In light of the negative reactions to last week’s Supernatural episode, Rock and a Hard Place, we have elected to forgo our normal review style, and have asked three of our female writers of varying lifestyles for their perspectives on the episode. We hope this will encourage some positive discussion about this issue. -Ed.
Stacey, single, unattached woman in her mid-30’s
I really liked this week’s episode of Supernatural. REALLY liked it. I’ve felt the whole season has harkened back to early days and writer Jenny Klein gave us Dean of old, sex-obsessed and cheeky. We had a healthy dose of the brothers enjoying each other’s company, even laughing together on several occasions. An ancient god was the protagonist, affording us the opportunity to see some great visual effects. We had a slew of strong female characters and the return of the much-loved Sheriff Mills; it was a well-rounded and highly enjoyable episode. So it was surprising to me that after it aired there appeared to be a contingent of viewers who found the subject matter and storyline to be offensive.
Let me start by explaining how I saw the scene that some took issue with. Dean saw Suzy and immediately realized he knew her somehow. He couldn’t remember where he had seen her but it elicited a strong sexual response on his part. He decided to make it his mission to seduce her, in his inimitable Dean Winchester way. Even as Sam pointed out she was the chastity counsellor, his mind was made up, which I would assume was because the idea of committing to celibacy is beyond his understanding. On arrival at her apartment he set his plan in motion to have his way, but the minute he saw she was upset and really didn’t have the same intention as him, he respected that and comforted her in the best way he could. On discovering her true identity he had a fanboy moment and felt a need to tell her that while he was in his darkest moments, her work was a shining light for him. He threw line after line at her but when she started to respond his surprise was palpable. He almost seemed nervous and in the end it was Suzy who seduced him. She obviously regretted her life choices. Not knowing how she got into the porn industry it’s hard to say where those choices originated, but she seemed to not be able to find a balance between extremes. Maybe her time with Dean gave her the opportunity to find that balance, who knows?
I am a single woman who likes men. Women everywhere are fighting an ongoing battle started several generations ago to attain an equality that at times seems out of reach and I am as passionate as anyone to uphold that fight. I am a person and I also happen to be female and that should have no bearing on what opportunities I am given or how I am treated by others. The world, sadly, doesn’t always work that way, although I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by males in my life who have respected me thoroughly. I like to wear low-cut shirts because it makes me feel good. I want to be able to dress how I want and be respected for my choices, not judged by them and surely that is more empowering than encouraging me to cover up? My issue with the uproar about the content of this Supernatural episode is how much power it is taking from women everywhere. Women are sexual and arguing that Dean took away Suzy’s choices suggests she was too weak to spurn his advances. While maybe her decision to leave her career caused her to go to the opposite extreme, denying her the right to enjoy sex goes against everything feminists want to fight for. Her strength was in her ability to make that choice and that’s a strength every woman should be proud to display.
There is a terrifying trend in recent years that has been labelled the rape culture; it’s very real and very scary and there is no denying that we need to address it. However, we also need to remove sex from the equation. Rape is not about sex, far from it. Rape is about domination and violence. If we, as women, preach abstinence and chastity as a way to protect ourselves from these horrible attacks we are giving the power to the perpetrators of the crime. By taking away our sexuality, our empowerment is being denied. If women embrace our sexual nature the balance of power is restored.
Mieke, married, mother of 3 boys, in their teens and early 20’s
I will start by saying that I quite enjoyed last Tuesday’s episode of Supernatural, appropriately and suggestively titled, Rock and a Hard Place.
I loved the return of bad-ass Jodi Mills, the early SPN throwback feel, Dean’s speech at the chastity meeting, the amazing bro-moments and yes, I liked Dean’s sexual encounter and what it stood for. The latter is what the hullabaloo and hand wringing online seems to be about. Don’t get me wrong; I had issues with parts of this episode. Some of the characters were over-simplified stereotypes and resolution of their stories was lacking or inconsistent at best. Some of Dean’s behavior felt out of character to me, but perhaps not where you would expect.
I am choosing to put aside the complaints from fans that did not like Dean’s encounter with Suzy because they saw it as another iceberg looming to sink their ship; that’s for another article. Instead I would like to speak to the complaints that I saw on social media and in some reviews that accuse Dean, and the writer and show through him, of being a coercive predator who set out to dismiss Suzie’s life choices in order to get into her pants.
I take issue with this notion because in my opinion that view robs Suzy of all agency. The idea that Suzy does not come to her decisions regarding her sexual life on her own volition is much more troubling to me than Dean’s behavior. Too often women are seen as strong moral people only if they do not have a sexual identity. Jodi Mills is rightfully described in every review as a strong female character, yet Suzy is only referred to in relation to Dean and is automatically seen as a victim because she dares to have sex. Look at the shaming that goes on in the chastity club, or the fact that born-again virginity is even a thing. Suzy reacts to Dean’s discovery of her previous life by stating that she keeps it hidden because people wouldn’t understand, that it was a shameful part of her past. And here Dean does something completely liberating and affirming: he lets her know, with no agenda other than expressing his fanboy admiration, that he saw her as “the good dream” in that past life. In his context of true horror, she was a bright light. He not only accepts her for who she is, he admires her for it. Suzy’s decision to have sex with Dean (much to his surprise and delight) can easily be seen as her reclaiming her sexuality. It has validity equally as much as her decision to leave the sex industry.
I find it curious and troubling that critics dismiss her power so easily, yet see nothing wrong with labeling Dean a predator in this situation. I feel he was perfectly in character in this episode except when he saw that Suzy was in tears, grieving her missing friends. The Dean that I think I know would have acted with more sympathy and caring, although the fact that he actually sat down to pray with her was quite something, considering what he knows about prayer, heaven, god and angels.
As the mother of three boys, in their teens and early twenties, I sometimes fear this mindset. This world with its ever-present social media and complicated sexual identities is hard enough to navigate without adding these preconceived notions. Often women are seen as worthwhile individuals as long as they are not openly sexual and often men are seen as trustworthy only if they are not. I am old enough to remember and have participated in the early radical days of the fight for women’s rights. I have passed on that history to my boys and I hope that I have taught them to always see women as people, in every sense of the word. I truly believe that for their sake and the sake of the women in their lives, it is essential that we, as women, reclaim our sexuality and our choices and not let others shame us when we do.
Jennifer, cohabitating, mid-30’s mother of an infant daughter
I enjoyed the episode. I thought Jenny Klein did a wonderful job of bringing lascivious Dean back from the dead, and I laughed a lot at his antics – as we all have for years. Classic Dean, the way he was written for years before we got into some (what I think were) pretty heavy and semi-humorless seasons.
I always talk about characters being written (note: written = fictional) the way they are supposed to be written. Dean has always been the quintessential ladies’ man, or so he thinks, and Sam has always been the bookish one (bookish = smart – it’s a compliment). That Dean would hit on a woman is not a surprise to anyone – that he would sign a vow of chastity is what surprised me. And that he would go even further to hit on a woman he knows to be a former porn star (her movies, in fact, he seems to be very familiar with), well…the fans would have been in an uproar about clueless writers if he had walked away from her.
Some are upset because, as I understand it, they believe the episode demeans women and that it shows blatant disregard for a woman’s choices and downplays the struggles of female porn stars to direct their lives into a more mainstream lifestyle. I’m paraphrasing, but that is the gist of the ire that has taken up my Twitter timeline for three days. The feeling is that Dean had no right to hit on a woman who was trying to get her life back together and had no qualms in disregarding her choices.
I am a woman. I don’t know about you ladies, but I prefer to own the decisions I make instead of pass them off on someone else who ‘manipulated’ me into doing something. It makes me angry to think that in this day and age we have yet to realize that in order to “take the power back” we need to actually own it. The idea that men can manipulate a woman into doing something that is against her fundamental beliefs only furthers the idea that women are the ‘weaker sex’ and incapable of making sound decisions.
I am not arguing that men do not ever coerce women into doing things; lord knows I was once a horny teenager, but I own those decisions too. Whether or not I regretted it after is moot, because I was the one who chose to do anything I may have done. Regret is something that comes from having made a bad choice, but even a bad choice is one that I made.
To have the idea that a person only did something because another person ‘talked them into it’ accomplishes two very detrimental things to the person being ‘coerced’: 1.) it removes all thought of taking responsibility for their own actions; and 2.) teaches them not to trust their own decision-making abilities. And before we go off about peer pressure – that is a whole other ball of wax; being a growing human can really suck, and peer pressure is a very real thing, but we are talking about fictional adults here.
I have a seven-month-old daughter. I intend to teach her about taking responsibility for her own actions, answering to herself regarding her judgement, and to know that she, above anyone – me included – makes the choices about her body and her heart. No, I don’t expect that those lessons will always be in her head when there is a boy telling her how pretty she is – but I hope that she will have the strength to know that whatever she chooses to do is her choice and her choice alone.