That is, it’s created a universe where its main characters are the subjects of a series of novels which have fans. The series of novels is called Supernatural. The fans of the fictional Supernatural novel series, then, are alternate-universe versions of the real fans out there, watching the TV show.
Initially, fans were (as you might expect) flattered and thrilled to finally see themselves on screen. But the writers lost their trust because of the way these fans were portrayed.
Supernatural is a cult TV series. It’s lasted many seasons, but it still hasn’t made a significant cultural impact: when I teach classes at MIT and ask, usually only one or two out of twenty-five young adults has seen it (as compared to, say, Modern Family, which everybody has watched). That’s not a bad thing. There’s a place for cult TV series. It is, however, a bad thing when a cult TV series begins to alienate their fans by mocking them, using the standard stereotypes of fans as violent, hypersexualized, and airheaded. There have been many responses on the fans’ part, but one of the best — and most recent — is here.
One of the reasons that it’s the best is that it highlights one issue at play here. Is it really a bad thing, financially, when a cult TV series mocks their fans? It worked for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after all — the Trio were straight up nerdy fanboys, and nobody cared. Or, if they did care, they certainly kept watching. The controversy over Supernatural led me to watch it for the first time in years (I had stopped about season 3) so that I could understand the debate. I bought the episodes I wanted to see on iTunes. Ka-ching! Besides, unless there are a lot of fangirls in Nielsen families that I don’t know about (and if there are, why did Firefly get cancelled?) this discussion is unlikely to have much effect on ratings: it simply is too localized and never makes it into the actual press.
The other part of the story, though, is that Nielsen ratings aren’t going to work forever. For Supernatural, it may not be a problem to piss off fans. For shows down the line, shows that perhaps function on a pay-per-view model — it will be. Shows with a smaller viewer base can’t afford to piss off their viewers, and shows that are distributed primarily online can’t afford to piss off the people who control what the Google search results for “______ fan” are. If market realities are changing, as I believe they are, why not start planning now for the future? After all, all the people who work on Supernatural have careers that stretch long beyond one show — many fans arrived to the show because it featured so many highly visible crew members from The X-files, and they’ll follow those people’s careers — or not, if they lose confidence in them. Perhaps, for them, taking the long view would not be amiss.
You may have been following along with the CW TV show, Supernatural, and noticed that it's done something fairly radical: it's incorporated fans into its show.