Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Jo the Monster Killer
Supernatural’s Excluded Heroines
Whether it wants to or not, Supernatural exists in a world and genre which is unarguably post-Buffy. You can’t be a popular, fashionable show beginning life on the WB Network and featuring attractive young people killing monsters without summoning the ghost of Slayers past in the process. But this legacy has always sat uneasily on Supernatural’s shoulders, and the tension has rarely been as obvious as it was when it came to Jo Harvelle, the supporting character who first appeared in episode 2-2, “Everyone Loves A Clown.”
To understand why the saga of Jo shook down as it did, we first have to look at Supernatural’s relationship with gender and genre, and especially at its views on another small, blonde, female demon hunter.
The Guy With a Car, The Girl in a Grave
Eric Kripke, creator of Supernatural, is a self-confessed acolyte of the “Hero With a Thousand Faces” school of character arcs. One of the pivotal moments in this story-form is the “return from the dead”; sometimes this journey is metaphoric, sometimes literal.
In the opening episode of season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the heroine of that show is brought back to life and, struggling to live, thrusts her hand up through the earth of her grave. This image is repeated in the second episode of Supernatural, but here the possibility of a young woman’s return has become monstrous, the stuff of nightmares–Sam awakes from the dream of his girlfriend Jessica’s resurrection in horror.
There is …