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Hypable

At a recent Supernatural convention, actor Misha Collins condemned the show’s treatment of female characters.

In his panel at the Salute to Supernatural in Whippany, New Jersey, Collins took a side on a longstanding debate in the show’s fandom:

“I’m frankly surprised by the show,” Collins says. He quickly backtracks, saying, “Sorry, people who write the show and everybody who works on it and everything,” before adding, “but there’s stupid things on the show that they shouldn’t do. Like, why do they have to say ‘bitch’ and kill all the women?”

In fact, the opening scene of the pilot revolves around the fiery death of Mary Winchester, Sam and Dean’s mother. The pilot also ends in a mirror to this, with the death of Sam’s girlfriend, Jessica. These events push the Winchester family into hunting in their quest for revenge.

This is a symptom of a bigger problem, according to Collins. “[T]here are certain small ways in which the show is sort of gratuitously misogynistic when it doesn’t need to be,” he says. “When I read the scripts, I cringe sometimes. Yeah, there’s a million other things you could say, you don’t need to do this.

“Or, um, you have killed every other female character who had more than a two-episode arc,” he continues, alluding to characters like Bela Talbot, Ruby, and Anna Milton. “Do you have to take this one?”

After some input from the crowd, Collins conceded that, “Charlie’s still around, although she’s not a threat to the boys as a romantic interest because she’s gay.” Another female character mentioned is Sheriff Jody Mills, who was developing as a potential love interest to the Winchesters’ surrogate father, Bobby Singer, before his death.

The debate over Supernatural‘s alleged misogynistic tendencies has been a hot one for years, ranging from the number of female characters to exist on the show to how long said characters last once they have been introduced, and the ratio of female to male victims.

Do you agree with Collins on the treatment of women in ‘Supernatural’?

  • KaileeA42

    Wow, and I was under the impression that I couldn’t love Misha Collins more. This has always been my biggest qualm with “Supernatural” and it’s great to see an acknowledgement from an actor. I stopped watching the show a third of the way into Season 6 but during all those years of being a fan I was always disgusted with the absolute failure of the writers to create realistic or capable female characters. Even when they made an attempt at it they were quickly killed off. Collins is a class act, a great actor, hilarious, and apparently a feminist to boot. I’m interested to see what other work he does after SPN.

    • Topaz

      Capability is the word, isn’t it? But they did exist. They just all got dead. God. I miss Ellen. And Pamela. And Jo. I didn’t even really dislike Bella that much except that she seemed to have been flown in from another show. If only they’d bothered to give some personality to Lisa or Amelia I would have been fine with them as love interests too, but they were always purely defined by their emotional attachment to the brothers.

      Thanks for the endearingly clumsy feminist fist pump, Misha. We take our props were we can get them.

  • http://twitter.com/Shaftsword Shaft Almasy

    Yeah I can look back on earlier seasons and things were bad I think though if we look at this season and the last there is less of it but then perhaps only because the amount of supporting characters around the Winchesters has already been killed off. I think Supernatural shows off the best and worst of what is wrong with modern Western TV.

  • aurens66

    Supernatural is such an interesting conundrum, it’s a male-dominated show, in terms of actors, producers and directors, I think there were only ever three woman writers involved in the show, you would think with it’s premise, two guys hunting the supernatural in their bad ass car, it would have an overwhelmingly male audience, but it’s fanbase is predominantly female: check the audience at this con! And it’s the female fans who at times demand the demise of the female characters on the show – and also promote the bromances between the male characters, this season the show has taken some leaps in giving us some strong females in Naomi, Abaddon, Linda Tran and Charlie, I am certain, along with Misha, that they stay around in season nine!

    • Dill

      Naomi and Linda were killed and won’t be coming back. Abaddon was burnt alive so she probably won’t be played by the same actress.

  • Guest

    Maybe the women wouldn’t get killed off so much if some fans didn’t scream for their deaths because they got too close to one of the Winchesters. *coughcoughcough* But I do agree with Misha on this, the show can be gratuitously misogynistic. I mean, a whole episode with Amazons and the only way the continue to survive is through having children and killing the fathers. So much more could’ve been done than that. I could go on, but I don’t want to turn this into a rant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=17127641 Laura Jurgensmeyer

    With every video of Misha I watch, I just love him more and more. He’s by far my favorite actor on the show, and one of my favorite actors ever. He’s just so awesome.

    • Jewel

      EWW

  • BritBrat

    He just said something publicly that we’ve ALL been thinking. God, I love Misha.

  • http://twitter.com/duck_poot Cecilia Otero

    I love this so much! The blatant sexism in Supernatural has always struck me as a bit offensive and although I love the show I’m really glad it’s finally being adressed!!

    • poo_dragon

      Me too. Love the show. But not happy about how much the word b**ch is used. And I’m a man. It really bothers me, though. Standards need to be kept, simply because it’s nice to have standards, for one thing. People swear too much generally, these days. And some might say, “What harm does that really do for kids?!”, when you question it within society. But words have power, thus should be treated with respect. And, as adults, it is our job to provide an example to the youth. As for the prolific use of the B word, it’s like the use of the N word within popular media today, as I see it…People use it to try and sound “cool” or funny (“Blackness” it seems, is cool…for some unknown to logic reason. That’s actually a racist minset itself, when you think about it…but that’s another matter lol). On occasion, I must admit, I *have* laughed at its application within this show. But, I think, when it suited the moment. But it’s used with faaar too much regularity for my liking. And again, I don’t agree with its use. If the insult in question did not hold a gender withing its meaning, that’s one thing. But the B word is not in that category. Glad Misha spoke up about this.

  • Hayley

    Granted, I haven’t watched Supernatural in years, but I can completely see what Misha is saying. I’m sure the creators aren’t trying to be misogynistic, but the lack of female characters on the show is a large part of what put me off it. I just found it really difficult to relate to after a while.

    • poo_dragon

      Yeah, I’ve kept wanting them to include a more regular “goody” female character, who doesn’t get killed off. We have Charlie. But it’d be good to include a female hunter who was just as formidible and knowledgable as the guys. Not in every episode, obviously. But the stakes are really high atm, in Season 9…so, it’d be a good opportunity for the writers to bring somebody like that in, I think. So long as they don’t go and kill her off! Lol.

  • Shadowstare

    Love the comment. I didn’t start watching Supernatural until the season with the Horsemen, but his comments are beyond true. I can understand not wanting too many female characters on the show at one time. The show is about Sam and Dean killing monsters, not about their feelings toward female characters. Look at all the women they killed off on the show, All the Campbell women, the hunter Jo and her mom, Meg, Ruby, Momma Tran, Pamela, the list goes on. They should be away to keep some of those characters alive (or at least empowered in some fashion) and still have the show about killing monsters. Misha’s right, when a female character is brought in for a arc longer then 2 episodes…she’s probably going to die by the end. There’s no need for that.

    • Dexter

      Or, they could, you know, make these female characters something other than romantic interests like Ruby was in S3. Maybe another female hunter? A female Bob? An Ellen-like character? You don’t solve the fact that they write woman as love interests by keeping them away. You solve that by writing them like you do with the male characters. Dean and Sam can’t have a fun mother figure or a badass female friend? THAT would be a more fun solution that making females disappear so they don’t disrupt the bromance and then die.

  • of_nightingales

    Reason #9596 that Misha Collins is one of my favorite people.

    Supernatural has huge problems with treating its female characters like crap.
    We’ve got Krissy, sure. But she’s a kid so she’s not a “threat” to the bromances. Amelia was just a horrid character and it felt like the writers weren’t even TRYING with her. Charlie is awesome, but the only reason she’s still around is because she’s gay. If she were straight –even if she had no interest in the boys romantically– she’d be dead on principle. Jody’s back in the finale and I’m not even bothering to hope she’ll make it out alive. Bobby’s dead, so she’s no good as a love interest anymore so the writers have nothing better to do with her.
    Meg, Mrs. Tran, and Sarah Blake’s deaths have been the worst this season.
    And it hit me recently that the most probable reason they killed Meg off was so they didn’t have to deal with curing Meg as being a possibility for the third trial, which makes WAY more sense than Crowley.
    Mrs. Tran’s death OFF SCREEN was just… Ugh. No. Why.
    And Sarah’s death was just plan idiotic. The fans actually /liked/ her and WANTED her back. That’s so rare in Supernatural and instead of taking advantage of it and bringing her back as an actual, proper character, they offed her to “raise the stakes.”
    And don’t get me started on Ruby, Bella, or Jo. Or Lisa’s godawful exit from the show. As soon as the writer’s get the slightest hint that fans don’t like a female character, they freak out and kill her off or otherwise remove her from the show. It’s ridiculous and I HATE how much sway the fanbase seems to have over what goes on in the show.

    That turned into a rant… But I regret nothing.

    • Venus

      Oh yeah, I would have love Meg being cured and hook up with Cass… but that’s just me :)

    • Hellboy

      Being off-screen and coming from Crowley, I still like to believe that Mrs, Tran is still alive. Like Garth swooped in at the last minute and got her out of dodge, and that’s why he’s been MIA, because he’s in hiding with Mrs. Tran.

    • Jewel

      Biting the hand that feeds him won’t get him far in this industry though.

      • poo_dragon

        He’s making enough money from Supernatural to never have to act on screen ever again, though. And I think he knows this, so doesn’t care, and though “WTH!”, I can do what I want for once, and do some good too lol. He knew the kind of backlash the makers and writers of the show would get if they killed his character off permanently, as a result of saying what he said about them. He knew the show would be dead in the water without him, at this point lol. I, for one, would definitely stop watching the show, had he been fired over these remarks. And I’m sure I’m in the majority on that one. The dude has too much power now (cause of the fans) for keeping this show going, and he knows it. He’s as integral to the success of the show as Sam and Dean.

  • KB

    The show may seem misogynistic, but isn’t it really more what some call a third wave feminism where attempts are made to treat women more as true equals? Everyone but Sam and Dean die, so are we supposed to protect just female characters exclusively? If the show doesn’t kill off women like it does everyone else wouldn’t it be like saying women are too delicate and need to be protected because they somehow can’t make it on their own? Is it really better to protect women than to let them stand on their own? Remember when the demon Casey in Sin City called Dean “bitch” right back at him. To me that’s the way a strong person that wants to be treated as an equal owns the term. That said, I do see the side Collins presents; the issue is far too complicated to be covered completely in user comments. I’m just glad the show brings these issues out overtly so that they can be argued and discussed unlike many other shows and films that hide sexism by presenting it as a norm.

    • desida

      “Bitch” is only used as an insult against men to equate them with women, i.e. something “lesser.” “Ha ha, you’re so pathetic, you’re like a *girl*.” So no, it’s not a “strong person” reclaiming anything. And I really hate the argument that not killing off the women equals saying they’re “too delicate.” (I also find it fascinating that you separate people on the show into two categories – women, and everyone.) Castiel has survived all this time. Crowley. Kevin. Garth. Bobby was on for ages, and his death was a major emotional moment in a way that no woman’s has been – because no woman has been given the depth or the screentime to matter that much, not even Ellen, or Jo, or Mary. And how often do male characters get brought back after being off the show for ages *just* so they can be killed off onscreen? As often as female characters? Doubtful. Simply saying that men get killed approximately as often as women does not tell the whole story.

      • Hellboy

        “And how often do male characters get brought back after being off the show for ages *just* so they can be killed off onscreen?”

        It is about the same. Some of them lasted two episodes, some of them more. But the show is pretty equal in their killing of characters.

        You got Rufus, Kubrick, Henriksen, Gordon Walker, Samuel and the rest of the Campbells, Ash, Adam, Gabriel, Balthazar, Zachariah, Martin Creaser, Raphael, Azazel, Alastair, Dick Roman and the other recurring Leviathans, Samandriel, Bobby, Uriel, Benny.

      • Kevin Burnard

        Bobby’s death is emotional? I thought it was well written, yeah, but nowhere near as powerful as the end to Jo and Ellen, which was absolutely tragic and emotional.

  • http://twitter.com/ShinnstonEer Matthew Clark

    Supernatural kills everybody. Insults everybody. It can be picked apart for the treatment of just about every demographic. The only people who are constant from the beginning are Sam and Dean…and they’ve died and been ridiculed numerous times. This idea that the show lacks a strong female character is off the mark imo. Many “strong” male characters have met the exact same demise that the women characters have endured. Only Sam and Dean continue on and perhaps Castiel will as well. There are numerous minor characters, both male and female, still in the universe and many of them are strong in the SPN way of things. The show in all of its glory is simply two guys who would be completely politically incorrect in our society that are revered by the show’s fans because of how they maintain in the world created by SPN. Holding this show to a real world expectation is to overlook the truly Supernatural elements of their universe and the fact that the story focuses on the boys.

  • http://twitter.com/AmethystRei Amy Rei

    SPN doesn’t treat any of it’s characters well. The female characters are killed off just as often as the male characters. The ONLY people who continue to survive (aside from Sam and Dean) are Castiel and Meg. Yeah, exactly. Jeez. Y’know what? I don’t WANT a female character playing a huge role in the story. Neither do I want a male character playing a huge role in the story. I want Sam and Dean. That’s it. Everyone else, male and female alike, are just nachos. If it bugs you so much go watch something else. Like Buffy or Charmed or Doctor Who or Torchwood or Parks & Recreation or whatever. This is Sam and Dean’s show, and I like it that way.

    • Hellboy

      Everybody dies on this show male and female, and it’s not like the non-evil female characters are treated like dirt by Sam or Dean. They are usually fairly strong and have good heads on their shoulders. Ellen was a hard-ass, but you never once saw Dean treat her disrespectfully.

      • Dill

        The fanbase hates the women on the show so much the writers have said they are afraid to introduce women onto the show. No joke.

        • Hellboy

          I’m well aware of that, but like I said everybody dies. Outside of Sam and Dean the only character that comes back from the dead is Castiel, everyone else was killed off, male and female.

          Crowley, Sheriff Mills, Becky, and Tessa are the only recurring characters from the Krpike years that are left.

          Rufus, Kubrick, Henriksen, John, Gordon Walker, Samuel and the rest of the Campbells, Ash, Adam, Gabriel, Balthazar, Zachariah, Martin Creaser, Raphael, Azazel, Alastair, Dick Roman and the other recurring Leviathans, Samandriel, Bobby, Uriel, Benny, Tommy Collins. All dead, and have stayed dead.

    • Dill

      Ask yourself this. Which female characters get to come back? Which female characters survive their return episode? If you answered “Hmmm…only Charlie and Krissy so far”, you’d be correct. Now ask yourself which male characters get to return, how many die in their return episodes and whether the fans anticipate their imminent deaths anytime they show up. If you answered “Well gee, Bobby sure comes back a lot, so does Kevin, Crowley, Cas, Garth, Death, Gabriel is most likely back, Lucifer too, gee…wonder why that is?” congrats you’ve successfully noticed SPN’s blatant sexism. Bonus points if you can count the number of times Crowley has called a female character “whore” and how many times Dean, Sam or Crowley have called a female character “bitch”.

      • HarlieD

        Hasn’t Lisa & Ben also survived? The ONLY female character I could think of. But her/their minds were erased so they forget Dean, so not much of a chance on them returning. At least they weren’t killed! Yet.

  • Anna

    God, he is such an ass. To which women’s group will he be contributing his paycheck?

    • shyster

      I agree. It’s a show about two males killing evil critters…both male and female. Get over yourselves, ladies. Pick a situation comedy if you want continuity of female characters… Frankly, it’s incredibly weird that you measure sexism by the number of females killed. Next week you’ll be complaning that some show is too protective of its female characters. Totally irrational.

      • Jason

        You completely missed the point.Read the article and the comments again.

  • Dill

    He’s 100% right and he should be commended for speaking up. Just in the S8 finale, almost all the female characters were called “bitch” or “whore” and one was brutally stabbed in the head by a male character while the other was set on fire while trying to kill the bad guy. Meg was killed just to serve the Winchesters storyline and so was Sarah. I think they would’ve killed Jodi Mills too if the fans hadn’t gone crazy on twitter about it. Thank god we still have Charlie.

    • Hellboy

      I really don’t mind those terms being used, it’s not like Sam and Dean are calling an average female on the show either of those terms. It’s either something trying to kill them or, an evil character being a dick, because he/she/it is evil.

      And so what, they killed off Sarah to move the story along, they also had Tommy Collins’ head explode at the top of the episode to move the story along. How dare this horror show about demons and monsters kill characters.

      • Dexter

        “It’s either something trying to kill them or, an evil character being a dick, because he/she/it is evil.” – Not true. Back then when Ruby was introduced, she saved Sam and Dean at least three times and even then he never missed an opportunity to call her “bitch” or “whore”. Honestly, I just started watching this show and I’m almost finishing it so I knew of the complaints about the misogynistic language and paid attention to it. Basically every female character introduced is called a bitch, whore, or slut at least ONCE with the exception of their mother. Even the nice cop lady who let then get away with it back in the beginning got called that. And you think that’s normal? By the way, deaths in horror shows are normal. But when you have one female character to every 20 male ones, and they killed just as often, it is NOT the same thing. Because then we’ll get half a season without a single female presence on a show populated by men. Yeah, just as many women are killed, but imagine this, you have 10 women and 90 men. You kill 10 women and 10 men. No more female characters and a bunch of male ones left. Get it?

        • Hellboy

          The ratio of male to female character deaths is fairly even, but by the virtue of there being more male characters they actually die more often. So the 90/10 comparison is way off base.

  • Dill

    Anyway, why is anyone doubting the words of someone who is ON the damn show? He reads the scripts, probably hears discussion about the female characters and it has stood out to him, as a guy. For a dude to pick up on sexism, get angry about it and actually speak publically at the risk of his job, IMO it has to be pretty blatant.

  • Dill

    Also a friendly reminder the writers on this show wanted Sam to rape Ruby in S4 because they felt it would be “edgy” and “dark”. The sole female writer at the time refused to let it happen so thankfully it didn’t but really calling Supernatural sexist is like saying “Bears shit in the woods and the Pope is Catholic” like, everyone knows. I’m just glad Misha had the balls to call his crew out on it.

    • Hellboy

      I call bullshit on that, unless you can provide proof.

  • billyelliot

    Haha what a funny comment on the show which gave you much fame and money! You are such an ungrateful brat!!!! If the show cares for female characters as main cast and hooked them up with Dean, you will be out from the show. Why do fans love Destiel?You know that writers won’t bring leading female characters to the show. so it will be no risk saying that comment. What a smart ass he is!!!!

  • Hannah

    I am so glad that an actor from the show agrees with me. I’ve just gotten into the show very recently and noticed the treatment of female characters. It really bothers me, but I didn’t think anybody else would feel the same so I never said anything. I’m really taking a liking to Collins, he seems like a decent human being.

  • wargle

    sounds like the dude found the internet and skimmed some articles written about other people’s critical writing about this show.

    • Emily

      Pretty much, yeah. He’s just repeating what people have been saying about the show for ages but since he’s a white dude people suddenly care and want to praise him for it.

      • gi gi

        People care because he’s an actor on the show and he could have gotten into trouble for it.

        • gi gi

          sorry for saying all of that is what I meant.

  • Guest

    What is highly interesting is the basis for this entire series. The show, albeit concerning all things supernatural, is predicated on Heaven vs. Hell (Remember season 1 vs. Yellow Eyes/Alistair). It is not necessarily the show per se… though it is highly in control of their own misogyny but rather source material.

    In the Bible itself, the woman is often cast as weak and the origin of problems (namely Eve eating the apple and Delilah screwing over Samson). I believe Esther was the only heroine throughout the entire Bible. Continuing on to other literature, take Tolkien. Another misogynistic author who had 2 or 3 female characters who weren’t just side-notes in the novel.

    Ancient myths to modern contemporary literature are lined with women being cast as the bane of male existence. Conversely, the argument can be made that men aren’t crap without women if considering the following hypothesis. Men apparently don’t do stupid stuff unless spurred on by a female. However, enter the woman character, and men fall to mush and apparently are incapable of thinking correctly falling easily into traps and betrayal. In short, via the previous hypothesis, I sometimes wonder if constant blaming of females for men’s weakness doesn’t in turn actually show that women are more powerful, intelligent, and worthy than men.

    Finally – just a simple side note – without woman, yes mankind might still be in Eden if the Bible is 100% verbatim accurate. However, mankind would be dumb as a box of rocks and no more elevated than a child given it was the woman who ate from the Tree of Knowledge and therefore was the first to grow intelligence. Misogyny is therefore nothing to ridicule but embrace as it becomes merely nothing more than a manifestation of “little wee-wee” syndrome.

  • Diagonotter

    Totally agree, and my daughter and I watch the show, and see it’s value, but as two women we cringe (apparently along with Collins) at certain aspects of the show, and the weird part is that the predominately female audience is almost as much to blame for the killing of all the female characters as the writers. The Writers have to move away from the constant barrage of slut, whore and bitch being spewed at females (good or evil) and listen a little less to fans calling for female characters to get the hook- tell the story as it should be told.

  • Hiddlesbatch

    I really agree with Misha, this is one of the reasons why he’s one of my favourite actors- he’s not afraid to call out the misogyny in the show that he’s practically a main character in. And he did point out that it’s not just sexist because they always kill off the women etc but they’re 1. almost always sexualized 2. dean tries to get laid with them 2. They’re called so many names, bitch, slut, whore etc and it bugs me so much, yeah you had a terrible life, that doesn’t give you the right to call women these things 3. I feel like Dean feels like he’s entitled to women, as with number 2, he tries to get laid or hits on almost every women, and if they pass him down then he just has this kicked puppy look on his face like “But don’t all women want to sleep with me? I don’t get it!” dean literally can not go more than two episodes without calling a woman a bitch or slut or hitting on more than one in on episode, and that makes me uncomfortable. The writers don’t have to listen to the terrible side of the fans saying to kill them off, my god, it’s not all the fans fault. And if the women is a teenager or ‘kid’ then he treats them like shit like they can’t take care of themselves BECAUSE they are girls whereas he rescues little boys and teenage boys all the time without hesitation, making sure they’re okay etc, not saying he hasn’t done that to any girls. I’ve also noticed even the women on the show are made to say sexist remarks towards themselves like “Oh you fight like a girl.” And most of the time when they’re arguing with each other someone will say “Ew we’re acting like girls, cut out the chick flick moment” yep thanks spn writers, anyway rant over :P

    • Hiddlesbatch

      *yep thanks spn because all girls are overdramatic bitches that have heart to heart moments everyday with each other

  • Aine Eastwood

    I agree, don’t hurt me. I love the show, and it’s not the lack of women that bothers me, it’s that most women on the show end up having sex with a Winchester, kissing one or falling in love with one.

  • Lina

    Without the devoted fans, who are mostly female, the show would have been cancelled years ago. I don’t get why they are so sexist and misogynist when their main audience are women and they basically own their succesd to them. That’s really disrespectful and harmful. And a lot of younger girls watch this show and it would be really important to give them strong female characters.

  • Dausy

    As much as I love Supernatural, the treatment and presentation of women on the show has always bothered me. Extending on the points made by Misha, and though I love Dean to bits, in the earlier seasons his attitude towards women made me want to punch him in the face. For example, I can’t recall the name of the episode, but Dean sees a barmaid and says “You could fit that ass on a nickel,” and it irritated me deeply that he sees this as a reason to have sex with her (though she turns out to be a demon and tries to kill him). The female actors have apparently mostly been chosen for their appearance and any female characters who are slightly overweight or not so attractive are extremely insignificant and killed in the first few minutes of the episode. I’m so glad Misha has addressed this issue within the show, though I do think the later seasons are a lot less sexist that the earlier ones.

  • Pan

    Would it be too much to put “SPOILER ALERT” in the title??? T_T

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