In the ninth episode of the sixth season ofÂ Supernatural, there’s no way to summarize this episode. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For talk of sexism, homophobia, ableism.Â
In theory, I like this episode a lot, and honestly, it’s one of the most clever takes on UFO mythology I’ve ever seen. I just wish that… well, certain things weren’t here. Let’s discuss this in two parts!
Well, now it’s clear that y’all have waited nearly a year for me to watch the opening credits of “Clap Your Hands If You Believe.” YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR SO LONG. I’ve never felt likeÂ Supernatural was trying to ignore the influences it’s taken fromÂ The X-Files. There have been references for years (dating all the way back to “Pilot”), and plenty of folks who have starred on the show or worked behind the scenes made their way ontoÂ this show.
Now, I’ve never been one to be ashamed of how much I loveÂ The X-Files. It forms the fabric of my identity in a LOT of ways. I’ve been projecting myself onto the character of Dana Scully since I was a wee child. Flat out, that character helped me come to terms with my own intellectual curiosity and my experimentation with religion, specifically Catholicism. It informed my distrust of the government as I watched the nightly news in the 90s and heard stories about the homosexual agenda and the terror of immigration. It fulfilled my desire to be scared, to learn more about the Occult and the weird and the strange. And it showed the power of a friendship that lasted nine years and bloomed into something much more than professional respect.
I’ve told this story a lot, but whenÂ The X-FilesÂ went off the air in 2002, I literally did not watch another television show in real time until 2006, when a friend of mine convinced me to watch an episode ofÂ LOSTÂ instead of always complaining about how nothing was ever going to be better thanÂ The X-Files. I believed (and still do, in most ways) that it was the pinnacle of the medium, that no show would ever live up to the bar it set, and that I’d be wasting my time with anything else. LOOK, I LOVED THE SHOW A GREAT DEAL, CLEARLY. It was an absurd thing to believe so wholeheartedly, but it was easier to cope with all the television I was missing because I was poor and couch surfing by saying shit like that. Thankfully, I found out that there was a lot of great television out there, and I re-discovered the joy of watching a series in real time.
Nothing has ever unseatedÂ The X-Files, though, and I know nothing ever will, despite that I’ve now seen shows that are “better” than it in practically every way. It’s always going to beÂ my show. So that’s the beauty of the opening here: it’s done in a way that’s clearly a parody of the original, but executed in a manner that reminds us thatÂ Supernatural will always be indebted toÂ The X-Files.
It also made me miss Kim Manners.
Like many of the greatÂ Supernatural episodes, “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” does a fine job of hiding the truth in plain sight. In this case, there never was a rash of UFO abductions to begin with. EVER. It was always fairies, using this imagined phenomenon to obscure their existence. My god, THAT’S SUCH A BRILLIANT STORY,Â AND I WANT A BILLION MORE EPISODES WITH THIS.Â It’s funny and fascinating at the same time! Plus, the writers don’t limit themselves in the definition of what fairies are. Gnomes! Leprechauns! Elves! That… one with the beanie??? WHO WAS THAT. That’s so cool, y’all, and again, I end up wanting a whole lot more. Can they please come back in another episode?
For the most part, this reallyÂ is a fun episode, one that isn’t soul-crushing by the time we reach its conclusion. (There’s a hint, but until Sam actually reconsiders his pursuit of a soul, then I’m going to imagine everything’s okay for like… five minutes. That’s fair.) Throughout it, Dean does his best to coach Sam on how to be a lot more empathetic, which is also surreal because this is Dean we’re talking about. DEAN! And the role reversal is a damn intriguing thing for the show to explore at this point, so it makes everything still feel refreshing after five full seasons, you know? It’s notÂ perfect, though, because… well I’m confused about something.
Doesn’t Sam still have all of his memories? If we accept what this show has given us â€“ that Sam is pretty much the same person but just without a soul â€“ then couldn’t he justÂ remember how to act? There’s an entire sequence in the middle of this episode where Dean runs through scenarios with Sam, hoping to impart the importance of caring. This would make a lot more sense if Sam’s entire personal history was attached to his soul, but it’s not. Just because Sam doesn’t careÂ now doesn’t mean he can’t remember how heÂ used to care, right?
What’s frustrating about this is that I actuallyÂ like Jared’s acting as Sam this season because it’s a huge departure from what he’s had to do in the past. I imagine it must have been a lot of fun! So I understand the framework that Sam exists in, and it doesn’t match up with the story here. Sam not caring about the emotional needs of others doesn’t mean that he suddenly becomes uninterested in hunting for the night. It’s just such a weird choice for the character because the confusion element doesn’t work. If Sam were careless, he wouldn’t act like he didn’t understand Dean’s reaction to him sleeping with Sparrow. He justÂ wouldn’t give a shit about it. He’s not an alien trying to understand human interaction, you know?
And speaking of human interaction, this episode features two of the more grating treatments of women in my memory of it. Now,Â Supernatural has always had that element to it over the years, and women are often introduced just so that Dean can flirt with them. Just because it’s Sam this time doesn’t mean it’s any better, but Sparrow’s use here isÂ literally for the development of Sam and Dean. I had to Google the character’s name because I couldn’t recall if anyone had actually said it aloud! She is a plot, not a character, though I’d also argue that she’s a joke. The same goes for Marion, who is one constant butt of a joke. Like, y’all realize she was right the whole time? And while I understand that the misdirect here was to make Marion seem as untrustworthy as possible, it was mean. Why?Â So that we understood that Sam didn’t care about others.
I understand that there are a lot of characters in theÂ historyÂ ofÂ SupernaturalÂ that fit this pattern, regardless of gender, so I’m not saying that they don’t deserve scrutiny or that it’s something the show needs to get rid of altogether. But we currently don’t have aÂ single recurring woman alive on the show unless Gwen or maybe Meg happens to come back at some point. None! They’re all dead, and we’re now six seasons into this show, and that’s really,Â really weird, right?
This is related to my biggest complaint of this episode, one which I find leaves a bad taste in my mouth regarding “Clap Your Hands If You Believe.” This episode makes a joke of a homophobic slur and then tries to make up for it with more comedy about little people instead? Holy shit, what theÂ fuck are you doing? Maybe the slur “fairy” in reference to a gay man is not in use as much (I don’t believe that), but when you are utterly aware of its use enough that you have to make the script itself acknowledge it, then maybe YOU SHOULDN’T MAKE A JOKE OF IT. It sucks aÂ lot, and I was instantly taken back to being in junior highÂ and high schoolÂ andÂ the numerous times since that I’ve been called a fairy for acting effeminate, and goddamn, it’s not funny. It’s a shitty joke to make in the first place, but to keep going with it? Blah. No, thank you.
The problem here is, as I said, related to the one about women. There is a difference between joking about Jared being a moose or Dean being a manchild becauseÂ they are always here. There is no issue with representation or presence. But when the show can’t keep a woman character around for more than like ten episodes, it feels crass to make characters like Marion or Sparrow. It feels especially crass when there’s not a single gay or queer character who has appeared more than once, but there areÂ more jokes and gags about gay or queer peopleÂ than actual appearances. That’s a problem, and it’s one I wish this show would address.
The video for “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
– Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often.Â My next three Double Features are now in the schedule! I will be watching In the Flesh, The Sarah Connor Chronicles (complete with Terminator liveblogs!), and then Leverage. Commission away!
– I will be at quite a few conventions and will be hosting events throughout 2014, so check my Tour Dates / Appearances page often to see if I’m coming to your city! I have events in Dallas/Addison, Las Vegas, and Reno in the next month, and more will be added soon!