Post-Sexuality in "Supernatural"

Curator's Note

Supernatural appeals to audiences from diverse sexual identities and orientations. While the main protagonists, Sam and Dean Winchester, are portrayed as primarily heterosexual men (in spite of various attempts to rewrite them as queer through fan fiction), other human characters are explicitly labeled as gay or lesbian. Some of the most interesting representations in terms of sexuality are found among angels and demons who, as supernatural beings, are not gendered and can inhabit both male and female bodies. The centrality of supernatural beings, who are inherently non-normative, appeals to polysemic readings of sexuality.

The most developed of these characters is the undeniably queer angel, Castiel. Castiel inhabits a male body, but flashbacks reveal that the angel once inhabited a female body. Raphael, Hannah and Michael are also shown inhabiting both female and male bodies, solidifying the notion that angels have no distinct sex. Angels are typically depicted as incapable of, or unwilling to, fall in love. The few exceptions all lead to tragic endings and portray falling in love as transgressive. 

Castiel’s love for Dean defies the laws of Heaven and Earth. If we define queer as non-normative, Castiel’s love perfectly fits this definition. As a celestial being, Castiel is neither male nor female, and thus the relationship with Dean challenges the heterosexual/homosexual dichotomy. Audiences are free to read the relationship as homoerotic, since for most of the show Castiel inhabits a male body, but they can just as easily read it as bisexual, asexual, and perhaps post-sexual.

In “Despair” (season 15, episode 18), Castiel’s character arch ends as “he” declares “his” love and sacrifices “his” life to save Dean. The purposefully vague homoerotic nature of Castiel’s declaration has frustrated some fans, but it fits perfectly with a love that defies human understanding and  traditional notions of sexuality. In a monologue reminiscent of Plato’s Phaedrus, Castiel declares that happiness lies in being in love rather than in possessing the beloved. This love, transformative to the core, changes Castiel’s very nature, allowing “him” to love Dean, Sam, Jack, and indeed, the whole world. 

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