Title: Family Don't End With Blood
Edited by Lynn Zubernis
Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Website: Family Don't End With Blood
How a Show, and the Support of Its Fandom, Changed—and Saved—Lives
May 2017 marks the end of the twelfth season of the CW hit Supernatural, a television show about two demon-hunting brothers (and an angel) that is at the center of a fan community as tight-knit as family—a virtual support system that spans the globe. The three-time People’s Choice Award winner for Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show and Tumblr’s 2015 Most Reblogged “Live Action TV” show has made a name for itself by supporting and encouraging its fans to “always keep fighting,” a main theme echoed in the show, and demonstrating the inspiring truth to a memorable line from early in the show’s run: “Family don’t end with blood.”
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!