Supernatural? Yeah. You know, the one where female characters go to die?
Okay, everyone knows that Supernatural has stirred up a lot of talk about gender roles, biases, and plain ol’ woman-hating, and often one of the central arguments to this is: but they keep killing off the women!
Some people agree, some don’t, but when ash48
went in search of some solid facts, as cold and hard as anything in the Impala’s trunk, she came up with zilch. Nada. Squat. That’s when she and bythedamned
teamed up to log the hours, tally the numbers and settle, if not years of debate, then at least their own curiosities.
First off, disclaimers:
1) We did this for fun, guys, not to offend or undermine anyone who has a personal interest in the treatment of genders on Supernatural.
2) This is a post about who survives and who dies a horrible, bloody, memorable death on Supernatural. If you’re not done with Season 6, please don’t let us spoil the fun for you, and stop reading now.
3) Holy crap this was hard! Seriously! Do you have any idea how many people die, and then come back, but possibly not for real/in a different body/only temporarily, only to die again? Okay, yes, yes you do. And since we had to draw some lines in the sand just to get this done at all, here are the guidelines we followed:
a). We only counted true deaths. People and entities who were gone for good once they were killed, not resurrected, or just stuck hanging out in Heaven or Hell for a while. This means that the deaths of Cas, Bobby, Crowley, and (most importantly) Sam and Dean were not counted. That’s right. Cold Oaks? Mystery Spot? Every time Cas’s head exploded? None of them counted, ‘cause we all knew they were coming back. The one exception: Grandpa Samuel. His 1979 death and his 2011 were separate, legitimate events, and were both counted.
b). Only people who died in the episodes made the list. That means when the boys intimidate a two-sentence-Sheriff into telling them that 3 people have died in this county alone, if we only saw 1 of them bite it, only 1 was counted.
c). Children are included in the counts, by gender.
d). Demon and angel vessels were counted, too, and boy did they go through those like cheap toilet paper. That means that Meg’s death was counted in season 1, when she was seen to die in Devil's Trap.
e). We’ve also got a separate tally for people who died in the pre-title shot sequences, ‘cause we all know that’s just a warm up anyway.
f). We didn’t count the monsters of the week deaths, because they were (generally) supposed to die. We do have a tally of their genders, though.
Yeah. Rules, rules rules. They seemed like the only way to do this fairly. But now, onto the good stuff.
So, did the show kill way more women than men? Not really, no.
Okay, but it’s still a few more women, right? Actually… still no.
In every single season, there were notably (overwhelmingly) more men killed. The number of women killed was never more than 2/3 that of the men, and usually more like 1/2. In the entire show, all seasons combined, there were 178 men and 86 women killed.
And you can see that this dynamic held true for every season, so when we talk about blanket statistics, it applies to the whole run of the show. There was a bit more variability in the pre-title openers, especially when in s4 they up and blasted 8 nuns in the name of Lucifer, but the overall trend still holds.
What’s interesting is that if you look at the survival rate – not just people who ambled by a demon and, by some grace, were left with their ribcages intact, but people Sam, Dean and Co. actually saved – there were actually around 60% more females.
So really, instead of running around with their violent misogyny unchecked, it actually seems like Supernatural’s guilty of the same stereotypical pitfall that lots of shows are. The women are more likely to be rescued than be the rescuer, and more of them make it out alive, because who wants to see pretty girly guts all over the ceiling fan? This is something else the show gets a lot of flak for, but it does pass the Bechdel test
at least some of the time, which gives it a leg up over many other shows in terms of political correctness. Go Show!
But this raises the question: Why, why, why
, does it seem like they’re offing women left and right? Especially if the stats so blatantly state the opposite?
Well, (and beware, personal opinion ahead) if you take a look at the notable deaths, the numbers are actually perfectly equal but if you look at the short list of the most
important people in the boys’ lives, who’ve been as close to the Winchester inner circle as anyone ever gets, you’ve got: John and Mary, Jess, their surrogate parental figures Bobby and Ellen, and Jo. Mary and Jess were gone in the pilot, the catalysts for their devotion to their entire lifestyle, and John was gone by the start of Season 2. That’s their whole family, and the woman we know Sam wanted to make family, had she survived long enough to slip that shiny little ring on her finger. Bam, bam, bam, all gone. Two women, one man.
Then Bobby and Ellen stepped in where John and Mary no longer could, and Jo became part of the package by virtue of being Ellen’s daughter and, for you shippers out there, the only viable love interest Dean really had. Another two women + one man, but this time the guy survived, leaving the death tally of most notable losses to 4 women : 1 man. That alone might be an answer, but it’s not the only one.
After that, the show really failed to bring in new female characters that were as important to the boys. The only women really worth remembering that were introduced after s2 are the Big Bads of seasons 4 and 6, Lilith and Eve, and two once-allies(ish)-turned-enemies, Ruby and Anna. Oh, plus the other love-to-hate-her girl of the hour, Bela, and then Pamela. All strong women, all dead. But it’s important to remember: Ruby and Anna both shared beds (cough, ahem, backseats) with the boys, making them each another woman that got close and then bit the dust.
And that seems to be the trend. It’s not quite horror-movie-logic where anyone who sleeps with a Winchester dies, but it’s those pesky feelings that seem to do them in. If you sleep with a brother because you care
? That’s your death warrant, don’t let the reaper’s scythe nick you on the way out. Honestly, Madison, anyone? All Pamela did was invite them to bed and she only made 3 more appearances before dying in a pool of her own blood. And Bela, well, she was doing fine until Sam had to go dream about her naked. Then we got the lacey-bra shot of an unsigned contract renewal and there she went. </a>
But Missouri? Who’d smack their knuckles with a spoon soon as they thought about snacking before dinner? Yup, still a healthy, breathing resident of Lawrence, Kansas.
It’s not that all sexualized women are goners – there are exceptions, of course, because what is Supernatural if not a series of special circumstances? Cassie was allowed to live long enough to show Dean the door and Lisa, who has lasted an entirely unprecedented 3 post-coital years (or should we call that 11?) may now finally be in the clear.
…Yeah, okay, probably not. But we’ll see what s7 has to offer.
That all leads to another round of ‘why’s and, really, that answer might lie with us. Who’s really going to be good enough for our boys? Jensen, Jared and Misha all pretty much agree
that the fans aren’t very tolerant of female characters, and we all know what happens to unpopular characters, don’t we? Yup – the axe.
Sure, there are Jo/Dean shippers, and there’s plenty of Sam/Jess fic to go around, but what really dominates the fandom is either illegal or giving the finger to so many taboos (a gay angel? I’d like to see Sera try to pitch that one) that it’s never going to see the light of a CW Friday night spot. No matter how supportive the fandom may be, those aren't directions the canon will ever go.
Now, not only did Bobby dodge the bullet of lethal unpopularity, but so did Cas, making them the two most important non-family (but basically family) characters that survived, and they’re both male.
We’ve bid farewell to plenty of other notable men; Ash, Gordon, Uriel, Zachariah, Gabriel – good or bad, they played their part and were killed. Rufus was gone as soon as he started to seem significant. Poor Adam Mulligan was only important posthumously, and Grandpa Samuel had just enough time to change the definition of family before he was killed, for real, again. And these guys were important, they mattered, they were hinges in crucial plotlines, but they never got as close
as the women did. And maybe, just maybe, we didn’t care as much.
But if the numbers tell us anything it’s that, across the board, there are more men on this set than women. More men die, and so many more that it doesn’t even make up for how many more women survive. The MOTWs are also more likely to be male than female, or even than of indeterminate gender like shifters or un-gendered evils, like curse-driven swarms of bugs. So six men, in the scheme of things, don’t really make a blip in the gender ratio we see. Six women, on the other hand? The show’s become a sausage fest.
Okay, so that was a few cold, hard numbers (the weapons trunk would be proud) and a lot of speculation that is by no means representative of anyone affiliated with the show Supernatural or the CW. If you want to take a look at the stats and decide for yourself, go ahead:
Again, this was just for a little self-indulgent fun. You can ping ash48
if you’ve really got a beef with this, or if something looks off. We're open to discussion of course, but remember this was done for fun.
And massive thanks to el1ie
, for her artistic talent and fantastic ideas. We couldn’t have done it without you! <33
Other than that, hope you guys enjoy,bythedamned and ash48
Data gathering: bythedamned
Meta and graphs: bythedamned
Banner and graphics: el1ieUPDATE:
8/11/11 Update from the Authors:
Hi guys - just popping back in here to answer a question that keeps coming up in the comments. A lot of you have (rightly) pointed out that a better representation of the deaths for each gender would be a ratio of (# gender killed)/( gender total). We totally agree. The only problem is that knowing what we know now, after just doing these numbers, we're 100% certain it would actually be a huge undertaking. There have been several helpful comments about where to pull numbers from - supernaturalwiki.com being the most obvious - but the problem with that is the extras. It's our fault for not making this clear from the get-go: our death total includes every extra we could possibly count. Remember in Mommy Dearest (6x19) when Eve incites a whole bar to kill each other? And later when Castiel tells the boys to shut their eyes and smokes every demon in the diner? Check, those made the tally. That's because we believed the deaths you see, even if they're not singled out as significant, affect your perception of the show, and also why we gave a separate count for notable deaths.
A good example is the episode 99 Problems (5x17) where there's a mass killing of demons. Supernaturalwiki lists 8 non-resurrected characters for our tally, and IMDB gives us 9. Problem is? We counted 16 deaths. There's a whole church full of men and women that would need to be counted for our numbers to even be remotely accurate. So the dilemma becomes finding a count of each gender that involves every extra that made it onto aired footage, and we have no idea where to get those numbers. The only option is watching every episode and handcounting all the faces we see and, I think we can all agree, that would take ages. Would it be fun? Hell yeah. But massively time consuming too. If anyone knows where we might get a set of numbers that comprehensive, by all means tell us and we'll be happy to crunch the data.
So after that little explanation, we hope you can all understand and forgive us for not delivering those numbers. If any other brave soul wants to give it a shot, we will happily give you our spreadsheets/strategy/red bull/back massages and anything else you might need to fuel you along. And in the meantime, word has it that ash48
has devoted her time to a meta a little (hell, a lot) sexier, complete with shirtless pictures of everyone's favorite little brother. bythedamned