random fandom thoughts on 8.20

lookatthesefreakinghipsters always increases my appreciation of SPN episodes by a factor of like 50 billion, and apparently “Pac-Man Fever” (8.20) is no different. We were discussing how excellent it was to have Charlie as a sort of fandom rep within the show, with Dean and Sam being so chill with her fannishness and even participating in it (see: Dean’s confirmation that they’ll be coming to a Moondor battle and Sam calling Charlie “Your Highness”). Because this episode acknowledges fandom/fannishness as something other than “deviant and excessive,” the way it’s portrayed through Becky (or should we say samlicker81):

"And then Sam touched—" No. "—caressed Dean’s clavicle. ‘This is wrong,’ said Dean. ‘Then I don’t want to be right,’ replied Sam, in a husky voice."

Instead, in 8.20, we see immersion in fan culture allowing a young woman to find a sense of connection with her lost parent, to deal with and (eventually) work through loss and grief. 

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Robbie Thompson’s presentation of fandom through Charlie’s attachment to The Hobbit recognizes the true reason so many of us get into the fandoms of the works we love: not (merely) to read/write about hot people getting hot and heavy, but because these works have resonated with some part of us that’s too big, or too deep, or too dark, for “real” life. The works we love have helped us through horrible times in our lives, gotten us through them and sometimes keep us going afterward, and in 8.20, Thompson not only acknowledges that but celebrates it.

In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on, or to eat. It was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

There’s nothing particularly reassuring about what’s happening to our characters at this point. Sam’s still in bad shape, Kevin’s still gone, so is Cas, and Charlie’s just let go of her mom. There’s pretty much nothing to be hopeful about here. And yet the episode ends on a note of exactly what the Tolkien quote describes—comfort. Because of our recontextualization of the Winchesters’ habitat—and, perhaps, their very relationship as a family, the cramped space shared by two brothers that can become dark and frightening but in this episode becomes a place of support and safety—into that of Bilbo’s hobbit hole, a setting of security and contentment.

Because sometimes, the semblance is enough to get us through the reality. That’s why we read, to be like someone else for a while, even if we can’t be them. Yes?

She used to read me to sleep at night when I was a kid. She— she’d read me The Hobbit. She’s the reason I love the stuff I love.

I think it’s important that of all the works Charlie appears to be impassioned by (recall her desk and home decorations in S7), the one Thompson chooses to link her to her mother is The Hobbit. Yes, there’s the spillover benefit of being able to compare Bilbo’s hobbit hole to the MoL headquarters. But I think the choice also suggests, however subtly, that Dean has used the works he loves in a way similar to Charlie.

Consider: Charlie reveals in 8.20 that she has tracked down and read the Supernatural books—the books that first make an appearance in 4.19, “The Monster at the End of This Book.” Robbie Thompson, I think it is safe to assume, watched this episode before writing 8.20. And what else do we discover in 4.18? Think back to Chuck’s publisher quizzing Sam and Dean to make sure they’re “legit” fans…

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PUBLISHER
[What’s] Dean’s favorite song?

DEAN
It’s a tie. Between Zep’s “Ramble On” and “Traveling Riverside Blues.”

Let me just direct you to this Wikipedia article here…which discusses the song’s references to Lord of the Rings. I copied and pasted the stanza in question below.

Mine’s a tale that can’t be told,
My freedom I hold dear;
How years ago in days of old
When magic filled the air,
'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair.
But 
Gollum, and the evil one crept up
And slipped away with her.

This is, of course, not the only Zeppelin song with Tolkien allusions. And it’s canon, I think, that Zep is pretty much Dean’s favorite band? It is, perhaps, his equivalent to Charlie’s Harry Potter (or rather, Hermione)—God, you only have to look at the lyrics of the two songs above (here and here) to see how Dean would find himself in these songs, would identify with them. (The show itself plays with that in Season 2’s “Crossroad Blues”—“Travellin’ Riverside Blues” was originally written and sung by Robert Johnson.) From “Ramblin’ On”:

Got no time to for spreadin’ roots, The time has come to be gone. 

I don’t think it’s coincidence that Thompson chooses to use The Hobbit here in an episode so closely related to an earlier ep in which we discovered that Dean so strongly identifies with a song that alludes to Tolkien’s work. I think it’s a meaningful choice intended to continue the exploration we’ve gotten thus far in S8 of Dean-as-fan, a space in which he has been able to find joy (see: the Braveheart scene), pride (see: his tactical strategy with Charlie’s forces on the board), camaraderie (see: his interactions with Charlie), acceptance (see: the fact that he actually opens up to Charlie about what he did to Sam and about Benny and Cas, and on top of that, the safe and open reception to his sexuality that Charlie represents if the show continues to go that route (please, God, please), and comfort (see: him being able to help Charlie through the same loss he has suffered, that of his mother, while being able to “big brother” her at a time that he is struggling to give his little brother space and autonomy). I think it may mean Thompson’s suggesting the MoL headquarters isn’t Dean’s only hobbit-hole.

Maybe fandom is, too.

 

 

 

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