"Supernatural," a CW-network TV series now in its eighth season, is a bit of brilliant, fun escapism.
Right up my all-things-Comic-Con-loving alley, the show centers around two twentysomething brothers, Dean and Sam Winchester (perfectly played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Paladecki), as they battle the forces of evil (demons, ghosts, vampires, shape shifters, zombies), with a surprising amount of Biblical references thrown in (including angels as main characters and an entire story line about the Apocalypse). Featuring an amazing classic-rock soundtrack and a black 1967 Chevy Impala, many were hooked on the show since episode one.
But during a recent DVD marathon of this otherwise fantastic show, this writer noted routine, vicious stabs at the Right.
Conservatives have become desensitized, numb even, to their politics and figureheads routinely attacked on TV: e.g., when a savvy viewer noticed it was President George W. Bush’s head impaled on a stick in a "Game of Thrones" episode, was anyone really surprised? This is, after all, HBO.
Nonetheless, it seems certain networks, the modestly-budgeted but wildly successful CW included, make a conscious effort to avoid injecting their shows with political commentary. Think again.
Let’s take a look at some of Supernatural’s attacks:
Season 3 (2007) episode: The following exchange takes place between Dean and Casey, a demon:
Casey: So you see? Is my kind really all that different from yours?
Dean: Well, except that demons are evil.
Casey: And humans are such a lovable bunch? DICK CHENEY.
Dean: He one of yours?
Casey: Not yet. But let’s just say he’s got a parking lot for him reserved downstairs.
Season 4 (2009) episode: Sam points out their anything-but-routine lives, noting he and Dean are “not exactly Joe the Plumber” to which Dean agrees, wryly adding “Joe the Plumber was a douche.” Surely, Sam meant to say "we’re not the average Joe" but the writers won’t let using adages correctly stand in the way of inserting an attack on Joe the Plumber (Joe Wurzelbacher).
Season 5 (2009) episode: Time for a Sarah Palin attack! Sam and Dean glimpse a peek of the post-apocalyptic future. The devil is in charge, a zombie-like virus is wiping out most of the population, and a newspaper confirms Dean’s horror: President Palin … with a headline noting she has bombed an entire city.
Season 6 (2011) episode: Cheney was the recipient of yet another slight when demon and "king" of hell, Crowley boasts that someone whose soul he recently bought is the, “Best purchase I’ve made since Dick Cheney.”
On TV Fanatic, a popular website featuring TV show news and reviews, one exasperated reader posted this comment: “Again with the Dick Cheney cracks. I have a feeling that, of the show’s audience who even care one way or another about Cheney, the crack offended more people than it amused.”
Season 7 (2011) episode: A female Congresswoman running for re-election rails against the "godless policies of my opponents." Her name? “Michelle Walker,” clearly, a reference to GOP standouts Michele Bachmann and Scott Walker. (This is in line with the show’s routine, humorous use of real-life figures for Sam and Dean’s aliases – except the aliases are almost always limited to rock legends, e.g., one of Sam’s fake credit cards lists him as Jimmy Paige or, this writer’s personal favorite, Dean’s use of “Nigel Tufnel” as an alias). The kicker? The "new" God, who is on a mission cleaning the Earth of hypocrites and evil-doers, arrives at “Michelle Walker’s” campaign office, smiting her and her entire campaign staff. Lovely.
But are there similar shots at liberals? Of course not. The only one this writer came across is a benign Al Gore reference. When a demon named Ruby possesses a body, she makes sure it is that of a woman who was already dead, to assuage Sam’s conscience about working with her. Showing up at Sam’s motel, Ruby tells Sam the body is recycled and quips: “Al Gore would be pleased.” Yawn.
So why is this important? As most conservatives come to realize the culture war’s stakes, the power and influence of Hollywood, and the need to gain the youth vote, it is imperative to keep an eye out for references like these. To someone already firm in conservative principles, remarks of this kind will only illicit an eye-roll and a sigh.
But to the impressionable, easily influenced Generation X or Y viewer, the target-audience of the CW network and this show, comments like these slowly but surely affect a person’s – and a voter’s – perception of whether conservatives are indeed OK or, rather, just a tad better than a demon. Letter-writing campaigns to networks, Tweeting and raising overall awareness are small efforts but key, crucial ways conservatives can begin to win the culture war -- or at least show up for duty.
Hey, it’s what Sam and Dean would do.