By Mary O’KEEFE
“Fan” has had some negative connotations over the years, from obsessive to lonely and, of course, “living in your parents’ basement.” But there is another side of “fan” or “fandom” which those on the outside rarely credit – it is the feeling of belonging, of being part of a huge family.
If there is one definition that can define last weekend’s “Supernatural” Convention in Pasadena it would be “family.”
“You feel a closeness with the people in the [Supernatural] fandom,” said Kristin, a fan at the convention. “It doesn’t matter if I have had a [bad] day…”
“It is the best therapy for a [bad] day,” added Kathryn, another fan.
“Supernatural” is a series on the CW television network that is now airing season 11. The premise – Sam and Dean Winchester are brothers who are “carrying on the family tradition” of hunting – hunting demons, ghosts, witches and, in some cases, angels or basically anything that goes bump in the night or in the daylight. Kind of the Biblical and mythological side of the “X-Files.”
Sam and Dean travel the country putting themselves in danger as they battle the big evil, whatever that might be for that season. But always at the foundation is they will do what they need to do to protect family. And the stars, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles who play Sam and Dean respectively, travel the country to hit as many fan conventions as possible.
“This is definitely my longest running obsession,” Kristin said. “I started watching it when I was just shy of 13.”
She began watching because Padalecki had previously portrayed Dean on “Gilmore Girls,” a very different type of television show from “Supernatural.”
She started watching with her father, and when he stopped watching she continued.
“But this is my first con [convention]. I don’t know why I haven’t been to one before,” she said.
This may be up for debate but the modern fan convention’s template is that of the “Star Trek” convention. Series creator Gene Roddenberry knew from the beginning of the series that fans were an important part of the industry. He reached out to them through conventions in the 1970s and that reach continues today.
The stars of “Supernatural” know the power of the fan as well. Since season one they have been out there with their fans, which might explain the almost eerie comfort they have with those most ardent fans.
As they took the stage on Sunday for the Gold Patron audience, a group that spent $699 for the weekend of all-that-is-“Supernatural,” they were like old friends. There did not seem to be any fear, the type you see in some press events with other stars; it was just two old friends giving updates to family and friends. The questions were less about their show than about their children and what they were doing for the holidays.
There were also moving moments, like when a fan thanked the stars for their support through an incredibly tough, emotional time. And another fan who was in the military returning from deployment.
“You guys helped me get through it,” she said.
“I have such respect for how they treat their fans,” Kathryn said. “I work in Hollywood. I deal with talent every day and have rarely seen talent give back like this.”
Back in the day when the mother of conventions, “Star Trek,” was about the only fandom in town, there was not the Internet or Netflix. Fans found out about the convention and what was going on with their favorite show through newsletters, movie magazines and actually talking to other fans. With social media, those discovering the show after it started airing can catch up in a couple of days, or weeks, and melt in with all the longtime fans.
Kathryn binge-watched the series on Netflix and is as much of a fan as Kristin who has watched it from the beginning. They both share the experience of watching “Supernatural” with other fans through texting or fan chats.
Conventions are not cheap. The Golden Patrons $699 ticket included not just the smaller theater venue but also autographs, a Karaoke night, a concert and reserved seats to all venues. The tickets ranged from a high of $699 to $50 for a one day, one venue event.
So it is expensive – but can you really put a price on family?