Supernatural is a different kind of beast compared to the other texts that I have covered in this argument. If you haven’t had a chance to watch any of its 13 seasons, then I highly suggest you start watching it–in broad daylight until you get used to it–and see what the hype is about. Trust me, the hype is warranted.
Now, in terms of Metafiction, Supernatural is no stranger to this genre. While not all of the episodes reach that level of strange, several make the leap into the complex layers that should be quite familiar to you by now. If you want a good idea of what episodes do, I found a short list here!
In the fourth season and 18th episode, the protagonists of the story, Sam and Dean Winchester, come across a book series while on a case. The series is titled Supernatural and is about their lives. Everything from season 1, to the end of the previous season. And if that’s not meta enough, they meet the author of the books “Chuck Shurley” who seems like your run of the mill washed-up writer.
During their conversation with Chuck, the man decides that the only logical explanation for the books is that he is a god. The boys call him crazy and ultimately determine that he must be a prophet. BUT SPOILER ALERT it’s freakishly meta!! In Season 11 it is revealed that Chuck is God and he has been hiding out on earth and causing trouble for the boys. The structure of this story is like a giant ball of twine trying to get untangled, except it’s all connected.
But how does the relationship between Chuck and the Winchester brothers as narrator and subject form in this narrative? Much like with Stranger Than Fiction, the narrator is revealing intimate detail about the boy’s lives. It ends up that Chuck knows more about the brothers than they do themselves and it’s even revealed that Chuck can see what’s going to happen before it happens. When he informs the brothers, it gives them the opportunity to try and alter the course of the future. The difference here is that Chuck isn’t the one creating the story, he is just the one relaying it. So, he tries to help in any way that he can. He doesn’t have to write everything down for it to happen so he isn’t in control of the story like Eiffel is.
***Except since he’s God he totally knows and controls what is happening and all of the scenes shot to look like Chuck was having a vision of the future were put there by the production team to throw off the audience. Watching this again with my knowledge now is TRULY screwing with my head**
Where was meaning when this episode aired that was very similar to the meaning of Stranger Than Fiction, with the tiny detail of Chuck’s character reveal that meaning is useless. In fact, the meaning of this episode seven years later is that it didn’t matter because it was just God messing with his creation because he could and the producers messing with the audience because they could. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t well executed.
I did want to break down the frames of this storyline. We have a television show called Supernatural. The characters in the show find a book series called Supernatural with every gritty detail of their lives written out by a man named Chuck. Chuck freaks out and calls himself a god and then seven real-life years later, the audience and the characters find out that Chuck is God, who got bored and wanted to play with his characters. This narrative has two of Roland Barthes‘ narrative codes at play. Barthes is an expert on narratives and he coined five codes that work both separately and combined to create narratives. The two codes that can be seen most clearly in this episode are The hermeneutic code and the proairetic code.
The hermeneutic code deals with “any element in a story that is not explained and, therefore, exists as an enigma for the reader, raising questions that demand explication.” There are so many things about this episode and the series that are left unknown to all but the writers. In this episode, it brings up the question of why the Winchesters are yet again the subject of supernatural occurrences. What is so vital about those two that heaven and hell are involved in their daily lives? Also, the only reason I know why Chuck could write these books is because I know he’s God. And now you do too. Sorry, I spoiled it.
The proairetic code contends with “the other major structuring principle that builds interest or suspense on the part of a reader or viewer. The proairetic code applies to any action that implies a further narrative action.” The episode starts in a comic shop where Sam and Dean are mistaken for LARPers.
The boys entire lives are laid out in front of them with no answers. This leaves space for the narrative to expand as in any story but if you consider the fact what makes this episode meta (as I covered earlier) then you would realize that by them not knowing they are in a story even layered. They don’t know that they are in a narrative within a narrative within a narrative.
I also wanted to show this scene because it gives a good overview of the metafictional elements of the episode.
I came across an essay on why science fiction and metafiction worked so well together. Amada Dillon wrote the essay “‘Prism, Mirror, Lens’: Metafiction and Narrative Worlds in Science Fiction” for her dissertation. In the essay, she “proposes that science fiction is inherently metafictional because of the way it
foregrounds its world; that is, the science fiction world is a form of textual deixis.” Supernatural being a member of the science fiction/ horror genre, I think that Dillon is right. Supernatural lends itself to metafictional structures because the possibilities are endless and to be frank, meta content is very popular with the target audience.