Supernatural: Just Another Shapeshifter of Shows?
Just after the premier of its 11th season staring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as the famous brother duo Sam and Dean Winchester, the TV show Supernatural has been considered a major success among viewers (and fangirls). It has been argued though, that the show’s content resembles too much similarity to that of previous mythical-surrounding shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries.
Supernatural follows the story of two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who live in a world where every creature you can imagine is real…and dangerous. After their mother is killed by such a creature, “the boys” (as they are commonly referred to) are raised to be “hunters” by their father John Winchester that track down and kill these supernatural beings. The show focuses on the brothers’ journey of slaying monsters, hunting down what killed their mother, and the many problems (and women) they run into on the way. Ultimately told from the brothers’ point of view, a lot of the show is revolved around hunting and tracking, beating up the bad guys and rescuing innocent people. Although not completely run on action, we also see them grow up through the ten seasons, see them fall in and out of love, face impossible odds, and lose more people than they can count. The show takes breaks from the boys cutting off the heads of vampires and stabbing demons to reveal what they do outside of hunting, and how this impacts not only themselves, but also the others around them.
The TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer tells a similar tale to the Winchester’s. Premiering in March of 1997, it stared Sarah Michelle Gellar as a young girl named Buffy, that is said to have come from a long line of women who are “slayers” of vampires. Along with fighting fanged creatures, Buffy also has to deal with the problems and life of being a teenager.
What Supernatural and Buffy share in common is not only that they both have awesome creature-fighting main characters, but they also show that their characters have a life outside of the mythical. While the Winchester’s usually deal with problems that interfere with their brother relationship, Buffy has to watch out for her friends that are swept away in her reality. Something else the two supernatural shows share in common is their ability to balance the horror with humor. As shows filled with strange creatures, they have easily made their audiences cringe more than enough times wether it be from the black-eyed demons or the death of a loved character. But these shows have also been known for the small instances where their characters are able to crack a joke or two. Supernatural’s Dean Winchester for instance, is the type of character that loves to lighten the mood with one of his sarcastic comments (mostly at Sam’s expense). It isn’t uncommon either for the “Scooby Gang” in Buffy to crack a joke about how a character might be dressed while on the hunt for a monster.
Where the shows begin to differ though, is in their style of framing their stories. Buffy tends to set up their seasons, at least in the early seasons, with small fights between Buffy along with her friends and a few minor dangers that ultimately lead up to a final fight between the “boss” of the season. Supernatural is more set up in a non-linear way, where the Winchester’s always seem to be facing a certain problem, but they might not solve it in one season or they might have to face the problem multiple times.
So where Supernatural does seem to take leads from Buffy, is in the importance of showing the character’s lives outside of monster fighting and how the blending of the sarcastic with suspense can make a great TV show.
The Vampire Diaries is another popular supernatural drama that premiered in 2009. Like Buffy it focused on the life of Elena Gilbert a teenage girl who lives in Mystic Falls, and also yet another town where supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves happen to exist.
Of course, Supernatural was already on TV by the time The Vampire Diaries premiered, but the two shows have similar qualities to them. Both also have a large main cast that seems to expand as the seasons go on, and that’s what makes them great. The always changing of characters with the loss and addition of new ones opens up the possibilities for new situations (and villains). But along with the ever-changing of characters, the shows always seem to have this feeling of uncertainty. We never know who might turn bad, or what new enemy the groups might face. This sense of uncertainty for plot twists and what the future for our characters might hold is what keeps us watching the next episode.
The two shows seem to treat this uncertainty differently though, and with different tactics. The Vampire Diaries tends to throw plot twists in the form of who’s dating who, or guess who is actually alive and not dead. Who could forget Elena’s ultimate decision between Stephan and Damon? Or the first time we learn Katherine is actually still alive? The Vampire Diaries likes to pull on the drama of the show, instead of the fast vampire action. Supernatural on the other hand is quite the opposite. While the show does contain drama (Lisa?) it throws its own attention grabbers by doing things like changing the morality of a certain character, or conjuring up a new type of super monster for the Winchester’s to kill. During the last ten seasons Sam and Dean’s morality is constantly changing whether they question it or not, and there always seems to be a bigger challenge than demons around the corner.
It can be said that Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries are actually two sides of the same coin. Both are modern-day shows that give challenge to modern-day problems with a mythical twist. But where they seem to differ is in what aspects of the show they want to emphasize to their audience.
So what makes Supernatural its own unique show you ask?
Is how it seems to take the best aspects of previous supernatural shows like Buffy’s inclusion of a life outside of the supernatural, while also playing into the love of modern drama like The Vampire Diaries. It also connects the characters on the show with the people in its audience in a way that they love. We get to know Sam and Dean on such a personal level within their brotherhood and their relationships with other characters, while also cheering them on as they fight for humanity’s survival.
So while it can be said that Supernatural shares its appealing qualities with other shows, what is known for sure is that there will only ever be one Sam and one Dean Winchester.
What do you think? Leave a comment.