I grew up with network television as my main source of entertainment for at least 6 months of the year. I remember our first television- a black and white set with a screen that had probably about a 12 inch diagonal. I’d been to one convention for a TV show in 2008. It was a very intimate group of about 30 people and one of the stars of the show, Combat!, that ended its run in 1967. It was very special and I made some awesome friends there. I knew I’d be hitting the other end of the convention spectrum if I went to an SPN convention. I decided in February of 2015 to attend when SPN came for the first time to Minneapolis in August. It was an easy decision- the show was in its 10th season and neither of us were getting any younger. It was expensive, but I had 6 months to save up.
My Supernatural Convention experience wasn’t all great, but I was blown away by several really good things. All the cast at the convention were friendly and entertaining, but Chad Lindberg, Mark Sheppard, and Sebastian Roche were SO incredible. Chad and his ghost hunting stories fascinated me. I thought Mark would be a bit stand offish and difficult with fans, but he actually is just so intelligent and clever I could listen to him forever, and his love of the fans is obvious. I expected that Sebastian would be too much ( had always heard he told too many raunchy jokes, etc,) but the truth is, he was incredibly entertaining and infused the crowd with such energy. It was a sight to behold! When I got his autograph, I thanked him and shared how much he made me laugh. He replied, “Then I did my job, darling.” I also have to mention Richard Speight Jr.. He does an amazing job and again, is such an intelligent and thoughtful person.
I was captivated by Loudon Swain and the Saturday night concert. Holy cow! They are good. Rob Benedict’s performance still haunts me. It was unexpected. I thought they’d be an average band. No way. They are WAY better than that. They have a new fan now.
So, now to the nitty gritty of this post. I’m a big Jared Padalecki fan. I feel like I’ve watched him grow up and loved his boy-next-door appeal on Gilmore Girls. He’s grown a lot as an actor and his character, Sam Winchester, is one of my 2 all-time favorite male TV characters. I’ve never been much of a follower of actors/actresses private lives and behind the scenes antics, but being in the SPN fandom makes following these (primarily) guys lives pretty standard. It was fun to discover that Jared seems just as sweet and genuine as I would hope he would be. As often stated, Jensen and Jared are nice people, and that makes it SO easy to continue to love this show. Seeing Jared in person and watching/interacting a bit with him during autographs confirmed in my mind that he is a sensitive person who maybe hasn’t learned enough about protecting himself. Last Spring, Jared let us all know that he struggles with some depression and he had over-extended himself and needed to drop out of the convention scene and take a break. It was a healthy choice and I’m guessing that his love and respect for fans was what motivated him to share personal information and explain his absence. At Minncon however; I was shocked by the number of people who came up to the microphones and shared personal issues as part of thanking Jared for AKF. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but my mindset at the time was one of just wanting/expecting a fun time. I felt sorry for the sad experiences of these fans, but resented the tears I was shedding in reaction to their stories. I felt like a jerk, but I just wanted to hear questions about the show and the characters. Jared, however, didn’t hesitate for a second in approaching and hugging people-giving them that attention and reassurance. Jensen joined him, but also helped pull him back, which was good. Point is, I started asking myself, “How much of this could a person take?–especially a person who has their own depression issues?” I got scared for Jared. I still am.
I went back to my hotel room and wrote out a short letter to Jared about an experience I had had at the school where I work. It was about a tragedy that resulted from depression, but it focused on the positive things that came out of students reacting to it, and let him know I wear my AKF shirt sometimes on Fridays at school. That night, I waited in the autograph lines to get MIsha, Jensen, and Jared’s autographs. Misha and Jensen were in a room together and their line was moving fairly quickly. I apologized to Misha for Minnesota–sounds lame, I know, but I’m a native Minnesotan and I feel so sorry about his mugging. Then, I went on to Jensen and just stared at the top of his head while he signed. I couldn’t think of what to say. Then he asked me how I was doing and I think I said, “I’m Gooooooood”, (LOL–I’m really bad at this sort of thing! ) I moved onto Jared’s line, which was very long. As I finally got into the room, there was Jared with a fan’s soccer ball (she was a high school player and had the cast signing the ball). He asked her if he could kick it and she said yes. I got to watch those long legs kick the thing (on second attempt-first hit a step) to the top of a tall set of bleacher seating in the room. It was impressive and fun. He gave her a hug and sat back down. The whole thing made me relax enough to give him the letter-telling him it was a cool story and maybe sometime he might want to read it. He put it in his pocket. I then extended my hand, which he quickly shook. I appreciated that to no end.
After the convention, I read about Vancon and Jared having to step away for awhile from autographs. I then read about Creation’s request that fans not approach the cast at cons with their tragedies because of the effect on the cast. I have read posts from fans saying that we need to just support troubled fans and not ask them to stop sharing at conventions. I’m not sure where the cast stands on this, but I want to throw my two cents in at this point. I believe that fans who want to thank the cast for shining a light on depression and mental illness or thank them for being a positive influence in convincing them to have hope and to seek help, should do so through letters and emails–as so many have done. The support among fans and cast is tremendous. I believe that in some cases, telling a cast member that they “saved my life” is too heavy and could put too much of a burden on that person. I also feel that conventions should be a celebration and that a simple “thank you for AKF” or contributions to local affiliated charities that are present in the vendors area, go a long way to show the widespread appreciation fans have for the casts generosity and caring.
I hope I don’t sound too “preachy” and promise I will refrain from this in future posts. As we move into season 11 (can’t believe it!) and I still am digesting that awesome premiere last night (OMG-Sam’s already infected), I have hopes for an amazing ride for all of us! Cheers!!!!! –AB/C