Why Has Supernatural Lasted So Long? One Word: Fans.

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With Supernatural now into its 15th (and final) season, I find my social media timeline swarmed with memes, GIFs, and posts reflecting on the series, speculating on how the Winchester brothers will save the world from the apocalypse (again), and bidding farewell to the show’s most beloved characters. But seeing all this internet chatter doesn’t necessarily stir up nostalgic feelings for me. Rather, it begs the question how a show about “saving people, hunting things—the family business” managed to last this long.

For those who don’t know, the show is the story of two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who hunt down and fight supernatural bad guys (ghosts, monsters, and even the devil himself). They’ve died and been resurrected more times than anyone can count, they’ve stopped at least a half-dozen apocalypses, and you always know they’ll be at it again next year, because every season finale begins with Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son.”

I’ll be honest, I forgot that Supernatural even existed somewhere around the middle of the series. A few years after the fact, I realized that it was still going strong, but even then, I was dumbfounded it hadn’t been cancelled yet. According to ScreenRant, the show was actually slated to end with its fifth season. The creators had even aptly titled the final episode of that season, “Swan Song.” Without going into too many details, Lucifer (aka Satan) had risen from hell and the Winchesters found a way to send him back. And that was supposed to the end of it. They had defeated the ultimate bad guy! They had stopped the biblical apocalypse!

So why didn’t the show end as planned?

Well, in short, because of the fans. In addition to maintaining fairly consistent TV ratings, Supernatural has a rabid following online. According to Fansided, the show has one of the largest active fandoms on Tumblr. Fans (who call themselves the SPNFamily) have gained notoriety on Tumblr by proving there is a Supernatural GIF for everything. They even have a GIF to say they have GIF:

 

The show has spawned more than 125,000 fanfiction stories (fictional stories written by fans of the show) and been featured at Comic Con ever since the pilot first previewed there in 2005. The series has also created its own set of fan conventions called “Salute to Supernatural,” where the SPNFamily can get a more concerted Supernatural experience. And while this may not be the first fandom to spin off its own convention, it might be the first to be recognized within the show itself.

In Season Five, the Winchester brothers are shocked to discover a “prophet” has written books about their lives and that the books have sparked a cult following with a fan convention. The show also pays tribute to fanfiction in Season Ten when the brothers investigate a “haunting” at a high school where one of the students has written a fanfiction musical based on the books from Season Five.

The SPNFamily has further confirmed their dedication year after year by voting for Supernatural in the People’s Choice Awards (the only awards show where fans get to choose the winners). So far, Supernatural has been nominated for the Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show award ten times (winning four times). It even won the award for Favorite Network TV Drama in 2012, topping competitors such as The Good Wife (which was nominated for seven Emmys that same year, winning one), Grey’s Anatomy, House, and another popular CW drama, The Vampire Diaries. As if that wasn’t enough, the SPNFamily established themselves as the fandom to beat all fandoms by winning the award for Favorite TV Fan Following in 2013.

Supernatural isn’t the first TV show withwildly dedicated fans, of course. In the 1960s, Star Trek arguably mobilized the first rabid TV fanbase. And while their support couldn’t push the original series past its three-season run, their tenacious love for the series eventually helped launch and justify a massive franchise—one that encompasses five spinoff television series (not counting a 1973-74 animated kids’ show) and 13 movies, not to mention books, comics, games and stand-alone conventions. But if anything, fans’ influence on their favorite television shows has only grown.

According to ABC, in 2007, fans of the CBS show Jericho ran a campaign to send the network’s offices millions of peanuts to protest the cancellation of the show. They didn’t get the renewal they were hoping for, but the network did throw them a bone by creating a seven-episode second season to wrap-up the storylines. In 2013, fans of the CW’s Veronica Mars launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2 million in order to create the Veronica Mars movie. They managed to raise $5.7 million—nearly triple their goal. And according to Kickstarter, with over 91 thousand backers, it has the most funders of any Kickstarter project in history.

However, not every fanbase has been as successful. Firefly, the poster child for “cancelled too soon,” was grounded after just 11 of its 14 episodes aired. After fan protests, the show was succeeded by the movie Serenity two years later, but the show never returned to air. Shadowhunters fans attempted to revive their show by firing off more than six million tweets containing the #SaveShadowhunters hashtag, but their efforts were in vain since IndieWire reports that the show was unable to secure the required funds to keep it alive. (Its last episode aired this May.)

Which makes the fans of Supernatural all the more unique. They’ve never had to beg network producers to keep the show going. For the past 15 years, by tuning in to each episode, coming to the conventions, and posting about the show online, the SPNFamily has kept the show alive through sheer force of presence. This commitment has been felt by the creators and kept the show on air. It’s also been felt by the cast, who often post on social media to keep the fans up to date.

But sadly, at least for the fans, the Winchesters are hanging up their flannel and preparing for their true swan song. Although the SPNFamily has managed to keep the show going, it feels like the Winchesters have run out of stories to tell. They beat Lucifer, they beat the archangel Michael, they beat God’s sister (wait for it…), and in this final season, they will likely defeat God himself (yes, this is a show that turns God into a villain). There’s been much speculation as to why the show won’t continue if it still has consistent ratings, but it’s very probable that the cast and crew wants to end the show on their own terms. This way, they can go out with a bang instead of slowly dropping off the radar and eventually getting unceremoniously cancelled mid-season on a cliffhanger.

But in case there was any doubt that a fandom’s presence can keep a show alive, at their final ComicCon appearance earlier this year, Jensen Ackles (who plays Dean Winchester) confirmed it by saying, “Thanks for showing up. Without you [the fans] we wouldn’t be here and it’s an amazing thing to see.”

If you read our review, you’ll see the show has many a wayward moment. But that never stopped the fans from carrying on.

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Tish Soulliard 28 days ago
I've also hear that the head of CW is a huge Supernatural fan himself.  So I'm sure that REALLY helps keep a show on the air. 
The Mouse Of Non 28 days ago
Just a little.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
E Hayes 3 months ago
I've watched probably 7 random Supernatural episodes and read at least a season's worth of episode transcripts that sounded interesting because some of my friends like the show and because I had run into some awesome fanfictions - incidentally written by a Christian - that somewhat sanitized the strange theology of this show.  I think it has stayed on tv because it values brotherhood over materialism and is set in rural America, making it rather unique.  I'd rather watch it than most of the network tv dramas, but maybe I am just saying this because I live in middle America.

  I don't think, though, that I personally could watch the Supernatural show regularly without it damaging my relationship with God.  I am not saying this to say I should be uneducated about other peoples' views of God; I have a fascination in reading about other religions and in apologetics.  The main issue is that I feel the show mocks God and mocks chastity.  And yes, Sam and Dean would be unrealistic without flaws, but they're humans, it's expected that they're flawed.  God is not flawed like us, but this show pretends that He is more flawed than we are, justifying our sin.

The show seems to change from a Deism philosophy in the beginning to basically having an evil god that still claims to be the God of the Bible (if I've read accurate summaries.)  Of course, after watching/reading up on the Supernatural show I started to question if it was really beneficial to read the Left Behind books as a teenager, which, although those books are written with the intention of getting people excited about the return of Jesus, they have so much speculation as well.  A good thing Left Behind did was encourage me to read prophetic books of the Bible as a comparison.  I suppose Supernatural could create a good discussion about heresies, though, so it could be beneficial for more than entertainment.

But then I also loved the Pixar movie Coco, which is also heretical to Christianity but is awesome and also values family over materialism.  At the end of the day, though, I don't feel like watching Coco hurts my relationship with God when perhaps it may be, so perhaps my judgment in this entire thing is flawed.
Isaiah Thacker 3 months ago
Interesting. While I too shy away from works that paint God in a negative light, my reason isn't that I'm afraid they will damage my relationship with Him (I'm honestly not even sure how they'd accomplish such a thing). Rather, I avoid such shows because seeing my God slandered so upsets me to an unhealthy extent.

That's just me, though. I'm not trying to say your reasons are incorrect, or anything like that.
The Mouse Of Non 3 months ago
Never watched Supernatural. Always have wanted to though. (though I do like The Flash and all the other Arrowverse if that says anything.)

Also, super glad one of my favorite sites got some credit!!! Look at you go ScreenRant.com!!!

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
charitysplace 3 months ago
It helps that the CW doesn't demand high ratings; get over 1.5 and they'll keep you until you drop. 

I watched 4 seasons but bowed out when the angels hadn't seen God in... centuries. I liked the show when it was just about hunting things.
Isaiah Thacker 3 months ago
I dropped out around season 3, I think. The bits with main characters selling their souls to demons just got way too spiritually disturbing for me. Hearing about the messed-up theology of the later seasons only served to seal my decision.

I agree about it being a great show when they were just hunting things, though. The wendigo episode in season 1 was one of my favorite.