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Old April 18 2011, 08:07 AM   #1
Dusty Ayres
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Location: ANS Yamato, Sector 5, Sol System
What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklore

  • A Gettysburg battlefield ghost haunting focusing on one of the many Civil War era tales.
  • Anything dealing with the Salem Witch Trials and Tituba.
  • A Gullah or Southern African-American story, like The Talking Eggs that takes Sam and Dean to the Cape Fear region or lower, into South Carolina.
  • Anything that deals with a haunting dating back to the days of slavery, in the vein of The Legend of Pin Oak.
  • A trickster story where the trickster isn’t a white male, but some personification of Anansi, or Br’er Rabbit. (Or, in my wildest dreams, a Heyoka personification, but that is neither here or now and probably far too complicated for network television…)
Unfortunately, after six seasons I’ve given up on ever seeing these or anything that reflects the folklore and legends I grew up with as an African-American kid.
For those of you not in the know, Supernatural is a show about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, who travel across America with an arsenal in the back of their old ’67 Impala so that they can battle various supernatural beings across the country. Aside from the good looking male leads — a staple of any CW show, here played surprisingly well by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki — the thing that kept me coming back when I started watching was the focus on playing around with American Folklore and its use of America itself as a setting. For a show shot in Vancouver it captures the essence of the country with a surprising attention to detail. From the fabled western highways to the roadside diners to the small country towns, America is as much of a character as the characters from her folklore.
Well, part of America, anyway, and therein lies my problem.
What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklore


The thing that gets me as an African-American, is that when the directors and writers of such shows do actually make use of folklore/customs from other countries, the cry goes up about how white directors and writers are stealing somebody's culture! Yet now, the writer of this blog post wants to see other ethnic mythologies seen and used in Supernatural. I don't get it....
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Old April 20 2011, 03:58 AM   #2
Temis the Vorta
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Re: What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklo

Someday I'll have to catch up on Supernatural. Dunno why, it just never grabbed me.

But beware of what you ask for, because any African American folklore content will almost certainly involve the Magic Negro prototype...
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Old April 20 2011, 04:39 PM   #3
Obiwanshinobi
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Re: What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklo

I think the voodoo and/or hoodoo episodes are the closest things involving African-American-ish folklore.
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Old April 20 2011, 04:42 PM   #4
Checkmate
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Re: What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklo

The Winchesters tend to focus on events west of the Mississippi with only a few rare jaunts to the other side.

Also, the entire point of the Trickster stories is that it was just one certain individual playing that role through history (as made evident when he was named Loki in a certain episode). He was only a white guy because that's how he chose to present himself to the Winchesters.
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Old April 20 2011, 04:53 PM   #5
Obiwanshinobi
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Re: What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklo

Yep, but then we all know how that turned out. He started doing Pepsi commercials.
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Old April 20 2011, 05:12 PM   #6
DarKush
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Re: What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklo

These are two separate articles, written by different people, about two different shows. And to some extent they are talking about different issues, though it appears to me they both are calling for greater inclusion. I don't see what's so confusing about that.

I am an African American, and I have watched Supernatural off and on, and own 4 seasons on DVD. But to be honest, I never thought much about the inclusion of African/African American folklore until this article and I agree with the writer. However, I saw SPN as part of the general white out that occurs on the CW's programming. I would guarantee that the majority of people working on the show are white, as is the cast, and the target audience the CW is thinking about is probably white, so the inclusion of African/African American folklore was not something I was expecting. Without the occassional voodoo/hoodoo storylines, this folklore is absent from the horror genre generally, and is unknown by a lot of people, myself included. Thanks for posting this article because it taught me something.

I think the article speaks to the larger idea of what it means to be American. And even in the 'post-racial' 'Age of Obama', black culture and black people still aren't considered American in that "Middle America", "heartland" sense. For the writers of SPN and many others people of color don't quite fit into that equation. It might be an issue of the SPN folks not even knowing about this history and not even attempting to find out while they are doing their monster research. Now that the show is in its 6th season and winding down its doubtful they will make any course corrections.

As for the Whedon article, it appears to me that the writer doesn't want Whedon taking or using/misusing Asian culture/trappings of Asian culture without including Asian actors. It was a black eye on Firefly that much was made of the US-China merger but there were scant Asians at all in the series or movie, even as background players.

I'm assuming, but from both articles I get that both writers want more inclusion, but done in a respectful way.
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Old April 21 2011, 12:26 AM   #7
OsmiumJohnnycake
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Re: What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklo

I'll admit to being ignorant about this segment of folklore until reading this article (my only exposure to Br’er Rabbit comes from Song of the South, ahem). Even if you set aside the entire argument for inclusion because it is a neglected part of America's history, you'd still have a great argument for inclusion because these stories would seem fresh and "original" to a lot of people like me. I recall early on, probably season one, that I was bored by plots/folklore that I have watched in umpteen horror flicks.

But I don't think Supernatural is a show that does (or should be required to) get the facts straight or historical details right. It uses a lot of folklore as a jumping off point for the stories they tell. Now if Kripke did this with some of the tales mentioned above, I would assume he could be criticized for misrepresenting the details/facts.

I also watch Gossip Girl on the CW (I have no defense except I find it entertaining trash), and a recent storyline in season 4(!) finally included a black family, but they had to move to NYC from Chicago, which I found hilarious. I realize the reason for this was probably to explain why they hadn't been mentioned in the show the previous three years, but a side-effect of it suggested that up until now there were no well-off black families in NYC.
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Old April 21 2011, 11:22 AM   #8
Dusty Ayres
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Re: What’s Not Going Bump in the Night?: Supernatural's Missing Folklo

OsmiumJohnnycake wrote: View Post
I'll admit to being ignorant about this segment of folklore until reading this article (my only exposure to Br’er Rabbit comes from Song of the South, ahem). Even if you set aside the entire argument for inclusion because it is a neglected part of America's history, you'd still have a great argument for inclusion because these stories would seem fresh and "original" to a lot of people like me. I recall early on, probably season one, that I was bored by plots/folklore that I have watched in umpteen horror flicks.

But I don't think Supernatural is a show that does (or should be required to) get the facts straight or historical details right. It uses a lot of folklore as a jumping off point for the stories they tell. Now if Kripke did this with some of the tales mentioned above, I would assume he could be criticized for misrepresenting the details/facts.

I also watch Gossip Girl on the CW (I have no defense except I find it entertaining trash), and a recent storyline in season 4(!) finally included a black family, but they had to move to NYC from Chicago, which I found hilarious. I realize the reason for this was probably to explain why they hadn't been mentioned in the show the previous three years, but a side-effect of it suggested that up until now there were no well-off black families in NYC.
Apparently the directors and writers never heard of The Inkwell and the black people that live in it.
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