligent conversation. They’ll go to the white guys equally whenever they have a problem as if they are the fount of knowledge, (I’ve never seen them approach any of the white girls or the Indian guy when they have problems, but they will approach them for prick-up-your-mind ‘casual’ conversation, more than they give me [or each other]). When explicitly in the company of the white guys (which never seems to be together with each other), they intentionally ignore me or will attempt to condescend to me. It’s irritating to watch white guys no better than the average black guy get their egos stroked day after day by white girls and sycophantic blacks while they also slap themselves on the back. It’s not like they’re especially brilliant or that this science is just so difficult that only superiorly intelligent white supremists like James Watson can do it.

    I don’t even want to get into the student listserve conversation I had to observe in the wake of James Watson’s comments back in 2007. Some of them practically endorsed the man with statements like “science is about objective data, not political correctness” or “what does giving a writing prize for his autobiography have to do with him making statements that any old man would make”?

  • auraesque

    A lot of these points, I *didn’t* think about until reading this letter–thank you. I am a fan of the show, too, and the absence of female characters that lasted more than a single episode bugged me for the longest time. I was so excited when Ruby was introduced, and then Lilith.

    The world in which Supernatural is set is wonderful, but it could be so much fuller. I hope you don’t mind that I am linking it in my own journal.

  • Scroll

    FYI, Tamara (in “The Magnificent Seven”) was in Season 3. You said “That’s four women–there were none in third or fourth seasons.” But terrific letter so far! *goes to finish reading*

  • cofax

    Brava. I shall boost the signal.

    I had a very hard time with season 3, in particular; the race and gender failures of season 4 were still problematic, but not as bad as season 3. I’m trying to hope season 5 will be an improvement on season 4.

    But I am not sanguine, sigh.

  • facetofcathy

    Thank you for this.

    So much wasted story-telling potential. Can they not know they’ve white-washed the cast over and over again? I’m finding that harder and harder to buy.

  • Amalthia

    Well said. I hope he reads and listens because it’s hard to recommend a show when I can see these problems with it. I’m hispanic and honestly I’m really stretching my brain to remember if they had any hispanic characters on the show! South of the Mason-Dixon line has a large hispanic population as well but you can’t tell by watching this show! Though honestly based on how they deal with black male characters i’m now thinking it’s okay that they don’t have hispanic men or women, the men would be in gangs/drug addicts/can’t read or some other variation of bad guy and I have no clue what role they’d stick the women in but if it’s like most other TV (not Dexter) it probably won’t reflect well. :(

  • cereselle

    You are 100% correct, and I hope Kripke takes your words to heart.

  • Nic

    I couldn’t agree more with this letter. It’s what many fans of conscience have been saying for years, eloquently and movingly put, and your speaking *as* a fan is impactful. You also pointed out something I, living waaaay up north in an 85% white state, missed–that not only are characters of color missing from the narrative, they’re missing from the social fabric entirely. It’s re-imagining whole landscapes devoid of their historical inhabitants, and that is *not* okay.

    As an aside, one of my personal throwing-something-at-the-TV moments was when the Sarge in Croatoan was murdered. I was so pathetically happy to see him get out of town.

  • Dina Willner

    Great letter, pointing out things that I have been thinking about as I watched. Women in general have had it bad on Supernatural, and (as all to usual,) black women even more so.

    I was really hopeful that Hendrickson would develop once he learned the truth. His killing was tragic. And while it may have made sense from a story telling point of view, one can’t help but notice that it endemic with black men (who don’t really do much better than black women even if they had more episodes.)

    Supernatural tends to be a white male show and, with particularly with this season, it also seems to be one where only Christianity matters. I always wanted to see a demon who didn’t care about Christian symbols but was blown away by another religion.

    And don’t even start about the lack of Asian characters. Supernatural really needs to practice diversity.

    I hope your letter starts the trend. It would be nice if someone paid attention.

  • BAM. Excellent, amazing letter. And I don’t even watch the show yet. (I WILL I WILL! Maybe when Kripke starts listening to you. ;) )

  • Tell it, lady. I couldn’t agree more: it’s not a subtle thing you’re pointing out, and is my only serious complaint about a show I otherwise love to pieces.

  • Before Season 3, I was spoiled for the fact that two female semi-regulars were being added to the cast, but I had no idea who they were. While watching “The Magnificent Seven,” for a few short moments I actually thought Tamara was going to be one of them. I should have known better, but wouldn’t that have been something?

  • Kerri

    Why does everything have to be about race? Get a grip!!! It is a show on TV!

  • Anonymous

    After such a well thought out presentation of your findings, it is exceedingly odd to me that you think this trend in casting and character was not on purpose. It’s more than just a fluke. Like you said, it’s fairly obvious that it was done with forethought. But you stopped short of asking the real pertinent question: why have they done it this way?

    In my experience, they have established the idea of black and white visually both in casting and in plot. By representing a facet of destiny or free-will in ever-broadening brush strokes with that casting and those characters across seasons – in politics, faith, tradition, etc – they showed people that black and white has more to do with our decisions than the color of someone’s skin.

    Perhaps the reason your experiment ends with all black characters being evil and dying is because those are the only ones you are focused on. I encourage you to find a “white” match for all the “black” characters you’ve mentioned and maybe you’ll start to see what I mean. They do exist.

    It would make a more interesting article to speculate on the casting trend as a reflection of racial and belief barriers and to more deeply analyze those characters who have mirrored each other’s efforts at each point of destiny in the story. Otherwise, you have stopped halfway to your goal and that would be a real shame.

    • I’m really not sure what you’re getting at here. If you read the letter, you’ll see that I do acknowledge that there are white characters who fit the “tragically evil” character arc. The issue is not the type itself, but the fact that every single black male character falls into its mode, whereas the white characters inhabit a variety of roles.

      As for whether or not these casting decisions are deliberate, I’m willing to give Kripke and his writing team the benefit of the doubt. I know from experience how little white people can think about race, and how easily they can fall into pre-established (racist) patterns. Now that it’s been pointed out to him, we’ll see.

      However, I do disagree with you if you’re saying that the show is trending more towards a “black and white” presentation of moral issues. I actually see precisely the opposite trend in the show.

      • k8dee

        Definitely, Alaya. They are really playing in the gray areas and that is what the show so strong…that the show does not lazily depend on easy binaries. This season, they plan to portray Lucifer as a sympathetic character ( I am looking forward to it, particularly since they cop to being influenced by Milton). The angels are amoral AND warriors (which I love, angels are the warriors of God and should kick ass!). This is certainly NOT a black/white dichotomy. Finally, I do not believe Alaya is arguing that you cannot have black characters that are tragically evil, the argument (as I understand it, feel free to correct me here) is the lack of MULTIPLICITY! The danger is in the portrayal of only one facet of black men (b/c black women DO NOT exist here) not all the rich iterations in which they truly exist.

        Henriksen gave me so much hope! I loved that his name was so Nordic, because it made me believe that they were looking for a white actor, but instead hired the best person for the job (I would love to get a back story on that…) But I find it disturbing that Sam and Dean’s world is so dangerously white in a world that is not.

  • Catherine Tosenberger

    Fantastic post! I agree 100%, and really hope someone directs him to this.

    Just to add to your points, one of the things that infuriates me is that the show deliberately invokes racist rhetoric — and then places it the mouths of *black* characters. Gordon’s hatred of the supernatural, Uriel’s of humans: that writing screamed “white guy trying to be omg so! subversive!”

    It’s like the show can only *really* deal with racism (in ways that don’t involve evil trucks) if their white male heroes are the suffering victims. I think that’s why the show does tend to be pretty smart about issues of class, but not about race or gender.

    The first season of the show was, racist trucks aside, not nearly as wince-worthy on race and gender issues — or maybe it just hadn’t been around long enough to establish a pattern, so it’s easier to view it through rose-colored glasses. I think the desperate scramble for white male viewers — who are, of course, deemed the most “valuable” against all sense and reason — is a major factor in the continuing levels of fail. Well, that, and plain old cluelessness.

  • k8dee

    Thanks so much for this, Alaya! You drew all of the multiple complaints I had about Supernatural, my favorite show on television, into one cohesive argument. Henriksen is still one of my all time favorite characters, wonderfully realized, poorly dismissed. As for Cassie, I have always hoped that she would come back (another reason for me not to be a fan of Anna) especially now that Sam’s gf returns this season, but…I don’t know. I loved her interaction with Dean, her strength AND vulnerability. The have got to do better on intersectionalities, I realize Sam and Dean are the central characters, but they have got to do better. And Uriel kicked ASS, the actor is amazing (Bunny Colvin from The Wire), and deserves just as much a story as Castiel…

  • Zahra

    This is awesome. I like that you point out the repeating pattern–so much of pop racism (or pop stereotypes of any kind) lies in the repetition, in my ability to predictu who’s going to turn evil or bite it before the credits role.

    I don’t watch this show (the lack of lasting women and characters of color hasn’t helped) but I have to say I feel like I’ve already seen it. Because I have seen these tropes that you describe so many times. The absent or dead black women. And particularly the evil black man, tragic or otherwise.

    The horse was dead before I was born, but they just keep beating it.

    Another question: I have heard that this show is rooted in evangelical Christianity or aimed in large part to that audience, and that it has a deeply conservative world-view that springs, consciously or not, from those links. Would you agree? It strikes me that the racism you’re describing is so mainstream that it doesn’t need that explanation, but I have heard the point made about the show’s attitude to women, cosmology, Christian symbols, etc.

  • Token

    I agree with a lot of your points, but I have to question where Rufus fits in your assement of the black male characters on the show. He’s not dead (yet) and there’s a possiblity he could come back this season, they mention him all the time.

  • hi Alaya/ABW:

    You have made a passionate, well-reasoned description of what I love and what I hate about Supernatural. Coming from a place where you state what you love and dislike about the show only makes your concerns more urgent. Speaking for myself only, you have really named well what my problems are with this show. I want to say, “What she said” over and over and repost across the internet.

    @Anonymous: Perhaps the reason your experiment ends with all black characters being evil and dying is because those are the only ones you are focused on. I encourage you to find a “white” match for all the “black” characters you’ve mentioned and maybe you’ll start to see what I mean. They do exist.

    I think you’re saying that “ABW shouldn’t be so hard on Kripke, because he also has evil ‘white’ characters/ABW should do more research and come to a different conclusion/ABW should focus on other things.”

    (Is this classic tone argument/derail? Help me out, please, Alaya and fellow ABW readers.)

    I think you’re also confusing “white” and “black” as “good” and “evil,” with the way people refer to other people as “white” or “black.” Ossie Davis has a great essay about this called “The English Language is My Enemy,” which talks about how these terms, and their synonyms (white is good, pure, perfect/black is evil, tainted, wrong) actually affect how white people perceive people of color.

    Another way to phrase the question might be: are there sympathetic, non-evil, characters of color, especially men, who don’t die in violent ways? Based on memory (and not a attention-focused, careful re-watching), my answer to that question is no: there’s Cassie the love interest from Season one, and all the black men on the show die violent deaths. Preserving the character plotlines – if Bobby, a sympathetic supportive character, were played by a black male actor, the answer would be yes. If Ellen or Jo were played by black female actors, then also yes. I don’t see any sympathetic, non-evil characters played by actors who are people of color (except Cassie from Season One).

    One of the many problems with this is that viewers, (who may be embodied in bodies with varied skin tones), who see characters played by black men repeatedly being evil and being killed in horrible, awful ways will connect the images from the show to the real-live, black men who they see on the street. Consciously or unconsciously, it does damage, and supports harmful racial stereotypes.

  • Sorry, I meant: My answer to that question is no, there are no sympathetic, non-evil characters of color who don’t die violent deaths, except Cassie, and Missouri from Season One. (And I barely remember Tamara from the Magnificent Seven, but didn’t she die fighting the demons?)

    May I also add, racist monster truck – pure genius.

  • Chelle

    This is a terrific letter! I may be a southern white chick, but even I couldn’t help but be pissed off at the fact that ALL the black characters were either evil, crazy, dead or in absentia. That just…it didn’t look like my world at all. And while I love the show, I had to boggle at the total lack of color on an otherwise great show. What is up with that, Kripke?

    I, too, was so angry at the loss of Henriksen. During Jus in Bello, I just KNEW he was going to be an ally for the boys. Just..I KNEW it! Once he realized what Sam and Dean did, once he was confronted with the reality of the supernatural (ha!) he’d be a POWERFUL ally for them – a resource, even! Heck , even as an adversary he added depth to the characterization of everyone. Intelligent, snarky, CAPABLE, flexible in his implementation, and patient, he’d have been such a GREAT character to round out the cast. But nope. Lilith blows him up. Grrr. Hated that.

    However, you did forget one significant black male. Rufus. In S3, Rufus is the one who clued Dean in to who and what Bella was, and what her ‘deal’ actually was and why she was doing what she was doing. In one episode, mentioned in I think two more, he somehow managed to avoid the ‘tragically evil’ label AND he’s still alive. *hinthint* *winkwink* Granted, he’s just one, but that he IS that one is a step in the right direction. Tiny, ittybitty babystep, but, still a step.

    Do you mind if I link back to this in my journal? I know lots of people who would love to see this and comment on it.

    • Glad you liked it, and please link! I want this to get to as many fans as possible.

      As for Rufus, my criteria for discussing the handling of black males on the show is if they appeared across multiple episodes. As Rufus has only appeared in person (not referred to) in one episode in the third season, he didn’t make the cut. Otherwise, I’d have to include Tamara’s husband (also killed in a tragically evil way) and the black men in “Route 666″ (did I mention, also dead?) and probably a few others. But the point of this was to discuss the men who we’d seen enough of to have an emotional arc.

      However, if Rufus came back and became a non evil/dead/both regular, that would be awesome (hint hint, indeed).

  • Hmm.

    You left out Isaac and Tamara from “The Magnificent Seven” and Rufus Turner from “Time is On My Side”, all of whom were hunters and none of whom were tragically evil. Rufus was a wonderful character and there have been hints that he might show up again. I hope so.

    • Hi there– just a quick note, my criteria for the black men was always if they appeared in multiple episodes and had character arcs. One-offs didn’t count. And I did count Tamara in my listing of black women. Thanks!

  • Fitcher's Bird

    Very well said. Like other commenters, my love for the show has been severely compromised by Kripke’s poor handling of racial and sexual issues.

    One element that you did not mention which particularly enrages me is that metaphorical ‘racism’ has been brought up twice in the show (Gordon about vampires and Uriel about angels) whilst actual racism has been ignored aside from the whole racist truck incident back in the first season. This has led to most (and the most recent) instances of racism being expressed by black men, erasing any white culpability.

  • LindaH

    Zarah, the one thing I can tell you is that this show is NOT based on evangelical Christianity. The head writer has expressed his belief that humanity is the only salvation from itself. Textually at this point “God has left the building”, the Angels are generally “dicks” and we are being promised a sympathetic portrait of Lucifer. The show has massive gender and racial issues, but it is not Evangelic Christianity. It’s just filled white male, geek boy sentiments.

  • beachlass

    Bravo. Wonderfully said.

  • norah

    EXACTLY.

    I’m a white woman who used to be a fan of the show. And then I saw every black man with a speaking part (and there weren’t, as you note, many of them) become either evil or dead or both. I remember asking other fans sometime mid-season 2, “Is it just me, or are black men Out To Get Sam and Dean?”

    I hung in, just barely, until the S2 finale and Jake, and I was so excited to see a black man who wasn’t evil or dead that I thought perhaps I’d wronged the writers…

    Yeah, no. I haven’t watched an episode since, and I won’t watch one until I hear it’s gotten better.

  • Adisa Masomakali

    I have read the rules.

    Stop watching the show. The program you wanna watch does not exist. It has been clearly demonstrated that the balance you would like to experience doesn’t matter to the producers of this fantasy tv world. Rather than beg for consideration, choose to sacrifice and do without until you either find or create what you want.
    Make our ancestor Rosa Parks proud. (and get off the bus)
    Sista, I can’t believe you sittin’ there hopin’ that fool Kripke will do right. Angry, you slippin’…

    • Rosa Parks didn’t get off the bus, she refused to.

      In any case, there are many purposes of pointing out racial problems in popular culture, only one of which is actually hoping the creators will change things. (I certainly do hope they will, but that is far from my only reason for writing this).

    • Firstly, “Angry” didn’t write this post. The byline is very clearly shown at the top. Alaya is not the angry black woman.

      Second, as I said elsewhere in the thread, saying Just Don’t Watch It misses the point. Liking a show and wanting it to be better is a hard thing. Especially if there’s very little worth watching (as is the case for me). Giving up a show you love, especially when you can clearly identify what would make it better, is a hard thing. If you love something and are invested in it, it’s good to try to make it better than to just walk away.

    • yeloson

      choose to sacrifice and do without

      It’s always interesting WHO is asked to sacrifice and do without. It’s 2009. Why are folks still having to do without in terms of popular media? What will doing without give us? Is it really “more time” that will cause white dominated media corporations to see that pushing problematic imagery gives us stuff like A Girl Like Me?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyI77Yh1Gg

  • Excellent letter, and I hope the SPN PTB handle the criticism better than the Gateverse PTB have. It just gets so damned exhausting when you have to constantly rationalize your enjoyment of the show.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for this great analysis. It’s something that Supernatural fandom has definitely struggled with, at least from what I’ve seen. I think that for the most part, the issues you mentioned are even worse for other minorities (Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans). I hope Kripke can read this and incorporate some appropriate changes into the show. Maybe Rufus?

    The only part of your essay I disagreed with is that white people can (and do) go without thinking about race. White people in America are trained not to talk about race, from a very early age, and especially to avoid discussions of race with anybody who is not white. This isn’t the same as not thinking about it.

    • Re: white people and race. Maybe that is a better way of putting it. I wouldn’t know, really, not being white. I’m actually interested if other white people share that perception of their upbringing (forced silence vs. unthinking aversion).

      • Lisa

        Hi! Thanks for responding. I just want to clarify that the “forced silence” dynamic is imposed by other white people, IME. More of an issue of be polite and don’t rock the boat. (And why would you, when you’re riding first class?) I also think that there’s an undercurrent of “If you mention race, you must be a racist” and “Talking about it will make black people feel bad.” I could go on about the implications of these messages an how they prop up a racist system, but space is limited, and I bet they’re pretty clear already.

        I now live in a society where whiteness is abnormal. IME, one big difference between living as a visible minority and living as a visible minority is that as the minority, you are aware that everything you say/do is filtered though the lens of your “abnormality.” (i.e. I go to buy tomatoes, and I’m asked why white people love tomatoes. Innocuous, but still…) You’re reduced to that one characteristic.

        I think that white people consciously avoid discussions of race partly because, at least on some level, those discussions lead to this very experience. “If I say this thing, she will think blahblahblah because I’m white.” It’s an uncomfortable situation, and one that white people in America are privileged with the ability to avoid most of the time.

        Okay, that was longer than I’d intended, and I have so much more to say, but comment board might not be the best venue, haha. Thanks again for the great analysis and discussion.

      • Deanna

        I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but yes, in my experience, the tenor has been that me (as a white person) even mentioning race is a taboo. I’ve been conditioned to feel that I haven’t lived it, so I can’t understand it, and that every thought or word on the subject I might have is inherently racist because I come from a background of “white privilege.” I’m not saying I feel oppressed in that sense, but just wanted to affirm that yes, I think about race issues often and in many contexts and only with a few close family members do I feel like I am “allowed” (for lack of a better word) to talk about them.

      • k8dee

        There is a great article in Newsweek about race and how all races teach their children to speak or not speak about it. It is the cover story on the website.

        • Lisa

          Thanks so much! I went off to read it right away. It was a good read and definitely something I’ll be thinking about for a while.

      • Momsomniac

        While not “technicallY” white, my extended family and I are generally seen as such, and rarely does anyone dispel that notion. I was certainly raised to NOT SPEAK when anyone older than me said something racist. My mother did, however, permit me to leave the room. This is often not the best approach (at work, for instance, and with frined – one should speak up). BUT I have found PURPOSEFULLY refusing to respond to unacceptable statements made by my elders can, at times, make my displeasure and disagreement with what they are saying VERY CLEAR.

      • bindicated

        I don’t watch SPN, but I have been reading through the comments anyway because it’s an interesting discussion. Thanks! I want to check out the show now. Anyway, I noticed this side issue coming up and just want to agree on the enforced silence thing. That is definitely my perception of my upbringing and something I try to overcome consciously.
        B.

      • “trained” is not really the word I would use. perhaps instead, “discouraged,” “misinformed” or “wholly unprepared.” I grew up in the 80′s white/middle class/roman catholic. there were people of color in the town where I grew up (Lincoln, NE) but there wasn’t anybody in my neighborhood, school, church, who was a person of color. so I was not exposed to even the idea that there were different ways of understanding the world until I moved. we had awareness of “rich and poor,” but these were not linked, in my memory to race and racial issues.

        and then there’s the “colorblind” nonsense – which I have some memory of, in middle school.

        It took me a very long time – I’m still learning, really – to understand how to talk about race and racism and systematic injustice.

      • Liza

        My experience is like Lisa’s in this–as a white person I’m almost always silent about race but it’s because I was brought up that it was impolite to point out differences. I’m working on learning when and where it *is* polite to say something.

  • Rachel

    Why do you have to bring race into this show? It’s a fun, silly little FICTIONAL genre show – turning it from that into a platform for preaching about perceived racial slights is just making a mountain out of a molehill. Making sure everything is perfectly equalized and p.c. for a select few viewers who feel personally slighted would ruin the show in the long run. I’m a young white female and if I want to think deeply about it, then I’d probably notice that they write all their young white females in a highly sexist manner. But the truth is it’s a t.v. show and so I don’t really care, nor do I think about it. It’s FICTION. I just watch the show that’s put in front of me and enjoy it.

      • Rachel

        Interesting. Just out of curiosity, what would you say if I said that I was upset because all demons on the show have been white people, and I’m seriously offended by the pattern, and that they cast the Devil (seriously, who is more evil than the Devil?) as a blue-eyed white man, because I’m white and I have blue eyes?

        The argument over skin color casting is no different to me. Not because I think it doesn’t matter, but because I think it SHOULDN’T matter. I think we place waaay to much weight on skin color in this society, and in doing so we are self-perpetuating things. Your article is a perfect example of this. You have categorized a group of characters by their skin color . . . and then you turn around and tell Kripke to stop categorizing characters by their skin color. It’s a bit of a Catch-22: “You better not stereotype or classify me, but you better represent me!”

        Good people are good people. Good t.v. characters are good t.v. characters. I wish we could just leave it at that and let character traits be the deciding factor.

        • White blue-eyed men were not kidnapped in genocidal numbers from their homes, shipped across an ocean, enslaved and worked to death while being demonized as over-sexualized brutes. They were not deprived of the vote, first formally, and then tacitly by means of oppressive and racist intimidation tactics. They were not lynched for whistling at black women. They were not forced to sit on the back of the bus, in the back of the movie theater, to clean homes and floors of rich black people while they struggled to just survive. They weren’t/aren’t taught in overcrowded schools with textbooks the black kids have discarded. White blue-eyed men haven’t been subject to four centuries of racist, damaging and false portrayals of themselves in all sorts of pop culture.

          In other words, Rachel, there is Context and History and Race in America and if you don’t get something that basic, then we can’t really have this discussion.

          (Also, I don’t think Catch-22 means what you think it means.)

          • Lisa

            Also, while all the demons may have been white (except the one who possessed Isaac, I guess), all the white people haven’t necessarily been demons. I think it’s a crucial distinction. I’m not negating the effect of historical context, but we get multifarious white characters and everyone else, not so much.

        • hypatia

          What would you say if I said that I was upset because all demons on the show have been white people, and I’m seriously offended by the pattern?

          You weren’t asking me, but if you were, I’d point out that you are, very simply, wrong, and that you should watch the show more carefully, if you think that all the demons have been white.

    • Race exists in fiction. Race also exists in the real world. And as far as I can tell, this show, while fictional, while also fantastical, does take place in a constructed world based on our own. Therefore, there are races and racial issues and all the things you obviously like to ignore and have the privilege to do so.

  • Deanna

    Not refuting anything, but just a point of clarification: Rufus is a black male recurring character who is not evil in any way. Not guaranteeing he won’t be offed at some point, but so far he has been. And Missouri, Henrickson, and Gordon were all characters the writers said they wanted back and had ideas for, but all three actors had moved on to other projects and weren’t available.

  • Diana

    Don’t forget the guy from the Seven deadly Sins episode who drinks the drain cleaner. (forget his name)

  • Ann

    Um, you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Kripke doesn’t need people like you telling him what to put on his TV show. If you did want to argue he may lose fans, or not get any because of that, oh well, tis life. Everytime I talk to a black person they always say that they want equality and to stop racism, but yet they are the first ones to bring up black and white. So you know what, if you want it to stop, stop talking about it. I’ve heard countless people say over the years that there is still racism going on. Really? Where? Examples. I don’t care what color a person’s skin is, if they act like a damn fool, they will be treated like a damn fool.

    • I always get so tired of people pulling out the: don’t like it, don’t watch it and Fans have no right to an opinion bullcrap. Look, everyone has a right to be critical, and criticism from an engaged fan who likes or loves the material is incredibly valuable to creators. If you love a show so much that you intensely want to see it not have flaws, how awesome is that? Pretty awesome. It’s better than thinking a show is full of fail and bad writing/acting/everything and not watching again. Those shows end up in the trasheap of TV history where they belong. Also, just saying Don’t Watch It is patronizing and stupid and misses the point.

      • Yes, exactly–thank you. If I didn’t care about the show, and love it and want to engage with it, then I *would* just stop watching. The fact that the show’s not living up to its potential wouldn’t bother me.

    • Delux

      “Really? Where? Examples.”

      http://www.splcenter.org

  • galveston

    Ms. Johnson, you are aware that the character of Rufus is returning? That he wasn’t “tragically evil”? You are aware that TPTB wanted Charles Malik Whitfield for a recurring role, but that the actor wasn’t available–this fact reported from his own mouth? That Sterling K. Brown was also wanted for more episodes, but he wasn’t available because of his commitment to Army Wives? That Gordon was written as far more complex and nuanced that someone simply “tragically evil?” I thought Mr. Brown had been cast in the role because he had the chops as an actor….not because Kripke is a racist who wanted a black man specifically for the role of another hunter after Sam. Perhaps he wanted the *best* actor, and that actor happened to be a black man. Why take it as an insult? You wouldn’t want an awesome actor like Robert Wisdom to have a part in Supernatural simply because Uriel happened to be a traitor? You’d deny him the opportunity? They did cast a white man as the devil, you know. It’s not a conspiracy on the part of TPTB. As far as the black women are concerned, they also wanted Loretta Devine to return. Guess what? She wasn’t available. Broadway. As far as female regulars are concerned, no thank you after Ellen Harvelle. They don’t know how to properly write young women anyway no matter what ethnicity. This a male oriented universe. That’s fine with this woman.

    • …if you’re discussing season five spoilers, I’d really prefer you wouldn’t (regarding Rufus). But if you’re right, then we’ll see. He hasn’t shown up, I don’t know what his arc is, and I don’t know how he’ll be handled. The scope of my letter is all currently-aired seasons, as I said at the beginning.

      As for the rest of your point…the issue isn’t whether the black actors are talented or not (they are) or whether their roles are specifically well written (the show itself is well written, so the black characters tend to be) but in the trends and patterns of their roles in the larger context of the show. Maybe there’s a perfectly good real-world reason why each of these actors were killed off. Frankly, I don’t care. It’s a pattern, and even if the showrunners have been met with the most appalling run of bad luck regarding their black actors, they need to take proactive action to address the issue, not just sit back and figure that it doesn’t matter when they treat each of their black characters in exactly the same way. The idea that I don’t want these great actors to be in the show because their parts fit a racist pattern is a particularly willful twisting of my point in the letter. I want these great actors to have a variety of roles that are better written. Uriel didn’t “happen” to be a traitor, any more than Castiel “happens” to be tortured and sympathetic. They are characters, written by writers who are conscious of the choices they make. I never called Kripke a racist (nor do I believe that he is). I never implied that he cast these black men to specifically reaffirm cultural stereotypes in some mustache-twirling way. For you to interpret my critique as such strikes me as very disingenuous on your part.

      What I am saying is that there are patterns on the show that are, in aggregate, dealing badly with race. These patterns have to be identified before they can be addressed by well-meaning people, which I am assuming the writers of Supernatural are. I wrote the letter in the hope that if I pointed these issues out to them, they would realize that by not thinking about race, they have inadvertently fallen into racist stereotypes.

      • What I am saying is that there are patterns on the show that are, in aggregate, dealing badly with race. These patterns have to be identified before they can be addressed by well-meaning people, which I am assuming the writers of Supernatural are. I wrote the letter in the hope that if I pointed these issues out to them, they would realize that by not thinking about race, they have inadvertently fallen into racist stereotypes.

        THIS. thanks.

  • galveston

    Post script–I think this show has done a better job of casting minority actors–*talented* minority actors–than most, especially in the white bread basket of western Canada. Instead of taking him to task, you should be giving Kripke and company credit.

    • brownstocking

      Wow. If that wasn’t “be grateful little minorities” I don’t know what is. Why are so many people ride or die over this show? EVERY show has its flaws. Did you even READ the whole letter? Alaya is a fan, as well, and that’s where her valid-as-your-opinion viewpoint comes from.

      I, like others have stated, stopped watching after Season 2. But she loves it, and she sees its potential for greatness.

      What would detract from leaving characters of color alive? And where did Alaya say Kripke was racist? Now, I can say that his writers are insensitive as allgetout at the minimum. Racist…?

    • facetofcathy

      I wasn’t aware Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles were Canadian–good to know.

      A quick google found that the ethnic origin of metropolitan Vancouver was, in 2006, 9.94% South Asian, and 27.88% East and South East Asian. (Via Wikipedia which cites the official census data.)

      So, even if they can’t import actors, there’s lots of diversity in the local population.

      • Actually, I’m pretty sure they’re both from Texas. The show is just filmed in Vancouver, which is where a lot of television is filmed (I know the X-Files was, because I could never understand why their version of Washington D.C. never looked a thing like my hometown).

        • facetofcathy

          I’m sorry, I was being a bit snide to the commenter. The Canada is all white, so shows filmed here have to be excuse riles me up a little.

          Well, a lot.

          We have our own problems with representation on Canadian TV despite some stellar examples of good attempts at mirroring the real Canada, not the all-white imaginary one, but the idea that Supernatural is lacking in diversity because it is filmed in Vancouver is laughable on its face.

  • Stewardess

    Hear, hear! I haven’t been able to watch the show since Henricksen died. He didn’t get the hero’s death he deserved, either, he was frigging *ambushed* like a clueless amateur.

    Jake is alive and well and living on Leverage. :)

  • Kim

    I always thought this show did a decent job with minority casting. It wouldn’t occur to me that they shouldn’t cast Sterling K. Brown, one of my favorite actors, because the character isn’t all peaches and cream. That’s a very limiting mindest. People are going to assume that the black men they meet in real life are dangerous because they’ve seen a few “evil” characters played by black men on television? People aren’t that stupid. If they’re that malleable, the problem isn’t Kripke. The problem is lack of intellect. My father is black and my mother is white. I’m a content person. What can I say? I don’t feel put upon. Not by Eric Kripke. I can point out examples of racial stereotyping in television. Supernatural isn’t one of them.

  • bestshowfan

    Alaya, you’re obviously well educated and an excellent writer. I can see a lot of your points, but I don’t necessarily agree with them. Regarding the “racist monster truck,” I think, even though that term was actually used on the show by Dean, that it’s obvious the truck was not racist. The truck was an inanimate object that was being wielded as a weapon by the angry spirit of a white man who was a racist in life. In that particular episode, racism was shown to be a hateful, immoral thing that hurts everyone. And Dean and Sam are never portrayed as racist.
    I also don’t think all the black men who appeared in more than one episode were tragically evil. I think that’s a subjective view, and my opinion is that neither Gordon nor Hendrickson were evil. Gordon was like Dean — passionate about his hunting, and always remembering his sister. He killed his own sibling because she had been turned into a vampire. It’s poignant because Dean has always faced the prospect of having to take Sammy down for turning into something bad. But Gordon’s motives were always good. He was fighting evil. He resisted it. Even when he was turned into a vampire, he continued what he considered his good work; i.e., trying to kill the evil that he thought Sam embodied, with a plan to kill himself afterward. I always think of Gordon as a hero.
    I loved Hendrickson, and I was so mad when he was needlessly killed off. I loved it when he found out the truth about the kinds of things that were going on. I enjoyed watching him bond with Dean in a brother-in-arms way. I was so looking forward to having him be a recurring character. But he wasn’t evil, either. He was briefly possessed (as Sam and many others have been); but at the time of his death he was his old self, heroic to the end.
    I’m not sure what you logically want or expect Kripke to do. While it’s true that our arts (literature, music, TV shows and movies) reflect our societies, life is still uneven. Every single TV show (or movie or book) cannot possibly hope to create the kind of balance I think you are saying is missing in Supernatural. To do so would require each show (not just Supernatural, now) to set up quotas somehow and the process would become so encumbered that the word “entertainment” would go out of the window. I know you yourself realize that we are not just talking about black men and women. We’re talking about everyone who feels that some aspect of themselves culturally is being either left out or consistently represented negatively.
    If Kripke tried to achieve a total balance (which in the real world doesn’t exist), he would have to use some sort of quota to make sure he had sufficient numbers of not only black women, but young hot black women, middle-aged black women, older black women, black women in wheelchairs, etc. What I’m getting at is that there are always categories that are left out. I’m not young and skinny: where are the middle-aged women with gray hair who can kick ass and be good hunters? We can replace “black” with any other race or culture. We can say “why don’t they run into more people who are disabled, Asian, whatever.” We can say that Asian women seem to be defined only on the covers of men’s magazines, since Dean likes to surf “Busty Asian Beauties” websites and read those magazines. Why is this not a slap in the face to Asian women? Because Dean is just one guy, and that happens to be his thing.
    To be socially conscious is good. But I’m wondering if you’ve done this sort of analysis for every other TV show, every movie in the theaters, every book or magazine that’s published. Must every single entertainment presentation of every media and genre be totally balanced? Is that a responsibility the showrunners and artists and singers have when they produce something for entertainment?
    As I said, life is uneven. It’s NOT always balanced. I spent 24 years in the military; my daughter was a military brat. She grew up in a very integrated environment and went to schools all over. She’s been in a mostly white Catholic school, a mostly black Baptist school, lived in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood, lived in the Far East with many different Asian ethnic populations.
    Lest you think I haven’t grasped that a big part of your letter dealt not just with numbers but with presentations (you say all the black male characters who appear more than once are tragically evil and die), I haven’t. I just don’t agree that great heroes like Gordon and Hendrickson were portrayed as evil. I don’t think the casting people, as someone else intimated, pick black people for roles where they turn evil and die. I think the casting calls are for all races. What I mean is, I don’t think they WROTE Hendrickson as a black man. I think the person they cast in the role was a black man. As someone else mentioned, Rufus is a pretty kick-ass guy, and he’s hopefully still around. I don’t think that a disservice has been done to either black men or black women on this show.

    • Well, the black women pretty much don’t exist, which I feel is a disservice, but it’s okay if you don’t think so.

      But I do want to clarify what I meant by “tragically evil” in the letter. I’m using the term “evil” pretty loosely, not to define the characters themselves as good or bad (because they were all pretty multi-dimensional), but to locate their space in the story. And that space is always opposing Sam and Dean and harming many other people. That’s the “evil.” The “tragic” comes in because these characters are fulfilling these antagonistic roles for reasons that they see as good and heroic and which we as the audience can understand.

      As I said in the letter, this character type/arc is not bad in and of itself at all. Plenty of my favorite fictional characters fall into it. My issue is that every single black character on the show falls into it, and then they die. (As for Rufus, he appeared in one episode, had no emotional arc at all, and until he actually shows up on the show again with something more to do , I don’t really see him as an exception to this rule at all.)

      No, life isn’t balanced. No, I would never hold a television show up to some impossible ideal of 100% equality. That doesn’t mean you can’t criticize a show when it gets something egregiously wrong. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work for that ideal, even when you know you can’t achieve it. Reach for the stars, and you might at least make it up the stairs.

    • Lisa

      Sorry to jump in like this, but I just want to point out that “Busty Asian Beauties” is a slap in the face to Asian women, particularly because it’s one of the few times Asians are featured on the show. The other examples include the caricature of a restaurant owner, the Japanese student Dean refers to as “Hello Kitty,” and the STRIPPER!! I would dare say that the show’s treatment of Asians is even worse than its treatment of black people. However, that’s not the point of this blog. The author mentions specific examples of the way the show could improve its treatment of race in America, including a more nuanced portrayal of several racial/ethnic groups. There’s only so much one can fit into a letter, and addressing one issue doesn’t obligate someone to address all of them.

  • Kim

    Stewardess, season 4 has been the best. How is it Henriksen could have made it out when everyone else in the station burned? That wouldn’t have made sense. How could he know that a little girl could shoot out a lethal burning light? Not even Sam and Dean knew that Lilith would be in the form of a child.

    • Stewardess

      I watched some of season 4, enough to see Dean hit a woman. I am not watching any more of it.

      Before I stopped watching, I justified the treatment of Black male characters like many of the commenters here: that Gordon wasn’t really evil, that Henricksen was really a good guy, Jake was just protecting his family, and so on. It took me a long time to get the point that Alaya is making here, but I eventually did. Unlike Alaya, however, I no longer love the show. It has completely alienated me as a viewer.

      Instead of trying to rationalize what happens to the Black male characters on SPN, I think it is important to *listen* to what Alaya is saying.

      • Franki

        Not trying to hi-jack, but I’m curious – what was your problem with Dean hitting a woman (and for that matter, which woman? I only recall him fighting with Ruby and Bella)? I’ve always been interested in the boys’ physicality with female adversaries, mainly because I was raised in the South, and our boys are generally taught to never raise their hands to a woman for any reason. The reason is supposedly that women are more worthy of respect, but it quickly morphs into “We don’t hit women because they’re weaker.” Which is a problem in a show like SPN, when there’s always a chance that women/creatures in female bodies will be a match for the boys, physically. I loved watching Dean and Ruby fight because it doesn’t equate female-bodiedness with weakness. I liked Jo’s introductory scene in Season 2 for the same reason (though I would have liked it more if the continuity editor had cut out the scene with Dean removing the ammo).

        I think the show has done a fairly good job at drawing the line between unnecessary and unprovoked violence and necessary battle. Even when the characters blur it, I think the writing condemns such actions, but YMMV. If we saw a non-possessed Dean smack a stripper, I would blow up the internet with my rage. But Dean hitting a female-bodied adversary works fine for me.

  • galveston

    …..Maybe there’s a perfectly good real-world reason why each of these actors were killed off. Frankly, I don’t care…

    You should care. Because the fact is that TPTB *have* had terrible unfortunate luck in getting some of the black actors they cast locked into recurring roles. That matters very much, because Eric Kripke has tried to do precisely what you’d like to see. There *are* perfectly valid real life reasons. They tried to get Loretta Devine back. They tried to get Charles Malik Whitfield back. They tried to get Sterling K. Brown back–three fantastic characters who happened to be played by black actors, all unavailable for reasons beyond the control of TPTB. To ignore that and say “I don’t care” is disingenuous on your part, Ms. Johnson. You wrote a very polite letter to Mr. Kripke. It’s a valid concern that you raise, but to hear you say that TPTB’s efforts to do precisely what you want don’t matter to you because of real life scheduling conflicts strikes me as unfair on your part. If scheduling conflicts preclude the return of more sympathetic black characters, the effort doesn’t matter? The effort should hearten you. It should hearten *anyone.*

    Then again, I’ve read season five spoilers.

    • When I said “I don’t care” I meant that, well, perhaps it’s a shame if that’s the case, but then they have to try harder.

      No, seriously, they have to try harder. It’s been four seasons without a black female who lasts more than one episode. It’s been four seasons without a black man who doesn’t fall into the stereotypes I identified in the letter. Maybe that’s all because of some remarkable personnel issues (what, is it the water in Vancouver?) but, if that’s the case, then make it a priority and do it better. There are a hundred ways I could think of for them to do this, but I am not a casting director. However, I find it difficult to believe that in the actor’s mecca that is the west coast, they could not find a few great black actors who would love a chance to stick around on a really awesome cult tv show.

    • brownstocking

      how did they try? How hard did they try? What were their offers?

    • Roga

      Not to mention that even when facing casting issues, there are still different ways to choose to write a character off a show, and they picked all the ways that fall into the patterns the OP mentioned.

    • Thank you for this letter. I hope Kripke & co read it and take it to heart.

  • bestshowfan

    I agree that there aren’t very many black women on the show. But there are more black women on the show than there are Asian women, Swedish women, Russian women, Hispanic women, etc. So, I think there is either no specific disservice to any of these categories, or they are all equally disserviced; and there is no logical way to expect a recurring role for each ethnic category. If he’s going to pick, say, only one category to “fix,” which one should it be?

    I understand better now your definition of “tragically evil.” Thanks. And they are multi-dimensional, as you say. But I still don’t think they are only there to be in opposition to Sam and Dean. It’s obvious that Sam and Dean, being hunters who mostly work alone, will come into contact more with opposing forces than buddy forces; that’s the nature of the drama. But, again, I don’t see Gordon or Hendrickson as only the opposition. Gordon was at first a fellow hunter whom Dean bonded with. His role as opponent was later developed. Hendrickson was at first an opponent, because he represented the law (in the same way, Deputy Kathleen and the cop played by Linda Blair were opponents at the beginning), and it’s obvious why Dean and Sam have run afoul of the law. But, that changed, and Hendrickson (and the two female cops) became strong allies. Hendrickson helped defeat the demonic forces of evil in the station, and he arranged Sam and Dean’s release before he died with the others in the station. (I myself have put out plenty of posts berating Kripke for killing off Hendrickson — I kept pointing out that surely Hendrickson had survived; we didn’t have PROOF he was dead, after all — and I swear I think he must have read my diatribes and that’s why in the episode when Hendrickson returned, he actually told Dean, “No, I didn’t survive.”) A huge raspberry to Kripke for that!!

    I can see why you don’t include Rufus in your analysis. But I think that same analysis would then apply to Jake. He was essentially there for the two-part finale, with no recurring emotional arc.

    I can mention another category of people I could say have been portrayed only in a negative space — the southerner, specifically the “hillbilly” type of southerner. When have we seen them? In the Benders, and maybe in “Family Remains.” Not really sure if the “bad” folks in “Family Remains” were meant to be Southerners or not. But, certainly, they picked a Southern representation of a family riddled with incest, with terrible personal hygiene and bad teeth, hunting people for fun, and eating victims. The episode was rife with “Deliverance” references.

    And, of course, a big thing that gets talked about a lot is the gay thing. I’ve read plenty of complaints about the gay-bashing references and the fact that they haven’t had any gay hunters at all. The question is, are they supposed to? Is Kripke’s show homophobic?

    I just think it’s not as simple as a black vs. white issue. It’s either an issue for everyone, all races, all cultures, gays and lesbians, etc. or it isn’t. I don’t think we can ask Kripke to examine his use or lack of use of black characters specifically. If we’re to take him to task based on the one factor of black skin, haven’t we excluded all the other skin colors and differentiating factors? If he could somehow fix the problems you describe in your letter, would it then be OK, or do the Southerners and the gays and lesbians and Asian women and Hispancis, etc., each get their turn? As much as some of the posts I read on various forms claim otherwise, Kripke isn’t God. He can’t balance the world within the confines of his one little show.

    I absolutely love your comment, “Reach for the stars, and you might at least make it up the stairs.” It’s wonderful. I plan to use it myself for motivation. Thank you.

  • Jessica

    Thank you so much for writing this letter! I really hope that someone over at Supernatural or the CW reads it. You’ve touched on a lot of the issues that have been pissing me off for years. I love Supernatural, too, but there are so many times when I just have to cringe. I know you were just focusing on recurring characters, but I think you might have been too kind to the show’s writers by doing so because the other black men who do appear on the show are treated the same way over and over again. Sometimes I wonder why they even bother casting different actors. Isaac (“The Magnificent Seven”) blamed the boys for opening the Devil’s Gate and ended up choking on drain cleaner; George Darrow (“Crossroad Blues”) summoned a crossroad demon who went on to make deals with other people and was eventually dragged to hell (George’s assertion that he deserved to go to hell because he felt guilty for the damnation of others always stuck me as a very Winchestery sentiment, and it still pisses me off that Dean got the white dude Ethan out of the deal instead of George.); and Sarge (“Croatoan”) initially pulled a gun on Dean because he thought he was possessed and later had his throat cut by the demon kid Sam talked Dean out of killing. Frankly, Rufus might be a recurring character next season, but given his knowledge of what’s going on with Sam and his anger at those events, I don’t have very high hopes for his survival. Also, unnamed black men don’t fare much better than the ones with names. Both of the doctors who told Sam that Dean was going to die were black (in “Faith” and “In My Time of Dying”), and they of course didn’t know what they were talking about even though they were trained professionals because they didn’t know what the high-school-dipolma-toting Winchesters knew. At least they managed to survive, though. The exorcism at the beginning of “Time is on my side” is IMO the most violent and disturbing since Meg’s in “Devil’s Trap,” and the demon’s human host–who was black–died afterward.

    The thing that annoys me most, though, is that whenever the issue of racism is brought up, it’s usually by an evil creature. The ghouls in “Jumping the Shark” accused Sam of racism. Ruby accused Sam of racism a couple of times, and in “Lucifer Rising” she made the comments “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” and “He’s free at last” in reference to Lucifer. I don’t know what’s more disturbing: the idea that demons and other monsters are regarding as being the Supernatural equivalent of human minorities or the idea that Kripke considers actual, legitimate concerns regarding race to be as ill-founded and unworthy of notice as an evil, twisted creature’s whining about humans being mean to it.

  • Alma

    Thank you for a reflective, objective synopsis of why this show is awesome and why it fails. I am a Latina lesbian fan of SN and if there were any Latino characters on the show I have missed them utterly. Latinos are the fastest growing ‘minority’ in the country and we have pockets everywhere, even in the Northwest, and certainly south of the Mason Dixon line. Will link to this with your permission.

  • galveston

    How hard did they try to retain them [Malike, Devine, and Brown]? Do you think Supernatural has an unlimited budget and the most high profile in television? Devine is going to turn down Broadway? Charles Malik Whitfield is going to turn down a film, and Sterling K. Brown is going to turn down a regular role in another series for a miniscule part time paycheck from Supernatural? TPTB can’t *force* these people to stay. I’ll reiterate. They have tried. It hasn’t worked out. You can’t take them to task when they’ve made the effort because of the choices of certain actors to leave. There would have been recurring black characters on Supernatural had things worked out. Gordon was trying to kill Sam. Eventually, Sam was going to have to kill him. It made sense for the story. Henricksen dying, while tragic, made sense for the story. They’re supposed to alter the story because the actor who doesn’t want to return happens to be a black actor? That’s not reasonable.

    …Also, unnamed black men don’t fare much better than the ones with names. Both of the doctors who told Sam that Dean was going to die were black (in “Faith” and “In My Time of Dying”), and they of course didn’t know what they were talking about even though they were trained professionals because they didn’t know what the high-school-dipolma-toting Winchesters knew…..

    These particular doctors didn’t have knowledge of supernatural enitities that would intervene in the situation. If the supernatural entities hadn’t intervened, the doctors would have been correct in their diagnosis. The fact that the actors who played the doctors happened to be black has nothing to do with it. It wasn’t about two white men, one of whom has a high school education, being smarter than a black man. I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous hypersensitivity which undermines any legitimate argument that might be made.

  • Ann

    Slavery and voting limitations are in the past. Please keep them there. I don’t see Jewish people walking around with a sense of entitlement because their ancestors were in concentration camps and that was more recent than slavery. I’m not trying to be offensive here, but do you ever think that people don’t like african americans because of the way they act and not the color of their skin? That’s not racism. If I don’t like someone, I don’t like them, and that’s not because they’re black, white, brown, purple, green etc. It’s because they don’t act right. Also, when casting sides go out, they do not list race as a distinction. They audition, and whoever does the best in the casting directors eyes gets the part. I’ve noticed a trend that the only people to bring up racism are the blacks. I’m white, and I was never raised to be hush hush about racial issues. In fact, I never knew race and skin color was an issue, until a black person told me it was. Hmmmm, go figure. Quit holding grudges from the past and live the future.

    Another point. Slavery was basically in the south right? So how come a majority of the black population resides there? If you are still holding grudges about slavery, wouldn’t black people want to live in the yankee states? It’s time to grow up and put the past where it belongs. Slavery is a thing of the past, so live for the future.

    • Another bingo card answer.

      Ann, you really need to take some time and read up on 101 race discussion before you can participate usefully in this one. The Slavery Is In The Past and You Don’t See Jews (or other assorted minorities who have suffered oppression) Going On About This Stuff defenses have been addressed time and time again and are tired. Though this level of discussion may be new to you, please realize that it’s not new to us. You should probably start in the Required Reading section, linked at the top. Al.so the blogs on the sidebar are good places to learn. This blog is also a good place to learn. Try going through old discussions in the media and SF/F categories, linked at left.

      • Ann

        I don’t need to take time and read anything. You’re remarks about racism are tired. Just look at your website. The angry black woman. Way to categorize yourself. This level of discussion is not new to me at all, don’t be condescending. I don’t need to learn anything. There’s nothing here to learn. If black people would stop talking about race, so would everyone else. It’s this sense of entitlement that really throws me off. You’re not entitled to anything more than any other race out there. You really aren’t. There’s affirmative action, it’s PC to say african american now instead of black. I mean, come on. I don’t go around calling myself polish american. I was born in America and that’s what I am. Shit happened to my ancestors too, should I be entitled to certain things as well? MMmmmm, I think not. Yeah, slavery was bad, but guess what? I wasn’t there and neither were you. The only thing we know about it, is through history, and that’s how it should stay.

        • Kanika

          @Ann-

          Why are you bringing up slavery in this post? It has nothing to do with the conversation @ hand.

          Also- in the second sentence the word YOUR should be used to describe possession…The misuse of grammar makes your argument look even less intelligent than it already is.

        • ooookay then. You know, people like you are the reason why I often feel it’s a waste of time to try to engage with compassion and attempt to educate instead of blasting the ignorance you exude. So let’s try this again: you are ignorant and proud of it, you refuse to accept that the perspective of people different from you is valid and worth consideration, you’re bathing in privilege and arrogance, you’re barely worthy of my notice. If you cannot change your attitude and try to have this discussion with us on an equal level of intelligence, you’re just cluttering up my blog with your stupid. So: go away. It’s not worth it to me to refute your stupidity or to engage you as someone who might benefit or learn. You may indeed turn your thinking around in the future and, should that time come, you’re welcome to come back. But right here, right now, you need to step off. If you continue to post asinine statements like “If black people would stop talking about race, so would everyone else” I will put you back on moderation until your attitude improves.

          There. Now you know why this site is called the Angry Black Woman.

          • Ann

            Okay, I’ll bite, educate me on what? Really, tell me why there is a race problem. I’m not ignorant whatsover. I’ve had many conversations with black people in regards to this issue, and they actually seem to be on my side. Well, let me rephrase that, a majority of them are on my side. I’m all for people having opinions, I’m just trying to point out to you in the most blunt way possible my own. Where’s the equal level of intelligence here? No one has even once explained to me why my issue isn’t valid, and have basically just been brushing me off as either not knowledgable on the subject matter or I am being stupid. So because my opinion is different than yours, I need to turn my thinking around in the future? Not gonna happen. If you want to educate me in the simple cliff notes version, feel free, I will listen. That doesn’t mean I’ll change my opinion, but I will weigh all the facts.

            @Kanika. The reason I bring up slavery, is because in my experience, that’s what every black person uses as their reference point. Forgive me, I didn’t realize we couldn’t make mistakes. My IQ must be in the single digits now because I used an apostrophe.

            Also, please realize I’m going from my own experiences. I’m going from who I’ve talked to on the subject and not saying it represents everyone.

            • The fact that you say every black person uses slavery as a reference point makes me think you don’t actually talk to black people that much and most of the ones you do speak with agree with you because it’s easier than attempting to engage with and educate you. Now, if you’re serious about being educated on this point, look at my original reply to you. There are posts linked in the required reading, there are posts on this blog about media and fandom, there are other blogs linked on the sidebar that often talk about race in media and race in general. But really the best place to start is the required reading. I put those links together for a reason and titled the page that for a reason.

            • “No one has even once explained to me why my issue isn’t valid…”

              Perhaps that’s because you have perfected the art of sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” like a three year old.

              If you’re even remotely genuine about your willingness to learn more, then why don’t you take a step back, look at the links ABW directed you to, read them and then come back to talk. Because if you think this is the first time any of us have heard/read these brilliant ripostes of yours…you really need to get out more.

  • galveston

    [quote]However, I find it difficult to believe that in the actor’s mecca that is the west coast, they could not find a few great black actors who would love a chance to stick around on a really awesome cult tv show.[/quote]

    Yes, I agree. That’s why–knowing how hard that they’ve tried–I can respect them for at least making the effort and attribute it to bad luck. However, Rufus is coming back (sorry for letting the cat out of the bag, but he’s in the promo that’s all over the net set to the old spiritual “O Death”…I thought it was common knowledge). There’s another black actor in the promo who looks to have a very intriguing part. Strides are being made. I feel that this particular show does a hell of a lot better than other programs on the air when it comes to race. That’s why the letter threw me. I was very surprised that the angry black woman focused on this show as opposed to others. Give me Supernatural, a show with nuanced characters who are allowed to show flaws, any day over a show where the main character is a cartoonish buffoon like “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” or other such tripe that’s no longer on the air, thank God. Give me Supernatural over Grey’s Anatomy with its stereotypical, loud rude black woman in charge of interns who uses terms like “va jay-jay” for vagina. Yuck.

    As for the lack of black women on the show, it’s unfortunate but not deliberate. I liked Tamara and wish they’d brought the character back after what happened to her husband. She seems like someone who had a great deal in common with Dean personality wise. I concede that they would have done a better job casting the young black woman who played the maid temporarily possessed by Ruby as Ruby 2.0 over Genevive Cortese….or is casting a black woman as a demon conforming to stereotype? She was funny and a much more convincing Ruby than Ms. Cortese. What do you think?

    • Momsomniac

      I can’t speak specifically about this show, but based upon our mutual viewership of other shows, I would say that the posters on ABW focus on shows they LIKE (or wanted to like at the on-set). Stereotypes in crappy shows can be aggravating as well (but tend to be less so there are tons of other kinds of crap in play as well – after all it’s just more crap on a crap pile). But stereotypes can be really frustrating in an otherwise excellent show that the viewer really enjoys. At least, that’s how it works for me.

  • Briefly to say: brava. And brava for placing it in the context of loving the show. I think this is what other fans miss when they complain about squee-harshing. It’s possible to love a show beyond all measure and still wince at its treatment of race.

    As a related point, I find it equally frustrating that in a show that’s become about a mostly Christian eschatology, there are no Jewish characters. Where are the rabbis? Why haven’t the boys ever encountered a dybbuk which is right up their alley? There have been characters who might be culturally Jewish, but I’m having a hard time coming up with one who has been significant to the storyline and with the Bible at the center of things, it feels like an oversight. So does the absence of religious Muslims, both black and Semitic.

    Oh, and a last thing: As much as I love watching Sam/Jared be hotass and mercenary, having a white man strangle a black man with barbed wire might not have been the best choice, Mr. Kripke. Visual callbacks to lynching aren’t cool. They just inure the viewers to sight of some of the worst of white on black violence.

    Technosage, aka Allie

  • Kim

    Gordon was a vampire. The only way to kill him is to cut off his head. Decapitation with a sword stroke is more PC? The head had to come off somehow.

  • Kim

    I accidentally hit the “submit” button before I meant to do it. I think you’re missing the point. It wasn’t white on black violence. It was human on vampire violence. Are they supposed to change the rules because the actor playing the vampire happens to be black? Would that method of execution been accpetable had the actor who played Gordon happened to be Asian instead?

    • Dead Man’s Blood can kill a vampire in SPN verse, too. The point isn’t that the rules have to change. But they knew they were dealing with a vampire. Where was the hypo of dead man’s blood? Where was the Colt that can kill anything, where was the knife to cut his throat?

      I’m an art historian, or was. I’m some conditioned to look at and read images like text. When you look at the screen in that scene, there’s no vampire. There’s a hot young white stud and an older, animalized black man.

      Maybe I’m alone in this, but I didn’t read that as human on vampire violence. Gordon was still a human to me. Same as Madison and Lenore later, and Gordon more so because we knew him before he got turned. Where was his chance to struggle against his fate like Lenore had? Where was the awesome story of how a vampire stayed a hunter?

      For me, that was one of the most disturbing moments of the show hands down. A character I wanted to know more about, who had an interesting journey ahead of him, got brutally murdered by a character I love so much that I dedicate months of my life to writing about him. Yes, Gordon was a vampire. Yes, the scene called for him to die. Yes, there were good reasons for the way Sam killed him.

      Does that make the visual of a white man lynching a black man with barbed wire less disturbing to me? No.

      Would it be acceptable if it had been an Asian or Mexican or Native American or Jewish or queer character? I still would’ve felt cheated on Gordon’s story and disturbed by the violence of it, but I probably wouldn’t have felt like I got forced into identifying with a lyncher.

  • Ann

    Um, I live in Detroit. Do you really want to tell me I don’t talk to my fair share of black people? They don’t just say that to make me shut up either. When you mention media and fandom, is that really the best place to make a case though? Yes, TV shows and films are broadcast all over, but don’t you think reality is better judgement? I’d rather be getting along in life instead of being worried about portrayal in the media. (And in all honesty, let’s face it, the media does bad with a lot of things, not just racial issues.)

    I came to your blog because a black friend of mine emailed me the link.

    There are so many things that one can complain about.

    For example, females could complain that they love em and leave em, gay males could complain because they used the term that’s so gay in an episode.

    So why do I hear less about those than I do about the racial aspect?

    I will read a couple of the articles and get back to you on my thoughts. Although I have a feeling that I have already heard most of the subject matter.

    • oh jesus.

      Ann. go to the required reading. seriously. I’m not having this discussion with you if you’re going to keep making arguments straight off the Bingo card.

    • Zahra

      Ann,

      If you haven’t heard complaints about misogyny & homophobia in this show, it’s probably just that your radio is tuned to a different station. Because the internet is awash in critiques of misogyny in SPN. I don’t even watch the show, and one of the few things I knew about it prior to reading this was its infamously bad treatment of female characters & rep for homophobia. The fact that this essay addresses racism in the show is perhaps linked to the fact that you are reading blog that addresses racism and the lived experience of black people. (Even so, quite a few other commenters here have casually mentioned both misogyny & homophobia in their replies.)

      And I cannot for the life of me see why the fact that a show can be criticized for one thing means it somehow shouldn’t be criticized for another. It’s just a reinforcement that the creators aren’t given to thinking about these topics and could use some help. If anything, there might be a connection between this separate instances of failure.

    • astrumporta

      Wow, more bingo squares filled! I bet your black friend wants to gouge out her own eyes after seeing what you’ve spewed here. Please go away. Your ignorance and arrogance are lethal together — hurtful to everyone and shameful to those of us who’ve taken the time to educate ourselves. I weep for the people of color who have to interact with you in real life.

    • X-Tricks

      Oooh – see, that’s funny. Because I’m a gay man and I do complain when people use ‘that’s so gay’ and when the queers are killed off to fulfill heteronormative stereotypes or to provide pretty angst for straight folks. And women have and do complain about the horrible misogyny in the show (and others). So, really, this letter isn’t out of left field.

      The fact that you live in some alternate universe instead of the real world where black people make up 12% or so of the population but 40% of the prison population, have lower life expectancies, lower income, worse medical outcomes than white people and a huge host of other issues, that are discussed regularly in public, all over the news and in schools doesn’t make the real world not exist. Racism, institutionalized and supported by our behaviors, our media, our history and by people like you exists, and there is every reason to complain and stand up and not ‘not talk about it’ so you can feel comfortable.

  • I haven’t watch the show since the 1st season. But I’m glad you brought this to light. This is an issue especially at CW, where it seems minorities barely exist on that network.

    Thank you for calling this out

  • Cathy

    Thank you so much for this post. I think the fact that you are so obviously a fan of the show is what really struck a chord with me. What people seem to be missing is that you wouldn’t be as upset about this if you didn’t care about the show so much.

  • JD

    This seems a bit extreme and over the top, if you ask me. Are you saying that black people aren’t allowed to be evil? This reminds me of a controversy over a video game called Resident Evil where certain people were throwing up a fuss because there were black zombies. Guess what…there are plenty more white zombies! There are zombies from Asia too! It is possible, though you probably won’t want to admit it, that black people CAN be evil. Why aren’t there more good ones? Well, let’s see…there are a grand total of two, possibly three, main characters on the show. It’s hard to be diverse when your cast has that low of numbers. Good grief. Why does everyone have to play the race card so often? I thought our country was past this. Who cares if Obama is black. Is he a good candidate for president? That’s all I care about. (IMO, I don’t think he was and I could care less if he’s black, white, blue, purple, green, whatever). And the whole thing with Sotomayor? Ridiculous! You hire the people who are right for the job, who have the best qualifications. Not the ones that are minorities just because you’re afraid of backlash. Who the frak cares? If you want to be hired, do the best job. It’s ridiculous. And it’s people like you that keep this race thing up and going. It doesn’t have to be an issue unless everyone makes it an issue. Hopefully our children will be able to live in a world where they don’t even distinguish skin color, that they’ll be blind to it. This current generation of adults is still stuck in the past and I’m tired of hearing about it. I mean, there are plenty of white people on the show that are evil and they aren’t making a fuss about it. Sam and Dean aren’t exactly perfect little angels either. One went to Hell, the other is a part-demon or whatever. So what? It’s a show. It’s fantasy. Not real. It’s perhaps an unfortunate fact that white people think in terms of white and black people think in terms of black. So a show that’s written by two white guys is going to inevitably be dominated by a white cast because when they form characters in their minds, that’s just how they see them. Trust me. I’m a writer and it’s the same for me. Please, just let it go. We really don’t need the propagate this issue any further. Let it die. Let us just be people and not white or black or anything in between. Is that so hard? If you like the show as much as you say you do, it shouldn’t matter.

    • No, I’m not saying that black people shouldn’t be allowed to be evil, as you would know if you had, say, read the letter. In which I state my case in clear English.

      As for the rest, please do yourself a favor and read the “required reading” at the top of this page. Here’s a good place to start (and just so you know, this article is by a white man).

      This matters to me, and it matters to a lot of other people. It’s because I love the show so much that I don’t want to let it go.

    • nojojojo

      JD,

      This reminds me of a controversy over a video game called Resident Evil where certain people were throwing up a fuss because there were black zombies.

      Uh, no. That’s not what people were upset about. Also, there’s no race card or quota system, and nearly everything you’re saying here is a straw man. Please go read the Required Reading, especially “How to Suppress Discussions of Racism”. Your statements are a textbook example.

  • Kim

    Dead Man’s Blood can kill a vampire in SPN verse, too. The point isn’t that the rules have to change. But they knew they were dealing with a vampire. Where was the hypo of dead man’s blood? Where was the Colt that can kill anything, where was the knife to cut his throat?

    No, dead man’s blood CANNOT kill vampires. It only sickens them for a short period of time and makes them lethargic. Are you sure you actually watch the show and aren’t just jumping on the complaint bandwagon because it’s fashionable? I’m surprised you don’t remember that. Gordon called Dean and Sam with a woman he’d taken hostage. They had to get to the site where he held her hostage in a period of time specified by Gordon; he threatened to kill her otherwise. They didn’t have time to break into a funeral home on the way over. Sam and Dean got separated by the wall when Gordon tricked them. Dean had the colt–Sam didn’t. Sam didn’t have the demon knife…which only kills demons and isn’t big enough to decapitate anyone. He had his own machete, but he and Gordon fought physically and he lost it. He grabbed the chain as the only weapon available within hands reach. Sam was fighting to survive. Once again, you seem very unfamiliar with the show.

    Supernatural is a violent show. It’s been violent from day one. It would be disingenuous to tone down the violence simply because the actor portraying the vampire (Gordon had been turned) happened to be a black man. That’s a FAR different argument than what the angry black woman is making. She wants to see blacks featured more prominently in a few more positive roles. What you’re suggesting is changing the overall tone of the show and sanitizing every scene that happens to have a black actor in it and toning down the violence for fear of offending someone.

    I’m a biracial woman. Perhaps my opinion doesn’t count because my mother is white, but I call complete BS on that nonsense. I wasn’t offended by the manner of Gordon’s death. Lynching didn’t even cross my mind until I read it here. I also read a complaint up thread that the demon exorcised at the beginning of “Time Is On My Side” who, once again, happened to be played by a black actor, was exorcised in too violent a manner. All the demons on the show are exorcised in a violent manner. Meg was exorcised in an ugly manner. Should they be required to tone down the scene because the host happened to be portrayed by an African-American/Canadian? No. The scene was honest to the show and its established format. Wanted to see black actors and actresses portrayed in a positive light more often is a far cry from asking for scenes that happen to feature black actors to not be true to the show’s tone and format–which is violent.

    If someone doesn’t enjoy violence portrayed in general and doesn’t care for the show, that I can understand and respect. Not wanting to watch the show because there are violent scenes including actors of all races, including black actors, is asking TPTB to compromise their product. They shouldn’t do it. It’s not a reasonable request.

  • New to this blog, came here from Facebook, and just want to say:

    1) Yes, yes, yes. I don’t watch this particular show — but I’ve seen this pattern on many other shows, and it always bugs me.

    2): Why did I not know about your blog before? Who can I complain to about that? You’re going in my blogroll now. Great writing.

  • Honey, I’m white and Jewish. I used to a well-known writer in SPN fandom who regularly commented on race issues in SPN and tv generally. But I shouldn’t have to trot my credentials out to make this argument and it irritates me to no end that it’s even an issue.

    You’re correct. DMB only weakens vampires. You’re correct. Dean had the Colt. You’re correct about every assertion you’ve made about the show being violent. But you have ignored my central point which is that it still looks like white on black violence.

    Your opinion certainly counts. Other POCs have disagreed with me on this point. I’m perfectly willing to accept that sensitivity to this particular issue is going to depend on personal positionality. It was especially uncomfortable for me because I identify with Sam and didn’t like seeing my viewpoint character doing something that I find visually uncomfortable.

    YMMV, but accusing me of being a hanger-on is what’s called ad hominem attack. Attacking the person instead of their argument. It’s specious and also unnecessary. We’re all fans here.

  • Cosigned. I’m not a fan, and this is why… but I’d like to be.

  • Asian SN fan

    I can understand why you’re upset, but I would like to see a breakdown of the ethnicities of all the characters that are on the show. I can only recall a couple of Native Americans, and no Indians, Asians, or middle easterners. So the fact that there are black characters at all is telling.

    But let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Let’s look at how many non-black characters are on predominantly black shows. Admittedly, I don’t watch either the Bernie Mac or Chris Rock shows (the only 2 that come to mind) but I don’t recall ever seeing any white characters in the commercials. Let’s even think about one of the most popular sitcoms of all time – The Cosby Show. It wasn’t exactly teeming with non-black characters either.

    I personally like shows that have a diverse cast, at least for US shows. People have forgotten that we’re supposed to be a Melting Pot. We shouldn’t identify ourselves as a such-and-such American, we should just be American. So long as people identify themselves as anything other than just American, the -isms are going to stick around.
    If each individual focuses on what separates them from their fellow Americans, how can you expect other people to see you as anything other than a black woman (angry or otherwise)?

    • I’m a black woman and proud of it. I’m proud of my history and all the sacrifices my parents and their parents had to make to get me where I am today. I’m happy for people to see me as a black woman. And I’m happy for them to see me as a writer and a fan and a person who talks too loud and loves to dance and sing and a hundred other things that make me who I am. I think it’s revealing of how dysfunctionally this country deals with race that we seem to think that not seeing race is the ideal to strive for, when to me it’s precisely the opposite. There are dozens of intersecting identities that make me who I am, none of them should be devalued because people won’t see me as “anything other.” Surely that’s their problem, not mine.

    • Firstly, Alaya’s point doesn’t become invalid simply because other races aren’t as visible, either. It’s a good point that non-Black POC are often seen even less. So like a third of 1 percent is not great, but neither is 1 percent. Hopefully, in asking the show creators to think about race AT ALL, they will also hep to the fact that they’re leaving out a number of other people, too.

      However, I’m going to have to stop you there with the “OMG there are no white people on black shows!!!” because it’s not a 1:1 equation here. The examples you brought up are telling, because you claim not to watch the shows yet assume there are no whites. There actually are. Many if not all of the Cosby Show episodes had a white person around doing something. But that is beside the point.

      You cannot compare the shows made by or for or starring marginalized groups to those of the mainstream/majority group. Shows made for minority groups seek to address imbalance. There are nights where I can watch a network for 3 hours and not see anyone who looks like me or anyone who looks like me that isn’t a criminal, thug, stereotype, etc. White people don’t have that problem. Black people would really like to watch a show where they can see other black folks and people of color portrayed bin a variety of nuanced ways. Some good, some bad, some in-between, some successful, some not, etcetc. Until we can find that on wider mainstream TV, why are we not allowed to have that in shows made for us? Why do shows made for us have to have white people when white people can be found everywhere else? I know the answer to this, of course: white people are used to being everywhere and having media catered to them. It bothers them when its not. But that doesn’t make The Cosby Show wrong for not catering to that point of view, it makes uneasy watchers wrong for not examining their own assumptions and privileges.

      • The Pash

        If it is ok for blacks to have shows which are predominantly cast with black characters then why is it not ok for whites to have the same?
        This issue comes up a lot.
        Why is it that any thing and everything must be equal when it comes to any race other than minority but minorities can have their own separate colleges, grants, etc.?
        I am of Irish and Scottish decent and my ancestors were also enslaved and treated poorly throughout history but I do not get upset when I do not see Irish or Scottish people in TV programs. I am also not bitter that minorities have separate factions and support groups to rely on but if its ok for one then it should be ok for all. If equality is the issue then shouldn’t equality be the goal?

        • The only reason I approved this comment is so I can say: go read the posts in the Required Reading. Every point you made in this comment is straight off of the race discussion BINGO card and at this point I’m tired of answering these tired queries. Go educate yourself before you post here again.

    • We shouldn’t identify ourselves as a such-and-such American, we should just be American.

      Actually, people do like to talk about their ethnic background and where their families came from (if they know where.) We’re all hyphenated Americans, and I think we all know that.

      how can you expect other people to see you as anything other than a black woman (angry or otherwise)?

      What are we supposed to see her as, then? A green elephant? A small multicolored stone? Maybe a white man, or a pencil? What’s this “other than” thing?

  • Kim

    Why does it matter if it looks like white on black violence? The point is that it isn’t. The writing staff is treating us like adults who are sharp enough to be able to discern the difference. It’s a situation in a fictional universe that conformed to the established rules of that universe. With all due respect to your lauded credentials, so what if it makes you uncomfortable? It’s supposed to make us uncomfortable to see Sam resort to that level of violence. That’s the point. I don’t want it toned down because a certain actor in a scene happens to be of a certain ethnic group and it elicits an image in the mind of a random viewer. It didn’t elicit an image of lynching in my mind. It’s part of my cultural history and it never even occurred to me. Supernatural is a violent show. It’s supposed to shock us. We aren’t entitled to not be uncomfortable while watching.

    It was especially uncomfortable for me because I identify with Sam and didn’t like seeing my viewpoint character doing something that I find visually uncomfortable.

    I hear you. I really do. Sam is my favorite character. It was uncomfortable for me, too, but not for the same reasons. In short, what I’m trying to say is that if the writers start compromising those types of scenes out of a fear of eliciting an image in a viewer’s mind, then Supernatural will cease being a show that makes a strong impression. It will lose what makes it compelling–the traumatic emotional journeys of its two main characters. Violence is a huge part of that trauma, of what shapes and informs Sam’s and Dean’s characters. There’s a difference between wanting more positive black characters and asking that those characters only appear in scenes that don’t challenge us and our sensibilities.

    • Why does it matter if it looks like white on black violence?

      In order to answer this compellingly, I’d have to go into a lengthy discussion with a lot of big aca words that would just piss people off and make it seem like I’m trying to browbeat someone by using more syllables. Iconography and visual semantics are at the core of it, but in short, the reason is that like language, imagery shapes our world.

      Being treated like smart fans who can discern the difference is great for those of us who will. But what of the kids who flip on the tv without knowing what they’re watching? What of the people who want to see their racist worldviews reflected in the shows they’re watching?

      I hear you too. And I don’t ignore the point that creators of a show shouldn’t compromise the integrity of their stories to protect and shelter. If it were one instance in a show that had a good record on race and gender issues, then it would be exactly as you say. But it’s the continuation of a pattern in a show that has a mediocre record on race and gender issues.

      Imagine how much more disturbing and more effective that singular moment would’ve been in the context of a show that was fantastic on race issues and POCs were as positively portrayed as Sam and Dean. It would’ve had the power to make people sit up and go “WTF, that is WRONG”, you know?

  • Kim

    I think it’s revealing of how dysfunctionally this country deals with race that we seem to think that not seeing race is the ideal to strive for,/i>

    With all due respect, IMO, it is the ideal to strive for. I want to be seen as a woman first. I’m a human being who happens to have a white and a black parent. I’m proud of both of them. Like you, I want to be defined by all my characteristics, by everything that makes me what I am of which my heritage is one part. I’m proud of my heritage, but I’m the cumulation of my many life experiences. It’s not all that I am. No one should be reduced to white, black, brown, red or yellow–or in my case light caramel. There’s so much in life that shapes us into what we are. That’s just how I see it. Maybe it comes from me being a blend or, as some have not so charitably called me, a zebra. I’ve heard that one from many a person of many a different color.

  • Kim

    I think it’s revealing of how dysfunctionally this country deals with race that we seem to think that not seeing race is the ideal to strive for,/i>

    With all due respect, IMO, it is the ideal to strive for. I want to be seen as a woman first. I’m a human being who happens to have a white and a black parent. I’m proud of both of them. Like you, I want to be defined by all my characteristics, by everything that makes me what I am of which my heritage is one part. I’m proud of my heritage, but I’m the cumulation of my many life experiences. It’s not all that I am. No one should be reduced to white, black, brown, red or yellow–or in my case light caramel. There’s so much in life that shapes us into what we are. That’s just how I see it. Maybe it comes from me being a blend or, as some have not so charitably called me, a zebra. Sadly, I’ve heard that one from many a person of many a different color.

    • Franki

      Yeah, but that’s your opinion. For some of us, myself included, having our race recognized does not take away from our womanhood or personhood. It’s called intersectionality. People can identify with more than one group/category, trufax. And acknowledging that, hey, some of the things that fly with a white audience may not fly with me isn’t a bad thing. It’s recognition of my complete identity, not just the parts you find it convenient to deal with.

      Also, trying to be colorblind often just leads to more internalized race issues. See here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/214989

    • nojojojo

      Seeing race, i.e., recognizing its importance as a part of identity, does not equal being reduced to race. Like you, I’m proud of having a multifaceted identity. Every part of that identity is important; all of it enriches me and makes me who I am. By demanding that all of those parts be recognized, I’m not reducing myself; far from it. I’m making sure I’m seen completely.

  • Mann

    First time reader; found your blog through a link on io9.

    I thought this letter was well written, polite, and insightful. I don’t normally look at shows in terms of racial or demographic casting, but I can totally see what you’re talking about. I’m not sure why a few of the people here are trying to make you sound like you’re being unreasonable about this, either; your tone is polite, and your observations and requests are fair.

    Anyway, your Required Reading has some fascinating articles and posts; the Race Card article you posted in response to JD is extraordinarily insightful. I’m glad I found this site.

  • Thank you. This is very well written, and I hope Mr. Kripke takes notice.

    J

  • Kim

    Let’s see if I can use the html tags correctly in this post and not duplicate my response. I didn’t mean to do that.

    Being treated like smart fans who can discern the difference is great for those of us who will. But what of the kids who flip on the tv without knowing what they’re watching? What of the people who want to see their racist worldviews reflected in the shows they’re watching?

    Technosage, I appreciate that you took the time to give me a well articulated and reasoned response. In response to this point, I have to ask you a counter question: Should a television writer be responsible to those potential viewers who are uneducated, unintelligent, or just plain racist? Can a writing staff function reasonably well if they’re constrained by what the dregs of society might think about a particular scene (such as the Sam kills Gordon scene) if the dynamics of that scene are reasonably set up within the established rules of their own universe? Aren’t people with racist world views going to think whatever they’re going to think regardless of how Kripke presents his creation? Why is it his responsibility if the scene presented is in character? There are people who are going to have racist reviews no matter who well this show presents (or doesn’t present) racial balance. As for what children who turn on the set might think, that’s the responsibility of parents to monitor viewing. My 8 year old daughter doesn’t watch Supernatural. It’s too violent. That’s the rule in my home.

    If it were one instance in a show that had a good record on race and gender issues, then it would be exactly as you say. But it’s the continuation of a pattern in a show that has a mediocre record on race and gender issues.

    Here’s where we’re going to have to agree to disagree. I don’t find this show’s record on race and gender issues so terrible. Perfect? Hardly, but neither are they terrible. Yes, there have been female victims of some pretty shocking violence, but men have also been the victims of violence. Viewed in the context of the show’s overall violent content, it’s not offensive to my sensibilities as a woman. In my opinion, it’s true to the universe created. Demons, vampires, and the like wouldn’t be kinder to women out of some notion of chivalry. As hunters, Sam and Dean can’t afford to not go full throttle at victims of demon possession and whatnot who happen to be women. That hesitation would get them killed. Ergo, while the image of Dean shooting a woman infected through no fault of her own by the Croatoan virus is shocking for me to see, I understand why the character acted in the manner he did in the context of the story. It’s not bias against women on the part of the writers. Dean respects women. There are also women he doesn’t respect (his numerous one night stands) but that’s a flaw of his character. It doesn’t offend me if he isn’t a perfect human being. I don’t need the characters to be all cleaned up without a flaw. There are good men in this world who still sleep around. I can accept that in the character. There are plenty of women in this world who are victims of violence. That’s true to life. I’d like to see a few more stronger female role models in the show, but there have been female characters I’ve also been impressed with: Ellen Harvelle, Missouri Moseley, Layla, Tamara, Anna. It may not be a perfect balance, but does it need to be? In my opinion, no.

  • I appreciate your arguments, Kim, but you’re asking questions that I’ve already answered and I can’t go further than that. I think I’m going to have to leave it to others to expand on it.

    Thank you for the dialogue.

  • Kim

    Franki, the newsweek study you quoted needs much more follow up before its findings can be accepted. Being colorblind is the only way I can function. That’s my life experience; my experience as a biracial woman is unique from your experience, I’m sure. Many people have asked how unhappy I was being the child of a mixed marriage. How does it make you feel? Does it trouble you? I got sick of it. Why can’t I just be a person? Why must it be such a huge issue defining my identity? If I’m not unhappy or troubled by it, I’m not being “true to myself.” Unfortunately, yes, it’s the relatives on my father’s side of the family who insist that I must be more troubled by it. Not all of them, but some. If I’m not “angry,” I’m somehow a fraud.

    • Franki

      Kim
      I’m sorry if you felt I was trying to force you to accept a racialized identity; I never meant to imply that you couldn’t identity as just a person. But a lot of the crap that people say about how race “should” affect people is a result of how creative works in society frame race. For example, there are stereotypes about mixed-race identity that have been around for centuries and that keep. showing. up. The answer, however, isn’t too ignore race. That just leads to invisibility. To not casting minority actors because no one thinks about it. To not telling our stories because they’re not “universal” enough. To ignoring clear cases of internalized race issues because it “shouldn’t matter.” “Colorblind” almost always ends up defaulting to a white normative standard. When creators don’t have to/aren’t encouraged to think about race, they don’t worry about it and they create what’s comfortable. Which usually ends up being a)very white or b)very stereotyped, because they haven’t been given the tools to deconstruct their assumptions.

    • Lisa

      Hi, Kim! I read the article in Newsweek, too, and I’m wondering what sort of follow-up you think the studies mentioned needed. In particular, the study that children as young as six months are most definitely NOT colorblind.

      But really, for any of the studies mentioned, what sort of follow-up do you think is necessary?

  • Veronica

    Thank you. I’ve seen these issues pointed out before, and often met with typical rationalizations or “it’s just a tv show” response. This post was especially effective and well-written. I’ve watched and enjoyed Supernatural, but I’ve also at times winced my way through its gender and race issues. You’ve done a wonderful job of articulating that this isn’t something people should just have to put up with, and that we can genuinely enjoy a piece of media while recognizing when it engages in problematic tropes and narratives.

  • Franki

    Alaya,

    A massive co-sign to this. Also, an addendum:

    Kripke, extras are important. No, really, they are. The demographic of Helena is different than the demographic of San Francisco is different than the demographic of Atlanta. So, you know, Asian/Latin@/Black/First Nations/etc. extras wouldn’t be a bad thing. C’mon, you’re working out of Vancouver. You’re telling me you can’t find Asian extras?

  • Kim

    Kim
    I’m sorry if you felt I was trying to force you to accept a racialized identity; I never meant to imply that you couldn’t identity as just a person. But a lot of the crap that people say about how race “should” affect people is a result of how creative works in society frame race. For example, there are stereotypes about mixed-race identity that have been around for centuries and that keep. showing. up. The answer, however, isn’t too ignore race. That just leads to invisibility. To not casting minority actors because no one thinks about it. To not telling our stories because they’re not “universal” enough.

    First, thank you for your kind words. They are appreciated. I have had enough of “how I should feel as a biracial person” to last a lifetime. I do hear what you’re saying and I do agree, in part. I’m not suggesting that minority actors shouldn’t be cast or that there shouldn’t be an effort to create positive black role models. I understand about your point of the white normative cultural standard tending to be the default. That’s because many of the powers-that-be are white. It’s not a malicious thing; it’s simply unintentional. There’s nothing wrong with politely reminding people in a position of power. However, I simply (and strongly) disagree about the content of some of the scenes sited in the discussion, the assertion that it should be changed, e.g. the black host who was exorcised violently by the main characters when it’s been established that all exorcisms are pretty much violent. To me that crosses the line into being hypersensitive to the point that artistic content is compromised. That’s a big “no no” for me. Writers can’t be worried that some simpleton out there will “take it wrong.” If that becomes the main concern, artistic integrity is out the window. People in the audience must think for themselves. I was taught to think for myself. I teach my child to think for herself. “Popular culture” shouldn’t be a litmus test for anyone’s views on life and people. My opinions on cultural or gender diversity aren’t influenced by any form of entertainment. I acknowledge that some people’s are, but that’s their problem. TPTB aren’t responsible for their shortsightedness.

    At the end of the day, I honestly feel there are other executive producers in the industry who deserve this letter more than Kripke. Black actors have more of a presence on this show than many others I can name, and Kripke has made an honset attempt to incorporate more black characters in recurring roles as was sited earlier. Whitfield, Brown, and Devine were wanted, but they turned down the offers. I can’t hold Kripke responsible for that. Look to other programs on the CW for starters. There are far less diverse programs.

    • Franki

      I understand your points (though I would argue that art’s influence on our minds is much more subtle than most realize), and I definitely agree that there are other PTB that deserve this more than Kripke. For me, it’s that at the end of the day, it’s Supernatural that I love. And it’s Supernatural that I want to see become better. Kripke has done better than most, it’s true, but I’m tired of giving people cookies for not being as bad as they could be. I’m a critic; I don’t give A’s for effort.

      That said, I’ve greatly enjoyed our discussion.

  • NES

    A writer should write what they have the desire to write. If what they write, and publish, and make into a TV show or a movie, or a video game does not include certain elements that some people think should be there, then hey, maybe the people who are *not pleased* should try to become a writer and write it themselves, not implore the successful/established writer to change their ways to please someone else. IF the said audience doe snot like it, they don’t have to buy/watch/read it.

    The complaint here seems to be that POC are either always two types of characters (in some way either negative or unimportant), or they have little to no staying power on the show. How would POC feel if there were no representations of POC on the show in any way, ever? Would that be better because POC are not being represented in any way vs. the *wrong* way?

    Would it be offensive to ABW and other POC for x episodes per season to be written specifically for/to POC? Would that solve the problem, or is this a request for the entire show to always represent POC in certain ways, and more often? What would be the ideal solution to this problem?

    I am not a SN fan. I watched the first season through and thought the plotlines was rather weak and somewhat silly. I didn’t get the chemistry between the main characters.

    I’m a writer, I’m also white. My stories do not include POC because… they’re just not a part of the daily universe of my character’s lives. Do I have a responsibility to represent black, or Asian, or Native American, etc characters in my stories? No, not really.
    I think it would be silly for me to write one in just for the sake of having one. Did someone say quota?

    I write about men who like men. Do I need to make a special effort to represent gay men correctly? Nope, because they are not my audience. Fantasy fiction is called that for a reason.
    If gay men find my work unrealistic or offensive, then that saves them time and money, because they don’t have to read or buy my work.

    Do I need to, if I choose to, represent other races responsibly, meaning without stereotypes, etc? Well, if I ever do, I will sure try, but since I don’t have much confidence that I will ever “do it right” I probably never will, because knowing people and their zany ways, someone will always have a complaint about how a POC/other race was (mis)represented.

    Question: What if a POC in a story was represented as a 50yr old male republican child molester? Most times you hear about that particular group of people, they are white males… but anyone could be in this group, but would that be offensive? To someone, I’m sure it would be, but if it happens, and is represented in a way that is realistic, where is the error? Is it that in a story that contained such a character, there would have to be a *good* POC to counter the *bad* one? Would people otherwise be shouting “racefail” at it?

    Why doesn’t a writer who is a POC write a show like SN? How about a vampire series with mostly POC in all the lead roles? I don’t see a lot of Sci Fi, Mystery, horror, or suspense being written starring POC or with POC in mind.

    I go to Comicon every year and can honestly say that most of the attendees are pudgy white boys, pudgy white girls, and cosplayers. These are the audience that is into SciFi, horror and fantasy. The percentage of POC in attendance is *very* low.
    So, is the audience just not there, meaning into this genre? At least not in significant numbers?

    • nojojojo

      Oy. Vey. ::facepalm::

      I’m not even going to waste time on this one. The stupid, it burns.

    • Keith

      I’ve come over from io9.com. I find NES’s comment sad but illuminating. I’m a black man who used to go to science fiction conventions all through high school and into college. But I was forced to face again and again how I was often the rare black face in the crowd. Now, I lived overseas for seven years as a kid. I lived in countries where my family and I were the only black faces in the crowd. We’d get stared at. But it is even more alienating to be home, to speak the same language, to share the same interests and still feel like I’m a “stranger in a strange land.” I stopped going. So no wonder Comicon’s is a land of “white boys, pudgy white girls, and cosplayers.” And if that attitude is common it’s not going to change either.

      • NES

        So no wonder Comicon’s is a land of “white boys, pudgy white girls, and cosplayers.” And if that attitude is common it’s not going to change either.

        Personally, it wasn’t something that stood out to me, but that is a great place to see a cross-section many groups that relate to Sci Fi and fantasy.
        The fact that it didn’t stand out to me has more to do with me being a not very social person, and keeping my nose buried in a notebook instead of talking to people.
        Looking back on it, and all my pictures of the general crowd, etc, there are aren’t very many POC there. It’s an observation, not an attitude.
        the remark about who the general crowd mostly consisted of, was another observation, and yes a generalization, but still not an attitude. Personal expression.

        • nojojojo

          No, NES, it’s neither an observation nor an attitude; it’s privilege on your part. You didn’t have to notice, so you didn’t.

          Now, instead of continuing to walk the well-worn path of cliche and ignorant stock responses, please do as all who visit this site are encouraged to go, and go click on the tab above called “Required Reading”. Come back when you can offer something original and thoughtful to the conversation.

      • Sad but illuminating — definitely. :( Have you seen the Wild Unicorn Check-In? From the OP:

        If you identify as a POC/nonwhite person and you read or watch scifi or fantasy, give yourself a name check in this thread. I am particularly wanting shoutouts from people who do not live in the US and who have still managed to read genre fiction.

        I’m tired of people trying to render us invisible unless they have been given a memo about our existences.

    • Red

      Wow, so you’re not just privileged, you’re lazy, too.

    • Lisa

      The reason people have not engaged you in detail is because your arguments are addressed in the “Required Reading” section of the blog. I’m new here, have just had a coffee, and have some extra time on my hands, so here goes. I’m sure I won’t be as articulate as those who’ve had a lot of practice with these discussions (and they’ve had a lot of practice at refuting your very arguments, which is why the required reading section exists), but I’ll try my best.

      I. Writers can write whatever they want, and if people don’t like it, they can write their own.

      Are you seriously suggesting that the author should start pitching television shows to networks instead of writing a respectful letter to a showrunner about how his project perpetuates racial stereotypes? I don’t think this is a viable solution. Not everyone has equal access to the systems that allow shows to be produced. That doesn’t mean that our voices and opinions are invalid. In her spare time between writing novels and pitching television shows, should she also be running for office, seeing as how if she doesn’t like what the government is doing, she should just do it herself?

      II Flat, underdeveloped minority characters are better than no characters at all.

      Why yes, and slavery was worse than the Jim Crow laws. The author never said that this was the worst possible situation. She said that she loved the show, and that it could be made even better with these improvements.

      III What do you want? What is the solution

      The author wants the following: a richer, fuller, more completely-evoked America with black people and Native Americans and Asians and other people of color (and more women who don’t only exist as sexual objects)

      I’m guessing that in detail, this means a variety of POC on the show, and character arcs that don’t fall into the traps she mentioned in her letter.

      IV POC [are] just not a part of the daily universe of my character’s lives It’s not my responsibility to include POC.

      You created that universe, a universe in which POC do not exist. In doing so, you are contributing to the marginalization of POC. Whether you do so out of malice, laziness, or ignorance, you’re still doing it. Do you have a responsibility to contribute to a more equitable society? That’s a moral question, so you’ll have to answer for yourself.

      The fact that you think it would be silly … to write one in just for the sake of having one implies that it’s unnatural and forced to include POC. This is a marginalizing POV.

      V I can never represent POC right. Someone will always complain that I’m following a stereotype

      There’s no point arguing about a hypothetical, but if you do attempt to write people different from you, I hope that you’ll listen to the feedback you get. Writing full characters (and enough of them that they have distinct personalities) might help you avoid this problem.

      VI If I have one POC who’s bad, it’ll look racist unless I include another one who’s good.

      Again, your assumption is that there will only be POC in your story if you consciously stick them in there. That the “natural” situation is that there be one or none, and you’ll have to force another POC in the story to balance it out. If you already have a diverse character base, you won’t encounter this problem.

      VII POC don’t read SF, anyway

      Um, so it’s okay if the story’s racist, because POC aren’t reading it?

      Sorry so long, but I wanted to address everything.

      • Ahahaha, oh no, Lisa! I was just doing the same thing. This is a terrible use of our time. :D

      • NES

        I. Are you seriously suggesting that the author should start pitching television shows to networks instead of writing a respectful letter to a showrunner about how his project perpetuates racial stereotypes?

        No, actually, but almost.
        The reason I became a writer is because I want to write the story I want to see in the world. No one else can do it but me, since it’s my idea, my characters. I’m suggesting that if you/someone does not like how something is being portrayed in the media, don’t give it your time or “business” as it were. I wouldn’t, and usually don’t.
        Anyone can create something that they want to see in the world. Whether it gets to be included in a network TV show is another story.

        You created that universe, a universe in which POC do not exist. In doing so, you are contributing to the marginalization of POC. Whether you do so out of malice, laziness, or ignorance, you’re still doing it.

        It’s not that they do not exist, this is not an AU where there are no POC, they just are not a part of my character’s direct world. It’s a really small universe, with four characters that pretty much play off each other for the majority of the tale(s).
        So, it’s neither ignorance, laziness, or malice, but choice, and how the story unfolded naturally in my mind.

        Do you have a responsibility to contribute to a more equitable society? That’s a moral question, so you’ll have to answer for yourself.

        I don’t write for political or social reasons. I write for pleasure, my own, and maybe someday, the pleasure of others too. I’m not into being creative in this way to correct some moral wrong in the world, I’m doing it because I want to, and because it’s fun.

        The fact that you think it would be silly … to write one in just for the sake of having one implies that it’s unnatural and forced to include POC. This is a marginalizing POV.

        Maybe it is clearer now what I meant by this, maybe not. Yes, to even think of it feels forced, because it wasn’t a factor in the beginning of my creation process, and it’s not a factor now. When I say it would be silly to write a POC into my story just for the sake of having one seems for my work, not necessary in the least. I don’t see why that is a problem.

        There’s no point arguing about a hypothetical, but if you do attempt to write people different from you, I hope that you’ll listen to the feedback you get. Writing full characters (and enough of them that they have distinct personalities) might help you avoid this problem.
        Well, I’m already pretty much writing about men, and I am female, and so that’s pretty different. I interview men all the time, whenever I get the chance really, to get some real life feedback from them. However, ultimately I’m writing for the pleasure of (mostly) a female audience, and so I may be getting information from men, how I write them is still up to me.
        But yes, if I ever decide to, it wont be for a trite reason, it will be because this or that person is a character that belongs to and is part of the story.

        VII POC don’t read SF, anyway

        Um, so it’s okay if the story’s racist, because POC aren’t reading it?

        No, that wasn’t the message. What I meant was, when I see that at Comicon, there is a far larger white audience, it does not even phase me as to why. I go there for a few small things to see and do, and the only other things I personally am doing while there is people watching and gathering information.
        One type of reason might be like the one illustrated by Keith in his response. Another reason might be that it’s just not at the same interest level in the POC general group. Maybe there are a ton of POC Sci Fi fans, but just not a lot of them have the urge to go hang out at Comicon.
        I mean.. come on.. it’s takes a special group of obsessedpeople to stand/sit/camp in line for 12+ hours just to get into a crowded noisy hall and sit all day in an uncomfortable chair watching trailers and doing Q&A with writers, directors, editors, and maybe some actors.
        In other words it can be a long and boring day, and a big huge pain in the ass, but there are those who do it, never mind the exorbitant food and drink prices, parking fees, travel costs, hotel costs and entrance fees. Most of being there is so people can say “I was there”.
        My point had nothing to do with whether or not some material was racist, and nothing to do with readership.
        I’m sayin that if there are stories, movies, or shows that need interesting, fully realized POC characters, and if you (the collective) are not seeing what you want in the world, you can ask someone else to make it, or you can make it yourself.

        • Audrey P.

          While there are many things I would like to say to you, they’re not my area of expertise and I’m sure someone with a better grasp on the issues will be able to pose them better. However, certainly one misassumption stands out to me.

          I’m sayin that if there are stories, movies, or shows that need interesting, fully realized POC characters, and if you (the collective) are not seeing what you want in the world, you can ask someone else to make it, or you can make it yourself.

          To even make this suggestion suggests a lack of awareness about employment discrimination against women and minorities, let alone the discrimination in the publishing field. An excellent book about inequality in publication and inequality even after publication in writing by women is How To Suppress Women’s Writing. You can read some of it online. Many, in fact, most, of the same methods of suppression are the same for minorities. Perhaps someone on this blog can help out with a link to similar studies on race which I was exposed to during college but do not have on hand.

          • NES

            I really don’t know about suppression of women’s writing. I’m writing for my own pleasure. If it’s good enough to publish when it’s all done, and after a few re-writes, maybe it will get published, maybe not. There are many companies that I will approach when the time comes. If I get refused by one, I’ll go to another.

        • Lisa

          I don’t write for political or social reasons. I write for pleasure, my own, and maybe someday, the pleasure of others too. I’m not into being creative in this way to correct some moral wrong in the world, I’m doing it because I want to, and because it’s fun.

          Since you’ve made it very clear that you are unconcerned with the fact that the way you write (and by extension, the way others write) perpetuates a racist system, I don’t see the point of the two of us engaging any further on this issue. If you change your mind and decide that your writing should not include overt or averse racism, I’d love to discuss the other issues with you. Thanks for the discussion.

          • NES

            It’s almost comical how much word-twisting goes on here.
            Do you think you average romance writer feels the need to attack racsim in their stories? Maybe if the characters for some reason encounter it it would be part of the story, but if not, there’s just no need for it to be there.
            There is no overt or averse racism in my story so far. Just the tale of two brothers, and the two men they end up with sexually. It’s a love/sex story, has nothing to do with any racist themes.

        • Franki

          It’s not that they do not exist, this is not an AU where there are no POC, they just are not a part of my character’s direct world.

          This is one of the most unintentionally disgusting things I’ve ever read.

          Unless you’re writing about Wyoming, where the demographic is like 5% POC, there are going to be POC in a character’s world. They are going to be in schools, at the grocery store, out and about in the town. If you genuinely believe that there is no room in your world for characters of color, then you need to look at why.

          • NES

            Ok, so based on your assessment, Every Harry Potter book is racist. Most Stephen King books are racist. Tolkien’s books were all racist.

            So if I have created characters that are usually depicted relating to each other, and this does not include them coming in contact with POC (it’s pretty easy not to come in contact with POC if you don’t specifically do so intentionally) then there’s something wrong with my universe?

            My story is set in a small town in the midwest US, just so you know… the places in which it takes place are in academic settings and home settings.
            If they are at a grocery store, or at school, and are only speaking to each other, why should their be “room” for some random POC char to suddenly appear and then disappear? My story is not about POC, it’s about unexpected love between two males.

            Someone who has the urge to write mixed-race romance stories can write them. I do not have that urge.

            • Franki

              No, the HP books actually included POC, and there have long been conversations in the SFF community about skanky race issues in Tolkein’s work.

              Also, at what point did I mention interracial romance? At what point did I mention changing your main character to a POC? I was simply speaking of breaking the mind-bending ignorance of a white-washed world.

              If your main characters never notice anyone besides each other, that’s one thing. If you never describe a single passerby or clerk or acquaintance, that’s one thing. But if you mention that the blonde cashier smiled as she handed a character his change, then you’ve included a member of the outside world. And there’s no reason that character has to white.

              And so what if the story takes place in academic settings? POC are involved in academia, true story.

              A whitewashed world is a problem. Unless you’re writing a piece addressing how that world became whitewashed, or setting the story in a town where there could legitimately be no POC (e.g., small-town Rockies country, wealthy New England suburb)you can’t make it not a problem.

              But you know what? I’ve been dealing with contemptible bullshit like yours all day, and I’m done. I can only leave you with the hope that people in your life treat you with the same ignorance and dismissal you’ve shown the people in this thread, because your attitude calls for little better.

        • nojojojo

          I’m sayin that if there are stories, movies, or shows that need interesting, fully realized POC characters, and if you (the collective) are not seeing what you want in the world, you can ask someone else to make it, or you can make it yourself.

          Or both. Because your dichotomy is false and really very silly.

          I ask writers to be good writers. That means that if they’re depicting Earth, they need to keep in mind that 80+% of the human beings on this planet are people of color. If they’re depicting any part of America, there either need to be PoC there, or there needs to be some historical reason why there aren’t PoC there. And you need to be aware of the latter, because some of those attitudes are still probably extant in the town.

          Including that kind of information is realistic worldbuilding. Having an awareness of the different aspects of identity that feed into human behavior — like race, gender, sexual identity, etc. — is realistic characterization. Doing both — yes, even in SF/F or comics — makes you a better writer. Having realistic, plausible backgrounds and characters makes readers more willing to swallow your whoppers about super-powers and alien invasions and whatnot.

          Now, if you don’t care about being a better writer, fine. I’m assuming that you do. I know I do.

          So I expect plausibility of myself as a writer, and I also expect plausibility of stuff I read. Because I’m a black woman into SF too, and when I’m not writing it I’m buying it, or giving it advertising money by watching it, and I happen to think my dollars shouldn’t be buying stereotypes, marginalization, or exclusion, go figure.

          Now. Since you’re still spouting stock ignorance, I will repeat — please go read the Required Reading. Seriously. It’ll at least give you better ammunition for your specious arguments. Trust me, it’ll help. And while you’re at it, go click on that link to the Wild Unicorn Herd check-in that got posted for you. There are over 1000 PoC SF fans there — just on LJ, just posting over the course of a few days — who are stating that they exist, they’re into SF/F, and you need to think about them. Because they may not be coming to Comic Con, but they’re out there. Reading. Buying. They might buy and read your stuff. And if you persist in your notion that they don’t matter, and perpetuating racism is perfectly OK because PoC need to solve this problem themselves and stop bothering white people with their demands to be treated like real human beings… well. They’re not going to like your work much, I suspect. And they’re going to tell all their family and friends not to buy it.

          I suppose you could still hope for good sales among the racists. Still quite a few of those out there. Good luck.

    • No one is responding to you in depth because your comment is a series of cliches. It is not only offensive, it is embarrassing. Try googling “racism bingo.” But eh, I’m bored.

      A writer should write what they have the desire to write.
      A writer should do their best to not reinforce white supremacy, in the same way all people should. They don’t get a pass ’cause they’re an ~artist~.

      If what they write, and publish, and make into a TV show or a movie, or a video game does not include certain elements that some people think should be there, then hey, maybe the people who are *not pleased* should try to become a writer and write it themselves, not implore the successful/established writer to change their ways to please someone else.
      People of color are systemically denied access to the TV and movie industry.

      IF the said audience doe snot like it, they don’t have to buy/watch/read it.
      Alaya explained that she loves this show and wants it to be better. Do you dismiss all criticisms of everything, or just the ones based on race?

      The complaint here seems to be that POC are either always two types of characters (in some way either negative or unimportant), or they have little to no staying power on the show. How would POC feel if there were no representations of POC on the show in any way, ever? Would that be better because POC are not being represented in any way vs. the *wrong* way?
      What. You seem to have overlooked the entire point of her letter, which is that it’s possible for the representation of PoC to be GOOD. In fact, it’s pretty easy, if you’re mindful of stereotypes and racist tropes. Yes, white-washing is horrible (and not hypothetical AT ALL). No, it is not better. Alaya wrote this thoughtful letter to advise how Kripke could improve the show’s representation of people of color. She didn’t tell him to stop altogether. Why do you think your mind jumped to that?

      Would it be offensive to ABW and other POC for x episodes per season to be written specifically for/to POC? Would that solve the problem, or is this a request for the entire show to always represent POC in certain ways, and more often? What would be the ideal solution to this problem?
      Tossing fans of color a couple of Very Special Episodes would be patronizing, and no, would not solve the actual problem. The ideal solution would be that SPN treat people of color like they are human beings, like they are interesting and important. Like their stories have value. Just like Alaya says above.

      My stories do not include POC because… they’re just not a part of the daily universe of my character’s lives. Do I have a responsibility to represent black, or Asian, or Native American, etc characters in my stories? No, not really.
      Yes. You do. Really. Why are their universes completely white? That’s not an innocent coincidence — that’s an active denial of reality, also known as ‘aversive racism.’
      ?I think it would be silly for me to write one in just for the sake of having one. Did someone say quota?
      Not for the sake of having one. For the sake of counteracting the racist conditioning that makes you think it’s normal to only ever tell white people’s stories and for the sake of being a better writer. For the sake of not hurting people.

      I write about men who like men. Do I need to make a special effort to represent gay men correctly?
      Oh boy. If you care about being a decent person, you need to make a special effort to not be homophobic. Yes, even if there are no gay men in the room to hear you.

      Since I don’t have much confidence that I will ever “do it right” I probably never will, because knowing people and their zany ways, someone will always have a complaint about how a POC/other race was (mis)represented.
      Which is more important to you: trying not to be racist, or never being criticized?

      Question: [blah blah child molester]
      Um. Yes, if you only have ONE character of color, and they are evil, and they are evil in a way that is not representative of reality, and they are evil in a way that follows racist stereotypes which have contributed to black folks’ oppression for centuries (of the sexually violent & perverted black man), YES, that’s offensive. If you have ONE other good PoC in your story, it would be the TINIEST bit less so. If you wanted to be better, you’d have a cast full of people of color in all roles. But you still might get someone raising an eyebrow at your use of a harmful stereotype. If that someone said so, would you throw up your hands and vow never to try writing about PoC ever again?

      Why doesn’t a writer who is a POC write a show like SN? How about a vampire series with mostly POC in all the lead roles? I don’t see a lot of Sci Fi, Mystery, horror, or suspense being written starring POC or with POC in mind.
      There’s the systematic racism in action! There’s the reason people of color watch shows like Supernatural, even though it hurts them — because they have so little to choose from! It’s very good that you noticed this. But omg, IT’S NOT PEOPLE OF COLOR’S FAULT. See above, re: systemic marginalization.

      I go to Comicon every year and can honestly say that most of the attendees are pudgy white boys, pudgy white girls, and cosplayers. These are the audience that is into SciFi, horror and fantasy. The percentage of POC in attendance is *very* low. So, is the audience just not there, meaning into this genre? At least not in significant numbers?
      You found another symptom of racism, but it looks like you’re blaming PoC for it again. Oops. Dude, cons do not equal fandom. Check out the link to the Wild Unicorn Check-In. They are definitely into this genre, it’s just that 1.) white people at cons treat them like crap, and 2.) cons cost a lot of money, and people of color are more likely to be poor due to the whole racism thing.

      • NES

        A writer should do their best to not reinforce white supremacy, in the same way all people should. They don’t get a pass ’cause they’re an ~artist~.
        Um, sorry, no. A writer can write whatever kind of stories they wish to write. The people who like those stories might want to read them.

        People of color are systemically denied access to the TV and movie industry.
        So vote with your wallet, and your time. Don’t pay for movies that do not give you want you want. Don’t watch the shows that don’t include what you think they should.

        No, it is not better. Alaya wrote this thoughtful letter to advise how Kripke could improve the show’s representation of people of color. She didn’t tell him to stop altogether. Why do you think your mind jumped to that?
        I’m not saying any representation is better than no representation. I understand the letter and it’s message. But if the show you like has these certain lacks, then why give it your time anyway? Ratings, and advertisement, that’s what a show is banked on.

        Oh boy. If you care about being a decent person, you need to make a special effort to not be homophobic. Yes, even if there are no gay men in the room to hear you.
        Who said anything about being homophobic?
        I am not homophobic. I like writing stories about men. Some of those men are drawn to other men. Sometimes they are gay, sometimes not. If I wrote my story, and asked a gay man to read it for accuracy, he might say some things are accurate, others aren’t, based on his perception and experience, that would be true. My audience is not gay men. My work is not homphobic. Gay men would most likley be bored with my work Women are the ones that mostly like this kind of work. And no, that is not a generalization. There are very few men interested in the male/male romance genre. Most of it is written by and for women.

        Yes. You do. Really. Why are their universes completely white? That’s not an innocent coincidence — that’s an active denial of reality, also known as ‘aversive racism.’
        These four people are associated with each other. Two are natural born in the US citizens, the two others are immigrants form Argentina. Yes there are many people of Spanish and Italian descent. Did I pick Argentina because there was a better chance of my characters being white, even though they are from South America? No. That is where they are from, an it has nothing to do with their race/color, it has to do with who they are. My substitute semi-father is from Columbia. He’s told me many things about Argentina. I liked the idea of them coming from there, since it is sophisticated and somewhat exotic, and would give a contrast to the two middle-Americans who are the other main characters in my story. That’s it.
        If you wanted to be better, you’d have a cast full of people of color in all roles. But you still might get someone raising an eyebrow at your use of a harmful stereotype.
        My point in illustrating that possibility as a char (child molester blah blah) is that would be a very specific non-stereotypical character for a POC to play.
        My desire to write two “white” boys, one of Croatian and Greek descent, dark haired and dark eyed, the other pretty much Anglo, blonde haired and green eyed, and two Argentinians that look more Italian than anything else, one with light hair and dark eyes, the other with dark hair and dark eyes, is not your average “white”.

        I thought at one time of writing about a young black man who falls in love with one of his male friends, but can’t communicate it because of societal stigmas and his own personal fears of what might happen.
        Is his friend white? No, not at this time, but I could write it that way. I just wanted it to be a story, simple, not anything controversial.
        Would it be realistic? I hope so. Would it have sex. Oh yes. Would I include anything “stereotypical”? I hope not to, but I guess I will have to do a lot of intervieing and a lot of observing in order to get my guys right. Would I be writing this just to have written about POC? No. I would write this to illustrate a story on unfolding sexuality in an African American setting, plain and simple. Would racism be depicted in the story? Only if it fit into the story, I would not put it there for any other reason (in other words, not to have something racial to overcome or conquer. This is a love story, not an important social commentary. It’s for pleasure and fun, and nothing else.
        Hopefully it will make someone feel good, that is my goal.

        You found another symptom of racism, but it looks like you’re blaming PoC for it again. Oops.
        Um…no. You tell me where I am blaming anyone for anything.

        There’s the systematic racism in action! There’s the reason people of color watch shows like Supernatural, even though it hurts them — because they have so little to choose from! It’s very good that you noticed this. But omg, IT’S NOT PEOPLE OF COLOR’S FAULT.
        I also have very little to choose from. Nothing on TV represents me: a 30 somthing white woman with social anxiety so severe that it cripples my life and ability to have relationships with people, including my family? Sometimes even affecting my ability to hold a job? I am barren, so I will not enjoy my own children, an at times I’m in a deep depression that lasts for weeks on end.
        Nothing represents me on any TV show. If someone came up with something, I’m not sure I’d want to see it, since the real things is hard enough without someone else trying to hash it out in a story.
        Most TV only serve the purpose of getting a person to sit still long enough to view advertisements, and that is all. I didn’t say it was their fault, that was not the message. Pretty much any show that shows people interacting in a normal healthy way excludes me.

        Dude, cons do not equal fandom. Check out the link to the Wild Unicorn Check-In. They are definitely into this genre, it’s just that 1.) white people at cons treat them like crap, and 2.) cons cost a lot of money, and people of color are more likely to be poor due to the whole racism thing.
        I did not say that Comicon was the be all end all measurement of fandom. It’s a place where many fans do gather.

        1.)I have no knowledge of white people treating POC at cons like crap. That’s a pretty huge generalization, isn’t it? Do you have personal and ongoing observations that would support that claim?
        2.) cons do cost a lot of money, that is why I skipped it this year, and why I volunteered last year, and stayed in a hostel the year before, and stayed on a friend’s hotel room floor the year before that. That is why I bring in my own food.
        Yes, cons are expensive. I am poor. I make $100.00 a week. I am not poor due to racism, I am poor due to a severe anxiety disorder that seriously disrupts my life on a daily basis, and has for the last 25 years. No exaggeration. It’s just something that I have to deal with, and even though I’m white, I am also outside of the mainstream of society.

        • LDR

          This is off topic, but I wanted to respond to NES, because she and I actually have a lot in common.

          NES:

          Like you, I’m a “30 something white” transperson with a certain amount of social anxiety. I also think of myself as being “outside of the mainstream of society,” or, as I usually put it, I’ve always been a freak.

          But I have to say that as someone who feels rejected by society, I see people of color as my allies. I actually think that society exists in order to make almost everyone feel inferior. A small number of people get to sit on top and look down on the rest of us, while hiding all their insecurities and saying “At least I’m better than YOU!”

          To put it another way, I’m still interested in people (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say I like them.) I believe that I will be better off by learning more about people who are different from me.

          You admit that you have problems dealing with people . . . so maybe ignorance of racism is one of those problems? Racism is a social issue, no question.

          Everyone has a right to exist in this world, including you. It often doesn’t seem like it, but we all have to share this space.

          • NES

            I don’t know what you mean by transperson. I’m not a transsexual, if that’s what you mean. Inside I feel neutral. Outside I look neutral. I hate being female, and I like being around only one person at a time, usually male.

            I never indicated that someone does not have a right to life, or certain things within it.
            I keep my head down, my hands and mind occupied, and I don’t make eye contact, and that works for me in most situations.
            Am I missing out on experiences and people? Sure, probably, but I don’t care because not everyone in this world is going to get what they want, and not everyone gets to be happy, or live a good life. I am one of those people, and I just have to accept it.

            If I end up happy, it will be because I wanted to be, and took steps towards that, and there will be no other reason it comes about.

      • NES

        I’ve seen racism bingo.
        Thought it must make someone feel good somewhere, to feel more “right” about what they believe.

      • NES

        If you are talking about this:
        http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_LYlUdXoq0nc/SW552Zm8QkI/AAAAAAAAADc/7sLEr9WFcfA/s1600-h/racist.jpg

        the only one I see that matches what I’ve said is: “Didn’t mean it that way”
        And that is in ref to my comments, not anything I said about racism specifically or in general.

        • astrumporta

          You’re right. The Bingo card assumes a person is at least pretending to care about representation of POC in media, while defending against accusations of racism. You’re operating at some other level where achieving the Bingo card would be a huge step forward.

          • NES

            Ok… so what do you want to hear.. me admit I’m a racist? Ok. There you go. I’m a racist. Now that I’ve admitted it I feel so much better!
            I’m a racist because I avoid POC, just like I avoid ALL OTHER PEOPLE, in my daily life. I don’t watch shows or movies or buy music that are geared spcifically towards POC because I can’t relate to them most of the time.
            I don’t listen to the radio. I listen to mostly electronic, trance, and music that is usually pretty depressing to other people. Are those white or racist things to do? Gee, I’ve never had to think about it before! I feel so enlightened!
            Do I like the “white” things in life? I don’t know, lets see.. reading books, cooking, watching Bravo, HGTV, the Travel channel and the Food channel, seeing the occasional movie or concert.. and going to school. Oh yeah.. my finace and his whole family is white! I must be a racist!

    • Jenn

      Ahh, a typical reaction from a white male. ;)
      If it doesn’t hurt me it doesn’t concern me.

      You could try to look at the world around you and maybe start thinking about the responsibility we ALL have at trying to make the world less prejudiced.

      Yes, I get that everyone writes from their own perspective which means that most writers are white males who can’t put themselves in someone elses shoes.

      Do you know how hard it is to be a female scifi-fan? Even if I’m white?

      Because, seriously, women are portrayed in the most misogynistic way possible in some comics and SF-stories.

      God, I wish more male writers were like Joss Whedon or better…because clearly, the female writers don’t get the opportunities or the recognition they deserve.
      Why? Because it’s a mans world. The WHITE man’s world.

      • NES

        You could try to look at the world around you and maybe start thinking about the responsibility we ALL have at trying to make the world less prejudiced.
        Do all people have that responsibility? Really?

        Yes, I get that everyone writes from their own perspective which means that most writers are white males who can’t put themselves in someone elses shoes.
        There are quite a few women authors out there, me being one. Do you think a POC would be able to accurately portray a non-POC person in a novel? Maybe, but when I look at an author’s name, or title of a book, I don’t look for “white”, I look for situations and characters I might enjoy reading about, and that is all.

        Do you know how hard it is to be a female scifi-fan? Even if I’m white?

        Because, seriously, women are portrayed in the most misogynistic way possible in some comics and SF-stories.

        I don’t buy comics and I yes I know what you are talking about. I don’t like writing female characters at all, since I dont’ like women much.I write males, pretty much exclusively. Yes I am female. No I do not like women. Yes it is a generalization, but it makes my life easier to not engage with or have relationships with women. If I could *not* be a woman I would not be. I hate being female, and I can’t relate to other females. If sex reassignment was a real actual transition from real female to real actual male, I would do it in a heartbeat, but it’s not. Yes my fiance knows how I feel, and because he does not relate well to other men, he understands completely.

        God, I wish more male writers were like Joss Whedon or better…because clearly, the female writers don’t get the opportunities or the recognition they deserve.
        Why? Because it’s a mans world. The WHITE man’s world.

        If you say so. The opportunities I create are going to be with only ones I have, and I would not expect anything more or different than that.

        Tell me something.. what do you think of a book like this: The Blacker the Berry

        Is this a racist book, or title?
        Is the “juice” sweeter in a “blacker” berry?

        What about this?
        An NBA star who then pursues a career in being music manager? What qualifies him for this? Does he just *know* music and talent because he is black, or did he study music and business back in college? Oh wait, that’s assuming he went to college! What an insensitive and racist thing to say!

  • Delux

    Well, you’ve sure touched a nerve… *munches popcorn*

    Wish I could figure out something brilliant to help you make people understand that several different people post here. I think it says a lot that the obvious differences in content and topic get swept into a simple box of ‘an angry black woman’, especially when hurt feeefees ensue.

    • yeah, I keep boggling at that as well. How big do I need to make the byline? I thought for sure that assigning everyone an avatar and having ti always be the same avatar would help. and yet.

      • Delux

        Well I guess all black women avatars look alike.

      • bestshowfan

        Hi. Posted a little bit back, but wanted to respond to this. I originally got to this site through a link from IMDB. I, too, thought that the person writing the letter was ABW, because I didn’t see anything that led me to believe anything different. I know now that Alaya is not ABW, but I didn’t know it at first, because it was not immediately clear. I saw the title Angry Black Woman in big letters, and then then the letter in the center column.

        I didn’t sift through the entire website, do all the readings, read the “about” section or the rules. I don’t examine every portion of ANY website; it usually doesn’t interest me and it would take too long. Since the title Angry Black Woman isn’t a person’s name, I had no way of knowing it wasn’t Alaya’s site, and so I just assumed it was hers. It’s really a logical mistake to make, in my opinion.

        Obviously, in reading some of the responses, I did discover that Alaya is not ABW.

        The reason I’m bringing this up is because I think effective communication is so important. And first impressions are powerful. And the title “Angry Black Woman” sends out such a negative message. I think a lot of people don’t want to talk to an angry anybody. I believe that some people maybe looked at that moniker and then closed their minds to what they actually read (or maybe just clicked back out and missed reading a letter that contained information they may have ended up agreeing with).

        I think it’s important to keep the goal of the communication in mind. Maybe a sentence at the top of the article making sure that the readers know Alaya is not the site owner and did not define herself as the ABW.

        I’m not saying it’s wrong of the site owner to define herself that way. She’s free to do so. If her goal is to converse mostly with like-minded people, so be it. But if her goal is to educate, communicate with, or exchange ideas with people who are different; i.e., people who may not be angry, may not be black, and may not be women; then that goal may be compromised when the first thing a reader’s eye is drawn to is the phrase “Angry Black Woman.” I think it has the potential to diminish the credibility of Alaya’s analysis. The fact that it shouldn’t doesn’t help matters once the damage is done. The goal of getting people who may be coming from a different place in life to consider Alaya’s points would still be harmed.

        • Kia

          After all of the comments to this post are you seriously making the tone argument?

          You’ve hit all three of these in one comment alone:



        • Delux

          Bestshowfan: what you just said is called ‘the tone argument’. It’s been heard before.

          • bestshowfan

            I never heard the phrase “tone argument” before. What does it mean? And I’m not sure if you are saying that my comment is not valid because it has been heard before. I think that pretty much applies to everyone’s comments, including Alaya’s. I think that to effectively counter an argument, there has to be more substance to a reply than “it’s been heard before.”

          • bestshowfan

            Hello, Delux,

            I’m reply to your post again, after reading Lisa’s post after mine — I didn’t see a “reply” option on her post.

            I went to the essays through the links Lisa provided, and I think I’m understanding more clearly what is referred to as the “tone argument.”

            I also think I have perhaps not executed well my own advice about ensuring that attempts to communicate with others clearly enough to get my point across are successful. Allow me to try again, with this caveat: let’s for a moment take three words off the table and out of the discussion: “angry” “black” and “woman.”

            Given that, here is what I was trying to get across, and I hope a do a better job this time:

            Words are powerful. Emotionally charged words are extremely powerful. Writers know this very well. Words become even more crucial in good communication when that communication is limited to written words, since the sender and receiver of the communication both lack the benefit of seeing or hearing each other.

            When we communicate, we do it with a purpose, most markedly so when that communication is with a non-family member or friend. How we choose to communicate; that is, the words we choose to use, either help us or hurt us in regard to what we want to have happen.

            For example: If I am driving, and going, say, 10 miles over the limit (which I confess I do on occasion), and a cop pulls me over, I would say that as I am stopping my car and waiting for him or her to approach, my goal in communicating with the cop is to drive away without a ticket. Let’s say I have had bad experiences with cops. Maybe I’ve got friends or relatives who have been targeted by rude or insensitive cops for some reason. Maybe I had an ex-boyfriend cop that I hated. Whatever the motivation, I don’t like cops. So, when the cop comes to the window, if I say “How’s it hanging, pig?” I have chosen to use words that are pretty much guaranteed to demolish my goal. Not only will I be getting a ticket, I could find myself arrested, too.

            Let’s say I run a department in my company that provides computer support to the rest of the departments. The system is ten years old and having increasing problems. It needs to be replaced. I’ve been told by my supervisor to write a request to the person who will have approval authority in this matter, and get my department the new system I need. It’s expensive. I need to find some way to justify the cost, and explain why this new system will benefit the approval authority and the company in general.

            If I include in my request any of the following statements, such as: “You people in (let’s say, Budgeting) have repeatedly ignored our demands for an upgrade to the computer system. How do you expect us to get our jobs done down here if you don’t give us the proper tools? What are you up there, smug, self-righteous asshats? Stop being so clueless about how things get run in this company, get off your “privileged people” asses and give us what we need or don’t expect us to come running and work overtime anymore when your computer freezes during the next important conference and you can’t finish your contract negotiations. WE WANT OUR UPGRADED COMPUTER SYSTEM RIGHT NOW!”

            Well? Am I going to get it? No. Am I going to get fired? Probably. My point? That it doesn’t make sense to not consider the power of the words you use in dealing with people, regardless of race, gender, occupation, or whatever. It doesn’t accomplish your goal. And the goal is the important thing, isn’t it? I don’t want a traffic ticket. I want to get a promotion and a raise for getting a notoriously tight budget department to spring for a new computer system that makes our department look good.

            So, I asked for a definition of a term “tone argument”, and was directed to an essay filled with angry, sarcastic words that seemed to be directing me to consider myself not only a smug, self-righteous asshat, but also a clueless privileged person who hunted down (noting the inflammatory use of the word quarry) the less privileged in an attempt to get them to go away, to make them feel guilty, to expect them to cater to my needs with all their energy and time (and giving careful consideration to the words you use when you speak or write is not something that consumes all one’s time and energy) — all because I made the statement that words that carry a negative impression do more harm than good.

            If I were one to have a knee-jerk reaction, I would say it made me mad. It didn’t. It made me disappointed.

            The reason I made the comments to use of negative words to begin with was in relation to Alaya’s letter being posted here, and how simple a mistake it was for me to assume that she herself was ABW. People aren’t necessarily clueless because they don’t notice something right away. I think Alaya’s letter was written with a purpose — something she wants to see happen. And I don’t see anything wrong with pointing out my opinion that some people might see those big words, ABW, right away, and just click out without reading Alaya’s letter. They would miss the benefits, miss the analysis, miss the opportunity to engage and even change their minds about something. Would this be an unimportant goal?

            It’s fine for Alaya’s letter to be posted here. As someone else posted, this is a site where race is discussed. And I agree that there’s obviously plenty to be discussed. But, Alaya’s not just preaching to the choir, right? It doesn’t help her goal of getting Kripke to make the changes she would like to see, if most of what she’s getting is people who already agree with her points.

            I would say that she addressed her letter to ONE of the right people. That is, what Alaya wants done has to be done by the decision maker. Kripke’s one of those, because it’s his show. Because he doesn’t produce the show in a vacuum, and has to deal with outside forces like the network, the budget, etc., there are other decision makers involved. I don’t know if Alaya has done this, but she should send a copy of her letter directly to Kripke, to the CW, and, probably, most importantly, to the advertisers who sponsor the show. When you write something with a purpose, get it to the people who have the power to get it done. And, then, before it’s sent, examine it to make sure you’ve done the best possible writing you can that will get your goal accomplished. I think Alaya is pretty well versed in how to do that, because she starts out praising the show, and doing it with some mighty elegant, eloquent paragraphs. I don’t agree with everything she said in her entire letter, but that’s beside the point of this particular post. She’s an excellent writer.

            • Delux

              bestshowfan, for someone who claims to not understand the tone argument, you’ve certainly provided one of the most outstanding examples I’ve seen in years.

            • Anyone who clicks on this site and sees the title and clicks away probably has the opinion that black women have no right to be angry and therefore have nothing of importance to say. Anyone with that opinion probably isn’t going to listen to what Alaya has to say, anyway.

      • Delux

        ABW, I can only speculate what would happen if some of these tone argument commentors came across the Angry Black Bitch’s blog…

        • I know! You would think the Internet would have imploded from the very idea of such a blog with such a title

          • bestshowfan

            My comments had nothing to do with whether or not someone has a right to be angry. I’m not saying that at all. People who are discriminated against or disenfranchised in any way certainly do have a right to be angry, and to work toward solutions. But I sincerely fail to understand why I get such short, cryptic answers that really don’t explain or engage. (I gave a great example of the tone argument — how? What in my comments makes this so?) I’m not a bad person. I don’t discriminate against anyone. I’ve taught my daughter to be an accepting person. I’m not smug, I’m not hateful, I’m not an asshat (whatever that’s supposed to be), I don’t call people names. I believe I’m polite and respectful. I didn’t think I was being insensitive.

            I spent 24 years on active duty. I’ve lived in many diverse places and among many diverse people. My circle of friends and acquaintances includes a very wide variety of people of different colors, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and both genders and different sexual orientations. I myself have experienced sexism and, more recently, ageism. I don’t come here from a narrow place where all I see is myself. I neither practice nor encourage discrimination of or by anyone.

            I’m a writer, too. I have a degree in Journalism and benefited from some wonderful instructors and mentors on how to write and how to use words. The only actual point I was trying to make in this particular set of posts is this:

            Words are powerful, and they have a significant impact, most particularly so when the words chosen have a negative connotation.

            I think most writers would agree that that simple statement is true. That simple statement has nothing to do with “tone.” It applies to words used anywhere, anytime, by anyone of any color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, for any purpose.

            I really enjoy talking with people about lots of different things. I’m always interested. But it does make me a bit sad to feel that I’m getting the brush-off here. I don’t deserve that.

            • Delux

              bestshowfan, perhaps you might do well to think about how your comments must seemto alaya and the blog owner, rather than demand that they focus on how their words are affecting you.

            • Momsomniac

              Your comments on the show were addressed by Alaya; your comments on the word “Angry” are misguided here. Yes, words can have power, but righteous anger has a place – that’s the “angry” here.

              The posters are not operating from the veiwpoint of “my words create reality.” They are responding to a reality that often excludes or humiliates them – they are using righteous anger to try to CHANGE that. Does that help?

              Because I have heard where I THINK you are coming from a lot, I think I know why you believe this isn’t the “tone” argument, but it is…it’s just a more complicated version of it, couched in a belief system that doesn’t embrace all of us – no matter how much it looks like it does to those it does embrace.

              If you spend more time here, you will find that dissenting views are treated respectfully – OFTEN even when they do walk all over “the rules.” They are treated VERY respectfully when they don’t ognore those rules.

              Posters have apologized to commenters, and commenters to each other – when it was warrented. You won’t find a kinder, more inclusive place on the ‘net – but you do need to accept that ABW and guest posters are coming from a valid position in the first place. That includes the validity of acknowledging the anger they feel. It’s a valid emotion when one is wronged.

              Is every wrong egregious? No – but the folks here are often SF fans and writers, so we talk about that – a lot.

              Plus, if you get poked in the SAME SORE PLACE every day, it hurts….

            • T-Rex

              Bestshowfan, I understand your POV. I am a white female who has generally always meant well, but who has not always been very well informed about racial issues. Over the last few years, and especially the last few months, I have done a lot of reading and a lot of reflecting in order to reach the point where I can even begin to understand the frustration that the bloggers and some of the other commenters here have expressed. And I have a lot more to learn.

              My advice is to take some time and let this information simmer in your brain for a while. Continue to read the links these women have given you, and follow those links to other sites and blogs. Keep reading, and thinking, and give it some time. You may eventually have an “aha” moment, or a series of them, and the responses that make no sense to you now may become clearer.

          • Delux

            Well, remember how people lost their minds when ABB wrote criticism of the king kong movie? You would have thought she sent the black panthers after the studio.

            also, could you delete my duplicate comment about the ‘toe’ argument? (sheepish look)

            • bestshowfan

              I didn’t realize my comments could be construed as a demand for anything from anyone. I wasn’t talking about how the blog owner’s or Alaya’s words affected me personally. I didn’t read the words ABW and click back out at all. I read Alaya’s letter. I had some good things to say about it. That I disagreed with some of it should be OK, shouldn’t it? Is this not a safe place to discuss dissenting opinions politely?

              I also went to the essay links I was provided and read the suggested material. I’ve not been abusive or rude. But I still am unable to get anyone to discuss the specifics of my comments with me, to dialogue with me on this subject of words and their effect. So I, regretfully, don’t know what else to do but give up and go away, so I will. I do not know if this is what you wanted, I do not know if you only want to give more than a few sentences to people who agree 100% with you.

              But being here has taught me that anger has the power to drown out conversation. So, I believe we ALL have a long way to go in learning how to live better with each other and appreciate each other.

  • brownstocking

    I don’t even GET the hurt feefees. Sure, someone crossposted the OP, and maybe that’s how folks got here, but WE. TALK. ABOUT. RACE. IN. SFF.

    I just want those who are opponents, because you are if you oppose the purpose of this blog, to read, think, breathe, drink water, and then, after you do neck stretches, post. Because all of the bingo playing is a waste of time. Gosh, I hesitate to even insert the word “privilege” into this thread, but folks have serious blinders on regarding their behavior.

    Brushing the shallow responses aside, I’ve really enjoyed the actual discussion about Kripke/Hollywood. We’re in 2009 and we’re still watching the white/heterowashed America on tv, tokens and film location aside. I think we work within and without. I mean, Tyler Perry has his own studio, but Lord! That’s not ever going to touch SFF or even anything progressive/cutting edge!

  • andrea

    I’m a white woman so my perspective is skewed here…but…my initial response to this is that fair treatment of a character in writing is often different from fair treatment of people in life. the villains and those who follow a dark path that leads to a tragic demise are often the best part of the story.

    Each black male character you mention was ONE OF MY FAVORITES ever.Those characters stand out for me from all 4 seasons. I love the character development and story archs of Henricksen, Gordon and Uriel. Though they were all either villain or adversary there was a lot in the way each was written that caught my sympathy, I wanted more of Uriel’s snark, Gordon’s scary tunnel vision re;evil, and Henricksen’s dedication to bringing down the Winchesters. Sometimes actors relish (and writer’s excell at)the villain/adversary roles and make them so much more memorable than the good guy roles. They certainly did with these. I wonder how the actors feel about the roles they were given. They all certainly seemed to enjoy the roles, I assume that because they made me enjoy them.

    That being said I should mention that I’m hopelessly addicted to Japanese, Indian, and UK shows, Middle Eastern, French and African music. I’m a world pop culture dilettante because often us pop culture just feels too homogeneous. I’d love to see as much of the American mosaic as possible in supernatural and I hope we get more this season.

    Also RUFUS!!!!! Bring him Back Kripke and treat him right. Perhaps that can redress the balance a little.

    Yeah and Cassie did get short shrift but I think it was in part because that poor episode was such a stinker.

    • Also RUFUS!!!!! Bring him Back Kripke and treat him right. Perhaps that can redress the balance a little.

      Yes, exactly: if there were more of a balance, if there were a good amount of heroic, important, living black characters, the dead evil black characters wouldn’t be so much of an issue.

  • People tell their own stories. Add that to the privilege-factor and it’s pretty difficult to even get to the point of seeing the blinders. Forget taking them off.

    He did well to even do the RACIST MONSTER TRUCK *lolsfordaysXD* considering that.

    I think the real solution is to push for diverse writers and producers and to throw support behind shows that actually DO do well by the diverse audiences watching them.

    We’ve seen enough throw-away guests-spots and supportive token friends (Vampire Diaries I’M LOOKING AT YOU).

    Flash Forward is looking pretty good for example, with Gabrielle Union and John Cho on tap.

    I say stop watching the same mono-racial trendy shows and move on to something new. Ratings are the only thing programmers understand.

    I think watching these shows, getting hooked by one or two guest spots by person of color and expecting them to acquiesce to diversity requests is just gullible.

    Though the effort of writing the letter hopefully will make enough noise in fandom to at least get people talking.

    • Audrey P.

      I can’t wait for Flash Forward! I’m completely psyched for that show. I’m trying to stay mostly spoiler free but some of the cast interviews I’ve seen are such a complete blast. Everybody has awesome chemistry. Union and Cho are gorgeous and gorgeous together, too. Om nom nom. For POC there’s also Courtney B. Vance. Plus, he’s white, but there’s one of my favorite British actors, Jack Davenport, who I’ve loved since 1998′s vampire mini-series Ultraviolet. And, relevent to the show at hand, it employs Supernatural’s suddenly written off, suddenly-evil-because-fangirls-didn’t-like-her Ruby, Genevieve Cortese.

      Is it the 24th yet?

  • Dorothy

    Thank you so much for writing this. I often feel like I’m stuck in an abusive relationship with this show — I love the characters, and I truly think it’s one of the better shows out there right now. Except for its portrayal of women and people of colour (and one could add gay people to that list). I used to get so much pleasure out of the show, and now I find myself arming myself mentally, just waiting to be hit with a particularly egregious or offensive representation. I used to be hopeful that fan protest could do something about this, but I’m beginning to think that a) most fans don’t care and b) Kripke and the other writers don’t care either. It’s sad, and something that I think really harms the show and certainly will keep it from getting any larger critical acclaim. It’s hard to defend or recommend a show that treats women and people of colour the way this one does.

  • Thank you for the very well-said and eloquently written letter. :) These are exactly the issues I’ve had with the show, and I’ve tried to finish season 3 for liking a lot of other aspects about it, but it’s hard when I get attached to characters like Hendrickson but I cringe knowing they’re going to die.

    If the issues with Supernatural could be fixed, I would definitely love watching it more.

  • Zahra

    Honestly, why do so many people persist in seeing this thoughtful and courteous example of critique as an affront?

    What Alaya (more power to her!) has done is the equivalent of driving at night and flashing her car headlights at someone who’s forgotten to turn their own on. Where I come from, that’s a generally accepted code: Oh, you forgot! Turn your lights on! It’s not the same as rolling down your window and hurling invective about how the other person is a terrible driver.

    All of us forget to turn on the headlights from time to time. I for one appreciate it when somebody helps me out. It’s something you do both out of concern for the other driver (here, Kripke) and because driving without lights is dangerous for all of us as a community.

    Racist stereotypes, and the visual reinforcement of old negative ideas about black men and women? Also dangerous to our community. These things hurt people–of all colors. Politely pointing it out is just being a good citizen (or in this case, a devoted fan).

  • Kim

    Lisa,

    As far as the study is concerned, I’d want to see more studies duplicating the result. The idea that infants who can’t even walk would react in such a way to a different skin color simply doesn’t compute. I need more studies before I’ll believe. Ideas about race are learned. They aren’t inherent. This study implies that it’s inherent.

    Franki, I’ve enjoyed our discussion as well, but I put much more weight on the importance of effort. Mr. Kripke has tried to incorporate black characters. That has to matter in the long run. If he’s trying, he’s at least aware. You can’t fault him if the actors in question chose not to stay. Replacing a quality actor isn’t as easy as all that. Devine, Whitfield, and Brown were something special. They can’t be replaced by just anyone. At the end of the day, whether the characters are killed off or not, the actors would have been off the canvas by their own choice.

    • k8dee

      Kim,
      How about the effort of offering one of these amazing actors and actresses a long-term, reoccurring contract for their character arc? Then they can relax, stretch their legs and show off their chops in their portrayals of complex characters of color and not have to worry about stringing together enough acting jobs to pay their bills. THAT is effort! It was done with the actresses who played Ruby as well as others such as Bobby. They know they will be around because they have signed a long-term contract…that is EFFORT!

    • Lisa

      @Kim Just to make sure I understand you, you don’t have any problem with the methodology of the studies? You just think follow up is necessary because you don’t agree with the results?

    • Audrey P.

      The Newsweek article linked was a summation of numerous studies on the subject. The article does, in fact, also strictly outline that the ‘idea of race is learned.’ However, it asserts that children learn from assumptions and associations made in their formative years before people are willing to talk to them about race and that by the time their parents or teachers broach the subject they’ve missed the actual window where the children are forming the concepts about race that may last them through their lives.

  • Red

    I really enjoyed the article and then I read the comments and was just boggled by the sheer volume of stupid. Really, it’s amazing. Why are people so sensitive when someone brings up the failure of our mainstream media to adequately represent all people of different genders/races/sexuality/etc? It just makes me insane that people get angry and attack someone that says, hey, it might be better if you did it this way?

    You know, it makes me think people react so defensively because they know you’re right. They know there’s a failure to really do right in certain areas. They must sense that they’re drowning in privilege and are lucky to live in such a world where these things don’t matter to them.

    So, people that want to bitch about how people need to stop harshing on their squee and how people should just “stop talking about race and it’ll stop being an issue” and “stop making things an issue when they’re not” STFU. Really.

    As John Cleese says when asked what they should do: Nothing, dear, you’re not qualified.

    If you can turn on the tv on any given moment and see a reflection of yourself without it being trivialized, marginalized, or fetishized, shut up and stop complaining about those of us that can’t. Let us try to get fair representation because media is really a mirror for our society. It reflects the attitudes of a generation. If people are marginalized on tv, you can sure in hell bet that it’s reality for those folks as well.

    • bestshowfan

      If you can turn on the tv on any given moment and see a reflection of yourself without it being trivialized, marginalized, or fetishized, shut up and stop complaining about those of us that can’t. — posted by Red.

      I’m trying to reply and cite or quote your statement above, but I am so woefully computer challenged that you must forgive me if I used the tags incorrectly.

      I’m white, female, middle-aged, not thin, not cute. So I, too, cannot turn on the TV and see myself reflected, not even in the ads for bladder control or osteoporosis meds. Those women are all thin and still beautiful. So, I don’t ever see myself when I watch Supernatural, except for the few minutes the waitress in “Mystery Spot” had. And it’s not just Supernatural. It’s everywhere. I don’t use the fancy new phones in ads because I can’t see the itty bitty text keypads to use them. I don’t eat at Hardee’s because apparently only sexist men and idiot sexpots slurp down those dripping burgers. Who markets or programs to me? Nobody, since Golden Girls and Murder She Wrote went off the air.

      But, having said all that, I am still of the opinion that to structure any show so that it is balanced enough to include EVERYONE is not feasible. No single show can take care of issues of every race, every culture, every age, every religion, and do it well. And Supernatural, being far from an ensemble show, can’t do it either. If the leads were two young black men, or one black man and one black woman, it would still be falling short, because that would only take care of one color.

      They can’t do it all. For one thing, budgets are real. There’s not enough money to satisfy everyone. And the story and theme of the show can’t handle it, either. And, for those who might say, well, Kripke could at least TRY, I would ask, Where should he begin? Which marginalized group gets to go first, and why? Do we take care of the older ones? The black ones? The Asian ones? The female ones? The gay ones? Kripke has said himself that he’s Jewish. There have been no recurring roles with an emotional arc for Jewish people, either good or bad. Should he begin there? When Kripke turns on the TV and wants to see himself, what does he watch?

      • Red

        I’m pretty sure that you’re in one of the groups that needs more positive representation.

        I’m not suggesting he make a quota. I think that it should one day, hopefully, just be a part of the natural landscape of any given television show to see a variety of people represented as just being.

        I’m not suggesting his show become a Benetton ad.

        I think any step in the right direction is a good one.

        But, really, this is derailing the conversation. No one has suggested he represent EVERYONE. The main suggestion was that he have a poc on the show that wasn’t evil or murdered or both.

        Anytime someone suggests change, someone always brings this up. I swear. Change. One small thing at a time. Small steps. He doesn’t have to do it all. No one is asking that. No one should expect that. But to improve on one thing? On one aspect of representation? That’s not too much to expect and something I don’t think anyone should have had to ask for.

  • Audrey P.

    The worst thing is that people /have/ been pointing this out, publically, from season two and, still, Uriel /even showed up/ and, along the way, the misogyny even got progressively worse with new, nastier epithets (“skank” and “whore” started showing up) and that woman who was implied to have been raped repeatedly in “Wishful Thinking.” And then they capped the season off brutally murdering two of the only female characters left because all the others had been written off or brutally murdered. I’m finding it pretty hard to keep caring about Supernatural. They promptly killed the only two gay characters the show had. Have they maligned any disabled people yet? They’d basically have the spread covered at that point.

  • Emma

    I want to commend you on your letter to Eric Kripke. It articulates a vaguely unsettling feeling I have had when watching Supernatural that has only increased as the show continues.

    The problem for me is that Supernatural is set in the ‘real world’ (demons and angels aside) and it should reflect that world. Whereas Supernatural seems to create a world in which white men can be richly textured characters of both good and evil persuasions while women are exclusively one-dimensional shrews or vixens and black men are evil9with a capital E).

    Maybe the problem lies in the fact that the showrunner and the vast majority of writers are white males and have trouble empathising with and characterising people unlike themselves.

    When the annual diversity in broadcasting figures are released it is no suprise that the networks with the most diversity behind the scenes are the networks with the most on screen diversity.

    [And for those who seem to think it matters, I am white. Ridiculously so. I was nicknamed 'Ghost' at school. But I believe that to attack the person doing the arguing is the last resort of people who can't attack the argument. Just my opinion.]

  • Buddleia

    Fantastic, fantastic post. My only canard is that you are being much kinder than the show warrants. I love it, but the filters I have to employ are even heavier than usual.

  • Jenn

    Oh come ON! All you ppl who can’t see what she’s saying, READ IT AGAIN – or more importantly, watch the show again and try to look at it.

    I love SPN, I do, but it’s blatantly obvious even to me that it’s a White Boys Club.
    Not that I’ll stop watching, because I won’t, but I do see it.

    I’m someone who’s usually pretty clueless or ignorant when it comes to race issues, but when even I can see it – it’s gotta be obvious to everyone. ;)

    Yes, all the good and the best guys are white straight men.
    Has there even been a gay character on the show? No, of course not. There are no gays in America. :P

    And there are no good women who you don’t see as sexual objects all the time…

    • I think there were a couple of gay one-off characters? But they died tragically.

      Otherwise yeah, exactly.

      • Franki

        Also, in the case of the gay male, his homosexuality was played for laughs throughout the entire episode, even though he was easily the sanest character in the episode.

        My hatred for that plot arc knows no bounds.

  • God love you for this, and for handling the bingo-card comments so well.

  • Cate

    I posted a signal boost over at my journal on LJ – I hope it brings more support over here, and that it causes some people to read and consider your awesome points who might not have thought about these things so clearly before.

    That there are people here trying to shout you down, trying to tell you that your reading of the text is wrong, trying to tell you to withdraw rather than demand better of the world . . . it’s not surprising, I suppose, but god, it’s sad. Thank you for the letter; thank you for speaking up; thank you for saying what needs to be said; thank you for staying steadfast despite the trolls; thank you for *not* withdrawing. I know how much these discussions can cost – take good care of you.

  • X-Tricks

    See –

    This is the thing that’s strange to me. I agree with everything you said and I think your examples and the logic behind them are spot on. But … I dunno, the tone of your letter seems almost apologetic to me. You keep reiterating you’re a fan, you like the show, you don’t really mean to make Kripkie feel bad. You think it’s the best show out there, etc, etc. I’ve seen this sort of response before regarding the misogyny on the show from other fans (and other issues in other shows, of course).

    If I were Kripkie and I weren’t inclined to care about these issues independently – this letter tells me I still don’t have to. You’re still going to watch the show. You’re still going to be part of the social network that encourages others to watch the show due to your own enthusiasm. There’s no actual reason for him to change a thing, really. The PTB aren’t losing anything by keeping in the racism and the misogyny and the regressive sexual attitudes (and the homophobia) because no one is willing to say ‘fuck this, I’m not watching this crap anymore’.

    As I try and figure out how to have agency and voice in social issues that move me I’m also trying to figure out how to communicate my expectations to others. I see what I want as expectations – less ‘beautiful fags die’, homosexuality=tragic death and better portrayals and visibility for queers in media – not as favors. Kripkie is bad at his job because of the racism and misogyny and etc in the work he oversees, praising him for being so wonderful seems counter-intuitive to me and certainly gives him no motivation to change. Pretty boys, great music and cool camera angles don’t make up for everything else – a show that presents, at the core, a pretty terrible message, IMO.

    Ultimately, how you communicate what you want and need to others is up to you, obviously, but I’ve seen so much of this sort of communication and I’m beginning to be of the opinion that the particular tone (I’m getting, anyway), of apology and pleading, weakens the strength of the message.

    • Huh, that’s a weird version of the tone argument.

      X-Tricks, have you looked at the other comments this letter has gotten? To other people, this letter is TOO ANGRY. It demands TOO MUCH. Alaya PROBABLY ISN’T EVEN A FAN, according to some people who supposedly read the exact same letter you did. So all those disclaimers that sound apologetic to you? She’s just trying to get heard.

      There’s no actual reason for him to change a thing, really. The PTB aren’t losing anything by keeping in the racism and the misogyny and the regressive sexual attitudes (and the homophobia) because no one is willing to say ‘fuck this, I’m not watching this crap anymore’.

      Uh huh… actually, plenty of people have said that, and they got the aforementioned angry responses (from other fans, not Kripke; I don’t think he’s responded to anything): they should GET OVER IT, why are they SO ENTITLED, blahblahblah. And if someone says, why aren’t you listening to these valid points? They say, well, maybe we would if you weren’t SO MEAN about it.

      This letter is the most loving, gentle rebuke I’ve ever read. Yeah, it probably won’t work. (You see the blog name, Angry Black Woman? Black women sound ‘too angry’ no matter what they say.) But geez.

      At least getting lectured for being too nice is a rarer thing…

      • Stewardess

        Softestbullet, X-Tricks may have been offering a variation of the tone argument, but I also read it as a version of “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.” At bottom, both are defeatist, one arguing “your criticism will fail,” the other arguing “don’t watch, you can do nothing.” Defeatist arguments do not take into consideration the multiple audiences for (and intentions of) social criticism, instead focusing on the critic — as does the tone argument.

        • Stewardess – ah, you’re right. Thanks. ‘Defeatist’ is the perfect word for it.

        • X-Tricks

          Hm. Sorry, missed these comments earlier. I’m not defeatist, I think it’s important to speak up – however, I’m also of the opinion that asking favors has gotten most minorities exactly nowhere. It maintains people in a position of powerlessness. That’s the sense of the letter I get.

          I’m a little irked at the fact I disagree with the way she framed her letter is being compared to the ‘tone’ argument, which basically comes down to ‘shut up, you make me uncomfortable’. I’ve suggested nowhere that she should not speak, nor that she’s not a fan, and if I believe that things like boycott are acceptable ways to leverage change – and would encourage people to use it as a tool – that’s very different from ‘don’t like, don’t watch’. For media in particular, often the only too the consumers of media have to affect change is informed boycott – letting the creators of the work know they are losing customers and why. That most certainly is not ‘don’t watch, you can do nothing.’

          I think there is a balance between being respectful and not a jerk when trying to leverage change and being so gentle that there’s no motivation too change. There have been problems of misogyny, racism, homophobia and etc in Supernatural for years, I doubt very much that TPTB are unaware of the issues, especially since people have discussed elsewhere how relatively sensitive to fans the Supernatural PTB are. If that is the case another gentle, supportive letter, while implying all the while that even if they don’t change, their work is wonderful, doesn’t really provide much in the way of motivation.

          Yes, I’m very aware that a lot of other commenters have gone the ‘angry’ route – the majority of them are simply attempting to silence someone who’s pointing out an uncomfortable topic. I don’t believe I’m doing the same.

  • Ray

    I agree with everything you’ve said except for the Gordon (played by Sterling K. Brown) points. Eric Kripke had to kill off Gordon, as the Lifetime Network had told Kripke they couldn’t use Sterling as Gordon anymore. Army Wives films in North Carolina, SPN in Vnacouver, so they was a huge problem logistically if Gordon kept coming back. Every SPN convention I have ever gone to (including the one in LA in which Kripke attended), the cast have stated they wanted Sterling to come back, but Lifetime wasn’t hearing of it. So unless they recast, Sterling’s Gordon had to be killed off. I am fairly certain that given the choice Kripke would have loved to keep Sterling on SPN as a an occasional guest star. In this case, behind-the-scenes deals between two networks killed that character off, not the writers.

  • auraesque

    I want to express my support for you, Ms. Johnson. This was a brilliant post.

  • A-mothereffing-greed. Thank you so much for this.

  • NES

    Well, it’s been something other than fun.
    I see there is just as much hate and intolerance here than anywhere.

    POC are not my people, because no people are my people. I don’t relate to them, end of story. They exist and they move about in life and they have nothing to do with me, nor I with them. I would prefer animals to human company any day.

    We think so much matters here on this planet, but nothing really does. Life is unfair, people get tortured and die, and some people live rich, fabulous lives.
    What’s the point of it all? There is none.

    No “art” or “legacy” that any person creates and leaves behind is worth anything. Worth/value is a matter of human perception only. Diamonds are the same as any common rock, or a rotten piece of food.

    There is no such thing as culture or cultural heritage. It is an illusion, a way for people to feel as if they have some kind of hold on time, and that they are a part of some “thing” that will last, is bigger than themselves, and a way to feel confident they are doing the right thing, because after all, other people are doing the same thing. It’s people doing the same things over and over through time. Big deal.

    All humans are the same, none are different.
    Everyone gets born, feels pain, gets sick, and dies.
    Children are not the “future”, they are messy, noisy, expensive little human animals. They are meant to eat, grow, and survive long enough to produce more humans. How important is that? Not at all important.

    Death is the only absolute, the only real thing anyone can count on.

    Bye bye people who think they (and all humans) are very very important!

    • Audrey P.

      The internet is a free forum for public discussion, of course, but I can’t help but think your dark dark feelings would better be put down in a black-like-your-soul notebook with your dark dark poetry while your mascara runs as you quitely weep. Meanwhile, you’re benefitting from a society and healthcare system that allows you not to work and allows you to survive while you, assumedly, suffer your crippling anxiety, which I’m going to take at face value. I’m not saying I don’t understand mental disability pretty much completely. I have a seventeen or so year history of severe clinical depression. It’s hard. I do appreciate every day that my family hasn’t left me in a lunatic house to be abused and die like they used to do with people who are unable to contribute usefully to their community. I myself struggle every day to continue functioning in any useful way, but I also deeply, deeply appreciate the ways in which society allows me to survive whether or not I thrive.

      I’m going to assume from your con attendence that you are an American. To suggest that you have no responsibility to the children of the future who, in your old age, will be paying for you or your husband’s welfare, social security, and Medicare; that you have no responsibility to the growing number of children of color who are rapidly becoming the majority in America; that you don’t care if they have awesome role models and equal representation in the media to energize them about participating in an American future and making sure their country stays competative with India and China…well, that’s just about the highest level of ignorance. Those children are your future. Especially if you remain unable to work, have no children of your own, and intend to claim any money from the government or participate in any social fund in your future. Even if you don’t depend directly on the government, that you can get food from a grocery store, gas from a gas station to get food from a grocery store, that you can even live day to day while making a minimal contribution to the people sustaining you is a product of your society. Which has also provided you with an internet to come be Wrong On The Internet on so you don’t have to sit alone and cry as you keep a dark dark journal even if you can’t leave the house.

      • k8dee

        @ Audrey
        I wholeheartedly co-sign. As cynical as I can be, my hope in humanity to ultimately, (sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes only to make some money) get things at least semi-right is what keeps me going.

    • Oh my god, NES, you are so full of crap. Why did you waste our time if you think everything in life is meaningless? Why are you hurt by our “hate and intolerance” if human beings are unimportant? Why should we care about anything you say if you don’t care about anyone but yourself? These are rhetorical questions.

      Stop giving white ladies with crippling depression and anxiety a bad name.

      Bye.

    • bestshowfan

      Nes, Oh my God, what a terrible and sad view of life. I am sincerely so sorry for you. It sounds as if you won’t care, but I’m saying a prayer for you.

  • kateri

    Wonderful letter, I really hope EK actually reads it! :)

  • shara says

    Thank you for this thoughtful, insightful post :) I am a major Supernatural fan, and have loved the show since season 1. I think it is one of the better shows around, and my enthusiasm for this show knows few bounds. But, the race and women treatments have always bothered me. It isn’t that the show isn’t worth watching – because it definitely is. As the show has evolved since the first season, it has become worlds more interesting in terms of story arcs and character development. And this is another way that the show could continue to improve. The post struck a perfect tone between kindly pointing out the failing and firmly proposing a reasonable solution. Hopefully Kripke & Co. will take this to heart and this awesome show can get even better.

  • AMEN. A bunch. I actually stopped watching SPN halfway through s4 because I could just not DEAL with the show’s skanky race (and women) problems anymore.

    Considering how much EK tends to take fans’ feedback into account when writing (mostly to the show’s detriment, but that’s not the case here), I really hope he takes your words to heart!

  • Another Female Fan

    I’m of two minds on this commentary, which is intelligent and well-written.

    First, the lack of black people on the show _in general_ bothered me in S1. With ensuing seasons, I was glad to see more of a mix, except that now people were complaining about the “Killing the black men” trope.

    I felt as if the show had finally gotten a clue, only to be smacked around for it, and that kind of bugged me.

    I think the show needs more characters of color IN GENERAL, and that the filming location is no excuse. How many Hispanic characters has the show had? I can name the ONLY TWO Asian ones– Maggie (with the Ghostfacers) and the husband in “Skin.”

    It’s not just about black people– the show is still too white, and it wouldn’t take much effort to mix things up.

    BUT… Gordon didn’t really need to be black, now did he? He was an intriguing character, but he could have easily been white. I was glad that they made that extra effort (and loved the actor). Same for Henriksen– he could easily have been yet another white male, and instead they chose a black actor. I really wish he hadn’t been killed (like, a LOT), but I’m glad he was there to begin with.

    There’s also the fact that we don’t have many characters who span more than one episode, period. There are the “arc” characters, but sometimes we don’t even know who they are until they show up again. Ava and Andy were cases in point. Henriksen and Gordon were arc characters, as was Uriel. Missouri was not, though fans sure wish she had been.

    I love this show, and there are parts of it I think have improved over the years and parts that could still be better.

    So in conclusion, I appreciate your comments, even though I don’t agree with them 100%. I understand why you feel the way that you do, and I think it’s important that Kripke hear that message.

    • She acknowledged the goodness of having black characters at all:

      Because you have some black men on the show. They have major roles across multiple episodes. They engage the plots, have multiple interactions with all sorts of people and have as much of an emotional life as any other non-Winchester character does. But there’s a problem. A big one, really, and this has to do with the space in the story that these black men occupy.

      But having a small number of black characters doesn’t mean that no one should complain about how they’re treated. The show isn’t being criticized for getting a clue. It’s being criticized for the mistakes it’s still making.

  • Ashley

    I have to say that as a black woman, I can agree with your points. While they (your points) did not immediately come to me while watching (but of course I noticed that nearly all of the black men have died in some tragic way except Rufus, yay Rufus), I have to say that you have made a comprehensive case and have stated it eloquently. I hope Kripke manages to see this and gets what you have to say — as much as I love everyone involved in SPN, I’d like to see a few more recurring black characters.

    Thank you. :)

    Actually one more thing a friend of mine pointed out: Though the boys are down south a lot, there is the thought that since Sam and Dean are usually in small towns the ratio of blacks to whites drops tremendously.

  • Oh, sweet Jesus, the derailment in the comments is making me facepalm.

    Anyway! Just wanted to add another voice saying “cosigned!” I love Supernatural to death, and that love is what makes me so damned critical of the treatment (unintentional or otherwise) of POCs and women. The SO and I have had numerous conversations about this; he was originally hesitant to say the show had some race problems. Then we watched Uriel’s arc, at which point he said, “There’s like a checklist for this shit! He was phyisically intimidating” — I should interject that we mark characters as such when they manage to dwarf or at least crowd into Sam’s space — “morally fucked, some edgy ‘reverse’ racist bullshit, then he betrayed everyone and died at the hands of pretty white people!”

    For all the things I love about the show, Supernatural has, unfortunately, been the consistent lightbulb going off in my SO’s growing consciousness. While I wish that could speak well for the show, it instead speaks well for him that the show’s portrayals are sometimes so bad even his sometimes-clueless ass is picking it up. When a straight white recovering conservative man from Georgia can see your race (and gender) issues? You have a problem.

  • Chris

    its great to see other people who feel the same way.

    preaching to the choir, but here is something I wrote on the supernatural boards on Facebook focusing on the black male portrayal. I wrote more over time, often PISSED off, ironically giving them that “angry black male” that we always see on the show.

    99% of the black males on this show have worked against the brothers. They all have this rage, a single mindedness to them, they rush into things, they dont quite have the intellect, and are completely brawn over brains. They hate the brothers, almost seem jealous of them. they all meet a bad ending too. There is a clear black rage thing going on here. they are almost always the antagonist.

    meanwhile, just about all the supporting characters that are GOOD, that help the brothers happen to be white. bobby, that woman and her daughter,the smart hick, castiel. all white people. the ONLY good black guy is rufus, and there is an issue with him as well.

    the black guys on this show?
    gordon, the vampire hunter. jealous, rage,single mindedness, bloodthirsty, does his own thing and tries to kill sam, gets turned into a vampire and gets killed by sam. Antagonist. and status: DEAD.

    FBI Agent Henderson – spends his entire time being a major pain in the ass douche bag for the brothers. they elude him at every turn, he is still gonna catch them. he is single minded. he is the Antagonist up until he learns the truth, where what happens? he gets killed off. thanks black fbi guy.status: DEAD.

    Jake – one of the other special children from season 2. this dude betrays sam, stabs him in the back. kills him KNOWING he will be a tool of evil. white guys refuses it, black guy gives in completely. even has a chance to kill the yellow eyed demon but decides to open the gates to hell anyway. Jake started all this shit. and gets killed anyway. status: DEAD.

    George Darrow – this was the painter from the Crossroads episode, where the devil comes for your soul later with the hell hounds. whats interesting about this guy is the brothers could have saved him, but he “wanted to die” anyway. we never see him die because the brothers go off to save the white guy, but its assumed the hell hounds got him too. status: DEAD.

    Uriel – oh wow, cool a black Angel!! maybe this show is okay with black people then? not exactly. turns out that Uriel is another black stabbing, excuse me, back stabbing guy who actually is supporting Lucifer himself. yes, the only black angel on the show and he is evil as FUCK. gets murked. status: DEAD.

    Black Hunter Couple – bone headed, dont get along with anyone else, just like every single other black person on this damn show. also seem a bit jealous of the brothers. not intelligent, rush into a situation and pay dearly. black guy gets served up by demons. status: DEAD.

    whos left?

    Rufus – finally a not so bad black guy. plus, he was X from the xfiles, cmon i hope he stays good. my problem with him tho was that in order to get into his good graces, Dean had to bring him some got damn LIQUOR. Why not help because he knows about the demons and angels? nah, black man, you are also a loner and will only help someone if you can get DRUNK. status: still alive. clenched fist my brotha.

    Raphael – yay, another black angel. but naturally, he is a fucking DICK. opposing the dean and Castiel from jump. has that same bug eyed rage, while dean just does the cocky indiana jones thing in his face. “haha, you are so cool dude.” the jury is still out on Raphael, but chances are he will find a way to fuck over the boys too. status: still angelin’!

    so whats the verdict? clearly, for the most part black males and the Winchesters do not get along. They always wind up dead because of their own jealousy, fear,greed or stupidity.
    ****

    to people like us, its obvious whats going on. to MOST people tho? not so much. we are either reading too much into it, making stuff up, or there are explanations for each and every black male issue. Its like people don’t want to see the obvious. It frustrates the HELL out of me!

  • I think it’s great that fans want to discuss this flaw (though I bundle it with sexist stereotypes together equally as flaws) in what I think is otherwise a pretty great show. Maybe I missed it – I’m not familiar with how casting comes into play versus characters-as-written in the script. Is there some implied assumption that each of the characters named were specifically written to be played by African-American actors and others were specifically stated to be played by white actors? I have been to Vancouver, where the show is filmed, a few times. It has a very diverse population. Maybe the problem is as much about the Casting Agents/Process? It certainly seems part of the problem with all the casting of beautiful but weak actresses. I’m not trying to give Kripke an excuse, he’s responsible for every thing that’s filmed and aired, but I have to wonder what other factors, including the CW network, go into casting choices.

    Kripke is writing in the horror genre – one of the most sexist and racist genres around. Unlike say a Joss Whedon, or an Alan Ball, I have never read or heard Kripke state any specific agenda to use his storytelling to change or subvert ideas about race, gender, or sexuality.

    I have never met Eric Kripke, and know almost nothing about the man other than that he’s a a 40-something middleclass guy from Ohio. I highly doubt he’s trying to break new ground when it comes to the characters occupying his or any TV landscape. I doubt most TV show runners even think it’s part of their job to do so. This is his first TV show – maybe he’s not ready to bite off more than getting the nuts and bolts of the story told each week, and he’s not thinking about creating iconic or ground-breaking characters or stories?

    I think the audience is ahead of Kripke in expecting the show to reflect the real world we see, or a better world that we’d like to see. Maybe this letter will start a dialog amongst the writers of the show.

  • Joanna

    I really respect Alaya Dawn for expressing her views in this fashion . Having the ‘ba***’ as it were to state a vital truth where a lot of people or supernatural fans would turn their heads and bury their head in the sand is admirable. In response to many people who have voiced their complaints, maybe many of them should take the time out out really look at what she’s saying before speaking out first.

    But as an African- American woman , I must say that though what she says happens in the show is true, the fault doen not lie entirely with Kripke. Not even with the youth obsessesd CW network. But has everything to do with the obsessive Supernatural fanbase-some of whom I recognise here-

    THE ‘WHITE WOMEN’14-45 YEAR OLD DEMOGRAPHIC which makes a huge slice of their fanbase.

    Theses are the ones I’m afraid who dictate to Kripke who they want to see on screen with their favourite stars , not Kripke per se. and that is another reason why Kripke -even if he does read your letter-will never do anjything about it.

    To this fanbase, nobody and I mean NOBODY has the right to share the screen time with the pretty boy dou. Not good black male actors, not pretty white male actors, not white feamles, not gay characters. Absolutely anyone that threatens to take away screen time from their beloved ‘boy fantasies’ will be treated with contempt by the fans and lower ratings would ensue. e.g. Ghostfacers are a case in point.Thus no diversity, thus no evolution of charaters.

    I think the suppossed ignorance of Kripke when it comes to retaining black actors is a symptom of another problem. Not really about racism, but aboout a bunch of women living out their fanatsies through this show. It’s not only black actors that have a bad ride here, neither is it limited to race, I’m afraid. It also included young and female (kate Cassidy,), xenophobia and possible new love interest for Dean -(Bela), Cassie ( racism and sexism), other races or other original ideas (Ghostfacers), other original ideas (Ghostfacers), threatning as a new and imposing character(Henrickson).

    The onl people accepted are middle aged white charaters like Bobby, Ellen. A slob who will never be a match for the boys in the looks department Chuck or a probably gay angel -Castiel

    I find it laughable that it’s only Kripke that seems to get black actors in all of TV land that are always available for work somewhere else after a seaon or two. Strange. other shows don’t seem to have this problem. or is Supernatural now a hunting ground for new and great talent. Please don’t let me laugh.

    While i agree with the above poster, I think the trend applies to everone who the FANDOM fears will either share space with the above two stars, be a romantic interest, take away -Heaven forbid- the focus from the two stars. whether they be Jewish , Black, young and sexy female,a strong pwerful female (BTW isn’t it sad when women are threatened by a strong female *sighs* ). Don’t be fooled folks, if Cassie in season 1 had been a red haired angel with pale skin, you would have seen a whole lot more of her past one episode.

    I guess what i’m saying in a nutshell is Kripke caters to his fandom -which he has to since they pay his salary-whose majority( not all)are made up of middle aged white women who are reliving their fantasies with Dean and Sam and sure don’t want to see any balck actor -no matter how talented-, no young female (black or otherwise), gay character who might stand on his own (what! and ruin the Wincest fantasy), a character from another country (Bela)talk less of Asians or Native Americans or another white pretty boy who fawns after one of the stars….

    Oh wait. They like this one. They call him Castiel.

    and for all of you people coming up in here , talking about how difficult it is for kripke to get a black actor to stay on the series because Canada is buck white or keep him or to get him adored by fans or always postulating that they are getting picked up by other networks, I have two words for you.

    Charles Gunn.

    If you’re interested, find out how Joss whedon- one of the true Scif-fi Tv writers who believes in diversity-fought to keep his diverse cast even though Fox weren’t having it. You’ll be amazed what he went through

    Come to think of it…
    Maybe it is TOTALLY Kripke’s fault.

    • lisa

      I don’t think it’s fair to call out the fanbase for these problems with the show. First of all, many of the fans I know have complained consistently about these very issues. I’m not an expert on the entire fandom, but you’re really stretching the facts when it comes to the opinions and desires of the Supernatural fanbase. You complain that fans are threatened by a strong female, and then mention Ellen, maybe the strongest female character on the show, as someone whom the fans accepted. In fact, fans have accepted many recurring characters, and you really stretch the facts in your analysis.

      Also, there’s huge overlap between Supernatural fandom and those of Joss Whedon (someone you mention as an ally) and Leverage (the cast of which comes from diverse backgrounds, according to your criteria of race, gender, and national origin). There are no calls to turn Leverage into the Nate and Eliot Show.

      Kripke has really dropped the ball on this issue. And it’s not just the lack of these characters, but the horrible ways that they’ve been portrayed. That has nothing to do with the fans’ ostensible need to eliminate everyone but the two leads from the show. Let’s lay the blame on the people who actually have direct control over the creative direction of the show, not the fans, who (from what I’ve seen) have been complaining about these problems for years.

  • Cil

    Hi all. I am black and I find this post through Google while trying to find some information about if Missouri will be back in season 5 because I loved her character. This is the first show I really care about after the end of Buffy/Angel. Joss Whedon, like Kripke, had the same pattern. Black people didn’t appeared at all or were killed or were in gangues in LA and ultimately turned evil in the comics (see character Gunn).

    I do agree with the post about destinies of Black characters in shows. I sooooooooo wished that Uriel stayed a little more instead of Zacchary (they could have changed actors or something). Why Anna, the fallen Angel, couldn’t have been a black woman? At least one of us would be good. Eheheheehehehe.

    I’m Brazilian, so don’t shut out because of my bad English. I do agree with Ann in some points. Here in Brazil many black people still talk about Slavery every time, that we have some kind of debit

  • [...] qualified to explain why this is so endlessly infuriating, but Alaya Dawn Johnson recently posted an open letter to Supernatural creator Eric Kripke clarifying why watching the show inspires both adoration and frustration for a black woman like [...]