My memory may be faulty, but as we head toward the end of Season 11 on Supernatural, I don’t remember the topic of gayness being directly addressed before last night’s episode, “The Chitters,” wherein grotesque cicada-like creatures emerge every 27 years to infest human bodies and breed before dying off. This is fascinating and ironic because this show has an enormously fervent, entrenched, and developed viewership that has long speculated via dedicated sites, social media, and fan fiction on the homoerotic undertones of male relationships on the show, in particular Dean’s bromantic relationships with Castiel, Crowley, Benny the vampire, even between Dean and his brother Sam.
The hunter mythos on Supernatural is so macho, stoic, self-sacrificing — in other words, warrior culture — to directly address the topic on the show would be like muddying the waters of a traditional war movie with gay issues. But gays ARE a part of the military, are a part of warrior culture dating back at least as far as the Greeks, and Supernatural, no matter how separated from the real world it may be, decided it was time to address a topic that has exploded across the political and cultural landscape over the last few years.
In a landmark ruling in June of 2015, a conservative-leaning Supreme Court decided that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. A Gallup poll from May, 2015 indicated that 60% of Americans now support the right of same-sex marriage, remarkably changed from just 27% approval when the pollster started asking the question in 1996. But, inevitably when such a fundamental shift occurs in a society, we have seen fervent backlash from various conservative factions defending “traditional marriage,” usually on religious grounds. There has been very public and contentious anti-LGBT legislation, most visibly in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee, that have been soundly condemned by entertainers, politicians, business and governmental entities, and professional sports bodies that have only recently begun addressing such issues.
No matter how you look at it, gay people and their relationships are more out of the closet than ever, and the “love wins” mentality is now majority opinion (at least publicly) rising all the way to the White House. It is in this context that Supernatural presented matter-of-factly and essentially without comment, a pair of dedicated, tough, brave, “manly” — all that stuff — hunters who happen to also be gay in last night’s “The Chitters” episode.
In a flashback to 1989, we are shown a 12 year-old boy, Jesse, expressing gay feelings to his protective older brother, Mattie, as they make their way through the woods on a fishing trip. Mattie cautions Jesse to be careful and discrete, especially given the attitudes in the little Colorado town in which they live, before an unseen monster drags Mattie away. Cut to the present, 27 years later, and the cycle has begun again.
After the Winchesters get involved in the case, they are rescued in the woods from the cicada monsters by a now 39 year-old, hunter Jessie, and his partner Cesar. Once it’s clear that they are “partners,” Dean gives a little chuckle of mild surprise, then wants to know what it’s like to settle down with a hunter. “Smelly. Dirty. Twice the worry about getting ganked,” says Cesar.
After the foursome of hunters find the lair of the cicadas, including the body of Jessie’s brother Mattie, destroy them and break the cycle, Jessie declares that their job is done and it’s time to retire. And that’s about it: it’s casual, the new normal, people are what they are, stigmas are stupid, warriors can be gay and still be 100% warriors. If Same and Dean can handle it, so can we.
(all images courtesy The CW)