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Sam & Dean’s Refrigerator: How SUPERNATURAL’s Female Character Roster Fails

Sam & Dean’s Refrigerator: How SUPERNATURAL’s Female Character Roster Fails

I can’t lie: I love Supernatural. I look forward to spending my Tuesday nights with the Winchester brothers and their dudebro friends. The show is always going to be important to me, but it’s not perfect. When I first started watching, I wasn’t aware of a problem that’s so glaringly obvious to me now: the lack of women on the show. When I was in the middle of season 3, one of my friends told me that she didn’t like that there weren’t many female characters in the show. I remember thinking that was a weird claim; we had Bela Talbot, the collector of occult artifacts and constant pain in the Winchesters’ asses, as well as kickass mother/daughter duo Ellen and Jo Harvelle.

Oh, never mind. Bela’s dead.

It’s been speculated—and later confirmed by the show’s creator, Eric Kripke—that part of the reason Bela was killed off was because she came between Sam and Dean while also constantly outsmarting them, and the fans weren’t happy with that. There was never an episode she appeared in where she didn’t one-up them in some way, and when she pleaded with Dean to save her from going to hell after she sold her soul to get rid of her abusive father, Dean didn’t even think about it before saying no. Bela was killed off right when she started becoming really interesting just because fans wanted The Sam and Dean Show instead of Supernatural, and that’s a huge bummer.

Bela was killed off right when she started becoming really interesting just because fans wanted The Sam and Dean Show instead of Supernatural, and that’s a huge bummer.

But—but—Ellen and Jo are still there, right?

Nope. Killed off before the end of season 5.

There’s a well-known archetype in comics that was coined by Gail Simone in 1999, Women in Refrigerators. WiR is basically a way to describe a woman being murdered to further a man’s pain, as well as his storyline. Although they’re not comic characters, Ellen and Jo’s deaths (as well as the majority of other women on Supernatural) fall into this trope perfectly: more often than not, they’re killed off to increase Sam and Dean’s pain while also driving them forward. Ellen, Jo, Mary, Jess, Pamela, Madison, Naomi, Meg, Lisa (okay, she’s still alive, she just had her memory wiped, but still)—each one has been killed in order to push along Sam and Dean’s storyline.

Then there are female villains. Ruby, Lilith, and Abaddon are the first to come to mind, and as of now, all three are dead. I can’t speak for other SPN fans, but I didn’t mind when Ruby was killed off. After constant flip-flopping on where she stood, she was deemed evil, and that’s that; there wasn’t much else to learn about her character. Same goes with Lilith: killing her was the final seal to unleash Lucifer from Hell, but that’s all we really knew about her, so her death was pretty expected.

But Abaddon, on the other hand, Abaddon was interesting. She had sass, fierceness, and a great backstory. She made me want to learn more about her, and it didn’t matter that she was evil—I wanted her to survive. She was a great character, and a lot of that credit goes to Alaina Huffman, who played her. Even if she did have to die, I was picturing something epic, a giant battle between her and Dean where she goes out in the giant blaze of glory that a Knight of Hell deserves. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Dean, overcome with power from his newly acquired Mark of Cain, stabbed her with the First Blade, and that was that. It was anticlimactic, and I felt if she had to die, it wasn’t an appropriate death for a character as interesting or badass as Abaddon.

There have been reports that Claire, the daughter of Castiel’s vessel, Jimmy Novak, will be returning this season, which is definitely going to be interesting, but some fans are already nervous that she’ll just be killed to get to Cas, or that she’s got some of his grace left over, and that that’s the only thing she’ll be used for.

In a recent iTunes interview, executive producers Jeremy Carver and Robert Singer also revealed that Charlie (Felicia Day) would be making an appearance. Charlie’s one of my favorite characters, and I was so psyched to hear this, but the more I thought about it, I started to get nervous. She almost died in the last episode she appeared in, but Dean had Gadreel save her, and she went off with Dorothy to have adventures and fight evil in Oz. As disappointed as I was to see that that episode might be Charlie’s last, I was happy that at least she made it through the show still breathing. Now that she’s coming back, I’m afraid that she’ll end up in the category of women killed off to further Sam and Dean’s pain.

Promos for the new season have shown a new character, Hannah, who seems to be traveling with Cas. In addition to her, Charlie, and Claire, hopefully some more female characters will be added to the cast as the season progresses. I mean, if something as crazy as Dean turning into a demon is now canon (I’m still not over it, guys), then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for a few more women to be introduced into the show and actually live.

There are two running jokes that are prevalent in the fandom: any woman that has sex with Sam dies, and that women need to wear plaid like the Winchesters do in order to survive; after all, the ones who have are still alive in the SPNverse. Going into season 10, let’s just hope that some more lady characters enter the fray and survive—regardless of who they decide to sleep with or what pattern is on their clothing.

Allison Racicot is the Audiobook Reviewer at Girls in Capes. She’s a recent graduate of Emerson College in Boston, and has a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. She spends too much time listening to podcasts and getting overly attached to fictional characters.

Looking for more in problematic TV & Film? Let’s talk about that series finale of How I Met Your Mother.

You can also check out other articles in the Problematic Favorite Issue this month, like our list of our very favorite, most problematic things of all.

Allison Racicot
Allison Racicot is the Audiobook & Podcast Reviewer at Girls in Capes. She spends too much time listening to podcasts, and enjoys reading, writing, comedy, and getting overly attached to fictional characters. If you like tweets that regularly consist of fangirling over Hamilton, comics, and comedians, you can follow her on Twitter @with2ells.
Allison Racicot
Written by Allison Racicot

Allison Racicot is the Audiobook & Podcast Reviewer at Girls in Capes. She spends too much time listening to podcasts, and enjoys reading, writing, comedy, and getting overly attached to fictional characters. If you like tweets that regularly consist of fangirling over Hamilton, comics, and comedians, you can follow her on Twitter @with2ells.