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As a television program, "Supernatural" has never been afraid to take dares. It's tackled the Apocalypse. It has sent both of its main leads to Hell---and brought them back. It has had a main lead without a soul for half a season. It's looked at all those things that go bump in the night and thrust them into our living rooms unabashedly. "Supernatural" has even made one of their main leads the vessel for Lucifer himself. Riskiest of all, however, is its penchant for delving into meta fiction. 
 
Meta fiction. The term can be confusing and misunderstood. Meta fiction is a two headed beast. Its first is indirect meta fiction. It is the invisible web a story hangs upon. It is the skeleton. A story, much like a body, is only as strong as its skeleton. Each bone in the story must connect to the rest correctly or it can fall apart. What might seem an arbitrary selection---a choice in music, the color of a favorite shirt---are all deliberate to reveal something about character or plot. Everything is essential or it is cut. Anything extraneous detracts and distracts. Those writers that employ good indirect meta fiction can take their viewers or readers any place they so choose, and they'll gladly follow---even if it is off a cliff. Essentially, if they've done their job, the indirect meta fiction is largely unnoticeable, much like good mechanics such as grammar and spelling. 
 
The other is that of direct meta fiction. Of the two, it is direct meta fiction that is most misunderstood. It is the open acknowledgment that what is being presented is fictional. It often recognizes itself, discusses its medium, and as Supernatural does, pokes fun at itself. This can either be a blessing or a curse to a story. Direct meta fiction is not always well received. It is a risky move to pull back the curtain and show the inner workings of the meta fiction skeleton, baring it to the audience. Done correctly, it can be pure gold. 
 
As early as season 1, "Supernatural" has explored direct meta fiction. The first hint that direct meta fiction will be a part of "Supernatural's" fabric is found in the Pilot. Dean refers to the real FBI agents that arrive to the crime scene as "Mulder and Scully." A good portion of the "Supernatural" writing team is from the "X-Files," thus paying some homage to the show that came before it. In "Phantom Traveler," there are several references made to the movie Poltergeist. The show's genre and predecessors are often brought in as quips and asides to the overall story, calling out the fictional aspect of its nature. 


 
The episode "Hell House" is the first actual direct meta fiction episode. It is subtle in its nature. It is far away from the unabashed "The French Mistake." "Hell House" starts off as a typical episode. A group of teenagers approach a rundown and abandoned house, talking about the rumors that it is haunted. They scoff, joke around, and dare each other to go in. They think the whole story is made up, stupid, and harmless---until they see a woman hanging from the cellar rafters, dead. By the time the cops arrive, there is no body to find. This story draws attention to the town---namely marking it as a possible hunt for the Winchesters. 
 
The main motif this episode employs is that of pranks and pranking.  It is how they introduce meta fiction in a subtle and clever manner. The episode itself is a prank upon the audience---one that they are  fully let in on. It is also the technique that will carry over in some form through out every other meta fictional episode "Supernatural" has ever done. 
 
In the first scene featuring Brothers Winchester, we find a bored Dean amusing himself at a sleeping Sam's expense. He sticks a white plastic spoon into Sam's open mouth, takes a photo with his camera phone, then turns up the stereo to startle his younger brother awake. Sam is not amused. He says to Dean, "Man, we"™re not kids anymore, Dean. We"™re not gonna start that crap up again." 


 
The prank war seen in this episode, in some ways, might be directly responsible for the fandom myth that Jared and Jensen are pranksters to the guest actors for the show.  Considering it seems that none of the guest actors at conventions can tell  a story about a single "pranking" incident, it makes one wonder where this idea came from. Remembering the nature of the monster in this episode, it makes one think! 
 
When they arrive, Dean isn't quite convinced that this isn't simply teenagers pulling pranks on the cops. Sam makes his case that they should at least thoroughly check it out, that they really have nothing else to do now that they've let their father go, and so they start the normal routine of questioning witnesses. 
 
This is where it becomes different. Every single teenager that was at the house has a different story, a different detail. Some say the girl that was hanging was a red head, others a blond. One swears that the girl was kicking while another says she wasn't moving at all. The symbols are described in detail, most of them as contradictory as any thing else they've said. This will most certainly make their jobs harder.
 
They meet Craig, who works at a record store. He knows about the story behind Hell House, and fills the brothers in on the story---omitting the fact that it is his created story. There is no haunting in the Hell House, at least not the normal kind. Until Craig created this story, there was nothing for Sam and Dean to hunt at all. To connect the prank war that Sam and Dean are currently engaging in, the whole haunting that Craig has created is also a prank. 


 
In this episode, we meet Ed Zeddmore and Harry Spangler, two goof balls who want to become famous and make a television series.  Their very names harken back to "The Ghostbusters," yet another reference to a predecessor to "Supernatural." Sam and Dean are often considered by the writing team to be the Ghostbusters in a way, so by placing Ed and Harry onto the scene they've pulled this inside joke in for the fans.  In fact, Dean even brings The Ghostbusters"™ theme further into the story by shouting out the tag line of the theme song, "Who you gonna call?" to distract the cops from him and Sam onto Ed and Harry. 
 
They have touted Craig's story on their website "hellhoundslair.com," and tried everything to encourage its spread. What's ironic about this is the fact that Ed and Harry have been pranked. This Hell House isn't real. It's a made up, fabricated story, and they fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. The footage they had hoped to gain and then sell to Hollywood would be missing one key ingredient: evidence of an actual ghost. Yet, they've unwittingly created a monster that Sam and Dean must now destroy.
 
It is a Tulpa, a monster that is created by thought alone, channeled through a Tibetan spirit sigil. Ed and Harry didn't paint it, but their website surfers have certainly used it just as unwittingly to make the haunting they believe in to be real. This turns the prank Craig started back onto Craig in a weird twist. 


 
Ed and Harry are a mirror held up to Sam and Dean. They're the geekier, sillier, and inept version. If they seriously entered the realm of hunting, it is likely they would not survive for long. It's not real to them. This is merely a vehicle to make it in Hollywood. Unlike Sam and Dean, they don't bother questioning the haunting, they aren't aware that it is a hoax, and they'll fall for any lie fed to them, even one Sam and Dean provide---not once, but twice.  
 
This is essentially the first time "Supernatural" makes fun of itself. It does so in a witty and novel way. The story line of the show is very serious, dark, and often earns it the classification of horror. There shouldn't be room for such tongue in cheek behavior. Yet, time and time again, this has worked well for "Supernatural." We, as the viewer, know that Ed and Harry ARE Sam and Dean essentially, and that is why we laugh. It's why even Sam and Dean laugh. Their dual pranks on their ridiculous doppelgangers gives them the last laugh at the end of the episode. 


 
It isn't until season 3's "Ghostfacers" that we see Ed and Harry again. Before we jump there, let's look at the direct meta fiction episodes in order. 
 
Our next, much more bold taste, is found in "Hollywood Babylon." It picks up the prank motif from "Hell House," to start the possible hunt for Sam and Dean. A man has been been found dead on set, but it is a hoax to promote the movie being made: Hell Hazers II: The Reckoning. Much like "Hell House," the hoax turns deadly real when a studio executive, Brad Redding, dies on set. He is hung in the middle of a scene being shot for the movie. This mirrors the death of a now very real ghost: a young actress in the 1920s that had been scorned by a studio executive leading her to hanging herself. 
 
Unlike the more brazen "The French Mistake," Sam and Dean are not actors. They are crew members, working in the grunt position known as a PA. Dean isn't certain what that is, but Sam quips, "I think they're like slaves." They watch the actors work on set, help provide coffee runs, and keep track of scripts, all the while working the actual case. It touches the "fourth wall" without entirely breaking it down, bringing the viewer into a behind the scenes exposé on how the show is put together in a comical and satirical manner. 
 
Not only is the episode itself pure meta, but a lot of the references made refer back to a real individual within "Supernatural." The director for the movie, McG, is named for a real producer of the show. He even makes an actual appearance, not unlike Alfred Hitchcock, within the episode. When Sam and Dean are on the Hollywood tour, the tour guide announces that they might be lucky enough to meet one of the stars of Gilmore Girls. At this, Sam gets an uncomfortable look and bolts the tour bus. Jared played Dean Forrester on the program in 65 episodes. Sam complains to Dean that they're wasting time in Hollywood, but Dean insists that he wants a break, to go swimming. Sam quips "Does this feel like swimming weather to you? It's practically Canadian." Supernatural is filmed in Vancouver, pulling in their real shooting location into the fabric of the show. The actress staring in Hell Hazers also starred in Boogeyman, at least within the canon of the episode. The film was penned by Eric Kripke himself. 


 
Aside from these types of references, "Hollywood Babylon" parodies not just how the show itself is made, but how Hollywood itself operates. Brad Redding's complaints about the darkness of the movie are the same complaints Kripke has heard from CW executives throughout the making of the show. The use of salt and Latin chanting by the actors in the movie harken back to "Supernatural's" very own weapons against ghosts and demons. The actual use of shotguns, something brought up by the producers as a whim and shot down quickly amuses Dean. Ironically, it is the very thing they end up using in the movie after Sam and Dean, actually solving the case employ them. 
 


The creator of the monster in this episode is appropriately a writer. Walter Dixon wrote the script that has been since rewritten to sell to the average movie goer. They've replaced his careful attention to detail and use of real incantations with "cleavage and fart jokes." This expresses a frustration within the Hollywood system that favors the lowest common denominator in entertainment over quality. In the episode, Dixon wants to punish the executives and other producers for ruining his life's work. He summons and then binds to a talisman a number of ghosts to kill at his beck and call. 
 
Unfortunately for Dixon, he smashes it, releasing the spirits from his control. At this, they set out to murder him for forcing them to kill at all. This death will later be repeated in "The French Mistake" when Eric Kripke and a number of the producers are gunned down in the episode.


 
 
Season 3 sees the return of "The Ghostfacers." Ed and Harry are back, and this time they're not simply an amusement we see through Sam and Dean's eyes. They prank "Supernatural" itself, taking the program over with a broadcast that completely interrupts the natural flow of the show all together. It's jarring, it's in your face, and it's risky---but it works. Not only are they parodying "Supernatural," they are parodying all of the ghost hunting reality shows such as "Ghost Hunters," "Extreme Paranormal," or "Ghost Lab." They do so in a way that is both utterly tongue in cheek, yet endearing all at once. 


 
It is also a commentary on the Writer's Strike and what replaced scripted programming during its duration. Harry calls the writers "lazy fat cats," and Ed says "Who needs writers when you've got guys like us?" Considering the glut of reality programming that emerged during the strike, it's not hard to imagine that this conversation happened a few times at network tables. Its commentary is biting, sharp, and to the point. If anything, the writer's strike proved that "cheap" television could be put out, but that it would not necessarily be "good" or "quality." "Ghostfacers" parodies so much of what is bad and distasteful about reality program. They even include the "confessional" videos that often mark reality programs, that are neither confessional nor real. The truth about most reality programming, as "Ghostfacers" manages to expose through a scripted form, is that it itself is scripted quite often. 
 
We see the case in the episode through Ed, Harry, and their team's eyes as they set up to investigate the Morton House, only haunted once every Leap Year. They start their show like the typical ghost hunting program, huddled together around a white board discussing the upcoming case. The history of the place is told, the equipment is gathered, and the plan of action is drawn up. Unfortunately, the head quarters of the Ghostfacers is in Ed's parent's garage, and they are unceremoniously interrupted by Ed's father returning home to park the car. As inept as Ed and Harry looked in "Hell House," they look down right helpless in "Ghostfacers." 
 
They're so incompetent that when they arrive and cut the lock on the gate to the house, Ed's sister points out that they probably need a permit, to which they respond that'd be a good idea for next time. Sam and Dean KNOW that entering is illegal, but have to do it to solve the case. Ed and Harry just don't know because they're ignorant and foolish. Once they start to approach the house, Sam and Dean arrive, scoping by. We hear the familiar rumble of the Impala's engine and the blasting of Grand Funk's "We're An American Band" blaring from the stereo, giving us the first outside look at Sam and Dean since the episode started. Ed and Harry duck down, convinced at first that it's the cops, but quickly realize that it's not, quipping, "No, not cops. Just hicks." 


 
They're so unaware that they don't recognize the car or its occupants the way we, the viewers, do.
 
Once they are inside, they pump each other up with a chant and start to set up their recording equipment. They set up a command central, titled "The Eagle's Nest," and split up into separate groups. This is not a serious investigation to any of them. They horse around, play pranks on each other, and goof off. It could be argued that Harry is to Dean what Ed is to Sam, considering that it is Harry that freaks out over a dead rat. Spruce picks it up and throws it at him, much to Harry's ire and disgust.
 
They actually get what they came for: footage of a ghost. It's a death echo, and they freak out over its appearance. They don't know what is going on, they don't really understand what it means, they just see it being a benefit to their show. 


 
Sam and Dean burst onto the scene, attempting to spook whomever is staying the night by pretending to be cops. They enter the room, and Ed recognizes them as the same guys from Texas. He exclaims, "Hey! Aren't they those bleep from Texas?" This pulls in the fact that both Jared and Jensen are indeed from Texas.  Sam and Dean similarly look closer and Sam realizes that Ed is the same guy from the Tulpa case. Dean quickly asks where Ed's partner, Harry is. They need to clear the house if they are going to pull off this hunt successfully. Gone is the tolerated amusement from "Hell House." In "Ghostfacers," neither Sam nor Dean have any patience for their ineptitude and foolhardy behavior. They've both seen and done too much, lost too much, and thus want nothing to do with Ed and Harry's silliness. They know, unlike their mirror images, that this is a deadly night and dangerous. 
 
Once Ed leads Sam and Dean back to where Harry and his team are, another death echo takes over the room. Sam and Dean, with their hunter's instincts and training, instantly jump into hunter mode. They surmise quickly what is going on, but know this is not the true threat. The Ghostfacers team, on the other hand, are freaked out, overwhelmed, and excited that they have captured not one, but two full apparitions for their reality show. They quickly question Sam and Dean, as they overhear their conversation, what a death echo is and what is going on. Sam and Dean may not be amused, but they still have some patience for them---they actually try to explain what is going on while trying to get them to leave. 


 
Unfortunately, because they are distracted by these death echoes, they don't realize that their intern, Corbett has gone off to investigate on his own. As Sam and Dean try in vain again to get the Ghostfacers to leave, a scream echoes through the house. Corbett is missing, and suddenly this has become "real" in a way the Ghostfacers never anticipated. Sam and Dean realize that it is up to them to solve this or die. It's much too late to get out as they try the doors and realize they are sealed in a "supernatural lockdown." 
 
Sam has a minor tantrum, smashing a chair into the door, exclaiming to Dean, "You got two months left. Instead we're gonna die tonight." 
 
This pulls in the serious overtone of season 3 while not making it the center of the episode. We, as the viewer, know that the clock is ticking for Dean. He is hell bound very shortly, and instead of searching for a way to break his deal, they are crossing off one of Dean's "bucket list" hunts. It adds to Sam and Dean's lack of patience with the Ghostfacers as well. 
 
Instead of stopping the show in progress and yielding to Sam and Dean's apparent and obvious expertise in the field, they continue to film. This annoys Dean much more than it does Sam, who asks openly to Maggie, "Does it make you feel better to see this nightmare through that?" She hesitates, then replies that it does. Dean shrugs, and continues his investigation, regardless of the camera trained upon him. 
 
Unfortunately, the house is not done taking victims. Another EMF surge hits as the group is trying to figure out their next move in finding Corbett, and after it is over, another member is missing: Sam. 


 
Whatever patience Dean may have had for the Ghostfacers is gone. He is focused on finding and rescuing Sam. He has no time to deal with their nonsense. He must find his brother and find him quickly. The Ghostfacers, on the other hand, continue as if this is merely a fun house, goofing around. Harry and Maggie end up alone together, with Spruce filming them. They start to make out, setting up for Ed to walk in on them. When he does, Ed becomes irate. He blatantly asks Harry if he's "doing my sister," which upsets Maggie and causes Harry to talk fast. Ed asks Spruce to hold his glasses and proceeds to fight with Harry. Harry's behavior is a very exaggerated reflection of a season 1 Dean, further placing Harry as Dean's avatar and Ed as Sam's. It is also a ridiculous example of the "forced confrontation" found in the majority of reality programs. The problem with "reality" TV is that they have to manufacture conflict because reality is often full of dull moments where nothing is happening, thus boring to the audience. This confrontation between Ed and Harry is to create false tension---and is hilarious because of it.
 
When Dean realizes that this squabble is taking place, he promptly steps in, breaks it up, and admonishes them by saying that "we're down by two people!" He then resumes his frantic search for Sam, yelling for his little brother in a panic. He is alone on this hunt, with or without the Ghostfacers present. It is up to him to solve it. As he manages to calm himself, Dean starts to put pieces together. He knows that the last owner of the house, Freeman Daggett, was a cold war survivalist from the old army rations and pamphlets that him and Sam looked over earlier. He realizes that this must mean there is a bomb shelter and that this is probably where Sam is. 
 
Unfortunately, Spruce continues to follow him, filming the entire time. He tries to draw Dean out into a confessional moment, recalling Sam's earlier tantrum, asking Dean what Sam meant about having two months to live. Dean snaps back that it's complicated, realizes that Spruce is trying to draw him into some confessional, and retorts furiously, "I'm not going to talk about my bleep problems to some bleep reality program. I'm going to do my bleep job." The use of bleeped expletives in the episode is a nice touch, enhancing its hilarity. 
 
Meanwhile, Sam has woken up in the bomb shelter, across from Corbett. He is tied to a chair, sitting around the remains of a rotted birthday cake. This birthday party thrown by Daggett recalls two references: Psycho and Great Expectations. His guests are all dead, and much like Norman Bates in Psycho, he is unable to fill his loneliness, and like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, he remains with a long forgotten cake. 


 
The song "It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To)" plays on a loop through the scene. It's the perfect song choice to bring indirect meta into the direct meta of the episode. It suits Daggett's character perfectly---and it brings us back to a familiar point of view without any of the Ghostfacer cameras. We see Corbett attacked by Daggett, and killed, all from Sam's point of view. It is harsh, it is dark, and it is not funny. 
 
Before Daggett can do the same to Sam, Dean has arrived to hear the same song playing. He shoves the heavy cabinet from in front of the shelter opening, to which Spruce quips "Wow, you're strong." This earns him a one fingered salute, blurred by a Ghostfacers logo, as all of the swearing has been done, from Dean. 


 
Dean turns his focus immediately on saving Sam, blasting Daggett with rock salt. He unties  Sam, who tells Dean what happened: Daggett dragged the bodies home from the morgue, set up his party, and then went up stairs to commit suicide on horse tranquilizers. While the Winchesters focus on the case, the Ghostfacers continue to film, much to their amazement. This time it is Sam that asks why they're still filming. Dean ends the discussion by snapping that it makes them feel better and to not ask. 
 
They still have a problem. They might know what happened to Daggett, and now they have Sam back, but they are still locked in the house. They must find a way to solve the case or die. We see Ed, Maggie, and Harry in the salt circle Dean instructed. Corbett appears to them as a death echo, tying more indirect and direct meta together. They realize that they must snap him out of his loop, and because Corbett has a crush on Ed, it is up to Ed. 
 
Corbett's attraction to Ed is a shout out in many ways to the slash aspect of fandom. Rather than playing further on Ed and Harry being Sam and Dean's avatars and creating the potential for Ed and Harry being a slash couple, they've chosen an outside character to have an attraction. Ed steps carefully out of the salt and declares that he did love Corbett. This snaps Corbett out of his loop, giving him the ability to face and destroy Daggett.
 
We see the close of the Ghostfacers pilot with Ed and Harry talking again to the camera about what happened and how it changed their lives. The camera pulls back as the credits roll, and a shocked Sam and Dean are revealed to have been the viewers. Sam quips, pulling in Jared's actual Texan accent, "I mean, it's bizarre how y'all able to, to honor Corbett's memory while grossly exploiting the manner of his death. Well done." 


 
To carry over the prank motif again, Sam and Dean execute a brilliant one on Ed and Harry. They leave a bag behind on purpose, containing a magnet. When it is taken out, the entire computer system, including the pilot, is erased, leaving Sam and Dean in the clear. They had only recently escaped the FBI and had been declared legally dead. It wouldn't do for them to appear in a reality program, after all. The brothers share a smile, and drive away, bringing us fully back into Sam and Dean's point of view again, restoring us to normal.


 
 
"The Monster at the End of This Book," is the first meta fictional episode to have a serious undertone. It has the same prank elements, throwing Sam and Dean into a whirlwind adventure outside their normal framework, yet this prank is most certainly on them. Earlier, it had been on the victims of their cases, or their goofball doppelgangers in Ed and Harry. This joke is most certainly on them and they are most certainly not laughing. 
 
They arrive to a comic/book store, asking the typical questions concerning a case. They ask the shop owner if they've had any flickering lights, sounds of scratching like rats, and other signs of ghosts. He seems perplexed by this line of questioning until a look of recognition crosses his face. He tells them that they must be "LARPING," which confuses Sam and Dean. They find out that this means live action role playing and that there is a book series that is eerily about their lives. They proceed to buy the entire series, reading through it. 


 
It is written by Carver Edlund, a pen name for Chuck Shirley. The name Carver Edlund is a play on two of the Supernatural writers, Jeremy Carver and Ben Edlund. Chuck, as a character, stands in for Eric Kripke himself. Sam and Dean need to find him, and to do so, they run into a woman who helps publish the series. She tests Sam and Dean, concerned that they might not write an appreciative article about "her boys." Both Sam and Dean pass her tests with flying colors, even revealing their protection tattoos. This gains them the name of Chuck, giving them the chance to confront him. 
 
When they show up, Chuck thinks this is a joke, that Sam and Dean are just over zealous fans. He says that they should get lives. The prank of this episode is on him as much as it is on them. It isn't until Dean reintroduces himself saying, "I'm Dean Winchester and this is my brother Sam." Chuck is stunned, retorting, "I never put the last names in the books." 
 
Chuck, reminiscent of Sam's season 1 and 2 psychic visions, endures deliberating headaches followed by flashes of what is to come. He is not attached to any psychic children of Azazel's, exhibits no other power. Chuck doesn't know why or how he is doing what he is, but the writers tip their hands possibly by having him state out in the open that he is a "cruel, capricious God." Many in fandom equate him to being God after his "disappearance" at the end of "Swan Song." Instead, he is identified by Castiel as a Prophet of the Lord. 


 
Dean, wanting to avoid the confrontation Chuck has seen between Sam and Lilith, declares the day "opposite day." The prank is rather on him, as everything he tries to do fails. He orders a tofu burger and gets a cheese burger. He takes Sam to a motel that is by the hour, with a different name, only to have the lights fritz and become the "Red Motel," as Chuck foresaw. He leaves to park the Impala, only to be hit by the minivan and ends up seeing stars. Everything that Dean attempts fails, leading Sam to the inevitable confrontation that could potentially kill him. 
 
But the joke in this episode is really on those orchestrating the "plan" to start the Apocalypse. Chuck claims that Dean is going off script when he pulls Chuck to the hotel Sam is at with Lilith. Castiel has told him that Chuck is protected by an Archangel, and any threat to Chuck will be destroyed. Dean takes this under the table information and puts it to good use, placing Chuck in Lilith's path. It saves Sam, stops what Chuck saw from coming to pass, and proves that just because it's their "destiny" that it is not entirely written in stone. Despite Zachariah's threat to Chuck about warning Sam and Dean, it's obvious that he's already on the losing side without realizing it. 


 
On the lighter side, this episode is the first true episode to actually acknowledge the fan base directly. There were shout outs in earlier meta episodes such as "Hollywood Babylon," but nothing quite as blatant as this. Subgenres of fandom, including that of Wincest, were touched upon. Sam and Dean look up fandom information, coming across this tidbit much to their chagrin. Dean seems pleased at first that there are Sam Girls and Dean Girls, but is puzzled by this "slash" fan aspect. Sam gets it immediately, and explains that it means that they mean "As in... Sam-Slash-Dean. Together. " 


 
To pull further on the meta fiction aspect, Chuck admits that he has written himself into the story the same way that Kurt Vonnegut did with Kilgore Trout, interacting with his own characters. This is the most brazen meta fictional episode Supernatural has done to this point. We're not just seeing them play with the meta fictional structure or pulling in references to the work itself, we're seeing behind the curtain more than ever before---but through Sam and Dean's eyes. They are reading the story while we watch them reading the story, and as Dean becomes frustrated, stating "I'm sitting in a laundromat, reading about myself sitting in a laundromat reading about myself - My head hurts. " We can't help but laugh at how ridiculous that sounds. 


 
As never before, a television show can and has interacted directly with their fans. Because of the internet and instantaneous reaction, the writers of the show know what the pulse of greater fandom really is. They provide episodes such as this one to bring not only their obvious love for meta fiction within the fabric of the story, but to bring the fans themselves into the fold. As they do with the show and their cast and crew, they also poke fun at the fans themselves. This teasing isn't malicious or cruel, but rather fond. From here on out, all meta episodes will have this particular flavor, and even those that only brush with direct meta such as "Sympathy for the Devil," or "The End," we know we're included within the joke. It's something not seen prior to the internet age, and in many ways it serves to enrich the viewer's experience of the story itself. 
 
It also plays on the emotional construct of the story for many fans. In this episode, Sam and Dean turn out to be "real" to Chuck, and even if the publisher doesn't realize it, for her, too. A lot of fans feel that Sam and Dean seem very real to them. They are flawed heroes with real personalities and characteristics. Their story may be fantastical and classified within the genres of sci fi and horror, but their humanity is what anchors the program more than any of the fantasy story lines concerning the demons or angels or monsters ever had. This is a service to the fans---and to the writers on many levels---to make Sam and Dean, already larger than life in many ways, that much more "real." 

Coming up in part two...season five and six

Comments  

Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-19 06:13
I love the photo choices, including that of Dean flipping the bird. Perfect. Thanks again, Alice!
Ginger
# Ginger 2011-08-19 08:52
Thanks for a really interesting article. I love the meta episodes, with Hell House and Ghostfacers being a couple of my all time favorites. and I still smile every time Monster at the End of the Book is brought up. The only time I think meta was taken too far was when EK spoke to the fans who may be critical of Swan Song in saying "Endings are hard..." I feel like when a writer has to counteract any possible criticism beforehand, that that is a sign of a bad script at best or, at least, an upfront apology. Either way, feeling a need to insert something like that should have been a red flag to the writer.

I'm looking forward to the second part of the article.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-19 15:52
I'm glad you enjoyed my look at the meta. I'm a Meta Head, probably rotten to live with since I eat, breathe, sleep writing.

As for the "Swan Song" slight from EK, I disagree. I think what he was saying, and it is oh so true, that no matter what artistic endeavor you undertake, someone will not like it. It just is. It's not a slight to those who might be disappointed by a finale or episode or storyline. It's just a fact. Just like there's people who will always love everything no matter what. But that's just my opinion, as a writer, that this will always be a truth. You can't please everyone and that's basically what I took from that statement.
Ginger
# Ginger 2011-08-19 18:49
My complaint is directed toward the need to say it in the first place, not what was said which is, I agree, a fact of life. Actually, even though I absolutely hated the last ten minutes of Swan Song, I took the whole episode to be a love letter from EK to the fans. I think he did, in fact, try to give us something special. I particularly liked the voice-over about the Impala, since up until S6, I considered the Impala another very pretty cast member. I even loved that cheesy cemetery entrance with Rock of Ages blasting.

But, I'm with you on meta. I love it.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-19 19:19
I am so glad to not be the only Meta Head.

As for this, I don't know, I still disagree. Endings ARE hard to pull off, not just for the whole making people happy part, but to give it a fitting end or a good close.

All I'll say is see what I have to say about Swan Song in the second part. I cover that in this one, counting it as a part of this Meta Overview more or less, even if it doesn't have the "prank" the way the others do necessarily.
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2011-08-19 13:13
Thanks for this. I love the meta episodes. They can have a lot of humour, but they can also have some tragedy. Best of both worlds. "Ghostfacers" and "Monster At The End Of This Book" are two of my favourites. I'll be looking forward to your next part. Kudos for the pictures, I do love the one of Dean flipping the bird. Priceless!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-19 15:56
You can thank Alice for the photo choices.

I also love these episodes. I think they're the reason I fell so damn hard for the show in the first place. These episodes, to my writing heart, were just what I needed to get into my own again.

And yes, Dean flipping the bird is classic. If they were on a more risque channel, I have a funny feeling we'd see that more often.
Yirabah
# Yirabah 2011-08-19 15:18
This was a great read. I barely get around to read many articles lately but I had to read this one.

I love the meta episodes. I always enjoyed watching those together with my boys. That's when I realized, that a lot of those jokes are lost on ordinary viewers. Meaning those who just watch the show without getting involved in the fandom. Kind of feel sorry for those people. They are missing out on so much.

I look forward to the second part of this. Thanks for bringing it to us.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-19 15:57
I'm glad you chose my article to read! I had a lot of fun writing it, I'll admit. I SHOULD be working on the novel, but this said "write me."

Yeah, I think it's more than just the fandom insider jokes, though. It's those that don't investigate the nature of story telling that miss out on these episodes at times, but maybe that's just me.

I do hope you'll like the second half as much as this half.
Bevie
# Bevie 2011-08-19 17:12
Loved this article Far Away Eyes!!!

I too love all the meta episodes. Hell House is a particularly beloved one for me when I want to watch something without too much angst and Edd and Harry are quite hilarious in it. Just leaves me with a good feeling. (fish in the back seat, Hah!)
Loved the spoon, the glue and the laughing fisherman and poor Harry having to pee in front of people. :eek:

Looking forward to part 2.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-19 19:07
I'm glad I'm not the only Meta Head.

I started this almost as a whim while cleaning out the closet. I stuck in Real Ghostbusters and then decided, "Hey, why not talk about the direct meta episodes?" I know there's more, like Changing Channels or even Tall Tales, but they're more subtle and don't tie to the ones I chose nearly as neatly. Who knows, I might do something more with those meta episodes. I do know I'd like to compare No Rest for the Wicked to Yellow Fever, as meta fictionally they mirror each other in a lot of ways.

Ed and Harry, what can you say about Ed and Harry besides that they're hilarious and a riot. I do really look forward to seeing Hell House (already saw Ghost Facers while working on the article) on my new big 40" TV. I'm going through the series, hopefully all before season 7, but we'll see.
purplehairedwonder
# purplehairedwonder 2011-08-20 22:21
I really enjoyed this. I hadn't really spent much time thinking about meta episodes in the series outside of "Monster at the End of This Book," "The Real Ghostbusters," and "The French Mistake," (though intellectually I knew "Hollywood Babylon" and "Changing Channels" were meta to some degree), so I found this very thought-provoki ng.

Interestingly, my mother will watch SPN on and off, if I tell her about a particularly interesting episode coming up (like "The French Mistake" or "Frontierland") or if I'm at home and watching it, but she thinks the show's strength is in how it doesn't take itself too seriously; when it starts getting heavy, she thinks it strays into the bad side of campy.

Point being, it's interesting to see what meta episodes can do for the show's tone and reputation. SPN does a good job of continuous quippy banter, one-liners, and ongoing jokes to (usually) keep it from taking itself too seriously, which I think allows meta episodes to work well in the framework. If every episode were dark like "The End," meta episodes would feel completely out of place. Instead, the show does a good job of keeping an overall tone and feel that lends itself to funnier, more experimental things. And that's something, for me as a viewer, that keeps me interested and entertained.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-20 23:17
I think Jensen put it best when he was asked about the comedy and self deprecation this show tends to do. He then turned it around by saying that the drama they do on the show matches any other drama other shows do. Don't believe him? Watch On the Head of a Pin again or The Man Who Would Be King or All Hell Breaks Loose I and II. This show can get heavy and dark, but they do keep, even in those dark episodes, the humor and sarcastic wit that keeps it from, as your mother things, from going all campy.

Take for instance, Dean's insistence that Sam get the pie in All Hell Breaks Loose Part I. He earns himself a disgruntled response from Sam, and we laugh, but we know danger is lurking for them soon. I think the make up of both Sam and Dean's characters is what lends them the ability to keep a tongue firmly in cheek, even in the dark and angsty episodes. There's a line that makes us laugh and lightens the tone, even if it's for a moment.

The funny thing about the meta episodes is how far they're willing to go all out campy, deliberately. It's also why it's hilarious. Becky is probably the most campy character they've ever had---and yet she's delightfully hilarious. That's in part two, though.

What I find fascinating about this show is that they are willing to make fun of themselves and their audience. Yet, it doesn't come off as insulting. They're more like open invitations, saying "Come on in, join us. We want to laugh at ourselves and you can, too!"

Too many shows on television follow the "srs bzns" thought pattern, and when they get going, they can turn the viewer off because they seem to be sermonizing or preaching. Supernatural dances a fine line with their chosen subject matter, and yet they pull off keeping us from getting too far into preachy mode.

That's probably why I love it more than any other show. I watch Gossip Girl for Leighton Meester (shush. It's a girl crush.), but I find that when it wants to point out that the characters are behaving badly that the moral discussion hits too hard---kind of like a two by four.
purplehairedwonder
# purplehairedwonder 2011-08-21 00:33
Completely agreed on all points. There's something really special about Supernatural in its ability to balance the drama and angst with both witty and campy humor--and all of it feeling like it belongs on the same show. I'm usually iffy on comedy since my sense of humor is pretty specific, but SPN does a good job of catering even to my funny bone.

I think that it's, as you say, a welcoming kind of self-deprecatin g humor. It's easy to appreciate people who can laugh at themselves; it's easier to trust people like that, too--and that in turn helps me trust the show, I think. "We're all having fun here, come join us!" type of attitude. "There's a great joke here that we want to share with you!" It's not something you see done all that much, and I think that's part of what has drawn me into the show so intensely compared to, well, just about any other fandom I've been a part of.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-21 00:44
I have a twisted sense of humor I've discovered, and this show has a twisted sense of humor. See anything Ben Edlund has added in comic relief for this show. That sobbing suicidal talking Teddy Bear? Yeah, totally laugh every time. I. Am. Twisted. I figure the whole if you're not laughing you're crying thing applies to the show. They are facing life and death and nightmares every day and they have to have something to use to cope---besides alcohol and easy lays.

To me, and it's one reason I wrote the meta article the way I did, this show was written for writers and people who enjoy great storytelling that is able to poke fun at itself and the art of storytelling. They are so inviting to the viewer, calling inside jokes from the actual fandom over and over, making US the fans as much of the fabric of the show as anything else.

After all, Jared says they do call us their family. Letting those of us who GET it, really GET it in on the joke, that's just gold.
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2011-08-22 08:28
And this is why this show has what I call REAL fans. We get it. I have a friend that watches when I remind her that is. Come Monday morning, I'll ask what she thought of the episode and I'll realize she just didn't get it. You need to pay attention and watch multiple times to catch every little nuance. This is why I love you guys, I know you understand my obsession, cause we all have it!
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-22 15:49
That's the best part about this show for me. No matter how many times I watch or rewatch, as a whole, or in a single episode, there's something NEW to catch, something I missed. A new layer is revealed. It's just so neat.

And yeah, those of us who get it, really get it, that's why we're here all sharing in our Supernatural Anon.
datanigga
# datanigga 2011-08-24 23:36
Mighty Meta Morphin Power Rangers. Brilliant.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2011-08-25 07:11
Thanks. It was one of those "Write me or I won't leave you alone."

I'm glad you liked it so much. Sometimes being a Meta Head has its advantages.
ValentineTodd
# ValentineTodd 2012-08-14 08:06
I was just innocently reading this article, where it says “As in... Sam-Slash-Dean. Together. ”, which I had at the bottom of my screen. I then clicked down to see the picture to accompany it and nearly choked on my grape. That screencap was perfect!

Well-written article, thanks for the read.