TV News

Jared Padalecki, Fans Surprised by News of "Supernatural" Prequel

The star reported feeling "gutted" by the news...but not as badly as he was gutted by Anna in season 5.

After 15 seasons and a seemingly endless amount of monstrous, ghostly, biblical insanity, the CW's Supernatural finally came to an end in 2020... or did it?

According to star Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester), "After Supernatural wrapped its 15th season, we knew it wasn't over. Because like we say in the show, 'nothing ever really ends, does it?'" So when he and wife Danneel Ackles (who played the second incarnation of the demon Ruby starting in season 4) started their own production company, Chaos Machine Productions, they got to work in secret, developing a spin-off prequel series.

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Whose Man Is This?

New pictures of Jensen Ackles in Amazon Prime's "The Boys" have been released and we don't know how to feel

WW2 Soldier meets cowboy aesthetic ... I guess?

The Boys, the standout series from Amazon Prime, is gearing up for Season 3, and fans are eagerly awaiting each sneak peek as they come. The most recent teaser featured its newest cast member: Jensen Ackles.

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TV

Can We Please Stop Casting Bland White Guys as Lead Characters?

Netflix's "Daybreak" features its blandest character

Screen Rant

Netflix's new series, Daybreak, sells itself as a post-apocalyptic teenage Rashomon (the Japanese classic told in divergent perspectives), with a sequence of characters in the trailer each claiming to be the real protagonist.

At its best, the show does capture some of this appeal. It almost makes up for the lack of believable dialogue, compelling world-building, or competent portrayal of youth culture by having a diverse array of vibrant characters—like Wesley Fist, the gay black samurai whose story is narrated by Wu Tang's RZA. But ultimately, the claim that these characters have equal weight is undermined by the show's insistent focus on Colin Ford as "just Josh."

Wesley Fists Wesley Fists, being more Interesting than josh

He's the bland white guy at the center of the story, because that's something Netflix thinks we need. Prior to the apocalypse, he was just a C-student, a recent transfer from Toronto who claimed to only like food from The Cheesecake Factory. He's continually mistaken for "tennis Josh, little Josh with the big truck, gay Josh, and other gay Josh," to which his friends respond that he's "just Josh." His love interest, Sam Dean (a deliberate nod to Colin Ford's stint on Supernatural?) describes him as "terrifically uncomplicated."

Just Josh

After the bombs drop and all the adults are wiped out, Josh's wilderness skills make him a hot commodity, but it all just reads as an excuse to cast the blandest possible white guy and force all the more interesting characters into orbit around him.

As a bland white boy myself, can we please just stop?

There's no need to plaster on a confused approximation of wokeness (no, Daybreak, you can't say "Todd Altman self-identifies his gender as a seahorse" in a hip, accepting way…) and qualify your main character's bland whiteness by saying "but he's supposed to be boring!" What you can do is skip all that by ditching the bland white guy character in the first place.

While Sam Dean—a blonde, sex-positive Pollyanna with an English accent and a heavy dose of damsel in distress—is a shade more interesting than "just Josh," they could both be removed from the show without losing much value. But nope. Daybreak makes them the center of the whole world.

"The Cheermazons"

I mean, there's a turf war for control of hellscape-LA, with cliquish tribes—a la The Warriors—all vying for power. That's pretty fun. And, oh boy! There are even a handful of novel, dynamic characters who are engaging enough to warrant a focus in that unfolding war. Yay! But no. The show insists that Josh's quest to rescue Sam is the really important story.

He can't even have a face believably

Why? Josh just sucks. He feels bad that, pre-apocalypse, he called Sam a sl*t, and he wants to save her so he can win her back. Why should we root for that? He called her a sl*t because she's too cool for him—and she's barely cool. He's the blandest flavor of cottage cheese in a toxic-masculine shell. Even if Colin Ford delivered a stellar performance, it's hard to see how this sh*tty character would be salvageable, let alone worthy of the central role. And Colin Ford is faaaar from stellar...

So, Netflix. Do better. You seem to have the freedom to green-light whatever you want, so why keep centering your stories on the same lame characters? Why is a WASPy half-nerd white guy still the default? Speaking on behalf of us all, even we're bored of us by now.

TV

TV's Baddest Angels, Ranked

Some angels are wimps.

Because Popes practically ruled the Western world from ancient Rome to the "screw you" spirit of the French Revolution, the supremacy of the Catholic church is reflected in, among other things, weird, obscure holidays.

Since 1608, today, October 2, has apparently been the day to honor The Feast of the Guardian Angels (according to the BBC, who probably had to Google it first). The belief that each soul is assigned a guardian angel who watches over you for your entire life, after which the winged stalker escorts you to heaven, has become a common trope in pop culture. While TV's Touched by an Angel, Highway to Heaven, and the Hallmark Channel have depicted earnest, wholesome angels as divine intermediaries between humans and an unknowable, all powerful deity, today we're more interested in angels who scheme, swear, and screw like humans.

Darren Swimmer, executive producer of the fan-favorite fantasy series Shadowhunters, notes, "What's interesting is that throughout the history of angels on TV, they've always remained somewhat elusive and ineffable. They're not easy characters to pin down. And since you didn't used to have darker angels on television, so people tend to want to gravitate to edgier material because it's something different."

That's not to say that the idea of angels being closer to us lowly humans than some divine god is new. In Thomas Aquinas' 1485 Summa Theologica, he relegated guardian angels as the lowest rank in the hierarchy: a characteristic we love to explore in the form of TV angels who show their stupidity and lack social grace and maybe even sin? From the comedy of NBC's The Good Place and TBS' Miracle Workers to the dramedy of CW's Supernatural and the trio of current series adapted from Neil Gaiman's oeuvre of mythological mindf*cks, we love to watch these angels sin.

Ranked from most to least wholesome, our favorite angels are:

1. Miracle Workers: Craig (Daniel Radcliffe)

1 / 6

Initially one of the mindless drones in the bureaucracy of Heaven Inc., guileless cog Craig (Daniel Radcliffe) is a low-level angel-figure in TBS' allegory of corporate hive mindedness and complacency. Steve Buscemi plays a washed out God who shuffles around in a tattered bathrobe. He needs a personal assistant and many workers under him because he can't stay motivated or on-task for long periods of time; apparently, he also can't read.

Craig is galvanized to act on his own principles, however, when his newly assigned partner Eliza (Geraldine Viswanathan) inspires him to save Earth from God's capricious plan to destroy it. Do they succeed? Well, Miracle Workers has been renewed for season 2, so obviously.

In this clip, Craig is showing Eliza and his rival-turned-friend Sanjay (Karan Soni) what he was like when he was alive on Earth: He was a caveman who sat by a bog. That's all. It's no wonder that as an angel Craig's worst sin is getting God to sign the wrong form.

The Verge

You don't know why it has to end. You were happy with the way things were. You're not ready to be alone.

Your brain is reacting like you're going through a break-up. In reality, your favorite show just ended, whether it was the latest season or the entire series just came to a close. April and May is the time for season finales, from CW's niche favorite, Supernatural, wrapping up its 14th season to Game of Thrones breaking up with America with the equivalent of a text message. But it seems that audiences are increasingly dissatisfied with endings.

With directors and showrunners now live-streaming Q&As with fans and more TV shows prioritizing fan service over quality story-telling to boost ratings, the entangled relationships between creators and cult followings challenge how we view art and whether a franchise ever truly ends. After all, the lively world of online fandom never ends, so how are fans expected to accept a show's finality? In the age of on-demand streaming, actors sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses on social media, and immersive fan experiences (have you visited your local Game of Thrones pop-up bar yet?), there's no such thing as closure.

Full Joe Russo Avengers Q&A From Duello www.youtube.com


Creators like J.K. Rowling clearly don't believe so, as the author uses her social media presence to controversially add details and socially woke spins to her Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter series ad finitum. Similarly, when a fan favorite show is finally put to rest, few writers and producers are able to rise to the challenge and kill their darlings with grace. More often than not, season finales—especially series finales— stutter to a grinding stop with dissatisfying or bizarre endings. With outspoken online fan communities (not to mention fan entitlement) at an extreme these days, bad finales go down in Internet infamy.

But viewers' responses can turn surprisingly emotional when it's time to say goodbye to their favorite series. Part of that is due to the strange body chemistry involved in emotions. The human brain can't differentiate between bonds with real people and fictional characters. Danielle Forshee, psychologist, and LLC says, "When there's a character that you feel emotionally connected to...your brain recognizes the human emotion they are portraying and starts to feel connected to those characters." Since we're wired to feel empathy, "a bond begins to form."

With Game of Thrones unfolding its final season and CW's teen hits Arrow and Supernatural slated to end next year, TV history has illustrated a pattern of highs and lows when it comes to finales. From the convoluted ending of Lost to The Sopranos slamming a door in the viewer's face, endings are nearly impossible to ace. Here's a look at the most successful, most devastating, and most chaotic series finales that fans have healed from after their favorite shows broke up with them.

How I Met Your Mother

Popdust series finales Daily Beast

The eight agonizing seasons of How I Met Your Mother culminated in the most predictable ending possible, yet it still managed to shock and disappoint. We jump forward in time and see that the protagonist, Ted, does indeed meet and build a life with his children's mother. Then in the final minutes, it's revealed that she's already died of cancer, Ted is telling this incredibly long and boring story to his teenage children, and now they end up encouraging him to date "Aunt Robin," his best friend with whom a relationship had been teased since season 1.




GRADE: F

Lost

Popdust lost series finale NYTimes

ABC's Lost disappointed and confused fans with a two-episode finale that questioned whether or not the entirety of the series took place in purgatory and the stranded were dead all along. Co-creator and showrunner, Damon Lindelof, has since panned that theory, saying, "No, no, no. They were not dead the whole time." Still, fans mourned the promising show's demise, with outcry on Twitter even driving Lindelof to delete his Twitter account. His final Tweet riffed on the cut off ending of Sopranos, posting, "After much thought and deliberation, I've decided t-."



Grade: D

Breaking Bad

Popdust series finale breaking bad Bustle

Breaking Bad is arguably the best series finale to date (although the end of Game of Thrones may dethrone it soon). Season 5's final episode ranked as the third best-rated finale in cable TV history. Walter White's demise ends a victorious character arc, as he admits to his wife, "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really...I was alive."


GRADE: A

The Sopranos

Popdust Sopranos series finales

The Sopranos' infamous series finale left the viewer to decide whether or not Tony was dead. Ultimately, the finale's sudden cut to black was a divisive move that invited audience's interpretation into the series' canon. Earlier this year, in honor of the show's 20th anniversary, reporter T.J. Quinn posted a radical theory that there was a death in the final scene: ours. At the very least, the end of the show signified that the exchange between creators and fans was over. The Sopranos broke up with us.

GRADE: INCOMPLETE


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Culture Feature

Fandom for the Faithless: How Pop Culture Is Replacing Religion

From Star Wars and Harry Potter to My Little Pony and Supernatural, fan communities develop their own ethos, codes of behavior, and networks of peer-mentoring that turn art appreciation into worship.

New York Post

In January 2019, President Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military was approved by the Supreme Court, which meant the worst had happened: Albus Dumbledore would be ashamed of us.

It gets worse. In England, Europe's fourth most LGBTQ-friendly nation, there are 175,000 self-professed Jedis who are appalled at America's anti-trans legislation. As "instruments of peace," Jedis believe "in a society that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or circumstances of birth such as gender, ethnicity and national origin."

Temple of the Jedi Order

If you're not moved to action by framing today's socio-political turmoil in terms of fictional characters, then you are not a true Jedi or diehard Potterhead. You may just be a fan of the franchises, which is not what fandom is about anymore. Nowadays, these active communities create full-on belief systems, leading the most dedicated fans to see the real world through the lens of their favorite franchise. When fandoms replace religion, fan communities develop their own ethos, codes of behavior, and a network of peer-mentoring that turns art appreciation into worship.

According to census surveys from England, Australia, and Czech Republic, over 250,000 Jedis currently roam the earth, which is definitively too many followers for a brand of fictionalized metaphysics solely designed to earn Lucasfilm $4 billion. But the Temple of the Jedi Order (a.k.a the Church of Jediism) touts on its website, "Jediism is not based in fiction, but we accept myth as a sometimes more practical mean of conveying philosophies applicable to real life."

John Henry Phelan is a Jedi through the Temple of the Jedi Order, which means he helps run the most trafficked website on Jediism in the U.S. He told Details magazine in 2013, "I think we're heading to a point where we're going to see a physical Jedi temple sometime in the next 10 years...probably something like a monastery, where Jedi monks will live and where other Jedi can visit. I'd be surprised if that didn't happen." To date, it sadly hasn't (but there are a good four years left for this runaway train called reality to fly completely off the tracks, resulting in a Jedi monastery next to your local mosque and synagogue).

To be fair, the distinctions between a fandom and a religion are surprisingly blurry as far as sociologists are concerned. With social media building bridges between like-minded individuals, fandoms aren't just online subcultures; they're "participatory cultures." If we're looking at patterns of human behavior, so are religions. Henry Jenkins, Professor of Communications at University of Southern California and professional super nerd, breaks down the facets of participatory culture:

1. Relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement.

2. Strong support for creating and sharing one's creations with others.

3. Some type of informal mentorship in which the most experienced members pass along their knowledge to novices.

4. Members who believe their contributions matter.

5. Members who feel some degree of social connection with one another and care about other members' opinions about their contributions.

Among Jediism's official 16 teachings and 21 maxims is dedication to civic engagement ("each Jedi improves the world with each deed they perform") and support of their community ("have faith in your Jedi brothers and sisters" and "defend the way of Jediism"). When the Pacific Standard's Ben Rowen interviewed self-professed Jedis, he acknowledged the easy ridicule of the "faith" but sought to understand its appeal: "Beneath the surface—once the lightsabers are stowed away in their protective cases and the business of spiritual belief begins—Jediism is quite paradigmatic of trends in modern religious practice. Jedis have a strong argument that their fictional, pop-culture-inspired canon, with its aliens and futuristic technology, has given rise to a religion worthy of recognition here in reality."

Berlin Church Holds Star Wars Service Getty Images

Of course the Jedi order is not the first or even the loudest fandom community waving its flag on the Internet (no one's ranking fandoms here; please don't @ us). In 1997, J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and proceeded to print herself $650 million over the next 20 years. Global readers of all ages have turned the Potter fandom into a life philosophy originally dictated by an elderly homosexual wizard who mentored an orphan boy by giving him cryptic advice that read like slam poetry.

At its worst, well-meaning Potterheads discuss the most fraught and divisive issues of our time in terms of Harry Potter references in an attempt to enlighten others. Aside from presupposing that the Harry Potter series is an unproblematic, universal touchstone (which it definitely isn't), doing this is annoying. So much so that the phrase "read another book" has entered online lexicon as shorthand for, "Please take the Harry Potter series 75% less seriously than you currently do."

UrbanDictionary

For example, some inappropriate uses of Harry Potter references include: protesting those who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the LGBTQ community by comparing it to the imaginary community of muggles...

...leading the fight for gun control with illiteracy...

...and incisive political commentary on the persecution of journalists.

As Patton Oswalt points out, books featuring elaborate fantasy worlds are excellent for escapism and even light-handed allegories, but they're not conducive to interpreting world politics: "It's a cool book with some wonderful passages but it also has ghost sex & giants & super babies & demons. It's why we don't make laws based on Game of Thrones, My Little Pony or Legend of Zelda."


So why are some treating fandom like a faith? One twentieth century sociologist whose knowledge about people was as voluminous as his facial hair was Émile Durkheim. He defined religion as "a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden–beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them."

In the same way, sacred objects are the pillars of fandom. In Star Wars, the lightsabers and hooded robes are just symbols of the civic duty, compassion, and self-awareness promoted by Jedi creed (which, to its credit, is said to be adapted from the actual Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi). Harry Potter merchandise is rife with the Deathly Hallow symbols and the house crests of Hogwarts because they represent the hero's journey – with the poignant twist that unassuming heroes are everywhere (Hufflepuffs are just as strong as Gryffindors, we get it).

Is there danger in conflating fandoms with religion? To society as a whole, no – aside from causing mass annoyance on Twitter, consumers aren't generally at risk from neurotic people taking fandoms too seriously. In fact, as far as public sentiment goes, the people who pose the most danger are those who don't believe in anything.

In Casey Cep's article in the New Yorker, "Why Are Americans Still Uncomfortable with Atheism," she recounts how identifying as "faithless" has been a source of social shame throughout history and still remains so, to some degree, today. So much so that stigma against atheists can overshadow stigmas against other religious beliefs. According to 2018 surveys, "Americans, in large numbers, still do not want atheists teaching their children, or marrying them." She continues, "They would...prefer a female, gay, Mormon, or Muslim President to having an atheist in the White House, and some of them do not object to attempts to keep nonbelievers from holding other offices, even when the office is that of notary public."

Cep adds, "Such is the slippery label of 'atheist' in the American context: slapped on those who explicitly reject it, eschewed by unbelievers who wish to avoid its stigma. Both atheists and their critics often make a hopeless muddle of the category, sometimes because it is genuinely complicated to assess belief, but often for other reasons."

Fans play real-life version of Quidditch in London Evening Express

In Britain (where Jediism was the seventh-largest religion in 2015), "atheism" was on the decline in 2018. However, the number of self-reported Christians hasn't risen; rather, more people are reporting to believe in "some sort of spiritual greater power." In fact, according to a 2017 poll by WIN/Gallup International, the U.K. and Czech Republic (with 15,000 self-identified Jedis) are among the ten least religious countries. As Cep describes, Americans' reluctance to identify as "atheist" has always resulted in dubious polls, but recent surveys note an upward trend in U.S. atheism overall.

And as psychologists like to remind us, "higher levels of religious belief and practice (known in social science as 'religiosity') is associated with better mental health." But what it actually comes down to are the basic benefits of any "participatory culture," be it religion or a fandom subculture, from Star Wars and Harry Potter to My Little Pony and Supernatural. The social benefits that Jenkins describes include the simple but crucial element of social validation: "Members who feel some degree of social connection with one another and care about other members' opinions about their contributions." But as Cep points out, "Atheism, however, is not a single identity, ideology, or set of practices." It's just nonbelief.

So according to the data collected by nerds who specialize in the the random, chaotic patterns of human behavior, we're living in increasingly faithless times. But when that outlook is still stigmatized–not to mention statistically correlated with higher rates of depression and anxiety–it almost seems natural to look for an alternative belief system. For some, that's the Force. For others, it's WWDD ("What Would Dumbledore Do?"). And because reality is so much odder than fiction, they're both technically good for you.

Medium


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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