Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Thoughts on Supernatural 7x08 "Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!"

Considering all the hits I've been getting from Supernatural fans looking at my post on the Wedding Crashers male rape scene to compare it to the latest Supernatural episode "Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!" (thanks to whoever started sending that link around, by the way), I thought I'd write a post sharing my feelings on the episode. This is that post. "Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!" is a problematic episode involving obsessed Supernatural fan Becky giving Sam a love potion, and they become a cutesy couple until the potion wears off in the third act... and it's still too cutesy.

A lot of feminists think Supernatural is misogynistic, but I generally don't see it. The main complaint is that female characters are often killed in a way where the camera lingers over their pain and/or to hurt Sam and/or Dean in a women in refrigerators situation. Well, it's a horror story featuring gruesome deaths all around. The focus is on two male characters and everyone keeps dying around them, anyway. They even liquified Castiel (though possibly not for good). That said, there are a few things here and there that annoy me as a feminist, like practically the entire episode of "Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!".

The thing with love spells is that they're the magical equivalent of date rape drugs, so it's a sensitive subject. Love spell plots have to be done with care. There's the potential for a lot of silliness, but there needs to be some adequate seriousness in there too. The Buffy episode 2x16 "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" is an example of a good handling of the love spell plot. There's a lot of zany characters-acting-weird, but the idea of it being wrong to take advantage of people under love spells is enforced, plus a reference to a love spell being like a date rape drug. The movie When in Rome is an example of an extremely poor handling, with sexual harassment turned into a joke, serious parts urging the viewer to feel sympathetic to the lonely stalkers, and 'does he really love me for me' treated as the main dilemma in dating someone under the spell. The Supernatural episode tries for something like Buffy and does have Sam acknowledge it as equivalent to him being roofied, but the episode ends up disturbing for making Becky's stalking into a cutesy joke with shades of When in Rome.

Supernatural, like other horror/comedies, often makes jokes out of things that would otherwise be terrible. The rabbit's foot episode (3x03 "Bad Day at Black Rock") is a good example of this, where people who lose the foot die in extremely implausible ways, and it's just funny seeing the Rube Goldberg/Edward Murphy type of ways the universe conspires to kill them. The actual killing is treated as horrific, the way killing always is. The writers just make the situation around it humorous. This kind of thing could be done with stalkers. Dr. Horrible does this to some extent, where Billy's stalking is funny in an outrageous kind of way, and he's still portrayed as a creepy guy who's entertaining to watch but not really a good person.

The "Time for a Wedding" jokes, however, put us so much in Becky's perspective that we can't grasp that she's doing something horrific. We know it isn't the natural order of things and are compelled to laugh at Sam acting weird, but the distressing nature of the event is ignored. When the wedding situation first occurs, it's played more like "Hey, isn't that weird?" than "Sam's been replaced with a Stepford robot!". Things are just surreal, and it's like watching the beginnings of most dreams in Buffy 4x22 "Restless" without ever reaching the disturbing parts. When the potion wears off the first time, the way Becky slips more in his drink is evocative of slipping someone a date rape drug. If they'd kept a serious tone after this, it could have been okay, but we quickly slide back into cutesy love potion jokes like Sam being touched at Becky's stalkery notebook. When Sam comes out of it the second time, the episode acknowledges it as a crime as Becky ties him to the bed.

"You roofied me," Sam accuses, and I do appreciate the explicit date rape drug comparison akin to Buffy's mention of "the great roofie spirit". The problem is that her victimization of him is still treated as a cute joke. They can joke about something like this and still have it be seriously played with the grim cinematography characteristic of Supernatural. In Buffy 3x11 "Gingerbread", they manage to have the serious situation of bewitched parents about to burn their kids at the stake and simultaneously allow for some tension release when Buffy and Willow's mothers make casual conversation about getting lunch later. Supernatural humor often runs along similar lines, so I don't see why they couldn't just do something like that.

And, yes, it shares similarity to the rape scene in Wedding Crashers. In Wedding Crashers, it's worse because Jeremy's actual victimization is the source of humor. It is acknowledged to be rape, but this isn't deemed important. His discomfort is what's funny, and the fact that his rapist Gloria is hot gives the scene sex appeal for the male audience (i.e. male gaze). Supernatural isn't quite that bad, but it's bad in a different way where the distress is played down, and Becky is disrespected in much the same way as Gloria.

Though Sam calls the potion a roofie, Becky is not portrayed as a wannabe rapist. She's just a disturbed fangirl. Her ability to victimize is played down, and she is disrespected as a character in this regard. She makes a reference to wanting to tie Sam to the bed for other reasons, and this is cast as a throwaway joke referencing her sexual desires as something pertinent to her character but insignificant to the plot of the episode. Haha, Becky is into BDSM. You know who else is into BDSM? Crowley, King o' Hell. Imagine if Crowley made a comment about wanting to have kinky sex with Sam while he's under a love spell. It would automatically be disturbing, to say the least. Crowley is respected as a person with the potential to do harm, unlike Becky. It's the same issue of internalized misogyny that keeps people from seeing a woman as a sexual threat. She is a threat. If she and roofied!Sam were to have "consummated their love", it would have been rape. Despite the mention of the date rape drug, the threat of rape is never apparent in the episode. I imagine if they were to have "consummated their love", the issue would be dealt with the way Stargate SG-1 handled Hathor raping Daniel Jackson:
Jack O'Neill: "Eew."
Even at the end of the episode, when an angry Sam makes Becky sign the annulment form, it's not treated as a serious issue. There's still this cute, quirky atmosphere. Sam gives her advice on waiting for the right guy, and it's implied that the hunter who'd been working with Dean might be this right guy. Now, it is possible for there to be an antagonist who still ends up sympathetic in some ways, but it has to be played right. Becky is cast as having done something wrong, but mostly for upsetting the normal course of the show by taking Sam away from his hunter duties. She crossed a line, but she's still played as a nonthreat. This kind of thing needs to be taken seriously. What she did to Sam and attempted to do to him has to be played as terrible, and the only way that can happen is if she herself is taken seriously the way male villains are.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. I hate how her attempt to drug keep prisner and possiblely(absolutely) rape a person repeatedly was played as harmlessly as if she played a prank him. I couldn't believe it end that way I thought up in till the end credits that she would get punished or at least treated like the potential rapest she is