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The second the confession scene came out, I knew I wanted to do a write-up on this. Someone else kind of beat me to it
, posting the night the episode came out to explain what happened. However, I knew I wanted to include the next two episodes and the context behind it, as well as some results of Destiel that truly feel like falling down a set of stairs. So… What’s Supernatural?
For the uninitiated, Supernatural is (was?) a TV series that started in 2005. It followed two brothers, Sam and Dean, who hunted monsters. For the first three or so seasons, it was mostly a monster-of-the-week type deal, and later progressed to overarching stories dealing with the mythos of the world, many of it biblical inspired, though it does incorporate other mythologies (ie Norse and Roman). After season three, the cast began to expand, including fan favorites like the angel Castiel and the demon Crowley, whereas previously it had mostly been the two brothers plus occasional side characters.
Supernatural was wildly popular, being part of the megalithic fandom known as Superwholock, a combination of Supernatural, Dr. Who, and Sherlock. This fandom was more or less killed overnight by Dashcon between seasons 9 and 10, and, aside from a brief resurgence during the 11th season, Supernatural has been declining in ratings ever since. Dean and Castiel are Totally Just Friends
As early as season 1, fans began to Headcanon Dean as bi. Many interpreted Dean’s characterization as that of a closeted bisexual
. People even made episode-by-episode lists detailing Dean’s bi moments
. Although not all fans who liked the idea of Dean being bi wanted him to end up with Castiel, a very large portion did, and “Destiel”, as the ship was called, was ridiculously popular.
Destiel’s popularity was only inflated by the show’s relentless baiting surrounding the pair, to the point that Supernatural is common cited as the queerbaiting show. It’s really hard to impress upon non-watchers the extent of the queerbaiting that went on, as there’s just so much of it
. Here’s a handful of highlights:
- When Dean and Castiel got separated in purgatory, Dean spent months searching for Castiel and prayed to him every single night.
- Season 8’s finale reveals that Castiel is being mind-controlled by angels in heaven, who force him to kill thousands of copies of Dean until he can do so without hesitation. Unsurprisingly, Castiel ends up fighting and nearly killing Dean. He is broken out of his mind control by Dean telling him “I need you.” Castiel then heals Dean while cupping his jaw.
- In 12x10, they talk a Lot about human/angel relationships. When the episode antagonist, Ishim, an angel who was in love with a human, fights Castiel, he tells him that he’s going to cure him of his “human weakness” and then tries to kill Dean.
I really want to impress that these types of scenarios were common in Supernatural, and that’s not even bringing in body language. For example, here
is a series of gifs of Dean reacting to Castiel drying his hands. Seeing how the show treated these two, it’s hard to blame fans for thinking or hoping there may be something more. There’s only one problem. Dean is straight. He’s straight. He’s straight. STRAIGHT.
Despite its popularity, and the fact that Destiel was regularly baited, everyone involved in production seemed resistant to the idea.
Guy Norman Bee, a director for the show, tweeted, “I'm not sure how people get upset and offended when a story line that doesn't exist... doesn't exist.” WB executive Chad Kennedy said, “I support the idea of bi lead [characters]. But on this specific show, it is not our intention for these [characters.]” He later clarified that “if it served the story, I would support it.” (note: I cannot find the original tweets, but multiple articles have referenced them
.) Questions about sexuality were even banned after a New Jersey convention in 2013. During a Q&A segment, a fan directed a question at Jensen Ackles, Dean’s actor
Fan: “I just wanted to say, uh, I love your character becoming more comfortable with himself this season; I'm bisexual and I've noticed some possible subtext—”
Ackles: “I'm thoroughly confused. Really? The first question? You know what I said about being happy to be in the east coast? I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Don't ruin it for everybody now.”
Fan: “I do not mean it as disrespectful at all.”
Ackles: “I still don't know what the question was--I'm gonna pretend like I don't know what the question was. I'm gonna take a cue and move on.”
For what it’s worth, the fan apparently posted her side of the story to tumblr, and was not angry at Ackles and defended New Jersey con for being a wonderful experience. The original post appears to be moved or lost, but you can read a transcript here
a little ways down.
As noted above, in 7x17, Dean breaks Castiel out of brainwashing by giving him a big speech that ends with "I need you." The original script read "I love you", but Ackles argued that it felt out of character
. Writer Robbie Thompson later said he agreed with Jensen
At Jaxcon 2018, a fan approached Ackles with an essay entitled "Spoiler Alert: Dean Winchester is Bisexual"
, and showed it to him. After signing it, he added "? No." after the title.
As interactions like this began to build, accusations of homophobia began following Ackles. It got so big that actual research articles were made
, analyzing whether or not this was true. To be fair, there are also plenty of examples of him interacting positively with LGBT+ fans
. Personally, I find it hard to blame Ackles for his reactions; I can only imagine what it would be like to have fans constantly harassing you about your character’s sexuality, though he certainly could have handled these situations with more tact. However, I also don’t blame fans for feeling hurt by how he responded. Regardless, it was clear that no one involved in the creation of the show had any intention of making Destiel canon. They Probably Shouldn’t Make Destiel Canon
Supernatural has had atrocious handling of queer rep in the past. For reference, counting each and every character listed on the Supernatural wiki’s “Queer and Gender Diverse Characters” page
, even literal background characters, a dog, and angels (who may or may not even be gender diverse), there are 39 characters that fall under the somewhere under LGBT+ umbrella in the whole show. Many of these characters die, almost all are one-offs and minor side characters.
But then they brought in Charlie Bradbury, a lesbian introduced in season 7. At the time, she was one of three recurring queer characters, along with Crowley and God. Crowley was, well, a demon, and not a very good person, and God was only once mentioned to have dated men in a throw-away line. She quickly became a show regular and fan favorite … only to be brutally murdered in 10x21, by a nazi, at a motel, in a bathtub.
People … did not take this well. The tags #BringBackCharlie and #DarkDynasty (the name of the episode) were flooded with devastated fans. To make matters worse, Robbie Thompson, the writer who created her and had worked on every other episode she appeared in, wasn't told about her death until after it had happened
. Apparently he tried to talk them out of it, and even offered alternatives.
ComicCon rolled around, and a fan asked showrunner Jeremy Carver why Charlie was killed off
. The cast seem delighted by this question, with Mark Sheppard (Crowley’s actor) applauding and Ackles propping his feet up. After a bit of fumbling, Carver eventually says something to the effect of “that’s just where the story took us.” This response was booed.
She … kind of? got revived in a later season, though it’s technically an alternate universe version of her, not the original. Regardless, everyone agreed this was handled terribly and that it’s probably a good thing Destiel isn’t canon, because who knows what they’d come up with. Destiel Becomes Canon
On November 5th, 2020, 15x18 aired, and it broke the internet. Twitter and Tumblr exploded with memes—but not just any memes… Superputinnevada memes. Everyone was on tenterhooks, waiting for the election results from Nevada (and Philadelphia and Georgia, but mostly Nevada) when Destiel dropped. And at the same time, UK tabloid The Sun published rumors that Putin will be resigning in early 2021 due to Parkinson’s
; this news was further spread by US tabloid NY Post
. This unique combination made for a storm of memes—people were discovering both the Putin rumors and the fact that Georgia and Philadelphia flipped blue from the Destiel memes.
But that wasn’t all. Although those three were the main memes, the more you scrolled, the more insane information you discovered was also happening at the same time. There was a famous artist on Twitter, Mo0gs, revealed to be roleplaying as Ted Bundy
; BTS rapper Yoongi underwent surgery for a shoulder problem
; Bolivia’s President-Elect Luis Arce was attacked with dynamite
; Republican David Andahl, who died from COVID-19 the previous October, was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives
; famous comic book writer Grant Morrison came out as non-binary
; Bird Flu arrived in the UK
; System of a Down released a new album for the first time in fifteen years
; rumors of a 5th Sherlock season began circulating
; the Carameldansen girls came out with a new song
; Johnny Depp was fired from Fantastic Beasts
… For the record all of this was also happening on the tenth anniversary of Megamind.
But wait! There’s more! As the memes began accumulating, more and more information about the episode in question began to surface. And as it turned out … Destiel was—not canon.
Okay, so, the Empty is basically Super Hell, but specifically for non-humans such as angels. Inside the Empty is the Cosmic Entity, a being which has been around since before the existence of God and the Darkness; it holds domain over the Empty. Back in season 14, a half-angel character named Jack Kline died. Seeing as Angels are supposed to go the Empty upon death, and Jack is half angel, the Entity invaded Heaven to drag his soul into the Empty. Castiel made a deal with the Empty to take Jack’s place. The Entity accepted, but decided to let Castiel continue living his life until the moment he's truly happy, because Castiel was the one who woke the Entity up, which made the Entity really mad, because all it wanted to do was sleep (long story).
Fast forward to 15x18, Castiel and Dean are being chased by Death. Realizing the Entity is one of the only ways to defeat her, Castiel confesses his love to Dean, which causes him to feel true happiness. As per their agreement, Castiel is immediately dragged into super mega turbo hell for all eternity. Dean looks… well, he looks like a Straight Man receiving a gay confession and does not return the sentiment. It is revealed in the script that Dean thinks of him as a friend
. If you’d like to see this scene in all its glory, here you go
. Even if you’re not interested in watching it, I recommend scrolling down to read the screenshotted replies, because each and every one is pure gold. The episode continues without Dean speaking another word, and ends on a shot of him alone, sobbing with his head in his hands.
Suffice to say that the decision to finally canonize Castiel as a gay man, only to have his feelings be one sided, and then immediately be sent to hell v2, is an … interesting choice. Given the fact that the setup for this was way back in 2018, it also raises the question of just how long they knew this was going to happen. Considering that Supernatural has been going on for almost two decades with rampant queerbaiting the entire time, almost everyone found the entire situation hilarious. So … What Happened Next?
Well, in terms of meta, Ackles and Misha Collins (Castiel’s actor) both nearly died after shooting that scene. The plane they were in (coincidentally owned by Jared Padalecki, Sam’s actor) had an engine explode mid-flight
. In a meet-and-greet, Collins confirmed that Castiel’s confession was romantic
. Ackles said that Dean’s reaction was due to being unable to process it
and that he was glad it was left open for interpretation
In terms of the next episode, a couple of new developments go down. For context, God is one of the few characters, alongside the Entity, that have the power to retrieve people from the Empty. Jack Kline, the half-angel from earlier, becomes the new God (long story); Jack does not revive Castiel despite being devastated by his death. Archangel Lucifer makes a brief return; he has only ever impersonated past lovers in order to trick people, and impersonates Castiel to trick Dean. Dean is understandably crushed when he realizes what happened.
Nevertheless, some continued to hold out hope, especially as in 15x4 the writers themselves said that an ending without Castiel was a bad ending, and that people would be mad if it ended with just the Winchesters.
Onto the final episode.
After a vampire hunt gone wrong, Dean gets stabbed and dies halfway through the episode. Sam gets a call from a sheriff about some bodies that turned up, and sadly and dramatically goes to help him. Dean appears in Heaven. He meets Bobby, who tells him that Jack reformed Heaven with Castiel’s help, and that Sam would “be along shortly” because time in heaven moves differently. Presumably Castiel did this before dying. I don’t know for sure because Dean doesn’t ask. Bobby asks Dean what he’s going to do, Dean says he’s going to go for a drive. He does.
Cue montage of Sam’s life, up to his death. He appears in heaven as Dean gets out of his car on a bridge. Rolls credits. The End. The Legacy
So… where does that leave us? Well, Mo0gs is cancelled, Luis Arce survived unharmed, the North Dakota Gov. appointed Wade Boeshans to the House, Sherlock season 5 is to air in 2022 or 2023, and Superwholock is alive and well on pinterest.
Okay, but really. Buckle your seat belts, folks. Here are two actual, honest to god, non-fandom results of Destiel.
Firstly, we have Destiel to thank for Riverdale’s infamous “I’m weird, I’m a weirdo” episode, as well as the lesbian epic rescue from conversion therapy. You remember the question from the 2013 New Jersey convention that got discussion of sexuality banned? Well, Britta Lundin was apparently inspired to write her YA novel, Ship It, based on this incident. Based on its GoodReads reviews
, this books is, uh … messy. For some godless reason, this novel got her onto the writing team for Riverdale, where she went on to write said episodes (and edit for many others).
In a domino effect, Destiel actually contributed to Georgia flipping blue in the 2020 elections. Yes, really. Let me give you the run down. Generally speaking, the reason why Destiel exploded was because of Wincest. Many people were relieved to have a non-incest ship for the show, and this explosion of interest shot the show back to prominence, bringing in many new fans, among them Stacey Abrams. Georgia was flipped through grassroots activism, particularly by Tamieka Atkins, Helen Bulter, Nsé Ufot, Deborah Scott, and Stacey Abrams. During season 10, Abrams was annoyed by Sam’s choices and lack of communication. This frustration apparently helped form some of her opinions in her campaign
. She runs for governor and narrowly loses. She then spends the next two years advocating for expanding voting access, an effort that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of first time registered voters. Presumably, she celebrates by unwinding with a nice relaxing episode of Destiel-is-canon.
And, of course, fandom is in shambles. Everybody is screaming. Many consider the ending pretty nothing, on top of just keeping Castiel buried. For reference, at the time of writing, to get to a fic wrote prior to November 5th, you have to go back 126 pages on AO3. Perhaps the most well-known of these is a fic in which Castiel is the owner of Four Seasons Total Landscaping and Dean owns the adult shop next door
. There is already a live reading of it up on youtube
Supernatural is a complete mess of a show widely known for burying gays and queerbaiting the pairing of Castiel/Dean, two of its main characters, for nearly two decades. Two episodes from the series finale, it decides to have Castiel confess his love for Dean and immediately die. Sam and Dean both die and go to heaven; Castiel is only briefly mentioned once more, and it's unclear if he remains in super hell. We don't know for sure because Dean didn't ask.
Aside from fandom discourse, Destiel is also indirectly responsible for some of Riverdale’s worst moments, as well as for flipping Georgia blue in the 2020 elections. Fandom is currently burning to the ground.
I personally would like to thank Supernatural for orchestrating a two decade long hate crime, and with that I’m just going to leave off on my four favorite Destiel memes