I recently read the book Family Don’t End With Blood, edited by Lynn S. Zubernis. This book is a compilation of essays written by members of the Supernatural cast and crew as well as a few fans of the show. These essays shine a beautiful and heartwarming light on the positive effects this awesome show has had on so many lives.
I first heard about this book about a year ago (2017) and from the overwhelming positive reviews and comments I read and heard about it my interest was piqued. I put it in my Amazon cart but didn’t actually purchase it for many months. I’m one of those people who lives on a budget and so often mulls prospective purchases over for a long time before finally deciding if it is worth the splurge. I had been unemployed for four years due to multiple serious health issues (complications of Type I Diabetes) and this summer (2018) I finally got a new job. One of my new job celebrations was to finally purchase Family Don’t End With Blood.
The book arrived in the middle of the week. This was a busy week and I knew I wouldn’t have time to sit and read until the weekend. That very evening, though, I flipped through it, looking at the many wonderful photos, both black and white and color. I also couldn’t resist reading the contributions by Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins. Touching, personal, and insightful. I had to stop myself from reading more. I wished at that moment that I didn’t have so many responsibilities. I wanted to read the entire book right then and there.
The weekend came at last and once I finished my weekend chores I finally sat down and began reading. Of course I started with the introduction written by Lynn Zubernis. If there was any chance I wasn’t fully hooked already, the introduction finished the job. Speaking on the human need for belonging and acceptance. And the needs and desire to be able to be our true self without judgement or shame, to be creative, passionate, and find inspiration. To be happy. These are all things this brilliant show has brought to so many fans, and almost always unexpectedly. Supernatural is a fictional show that has a…yup, supernatural way of bringing out the best in people; bravery, confidence, positive vibes, and the desire to help and heal and support others.
This is an ongoing theme throughout the book. Every chapter, every essay describes in their own way how this show changed their life for the better. How the stories in Supernatural, the character’s struggles at overcoming both world-ending threats as well as personal struggles, inspired them to find strength to face their own struggles. How the cast and crew’s close relationships drew the fans to conventions and online groups to seek out and ultimately find their own “tribe”, forging new and lasting friendships with supportive and positive people around the world. The encouragement to follow dreams and take risks they would otherwise never have taken. Truly inspiring.
Included in all of this, of course, is the charitable activities. Many of the cast and crew of Supernatural have launched or are heavily involved with many charities. Misha Collins is the founder of GISH (formerly known as GISHWES) a strange, exceedingly fun and challenging yearly event that brings many, many participants together to complete crazy, fun, and daring objectives in the name of charity and to bring people out of their shells and into each others lives. Collins is also co-founder of the Random Acts organization which is dedicated to inspiring acts of kindness around the world and has succeeded in helping so, so many people and communities around the world. Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, and so many other members of the Supernatural family are no less charitable and inspiring than Misha. It would take an entire book just to write about the good these people have brought to the world and inspire in others. Saving animals, helping the homeless and abused, bringing awareness to, and fighting the stigma of, depression and self-harm…it goes on and on and on.
And, of course, there are many in the fandom that have been inspired to start their own charities, movements, etc. There is no limit to the good this show, it’s cast and crew, and it’s fans have brought to the world. Has any other show inspired so much good?
The chapter Spreading Kindness Like Confetti written by Claudine Hummel has a lot to say about Misha Collins, GISHWHES (Now called GISH), and Random Acts. This is a chapter I relate heavily with. Claudine describing herself before she discovered Supernatural (and specifically Misha Collins) is as if she is describing me. And then she talks about how Misha and his passion projects- and just who he is- inspired her and helped her to change her view of herself and blossom into who she is today. Jeez, it’s not exactly me, but I certainly can see a lot of myself in this story.
Each and every chapter of Family Don’t End With Blood is remarkable. I could say wonderful things about each one, but alas, I will not spoil the beauty and enjoyment for you. I will remark on the chapter, The Road So Far written by Lauren Aker, though, because it touched me just a bit deeper than some of the others. I won’t go into details about what she says but I will say she says it well and her experiences are similar to those I dream of in my own life. If only I could have the “luck” she’s had. If only I could be as brave as she.
Please allow me to go a bit off track here and discuss this “bravery” some of these contributors write about in their chapters. It may seem to some a small leap of faith for someone to decide to do something they’ve never done before, or go somewhere they’ve never been. Some people love to try new things, many people are terrified by that thought. I am not afraid to try new things like foods, games, shows, clothes, etc. But I am terrified of going places…anywhere. Even more so if it is somewhere I’ve never been. Like conventions, I would never go to a Supernatural convention. I’d want to, damn, I’d love to, but I never would go because the crowds of people, the being in the middle of it all, the being out there, in it all. I’d die of anxiety; profound, petrifying fear. And I am anxious at meeting new people…OK, anxious is putting it softly. It’s downright frightening. It’s all just so…
I have agoraphobia and social anxiety. I’m also very much an introvert.
If it weren’t for the show Supernatural and how very strong it’s impact on me… I don’t even know how to put it into words but I’ll try… The show itself is just a show, a normal highly entertaining and deeply moving show. A really good one, but at first glance it’s just a show. But then it grabs you, you see right off the chemistry between the two main actors, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. When I first really got into the show I remember thinking to myself, “These two actors must be best friends in real life”. Really, it shows in their on screen chemistry. The show has the best writers. The episode stories are great, but the ongoing struggles, the character development, the way it is all so brilliantly played out and presented is magic. The actor’s talent is unmatched, IMO. You put great direction, great writing, and excellent acting together and you have the perfection that is Supernatural.
And the family importance. Both on and off screen Supernatural and it’s cast, crew, and fandom, it’s all about family. The show covers all kinds of stories, all genres, but it never strays from the family aspect. It teaches us to never give up on our loved ones no matter how far they stray, how much they hurt or are hurting others, never give up no matter what. It teaches us to always be there for one another, be supportive, encouraging, healing of each other. And it especially teaches us, just as this book’s title says (and so many of the chapters point out), family doesn’t end with blood. In other words, family is who you make your family, family can be found in anyone.
As I said, it’s not just on screen. We see the friendships behind the scenes. The family feel and atmosphere. The support and encouragement. The good works each of them do on their own and together. And their personal interactions with their fandom. It’s amazing. Inspiring.
All of that solidified my love of the show. But even more so, it is through Supernatural that I discovered Random Acts, GISH, and so many other campaigns, projects, and organizations. Being agoraphobic and having such bad social anxiety and introversion the thought of putting myself out there for anything, even charity, is petrifying.
I’ve always wanted to help others. But I’ve rarely done more than donating money or food/clothes/etc. I’ve never done anything that required volunteering my time and presence some place because of agoraphobia and social anxiety. I am not confined to my home, it just takes a lot of determination, strength, pushing, and energy to get myself out the door. Oh, and I absolutely must have my security blanket (my husband) with me. It is difficult to leave, and even more so to leave knowing I’ll have to interact with other human beings. I’m tense, my heart is racing, I’m trembling, and feeling the panic rising just typing about it here.
As I said, I do leave my home. I work in customer service even! But it is so very draining because I have to work so hard to keep the stress, anxiety, and horrendous self-loathing thoughts it causes me in check. The overwhelming desire – need even – to drop everything and run home and hide. It’s exhausting. So, the thought of volunteering to do charitable works is a very strong desire, but very tough to put into action since I am so scared, and already so drained.
But I so want to do good things for this world! I want to help!
And I’ve been thinking, the best way to overcome is to face it head on, right? Having a job that’s draining is one thing. Perhaps it’s so draining because I am not passionate about it. I do like my job, but I certainly don’t love it. But doing something I am passionate about like charitable works, something that helps others, how can that be draining? I would think it would be energizing and therapeutic.
Anyway, I’ve been inspired by both Random Acts’ projects and mission as well as GISH. I’ve been very tempted but frightened to join GISH.
I did join GISH, just before they first advertised early registration for next year (2019).
I am so scared, but so very excited. I think an entire year is just barely enough time for me to get my guts together to do this and face my fears.
In the book, Osric Chau writes in his chapter, The Opposite Of Fan Fiction: The Extroverted Adventures Of An Introvert, about how he feels and the kinds of thoughts that go through his mind when he is socializing, and how he finds it difficult to socialize but has found ways to overcome his introversion and difficulties. Reading this chapter I could fully understand his experience. As he recounted memories of his younger years in school and of more recent years at conventions I found myself delving into my own memories of awkward social interactions, especially the millions of times I’ve found myself in a conversation that near instantly ended in awkward silence because I never have any idea how to converse. Why can I never think of anything to say?
Jared Padalecki writes about his struggles with anxiety and depression in his very personal and moving chapter. I have struggled with depression before, very deep depression, so deep I had, for a short time, dwelled on thoughts of death and how I might go about it if I chose to die. But depression was a short time in my life. Anxiety is almost 24/7 for me. Jared’s story is one that hit’s home not just because I understand exactly what he describes when he talks about depression and anxiety, but because he also talks about how he managed to get it under control, and that also is very similar to how I managed to get my depression under control. Jared also talks about his Always Keep Fighting campaign and how much it means to him and has helped him in his own struggles. I have always been a fighter, of all my faults and weaknesses, giving up is not one. I always keep fighting no matter what and I have always prided myself on at least that one positive trait. Learning about The Always Keep Fighting campaign made me love Jared even more, learning how much the other actors and the fandom supported this cause made me love them all so much more. Of all the messages to put out there, this is probably the best and most strengthening for a person struggling in any way.
Conventions are a very large part of this book. The actors talk about their time and experiences at conventions, and the fans talk about theirs. The coming together of the actors and the fandom is a powerful and emotional experience for both sides. It is undeniably clear that the actors and show have a huge impact beyond the expected and usual effect a show and it’s cast and crew have on fans. Equally, the cast and crew are more than just celebrities, but fans of the fandom! All the people involved on both sides have had overwhelmingly positive effects on one another. They encourage, support, cooperate, cheer each other’s successes, help each other to heal, and work together to bring so much good to this world and those in need in so many ways.
The chapter written by Jim Beaver, The Supernatural Effect, ties right into the overall theme of the book. He talks about the feel of the Supernatural set, how everyone is friendly, welcoming, and genuinely warm and supportive. He goes on to talk about the conventions, the fandom (SPNFamily), and how pleasantly surprised he was to find so many fans attending the conventions and active online. He speaks about the ties between the cast and crew, the fans, and coming together to help those in need. His chapter covers even more than I mention here, but, again, I’d hate to spoil the experience for you.
It’s difficult to not say too much about each chapter because they are all so good and so touching. When I first started in on the chapter Feel What I Feel, See What I See by Kim Prior I didn’t think I’d relate very much since I am not a parent. But I related oh, so much. As she discussed the shame she felt of being a stay-at-home mom I thought of the shame I felt the four years I spent at home due to health troubles. She goes on to explain how the SPNFamily helped her to heal and grow and find a passion and worth she didn’t know she had. I bring up this chapter as my closing to this review because I found in my reading of the book how very much of a fangirl I am for Supernatural, but more so for what the Supernatural cast and fandom have helped me to realize about myself. I realized I needed to work on overcoming my anxiety, agoraphobia, and my self-loathing thoughts. I am good enough, I am worth something, I can be brave and strong.
Read the book. You’ll come away feeling so much better about yourself and people in general. You’ll relate to the struggles. You’ll feel feels, good feels. You’ll want to be inspired like these people were and are; you’ll want to have friendships as strong as family like they’ve formed within the fandom. If you don’t understand people who get so excited and obsessed with things like shows, books, bands, celebrities, comics, games, etc. You’ll understand after reading this book. If you are a fan of Supernatural you’ll be an even bigger one after you read this book. If you’ve never watched even one episode, this book will certainly pique your interest, probably to the point you’ll go watch a few episodes…and then you’ll be hooked.
Go get Family Don’t End With Blood and read it.