"Kinda like the folklore of its day": "Supernatural," fairy tales, and ostension

  • Catherine Tosenberger University of Winnipeg
Keywords: Fan fiction, Television


This essay considers the use of folklore in the television series Supernatural: the show does not simply retell folk narratives, but performs them both diegetically and metatextually in a process known as ostension. In the process of performance, main characters Sam and Dean often research and analyze the stories themselves, and perform portions of the folk narrative in order to bring about a resolution. This essay focuses upon episode 3.05 "Bedtime Stories," which does not simply depict the folk narrative genre of fairy tales, but also directly engages with the discourse surrounding fairy tales in popular culture; in particular, the episode reproduces widespread understandings of fairy tales as a gendered genre. The essay concludes with a discussion of fan fiction that uses fairy tales, seeing it as a transformative response to Supernatural's own transformation of folk narratives.

Author Biography

Catherine Tosenberger, University of Winnipeg
Assistant Professor of English (children's literature), University of Winnipeg