The Bonds of Brotherhood

Curator's Note

The early episodes of Supernatural (WB/CW, 2005-present) suggested a war-on-terror like vision of good versus evil. The show’s premise: two macho boys and their father fight the forces of evil to avenge their mother’s death. However, what seemed at first like a simplistic morality play has evolved into a study of moral ambiguity and the slippage between self and other. In the first excerpt, believing himself to be on his way to becoming a demon, Sam begs his brother Dean to kill him should he turn into “something he’s not.” This clip highlights the program’s emphasis on brotherhood as the locus of both masculine self-definition and emotional interiority. The brothers’ dialogue clings to masculine bravado, even as their tone and body language are highly emotive. Masculinity becomes the tool with which Sam and Dean shore up their ever-weakening control over their lives. This focus reveals the brothers’ masculinity as constructed—as somewhat of a desperate masquerade.

The combination of emotional interiority and heightened masculinity has contributed to the program’s growing slash fandom. The second excerpt demonstrates Supernatural’s head-on address of the queer possibilities borne of Sam and Dean’s desperate performance of masculinity. Some fans feel that this type of overt address (which serves doubly as an outing and repression of such meaning) shuts down the subversive pleasure of their interpretations, while others find pleasure in the seeming acknowledgment of their viewing position.

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