Last January I treated myself to a once in a lifetime trip to a Supernatural Convention in Jacksonville, FL. It was an amazing weekend (recap here). It was amazing, and much like everything else in my life, if it proves to be an awesome "once in a lifetime" kind of thing, I immediately begin to plot on how I can do it again. It wasn't even a month after SPNJax that I had my tickets to the convention in DC. I've already talked a bit about why Supernatural and this community is such a big part of my life (book review of Family Don't End With Blood), so I will resist the urge to rehash here, and instead just do my level best to recap an amazing weekend in DC.
We pretty much saw every panel (except the gold J2) and there were some definite highlights. My favorite is always Mark Sheppard because he wanders through the audience as he answers questions. DC was one of his last conventions and the fans showed up for him, someone created signs that had some of Crowley's best quotes and Mark took some time reading the ones he went by, making the crowed cheer by simply saying "hello, boys". Mark is also that perfect combination of hysterical and terrifying, because you never know how he will react to a question, and it always leads to entertaining moments.
Other highlights include Misha coming out with his friend Darius, which led to some great stories from their childhood as well as Jensen and Jared talking about Jared playing Jensen's leg guitar (which is remarkably not a euphemism for anything). It was also great to see panels by some of the actors who were not at Jacksonville, including Samantha Smith, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and especially Kim Rhodes and Briana Buckmaster. They gave an amazing panel and are basically friend goals at this point.
I did a Storify of my panel tweets and pictures- but for whatever reason it will not embed right now (it just shows as a big blank space)- So I'm linking instead. If you want to get the full recap of my panel thought, check our my SPNDC Storify!
Update! The Amazing@BeanieJedi33 came through with some video clips over on twitter of Karaoke. I'm stupid levels of happy about this. I couldn't be more thankful that she snagged this video and shared.
Rich, Rob and Matt: This was one of the ops that I didn't get at Jacksonville and ended up regretting, so it was one of the first that I got for DC. I also knew pretty early that I wanted two pictures here. I see a lot of people posing with Matt while Rich and Rob seem put out, so I thought it would be funny to start there and then flip the script and take one with Matt looking upset at being left behind. I think the pictures came out great and I'm constantly reminded that Matt is almost completely unable to make a normal face in a picture and it almost always makes the picture that much better!
Rich, Rob & The Kings of Con: These were our first and last photo ops of the weekend. Like I've said in other posts, I initially got hooked on Supernatural and went to my first Con for Jared, Jensen and Misha.... but I stuck around for these guys (and Matt). They were some of my best ops and experiences at Jacksonville and that trend continued in DC. I LOVE these photos and both Rich and Rob are just really good guys to boot.
Louden Swain and The Wayward Sisters: Louden Swain is one of my all time favorite bands. I love seeing them live at the Saturday Night Special concert at the conventions and I never pass up a chance to get a picture. I just went for the group hug because by this point on Sunday I was fried, and who doesn't want a group hug from these guys. For Kim and Briana we went for a Charlie's Angels pose and I absolutely love it. It wasn't until after that we realized that we somehow managed to pair ourselves off with the two brunettes with our tattoos, mohawks and black outfits on one side and the blondes with their fierce red outfits on the other. We couldn't have planned it better! After the picture we got hugs from both Kim and Briana and I continue to be jealous of how awesome they are.
Misha and Jared Part 1: I also had a Mishalecki op later in the day, but these were some of the Ops I was most looking forward to, if only to rectify the not so amazing Ops I got with Jared and Misha in Jacksonville. While neither picture at the last Con came out great, they both had good stories to go with them, so I was mostly out just to improve on the situation this time. Instead of trying to come up with some great photo op pose I decided to just go with the classic hug pose. Sure it isn't nearly as exciting, but I figured we'd be less likely to mess it up. With Misha it was quick and easy. With Jared I nearly died (only a slight exaggeration) and that's why there are two pictures. With the first one I made the horrible mistake of asking for a huge hug. Jared gives great hugs. His normal hug is perfect. I upped the ante by asking for huge and it nearly cost me my life (or at least my ribs). On our first go Jared's scarf got pressed directly into my mouth and because he was hugging so hugely I had no where to go. I believe when he let go I said something like "So you're scarf nearly suffocated me. Apologies if it has lipstick on it now!" and walked off resigned to having another awkward Jared picture. Luckily Chris Schmelke called me back for another go. This time I said "apparently we hugged to aggressively, try again" and I put my hand on his scarf to hold it down. Jared then announced "nobody can stop my hugs" and proceeded to hug me hard enough that I came up off the ground. Which is why I making a completely surprised face. Initially I didn't like this picture either, but the more I saw it, the more I really loved it.
J2, Mishalecki and JDM: So here's a mixed bag of pictures. For J2 we showed them an example picture in which the two couples were looking at each other. So we pose and I notice Jensen look over my shoulder and then at the camera, at that point I was thinking to myself "If I move I'm going to mess the picture up" so I just kept staring at Jensen. So the result is everyone but me looking at the camera, but who cares. I'll just keep on staring at Jensen, because who wouldn't want to just stare at his face? For Mishalecki I showed them the two hats, the bow and an example picture and Misha asked who was going to be in the middle. I said "generally me, but technically whoever gets the bow", and he immediately grabbed the bow. That out of the way Jared snagged the Naughty Hat and said "Double kiss face" I have exactly zero idea how it went from double kiss face to Jared having a fan girl moment and Misha going with the "someone save me face", but the picture is hysterical, so I'm happy with it! JDM was an easy one (once we made it through the ridiculously long line), we asked for a flex pose and he complied. I think that picture came out great as well!
I knew this was going to be an amazing book pretty much right off the bat. Not only because John Green is an amazing author. Not even because I had only heard great stuff about the book. Nope. While both those things are absolutely true, I knew this was going to be an amazing book when I stopped reading to take pictures of lines that I thought were important. I'll annotate the hell out of a text book, but not my novels. I don't want my thoughts to cloud the next persons experience, so instead I snap pictures that I can refer back to. I'd barely read anything at all before I had to stop and document what I was reading. I think I even went so far as to tweet out that first picture, it struck me that hard.
So what was is about this book that clamped down so hard on me? For those of you have been here before it's no secret that I have long lived with both anxiety and depression. For the most part I'm good and life goes on, but there are other days where just getting through the day is a struggle. In other words Aza is me and I am Aza. While it manifests for Aza throughout the story in ways that are sometimes foreign to me, the experience is none the less the same. I could try to explain what living with anxiety feels like, but Green so perfectly encapsulates it in the book, so instead I'll just share the 4 most pertinent pictures I took of the book and meet you on the other side.
So what is it about these four quotes in particular that caught my eye? Well, I think they speak to something universal about living with a mental illness. I can't speak for everyone, but I do know that these things are real. Sometimes you just can't get out of your own head and the thoughts you have just spiral, slowly tightening until you can't handle it anymore. And you know that it isn't normal (although what is normal anyways?), and the rational half of your brain knows that you shouldn't let yourself get sucked in, but you literally can not stop yourself. You know it, you just can't do anything about it. Sometimes it feels like you are living with a monster (or demon) and other times it seems like you are the monster, that your issues are pushing others away, ruining not only your life, but also the people you love. I also know that when you find people that just get it. That see the world the way you do, it can slow down that spiral for a moment and make you feel a little less alone. Mental illness is a beast to deal with and it's not often that it's portrayed so accurately in fiction. I think what John Green does with Aza is phenomenal- he manages to keep the descriptions universal enough for people to connect with, while still creating a very specific character that struggles with her demons in a way that is intensely personal.
Beyond Aza and her living with a mental illness, the rest of the story is also really well done. I don't want to give anything away, but there's a mystery involving the missing father of a childhood friend, there's romance and friendship and Star Wars Fan Fic. In other words there's a little something for everyone! Aza navigates her life the best she can and her friends and family are with her the whole way, even when they struggle to live beside her illness. Green doesn't shy away from the hardships that come with this kind of illness, but he also remembers that when you have anxiety (or another illness), it's not all you are. It's a part of your life and it impacts how you live, but it's not all there is, and Aza gets to have a wealth of experiences throughout the book that we get to follow her on.
I enjoyed this book from start to finish and I can't wait to get a copy in the library because I think it's one that all my students should read!
In twenty powerful chapters written by Supernatural’s actors and fans, including series lead Jared Padalecki, Family Don’t End with Blood: How Supernatural Has Changed Lives examines the far reach of the show’s impact over the last eleven years. Supernatural has encouraged fans to change their lives, from getting “sober for Sam” to escaping a cult to pursuing lifelong dreams. But fans aren’t the only ones who have been changed. The actors who bring the show to life have also found, in the show and its community, inspiration, courage, and the strength to keep going when life seemed too hard.
In keeping with the show’s message to “always keep fighting,” and to support the important work of combatting stigma and encouraging those who are struggling to speak out, a portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to charity Attitudes in Reverse, whose mission is to educate young people about mental health and suicide prevention.
Contributors from Supernatural’s cast include:
Jared Padelecki (“Sam Winchester”)
Jim Beaver (“Bobby Singer”)
Ruth Connell (“Rowena MacLeod”)
Osric Chau (“Kevin Tran”)
Rob Benedict (“Chuck Shurley aka God”)
Kim Rhodes (“Sheriff Jody Mills”)
Briana Buckmaster (“Sheriff Donna Hanscum”)
Matt Cohen (“Young John Winchester”)
Gil McKinney (“Henry Winchester”)
Rachel Miner (“Meg Masters”)
Edited by Lynn S. Zubernis, a clinical psychologist, professor, and passionate Supernatural fangirl, Family Don’t End with Blood provides an insightful and often uplifting look into the way international fan communities become powerful, positive forces in the lives of so many.
This one is a hard one to review. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I have too much to say. The short review would be... this book was written for people like me, by people like me, who all geek out over the same stuff and who all belong to the same, weird, fabulous family. If they had gotten it wrong, it would have sucked. Luckily they got it so very right. This review will double as a bit of my own story too. I've written and re-written this post several times and there is no other way to do it. My life and story are too inextricably woven with the people and stories in this book. So, here goes...
First, about this book. I love the format. Stories from fans about how this show and community have impacted their lives are woven seamlessly with stories from those who actually work on the show. As a fan it was really interesting to see how the fandom has impacted the actors from the show. In a lot of respects fandom seems like a one way relationship - we are the consumer, of the show, of show merchendise, of conventions (with autographs, panels and pictures included) and they are, for lack of a better word, the product. Yes, they are actual breathing humans, but what they are selling (All things Supernatural) is a product for us to consume. In many the case of many TV shows, movies or music, this is as far as it goes, we appreciate a job well done and we spend our money accordingly. Here though... this seems to be a different beast. Reading the accounts of members of the cast you get a sense that this is no longer a one way street, but instead this is a relationship that goes both ways. For all the ways they have helped us, we have also helped them. After 13 years together, it seems impossible that it wouldn't have effected everyone involved.
One of the best parts of this book is that it allows you to find yourself in the pages. From reading about people who used the show to make sense of their own life, to hearing from Jared Padelecki about his own struggles with anxiety and depression, there is a sense that people across the board are pouring their truth into this book. When you open yourself up like that it's scary, but it can also be so rewarding. You not only share your own story, but give the reader something to relate too. With so many varied stories, there is really something for everyone. Unless, of course, Supernatural is not your jam... in which case, why are you reading this book anyways? If Supernatural is your thing... then this book is also your thing. It's worth grabbing a copy online or in person at a convention. The editor will sign it for you and if you have autograph tickets, so will the actors. I know I plan on taking mine to the next convention I'm at for a few autographs!
Now... about me. Why this book? Why Supernatural? That's a loaded question that will take forever to answer, and I do plan on answering it fully in another post I'm working on ("The Ramblings of a Life Time Fangirl"- stay tuned) but I do want to address specifically why Supernatural has made such an impact on me in the last few years.
To start I should say that I've had anxiety my whole life. If you've read this blog at all, or know me in person, this should be no big surprise. It's something I used to hide, that I thought I needed to hide. I have situational anxiety that I work hard to overcome (thus far I've gotten over my fear of dogs, horses and for the most part needles), but I also have social anxiety. I really struggle with groups of people in situations where I feel like I need to impress. First day of school is nightmarish for me. Starting a new job causes days of anxiety. When I was in college I was able to get some really good coping mechanisms that carried me for a little more then 10 years. They worked until they didn't anymore. Several factors combined to pull me really low and I found that I could no longer prevent an anxiety attack, and much more concerning to me, I could no longer pull myself out of the depression that followed. I had a job that was toxic and while I had good co-workers and students, the leadership was such that people felt targeted, bullied and intimidated. My stress, combined with the stress of people around me, was too much for my brain to handle.
It was at this time that I got into Supernatural at the suggestion of a friend. Immediately I felt a connection, these were people dealing with crazy stuff, but finding a way to pull through and beat their figurative and literal demons. On top of that, watching Supernatural came with a built in community, the SPNFamily. I knew how powerful fan communities could be from my time as a TwilightMOM, so I stepped into this new circle hoping I would find the same acceptance and support. I can't even describe how happy I was to find this tribe. The crazy thing was, it wasn't just the fans, it was the actors too. A whole community sprung up around me and I haven't looked back. When I read about Jared breaking down overseas and being unable to hold off his anxiety anymore I see myself. I see myself in the fans and the actors who contributed to this book in a myriad of ways and it serves as one more thread in our web of support. It's why I was unable to put this book down once I started reading, I was so invested in their stories because they are my stories too.
As an aside, and a story that will probably get re-told again at some point. For a lot of people they see Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as the heart of Supernatural. They are, to an extent. They are certainly the heart of the show. For me though, I look to another actor, Rob Benedict. I went to my first Convention for Jared, Jensen and Misha, but I found myself leaving as a Rob fan more then anything else. Why? It's simple. He said the words I needed to hear, when I needed to hear them. I was coming off some of the worst months I've had with my anxiety and depression. The convention was a goal to reach, a reward for sticking with it and surviving the day to day grind of my toxic work environment. My first op was with Rich and Rob and it was phenomenal (recap here), the next day Rob checked in with me about how it came out. He didn't need to, but it was that simple gesture that made me truly feel like I was part of the family. Seeing Rob on stage at Saturday Night Special, both at the Jacksonville Convention and more recently at the DC Convention, only cemented my belief that he is the heart of this family. There's something powerful about seeing him pour his heart out on She Waits and being part of the sea of lights winking back at him. When he says things like "You are loved. If by no one else, then by me" you get the sense that he 100% means it. When I had my last photo op in DC I was running on fumes. I'd been up since 6am and with the Convention running late I was looking at starting my 6 hour drive home at around 9pm. I was toast. After my picture with Rich and Rob I turned to Rob to say "Thank You" just in general, but I ended up telling him that when I was at my lowest, this community, this family, him being so welcoming in DC, is part of what kept me moving in the right direction. I hadn't intended on bringing the feels to a photo op at 7pm on a Sunday, but I did anyways, and Rob, reinforcing what I already believed, again said something that hit the mark. He looked at me and said "Stay with us. We'd miss you." He doesn't know me, he most certainly wouldn't miss me if I was gone, but someone would, this family would. We are a community that supports each other, we accept each other despite of our vast number of differences and we help each other to be better.
I rambled on a lot longer about me then the book, but I think it's all part and parcel of the same thing. The book brings together examples of how Family comes in all forms, and to quote Bobby Singer (and the title), "Family don't end with blood, and it don't start there either". I'm so proud of Lynn and what she has been able to bring to this family. I'm proud of the people who opened their hearts and contributed to this book. I'm proud of the actors who are willing to share a bit of themselves with us every week on TV, at conventions all over the world, and in this book. Most of all I'm proud of the #SPNFamily and the community we have fostered. I can't wait to read more!
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