Secrecy and Openness in "Supernatural"

Curator's Note

For fifteen years, fans of Supernatural have been following the adventures of the Winchester brothers as they fought monsters, demons, angels, and even God. At the core of Supernatural is the relationship between the brothers, peppered with tensions and disagreements, but fundamentally unshakable in the knowledge that the brothers will always put each other first. The series begins as Sam’s desire for independence clashes with Dean’s belief that they should be together, hunting things, the “family business. While the nature of the brotherly conflict varies from season to season, the one constant rift between Sam and Dean revolves around secrecy versus openness.  

Supernatural as a series buys into the social belief that secrecy harbors discord. The danger of secrecy is a recurring theme not only between the brothers, but also with their closest allies who are judged harshly for withholding information. Yet time and again the brothers and their allies chose not to disclose important information, justifying the decision as inevitable or beyond their control, almost as though this were a lesson they could not learn. The audience may be led to understand why a character chose secrecy, but it is clear that secrecy will always lead to some serious rifts in relationships.  

The flip side of secrecy, openness, is not presented as the antidote to discord. There are great costs to the characters whenever they disclose that they have not been forthcoming, or when others discover they had kept a secret, but eventually even the greatest of sins is forgiven. As interesting, complex, and highly developed as the discussion of secrecy may be on Supernatural, the show presents a much less nuanced and more simplistic resolution to secrecy through the act of forgiveness. Ultimately, this may be the true lesson of the series: asking for forgiveness is more important than being honest, since those who love you, who are your “blood” or chosen family, will eventually come around and embrace you in spite of your choices. 

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