A Family Affair – SPN Family At HousCon
I wrote this post a few days ago and then was too sick to actually post it. In the interim, there’s been some discussion about ‘SPNFamily’ and whether that term is appropriate for us when there sometimes seems like so much infighting. I hate the infighting and love the sense of community – it’s why we wrote Fangasm and why there are entire chapters on wank and the reasons for it in Fandom At The Crossroads. I hate seeing other fans hurting, whether that hurt comes from inside or outside the fandom. I guess, when you get right down to it, I hate seeing people hurting. That’s what I do for a living, after all.
So I understand why some are questioning the term ‘SPNFamily’ – who wants to believe that someone within your family could deliberately hurt you? There are people in any group who try to cope with whatever it is they’re dealing with by attacking others, or are afraid of losing something important to them and are willing to use whatever means they can find to keep that from happening. That sort of anger-based, fear-based behavior is tough to watch and even worse to be on the receiving end of. And it’s not okay. This ‘family’ we’re in is not perfect. Bobby Singer’s warning that family is there to make you miserable isn’t always off the mark. That’s true of every family I’ve ever known, blood or no blood.
At the same time, I don’t want to lose sight of the many powerful and important ways that this gigantic diverse squabbling infuriating supportive creative amazing group of people is a family. I’ve been collecting stories for a new project about how Supernatural and SPN fandom have changed people’s lives. In some cases, saved people’s lives. Fans, cast, crew – we’ve all been changed by our participation in this widespread, dynamic group. I’ve heard stories of fans going out of their way – above and beyond – to help other fans. I’ve seen it and experienced it myself, in big dramatic gestures and in small moments at cons when someone lost their photo op ticket. That feeling of belonging and acceptance that we wrote about in Fangasm is still there, and still has a strong impact on fans who discover the community of fandom. Like all large families, we have our factions and our alliances and our family feuds, and some people get along better and are happier if they just don’t talk to ‘that branch of the family’ anymore. (Of course, you may still see them at Cousin Martha’s big bash of a wedding…or run across them in the comments on a fandom blog…)
I have no doubt that TPTB are ecstatic that we coined the phrase SPNFamily to define ourselves, and they’ve been happy to co-opt it for their own purposes at times, but I remember its beginnings and I think it came from a place of genuine emotion and affection. The actors use the term inclusively, and their affection and appreciation for fandom seems genuine to me as well.
I realize I can’t cling to an unrealistic utopian view of fandom (though I did wear my fannish rose colored glasses for the first few chapters of Fangasm, much to Kathy’s dismay…) But I don’t want to do a 180 and end up at the other extreme, dismissing the positive things about fandom — and SPN Fandom in particular — and its potential to be a force for good and for individual change. To me, it still feels like family.
Feel free to skip Cousin Martha’s wedding , though – find the way in which the community works for you!
Anyway, that was a long-winded introduction to this post about HousCon that was all about family.
It’s always fun when the boys come to Texas, Jared and Jensen’s home state. Their families sometimes come by the con and everyone seems a little bit more laid back. I swear Misha starts to speak with a bit of a Texas twang too.
My son and his girlfriend joined me at the convention, which was a rather momentous occasion. When I introduced him to Jensen and Jared, I think he said something along the lines of “Oh, so you’re the guys my mom has been writing about ever since I can remember!” I think J2 had a moment of “uh oh” before he shook their hands.
Jared smiled and said “Your family is here and so is ours,” which made me inexplicably choked up. I always feel like I’m immersed in the SPN Family at cons, and having my own there, and Jared and Jensen’s too, was unexpectedly emotional. Mrs. Ackles said hello with “oh yes, the books, and your last name starts with a Z, right?” thereby impressing me greatly with her memory. I have trouble remembering my students’ names after three weeks of classes! No wonder Jensen can memorize pages of dialogue so easily – it clearly runs in the family. She introduced me to Jared’s mom and dad, who are every bit as warm and lovely as their son.
The weekend was a blur of fangirl time and family time and me smiling so much it was eventually painful. Selling the books is always crazy hectic as I try to run back and forth between the vendor’s room and the ballroom to live tweet, but it’s always wonderful because I get to meet people who have read Fangasm and Fan Phenomena and are kind enough to tell me their thoughts. I love hearing that someone read Fangasm and realized “OMG it’s not just me!” or that someone loved the essay in Fan Phenomena about making fanvids or the show’s cinematography (or Misha Collins’ sense of humor). I also got to have some delicious seafood at Cap’n Benny’s with family, and some delicious late night breakfast at Cracker Barrel with a great group of fangirls. Grits, gravy and good conversation!
Btw, this post is photo heavy – many from Houston and a few from the previous con in San Fran that I never got a chance to post. But hey, they’re pretty.
And then there was the con itself. There are always too many highlights to list (so go watch the con vids fandom always shares), but one of my favorite things was fans thronging to the stage to bring feminine hygiene products to Misha. You might think this is just an example of Mr. Collins being…well, Mr. Collins…but in fact, it was to meet a real need for those supplies, and they were all donated to organizations that will distribute them appropriately. In the meantime, it was just plain fun. Especially when Misha invited two young fangirls onstage and they constructed an architectural wonder out of them – and decorated Misha with the bows some fans had put on their gift packages. As if he wasn’t already adorable enough!
Misha also turned the tables, as he is so apt to do, by starting his Q & A at the back of the (very long) line, and borrowing a fan’s camera to take some photos.
I’m still very enamored of Misha’s jacket at the San Fran con, so here are a few more shots of that one. Actually I was enamored of that entire outfit. Damn, looking good, Mr. Collins.
Kim Rhodes gave us one of the most emotional moments of the con, when a fan stepped up the mike to tell her how much Kim has been an inspiration, and Kim struggled to allow herself to take in the positive message. She shared a bit about her own struggle and her six months sobriety, and we all shared some tears. To someone reading this from outside the fandom, I can imagine you might think this isn’t genuine, or that it’s somehow cheesy, but as implausible as this might be, it’s not. Far from it.
Gil McKinney made hearts melt every time he sang, and shared that the confidence he’s gained from the support of SPN fans has made him determined to give New York theater a try. He also confided that he thinks that Henry did have a crush on Josie. Who wouldn’t?
And this is his imitation of the screen shot that Jared showed him one day in the middle of shooting. Sam turned his laptop around to show Henry something case related, and there was a “very large very naked man.” Extra points for creative use of the microphone to illustrate.
Colin Ford turned 18 and still looks so much like a young Sam Winchester, it’s striking. He’s also a bona fide Supernatural fan, and kept the theme of SPNFamily going by telling us he still stays in touch with his SPN costars who played Dean to his Sam.
Mark Sheppard took the stage to eat a steak dinner, looked mighty dapper in a long coat, and had a long conversation with Rob Benedict about his kiss with Jim Beaver practically standing on top of me. Not complaining.
Mark Pellegrino brought a fan onstage, who promptly informed him that she wasn’t allowed to talk to strangers. “Oh, but chatting with Lucifer, that’s okay?” he retorted. Also he came onstage to “Big Balls”. I cornered him later and shamelessly begged him to come back to do some of that – or even better, some more Rocky Horror – at karaoke or the Saturday Night Special. Fingers crossed.
Tahmoh Penikett answered thoughtful questions about the many genre roles he’s performed – in fact, one question was so thoughtful he joked that he needed to do some research. Mmm. The thought of that is pretty hot actually.
Sebastian Roche spent part of his panel dancing on chairs to his signature con song, “Get Lucky” and I think answered exactly one actual question.
Richard Speight kept the entire con running the way he always does (mostly smoothly, but when things don’t go smoothly, his improv is almost more fun! We even got a few verses of the classic con song “Where’s Misha” this time). He and Matt Cohen hosted a karaoke party that was so much fun I managed to stay up for most of it, and Rob Benedict and Louden Swain kept everyone in a good mood as house band. Much more about that in my next post!
Jared and Jensen were their usual entertaining selves. Jensen can distract me just by the way he stands. I can’t even explain it, it’s just…. distracting!
Jared has the best boyish smile, and he was playful as always at Houscon.
And at San Fran con, which I never posted very many photos of, so I’m putting a few in here.
When he isn’t being adorable, Jared is equally distracting.
I loved Jensen’s re-telling of the ‘Flying Fangirl’ story – it’s like a running joke through Fangasm, as we hear the dramatic tale in whisper down the lane fashion from fans who were there, guests who were there, and finally Jensen himself. This time he even acted it out while Jared sort of shook his head in disbelief that it actually happened.
The boys also acted out a slow motion fight scene, showing how they make those thrown punches and falls look so real. I was sort of amazed at how close they come to actually hitting or kicking each other, and how they can instantly move their bodies in such a way that you’re just sure there was impact. No rehearsal, they just popped into it like it was nothing. I guess that’s what a decade of acting together does for you!
Play fighting seemed to be a theme of the day…
The Saturday Night Special is always a highlight for me, but I’ll do a separate post about that because I took so many pictures. And miracle of miracles, some of them came out okay! (I borrowed my sister’s camera. Clearly she knows how to buy them better than I do).
I also got to go to Jensen’s meet and greet, so I’ll share a few tidbits from what is my previously established inferior memory. Thus, tidbits.
A fan kicked off the meet and greet by saying that the scene in the previous week’s episode where Dean was so scary actually seemed like Jensen had personally transformed himself into someone else to be that frightening.
Jensen: [with a dangerous grin that was disturbingly hot] Uh oh, she’s on to me…
He went on to talk about that scene where Dean questions (and threatens) a tied up Metatron that left most of us shivering.
Jensen: That was all shot in one day with Curtis Armstrong. When I’m working with someone who is giving me so much, such a talented professional, it enables a playing field. You develop a relationship with the other actor, and that allows you to play and find the nuances. Curtis is so good, so professional, and I trust him.
Jensen said that Dean felt so dark in that scene, that it almost seemed like demonic Dean was back.
(Not necessarily a bad thing, since most of us – including Jensen – think we could have used a few more episodes of Demon!Dean)
Jensen went on to say that it was hard because Curtis is such a nice guy.
Jensen: I went from Dean wanting to peel his skin off. Then they untie him and he gets up and hugs you!
I was bouncing on my seat after he gave that answer, because it was so similar to what Curtis Armstrong had said when we interviewed him.
Me: What you just said about working with Curtis, and how filming it all in one day impacts the work – that’s exactly what Curtis said when we talked to him! He talked about how great it was to work with you and to be able to let the scene unfold.
Jensen: (smiling that ridiculously adorable smile) That’s how it is when I work with Jared too. And because it was shot consecutively and not spread out, you can stay in it and then let it go whenever they’re done and not have to find it again the next day.
Me: I know Serge Ladouceur is going to be directing again soon. What’s it like working with him as a director – what does he bring to the table as the director of photography?
Jensen gave a long and articulate answer that I unfortunately don’t remember the details of, possibly because he was looking at me the entire time and damn, I guess I’ll never be completely calm when that happens. I do remember what he said first though.
Jensen: Well, we know it will be beautiful. And that the composition will be incredible.
He talked about the spirit of collaboration on the Supernatural set, and how that means that when Serge directs, he can lean on Jensen and Jared for advice about the acting side; when Jensen directs, he can lean on Serge for advice about the lighting and composition. There are no egos on that set, he said.
Jensen: We feel okay to lean on each other. That was something that Kim Manners began, and it’s continued to this day. Many of us have directed – me, Misha, Serge, Jerry, Johnny – and after you direct, you don’t get a big head about it, you go back to being who you are on the show. When I directed, I leaned on Serge. It’s like Kim Manners said, if you have egos, we don’t have time for you.
He eventually started listing all the different things you have to pay attention to when you direct – the million and one things you’re responsible for….
Me: OMG, stop, I’m stressed just hearing about all of that!
But seriously, I don’t think I could ever be a director. I’ve watched other people do it, and it makes me nervous just thinking about having all that responsibility on my shoulders. I feel certain I’d let a hundred balls drop. Possibly more.
Another question was one that would only seem unremarkable to Supernatural fans. Does Jensen prefer dying or having to act opposite someone who has died, as in that unforgettable scene when Dean talks to his dead brother in AHBL? Jensen said that he prefers being the one who dies – that it can be physically tougher, but emotionally easier. For example, he said, when Dean was dying after being stabbed by Metatron, he was trying to joke his way through it until he finally gets emotional near the end of the scene, grabbing Sam by the shirt and managing to say “I’m proud of us.”
He said again that there was originally more dialogue there, but that he felt it took away from the emotionality of the scene.
The fan next to me then put words to something I admit has crossed my mind more than once since last season: “We’re broment starved.”
Jensen: Broment starved? For the BM moments?
(I love that he uses that term, immortalized in the 200th episode)
Fan: Yes. Are you guys turning into John Winchester?
Jensen said that he thought we got a little of the sentimental stuff in the scene where the brothers are sitting by the lake, but we all agreed that got cut short and Dean deflected anything overtly emotional pretty quickly. I can’t totally disagree with Jensen that the writers don’t want the boys to get all mushy, since the Winchesters have always been men of few words, and ‘No chick flick moments’ has been Dean’s mantra since the beginning. On the other hand, if Sam and Dean don’t hug soon I’m gonna lose it! We’re all still hurting from Season 9’s fighting, after all.
Jensen said that the emotion, however, is there. I think what he said was, “we talk but we don’t always speak.”
Jensen: It’s spoken in unspoken words, an unspoken conversation that goes on continuously with them – it’s a slap on the back, a hug around the neck, there’s emotion behind those little moments. He [Jared] and I understand that. He and I are practically brothers in real life, so we’ve had to develop a relationship that is honestly very similar to Sam and Dean. Life imitates art and vice versa.
Me: (suddenly wishing I had tissues…)
Jensen: The writers let us do that between the lines. We may not verbalize it, but we try to emote it. The writers might write a brother moment though, they’re not above that and we’re not either.
That was so well said that it relieved my desperate need for a hug (a little…), and made me feel better about reading lots of brotherly affection in all those little gestures. It’s the way Sam touches Dean on the shoulder to reassure him; it’s the way Jared and Jensen do the same. It’s full of meaning, even if it’s unsaid.
There are always many examples of the way Jared and Jensen use those small gestures of reassurance at cons. Here are just a few…
One of the last questions was what are Dean Winchester’s greatest strength and weakness?
Jensen said it’s the same thing: family. Dean derives inner strength from family – it defines so much of who he is and what he is.
So true. And it defines so much of what’s special about the SPN Family, no matter how much we might squabble. We all draw strength and inspiration from each other – I see it every single day on every social media platform out there, and at every convention I’ve ever been to. It’s why we wanted to write Fangasm, so we could tell the positive story of fandom (and especially Supernatural fandom) that nobody talks about. I love hearing Jensen say that’s what it’s all about for Dean too.
And for the rest of the SPNFamily. It’s the little things, like Jensen wearing a Random Acts tee shirt at SFCon. They support each other – we should too.
Is it Tuesday yet??
You can read more about Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls
and Fan Phenomena Supernatural at the links at the top
of this page!