Thursday, June 4, 2009

Women and the Winchesters

I don't deny for a moment that Supernatural is a male-dominated show--from its lead actors to its most frequent recurring guest (Jim Beaver's wonderful portrayal of Bobby) to its props (a classic car belting rock and lots and lots of weaponry). Still, while I've heard a few fans complain about a lack of women on the show (or other complaints about how the female characters on the show are actually used), I don't really agree. I decided to look at, on a season by season basis, the female characters seen most frequently. (So, obviously, random spoilers abound.)

In the first season, the most prevalent female influences seemed to be Mary Winchester, Sam's girlfriend Jess, and Meg (girl possessed by a demon). In a way, all three of these women were victims, but I view Mary and Jess as far more than that--they were major catalysts to the story. They were the people important enough to Sam and Dean (and John) to galvanize the men into action and propel us into season 1 (the hunt for the yellow-eyed demon). And Meg does play a major part in the yellow-eyed demon subplot. Plus, Mary is allowed to kick a little butt even from the beyond and we find out in later seasons that she has a butt-kicking legacy.

In season 2, the main female recurring roles were that of mother-daughter duo Jo and Ellen Harvelle. Frankly, I liked both of them a lot, especially Ellen. I never saw Jo as a romantic possibility for either boy because the dynamic seemed to be more of a...maybe no little sister, but definitely younger tagalong tomboy cousin who just wants to go camping and fishing with the older cool boys (or, in this case, demon hunting. Potato, potahto.) I also thought that both actresses did all right with the material written, although Ellen was my favorite. Just as Bobby usually fills a paternal role on the show, Ellen added a maternal element.

In season 3, of course, we met Ruby and Bela. I've blogged before about the fact that I liked Bela, but the juxtaposition of these two women seemed to be more thematic contrast than character-specific. The boys generally fight demons (things which are inhuman and often evil). So to mix things up a bit in this season, we got a human with a loose moral code and a demon who seemed determined to help. When Bela was taken by hellhounds, it upped the dramatic ante, foreshadowing Dean's own doom to hell. (And I actually liked Katie Cassidy's Ruby...although that changed in season 4 not only because of the actress but because of Ruby's evolving storyline.) It was also in season 3, that Lilith as the big bad began to emerge. (All right, yes, technically, Lucifer is bigger and badder, but as Lilith is the entity working to free him, she is our more pressing concern.)

In season 4, we again have Ruby (who seems more and more a questionable source of assistance, although getting herself tortured to aid the boys was somewhat convincing.) And Lilith becomes an even MORE pressing concern, now that she's breaking seals willy-nilly. In addition to the two male angels who appear throughout the season, we also meet Anna, a deliberately "fallen" angel who regains her winged status, goes at it with Dean in the back of the Impala (but not in that order), saves Castiel's butt in a tense moment, and later chastises him for being on the wrong side.

All in all, I think there have been just as many important recurring female characters as their have been regular male characters (not counting Sam and Dean themselves, as everyone takes a backseat there). Which female characters were your favorite or least favorite? Who do you wish we'd seen more of and what kind of recurring roles do you envision for next season?


Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Very nicely written, Tanya. I agree with everything you said!

The comments I see the most, which are never more than superficial (i.e. they lay out an accusation without the evidence to back it up) are along the lines of saying the writers either demonize or...darn, what's the work meaning make a saint of?...the main women on the show. I find that ridiculous. Every female has been complex (to whatever degree, based on her role in the big picture) with both good and bad elements.

It's like when people say all the black characters on the show are made to be evil. Say what? Henricksen? Rufus? Cassie? None of them were evil or even two-dimensional. And how many white characters have been evil?

Anyway, my favorites have been Ellen (man, I miss her!) and Pam (RIP). I liked Meg's portrayal, too.

Anonymous said...

I loved the original Ruby and Pam. I hate that both are gone!

Trish Milburn said...

Very good points. I want to see Anna back next season, as she's really grown on me.

I liked original Ruby too. Part of me still wants to believe original Ruby wasn't evil, but I think that's just because I liked Katie's portrayal.