If you’ve been on Fandom internet since the 2010s, there’s a huge chance you’ve come across the giant that is “SuperWhoLock.” If that name brings back war flashbacks, I’m sorry, but for those blessed souls that are blissfully unaware of what SuperWhoLock is, let me be the person to introduce you. SuperWhoLock is the name of the fictional alternate universe where the characters and plot of Supernatural (Super), Doctor Who (Who), and BBC’s Sherlock (Lock) coexist. The SuperWhoLock name was coined ten years ago last August during a period of hiatus for all three shows, which pushed fans into a rampant creative drive to keep their hunger for new content satiated.
Since then, it has become one of the biggest conglomerate fandoms in history.
The height of SuperWhoLock’s popularity lasted about four years – the first tagged post on Tumblr was made in August of 2011. Around 2013-2014, the fandom began its descent in popularity, only to seemingly disappear out of nowhere by 2015. Throughout the years, many have speculated what could’ve caused this to happen, from the famed Dashcon incident of 2015 to fans growing older and moving into new fandoms, to the shows waning in popularity after…creative choices were made in each of the shows that angered fans – there’s no shortage of possible answers to the question. But one thing is for sure, there has not been a fandom phenomenon as significant as SuperWhoLock since.
Our Flag Means Death (OFMD) is a period comedy series created by David Jenkins, and it premiered on HBO Max on March 3rd, 2022. The show stars Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi as Stede Bonnet and Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. At first glance, the show seemed to employ a very similar queer baiting technique both Supernatural, and Sherlock used to draw LGBTQIA+ audiences in to view their shows and become invested in the “possibility” of a romantic relationship between the show’s male leads. But as you may know, if you were present for the downfall of Sherlock in 2014 after the release of Series 3 or Destielgate in 2020, both shows received significant backlash for their feeble attempts at satisfying the fandom and even completely ignoring the clear homoerotic subtext they had created. This is why it came as a shocking yet welcome surprise when Jenkins doubled down on Stede and Blackbeard’s romantic relationship on the show.
[IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW, BEWARE, SPOILERS FOR SEASON ONE BELOW]
On March 24th, 2022, the internet was set ablaze as episode nine, “Act of Grace,” premiered on HBO Max. In the penultimate episode, Blackbeard and Stede declare their love for each other and kiss. Many fans skeptical about the show became invested in it overnight after hearing others rave about good queer representation. Demand and viewership for the show after the season finale (which was released on the same day) skyrocketed, and by the end of March, it had become the most in-demand show across all HBO and HBO Max series in the United States. And by April, the show had become the most in-demand new show in the U.S. According to Parrot Analytics, “[…] the audience demand for Our Flag Means Death is 23.2 times the demand of the average TV series in the United States in the last 30 days.” In response to the overwhelming pour of support, Jenkins wrote on Twitter, “This is what happens when a major media company invests in inclusive mainstream stories.”
So, where does the comparison to SuperWhoLock come in? Well, like all…things, our story begins on Twitter. On the day of the season finale, the following tweet was posted–
In it, the user jokes that Our Flag Means Death, Good Omens and What We Do In The Shadows (WWDITS) is the new SuperWhoLock. If you aren’t familiar, WWDITS is the TV adaptation of the horror/comedy of the same name, which first aired on FX on March 27, 2019. Helmed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the show follows four vampires, Nandor, Colin Robinson, Nadja, and Laszlo, as they adjust to life in the 21st century on Long Island. The first two seasons averaged around a million viewers per episode (in the U.S), a solid number for the show, allowing them to continue into a much expected fourth season. A few months later, Good Omens premiered on Amazon Prime. Based on Terry Pratchett’s 1990 novel of the same name, the show was made for television by Neil Gaiman and follows demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale, longtime acquaintances who, having grown accustomed to life on Earth as representatives of Heaven and Hell, seek to prevent the coming of the Antichrist and with it Armageddon.
As of right now, the tweet has a little over 17k likes, but like most things on the internet, opinions like these don’t just live on one platform. Very quickly after that, a TikTok user uploaded a video talking about the tweet, which has garnered over 200k views and 40k likes. For some additional content, the OFMD hashtag on TikTok currently has almost 90 million views (up from the 79.8 million it had yesterday), so it is easy to link this video to the outroar of passion, disagreement, and discourse that ensued as the fandom became divided over this claim.
Which is why I took one for the team…and went on fandom Tumblr for the first time in years. If you just had a mini panic attack, so did I. When SuperWhoLock was at its peak, Tumblr was the place to be. You could quickly identify fandom blogs by the liberal use of Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock references in their usernames. From 221b to TARDIS to angel/demon references, hundreds of blogs kept the fandom alive, posting fan art, fan theories, and fanfiction. While the username thing isn’t happening with this new Mega Fandom (trademark pending), the Tumblr tags it’s where it’s at. The OMFD tag has around 24k followers and is used in around 1k new recent posts. The WWDITS tag has around 16k followers, and the Good Omens one has 85k followers. And this is JUST for the show’s tags; this doesn’t even begin to consider the various ship tags, individual character tags, crossover tags, and my personal favorite, the personalized tags.
From this quick overview, it looks as though Good Shadows Death? No, Good Flags Shadows? I’ve got it, OurGoodShadows is shaping up to become one of the biggest Mega Fandoms (trademark pending) in recent history.
So, could it possibly be the new SuperWhoLock?
First, we have to determine what made SuperWhoLock so appealing. After much research and forcing myself to relive past memories, I have compiled the top three characteristics that made up the SuperWhoLock criteria.
The first characteristic emphasizes shipping, mainly shipping the show’s male leads together. If you’re entirely in the dark on fandom lore, ship, derived from the word relationship, is the desire by fans from any particular fandom for two or more people to be in a romantic and/or sexual relationship. And shipping they did.
Sherlock had Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, Supernatural had Dean Winchester and Castiel, and Doctor Who, well, that’s where things start to get a little complicated. Doctor Who works under a premise of change, often changing the actor that plays the Doctor every few seasons. The biggest ship I can think of is the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose. Most recently, with the addition of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Doctor, the show has taken a surprising turn as Whittaker’s Doctor has seemingly “declared her feelings for Yaz (her female companion for the season)” in the latest episode.
These gay relationships sound like an incredible step forward for representation and the LGBTQIA+ community from an outside perspective. They would be if the shows intended for these characters to be outly queer. Now, I can’t speak for the Doctor and Yaz because there simply isn’t enough to go on at the moment, and we’re going to have to wait until the series finale to see just how far the show will take this new relationship. In the case of both Sherlock and Supernatural, both shows fell into using queer baiting tactics to string along with fans for years with no intention of actually making the characters queer in any way, even going as far as to publicly call out the fans that shipped the couple, and if they did make a character gay, they employed harmful tropes like the “bury your gays,” having Castiel declare his love for Dean in the final season of Supernatural, and then being immediately killed off.
Thankfully, the leading ships of OurGoodShadows show a lot more promise in the positive representation department. In WWDITS we have Nandor (Kayvan Novak) and Guillermo (Harvey Guillén), vampire master and vampire familiar turned vampire hunter; in Good Omens, we have demon Crowley (David Tennant) and angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen), and in OFMD we’ve got Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby), and Edward “Blackbeard” Teach (Taika Waititi). While there are many more ships, the fandom has collectively agreed that these are the main ships that make up the fandom. Much like the SuperWhoLock queer baiting dilemma, Good Omens and WWDITS haven’t yet explicitly made their main ships gay (Good Omens creator Neil Geiman retains that Crowley and Aziraphale are simply really good friends, further explaining that Aziraphale is asexual, and WWDITS has established that all the vampires are “not straight” and could potentially be building up to a possible relationship between Nandor and Guillermo), but OFMD has actively established Stede and Blackbeard to be in love.
The second characteristic is all about fandom crossover. For Mega Fandoms (trademark pending) to be successful, there has to be some crossover between them that drives fans from one property to the next. As we established in the shipping section, one of the main draws for each fandom is the clear ships they can invest in. If they like the dynamic between two characters and know that they’ll find the same dynamic in the ship from another show, fans will be more likely to hop on board another fandom.
The crossover also happens when the same actor goes on to portray a character in one of the other shows. For example, David Tennant played the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who and is now playing Crowley, the demon in Good Omens. Fans that watched Tennant as the Doctor will be more inclined to watch him now as Crowley and get into the show through a familiar face. Another good example is Taika Waititi, who co-created WWDITS, starred in the film, and is now playing Blackbeard in OFMD. By establishing his style early on with WWDITS many fans know what to expect when they go into a Waititi film or show, which makes it easier for them to get into the different fandoms as they are eager to watch the person and end up staying because they fell in love with the show as a whole.
And finally, the third characteristic revolves around the concept of community and found family. At their core, fandoms are all about lonely people finding community over shared interests. As a nerdy teen myself, finding my place in the world around me was hard, especially since not many people around me shared the same interests I did. And while I’m not negating that fandom and fandom culture can and has been incredibly toxic, we can’t also dismiss all the good it has done for misfit kids, teens, and adults everywhere who are just trying to find like-minded people who share their interests and are into the same oddly specific shows they are.
At its peak, the SuperWhoLock fandom was home to thousands, if not millions of people worldwide, all coming together and connecting over a shared experience and love for these shows. To this day, the SuperWhoLock tag on Tumblr is followed by over 14k people, and new posts about the shows are still being posted, liked, and reblogged. It was incredibly easy to figure out what blogs were in the fandom, as we established before. It was even easier to make friends or mutuals through this shared interest and quickly become a part of a passionate and close-knit community.
With the recent addition of TikTok to the mix, it has never been easier to consume and take part in fandom. When the first season of OFMD had just finished, all I had to do to “stay on OFMD TikTok” was one video, and the algorithm did the rest for me. From fans showing off their incredible cosplays, to the thousands of fanfics being posted in just the last month across multiple platforms, to the phenomenal fanart, to the creators and actors being so active on social media and open to connecting with fans, watching the OFMD community come to be from the ground up has been one of the most endearing, exciting, and interesting experiences ever.
So, is OurGoodShadows the new SuperWhoLock?
The truth is, I don’t know. Now, before you start commenting rude things, you made it all this way all on your own, so at least give me a moment to explain myself. My research took me places that could only be found on a Sarah Z deep dive video, and while I did learn a lot, I also very quickly concluded that it is simply too early to tell.
The initial numbers are insane, and it’s going to be very interesting if the shows can continue to deliver in the future through the already high expectations of the fandom, as well as seeing how the fandom continues to grow as the hiatus sinks in. But for these numbers to be comparable, the OurGoodShadows need more time.
Another interesting thing that I came across was the fandom infighting that had already begun because of the SuperWhoLock claim. Many fans joked that the OurGoodShadows could not possibly be comparable to SuperWhoLock in any way because OurGoodShadows has better writing, better representation, and isn’t as toxic as SuperWhoLock was. Which brings me to another point that I didn’t forget to mention earlier, that the SuperWhoLock experience was driven by “cringy behavior” from fans. Because the majority of fans of the shows were teenagers at the time, a lot of the things said and done come across as cringy to us now. Many fans argue that because OurGoodShadows “[..] is to gay adults what SuperWhoLock was too closeted teens” the early fandom is “too healthy” for it to be considered the new SuperWhoLock. And to that, I can only respond with my “give it time” conclusion.
While I don’t personally think that OurGoodShadows will ever take over as the new SuperWhoLock because, let’s be honest, that was a cultural reset, I do think that it checks all the boxes and has all the potential in the world to become a Mega Fandom (trademark pending). It will be a fantastic ride to watch it evolve and grow into one in the next few years. And, as long as they learn from those who came before and don’t make the same mistakes or fall into the same toxic patterns, they have a really good chance of making a difference in the fandom space forever.