Jowett, L. (2011) Purgatory with color TV: motel rooms as liminal zones in Supernatural. In: Abbott, S. and Lavery, D. (eds.) TV Goes to Hell: An Unofficial Road Map of Supernatural. Toronto: ECW Press. pp. 33-46.
This chapter explores how Supernatural, like other horror television shows, situates its characters as mediating between the mundane everyday contemporary world, and a strange, Other, historic or mythological world. The show’s emphasis on the motel rooms inhabited by the Winchester brothers as transitional spaces and places will be explored as a key site of liminality. The motel rooms, simultaneously generic (furniture and facilities) and individualised (at times spectacularly unique décor), offer an image of how the road genre has “obvious potential for romanticizing alienation as well as for problematizing the uniform identity of the nations’ culture” (Cohan and Hark 1997, 1): Sam and Dean are marginal characters cut off from mainstream American society and thus have a problematic relationship to it. The motel rooms are, of course, also an important plot device and the close quarters living intensifies their relationship. Public and private space are also blurred by the motel room, and while the Winchesters are, effectively, travelling on a professional basis, as brothers they tend to share one room. The lack of any private or domestic space (and female family members) challenges standard representations of the American family. This conscious choice of the (retro-decorated) motel not only situate the brothers in an individual community but also serve as a link to that community’s past, and personal, familial and community histories often combine in episode storylines. The Winchesters are figures who move, often uneasily, between different planes and different states of being. Like many other liminal heroes, therefore, they fulfil their function by not being at home anywhere