Sunday, 15 November 2015

Thoughts from the Shower: Supernatural and Diversity

I'm a fan of Supernatural. I love the show and have watched every episode from all 11 series so far. I've also watched loads of outtakes and on-set videos with the actors messing around, and just yesterday I spent some time reading through the Twitter feeds of the three main characters - Jensen Ackles, Jared Padelecki and Misha Collins. They really seem like a nice bunch.

This morning, I was reading some articles about Donald Trump and Ben Carson (I'm not going to link, 'cos I don't actually like either of them).

When I had my shower today, my thoughts somehow went from US politics to Supernatural. Let me explain how...

The short version is that both Trump and Carson have a pretty aggressive stance on immigration. I'm not an expert on US politics, but it comes across to me as blaming immigrants for pretty much everything wrong with the country (in the same way that UKIP find ways to blame the EU for everything they see as being wrong with the UK). I do know that this tends to play particularly well with the Southern states, like Texas. Now, when I was reading Jensen Ackles's Twitter feed last night, at one point he mentioned being from Texas, and I idly wondered where he would stand on the issue.

Then it struck me - Supernatural is a very white show, isn't it?

I actually had trouble thinking of any major characters who were from a minority background. The first one I remembered was Kevin Tran, but a post-shower googling showed me that he was only actually in 15 episodes (according to that Wikipedia page, there have been 224 episodes so far, at the time of writing). I went through the list of characters and made a note of who seemed to be from a minority background and how often they'd appeared:

Character                                         Appearances                             Seasons
Kevin Tran                                              15                                         7-9
Linda Tran                                                5                                         7-9
Rufus Turner                                            5                                          3, 5-7
Raphael                                                    5                                          4-6
Uriel                                                        5                                           4-5
Edgar                                                        5                                           7
Gordon Walker                                       4                                            2-3

(apologies for the rubbish formatting)

That's 7 characters, out of a list of 57. That doesn't seem hugely representative. Now, this isn't an academic study, just a bit of curiosity-led research, so I'm a little wary of drawing conclusions at this time. I honestly don't think that there's some racist agenda at work or that the show is made by a bunch of bigots, but I do wonder why the casting seems to be unrepresentative of actual demographics.

I was planning to write a bit more, but I'm not sure it would be fair to write up any conclusions without more research - I mean, I just remembered Victor Henrikson, who isn't on the Wikipedia Cast List (although he's mentioned in the writing below it). Maybe there's a bunch more characters that I've missed. It'd be a bit dumb to write a load about the lack of diversity if there actually isn't a lack!

It's something I'd like to come back to if I have time to do some more in-depth research, though.

:: 06.05.16 - follow-up post here ::

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