“Family Don’t End in Blood”: How the TV Show “Supernatural” Strengthened My Faith
Some of you might have heard the name of a show called Supernatural going around. It’s quite well known – it’s been running for ten years and is still going. The main actors have grown up during the time of the show, getting married and having kids (one of the actors meeting his wife on the show). The reason I like this sci-fi drama so much is that it is very different from so many other shows that one can find on the TV nowadays – not only because of the story, but also because of the morality. Morality could be stretching a point here because, of course, like any other modern show, it will have characters or scenes here and there that I do not agree are wholesome (which I will discuss in future articles). However, I am prepared to argue the fact that the show, on a whole, can teach some very good life lessons.
In the first episode, the viewers learn that Sam and Dean Winchester’s mother, Mary (Samantha Smith), was murdered by a demon when the boys are only six months old and four, respectively. Their father, John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), takes a path of revenge and spends his entire life training and searching for the demon who killed his wife. Sam and Dean, on the other hand, take a path of reconciliation and spend their lives searching out similar monsters and spirits who are harming innocent people – “saving people, hunting things, the family business.” As the show goes on, the boys get entangled in major themes and disasters, but the prevailing theme is still saving people, even if it is merely each other. While John comes to a tragic demise due to his desire for revenge, Sam and Dean grow closer in brotherly love.
Priests and other religious are shown in quite a positive light in the show. They are often the ‘experts’ that the Winchester boys go to for advice or details about a crime they witnessed. In the early seasons, one of the closest family friends was a priest, Pastor Jim. Churches are often worked into the scenery of the show (again, more so in earlier seasons). While there are many elements of other religions and customs in the show, Christianity always seems to be the prevailing one. This obviously makes me very happy, a Catholic viewer being pleasantly surprised by a secular show. While Dean (Jensen Ackles) does not believe in God or angels because he’s never seen them in his line of work, the plot of the show starts proving him wrong very early on, leading up to season four, when Dean meets his guardian angel, Castiel (Misha Collins). I’ll talk more about God and the angels of Supernatural in a future part, but let it be suffice to say that Castiel and Dean’s relationship is quite a beautiful one. Seeing this has definitely put me on closer terms with my own guardian angel.
Another frequently occurring instance in the earlier seasons is the presence of evil in the form of demons or spirits. While I believe that a priest can only perform an exorcism, I find it quite satisfying to see that Sam and Dean use rosaries, holy water, and use the actual Catholic words of an exorcism. To check whether a person is possessed, they will say the name of Christ in a modification of the Greek word (Christo). The presence of spirits is also interesting. While I myself believed that games like an Ouija board were a bad thing, I saw it as more silly than harmful. Supernatural made me realize that these things actually work. While the singular use of an Ouija board at the beginning of season two was not shown to be harmful (although other entanglings in the occult are shown to lead to bad ends), I think it is important that it is displayed that meddling in such affairs is not play, but real. Therefore, the conclusion that one can draw is that these things lead to evil rather than to good.
Sin, forgiveness, and purity are other underlying themes of the show. Being human, the brothers often make mistakes. Sometimes, these mistakes lead to Sam and Dean getting so angry that they separate, determined to continue the rest of their lives apart. However, it isn’t very long before they seek each other out and ask for forgiveness. The sins of each brother, however, are not quite forgotten throughout the entire show. In season eight, Sam (Jared Padalecki) decides to undergo a series of tests that will help in the ending of the season’s ‘big bad,’ so to speak. Dwelling upon all the times that he let his brother down, Sam tells Dean:
“Knights of the Round Table. Had all of King Arthur’s knights, and they were all on the quest for the Holy Grail. And I remember looking at this picture of Sir Galahad, and, and, and he was kneeling, and— and light streaming over his face, and— I remember… thinking, uh, I could never go on a quest like that. Because I’m not clean. I mean, I w— I was just a little kid. You think… maybe I knew? … that I’m— wasn’t pure?”
Dean, shocked, denies that his little brother could be at fault, and Sam replies, “It doesn’t matter anymore. Because these trials… they’re purifying me.” In fact, before he finishes the final and most purifying trial, Sam goes into the confessional of an abandoned church to confess his sins, a very Christian scene, in my mind. Similarly, in season ten, when Dean is feeling guilty about his own sins, as well as unsure of where the season’s problem (I use this phrase so as not to spoil anything for future viewers) is going to lead him, he goes to confession. At first, the scene is humorous as the priest soon realizes that Dean has no idea of the structure of a confession, but it soon becomes serious as Dean really pours his heart out to the priest while he attempts to be cryptic, and the priest gives Dean some good advice and sets his soul at peace. Sam prays to God for help in the ongoing season, season eleven. Actually, the way that the season is going so far, I’m pretty sure the presence of God is going to become a major theme, and I hope in a positive way.
The main theme of the show, however, is family. Sam and Dean might risk their lives everyday for the people they save, but they would do anything to save their brother, even if that would mean death, or worse. While John Winchester wasn’t the best father to his children because he was so entangled up in his thirst for revenge, a family friend, Bobby Singer (Jim Beaver), becomes the brother’s adopted father. I am prepared to argue that this man is truly one of the best, if not the best, father characters I have ever seen on television. Following on the theme that “family don’t end in blood” (a quote from Bobby), Sam and Dean make several friends who become very close to the brothers, so close, in fact, that they are referred to as being family.
“Look, next to Sam, you and Bobby are the closest things I have to family — that you are like a brother to me,” Dean tells Castiel, and to Kevin Tran (Osric Chau): “Because you’re family. After all the crap we’ve been through, after all the good that you’ve done… man, if you don’t think that we would die for you… I don’t know what to tell you.” Out of all the lessons that Supernatural has taught me, I really think that the most significant one was how important family really is. The show really helped me see that even though I may not want to spend time with my sibling or I may not agree with what my parents tell me, they will always look for my best interest. I also have learned to trust friends who have almost become family to me, the “family don’t end in blood” becoming one of my favourite quotes.
One element I have not cared about in this show is that as the story progressed, Sam and Dean have become more detached from their goal to save people. They have lied to each other in order to try to save each other, which only led to more and more problems. However, this goal has been brought back in the latest season, Sam asking his brother: “When did we forget how to do this? This kill first, ask questions later? … Hunting things—we’re good at that, sure, we’re great at that, but that’s only half of the bumper sticker, man.” I’m very positive about season eleven as the boys are beginning to realize that their actions have had bad consequences and that there is always a cure, a better solution. The Winchesters are learning that they need to change and return to their roots, a very positive message.
Another thing to keep in mind is the brief instances of inappropriate content – but then, does really any show nowadays not have something of that kind? Any sexual scenes are quite mild, but I skip over them (there were a few in early seasons and I would just open another tab on my computer and waited until the music stopped) – these have also all but disappeared in later seasons of the show. There have been some characters of questionable identity (e.g. homosexuals), but these tend to be minor characters who appear in one episode and never appear again – except for Charlie Bradbury, but her tendencies are not discussed very much (and she’s also a really great character). Minor language also appears in the show – it’s picked up a little in later seasons, but still is quite minor. These things I just tend to ignore as much as I can because they are so minor and I am watching the show for Sam, Dean and Castiel.
Evil characters are another question that has become a little tricky further on in the show. At the beginning, demons were the type of creature that the Winchesters would exorcise first and ask questions later. However, as the show progressed, characters such as Meg and Crowley (the King of Hell) became allies of the Winchesters. The interesting thing is that the Winchesters never fully sided with such characters – it was a case of only siding with the enemy out of necessity. Another important thing to note is that when Meg and Crowley became friendly with the Winchesters, this was a turning point for them, a push to leave behind evil ways (especially with Crowley).
While demons have always been portrayed as unadulterated evil, angels in Supernatural are a different matter. I will leave this matter for another article as I could easily talk about the pros and cons of their characterization for hours, but let it be suffice to say that in exception to a few angelic characters, such as Castiel, the portrayal of angels in this show is problematic. However, I prefer to look on the positive side – even if I do not agree with everything in this show, being able to pick out what is wrong and why it is wrong is just a way of strengthening faith. I also prefer to look at the positive elements – which this show has many.
By Anna Elizabeth